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The ‘Best Dental Expo in the West’

April 18th, 2011

As promised, some images of what is always a terrific show.

Back in the 1960s, when I started travelling, the Open Houses in Holland were already ‘talked about’. In those days, Tjaden and Tholen were the 2 big guys, with Dental Union not far behind them (all 3 located in Utrecht, near the university), plus NDO Leeflang, located in Amsterdam. All of them ran open houses; all were fun and all were successful.

Tjaden and Tholen have ‘disappeared’ (although I did espy Mr. Tholen jnr. walking through an IDS hall). Dental Union had retained the name, but of course, there have been some changes.

And then there was Leeflang. When old Mr. Leeflang passed on (I remember him so well, smoking his big cigars behind his glass partition), the company went into the hands of  the sale manager, Jo Groen (that’s Guiseppe Verdi in Italian). His son Harald became involved. Then the manager, Ger Bastiaans, together with 2 partners, took over.

This is Ger with yours truly (I am the Pope), and on my other side, his son Richard (Don Corleone in negotiations with the Vatican?).

Ger is usually credited with being the one who built ‘the house’ as we now know it. Sold first to the financial group, demedis, and then on to Henry Schein, NDO Leeflang became a very important dealer – and there Open House became legendary.

I have always maintained that it is not so much the Dutch mentality that has been the factor. Check out the occasional national expos there and see how poorly attended they can be, with a total lack of atmosphere. No, this is something that an individual dealer thought of, and the others copied. It took a long time to bear fruit, but once successful, it has become an annual event, at which the dealers turn over a very large percentage of their annual business.

I reported that the Schein European management held their meeting in Holland this week. It was not so much to learn but to observe – and, yes, to perhaps pick up some hints. (My opinion – not necessarily that of the management).

One nice feature of the Open House is that they choose a them every year. Might be ‘Africa’ or ‘Winter sports’. This year it was ‘Italy’. All the buildings are decorated a la ‘Forza Italia’, and all the staff are decked out in Italiana. See below –

Nathalie, from the Italian company Micerium, pointed out to me that the Pope was not actually located in Italy, but that did not dent my enthusiasm (being one of the only suppliers to make the effort to dress up). And not only was I the Pope; have a look at my assistants, Ileen Helstone (Dutch dentist) and her sister Jacky (both originally from Surinam).  (Any similarities to Whoopi Goldberg’s ‘Sister Act’ are purely intentional).

Won’t tell you my sales turnover (just hand instruments). Suffice to say that they were substantial. One of the many incentives was the system of coins handed. During a certain period prior to the Open House, coins are given out to the value of orders taken. But they can only be redeemed at the Open House. So along come well over 2,000 dentist (and spouses, children and staff). The major and/or exclusive suppliers have the ‘honour’ of providing ‘gold coins’ with a face value of 50, We give them out for certain order values.. It is quite stunning how much we are able to increase orders just by informing the customer of how much more he/she needs to add to achieve the ‘golden value’.
A salesman’s joy!

Smile – Promote your dentist

Stephen

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