Rick Wides, owner of Bethesda Dental Laboratory in Gaithersburg, Maryland, was growing tired of the struggles of entrepreneurship. His dilemmas weren't unique: a shortage of quality technicians, collection problems, and feeling conflicted by the need to be at the bench and his desire to focus on lecturing. However, when his daughter was diagnosed with a serious illness last year, he knew he had to explore his options.
He started by placing a classified ad in LMT. "I love the work that I do. But I felt beaten up by the industry and I wanted to focus my energy on my family," he says. "So I was open to every available scenario--a buy out, a partner, a merger."
For Wides, the answer was very nearby: in neighboring Rockfille, Maryland. A local laboratory owner whom Wides didn't know responded to the ad and was interested in a partnership. The more they talked, the more Wides knew they would complement each other. While he was known for his implant expertise, the other laboratory owner--Alex Lednow of Bethesda Dental Arts and Science--was a master ceramist trained in Germany. And, while Lednow prefers to work at the bench, Wides enjoys sales and client communication.
A deal was born: five months ago, the two laboratories merged and became Bethesda Dental Arts. Lednow moved into Wides' facility, bringing two quality technicians and a very competent office manager. Already, Wides' headaches are being alleviated with the additional help and someone with whom to share ownership responsibilities.
"I'm still working hard, but I've got my life and my sanity back," says Wides. He also has a built-in exit plan: since Lednow is more than a decade younger, the expectation is that Lednow will eventually buy his partner out and Wides will work part-time as a consultant.
In the meantime, Lednow's expertise has allowed the lab to offer a high-end restoration in addition to its standard C&B service. And, due to the quality of his porcelain work, the lab is charging $50 to $100 more per unit than Wides was previously charging. "Our goal," says Wides, "is to get the business to be as efficient and profitable as possible over the next two to four years."