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COVID-19 has caused major disruptions globally. This crisis is intensifying and evolving every now and then. At the current state, public healthcare systems of many countries are taking actions to curb foreigners from entering their boundaries.
Undoubtedly, the focus should be on controlling and mitigating the outbreak. However, the economies have been significantly affected. Global financial markets have created fears in many investors about the pandemic. The negative impacts at this juncture have led to many companies facing great challenges. How can enterprises prepare for such crisis and turn it into an opportunity?

We are honoured to invite Thomas Tsao, CEO of CEREC Asia to share with us on the COVID-19’s impacts to their dental businesses and what measures to be taken in this tough period.

CEREC Asia is the world’s largest independent third-party training centre recognised by Dentsply Sirona. They strive to become the global driver in the dental world, leading the dentists to create essential values in Asia.

CEREC Asia is established in Taiwan, envisioning to link Asia and the rest of the world with advanced dental technology and create a digital dental centre with the integration of clinical, research, development and teaching.

1. Pertaining to the outbreak, what are the impacts on your company and the industry?

We are in dental healthcare industry and our focus is on dental clinical treatment, dental education and development of new dental material.

The virus has caused adverse effects on the dental industry – fewer patients are visiting the clinic; dentists are less willing to treat and dental education are getting challenging. The impacts are obvious and detrimental.

One of the greatest worries would be in contact with any infected ones as this will immediately suspend the operations and everyone will be quarantined for at least 14 days.

Impact on our clinic: There are fewer new patients as the clinics out there are mainly not in open space and droplet transmission is highly susceptible. Lack of understanding on how the dental operations work has caused some patients to be less willing to visit and postpone the treatments to further dates. As our clinic is considered independent and we provide on-spot treatment, allowing the treatment time to be reduced by one-tenth, the impact is rather minor. However, the number of new patients has dropped by at least 10%.

Impact on our training centre: Due to COVID-19, almost all events are cancelled and dentists from other countries are less willing to come into Taiwan for training. Some countries like Thailand, will request those who go to Taiwan to self-quarantine for at least 14 days before returning to work. This applied similarly to us too. We were supposed to attend an event ‘SCATE’ in Malaysia on February for 3 days. On the first day of talk, Taiwan had the first case of COVID-19 death and recalled the citizens from Singapore and Thailand. Although at that juncture, Malaysia was not having many cases, we decided to cancel and fly back to Taiwan. This incident had caused the organisers some disruptions and at the same time, we learnt the uncertainty  brought by COVID-19. So far, 10% of the dentists will be postponing in attending the classes, with the greatest impact on Mainland China. This attributes at least 17% of our revenue, causing significant impacts on our businesses.

2. What are the countermeasures to mitigate the impacts of this pandemic?

Here are some measures that we adopt:

  • Increase the frequency of our online classes and there will be live broadcasts from March onwards;
  • Enhance our internal processes to assure the dentists attending our classes;
  • Enhance the efficiency of our dental accessory, EasyPrep on the suction of fluid and saliva to entice the dentists;
  • Reinforcing the research and development even though the outlook is not favourable;
  • Building and deepening more collaborative relationships as online market is trendy now; and
  • Utilising grants from the government to defray the costs.

3. How long do you think it will take to resume as normal?

I think that by September, there will be probable solutions to the current situation and that things can slowly resume as normal. In fact, we might not do things as usual as we all learnt by then, business models will be revised.

4. COVID-19 has caused economic disruptions. Can you provide some suggestions for other entrepreneurs to get through this difficult time?

What I will like to suggest will be the “Two Eyes” adopted from Go. If one party manages to form two eyes in the string of stones, it would mean to be alive. Such theory can be applicable to many areas. Simply said, a person with 2 strengths will be likely to succeed, a company with 2 core businesses will find expansion easier and a city with 2 development directions will be more vibrant.

And at this point, if you find yourself not capable of doing anything, this might imply that you focus too much on one revenue stream. When encountering an external crisis, you might have lost the competitiveness. You may need to reflect and find the “second eye” to support the business.

5. There are always opportunities in a crisis. What are the opportunities to be identified and seized in this case?

When a crisis happens, that will be the opportune time for corporate transformation. Although the economy is not doing well lately, you can still see some businessmen doing quite well. This reminds me of a YouTuber where he mentioned about the Gold Rush in America. Due to competitions, there were actually few people earning much from the event. The ones that really earned big during that time were the first batch of gold-diggers with extremely good luck and those ferry service providers which carried the enthusiasts to the gold mines.

Big events will usually evoke a significant trend in which we will do nothing and see others changing. We can be blinded and miss the boat as we fail to notice the ripple effects brought by the trend. Take the Gold Rush for instance, many industries such as properties, harness production rise and often, opportunities are presented in front of you. The question is, can you be fast to capture them? Based on current situation, the masks are like the gold whereby everyone rush to obtain and the E-commerce platforms are the ferry service providers, providing delivery in times of need.

So, can we see opportunities in the trend? And can we control? How does these ripple effects associate with our corporations?

6. CEREC Asia is an international dental training centre. How can you assist the affected dentists during this period?

  • At this moment, many dentists have fewer patients and they cannot travel since events are cancelled everywhere. So, they may switch to learning, and with appropriate marketing, our sales may increase;
  • We can also make use of this time to build rapport with the dentists;
  • As the dentists have more free time now, we can understand the customers more through them and at the same time, we can utilise different curriculum models to help the dentists to learn better;
  • Through online interactive learning, we can help overseas dentists in revision;
  • We will give out samples of our accessories to help dentists effectively protect themselves; and
  • Through thorough discussions, we can help dentists to achieve a better treatment planning turnover rate.

About BlackStorm Consulting

BlackStorm Consulting (http://blackstormco.asia) is a boutique growth consultancy firm that specialises in corporate strategy, profit management and investment management. We mainly serve clients in four sectors: FinTech, Gaming, Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT), and manufacturing.

Our clients and connections are internationally present and range from small and medium sized businesses, MNCs, to government agencies.

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