What is a DSO influencer?
Someone who impacts and influences not just their dental group, but the DSO industry at large. With well-honed leadership skills, they inspire positivity, exhibit vision, and display entrepreneurial energy. Outside-the-box thinkers, they have extraordinary business acumen and philanthropic interest.
As the VP of category development and strategy at Aspen Dental, Sarah is blazing a path in the DSO arena.
From the very beginning of her work in the dental field, Sarah’s passion for innovation and change was ignited. Those who know Sarah would say that there is nobody more passionate about the orthodontic space. She has been a mentor to many looking to better understand the category and inner workings of a truly close-knit industry.
We recently sat down with this DSO influencer to learn more about her and how she is leveraging technology to optimize the consumer experience:
GDN: You’ve been in the ortho space for 14 years! What about the orthodontics space do you love so much?
SS: I love the relationships I’ve built and people I’ve been able to work with over my 14 years in the industry. I think it’s the best industry to be in—it’s moving very quickly with disruptive technology that is continually evolving. Out of all of dentistry, clear aligners is one of the fastest moving categories in dental so it is fun to be a part of it.
GDN: You have been in the DSO space for three years now, how is it different from your prior life on the manufacturer side?
SS: Working with Aspen Dental Management Inc. (ADMI) is different from the manufacturer’s side in that we work under a common vision and operating model. The partnership with practice owners allows us to drive change and adoption throughout practices and execute in market in a consistent manner. This is really important when you think about driving the organization to change or adopt a new technology, service or product.
GDN: Where did the idea for Motto come from?
SS: The clear aligners market is a competitive space and until now patients had to choose between quality, affordability, convenience, and expertise—they couldn’t get them all with one product. We have been watching the space for some time and wanted to be thoughtful about what we might do—it had to make sense if we were going to put resources behind it.
Motto fits with our brand promise to prove that healthcare can be better and smarter for everyone. It will help us make orthodontics available for all consumers, not just the 1% of patients who get treatment today, and with 900+ offices nationwide and 30,000 patients through our network daily, we can provide the highest quality aligners at an unbeatable price to the masses. Additionally, with one operating model we have the ability to create systems and processes to make it easy for general dentists to deliver quality aligners to their patients. We thought it was a natural fit in our journey to increase access to care and improve patient’s oral health.
GDN: Did you ever think when you made the move to Aspen you would be leading the charge to launch a clear aligner brand?
SS: I guess you could say I did and I didn’t! When I came here a couple of years ago, I knew that our founder and CEO, Bob Fontana, was passionate about the category but it took us some time to determine how we would lean in. The turning point was in the midst of the pandemic when we had a new chief marketing and experience officer, Ash Eldifrawi, join the team. With Bob and Ash’s leadership, we were able to move quickly on the development of the brand in an all hands-on deck manner.
It’s been a special opportunity to be able to launch an aligner brand having been in the space for so long. Seeing the experience come to life is really exciting and satisfying.
GDN: What was the most challenging thing about developing and executing a new initiative?
SS: I’d say the biggest challenge was bringing people together to stand up Motto while we were running a $3B+ business with more than 16,000 employees focused on many other service lines. All the other aligner companies sell one or two products and focus solely on Ortho. People across the Aspen organization teamed up to make Motto work, all while the organization was going through the pandemic and a digital transformation. I’m very proud of our team and how we came together to bring this outstanding offering to customers. While I might be the aligner veteran, this major milestone wouldn’t have been possible without the team of people who worked to develop Motto across the organization.
GDN: Now that Motto has launched, what’s next?
SS: It is all about execution and results! Optimizing the program now that it’s launched throughout the chain will be a primary focus. We have a deep understanding of who our customer is so ensuring that we are both reaching them and our message is resonating will be important to success.
GDN: What advice do you have for women in the dental space or in business?
SS: Own your development and career. Nobody else will do this for you. This means creating opportunities for yourself, being your own brand ambassador and challenging yourself to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. A lot of times when you push yourself to a place where you are uncomfortable, really great things happen. Whether that’s raising your hand for a stretch assignment, taking that leap-of-faith job, or stretching outside your comfort zone, taking that step forward and being willing to change and evolve both personally and professionally is huge.
GDN: What do you do when you’re not working?
SS: Well, I recently moved to Chicago, bought a condo and renovated it in a pandemic…yikes! Besides that, I’m serving on the American Cancer Society Illinois State Board, enjoying the Chicago Select Golf Committee that I am working on and am trying to improve my golf game with a weekly league. I’m also starting to travel more and have a couple of trips planned later this year – going to Paris and Germany for the International Dental Show and to London and Greece for Christmas!
We look forward to watching Sarah continue to make in-roads in the DSO industry while also shaping the clear aligner category for years to come!