When Colonial Dental Studio in Davenport, Iowa, experienced a rapid increase in sales last year—largely due to the fact that it had just become a 3M Lava Milling Center—co-owners Tom and Nicole Hagen thanked their six employees with bonuses. "But because we had such a phenomenal year, we wanted to do something extra special to show our appreciation," says Tom.
Looking to adopt a healthier lifestyle, the Hagens had recently hired a fitness expert for personal training. When the staff members expressed an overwhelming interest in the idea, the Hagens decided to hire the trainer for the entire staff, as well as sponsor a company-wide fitness challenge similar to NBC's The Biggest Loser. The person to lose the highest body weight percentage after 12 weeks would win $500 cash.
"It was an awesome challenge and we all couldn't wait to jump in and start working out as a team," says Shanda Robb, Lava designer/finisher. The group worked with trainer and nutritionist, Deena Fitch, whose first goal was to teach healthier eating habits. She even went grocery shopping for them to illustrate healthy vs. unhealthy food choices. Today, instead of snacking on doughnuts, the staff now chooses smarter foods like PowerBars®.
Fitch's second task was to help convert the lab's basement-level conference room into a gym; it now houses two treadmills, one elliptical trainer, one tread climber, a set of free weights, an adjustable bench and a stability ball. And not only did the staff now have someplace to workout for free, they could also do it during work hours. Fitch came to the lab four times a week for 45-minute strength training sessions, as well as cardio kickboxing classes. "It's been great," says Tom. "The convenience of working out during business hours, plus the peer pressure to workout really makes the difference. An hour later we're energized and ready to go make teeth!"
At the end of the 12-week challenge and a nearly $13,000 investment, mostly for the gym equipment and trainer costs, the results were dramatic. The lab's employees lost a total of 170 pounds--which Tom jokes is like losing an entire technician--and three people lost over 30 pounds each. "The friendly competition was really motivating," says Robb, the winner of the challenge with a total weight loss of 36 lbs. and 22% body weight. "When we were doing stability ball tricep presses, I would say 'I just did 50' and someone else would say 'I did 51,' which challenged me to do more. By the end of the set, we'd each have done about 100 reps just to try to outdo one another."
Tom himself lost 15.6 pounds and 7.2% body weight, but is more excited about his belt being down three notches! However, there have been more benefits of the competition than smaller waistlines. "No one has called in sick in all of the 12 weeks, overtime is gone because people have more energy and are completing cases faster, and teamwork and productivity are up," says Tom, who thinks the best part of the experience is overhearing his employees bragging about the company and challenge to their friends and family. "Knowing that our employees love us and where they work is the best gift. When you have people who like what they do and where they work, the end product is always better."
Bob Votroubek opened Colonial Dental Studio in Davenport, Iowa in 1972. Although his daughter Nicole grew up in the laboratory--and often earned extra money doing odd jobs--she eventually opted for a career working on aircrafts in the Navy. Little did she know that she would ultimately take over her father's business.
In 1995, Nicole and her husband, Tom Hagen, joined the laboratory, learned the ins and outs of the business and, eight years later, purchased the six-person lab. At that time, the lab had sales of $600,000 and about 50 local dentist-clients.
In 2003, the Hagens wanted to expand their customer base and, after much research, they felt that tapping into the growing trend of lab-to-lab outsourcing would be their most viable option. They began outsourcing to about 50 laboratories and, in 2006, became a 3M Lava Milling Center.
Today, 90% of Colonial's business comes from about 300 labs nationwide and sales are just under $3 million. Since March, the lab has hired four additional staff members, for a total of 10 employees.
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