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With the help of their son, Joe, Michael and Angeline Young, owners of Young Dental Laboratory in Philadelphia, celebrated the lab's 25th anniversary with a bang. They opened a new 4,400-sq.-ft. facility that marks their evolution from a two-person, home-based orthodontic laboratory to an 11-person, full service lab.
Although Joe and his two brothers spent a lot of time in the lab during their childhood, the Youngs didn't encourage their children to enter the field; in fact, they discouraged it. "My parents knew the hardships of owning a small business and didn't necessarily want me to have to experience that. They wanted me to have the experience of working for someone else," says Joe, the eldest.
But after graduating from Muh-lenberg Allentown with a degree in marketing and entrepreneurial studies, Joe was drawn to the family business. "I saw how hard my parents worked and I wanted to help them work less," says Joe. "I saw the laboratory's potential, but I was also concerned about its future. Like many 'mom and pop' businesses, they didn't have any specific goals, or an exit strategy for that matter. When once asked about it, they replied that they were just going to keep doing what they do until they retired."
With his parents' blessing, he joined the laboratory full time as the director of marketing and set out to create a business and marketing plan. He began by looking at the lab's current operations and asking a variety of questions: Who were their clients? How were they doing on a monthly and annual basis? Where were their clients coming from? Did they want to expand? Have they been keeping up with the new services, products and technologies?
He found that the laboratory fabricated a high quality product and had higher-than-average prices, but there was room for improvement. For example, the lab could grow by expanding its product offerings with more esthetic solutions like tooth-colored acetal clasps and creating a C&B department. He also wanted to establish a more personal connection with the lab's dentist-clients. While his parents were frequently in touch with clients on the telephone, they had never met most of their accounts in person--even ones they had been working with for over two decades.
But Joe's main focus was on the laboratory's overall image and appearance. "I was concerned that when patients were sent to the lab, they were leaving with a bad taste in their mouths because of the way the lab looked. In magazines like LMT, we read about and saw photos of beautiful labs across the country and we wanted the same type of facility. We wanted a laboratory that was consistent with our high quality products and the high-end clientele we wanted to attract," he says.
Joe and his parents started to build a new, state-of-the-art facility and in December 2004, after a year-and-a-half of design, construction and renovation, the new laboratory opened. The lab is a modern take on the area's historic brownstones. It includes a marble- and rosewood-covered reception area, a production floor designed for efficient internal communication, stainless steel appliances, a multimedia room with full surround sound and projection video used for education, and a café-style lunchroom with a full kitchen to entertain employees and clients with lunch-'n-learns and wine-and-cheese events.
The whole family is thrilled with the results. "It's a healthier work environment for the technicians and for us. We've attracted new recruits and visitors are impressed. Everyone seems happy to be here. The look of the old lab just didn't match our desired image," says Joe.
To market the new facility, Joe created a full-color brochure with numerous photos. He also held an open house event and continuously looks for creative ways to service his clients. For example, he promotes an open door policy that welcomes clients and their staff members to drop by the lab for lunch--he even offers complimentary door-to-door chauffeur service. "It's all about their time, working on their schedule and the convenience of our services. I've even considered adding monitors in the car to give a short presentation during the drive to the lab. It's about the experience they have working with us and I hope it'll be different and refreshing," says Joe.
Joe continues to keep an eye on the future, and he and his parents now make a point to frequently sit down for short- and long-term planning; recent decisions include investing in a laser welder, earning CDL status and eventually building an even larger laboratory. For Michael, he dreams of seeing the laboratory he started passed along to future generations and thriving as a family tradition. "I hope our efforts are fruitful and can be harvested into the next generation," he says.
Young Dental Laboratory Philadelphia, PA
Michael and Angeline Young emigrated from Hong Kong in the late seventies. Michael's uncle--a dentist in Australia--and his cousin, who sells dental equipment and supplies in Hong Kong, inspired him to become a technician. He earned his dental technology degree in the U.S. and the couple opened up their orthodontic laboratory in their home. Angeline did the acrylic work.
As the business grew, they rented a larger space and eventually purchased a nearby building. During that time, Michael stayed committed to education, earning his CDT in orthodontics in 1980 and his MDT in 2003. Son Joe joined the lab in August 1999 as marketing manager.
The laboratory has grown to an 11-person, full service operation. In December 2004, the Youngs moved into a new, state-of-the-art facility that they spent a year-and-a-half designing and renovating to fit their needs.
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