With a career in marketing and a passion for the dental industry, Gil Villavecer is the Chief Marketing Officer of Frontier Dental Lab Group.
In this exclusive interview with, Gil shares his experience leading the marketing efforts of Frontier Dental Lab Group, and how the company sets itself apart from its competitors by utilizing technology and marketing to change the negative perception of dentistry.
Gil also provides insights on how Frontier Dental Lab Group maintains a happy and motivated workforce, and how the company is capitalizing on the growing trend of online business.
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We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Gil Villavecer: I am Gil Villavecer, Chief Marketing Officer at Frontier Dental Lab Group, and I have the privilege of combining my experience and talents of others with a fantastic executive team. As CMO, I get the word out about Frontier Dental Lab Group. Brent West, our Chief Executive Officer, is the one we turn to for vision and direction. And Mario Ricci, our Chief Financial Officer, handles anything related to money. As a team, we are stronger than we ever could be on our own. A simple way of putting it is: Gil is the face, Brent is the engine, and Mario is the fuel for high performance and achievement.
Frontier Dental Lab Group consists of five dental labs, with over 10 locations, serving hundreds of dentists across North America. In a nutshell, we collaborate with the top dentists in the United States and Canada to improve people’s smiles. To do this, we rely on cutting-edge technology and service to deliver the highest quality implants, crowns, dentures, veneers, and just about any other dental restorations.
If you were in an elevator with Warren Buffett, how would you describe your company, services, or products? What makes your company different from others? What is your company’s biggest strength?
Gil Villavecer: If I had under 20 seconds to pitch Warren Buffet about Frontier Dental Lab Group, I would tell him we are a tech-enabled manufacturer of biomedical devices for the mouth. We have sustainable, organic revenue, strong long-term economic growth with an attractive M&A pipeline and an experienced management team. For over 50 years, our family of brands has delivered smiles that change people’s lives.
To highlight how Frontier Dental Lab Group is different from other dental labs, I’d ask Mr. Buffet to take a look at our marketing strategy. People associate negative feelings with a trip to the dentist, and we want to change that. One dentist doesn’t have the horsepower to transform global perception, but we do. For example, our billboard in Times Square during New York Fashion Week represented hundreds of trusted dentists who partner with us.
Finally, if the elevator were still in motion, I’d tell Mr. Buffet that our company’s greatest strength is its people. We represent decades of experience and draw on that to overcome any obstacle and meet any goal.
Quiet quitting, The Great Resignation, are an ongoing trend causing many businesses to struggle keeping talent engaged and motivated. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. In your experience, what keeps employees happy? And how are adapting to the current shift we see?
Gil Villavecer: At Frontier Dental Lab Group, we represent more than 500 employees, and we go above and beyond to make sure each one of them feels valued and fulfilled. Most people think compensation is the key to keeping your employees happy, but that is only one part of the equation.
To engage and retain our employees over time, we nurture a strong culture with consistent communication throughout every level of the company. We build that culture by showing employees their work is part of something big. We let them know that their contribution goes far beyond their own office. For example, when our brand works with a celebrity client, we share that success with everyone in the company.
We also invest in ongoing education to ensure employees are growing personally and professionally. For example, we support many of those on our staff to become certified dental technicians.
When you have a strong culture, consistent communication, and employees who feel valued and appreciated, you maintain a pipeline of top talent. That pipeline is always available to us. We tell our staff that if they like what they do at Frontier Dental Lab Group, they can recommend other people who will value being part of our team. That is how we find our best recruits.
Online business keeps on surging higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for the year to come and how are you capitalizing on the tidal wave?
Gil Villavecer: Traditionally, dental labs do not do much digital marketing. However, at Frontier Dental Lab Group, we take a non-conventional approach and market to dentists and consumers. Our educational clips for YouTube and advertisements for social media are designed to Educate, Entertain, and Connect. We especially believe in connecting consumers with our Trusted Frontier Dentists.
For example, our most recent initiative is a program called Frontier Smile Simulations. Potential patients upload selfies to our website, and our proprietary software utilizes decades of experience in smile design to demonstrate what is possible. To give you a specific example of how this new tech operates, I can tell you about a celebrity makeup artist who recently uploaded her selfie to our Smile Simulation Center. We created a simulation showing how she would look with straighter, whiter teeth and combined it with a list of several trusted Frontier cosmetic dentists in her area.
Here is the text I just received from one of those dentists: “Hey, Gil! Super cool story! A patient went through the smile simulation on your site, you sent her my info, and she’s coming in tomorrow. That’s the power of your marketing in the flesh!”
And along with pictures of her new smile, here is the message I received from the makeup artist the next day: “Hi, Gil! You’ll love to see this! My smile is just how you imagined it!”
Currently, we are the only ones in the industry harnessing the power of digital marketing to Educate, Entertain, and Connect, and we plan to double down and do more of it in the coming year. Digital marketing is fairly new in the lab space, but we plan to ride that tidal wave you mentioned.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as THE real challenge right now?
Gil Villavecer: The most significant challenge for businesses during the last three years has been finding and retaining the right people. To thrive, businesses desperately need talented employees who fit their culture. They need people who do good work, positively affect others in the organization, and raise the bar for everyone around them. At Frontier Dental Lab Group, we look for people who are excited to be part of what we are doing.
Attracting and retaining top talent has always been a challenge. However, the upheaval caused by Covid, remote work, a recession, and other recent factors forces us to be even more deliberate about finding and retaining those people. We’re always on the lookout for good people.
2020, 2021, 2022 threw a lot of curve balls into businesses on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past years, how can businesses thrive in 2023? What lessons have you learned and what advice would you share?
Gil Villavecer: The last three years have presented businesses with unprecedented obstacles. As most people were learning the definition of words like pandemic and Covid, our Trusted Frontier Dentists were learning they had to shut down their offices and take furloughs.
As for us, we turned adversity into opportunity. We realized that even though our consumers were locked down, they had phones in their hands. That insight ignited our digital marketing push. We invested our time, talent, and technology in entirely new ways.
The lesson we learned was to address curveballs head-on and maximize opportunity. That experience reminds me of an illustration in a book I just read. Buffalo herds do not run from storms because they would be running forever. Instead of running away from storms, they run straight into them and get to the other side. When Covid hit, we ran right at it and came out like a slingshot. Being nimble and doubling down on what worked enabled us to overcome the pandemic’s challenges, and even grow in spite of them.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Gil Villavecer: What a fun question! If I could choose any business superpower, it would be mind-reading. In marketing, we always try to figure out what people are thinking and tailor our message to what is on their minds. I have often thought that, if I knew exactly what appealed to a specific target demographic, it would spare a lot of trial and tribulation. With the power of a mind-reader, I guarantee I could increase revenue like never before.
I came away from college with a psychology degree, so I call myself an amateur psychologist. Since I can’t read minds, I have to rely on what I have learned, years of experience with people, and meaningful conversations.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Gil Villavecer for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Gil Villavecer or his company, you can do it through his – Instagram
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