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maxill: No distributor, no problem

Nov. 24, 2015
Maxill was once a small retail toothbrush manufacturer trying to break into the dental supply market, but the distributors wouldn't touch the company for fear of offending bigger fish. Now maxill is a force in global sales and manufacturing, as well as continuing education. How did maxill get there? A hint: It forgot all about those distributors.
maxill was once a small retail toothbrush manufacturer trying to break into the dental supply market, but the distributors wouldn't touch the company for fear of offending bigger fish. Now maxill is a force in global sales and manufacturing, as well as continuing education. How did maxill get there? A hint: It forgot all about those distributors. —Apex360 editors

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It's not surprising that the origins of some the world's most-admired companies are humble and unexpected. You probably already know that Steve Jobs started in his garage building personal computers before he built the Apple empire, and that Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines, designed his company vision on a cocktail napkin. The vision, heart, dedication, and resilience of these founders and their employees eventually made these companies what they are today, but it didn't happen overnight.

maxill, a manufacturer of infection-control products, medical and dental disposables, and oral hygiene and preventive products, also had a humble beginning, but through resilience and dedication, maxill has grown over the decades. John Shaw, founder and president of maxill, started the Canadian company in a 1,200-square-foot warehouse in 1987 in Saint Thomas, Ontario, where it still resides. maxill started manufacturing, marketing, and selling toothbrushes primarily to the retail market. John quickly saw that his customers were his bosses, and implemented from the roots up a policy of platinum customer service, top-quality products, the best pricing in the market, and a unique working atmosphere for his employees. As its retail sales grew, retail buyers and an early investor group of dentists encouraged the company to develop sales channels to the professional dental trade.

No distributor? No problem

Initially, the company had trouble finding a way to get its products into dental practices. Early experiences with Ash Temple and Healthco came up empty, as no distributor wanted to take on a new company, let alone damage relations with Cooper Labs (then the owner of Oral-B). So maxill set about developing its own sales channels in professional dentistry entirely on its own, from a clean slate, without any assistance from dealers or distributors.

Direct sales were very successful right from the beginning. The investor dentists saw this amazing result, promptly laid out a road map of newer "bolt-on products," and added products to its roster so that the sales channel could fill key areas. From 1987 to 2015, the product line grew from just four SKUs to over 4,200 items. maxill evolved from manufacturing toothbrushes, and it is now a true global sales and manufacturing network.

A diverse, ever-evolving product line

As maxill's product line expanded, so did interest from other markets. In addition to dentistry, maxill serves the veterinary, emergency medical technician, medical, correctional, academic, military, police, and fire communities. The professions outside of dentistry all use top-line items such as gloves, masks, disposables, and some infection-control products. maxill also provides correctional grade toothbrushes and razors for institutions and prisons. maxill's core product lines are oral care, infection control, disposables, gloves, sterilization, procedural, and of course, toothbrushes, which are part of a major hygiene product line.

As maxill's customer base grew, the product line and staff size grew as well. maxill now employs hundreds of people. In 2010, maxill purchased and established sales and distribution operations in Hong Kong proper.

Making a mark in the United States

John envisioned success in maxill, but the Hong Kong expansion was just the beginning. As both locations were thriving, he decided to explore the US market and introduce maxill's successful business model. The key components in the search for maxill's US home were the logistics to easily and efficiently service its customers and a nice-sized building to house the national distribution center. After five years of searching, John opened maxill's US location in Cortland, Ohio. The 2015 Hinman Dental Meeting in Atlanta marked the official entry of maxill into the US dental market, where it has been well received.

In the short time that maxill has been open in the US, it has exhibited at multiple major dental meetings and has seen a continual monthly compounded business growth far ahead of plan. By allowing dental practices to have another choice within the supply arena, practices now can decide based on quality, customer service, and price.

The customer: the center of maxill's company philosophy

maxill is customer driven-customer service and satisfaction are always first priority, according to vice president Lawrence Marmai. Lawrence also says that, in addition to being family-oriented, maxill is a family-like business model that treats each one of its new customers as part of the family. maxill's history and fast-paced business model with its ever-evolving product lines have set a well-marked path for its future in the US market. maxill keeps its product lines fresh by directly listening to its customers. By hearing the demand for different products, maxill always strives to help its customers' daily work become effortless through the use of the right product at the right price.

maxill has many strategies in place for listening to customer and industry needs. An ongoing assessment through customer recommendations and requests allows maxill to understand problems and solve them with the best quality products. Also, by staying abreast of current evidence-based dentistry research and recommendations, maxill can incorporate new products into its lineup. Dental professionals on staff, such as hygienists, help ensure customer feedback is being correctly interpreted.

In addition to quality products, maxill prides itself with cutting-edge education courses for the dental community. In doing so, maxill can fill the gap and serve the dental community with top-of-the-cusp education. With such connections to dental education, maxill is able to implement many new products to help ease the dental team's daily work processes.

At maxill, it is not just a question of "making it" and "offering it for sale." maxill's commitments to affordability, quality, and customer service are first and foremost for new product introduction and implementation, and they are ensuring a bright future for this growing company.

Don't miss our conversation with John Shaw, founder and president of maxill, here.

Editor's note: For more information on maxill, visit

Nicole Giesey, RDH, BSDH, MSPTE, is a dental hygienist who loves to read and write about dentistry. She is also the dental hygiene sales manager for maxill. She can be reached at [email protected].