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An Interview with Shawn Nowak
Shawn Nowak, President of Nowak Dental Supplies, discusses the values and institutions that will help the dental technology industry remain strong in the future.
Inside Dental Technology: With the onset of CAD/CAM, what principles and values are important for dental laboratory owners and dental technicians to maintain?
Shawn Nowak: Customer service is key. The increasing prevalence of CAD/CAM standardizes quality in many cases, whereas in the past the technician’s skill was the lone factor in upholding the standards of the laboratory. Laboratory owners need to work hard on the business aspect to demonstrate to clients that utilizing their laboratory is the best choice.
One way to provide strong customer service is simply helping dentists so that in return they can provide more manageable cases for you; instead of complaining about bad impressions, work with an impression material manufacturer to teach the dentist or assistant what they should look for in an impression. Host lunch-and-learns with clients and their staff to show them new products and inform them about what you are doing at your laboratory that can benefit them.
IDT: What are the most positive trends that you have observed recently in the industry?
SN: I have noticed that laboratories are helping each other more than ever, especially by interacting on Facebook. They are not necessarily assisting competitors with product offerings, but they are helping each other find solutions for challenging cases.
IDT: You are a Trustee for the Foundation of Dental Laboratory Technology. How crucial is education to the future of this industry?
SN: Education is extremely important in the dental laboratory industry. I am a firm believer in the Certified Dental Technician (CDT) program through the National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology. CDT certification adds value to the technician and to the laboratory. Utilizing the CDT brand, however, is a crucial step that some people do not take. Technicians who earn the CDT distinction should take advantage of the ability to use it as a marketing tool. You would not visit a medical doctor who does not have MD or DO after his/her name, so why should a dentist purchase restorations from a laboratory that does not employ a CDT? It is your job to educate future industry employees on what a CDT certification is and what it means.
IDT: Nowak Dental Supplies is a mainstay at association trade shows. Why is it so important to support the regional associations?
SN: We do support trade shows and will continue to, but I also feel that as our industry is consolidating, so should our trade shows. I hear way too often that customers get enough CE credits in the laboratory so they do not need to attend the trade shows. I would love to see only 3-5 trade shows across the country each year. We as exhibitors and trade show organizers need to figure out more ways to make shows more attractive. We can all sit through a lecture about “Why this product is superior to the next,” but did we actually learn something or did we just sit through an hour-long infomercial? We need to have more business-oriented and technical classes to improve our businesses and skills.
IDT: Your family has been in this industry for a long time. In an era of cost-cutting and mass production, how important are customer care, support, and trust?
SN: Yes, we have been in business for 75 years and we are looking pretty good at our age. As I noted earlier, I feel customer service is the quality that sets companies apart. All of us, including those on the supplier side, can battle each other with lower prices, but what customers remember is how they were treated. Rarely do you hear customers boast or reminisce about a company just because of a deal they got one time, but you will hear when a company goes above and beyond for accounts. Let’s be honest: No company is perfect. I personally have made mistakes once or twice. The way you handle those mistakes will set you apart. Also, always remember if you are talking on the phone with a client, even though they cannot see you, they can tell if you are smiling or having a bad day.