Has your world changed in the last two weeks? Yes it has. No matter who you are, your life has changed in some capacity. For most Americans, we have never had our mind filled with anxiety prior to walking into a market. For most Americans, we have never doubted the stability of our entire social structure. For most Americans, the fear that our basic needs will not be met has never been our reality. No doubt about it, the current reality caused by COVID-19 has altered our daily life. But, there is opportunity.
This reality has been especially hard on the dental community as our industry has collectively stopped due to social distancing. The result is layoffs, furloughs and fear that dental will not regain the strength and stability it had before. So, now for many of us, we are all on the sidelines waiting for the next shoe to drop in this ever changing worldwide saga.
Our industry is essential, but during financial duress people usually stop visiting the dentist for preventative and elective visits. Although this may help our future Endo business, we are currently feeling the recent loss of revenue. All we can do is wait, right? Well maybe not.
Before we ponder the future of our industry, we should evaluate where we were prior to the crisis. Our industry, like many other industries, was growing every year aided by technology and people who dedicated themselves to the improvement of every aspect of oral care. Companies, Dentists, Dental Assistants, Dental Laboratories, Laboratory Technicians, Hygienists and Schools all working together or competing against each other. The result was a progressive and healthy industry with an abundance of patients to serve, until now.
That is the past, and regardless of what happens next in the COVID-19 crisis we have a track record of success and stability. Along with success and stability we have overcome adversity before. In 2008 there was much economic pain in our country and many lost everything they worked their whole life for. It was a tough time but through adversity came innovation which changed the next decade.
Uber, Venmo, Airbnb, Slack, Pinterest, WhatsApp and Square were the result of our last economic crisis. These companies broke barriers and helped establish the new “Normal” the world would become. Technology and progressive thinking was the key for our country to claw back from the last crisis. It was also the reason dental bounced back and erupted into a $140 billion industry. Using CAD/CAM, imaging, laser technology, and innovative new materials and techniques as a tool to make our dental lives better and grow our business.
Like In 2008, in 2020 America collectively is suffering through the economic crisis. Unlike 2008, in 2020 this crisis has been caused by an act of nature that will eventually pass. Also unlike 2008, in 2020 our economy was healthy and structurally sound (this will cause debate) before business was halted.
Finally unlike 2008 we didn’t have recent experience to pull from, but in 2020 we do have the recent experience of a financial crisis to pull from our memory.
How do I operate a business with limited cash flow? How do we adapt to the new business reality? Will dental be the same? Will I be able to return to my normal life? I bet everyone in our industry has asked themselves these questions. So lets answer them.
How do I operate a business with limited cash flow? Furlough, layoff and fired are words we have all heard recently. Either it has happened to you or someone you know. As a business owner you are stressed because you feel your employees’ livelihood is your responsibility and as an employee you are scared you will get a phone call from your employer. There is no good answer for the employee or employer in this situation, remember no one wanted this.
The first thing we owe to each other, in the business sense, is to try to hold on until this time passes. Like a prize fighter who is losing a fight but holding on for the round to end. We need to do the same and hold on, with reason, until the bell rings and we can recoup and make the proper decision to quit or not. After each round, after the bell rings, is to be creative, be inspired. Re-invent how you do business. It will pay off in the end and your business will never be the same. The decision now to close a company, layoff people or fire people is premature. This is the only time for analysis paralysis as there are federal aid programs that may help you until you can fight/work again.
How do you adapt to the new business reality? You just do, that’s it. Although you should have analysis paralysis, that should only apply to dismissing employees or overreacting to your employers request. Adapting is a mindset to prepare you for success. Remember the companies who were born from the last crisis? Your company could be the next Uber that was born or transformed through turmoil. You need to start adapting to changes that you will not be able to avoid.
As a business it is time to acknowledge who you are as a company, an owner, your place in the industry, your employees and your customers. Once you have an honest examination of your situation, the positives and negatives, you should avoid your negatives and take the path of least resistance with a new approach to business.
If you’re a General Dentist who doesn’t like Endo, well maybe you should adjust your mindset to keeping those teadiest procedures in house. Do you only do big cases? Beyond changing your dentistry there is an opportunity to improve through technology. Also, there is an abundance of technology in the industry that you never have time to learn about. Use this time to learn the new technology and game plan ways to implement. When business does resume you want to be set for success, don’t get lost in the panic of today, it will pass
The same can be said for Dental Laboratories and Dental Technicians. Never before has your knowledge and adaptation to technology been more important. After the pandemic there will be a need for laboratories to be more versatile and knowledgeable in CAD/CAM. Automation will be at the forefront of many dentist’s minds in an effort to minimize overhead. Your knowledge of these systems and the ability to offer more services will be vital to your survival as a business. If you haven’t embraced CAD/CAM technology yet, please do. Embraced CAM/CAM already? Get better and learn more, this is the time to do it and many companies are offering free webinars and extreme discounts on software, so take advantage.
If you’re an employee or recently let go, it isn’t much different. Stay calm and this will pass as well, remember everyone is going through the same thing so the phrase “Judgement Free” rings true for everyone. Examine yourself, your resume, life situation and personal needs with categories of positive and negatives. Don’t make big decisions until this situation has passed and understand that you may have to give more emotionally and monetarily than you had before.
Will dental be the same? No, it will not be the same as the future is unknown. When this virus has passed there will be many people out of work. The result is that the big cosmetic cases will be scarce for a while and patients will be coming in reaction to a dental situation instead of preventative. But they will start coming in again because regardless, people need teeth. The question will be, did you set yourself up for success? Learn new things? Keep your staff? Keep your job? Did you get better during this halt of business? Or did you sit in front of a TV and stress over things you cannot control? Getting better and adapting is the key for everyone.
Will you be able to return to my past life? Maybe, but the people who embrace the reality of today, get better, adapt and think of new ways to be successful will be the next Airbnb. These are things, along with your effort, are things we all can control. So as a dental community, let’s use this time to get better and work together collectively because there will be a tomorrow and we will have to live in it.
This situation isn’t all “Doom and Gloom” for the dental community. There is real opportunity to rise to the occasion individually and collectively. Also, for many Americans it has put things in perspective of what really is important. Many people have joined together, virtually, through technology which has brought people closer together even though they are farther apart physically. It has been almost 19 years since the last time the nation joined together and the same thing is happening now.
Prior to COVID-19 America was internally divided on many fronts. Our initial reaction to the crisis was to hoard food and other items. But over the last few weeks the stock in stores have returned and so has our collective spirit. So we should look at that as a positive and individually take the responsibility of becoming better to collectively overcome this setback. Analyze, remain calm, learn, adapt and succeed. We will all be better for it.