“If our products didn’t have a positive impact on people’s health, we would not sell them”Christine Breitschmid
Her first job in the family company was packing toothbrushes. Now, she handles her own team of sales representatives and has been, step-by-step, taking over some of the responsibilities previously held by her father – Curaden’s current CEO, Ueli Breitschmid. In this interview, Christine Breitschmid uncovers the main pillars of the family company and describes her vision of the business, as well as ideas on how dentists can put prevention first in their practice.
Christine, you work in the family business. Was the company a part of your life when you were growing up?
Oh, yes. I brushed my teeth with our toothbrushes, so of course it was part of my life [laughs]. But I wasn’t in daily contact with the business side of the company. My dad didn’t talk about work at home, and even at school when we had to say what our parents’ jobs were, I had to ask because I didn’t know exactly what he did. I just knew he was a kaufmann (businessman), but I didn’t know what that meant specifically for him.
Then when I was about 15, my sisters and I wanted to earn some money and we were able to help by packing brushes. At the time interdental brushes were packed in small bags, so somebody had to put five brushes into each bag. We did this in our free time and got hourly payment.
When did you start to have a more active role in the company?
After I finished high school I had a five-month internship at our company, just so as to get to know the business and learn how things worked. Then later, during my university studies, I supported our sales representatives for one day a week. This was not so easy, because I worked in the French part of Switzerland so I had to improve my French quite quickly in order to be able to convince customers of the advantages of our products.
When I graduated from university, I had another job outside of our company for six months, just to try something else, but I realised that I wanted to come back to the family business. So I’ve been here now since 2012.
Now you are a sales manager. What do you do on a daily basis?
Part of my responsibilities is the sales team of CURAPROX Switzerland. I have a team of sales representatives who visit dentists and pharmacists. We also do some promotional activities and marketing for the Swiss market, so as to increase awareness of the products in Switzerland.
I am also part of the international sales team, and my responsibility is to take care of our subsidiary companies in various countries. We challenge each other regularly in order to improve our business even more and it is my responsibility to ensure that our subsidiaries follow our overall strategy whilst always taking into consideration the local context.
“The development of our products is not considered from a marketing perspective, but based on what professionals really need.”
Does the company stand on the same principles as it did some years ago?
Yes, so long as they still work. We don’t forget what our main pillars are. For example, dentists are still our main customers, which is why we don’t do any consumer-facing TV advertising, and instead we work with the dental professionals and focus on educating them. We know that it works in the long term, even if it’s not as easy.
Are there any other pillars, in addition to the professional education?
Yes, that the development of our products is not considered from a marketing perspective, but based on what professionals really need. So we only have, and develop, products that actually fulfil the needs of professionals. This is interconnected with the fact that every product has to be efficient, non-traumatic and acceptable for people.
You are introduced as the future leader of the company. What is your vision? Would you like to change any of the ways the management of the company works?
I like to do things with other people, so I’m more of a project person. I see that I have strengths, but I see that others have many different strengths as well, and that by working together we are much stronger. I like to have people around me who I really love to work with, and who I see as being extremely competent in fields where I am not.
I feel that the company is growing, so we need to find a way to work together as a committed team of competent people. Maybe it is a bit naive, but I really think that for the future it is important to work with people who want to be a part of our story, and put a little bit of their own personality into the whole Curaden mission. Otherwise, you’ll have just executors. But when you have a committed group of people, you can really change the world.
When you look at the company now, can you explain what makes Curaden different from other similar companies or brands?
Everything we do is because we think that it is the right way to go. I would never do a campaign that promises something the product will not fulfil. We will always be honest and transparent in what our products can or cannot do. “Curaden – better health for you” is not just a slogan. I really think that our products do have an impact on people’s health. And if they didn’t, we would not sell them.
“I see that I have strengths, but I see that others have many different strengths as well, and that by working together we are much stronger.”
We don’t want to take shortcuts where there are no shortcuts. We don’t want to say things that are not 100% true. That makes communication challenging sometimes. For example, when you want to convince people of the advantages of an interdental brush you have to start from the beginning, explaining the importance of the right size and the right technique.
So we have to be smart in order to find ways to communicate complex ideas in an easy way, without compromising the quality of the message. And this is what makes us different – we really have a purpose in our communication.
Of course, at the end of the day we need to sell our products, but we want people to buy them because they are convinced that this product is the right choice for their needs.
Curaden also keeps saying that having healthy gums and teeth leads to good overall health. This doesn’t seem to be something that many other companies say.
It’s true that this is not yet well known or discussed a lot in today’s world. If we discuss the strong connection between oral health and overall health with people, it is surprising to see how little awareness there is about the connection between those two elements, but on the flip side, there is definitely a large and growing interest from the public to learn more about these topics.
Many people have a lot of questions about it, because it’s something they don’t know much about. We believe that dentists and dental hygienists are the right people to deliver this message to their customers.
This is why we are working hard to make this a topic that dental professionals all have at the front of their minds. We need the support of dental professionals in order to inform customers on how they can take better care of themselves through improved and more efficient oral care.
“We don’t want to take shortcuts where there are no shortcuts. We don’t want to say things that are not 100% true.”
What are the challenges that the whole dental industry is facing right now?
One big challenge in the dental industry is the digitalisation. This is a challenge in every industry, and the dental industry is also changing a lot thanks to the ever-growing number of digital tools and applications. This affects the different treatments that dentists perform, which are more and more supported with digital tools and procedures.
On the other hand, digitalisation has not yet made a big change in patients’ lives. But I am sure that we will soon see many digital applications in the dental field that are aimed at the patient and customer. Some of them might have no impact at all, whereas others might change our whole approach to personal oral hygiene.
Another challenge for the dental industry will be the need to become more customer oriented. Customers of today and tomorrow are more aware of the importance of good oral care, and people are generally more conscious about their health. This has the potential to lead to less work for dentists, which means that dentists will need to promote their services and find a way to stand out from other dentists. I am sure this will change how dental clinics position themselves, how they receive customers, and the care they offer them in order to keep them as future customers.
Do you have any solutions as to how to change the existing model of dentistry? Is it even possible to have working practices based more on prevention than repairing?
I am convinced that the existing model of dentistry can be built on, at least for a part of the existing dental offices. I believe that the future customers will be much more individual in what they need and what they expect from their dentists. Future customers will have much more information available to them, and they will be able to compare the offerings of different dental offices more easily.
Informed and educated customers are growing in numbers. But this opens up new opportunities, also for the dentists who are willing to challenge their existing business model. The standard offerings of a dental office as we know them today will still be very important. But I believe this more diverse and educated customer base will also be open to new services, or even requesting them.
Prevention and coaching in oral care will be one of these new services where customers are looking for individual solutions for their specific needs, and where they will want to be taken seriously as a person and to have an autonomous say in what kind of treatment is the right one for them.
“Informed and educated customers are growing in numbers. But this opens up new opportunities, also for the dentists who are willing to challenge their existing business model.”
I am sure that the business model of offering additional services within dental offices, which are more focused on health, aesthetics and personal appearance, together with more digitised tools and patient-adapted communication, will become an increasingly important field. It will also help dental professionals to improve customer loyalty, as coaching and training requires recurring visits to the dental office.
When we talk about future challenges, we should also consider new solutions such as artificial intelligence. Do you think that AI could be helpful in dentistry? What modern devices could help your company?
It would be great if we had artificial intelligence that could take pictures of the mouth or face, measure interdental spaces and estimate the right size of interdental brush. Or maybe even an intelligent interdental brush that would be smart enough to tell you if you are putting enough pressure on, or if it has the right path into the interdental spaces.
For sure there are a lot of things that we can use in the future. Today, if we want to teach people what sizes of interdental brushes they need and to show them the right technique, we have to do it in person and there are not enough people to train everybody. So it would be wonderful if there were some other solutions like smart devices.
What is your favourite CURAPROX product that you use on a daily basis?
The interdental brushes for sure.
And what about your favourite colour combination of a toothbrush?
I like to be able to change colours often. But my favourite colour is the turquoise holder with pink bristles.
Christine Breitschmid studied international relations and European studies at universities in Geneva, Paris and Basel. She has been working at Curaden since 2012. Currently she is a sales manager for CURAPROX Switzerland, but she also handles local marketing activities and communication with the company’s subsidiaries worldwide. In her free time she enjoys outdoor activities such as snowboarding, cycling or hiking, as well as discussions with her friends.
Photography by Lousy Auber