If you go anywhere in Africa, even to some of the most remote areas, you'll find signs for Bata Shoes. In fact in many places their market presence is greater than that of any other retailer or product. So how did this European company come to be so successful there, to the point where Bata's Shoes are known as "The shoes of Africa?"

The story behind how that came be to be is an interesting lesson in perception. The details vary depending on which source you go to, but the main part of the story is that in the late 19th century, just as colonial Africa was opening up as a marketplace, a number of manufacturers and retailers – including many providers of shoes – sent representatives to the continent to assess the potential market. Practically all the shoe sellers came back with the same report: "There is no market in Africa. The people don't wear shoes."

All except the rep from Bata, who reported, "There is a huge potential here. Nobody wears shoes!" To this day in Africa, the name Bata is synonymous with "shoes." Talk about capturing mindshare!

This is an example of a lot of people missing a tremendous opportunity because it was too big and too obvious for them to see. I am reminded of this whenever I hear a dentist say that he or she just doesn't have the right patients or team for doing a lot of comprehensive dentistry. In other words, they are saying, "There is no market for comprehensive care. My patients just want what insurance covers."

However, the patient who only values tooth-based dentistry is exactly the kind of patient who needs to learn more about the value of comprehensive care. This is exactly the kind of patient who represents your greatest opportunity to be more effective as a dentist.

Of course you are not going to get every patient to accept better care every time, but if you are committed to the idea of always diagnosing and presenting at your highest standard to every patient, regardless of what preconceptions you have about whether or not they will accept, you will eventually see movement. Many patients will start to revise their idea of what dentistry is and you will see acceptance rates rise.

Being thorough and uncompromising with the patients who don't (yet) value dental care highly is probably the biggest opportunity every dental practice has. It's so big, you may not even notice it's there, but it is your "Bata."


Commenter's Profile Image Barry Polansky
November 19th, 2013
Imtiaz--The Bata shoe salesman story is an excellent example of why we all need to develop a philosophy. A philosophy of dentistry as well as a philosophy of business. All philosophies begin with "belief." In one of the very best TED talks I have seen, music conductor Ben Zander uses the exact story to illustrate the importance of beliefs. In his case he was teaching the audience to appreciate classical music. The key is the lesson of the transformative role of beliefs. I will leave a link to Zander's TED talk- it's worth watching -- very entertaining. http://www.ted.com/talks/benjamin_zander_on_music_and_passion.html
Commenter's Profile Image Carl Crutchfield
November 19th, 2013
This is an excellent concept to digest, the power of philosophy in one's life and professional endeavors. The thing that made me chuckle at the article here, however, was the notion of colonial Africa "opening up as a marketplace" for European retailers. Funny thing perspective.