For 30 years, a commitment to education has been the driving force in Brian Lindke's career, whether it's been as an in-house technician, product developer or laboratory owner. And it continues to pay off: his laboratory, Beautiful Smiles by Vividx, saw its highest sales ever last year, at a time when many other labs are struggling.
But Lindke is quick to point out that's not the ultimate goal. "We don't grow our business just for the sake of growing our business and having more volume. We want to build it based on relationships with dentists who are in tune with our philosophies and appreciate the value of working with us," says Lindke, who has been working with many of the same clients for more than a decade. "Many have become personal friends because we learn together, and invest time and energy into making their practices successful."
For the last 10 years, this philosophy has been the foundation of the seven-person, Buford, GA laboratory he owns with Yuichi "Ike" Ikenaga. Vividx specializes in working closely with clients and patients on implant, full mouth reconstruction and esthetic cases. While Ikenaga is at the bench full time, half of Lindke's time is allotted to consulting with clients and planning and participating in educational opportunities of every kind.
For example, in order to be a resource for his clients on material choice and capital expenditure decisions, he attends countless hours of continuing education courses to keep abreast of new technologies. He's also a strong believer in attending clinical programs along with them to learn what they learn and is actively involved with the Kois Center founded by Dr. John Kois in Seattle, which focuses on evidence-based research and a complete team approach. "Almost half of my clients have also gone through Kois training and it's been invaluable because we're all on the same page and speak the same language," says Lindke. "Collectively, our day-to-day work and communication have become more predictable, efficient and sharply honed."
A Kois Recognized Specialist—meaning he completed the technician continuum of courses—Lindke even co-founded a Kois Study Club in Atlanta for clients and other local dentists. "It's a vehicle to bring everyone who attended the courses together to help us actively incorporate the Kois philosophy into our businesses. It also acts as a motivating force for those who may not have gone to the Kois Center," says Lindke. Every other month, the club—which consists of 16 members from different disciplines—meets to plan and diagnose actual cases, studying mounted casts and preoperative pictures.
Lindke also participates in three other study clubs with general dentists, prosthodontics, periodontists and oral surgeons, and particularly values this environment for learning. "Instead of being a large, diverse group, a study club is a collection of people who usually have the same goals and philosophy and are moving in the same direction," he says. "There's a heightened sensitivity about what we're all striving for."
Lindke is also an educator in his own right—for years he's been conducting hands-on ceramic courses for technicians, most recently for Kuraray Noritake Dental—and has also begun presenting team-approach courses to dentist/technician audiences. For example, this month, he and Dr. Lawrence Sims are presenting a program on the partnership approach to implant dentistry at the Hinman Dental Meeting in Atlanta.
On a smaller scale, Lindke also provides in-office training to dentists and their staffs, sometimes bringing in lunch and tailoring 30- to 60-minute presentations on shade-taking or photography. "Many dental offices want to do the right thing and send photos, for example, but just need help with the basics of which angles to shoot or where to position the shade tabs. When I can go in and help them develop a systematic approach, it benefits all of us and enhances our ability to communicate about difficult cases," he says.
This comprehensive pursuit of education and knowledge makes the laboratory a trusted partner in treatment planning on a daily basis, whether it's as simple as deciding on a prep design for a three-unit bridge or as complex as sequencing large implant cases.
That's a role in which Lindke has always been comfortable and one he urges other technicians to take pride in. "I've always felt like my dentist-clients are my peers. Technicians aren't a lesser component of the dental team; we're very much partners striving for the same end result," he says. "You have to earn that seat at the table by taking every opportunity to learn more, do better dentistry and stay out in front of the changes happening in our profession."