Our new column dedicated to the orthodontist’s purchasing experience

Welcome to our new column offering a close-up look at orthodontic product purchasing and how it is evolving. Orthodontic Products has teamed up with Jeff Biggs, DDS, MS, who is not only the owner of his own private practice in Indiana, but also the founder and CEO of Orthodontic Details Marketplace, an online marketplace built for orthodontists’ purchasing needs. Biggs is uniquely placed to offer insight into the orthodontist-supplier relationship and the purchasing trends and, more importantly, answer your questions. 

“Who the hell ordered this?!” 

I’m not saying it was my best moment, but don’t tell me you haven’t said the same thing. And I’m sure, like me, you were quickly (and politely) corrected by a staff member who actually knew what was going on with your practice’s ordering. 

I’m embarrassed to say it, but countless times over my last two decades as an orthodontist I’ve tried to take over our ordering process more than I should.

Ordering orthodontic supplies sucks. Especially the larger you get as a practice. Products go on back-order without warning, shipping costs fluctuate, reconciling supply spend is a grind, suppliers are all vying for your attention…it’s a mess.

There’s a reason we as orthodontists hand off ordering to a staff member as soon as we can.  

Through the process of building the Orthodontic Details Marketplace, I’ve grown more and more appreciative of Stephanie, our staff member in charge of ordering supplies. Not because other practices’ purchasing staff are poor, but because I’ve gained a greater understanding of just how difficult that role is. 

There’s a lot we as orthodontists can learn from our staff in this area.

For most practices, the staff member in charge of purchasing is doing so as a secondary part of their job. Which means dealing with salespeople, placing orders, tracking inventory levels, researching products, etc, are all stuffed into an already busy schedule. Not to mention a boss who is quick to notice when something goes wrong. It’s a tough assignment.

Just for a moment, let’s look at what goes into placing a single order. The staff member needs to: 

  1. Know a product needs ordering.
  2. Verify the product actually needs to be ordered (it hasn’t already been ordered; there’s nothing hiding in the back; etc).
  3. Double-check product specifications and pricing.
  4. Make sure they can’t find a better deal. 
  5. Dig up the supplier website login or contact info.
  6. Place the order through a salesperson or through an (often clunky) e-commerce site.
  7. Cross their fingers and hope the products actually arrive on time, at the right price, and aren’t different than what was ordered. 

Now multiply that by the number of different suppliers you order from, throw in one “this product is back-ordered,” and an hour of “have you heard about our new line of…” from a salesperson and the nightmare that is orthodontic ordering starts to become clear.

So, I’d like to challenge myself and my peers to do two things this month:

  • First, find a way to show appreciation to ordering staff for their role in the success of the practice.
  • Second, ask a simple question that will mean the world to them: “How can we make purchasing supplies easier for you?” 

Why? Purchasing is chaotic. And when purchasing is chaotic, the entire practice can become chaotic. Your ordering staff holds the keys to that chaos, which means learning from and honoring them can have a dramatic effect on your practice. 

We can’t wait to hear how your staff responded! OP

Send us your thoughts and questions at [email protected] and we will answer them in a future column.

jeff biggs

Jeff Biggs, DDS, MS, is an ABO certified orthodontist with more than 20 years of experience. In addition to actively practicing in Indianapolis, Biggs is the CEO of Orthodontic Details Marketplace, and a sought-after advisor for other practices.