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Winning formula for export manufacturing - Triodent

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Hot off the heels of their NZTE International Business Awards glory the previous night where they took away the award for Best Use of Design in International Business (joint winners with Sistema Plastics), Dr Simon McDonald and his team were at Go Global to share their Secrets to International Success.

What stands out from this company’s approach to business, and that of other success stories including Sistema, is how they put the customer at the heart of what they do.

Triodent was chosen for the International Business Award because “it takes an energetic approach to continuous innovation, while never losing its focus to make dentists’ lives easier. Its remarkable success rests on an ability to identify a customer problem before others realise it exists, then designing something that is simple to use but extremely difficult to copy.”

Dr Simon McDonald says “Our products have to make our customers’ businesses better, fast and more profitable.” Those customers are dentists rather than consumers.

With a dental consumable global market worth $13b,Triodent was wise to export from day one, using tricks to give the impression of being a large scale business even when they were starting out. For example, McDonald and his team found that by having a big booth at a trade shows they were perceived as being a big company.

Triodent’s focus on the customer has resulted in it making product specification the most important part of the business. McDonald used the infamous words of Steve Jobs in saying that a product should be so good you want to lick it!

“What is going to make your product or services totally fantastic?” he asked. By running the business as a series of small experiments that won’t risk the business, Triodent produces market leading, high-value dental products that are easy to ship from NZ and even look sexy.

Triodent facts at a glance:


  • Business principles: Simple – Innovative – Smart – Nimble – Entrepreneurial
  • 20% of staff on product development
  • 99% of sales are export
  • Exported from day one
  • Insanely good product specifications – the most important part of the business
  • Principles of design: less is more, subtract until it breaks, every detail must have a purpose
  • 80:20:20 rule – Get 80% of the product finished, 20% of the time and 20% of the cost
  • Management by experiment (that won’t risk the business)

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