FRONTIER INSTITUTE’S STORY
As told by Paolo Kalaw
GETTING INTO THE GAME: ENTERING THE DENTAL INDUSTRY
The story of Frontier Group, like the companies it represents, is dynamic. It all began in 1997, when I bought into a small dental lab in Calgary, Alberta. There were just five employees, and the business struggled through lean years by working in many aspects of the dental laboratory industry. Although such breadth of expertise would serve the company well in the future, at the time we worked relentlessly—seven days a week for years on end—to make the business a success. It was not until 2006, with laboratories across Canada and the USA, that the laboratory group had become one of the largest in the world.
During that near decade of struggle, it became apparent to me that supporting the development of individuals—growing people—creates a company that grows with them. Great organizations are born from great people.
TOWARDS FRONTIER INSTITUTE: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
Throughout the years working with dental professionals, I noticed something unexpected: many of them seemed to operate on their own islands. Like a castaway at sea, dentists who are sole practitioners often work in isolation.
For dentists, interacting professionally with other specialists is not the same as being part of a community of equals. Of being among friends, you know? “A knee to knee discussion,” is that moment when you really engage with another person as their peer, whether you’re asking for guidance or just want to share a success story. It’s so important to have those moments of human connection.
Dentistry was missing just such a support network for dentists, especially for those non-clinical issues with which dentists and their team members are faced every day. Dentists who did not receive training in business or management felt themselves to be alone on their islands: they felt unable to ask for support because those areas are “not really part of dentistry.”
Yet those areas are incredibly important. I really believe that “you don’t know what you don’t know,” which is how I refer to those perceptual blind spots that are, by definition, something you cannot see on your own. Even though dentistry is a technical profession, every practice also has a business and personal side that is integral to its success. The dentists with whom I worked were often without a support network when it came to these challenges, and yet meeting such challenges is a big part of their success in practice and in life.
Frontier Institute, which began in 2007, offers expertise in education as well as in technical and technological advancements, in order to create environments where we can support each other. Frontier Institute seeks to give dentists the opportunity to gain new knowledge in clinical, business, and personal areas, and you know, the positive responses we hear are very inspiring. Dentists started to comment that we were changing their lives. They were now feeling more passionate about their practices, day to day.
Today I see how clients become better dentists and happier people when they are part of a community of like-minded individuals. There is an enormous benefit to finding a support network of trusted people to help take each dentist’s practice to the next level.
Frontier Institute’s story began with dental laboratories known for technical and technological excellence and advancement, but it culminates with a renewed focus on the education and personal growth of its people.
I believe we all benefit enormously from a positive, supportive and nurturing environment. By staying true to our values, Frontier Institute has become an all-encompassing approach to helping dentists and employees achieve their maximum potential.
What’s next for Frontier Institute? The company is building a “business for generations,” and seeks to create a better world in the process. Frontier Institute’s vision for the future is one in which social responsibility and entrepreneurialism come together to transform dentistry and education.