Chuck Cohen: Welcome, everybody. My name is Chuck Cohen, I’m the Managing Director of Benco. I am here today with Greg Minzenmayer, the chief operating officer of Glidewell Dental. (It’s) very exciting to welcome him to the list of 32 Most Influential People in Dentistry. Greg is an old friend I (have) known for several years. Greg, thank you for being here today with us.
Greg Minzenmayer: It’s a pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Chuck Cohen: Thank you very much. It’s an esteemed list and we’re glad to have you on it. And we’re glad to recognize the contributions that Glidewell Labs continues to make to dentistry.
Greg Minzenmayer: I’m very honored to be on the list, especially when you look at the other names that were on that list. It’s quite humbling, actually.
Chuck Cohen: I’m glad you’re here. So let’s start a little bit with your background. Tell us a little bit about where you grew up, (where) you went to school, and how you find yourself where you are today.
Greg Minzenmayer: Sure. I grew up with a family who traveled a lot. My father worked for Dectel, which is a large construction company. They do a (lot) of huge projects for emerging markets—mines, oil refineries, harbors, airports, and things like that. So I traveled throughout Southeast Asia and lived in Indonesia for a number of years. I lived in Australia for a number of years, (then in) northern Alberta, Canada for (a few) years. I just got to get a real opportunity to live in other cultures around the world. So I find that extremely useful working for a company like Glidewell. We have 32 different nationalities represented in this company, people from all over the world. Most of them are recent immigrants who have come to this country looking for an opportunity. Jim provides that by having a large training and education center. They can come here without skills and he’ll teach them dental technology skills and give them a career. So I think that’s one of the reasons that I fit in here so well, is that I don’t have that background.
Greg Minzenmayer: But once I got into my high school years, my mother insisted that we stay in the US. So I went to high school in Phoenix, Arizona, lived there, (then) got out.
Greg Minzenmayer: Having that construction background, I assumed I would be growing up in that background. I assumed I would be in that field. So I started my career as an estimator for a construction company.
Chuck Cohen: Really?
Greg Minzenmayer: Then in ’88 or ’89, we had the bank in the early ’90s, the first bubble and great savings and loans, and it had to find a place to go from that. Ended up in California working for a medical device company and then made my way into dentistry and here I am.
Chuck Cohen: I thought you were at Nobel before you joined Glidewell for success.
Greg Minzenmayer: Yes, I made a transition out of medical (industry) when the government first tried the medical reform (or) healthcare reform back in the 90s. Everything in medical during those two years kind of slowed down and came to a stop. So I looked for a parallel business to get into and that was dentistry. I don’t know if you’ve known a lot of people that have come in for medical into dentistry, but once you get into the industry, you’ll never leave. People never leave the industry once again.
Chuck Cohen: That’s true. That’s a great idea.
Greg Minzenmayer: Yes. So I started (to do that) actually in 94. Worked there for a couple of years and then got a job with a company called Stereo’s. It was at the time the fastest-growing U.S. implant company that was then acquired by Double-Blind Care. And then I spent nine years and above.
Chuck Cohen: So talk a little bit about how your global upbringing has impacted the global operations of Glidewell and where that fits together. And, talk a little bit about Glidewell’s global operations, because I know that most people probably don’t know how Glidewell is in terms of employees and facilities. Talk a little bit about that, if you would.
Greg Minzenmayer: Yes. The international background that I came in with was extremely helpful, just understanding how different cultures kind of work together.
Greg Minzenmayer: If you think about having 32 different nationalities, sometimes you get nationalities that back in their own countries, they don’t necessarily get along with one another. But here in Glidewell, we’ve found a way to make all of that work and really have a family atmosphere and allow people to come. A lot of the people that when they first come to work here, don’t speak English. They may be Korean or Vietnamese or Persian or a number of different nationalities, but they don’t have to speak English to come here because we have people who are supervisors that speak English and translate for them. We give them that opportunity. (It) happened way before I came here to try and set that culture up with the company. It was something that I naturally fell into because of my background. It was very helpful for me to be able to do that.
Chuck Cohen: You guys are now the number one. You have been for many years the number one dental lab in the United States in terms of units, correct?
Greg Minzenmayer: We believe so. Yes, we’re pushing. Well, pre-COVID, we expected to push past that half-believe that.
Chuck Cohen: In terms of revenue?
Greg Minzenmayer: In terms of revenue.
Chuck Cohen: A lot of credit contracts.
Greg Minzenmayer: Yes. Of course, we have the manufacturing side. We have some commercial products which our company is gracious enough to distribute some of those lines for us. But that’s what that represents to us. (It’s a) very small percentage of what we do. What we do is mostly our traditional development.
Chuck Cohen: So talk a little bit about influence. That’s the topic of the day. What kind of influence do you think Glidewell, the lab, the organization you personally have on dentistry? I think what a lot of us think about dentistry, we think about dentists who actually do the work or that the initial part of the work with the laboratory is a very influential piece of the dental restoration when it’s all done. What kind of influence do you think you and the Glidewell team have on dentistry and where it’s headed?
Greg Minzenmayer: Yes, well, you know, I can’t talk about really the influence without talking about Jim or some of the decisions he’s made in the past.
Greg Minzenmayer: Back in 2005, he decided to get into the zirconium business and we were making zirconia for codings, kind of like Loba and Densify. There were a number of companies that made cookies that we would instead, of course, live on top of. And he just got to thinking there’s got to be a better way than stacking porcelain on zirconia, such a strong material. Why can’t we just make the whole crowd out of it? Long story short, that’s how we came up with Bruxner. That product has really transformed the entire industry.
Greg Minzenmayer: If you think about (it), in the beginning, digital dentistry was starting in the lab. There were scanners and we would scan dyes and then we’d make copies of those. But when I look back and what was happening then and what happened post-Bruxner—being able to provide full-contour zirconia around, it really accelerated the growth of digital dentistry on the lab side of things. It made a real viable product. And then, every lab started to buy metal, and also started to buy scanners themselves to get into that business. From there, it really opened the door. In the very early days when the only two scanners that were on the market where I Tero and the 3M, right? There were very few labs. They were accepting those scans. So since we had that digital infrastructure now set up with three ships at the time, we started a department called Seada. It’s not a very creative, centralized digital audio processing department. In the end, we started to create this portal to be able to bring in those scans. We did it way back in 2006, 2007. Now, it’s a 30-person department and we process tens of thousands of scans every month now through that system. That influence, really, that Bruxner influence really changed our lives. I think it changed the entire industry. That probably is the biggest influence that the lab has had and we’ve had as a company on the industry.
Chuck Cohen: I’d like to spend a couple of minutes (to) unpack that because I think it’s a very interesting insight—that a big piece of Glidewell, the lab, the organizations Jim and you, a lot of the influences come from R&D. A lot of us don’t think of dental laboratories as being particularly innovative. The prescription comes in from the dentist and the dentist’s office, and then the laboratory configures the crowd to the prescription and sends it back. Talk a little bit about how innovation has been a key piece of Glidewell’s growth and influence on dentistry.
Greg Minzenmayer: It’s something that we really built. This whole business is R&D. We just built last year a 25,000 square-foot state-of-the-art R&D facility last year in one of our buildings from our Irvine campus in California. That’s where we continue our Bruxner Development. We’re also working on pushing the limits in digital dentistry.
Greg Minzenmayer: We’re creating 3D printing presses now for 3D printers. We’re creating, as far as you’re aware of, the obsidian glass-ceramic, the lithium silicate product. We’re working on a number of composite materials. We’re working on a number of processes for printing dentures and working on resins for printing dentures. We’re working on a number of kinds of traditionally thermate form products to be able to print them directly to manufacture.
Greg Minzenmayer: The R&D is critical for us and it really goes beyond materials. Back in 200—forgetting the years now, it was either 2009 or 2010—we acquired the dental software technology from Geomagic, who was a big, big CAD-CAM company. They’re much more like automotive industries than outside of aerospace and less in dentistry. We acquired all the dental assets and started our own CAD-CAM development team. We have 40-something software developers that we work with within Russia. Then we have another 25-30 here in the United States that help us develop that software. At the same time, we started to build our own million units to get something to eat that your company has. We also have the [inaudible]. But what a lot of people don’t notice (is that) we make our own zirconia mills that we use here in the office.
Greg Minzenmayer: We’ve taken that technology now, and we’ve (worked) with a large team of automation engineers and software developers. We’ve teamed them up and we’ve now created a fully automated Bruxner Laboratory.
Chuck Cohen: Wow.
Greg Minzenmayer: Do you think about all the stuff that we just talked about? We’ve got the internal scans coming in through this department that connects directly to a cloud infrastructure called Cloud Point. A doctor can scan in his office, send it to Glidewell within seconds of him making that scan in his office, often before the patient even gets to the parking lot. Now, you see that scanned into this infrastructure. It goes to our cloud, gets queued up as a design of the job. Now we’re using artificial intelligence that we’ve developed with the University of California, Berkeley. In cooperation with them, we developed this artificial intelligence that automatically proposes the crown. About 75 percent of those crowns require no technician to do any manipulation. They just go straight through to our Qs into an automated milling system. From the time it comes up in the mill, it goes straight through one technician doesn’t precarity, then it goes into the ovens, and then the rest of it is automated. There’s optical QC that scans the final crown to make sure that we’ve finished what we designed in the original design pattern. And then it goes out completely modulus.
Greg Minzenmayer: So we’re able to agree. And it’s only doing a small percentage of our crowds that way today. We’re working through the system. We’ll scale that up probably early next year. We believe through that we’ll be able to get crowns out the door within 24 hours of receiving them.
Chuck Cohen: Wow. Let’s look at that a little bit because what I heard you say is really (innovative) in three dimensions, right? So you have the innovation on software, you have the innovation in materials, and then you have the innovation in the machines because you’re making your own machines, right? I would imagine what you would say is without all three of those, two of the three don’t work, right? Talk a little bit about how you got to get all that to work together in order to produce a real and innovative result.
Greg Minzenmayer: Yes, that’s the challenge. You hit the nail on the head. Trying to bring all of that technology together so that it comes together in a way that gives us the result we’re looking for has been (a) real challenge and this has been a five-year project for us.
Greg Minzenmayer: But without controlling each component of that and kind of being vertically integrated to such a degree—that not only do we make our own mills here. We have our own mills. We actually have the machine shop and everything that makes those metals here onsite. We build all the automation (and) all the mills ourselves. We make all the materials and we write all the software. The only way we can accomplish this, we believe, is by controlling each one of those steps. If we were to wait for another software development company to develop something that we needed for this, it wouldn’t make sense to (do) that because . . . let’s say we did it with three ships and we have a great relationship with we should continue to use a lot of their products here in the lab. But there would be no reason for them to put all of those resources towards developing this specialized project for Glidewell because there would be no other buyers out there. The only way we can do this is to control each one of those three areas and build it ourselves.
Chuck Cohen: Making that the focus on innovation and now talking a little bit about influence, what do you think is… I mean, clearly, you guys (have) a very successful business. She talked before about the sales and growth, where is the influence coming (from)? How do you feel like Glidewell has really changed dentistry?
Greg Minzenmayer: Yes, well, I think Bruxner completely changed the industry. Everything was a PFM world, right? It was a PFM world and it was porcelain stacked onto zirconia. Those were the two kinds of competing forces for Crown Bridge. Bruxner came by and just kind of leveled the playing field across the board so that completely changed the lavatory side of this business. And then the digital side of it, I think we’re seeing that influence now where we have the Chermside systems like the TSL 50 and the Fastenal. (They are) connected with a number of scanner’s materials being the one that is probably the most prevalent. But it also connects to a number of different scanners and now being used. The way we look at it is that we’re moving the process from the laboratory where we’re disconnected from dentists. And where we can be super-efficient in the laboratory side of things, but we can make dentistry much more efficient if we can get in and work with the dentists, right? So the minute the doctor picks up that scanner, that internal scanner is connected to the largest laboratory in the world in all of the technologies that we provide. We’re not just trying to create a business for ourselves. We’re trying to make dentistry more accessible and more affordable and more streamlined and profitable for dentists, not just our dentists, but all dentists.
Chuck Cohen: As you guys are successful even for other labs, you’re pushing the market in directions that maybe wouldn’t go to. Clearly, that’s a sign of influence. Dentistry has the reputation of being very slow to adopt new technology, and dentists tend to be conservative. You and I both know a lot of dentists ourselves, and I think we are good at that. How is it that you feel like Gladwell has been successful at getting innovations? It seems like fast to be accepted faster from you than they are maybe from others. What’s been the secret sauce in getting your business to move faster than maybe the market has traditionally moved?
Greg Minzenmayer: Yes, I think there really has to do with… Again, I’ll go back to Jim’s philosophy on pricing and how we price things. Many companies will continue to build more features into their systems in order to raise the price. It’s a little bit more into the market. Jim Jones sees it a little bit different. He split that. We use technology to make our systems more efficient, and he’s always working to reduce the price of those things. When we introduced Bruxner with the full contours of the crown, that’s not necessarily a difficult transition, but it’s still a change for dentists, right? They’ve relied on PFMs for their entire careers. That’s what they learned in their university. And now here comes a company saying, “Hey, we have something better…” (Some dentists would say) “Am I going to risk my whole practice on that?” Right?
Chuck Cohen: Yes.
Greg Minzenmayer: What we did is we gave it a no-fault warranty. We gave it at a reduced price. So we were selling the PFMs for, let’s say, an average of $130. We were selling Bruxner for $99.
Chuck Cohen: Wow.
Greg Minzenmayer: From a CEO’s perspective, it’s aggregative validation.
Chuck Cohen: Right.
Greg Minzenmayer: How do we (make our company grow?) We have to grow the company 20 percent more just to break even and then beyond that. It was an all-in-gamble that Jim does. He has no fear. He jumped right into it and these decisions on price. I think, and this in standing behind the product with a no-fault warranty for seven years gives dentists a little bit more confidence in making that decision to make that change. We’ve done the same thing with technology. We’ve done the same thing with our software and products that we sell in the dental office. We just really stand behind everything along the way to make sure that they feel comfortable buying something like that.
Chuck Cohen: It’s interesting you’re the third or fourth interview that we’ve done. And one of the things that came out of one of the previous interviews was the link between trust and influence, right? You can’t really have influence if there’s not a level of trust in what I can do to our confidence. I would just say, confidence and trust, they seem to go together so much. If the end customer doesn’t trust it, then you don’t have influence.
Greg Minzenmayer: That’s very true. It’s a laboratory, really. If once you lose a dentist’s trust and then you have nothing, right? Trust is everything to us. Being a trailblazer, being a pioneer, the last thing we want to do is break that trust with our customers. We’re always working to make sure that whatever we introduce to them actually produces the results that we were promising. The worst thing to do is overpromise and underdeliver. We’ve been guilty of that in the past. When that happens, I think we do everything we can to try to mitigate that and then rebuild that trust immediately.
Chuck Cohen: That’s exciting, and I agree with you. Overpromise and under-delivery is the worst. Good for you. Let’s pivot a little bit, if we would, and talk about you personally. One of the things I noticed when I did a little bit of research is you actually hold six patents, which I was kind of impressed with. I was not aware of that. Talk a little bit about maybe what your role has been in the R&D efforts at Glidewell and how much intellectual property and R&D have been important to Glidewell’s success. How do you foster a culture like that?
Greg Minzenmayer: Sure, yes. It’s been important to me to make sure that we open up innovation. I think Jim would agree with that. We look for innovation across the board with anybody who can come up with a great idea. Even people (who) just take our janitorial service, they find better because of the culture that we’ve built here. It goes all the way down to that level to where they find better, more innovative ways to do their job within the company that we support, that we foster. We’re looking for innovation from my technicians, from the general managers of our laboratories, we have one general manager that just never stops. He’s just constantly trying to come up with a new innovation. He has a number of patents and there’s nothing. For me, there were some ideas and thoughts I had from my previous position at another [inaudible]. This is not a negative hit on them. But the culture wasn’t there, right?
Greg Minzenmayer: The innovation came from R&D. It didn’t necessarily come from marketing guys or salespeople. But I saw some on the implant side of the business. I really saw some areas where we could make things better. As I got to Glidewell and I saw the digital technology where there were ways to make those ideas that I had to make a streamlined process and make implant industry easier and more efficient with digital—with the access to the digital that we had here, which is really all came together, and Jim gave us that platform to pull it off. I had my name on a number of patents. One of them in particular they just passed is we have a patent for scanning implants using a scan about a minute or so.
Chuck Cohen: Congratulations on that.
Greg Minzenmayer: Thank you.
Greg Minzenmayer: You are the same person at Nobel that you are at Glidewell and you had ideas in both places and yet you have six patents at Glidewell. Did you feel like… Again, we don’t want to put any bad words out there, but let’s put a positive spin on it. What do you feel like you do on Glidewell, to encourage every employee, associate team member, to be as innovative as they can be? Not every organization does that, right?
Greg Minzenmayer: Well actually, I can’t take credit for this. I have to give it to Stephanie Goddard. She came up with this idea. Stephanie Goddard, for those of you who may not know… I think everybody knows, Stephanie. But for those of you who do not know, Stephanie is (the) Executive Vice President of business operations. She handles all of our customer-facing businesses, customer service, sales, and those departments. She also has HR under her. She came up with the idea that: “let’s pay our employees, regardless of who they are, where they are.” We give them the numbers from something like $2000 for every patent that gets filed. And then I add that once it’s issued, they get something as well. So that’s just an incentive to get them going. But it also creates that culture of: “Hey, this can come from anywhere.” Right? These ideas can come from anywhere within the organization and we’ve paid a lot of (them). Obviously, a lot of them come from our R&D engineers and in that side of things. But we’ve had a number of technicians, internal managers have more patents as well.
Chuck Cohen: Well, it’s interesting. We’re, of course, not in the manufacturing or the patent business, but it’s just interesting to hear different organizations have fostered a culture of innovation and how do you get everybody in the organization engaged in what’s really important. Right? It’s interesting to hear how you guys have done that. Let’s talk a little bit about your influence on Glidewell. Glidewell is a private business owned by Jim. You’re the COO. You certainly have lots of customers. How many employees do you guys have at this point?
Greg Minzenmayer: We were pushing 5000 before leading into March. Now we’re probably 40-200 somewhere in there.
Chuck Cohen: And we’re all recovering from covid.
Greg Minzenmayer: Right. We still have a number of folks who are waiting patiently on the sidelines to come back, and we hope to bring them back as quickly as possible.
Chuck Cohen: Let’s talk a little bit about how you gain influence within an organization that large? What does influence look like as the COO for an organization that large?
Greg Minzenmayer: You know, those were hard lessons.
Chuck Cohen: What could you share (some) here?
Greg Minzenmayer: Sure.
Chuck Cohen: We can learn them at your expense. [inaudible].
Greg Minzenmayer: When I was first promoted, I was recently hired to start the implant business. Jim stepped out of implants and then decided to get back in. I was lucky enough to have that opportunity. I came in and started the implant department, tried to run the laboratory myself, and I’m not a technician. I realized that was probably the hardest job that I’ve ever tried to do—run an unemployed laboratory. I was promoted to Dzevad Ceranic. I think you’ve met most people in the industry who know who he is. He’s now Executive Vice President of Lab Operations, who is in charge of all of our laboratories. But at the time, I turned over the implant department to him. I then moved on to focusing on the manufacturing side. (We) had what we called at that time, digital manufacturing, which was basically three sheep and a couple of mills, and then so I had an opportunity to really work on implementing the CAD technology or helping the general managers to implement technology throughout the lab.
Greg Minzenmayer: And then when I was promoted. I think every young new guy that gets promoted into a position of authority, (is the newly promoted guy that) wants to prove (himself) right away. That was me. I jumped in. I was going to make big changes. I was implementing Lean Six Sigma. We were doing all this stuff. I was just baffled why people didn’t just jump behind me and start supporting everything I was trying to do. Luckily I was in our office. We have an open office atmosphere here. I actually share an office with Jim Glidewell, myself, Dzevad, Darryl Withrow, who’s in charge of all of our facilities. He’s (the) VP of operations and Stephanie Goddard. So we all share an office. But back in that day, it was Jim Schock who most people know, myself, Daryl, and Jim. I had a lot of mentoring from Jim on how best to do that and a lot of mentoring from Jim Schock. The two of them really helped me get through my youthful exuberance.
Chuck Cohen: What is the best part of that? I like the word mentoring, so we use that word. What was the best part of the mentoring was like “AHHH” I like that kind of mentoring. What describes what kind of mentoring it was?
Greg Minzenmayer: It’s funny, Jim has a unique way about him, he doesn’t get upset. He never gets upset. I’ve seen him upset a few times, but he’ll say: “There’s probably another way to look at that or you might think about doing something else.” Or he’ll give me a piece of his philosophy. Right. He has a lot of philosophies on how to deal with different situations. He’ll tell me a story, and within that story will be a philosophy. We call that sometimes and it takes a while to sink in. You know, sometimes I’m a little dense and it takes a little while. But once we got past that and we set up a system.
Greg Minzenmayer: I surrounded myself with really strong people like Shabad Grant Bullis, who came with me on the implant side; Stephanie, and a number of other people within the organization; Marus, who I know you know (him) as well, he’s our chief technology officer. I surrounded myself with people who really saw the vision and invested in me trying to drive everything and push everyone. I just got like-minded folks that were very transformative in their approach to business and allowed them to help their organizations get on board. It becomes more about communication, education, and bringing people along and showing them how it’s going to benefit their side of the business rather than trying to pull from the front. We got behind it and started helping people and pushing them toward guiding instead of pulling exactly what was easier.
Chuck Cohen: I tend to agree with that.
Greg Minzenmayer: It’s a little more than a couple of years to figure that out. I’m always sure sharing is a lot easier when you’re in the back pushing, rather than in the front pulling.
Chuck Cohen: If you can sell that idea and get everyone to sort of move in the right direction on their own, it makes a big difference. Thank you for sharing that. Let’s talk a little bit about as an influencer, if you could change one thing about dentistry, what would you change? Sort of the magic wand where you could make the change you wanted to dentistry. As an influencer who has some power or some influence over where dentistry is going, what would you change about dentistry?
Greg Minzenmayer: That’s a great question. The first thing that comes to mind is a lot of the specialties. I’m an implant guy, so I go back to implants, but we also have sleep dentistry and I see the two of them similar in that. When in the early 80s, in the 90s, and implant dentistry, it was really frowned on for general dentists to get involved. But there is a way for general business to get involved in those things. If they take the proper training and they get to the right understanding, there’s no reason why general business cannot get involved in placing implants and sleep dentistry. I see going the same way. There’s a faction within dentistry that really likes to keep things mysterious, complicated, scary and a lot of smoke.
Greg Minzenmayer: I think what I’d like to see is, is we kind of breakthrough the fog of all of that, break through the mystery, and kind of break things down to. Deliverable tasks the dentist can learn in order to expand their business. We (at) Glidewell don’t believe in outsourcing, it doesn’t work with our model. General dentists, I think, outsource a lot of business to other people. It’s the way the industry is structured. There’s nothing wrong with that if that’s how you choose to run your practice. But I think those dentists who would like to expand and get involved in these other areas, I would like to see those barriers kind of brought down. Instead of trying to intimidate them or put fear into them about how scary it’s going to be if you get into the industry, and everyone’s going to sue you, (or) this is going to be a disaster. Let’s put programs together to really train those dentists and get them prepared to expand their practice and benefit from those services.
Chuck Cohen: I think most health care verticals, most health care markets would say the more general practitioners do, the less expensive and actually the better the outcome is. Nothing extra specialists are really important when a technique or a procedure is locked up in the specialty world, it tends to be more expensive. That’s what I hear you say fits right into the Glidewell philosophy, which is how we can bring down the price, deliver a terrific outcome or predictable outcome, but basically at a lower price, better value.
Greg Minzenmayer: Yes, exactly right. Yes. Thank you.
Chuck Cohen: Well, I just think that’s really great, that’s an interesting answer to the question. It’s not where I expected you to go. But I think this idea about how we get general dentists to be more confident, more trusting, and deliver more and better patient care is an interesting magic wand to wave. And with that, I think we’ll leave that as the last comment.
Chuck Cohen: Greg, thank you very much for being part of the podcast today. Very much appreciate it. Congratulations on being one of our 32 most influential people in dentistry. Well deserved.
Greg Minzenmayer: Thanks.
Chuck Cohen: Yes, thank you. You and the entire Glidewell team have changed dentistry in ways that I think most of us on the outside don’t quite understand or appreciate. Thanks for sharing some of that with us today.
Greg Minzenmayer: Well, thank you so much. Thank you for the opportunity. Thank you for including me on a list of some huge icons in the industry. It’s very humbling and appreciative.
Chuck Cohen: Well, thank you very much. Have a great day. Thanks.
Greg Minzenmayer: Thank you. Take care.
Chuck Cohen: Bye-bye.