Follow the Money
If you want to attempt to decipher where the dental and dental technology industries are headed in the next few years, then heeding the advice that the mysterious Deep Throat imparted to Bob Woodward during his investigation of the 1970s Watergate scandal might help provide that clue: “Follow the money.” Although there is no parallel being drawn here between dentistry and political scandals, there is no doubt that the principle of following a money trail can offer a fascinating glimpse into future industry directions, especially when one is trying to understand and analyze what is happening. Who is buying or investing in whom or what? Who is merging or partnering with whom? What new strategic financial relationships are being formed? Who may, or may not, benefit, from all the spending or strategic alliances? Of course, the results of this approach may not produce such as dramatic a result as that of Woodward and Bernstein’s, because the pieces of the puzzle in the dental industry are not static but always evolving. However, the clues and signals, whether blatant or subtle, are there for those wanting to stay ahead of the game. By analyzing industry players’ most recent moves and then projecting what the next maneuver would most likely be, or would logically have to be, one can gain some strategic insights on what the maneuvering might mean and the impact it might have on the future structure of the industry 1, 5, or 10 years down the road.
There has been significant movement within the dental and dental technology industries in the past year and in recent months. Some, taken at face value, may not appear to have much meaning. As an aggregate, however, they are worth watching and analyzing as the competitive playing fields change. Changes in any industry bring forth competitive shifts as companies reassess their core competencies and markets. Take care not to be myopic in your observations and conclusions drawn. The changes taking place in the dental industry are not so different than what has happened, or is happening, in other industries. Often it is helpful when trying to stay on top of trends in one industry to look to what has happened in closely-related or even unrelated fields. Such an approach may spark a deeper understanding of what is happening in our own industry.
So what does all this mean? The dental industry is quickly changing on a number of levels. To grasp all of the undercurrents and understand the consequences of larger, more public shifts is not an easy task when major and minor players continue to jockey for a more secure market position, or to grab a larger political powerbase, or even to form a new powerbase that will challenge the weaknesses and structure of the current market leaders. I can’t pretend to completely understand the changes taking place or their ramifications. However, from this seat at the chess match, it is certainly fascinating to watch while I try to guess the next move and wait to see if my hunch was correct.