Lake Forest, CA
Owner: Mike Hill
Many labs call themselves“studios” but Mike Hill, Owner of 6-11 Dental Studio, makes sure his lab lives up to the name. Treating his technicians like artists is his number-one priority in his employee-centric laboratory.
To inspire creativity and productivity, each ceramist’s work area is a spacious 12' by 12' and set up like an individual studio, with divider walls to create a sense of privacy. The L-shaped workstations are twice the size of typical workbenches, giving technicians ample room to spread out, and the 19-ft-tall ceilings add to the roominess.
Technicians are encouraged to play their own music, burn incense or scented candles and really make their workspaces their own. Interruptions are kept to a minimum and, even then, non-technical staff and managers try to wait until there’s an obvious breaking point for the technician. “There’s an unwritten, although clearly articulated, rule that it is very peaceful in here,” explains Chris Thompson, Hill’s longtime business partner. “Mike doesn’t treat them like production people who make stuff for him. He treats them like artists.”
Hill knows it’s difficult to find good technicians, so when he finds them he does everything he can to keep them happy. Potluck dinners are held most weeks and lunch is brought in to the lab almost every Friday. Last summer, Hill even arranged for a local ice cream truck to stop by the laboratory every Thursday afternoon and treated everyone to free ice cream. In November, they had Mocha Mondays with custom-ordered Starbucks runs to kick off the workweek.
The technician also comes first when working with customers. Earlier this year, the lab had a $7,000-per month client who refused to modify his preps to the recommended designs and, as a result, had a number of issues and remakes. The ceramist dedicated to the account was frustrated with the situation but the doctor insisted it was the lab’s fault. Hill chose to part ways with the dentist.
“I find it much easier to win new customers than to find great technicians,” says Hill. “Every lab owner has to make a decision about where he will invest his resources. The family feeling among my staff is the result of a clear business model. For me, winning with my staff is substantially more important to me than winning with my customers.”
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