For a “people person” like Rachel Nelson, her role as the head of one of North America’s most dominant players in the dental data management software sector has brought some tough challenges.
Nelson, who has been at her post as the president of Coquitlam-based Exan, a Henry Schein company, since last December, has been overseeing a significant restructuring that has involved saying goodbye to several longtime employees – decisions that Nelson deemed the hardest part of her job.
“I heard someone say once: ‘If culture doesn’t exclude anyone, that’s not real culture,’” Nelson said. “And I really struggled with that, because I want to include everyone – that’s the culture of inclusion. But I had to accept that, at times, if people don’t buy into the vision that people matter, that customers matter – if people don’t get that, this probably isn’t going to be the right place.”
Nelson said part of the difficulty is that Exan’s restructuring isn’t financially motivated. The company, which makes data management software specifically geared for use by dental schools, holds more than 90% of that market in North America. But Nelson said a culture change was crucial, because the one that was in place was too committed to older technology and was risk averse, especially to ideas such as cloud technology.
The result is a now-streamlined team that’s united in its focus on meeting people’s needs and in its adaptability to new technology – something Nelson is proud of: “Watching the company afterwards, I don’t know if there are many companies that have been around for 30 years that, at this moment, every single person here would be someone I pick for my team.… And I’m honoured to be part of it.”
Nelson, who once thought that her passion for serving the greater good would lead her to a non-profit organization, is now channelling that passion into health-care technology, looking to implement cloud computing into Exan products, expand globally and branch into dental assistant and hygienist programs.
Where you live now: Fort Langley
Highest level of education: Bachelor of commerce
Currently reading: The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates
Currently listening to: Radical Candor podcast with Kim Scott
When you were a kid, what you wanted to be when you grew up: Lawyer
Profession you would most like to try: Public policy
Toughest business or professional decision: Deciding when a good person is a bad fit for your business
Advice you would give the younger you: It’s not personal. Focus on results
What’s left to do: Hard work
“I had to accept that, at times, if people don’t buy into the vision that people matter, that customers matter – if people don’t get that, this probably isn’t going to be the right place”
Bayshore. For tickets and event information visit https://www.biv.com/forty-under-40