PDA Dental Laboratory has experienced a 500% growth in five years; Owner Troy Gasser shares his strategies for success.
After 20 years in the industry, laboratory owner Troy Gasser still can't build a crown. But when he decided to strike out on his own after seven years as president of Arrowhead Dental Laboratory, that didn't faze him. Gasser, a marketer by training, took ownership of PDA Dental Laboratory with an eye on growth and a systematic approach for getting there.
In 2003, Gasser purchased a 20-year-old, five-person laboratory in Boulder, Colorado. He chose this lab largely because of its long-standing emphasis on implants, potential for growth and beautiful geographic setting. Five years later, the laboratory's sales volume has increased by more than 500%. There's no one strategy that helped him get there; rather, Gasser looked at each operation in the lab and implemented some simple yet impactful changes with the goal of streamlining processes, enhancing customer service and increasing sales.
For example, since turnaround times and delivery dates at the lab were not standardized, one of his first priorities was to devise a scheduling system and delivery timetable, which is posted on the laboratory's website for client reference. Not only did this help clients know when they'd be getting work, but it helped each department more effectively plan its workflow. "With this one simple adjustment, our clients noticed immediate time-savings; they no longer had to call for delivery dates and could confidently schedule seating appointments," says Gasser. "Client relations improved because we weren't calling to reschedule delivery dates and our telephone traffic immediately became more manageable."
As the lab grew--PDA now has 21 employees--Gasser executed a team leader concept to facilitate internal communication. A seasoned CDT acts as the point person from each department and works with Gasser and the other team leaders to control production flow and quality, maximize through-put and move cross-trained technicians to different departments when necessary. "This system allows for a more immediate response to daily production issues, more comprehensive case planning and a well-rounded approach to evaluating and incorporating new techniques and materials," says Gasser.
He also brought hired master technicians to help develop a higher priced, high-end product line--PDA's DR Signature line--for large rehabilitations and cosmetic makeovers; all anterior restorations are also fabricated by this team of highly skilled technicians.
Another refinement was to develop a doctor relations system to continually strengthen customer relationships and better meet individual client needs. A team of three employees trained in customer service tracks daily quality assurance cards, communicates with clients on active cases and offers product information and educational support. This team also facilitates value-added activities like lunch-and-learns and generally keeps its fingers on the pulse of each dentist and his staff.
The Teaching Laboratory
Gasser's professional and marketing background taught him that even if you have a good product, good service and good value, you still need to "differentiate or die." With that in mind, his goal is to have PDA known as "The Teaching Dental Laboratory," not unlike our country's finest teaching hospitals where the draw for staff and patients stems from the first-class, hands-on learning.
To that end, in 2005 the laboratory constructed a state-of-the-art, 2,700-sq.-ft. continuing education center and sponsors more than 20 seminars a year focused on topics such as implants, laser certification, periodontics, endodontics and practice management. This center is also made available to the local chapter of the Academy of General Dentistry, manufacturers, study clubs and dental specialty groups.
Having invested several thousands of dollars in the education area, Gasser says it was never intended to be a profit center. He's willing to absorb the expenses for the long-term gain of earning the reputation of being a state-of-the-art teaching lab and a destination for answers. "This is an environment in which education can flourish," says Gasser. "When a dentist-attendee or lecturer says, 'what a great resource,' I feel so satisfied with this investment."