Listen on iTunes
Stream Audio here:
AUDIO - HSP #272 - Alan Segal
Watch Video here:
VIDEO - HSP #272 - Alan Segal
• Alma Denture Gauge
• and much more!
•Qualified 1973 MSc MSc 1983
•Visited USA 1974 went on several courses
•Started own dental practice (office) in suburb of Manchester 1975
•Purchased a house and set waited for business
•Was fully booked with a very short period of time
•First additional employee was a hygienist then built up a group of dental practices and a dental lab employing numerous dentists technicians and staff
•Lectured to students on career development and also to dental nurses
•Developed a cross threaded pin splint system for Perio stabilisation
•Went back to University and did an MSc thesis on this subject
•Kept a research fellowship at University of Manchester for a number of years supervising postgrad research
•Developed Alma Denture Gauge patented and started selling several countries. Then developed ProTip 1990 and more products followed
•Presented and lectured in many countries world wide
•Continued to practice dentistry part time but the product range expanded winning several prestigious awards for innovation
•Now employ engineers sales team marketing logistics and the company is growing
•Manufacture to international quality standards with a high level of compliance
•Sell in over 60 countries to many of the largest companies in the world both branded and private label products. Aim is to develop innovative high quality good value products that are cleaner quicker sharper safer or more accurate.
•We keep developing and where products require enhancements we go for it.
I love dentistry I have strong passion for what I am doing I hope my story can inspire dentists and let them know this is a career that can offer huge options to develop skills and be a fulfilling rewarding profession.
Howard : This is a huge honor for me. We're at the Greater New York Dental Meeting in Manhattan, and I just saw one of my idol, role models, Alan Segal, who's a dentist in Manchester-
Howard : England. United Kingdom.
Howard : Europe, and how many adjectives are there on that deal?
Alan: A couple.
Howard : I've always been ... I've always admired companies that were founded by real [what 00:00:33] glove dentists, I mean out here we have Dan Fisher started [Ultradent 00:00:35], Bob Epsom started [DenMan 00:00:38]. I've always thought that when dentists started a company they saw first hand that they were solving a real problem. So you are a dentist. You started working ... Tell, you're talking to about seven thousand American dentists, tell them your story. How did you go from a dentist to dental manufactures? This is your son.
Alan: Son, Antony.
Howard : This is your model?
Amy: You're very nice.
Alan: Daughter, Amy.
Howard : It's a family business.
Alan: It's family. My wife works with us as well.
Antony: Two generations now.
Howard : Your wife works for him too?
Alan: Yeah, yeah.
Howard : Okay. So tell the viewers the whole story. The Alan Segal story.
Alan: So I'm sat in my surgery one day, many years ago. I'm thinking this is not accurate. I'm guessing at where the tooth position is for making dentures. I'm going backwards and forwards in the patient's mouth and I'm scraping some wax off a bite rim. I'm trying to get the right vertical dimension and there was no way of doing it. So from there I measured a device, a little measuring device, for measuring the relationship of the incisal tip of the incisors, to the papilla. We did this in two directions, vertically and horizontally.
I went to a little work shop and they made something out of plastic, I took it back, and it worked. We then made another prototype which cost me thousands of pounds because it was hand-carved, and it worked. It paid for itself very quickly. I then went and patented the product and before I knew it we had it selling in Japan and America. I thought this is really exciting, it's like composing music, and people wanted you to play it. It's been sold all over the world. It's called the Alma Denture Gauge, and that's how it started. I'd done thousands of crowns, and bridges, and dentures...
Howard : The Alma Dental Gauge.
Alan: A-L-M-A. A-L for Alan, and M-A for my wife Marilyn, called Marilyn.
Howard : Really? M-A is for what? Maryland?
Alan: M-A, and that's where it came from.
Howard : Maryland?
Amy: My mum.
Alan: Marilyn. Not Maryland.
Howard : How do you spell it?
Alan: Not Maryland, that's the state in this...Marilyn.
Amy: [inaudible 00:02:45]
Howard : Oh, Marilyn. It's hard, the British accent is a little tougher.
Antony: We pronounce names [inaudible 00:02:47]
Alan: Yeah, we speak, English-
Howard : So, Marilyn. So the Alma was from Alan Marilyn.
Howard : Okay. Right on.
Alan: So we developed the product and it was selling, and I then went back to my surgery, and I saw something else. I thought, this is dirty. We using a three-in-one syringe, but wiping it between patients. It's the best we could do at the time, but inside it becomes contaminated, the little metal nozzle. We took it back to University. I tested it. We soiled it. We couldn't clean it. We couldn't prove it could be sterilized. So we devised a product called Pro-Tip. That's selling all over the world now. It's a disposable three-in-one syringe nozzle.
We made little converters, little metal converters. We made them for over 30 dental units, Kavo, and Siemens, and Adec, Belmont, and you can fit it to any unit. I thought this is great. I spent more and more time developing products. We then took an engineer in, and the company now, selling in 65 countries. We have a whole range of products. We work with the largest companies in the world. We design, we innovate. If there's 100 products out there we're not looking to be 101. What we want to do is leap-frog existing technology, improve technique. So that meant cleaner, quicker, smarter, and sharper.
Howard : Now you're still in Manchester?
Alan: I am.
Howard : Do you still have a dental office? A surgery?
Alan: No, I retired three or four years ago.
Howard : Three or four years ago. Now I first ran into you, or heard of you ... You're his daughter that moved to California?
Howard : Yeah, so I ran into your daughter before I ran into you.
Alan: You should have stopped there.
Howard : I should have stopped there? So you're in America, in California?
Amy: Yeah, based in Los Angeles.
Howard : And where are you based?
Antony: I'm in Manchester.
Howard : So you're back at home-
Antony: We're together in the office. He invents the idea and I find a way to merket and sell them.
Howard : So you, Marilyn, and your son are in Manchester, and then your daughter went to California. So are you leading the American division-
Amy: Yeah. [inaudible 00:04:46]
Howard : ... Of the team? Is that why you came to America?
Amy: I found my husband in America, so I moved out here, got married recently.
Howard : Is your husband a dentist?
Howard : Okay.
Alan: He's in cosmetics.
Alan: He doesn't wear it, but you know he-
Howard : So tell them what you do then? I'm sorry ...
Antony: Okay, so I'm kind of more in charge of the sales and marketing side. Business development, so over the years, Alan's come up with all these great inventions, but I would say for a period of time, the products were better than the sales, and the marketing resource. So we're trying to catch up, and hang on to these innovations and bring them to the world.
Howard : You like to market and sell direct? Or do you like to go through distributors? Like [inaudible 00:05:28]
Antony: We believe fully in the distributor model. So everything we sell is through distributors.
Howard : Why is that?
Antony: We just feel there's all these great distributors out there, they have excellent sales reps all over the place. We feel we're better collaborating, working with other companies, rather than trying to do everything ourselves. Inventing, developing, producing products is difficult enough. Then if you're trying to look after the whole sales and marketing resource all by yourself as well, you know, we feel let's work with others.
Howard : How was your launching in to America going?
Amy: So far so good. We're getting our feelers out there, and researching the US market, but it's a lot of potential.
Howard : It's a big market. A lot of international companies say 40% of their sales are just in the United States, where only 5% of the people live. So, it is a huge market. What is your ... If you were talking to dentists out here in America right now, who've never heard of Alan Segal, and your company's Astek, what would be your top hottest products. What would you want them to-
Alan: Our four signature products are the Pro-Tip, which I've mentioned to you, we make a disposable matrix band, called Pro-Matrix, completely disposable, so it can work with composite, or composite, how you call it here?
Howard : Well in Canada it's composite, but in America it's composite.
Alan: Okay, well whatever that material is, the white one, you know? Works with amalgam, it works with small fillings and large fillings. Some of the sectional bands need lots of extra appliances, we worked out do a MOD cavity, you need to put 8 things in the patient's mouth, so with ours you just put one thing in, you tighten it, you can do mesial, distal, cusp replacements. So it's a one-stop shop. That's another product. So we've got Pro-Tip, we've got the matrix band, and we've just launched a needle stick safety system in England, called inSafe. We won product of the year award, invention of the year. We have over 20% of UK dentists now using that product. It's a phenomenal success.
Howard : So who's your dentist, clinician, product champion? Do you have one? Yourself?
Alan: I'm the guy who invents the products.
Howard : Do you still have access to a dental surgery?
Alan: Oh of course. We still own dental surgeries.
Howard : [inaudible 00:08:02] But we put up 350 one hour classes, and they've been viewed half a million times, and you're a dentist, you should demo ... You should make a video of a real one glove dentist showing what the problem of the inspiration behind this. I know-
Alan: How could you do that?
Howard : I know that dentists, they love dentist started companies. Tulsa Dental Product, was Ben Johnson, in Tulsa Oklahoma, who wanted a [inaudible 00:08:31] file. Dentists love dentist created-
Alan: Truthfully, I've always kept a low profile. I've let other people sell the product, I've never felt it was right for a dentist to be selling products to other dentists. It's another reason why we don't go from idea right through to sales to the dentists. We feel the larger companies go to exhibitions, they distribute, they've got analogous products to sell with our products, synergies there. So we keep to our end.
Howard : I have this problem with every dentist, because the only people gonna become demists, you've got to get A's in calculus, physics, geometry, trig-
Alan: No, no, no no.
Howard : So it has a tendency to attract a lot of introvert, science, librarian, nerd, geeks. That's not the self-promoter style. Bob Epsom, I think he turned 80 years old before he let me interview him. They're just ... They're never self promoters, but you've got to be self promoter.
Alan: Oh, we do okay.
Howard : There's 205,000 dentists in this country, and they would rather ... They trust dentists more. When we survey and we tell them about a product, they say 9% trust a dental company, and it's like 94% trust a dental peer. You're one of them, you're a real dentist. You should be your number one spokesman. They'll trust you.
Alan: Okay, happy to do that, and present to whoever you may suggest.
Howard : Obviously you wouldn't have created this product unless you didn't see a real need for it.
Alan: No, absolutely, we can support it all with trials, survey, endorsements, great videos on our website, so we everything we need to to market the product. We don't sit back-
Howard : So you already have a bunch of videos on your website?
Alan: Absolutely. Yeah.
Howard : What is that website?
Alan: astekinnovations.co.uk. You'll find first class videos on our-
Howard : So it's astekinnovations.co.uk?
Alan: Yeah, it's not like your com, co and uk, you know?
Howard : Okay, and so where does ... What does Astek mean?
Alan: Again, it's Alan Segal technology.
Howard : Alan Stegal...
Alan: Segal, as...
Howard : Segal technology. Okay, Alan Segal technology. Okay, tek, T-E-K for technologies. I like it. So, homies go to www.astekinnovations.co.uk and then you've already got a lot of product videos there?
Howard : Are they all on YouTube?
Howard : So you could also go to Dentaltown and when you go to an area like there's 50 different categories, so you could to restorative dentistry, and when you make a post, inside the post, you can go to a YouTube video, and where you click share, and it has the link, or embed, and you can copy and paste that embed and throw that right ... There's a little YouTube button there, and you throw that in the YouTube button, then your videos are posted there. I think what's value about that, is if you do that, then other dentists can discuss that video. The whole deal with Dentaltown, was that with dentaltown.com, no dentist would ever have to practice solo again. So the disadvantage on your website would be, someone might be watching the video, but have a question. If you drop that in the community, then someone could sit there, and she could say "Well why is he is using blue, and why not red?" Or "Why not.." why this not that? Then they can start talking about it. Like I said they have a really high trust factor if the founder is a dentist.
Alan: That's good.
Howard : You wouldn't have [inaudible 00:11:53] So I know what the first question you're asking, the first question you're thinking probably doesn't have anything to do with your company, when you're sitting over here in America, I graduated in '87. A lot of us have heard that when we got out of school '87 that there were like all the dentists in the '80s practiced in England for the National Health Service. Now we hear that maybe, that 25, or a third of them-
Howard : ... Have dropped out and gone private. A lot of people say that the dental delivery system in England has probably changed more than in any other country around. Can you talk about that? I mean, so what year did you get out of dental school?
Howard : So in '74, how many dentists worked for the-
Alan: Most, most. 90-up percent.
Howard : Most, and then what would you say it is in 2015?
Alan: I think you're right. 20, 25% of dentistry. Now it doesn't mean dentists are completely private. Quite a number of them choose to select certain treatments, or amount of time for private. National Health is quite an interesting concept, people were originally given free dental treatment. It's probably still the best value in the world. Highly trained dentists from good academic universities, and performing pretty good dentistry. If you want something better and it's available, private dentistry can provide it. So it's a good two tier system.
Howard : Do you think it'll stay at about this level 75% all NHS, 25% kinda two tier?
Alan: Depends what the government do with the NHS. If they continue to fund it, and encourage national health service which they do in hospitals as well, it's a big problem, because the costs of an efficient health services are really expensive. I know they're looking at different models, but the answer is yes, I think it will stay about the same.
Howard : I think America's moving toward a single payer system. I mean I think it'll take another 10 or 20 years to get there, but I think Obamacare was just another step towards that goal.
Alan: Yeah, yeah.
Howard : Do you agree that America will someday-
Alan: I can't imagine what American do, it's so difficult. It's hard enough to understand your own country, but the politics and funding, it seems quite expensive to get healthcare here, and deliver it free.
Howard : Yeah.
Alan: I found something in my pocket.
Howard : What did you ... This is your disposable matrix system?
Alan: Yeah, that's right.
Howard : So show them that.
Alan: Okay, so this equivalent to what we called a siqveland band, or the Tofflemire. It has a body. If you turn this very simply it makes the band larger or smaller. Those little device over here-
Howard : This whole set-ups disposable. This is single use.
Alan: Yeah, yeah. Single use.
Howard : How much would a single use something like that cost?
Alan: Just over a dollar, I think.
Howard : A dollar.
Alan: If you click this down over here, what it does, it deflects the band. So as you tighten it, it tightens the band against the cervical margin, so it tightens this against the box. The thing is it's circumferential, so you can do large and small fillings, cusp replacements. We've been extremely successful with it.
Howard : That is very interesting. It solves a huge problem. So you have a lot of YouTube videos. Are they YouTube videos of your dad doing...
Alan: No we've used someone independent. With American accent, I might say, as well.
Howard : You used a dentist?
Alan: Yes. Oh, no, no. Someone who's pretty good at delivering videos, technically excellent. We've briefed him-
Howard : So they're technical videos? They're not of a live dentist on a live patient?
Alan: Not on a patient.
Amy: Not on a patient.
Alan: We use models.
Howard : Huh, yeah. I'd like to look at all that.
Alan: Our pleasure.
Howard : Maybe they could all be rolled into one. I think the American's would love you. You're a real dentist...
Alan: I've had my moments.
Howard : You've had your moments. I think they would really find you charming, and they would probably want to hear from the horse's mouth, before ... Instead of anyone else.
Alan: Some horse, but yeah.
Howard : Yeah, you should show them, you should go through each one of your products and tell them why, what problems-
Alan: I usually have a load of watches up my arm here but I have the equivalent of that is here's another product for you. This is heat mold-able, impression tray. So I've got very good morphology. There's many impression tray's out there. So normally I wouldn't go for an impression tray, unless you had something special, something leap-frogging. So I've got great morphology to get the sulcus. Very good retention in these grooves, two finger rests to equlibriate the pressure. We've got a central hole over here if you want to muscle trim all the way around. This is away from the lip so we can muscle trim. Quite often the handles are in the way. Finger rests over here, but if I put this in your coffee, it will allow me to heat mold the product.
Howard : Even as low temperature as a coffee?
Alan: No, well I think that's a bit cold now. I wouldn't drink that.
Howard : It's pretty cold.
Alan: Too cold.
Howard : A hot coffee.
Alan: 75 degrees. So that's well below boiling point.
Howard : 75 degrees Celsius or is Fahrenheit?
Howard : Okay.
Alan: One of those.
Howard : We don't know Celsius over here.
Alan: Okay. So I'll call it Celsius.
Howard : So 100 degrees Celsius is-
Howard : ... Boiling, and zero is freezing, so 75-
Alan: Somewhere in between.
Howard : About [crosstalk 00:16:55] degrees?
Alan: Yeah, so put it in. You can heat mold large tuberosity, proclined incisors, even cleft palates, narrow ridges. We do a dentate and a dentures. The caliber of impression you can get from this is far better.
Howard : So that-
Alan: Just feel the strength of it.
Howard : Yeah, that is a heck of neat product. So this is called what?
Alan: The Pro-Matrix.
Howard : The Pro-Matrix, and this is called?
Alan: Transform impression tray. We just won best product-
Howard : Transform ...
Alan: Impression tray.
Howard : Impression tray.
Alan: We just won an award for that product just two weeks ago, best product launch in the UK.
Howard : Congrat-
Alan: Thank you.
Howard : Congratulate ... And what else I saw other products in your sleeve.
Alan: I don't I've anything in the pocket which is relevant to you.
Howard : Oh, these are two duplicates, just different colors.
Alan: Yeah. Well one is for molar, and is six millimeters wide, and the other's for premolar and children.
Howard : Okay, so the green is for children ...
Alan: And premolars.
Howard : And premolars.
Alan: And this is for molars.
Howard : What else is up your sleeve?
Alan: Lots of new inventions. We've got a very aggressive product development program. We've got exciting products coming through. I'm enjoying it. I love it. I've got great passion. I say it's like composing music and people wanting to play.
Howard : So what is that like? So you kept your surgery and then the dentists there are ...
Alan: I had a group of surgeries when I was active, and a commercial dental laboratory as well. So I've always been commercially minded, interested in expanding my visions, but I felt the best place for me to be creative was not to have a lot of dental practices, but in fact devote myself to products.
Howard : Well if it makes dentists do their dentistry faster, easier, higher quality, and lower costs-
Alan: I'm over joyed.
Howard : [crosstalk 00:18:35]
Alan: I'm over joyed with that. If I can make a contribution to technique and see the endorsements, and academic papers that have been written on my products. Even thesis have been preformed on one of my products, so that's really good.
Howard : Well I'm excited about your daughter's mission to make him a household name in the United States.
Amy: Yeah [inaudible 00:18:54]
Howard : I think that would be ... I think that's a very neat thing of the internet. When we started Dentaltown in 1998, it was like every country had their own separate dental magazine, their separate tribe, their own separate cultures, customs. I think the internet, if it's done anything, it's destroyed nationalism, and now dentists in America, are just likely to listen to dentists from Australia, New Zealand. I mean no one cares in dentistry, what country you're from. It's really shrinking the two million dentists on earth, into one website. We've got 205,000 of them on Dentaltown. Have you downloaded the app yet?
Alan: Yes. Yeah. Ah, the app, no, but we're reviving information-
Howard : My gosh you've got to get your daddy on that.
Alan: It's very exciting doing the products. We're all over the world. We're exhibiting in Dubai, we've been to Chicago, we go into Cologne. Those people that dentistry's confined, restricted, they're bored with the profession, there's so much you can do.
Howard : Well you need to start a ... I just searched Astek, four million posts. So you need to start posting away on there. Download the app-
Antony: We're doing it. We're starting today.
Howard : You might also, if you're listening to this podcast, you might want to find a couple product champions over here. Howard Goldstein and I could help you, dentists who like to-
Alan: Be delighted, yeah.
Howard : Yeah, there's a lot of dentists out there who are known in America for liking to try to new stuff, who are real prolific in posting videos, cases, things like that.
Alan: We put a lot into our company. We've now got quality control of a high level, we're compliant to CE certification, FDA approval. It takes a lot of time to get all that. We've got an infrastructure now to develop products, we've got highly trained skillful, innovative, engineers. We manufacture in Taiwan, China, in Uk. So we can also handle other people's products. Up to know it's all been mine, but I'd like to give other dentists a chance to bring us ideas.
Howard : We know there's a lot of dentists who have invented their own products and don't know really what to do. That's something you should really ...
Alan: We get calls all the time, and quite often they've spent a lot of money on patents, and prototypes, and it's unfortunate they're not being commercially minded to pick out a good viable proposition. It's very important to guide these guys and give them a chance.
Howard : So one of these dentists listening has a product. How do they contact you?
Alan: Please contact us.
Howard : How would they contact you?
Alan: Just e-mail us, just let us know they've got an idea, they can-
Howard : What e-mail?
Alan: AJS or info@-
Howard : So this one?
Amy: Yeah, AJS.
Antony: That's the one.
Howard : So AJS, so what's the ... That J's your middle name?
Howard : Alan what?
Howard : Julian. Like wasn't there a Cesar named Julian?
Alan: Yeah. It's like Julius. Yeah. Something similar.
Howard : So email@example.com.
Alan: We also know how to say no. I mean if it's a product we can't handle, or can't cope with, we tell them how it is.
Howard : Yeah. Have you seen that television show in America called Shark Tank.
Howard : It's a pretty neat show where someone will pitch an idea, and investors will just-
Amy: Dragons' Den
Howard : ... Say yeah I like it-
Alan: It's like a Dragons' Den.
Howard : ... Invest money or no they'll shoot it down but-
Alan: I've been judged on panels for new ideas, new medical products as well.
Howard : Yeah. Well, Alan you've had a very distinguished career. You should be very proud, and welcome to America.
Alan: Thank you, thank you.
Howard : I hope your daughter's American invasion party works very well.
Alan: We're very pleased with the progress she's making.
Howard : I hope all the dentists, they probably want to see you on Dentaltown, showing how your products work.
Alan: Be delighted to. Thank you so much for the opportunity.
Howard : Hopefully next time I'll see you, it'll be in London.
Alan: At Manchester, where you can watch Manchester United football club.
Howard : When I lectured at the Royal College of Dentists, I took my son Greg. I have four boys. They're 26, 24, he's my 22 year old, and then the 20 year old. I took the one older than Ryan, and Greg thinks it was his most fun vacation he ever went.
Alan: Oh great.
Howard : I got to to tell the funniest story about our experience with London from an American point of view. We walked out of our hotel and we saw the big London Eye which is a Ferris wheel that is just huge, and we thought ... It was like 9:00 in the morning, we just woke up, and we thought, yeah let's just walk over to that. So we started walking and it was so exciting, all the streets, restaurants, you know? We're stopping at all these places. We left at 9:00 in the morning, we didn't make it there til like 9 pm. It was like a 12 ... We thought it was just up the street a mile or something. The perception was wrong. Basically we walked towards it all day, finally rode, then took a cab back. I mean we were just exhausted, I mean, we must have walked 15 miles to get that London Eye. It's so huge so we thought-
Alan: It's an exciting city. It's great.
Howard : ... Oh it's the next block over. What a great city. I mean that's got to be the coolest city, and this city. That's probably my two favorite cities on earth. I've been to, I've lectured to dentists in 50 countries, and I still think the two coolest cities are Manhattan and London.
Howard : Okay, buddy. Thanks for stopping by-
Alan: Thank you so much for the opportunity, thank you.
Howard : ... The Dentaltown booth.
Antony: Thank you.
Amy: Thank you so much, it's great to meet you.
Howard : Nice to meet you. Good luck on your American invasion.