Richard Muller joined Prima Dental as Managing Director in 2000. The business had an annual turnover of approximately £5 million at the time, and Richard remembers it as vastly different to the worldwide exporter itis today. As the management asserts, it has a history of looking to the future, which is evident in the steps it has taken to get to where it is; 240 staff, £25million turnover and sales in over 92countries worldwide. Richard spoke to us about the changes the business has both made and encountered in its constant pursuit of ‘better’.
SINK OR SWIM
As we all know, the world of technology and machinery moves at a pace and a little under 20 years ago, Prima Dental had reached a crossroads with the equipment and processes it had in place. The business was left with a clear choice; continue with what they had and let the business decline, or invest in updated equipment to transform the business and drive it forwards.
More than just monetary investment, the change required a significant investment in people, to ensure that the skills required were being developed as quickly as the business was evolving.
The business continues to grow today with a focus on annual investment in growth and constant improvement. Yet despite its size and geographical spread, it endeavours to maintain the closely-knit internal culture it developed from its beginnings as a family business.
Richard emphasises that this becomes so much harder as you expand internationally; considerable growth has been achieved for the business via joint ventures in Brazil, China, Hong Kong, and India and although this helps to achieve the objective of manufacturing and distribution in a wide variety of countries, it brings with it the challenges of merging cultures and working styles.
The key for Prima Dental has been a renewed focus on communication, ensuring all employees know what is going on, the direction of the business and how they fit into those changes. The introduction of information fayres for employees has been one of the real success stories in aiding positive communication. Prima Dental has found that providing these structured events as informal opportunities for employees to meet and engage with each other aids effective communications and can really support the process of change
The UK is small in terms of the dental market, so export is essential in order for Prima Dental to thrive. Without wishing to dwell on the challenging times we have entered with Brexit negotiations, Richard was keen to acknowledge that, for a business with a focus on export, it has certainly brought its challenges.
In terms of the medical devices and dental drills, the commonality of product standards required within the European Union opened doors to other countries. Before a deal/no deal decision has even been made, the level of paperwork and auditing processes has already increased and so Prima Dental has entered a serious period of change that will require them to modify their current procedures.
As yet, it is impossible to predict how processes will change further; however, Prima Dental’s track record of great communication and investing in the future will provide the foundation for overcoming the changes to come.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Continuing to move with the times, Richard was keen to highlight that not even the dental industry is immune to digital disruption!
Until this point, major dental work via traditional methods has been lengthy and, occasionally, a trial and error process.
Digital dentistry revolutionises this process. With digital wands that calculate the exact area for fitting and high precision milling that happens in the dental lab or surgery, the speed, costs and convenience of production and fitting are all greatly improved.
With Prima Dental’s history of high quality innovation, it seemed the clear choice to take the leap into purpose-designed tooling for the new machinery.
This move demonstrates another example of Prima Dental adapting to changes in its industry and markets by understanding the landscape ahead and investing in both people and infrastructure to stay ahead of the game. The business expects change and is ready to adapt to it. The proof is in the results; by the end of the year, Prima Dental expects to produce approximately 30% more than it did last year.
MEET THE MANAGING DIRECTOR
Richard graduated in 1980 with a business degree, specialising in marketing. His first job with a large British manufacturer gave him a taste of exporting, which has been key to his career. In the 90s, he joined a small dental manufacturer and built a successful business based on exporting, which was sold to the predecessor of Prima in 1995. He became MD in 2000 and started the redevelopment of the business. Since then Prima has won two Queen’s Awards and in 2018 Richard won the award for his outstanding contribution to the British dental industry. Richard enjoys walking the British countryside – after 40 years’ travelling the world he still hates flying.
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