October Proofs Note from the Editor

Oct. 18, 2010

By Kevin Henry
Editor, Proofs

Hello from the skies over the East China Sea. I'm on my way back to my home in Tulsa from China ... and Orlando. I went to the ADA Annual Session in Orlando, then boarded a flight to Los Angeles and then on to Hong Kong, so it's been a while since I've been back at my desk in Oklahoma (my coworkers don't seem to mind that I've been gone that long ... hmmmm).

It's been a long, long trip, but it's been filled with learning as well. I'll get to my China visit in a moment, but let's focus on the ADA meeting first.

As editor of Proofs, I'm paid to take a look at the business environment of the dental industry and give you, the reader, a taste of what has been and a preview of what is coming. What I will tell you in the next three paragraphs are my opinion mixed with discussions I had with some of my close industry contacts while in the Land of Mickey Mouse.

In Orlando, I believe we all saw the continued evolution of the dental trade show. We've reached a point when the traditional ways of doing business must evolve. There was a day in the not too distant past when trade shows were necessary for manufacturers to show their newest products and entice their customers while dealers found new business partners. Today, the world is shrinking (as I can personally attest to over the past nine days). No longer does the dental team need to wait to see the hottest new items at a trade show ... they can see them online immediately from the show. Dental Economics, DPR, Dentistry Today ... we (speaking now as managing editor of Dental Economics) are all trying to "scoop" each other and bring readers the latest product news. Publications now have the capability to do that right from the show floor. Dentists can now sit at home and learn about what's going on in Orlando moments after I learn about a new product. Twitter, Facebook, and blogs give editors the freedom to post pictures and descriptions of the latest launches.

Dental journalism has evolved, and I believe the dental customer has as well. I believe the dental customer knows he or she can learn about products through the Web, and then find out even more in the coming days and weeks through dealer visits and lunch-and-learns. Knowing this, and with budgets being watched, what's the main draw for the dentist today to attend a trade show? A getaway? A tax write-off? Camaraderie? Hands-on learning? Being the first to know about a product or technique? Or ... is there even a main draw for the dentist? I'd like to know your opinion on this. You can drop me a line through the feedback button below.

Two of the three days in Orlando seemed slow to me on the show floor, and I'll be anxious to see the ADA's numbers when they're released before the end of the month. Were you in Orlando? What was your opinion? Let me know through your feedback below.

Now on to China ... I was invited by Modern Dental Laboratory to attend its inaugural World Dental Forum in Macau and tour MDL's facility in Shenzhen. It was an amazing time filled with conversations with dentists and lab technicians from around the world, and I truly appreciated MDL's hospitality while I was in Asia.

It was my first-ever trip to China, and one of the things that jumped out at me was the attentiveness to service from everyone I encountered (from the hotel staff to the wait staff at the various restaurants to the laboratory personnel). I was truly amazed at times by the attitudes of the workers in China. There was definitely a spirit of hard work, but also an ingrained knowledge of how important the customer is to business. I felt like I was a priority, and it made me wonder if this is an area where American businesses have badly slipped in recent years. Is customer service how it was five, 10, or 20 years ago?

My journey to China will serve as one of the focal points for the January 2011 Dental Economics cover story, which will talk about offshore labs and how their business is affecting American labs. Certainly American labs are seeing the cost and quality of Chinese labs pulling business overseas. I wonder if level of service isn't far behind.

My message is simple ... treat your customers well every day. Without them, your business won't evolve ... it will evaporate.

Read on, this is your e-newsletter.