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For over three decades, two industry families--the Kelleys of Kelley Dental Laboratory and the Steinbocks of Whip Mix Corp.--have been business partners and friends.
When Pat Kelley founded his dental laboratory in 1977, he was committed to a simple plan: make quality restorations and take a personal approach with his customers. Now, more than 30 years later, he attributes his growth to the fact that he started with that simple premise. "We have always focused on our clients as individuals and stay responsive to their needs; we truly work to become part of their teams," says Kelley, owner of 32-employee Kelley Dental Laboratory, New Albany, Indiana, just across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky.
Maybe that's why Pat Kelley and Allen Steinbock, president of Louisville-based Whip Mix Corp., hit it off when they met shortly after Kelley Dental Laboratory opened. Whip Mix, a family-owned, now fourth-generation business, has always been known for its close customer relationships. "Pat and I initially talked a lot about laboratory products, but our discussions quickly grew to encompass such topics as business leadership, family succession planning, commercial real estate and managing growth," says Steinbock.
Because of the geographic proximity--13 miles--and a growing friendship that included family vacations and get-togethers, the Kelleys and the Steinbocks have had a unique opportunity to form a symbiotic relationship and help build each other's businesses.
For example, in the early 1980s, Whip Mix was developing the VHT investment for refractory veneers and asked Kelley Dental to collaborate--an experience that first sparked Kelley's interest in esthetic dentistry. The laboratory and Whip Mix even co-sponsored an esthetic dentistry seminar with Dr. Bob Nixon, attended by 80 dentists in the area. "It was a huge event and really kicked off cosmetics in the Louisville area. We were excited to get involved with smile makeovers and just surged ahead from that point," says Kelley, who also started presenting seminars and clinics on the topic for Whip Mix.
In addition to the VHT investment, the two companies have joined forces on developing other products, with Kelley acting as an alpha test site for Whip Mix's model trimmer with a diamond trimming wheel, articulator magnetic plate system, Resin Rock die stone, Formula One investment, VPM2 mixer and more. "Thanks to Whip Mix, we've had the opportunity to get the first peek at a lot of new equipment and products," says Kelley.
For example, Kelley remembers the time Steinbock suggested he test Whip Mix's new Pro 100 furnace. "I told him I didn't need a new furnace because I had five or six different ones already. But when we tested the Pro 100, we loved it, especially the fact that it had a red box which plugs into each furnace and calibrates them to be exactly the same temperature," says Kelley, who notes that the consistently accurate firings motivated him to sell all of his old furnaces and replace them with Pro 100s.
Most recently, the laboratory was a test site for Whip Mix's Vericore milling service; currently, Kelley is testing the system's abutments and milled bars. "Having Vericore as a resource in Louisville has helped us gain marketshare in zirconia. And, because we're so close, we can communicate face-to-face on complex cases which has been invaluable," says Amy Kelley-Guilford, Pat's daughter and vice president of the laboratory. She works closely on Vericore with childhood friend Stuart Steinbock, Allen's son and president of Whip Mix's Dental Technology Solutions Division.
Product development is only one way these two family businesses have joined forces. For example, the two companies brought together prosthodontists, endodontists and general dentists for a study group to discuss topics across the different disciplines. Kelley has also been part of Whip Mix's Lab Advisory Council, which brings together laboratory owners from across the U.S. to share strategies in a confidential environment.
Whip Mix has also been instrumental in the ongoing education of the laboratory and its staff; Kelley has attended and also co-hosted many seminars and clinics at the Whip Mix facility and is now planning to get involved with Whip Mix's Lean Manufacturing program. Kelley-Guilford compares Whip Mix's commitment to education to that of Kelley Dental. "Education solidifies the relationship," she says. "We grow along with our dentists just as we've grown along with Whip Mix."
Our Leading through Partnership series, featuring profiles of laboratory-manufacturer partnerships, is brought to you in recognition of and with appreciation for Whip Mix Corp.'s support since LMT's inception in September 1984. Call Whip Mix at 800-626-5651 or visit http://www.whipmix.com.
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