From the moment you step into LeBeau Precision Aesthetics, the energy is palpable. While it's largely due to the passion and interest of Owner Dene LeBeau and his talented 11-person staff, the lab has another secret weapon: feng shui.
Last year, the Renton, Washington-based laboratory moved into a new, 3,000-sq.-ft. facility based on a feng shui design concept, the ancient Chinese practice of arranging space to achieve harmony with the environment and maximize the flow of energy, a practice said to have a positive effect on wealth, relationships, health and more.
For instance, rather than using pointed corners, the lab's designer, Ellis Paguirigan, incorporated rounded, flowing edges on everything from the reception desk to the walls to the floors. On the floor, he used two different shades of stain--one light, one dark--to create curved lines that delineate walkways from work areas and continue the flowing effect.
"Now you can just feel the energy in the laboratory and being here makes me not want to retire," says LeBeau, a nearly 40-year industry veteran. "We now work in a facility that represents how we feel about dentistry and the positive energy is contagious."
Located on the top floor of a commercial building with views of the Green River and Mt. Rainer, the facility looks more like a contemporary art gallery than a laboratory. Most of the walls are painted a rich tomato red, while others are textured from floor to ceiling with a recurring imprint of the lab's tooth logo. Striking black-and-white clinical photos are used as artwork, and frosted glass doors that slide open offer another modern touch. A sophisticated, color-corrected lighting system illuminates the entire facility and, to ensure shade accuracy, ceramists work facing a color-neutral gray wall.
The laboratory also showcases patent-pending grinding stations and workbenches custom designed by LeBeau and his key managers, nephew Rob LeBeau and Gary Nunokawa. To prevent airborne dust, the grinding stations are enclosed in a plastic dome that has openings for the technicians' hands and a microscope; a vacuum is installed underneath. The lab's polished wood veneer benches are custom built by a local furniture maker and feature a green-blue Avonite resin inlay reminicsent of seaglass, which is also used in tabletops throughout the facility.
Clearly, this isn't your average laboratory but, then again, LeBeau Precision Aesthetics isn't your average operation.
A look back
For LeBeau, a defining moment that shaped his vision of the business came in 1984. Although the 13-year-old laboratory was by all accounts successful--LeBeau was even lecturing to dentists along the West Coast--he was looking for a way to take his work to the next level. His turning point came when he attended a course on esthetics by Drs. John Kois and Frank Spear. "For the first time, I saw absolute excellence and my excitement and passion were ignited," says LeBeau. "From that point on, I was unconditionally committed to seeing how good my laboratory could become."
Over the next several years, that commitment came with challenges, like slowly reinventing both his client list and his staff. "The better we got, the slower we worked and I was constantly trying to align my fees with the time we were investing. Our dentists were not always able to grow with us, so I was continuously trying to establish new relationships with higher quality clients and we were in a constant state of change," he says. Another challenge was putting together a team of highly skilled technicians, which LeBeau says he's achieved after nearly 15 years and recruiting technicians from across the globe.
Today, the lab's clients are some of the industry's most celebrated clinicians--like the Kois Center's Dr. John Kois--and the lab has a nearly 1:1 ratio of technicans to dentists, with nine technicians servicing about 12 clients. On average, the laboratory produces 12 to 14 units a day and, for a PFM, commands fees of up to four times the national average, based on LMT's 2006 Fee Survey.
To ensure it creates a restoration that meets both its expectations and those of its clientele, the lab has some unconventional protocols. For instance, clients must preschedule all of their cases and the lab is usually booked up to three-and-a-half months in advance. Dentist-clients typically e-mail in the prep date and what type of case they have. The lab has already established how many units each technician can fabricate per day, and it checks the lab's schedule and emails back a completion date.
For anterior cases, the laboratory also requires clients to submit seven different patient photos at various angles, distances and shutter speeds. Each technician has a computer at his workstation and can view the photos on screen as he fabricates the case.
"We put the frosting on very beautifully made cakes and our reputation for quality is everything to our laboratory," says LeBeau. "I've been working with the same clients for many years who are very good at what they do, and they're willing to give us the tools we need to succeed."