The Legendary Leader of Henry Schein in Global Dental Market
"Annual sales of $12.4 billion, 22,000 employees in 32 countries around the world, the company that meets more than one million customers, Chairman Mr. Stanley M. Bergman is at the center of the organization."
by Miyong Yun, ceo & publisher of DNN Corporation (Media Group of Dental Arirang & DenfoLine)
'We respect Korea's amazing progress and the value of democratic alliance'
Henry Schein would be the No. 1 company to be mentioned mostly in the global dental market. When every dental companies are launching innovative new products or trying to advance into the global market based on the US market, Henry Schein is considered the market leader and partner they would like to meet first.
Annual sales of $12.4 billion(16 trillion won), 22,000 executives and employees in 32 countries around the world with 9 decades history, Mr. Stanley Bergman has led the organization since 1989 with his great influence.
Under his leadership, Henry Schein has become a common noun for the dental industry worldwide. Like Warren Buffett of capital markets or guru Prof. Peter Drucker of management, Mr. Bergman is regarded as a management and leadership iconic master that many dental entrepreneurs want to learn.
Henry Schein, which was started in New York in 1932 by pharmacist Henry Schein and his wife Esther, has grown into a global company representing the global dental market today. At the center is Mr. Stanley M. Bergman, who has led the group for more than 33 years.
If Henry Schein's early half-century history has grown from a small New York based company, Mr. Bergman has grown Henry Schein into a global company. It is as if Warren Buffett is a powerful force that moves the US capital market, Mr. Bergman has a strong influence in the dental distribution and healthcare market.
Miyong Yun, ceo and publisher of DNN Corporation, had an exclusive interview with Mr.Bergman in New York, USA, and heard Henry Schein's background on growing into a global company today, his insights on the dental market, and his views on the Korean market. The vision of the legendary master was profound, and he shared his insights and insights looking into the future together with Korean dentists and the dental world.
The relationship and interest in Korea are huge, but could not get in yet
“Before I answer your question, I want to let you know that I personally have great admiration for the Korean people. Korean people have been through enormous adversity over the centuries particularly last century with the second world war and then all the activities after the war. When I visited Korea before, I went to the 38th parallel DMZ museum which was quite interesting.
Dentrix, the first Windows operating system in dentistry, was developed by the inventor who developed software for US and Korean military to translate on the battlefield about 35 years ago. When the Korean and American soldiers worked together, they could translate for each other with this. We are allies who share democratic values together.
Koreans have come out of that very strong democracy that thrives. I’ve been there several times and I’ve done quite a lot of work advancing relationships between Korea and the United States. I’ve always had great pleasure in that so my admiration to the Korean people and of course the dentist of Korea.”
As soon as the interview began, Mr. Bergman showed his respect and feelings about Korea. As his first comment, he brought up the alliance for democratic values between Korea and the United States, and Henry Schein will continue to work to properly enter the world's most dynamic and developed Korean dental market.
Why is Henry Schein a great and strong organization?
“It relates to our values. Because I believe that even you come up with the greatest strategies but if you don’t have values, you will not be successful.
If you have and you can have a very bad strategy, but if you have the right values, you will correct that strategy and come up with a winning strategy.
Values drive culture. The culture can change over time.
When I joined Henry Schein with my colleague Vice chairman Jim Breslawski 45 years ago, we put in the first fax machine. So, the culture was very different today to what it was 45 years ago but the values are the same as they were when Henry and Esther opened the doors 90 years ago.
The values are important, values lead to the ability to drive change because if your customers trust you, your suppliers trust you, your team trusts you, your investors trust you, and you use all of that to advance society in general if you live out those values.
In the end you can go to all those constituents and say change is coming. And they will trust you and the only way to make progress is to advance change.
It’s always been the case over the centuries, and we are in a very exciting time in dentistry today with huge amount of change. We believe that Henry Schein have many partners have earned the right to go to the dentist and say 'please follow us with these changes because they’re good for you because we’ve had our great values for so long and it’s the values that drive the change the ability to have change'.”
What changes did Henry Schein grow up through?
“Well, quite frankly, Henry Schein reinvents ourselves every three years.
But perhaps the first major change was that in our dental business was that we came up with a catalog which listed all the dental products.
We published a price and if a dentist wanted the products, we would have it available and that price was a fair price not the lowest but a fair price for the value of service we’ve provided. Because if you look at consumable, for example, we have practically everything a dentist may need and if you order it, it’s going to be at a fair price but it’s going to be available, so the first major change was to introduce that catalog in the 70s.
And in the 80s we automated the supply chain way ahead of others in healthcare supply. We have computers drive the business, supply chain a pricing product description and then we had a supply chain system for us dealing with our suppliers and shipping the products. So, if we received an order today, it will leave the warehouse today and be delivered tomorrow. So, we conceived that idea 40 years ago that was a huge change.
And in the 90s we went to the dentist in America and said you need a computer to run your office. And that was quite revolutionary because computers were viewed as toys for kids around to play games. We said get a computer to run your practice and at the same time get a computer to operate your electronic medical records, and our dentist had those cares as we went.”
Think Global, Act Local is the Key to Success
“Then the next major change was to take Henry Schein global throughout the world. So, we could now learn about the best dentistry from throughout the world and bring it to dentists locally.
‘Think Global, Act Local!’ That has been a key part of our success.
And then we entered dental specialties which we manufacture ourselves implants, orthodontics and endodontics.
And then most recently in the last 7, 8 years, we focused on digital dentistry.
In other words, the ability to replace an x-ray with a piece of software, the ability to scan a prosthetic tooth and send it to mill. Although it’s developed a prosthetic from a scan to the mill the crown and bridge in chairside sent to a lab where the lab can know around crown & bridge digitally and relate to the customers digitally.
So that was another major move of today. It’s quite standard in the industry, but we were able to go to the dentist in the world and say now is the time to digitalize your practice. That was a huge move for Henry Schein.”
How to build a relationship with customers?
“It relates to one thought. Remaining relevant.
We need to be relevant to our customers. In other words, what’s important to them is important to us. So that’s very important so we spend a lot of time listening to our customers and then delivering what we believe our customers need that relevancy.
And then of course you need to figure a way to communicate your message. Because it’s not only important to be relevant but it’s important to communicate that message to our customers."
Business segments in Henry Schein: dental vs medical
"In Henry Schein, we’re on the ground in 32 countries but we service dentists around the world. Any dentist anywhere can buy a product from us and medical is primarily in the US and a little bit in Europe.
What is common is the supply chain. We use the same software to manage the relationship with our customers and then we have the same warehouse distribution systems. Everything required to serve as a customer is common. But we have separate sales organizations that determine what products we should carry between dental and medical.
Our US medical today is about the same size as our US dental for distribution but one difference in dental is we also have the specialty businesses and the software businesses.
We have small specialty businesses in medical, but that’s not big. We have big specialty business in dental and software."
What do you think about the Korean market?
“Unfortunately, one of the biggest markets in the world, the only one we’re not in is Korea.
We do not go into market generally on our own. We seek a partner. We have never had an opportunity to have a partner in Korea yet. We’ll be there some day.
We’d like to have a partner invite us and we will have strong partners.
We do sell products in Korea, our self-made products, endodontics, orthodontics, some implants, and other products but not on the distribution. We’re not there yet and we are seeking a partner in Korea which is the biggest economy that we are not in yet."
How to be a partner of Henry Schein?
"What we would expect is for us to invest in our partners business and grow the business together. Of course, we have products to bring but we have huge know-how and supply chain in building relationships with customers.
We believe we can help any partner in Korea grow their business as we’ve done in 32 countries around the world. With some of each country, we generally have partner with number one and number two, and it’s paid off for those partners."
About the Korean dental manufacturers and market
"Korea is one of the leading manufacturers. We buy a lot of products from Korea today. One of our very first import 45 years ago from Korea was gutta percha.
Today we have scanners and other products that we import from Korea. We sell some of the Korean implants in different parts of the world and other products in general.
In fact, on the medical side, we have very unique product from Korea. That is the machine for orthopedic surgery. If an implant doesn’t go well, this machine is the best machine in the world we think to take out the bad implant and put a new one in, so enabling the orthopedist to put in a new one. It’s a digital machine developed in Korea, and we are exclusive distributor of that product.
On the imaging side too. Korea leads in implants as well, and we sell the Korean implants in number of countries. I think even China would be a big customer of Korean implants, and we’re ready to work with any of the major implant or other companies in Korea.”
ESG, what is the role of social contribution in business management?
“We are one of the companies in the world that is focused on social responsibility as a business.
In other words, ‘Doing Well by Doing Good’ based on the notion of Benjamin Franklin, one of the founders of America. The notion of being enlightened self-interest business but also enlightened for society. You can as a business do very well if you aligned it with the needs of society.
Henry and Esther had that idea 90 years ago, they didn’t understand there was no ESG. In fact, we’ve been very active with our foundation with Henry Schein’s philantrophy for decades. We never called it ESG. That’s a new term but we aligned Henry Schein’s business way of doing with the needs of society.
I suppose we were one of the original companies in ESG but we started a way before the idea was even born under the concept of ESG. That is the social part including environmental part.
And we’ve also been quite active in the arena of diversity in dentistry.
So, 27 years ago, we convened a meeting here at airport in New York hotel, and brought in dentists from all the different parts of the American Dental Community, the African-American dentists, the Asian American dentist, the Latino American dentist.
The goal was to figure a way to allow people to be focused on because America very much focus on where you come from to some extent- to focus on keeping your identity but also work as a group of dentists to advance dentistry in general. At the same time advance minority dentists in America. We’re very active in that area and we've founded the institute at the American Dental Association for Diversity in Dentistry.
We have many programs at Henry Schein that reach out to diverse groups at dentists.
We’ve been working with women in dentistry for 50 years now.
So the social responsibility of doing well by doing good for society helping people access oral care and environment, good governance, is all areas that we’ve focused on Henry Shein for long term.
The current generation of young dentists in the United States has more than 50% of female dentists. Women's roles are no different from men. Although there is a maternity leave system for childbirth and parenting activities, there is basically no difference in the roles and abilities of men and women (Actually, Mrs. Bergman also worked as a doctor).
These diverse support activities are also the areas Henry Schein pursues for decades of long-term dental development.
This allows our clients to focus more professionally on taking better care of their patients.” (Mr. Bergman is from South Africa and has experienced life in a community where various races are mixed, so he believes that creating opportunities for social diversity is the foundation of a healthy society.)
Henry Schein's growth and development comes from customer.
“Our customer is at the center of everything.
Our job by the way most our businesses need a free-market world where dentistry earning a living and running a practice. I mean there’s some government dentistry but most of our business is servicing the free market and that context practitioners own a business.
So, our job is to help the practitioners operate more efficiently business, so they can provide better clinical care and they go hand in hand the operational side which has to be run like a business and the clinical part which should be whatever is the best for the patient. And that’s been our philosophy help our customers operate the more efficient practice so they can provide better clinical care.”
Henry Schein’s way to manage COVID era
“Our priority was the safety of our employees and the success of our customers.
The biggest challenge for our customers was obtaining PPEs, and we made sure we got product that was a high quality. We worked with governments around the world to make sure that we distributed those products in an equitable way. We were very active in the pandemic period in March to about June of 2020 working with government agencies here and other countries to ensure that these masks were distributed properly in this PPEs. We act responsibly for these kinds of time."
What message would you leave to young dentists & generation?
“There’s a huge opportunity today in world for dentists because it’s a recognition that there’s a direct correlation between good oral care in good health care.
So, the dentists need to be active in talking to the medical practitioners, talking to the politicians, talking to companies those that pay for healthcare to explain that if you take care of your teeth you will live a longer. I would say that’s the number one area dentists should focus on is advancing oral care.
And my recommendation to the dentist is of course they run a very good practice so they’re going to be in their own practice like a business but make sure that patients get the best quality care. Dentists have to be active in their community advocating for dentistry. If the dentists don’t do it, I don’t know who are?
Message to the dental industry...
"Quite important in industry side is that we all focus on helping advancing oral care. We need to work together to get the message out that oral care is important. And in the industry side, we need to give our customers the tools they need to get the job done which in the year 2022 and 2023 should be heavily involving digital products for every kind of procedure. And that digital product needs to be intraoperable and interconnected with the electronic medical record in the practice management system.”
What will be the next generation of noteworthy technologies?
“I think it will be in two areas. One is 3D Printing and the other one is AI, Artificial Intelligence. We launched AI product at the Greater New York Dental Meeting that deals with artificial intelligence to detect carries.
Using artificial intelligence, we have a huge amount of data in our systems because we store all the x-rays all the images and now, we’re using AI to go through those images to look for people that likely to have caries, people that need implants, people that need aligners, people that need endodontic treatment, and we’re giving a list to our customers.
Also detecting issues are in digital. “Everything is in digital from detecting caries, protecting treating and so on. There will be concepts of dentists playing a more active role in detecting non-communicable diseases patients over time tests etc."
Rising star products or services in Henry Schein history?
"Over the history of Henry Schein, technology was the center of our development. Getting the dentist in America and other parts of world to use a computer to run their practice first for accounting then for the electronic medical record and now intraoperable with the devices is no question.”
A personal message to our subscribers in Korea...
“Dentistry is a great place to be in the year 2023 and beyond.
We know so many people are ill because of dentistry. Dentistry is a key non-communicable disease in addition to cardiac, cancer, pulmonary, and diabetes, and mental health. Dentistry is one of those key non-communicable diseases that if all of us work together, the world will be healthier.
And dentists have that opportunity to advance oral care. Dentists in most countries in the world are trained to deliver that message to customers and to patients.
We stick more to patients into the dental office, and the world will be a better place and people will be healthier to look longer lives that will be good for dentistry, and good for those of us to sell the products. I would say that “Dentistry is a great place to be in the year 2023 and beyond, and dentistry is a great place to have a good treatment. And dental industry is also a great industry.”
Concluding the interview
After the interview, Mr. Stanley Bergman, showed interests at the Samsung Galaxy foldable phone that I used for this interview. He has visited Korea dozens of times, and as a country that shares the same ideological value of democracy, he showed unfiltered affinity for Korea.
While preparing for this exclusive interview, we looked at why Henry Schein did not have any possible presence in the Korean market. Henry Schein has already made significant investments in Asian markets such as China, Japan and Thailand through M&A.
The unique capabilities and characteristics of the Korean market seem to be the reason Henry Schein has implemented a more prudent policy in entering the Korean market.
In the future, it is expected that Henry Schein's corporate value, global scalability, and potential of the Korean dental industry will meet to create an opportunity for mutual growth and development.
Mr. Stanley Bergman has grown Henry Schein into the world's largest dental and healthcare company through his cool-headed and prudent decision-making in business. However, as a leader, he is evaluated as having leadership by humble and open mind visions.
This is the reason why many dental colleges and organizations in various countries, including the United States, invite him as an honorary member and presenting achievement award as they highly appreciate his leadership, management philosophy, and presentation of a common vision for the whole dental community globally.
Mr. Stanley M. Bergman, who expresses infinite respect for dentistry as a leader in management and at the same time demands a role worthy of it.
Our industry is excited to see what new historical records he will create in global dentistry and entrepreneurial vision in Henry Schein that he will unfold in future.