Tell us more about Dentalpoint.
We make dental implants out of ceramic. Usually, dental implants are made of titanium while ours are made of ceramic, which offers a few benefits. Firstly, the material is white, which has aesthetic value. Secondly, it is 100 percent biocompatible, and that offers medical benefits.
Sometimes one’s immune system reacts to titanium. When there is too much metal in the body, your body will start to fight it (It doesn’t affect a young person as much, although their immune system may still be slightly compromised). With ceramic, that doesn’t happen. Ceramic is a very complicated material that is hard to work on and we have worked with ceramics since 2009, which makes us, I think, one of the best in the world for it.
The company has been through three different stages. The first stage was product development which took a little longer than expected as we had to develop a 2-piece ceramic dental implant which did not exist in this form at the time. During this period, we were more of an R&D company with some sales and our production was handled by external partners.
When we finally knew more about the material, the second stage was to figure out how to actually manufacture it. This increased our know-how about the material and therefore had a big impact on our current product development.
The company then moved from downtown Zurich to the outskirts of the city. We built our own manufacturing plant which has been fully operational for about one and a half years now.
The third stage is now worldwide distribution. We are entering new markets, gaining new customers and signing distribution agreements worldwide.
Can you share some highlights throughout your career?
One of the highlights for me was the seven years I spent working in the United States. Moving to a new place and starting from scratch was a humbling experience.
However, it was also very exhausting as it involved integrating 400 stores with 70 legal entities, 53 different brands, and 30 different IT systems into one company with one brand. We rebranded all the stores of the company within two years, and two years later, it was voted the most trusted hearing aid brand in the U.S. despite being just two years old.
What are some differences between the working culture in Switzerland and the US?
I will add another country to the mix, Germany, where the culture is very hierarchical. What the boss says is the rule. The tone is sometimes rude from a Swiss perspective.
In the US, this is a mix. The business tone there is very frank, which is similar to Switzerland, but the hierarchy is more similar to Germany. The boss is still the boss.
Here in Switzerland, the boss is the boss, but you can challenge and question them, raise your doubts, etc.
Looking back, what have been some of the key experiences that played a big part in making you the CEO that you are today?
I think especially at the beginning of the career, you need people who believe in you. In my case, it was my boss’s boss that put a lot of faith in me and pushed me. He has been my mentor even till today. I think it’s very important to have people outside the company you can talk through some of the issues you face with.
Secondly, the Executive MBA I did at IMD also had a tremendous impact, but for completely different reasons from what I thought going into the programme. I went through a transformation phase working with a lot of international folks, getting their perspective and criticisms to my approach. The feedback culture in the real world can never be the same as it was there.
The leadership stream was overwhelmingly good as I was able to learn more about myself, why I am the way I am, and how I can operate knowing all my strengths and weaknesses.
Best and worst parts of being a CEO?
The best part is that you can actually influence things. When you have an idea, you can drive and execute it in a very short amount of time with the right team around you, and you then have the first results.
The worst part is sometimes you’re quite alone. Some of the decisions to be made are for you alone and no one can make it for you. Yes, you can discuss it for ten hours, but at the end of the day, you have to decide.
What can help is to build your network outside the company with colleagues and friends who can actually relate and try to understand how to help you get it back up there.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I come early into the office as I like getting work done when it’s still quiet. At the moment there are a lot of video conferences and some physical meetings. I take the time to walk through the company and talk with the people. It is also important to book some me-time instead of running from one meeting to another. I take this time to reflect and come up with ideas.
I decided I can have the biggest influence in three areas: people, culture, and strategy. This is where I can have the biggest impact.
Where do you get your energy from?
Working with people. Helping them while also pushing the company forward and seeing the results, which I find extremely rewarding.
Earlier in my career it was all about how I can move forward. Now, the biggest satisfaction is derived from helping people develop themselves and ensuring that they take on the responsibility to be successful. That gives me a lot of energy.
Any lessons learnt that you can share?
Especially at the beginning, as a CEO, you may not be aware of how big your influence is, with everything you do and everything you say. Every word you say or write will get noticed or interpreted and have a tremendous impact.
You’ve just been acquired. What’s next?
We would like to continue to grow and challenge the status quo of the industry, so much so that they change rapidly from titanium to ceramics. Now that we have bigger muscles behind us, I believe we can reach people who will actually invest. It’s really an international expansion.
I see myself further pushing the 3rd phase of the company, which is, expanding internationally as much as possible. Dental implants are a growing market and the share of wallet of ceramic implants is growing at a higher pace.