In 2013, frustrated by the changes he was seeing in the industry—mass digitization, commoditization, consolidation—Von Grow, Owner of Dark Horse Dental Studio in Pleasant Grove, UT, sent out a rallying cry via social media to his fellow technicians:
“I propose that we all band together in the name of high-end, handmade, esthetic restorations and do not let machines take over our jobs. …Instead of hoarding all of our secrets and techniques, we give the information away freely to other like-minded technicians and dentists,” proposed Grow. “…everyone within the sound of my voice who is feeling helpless, downtrodden, fearful of the future or just wants to get excited again about the work you do, let’s take a stand. Let’s get a worldwide network going that is so big, it cannot fail.”
His words struck a chord and technicians responded in droves. The result? The Dental Technicians Guild (DTG), a closed Facebook-based group where members...
Although Rick Sonntag owns his own four-person laboratory, he has the power of a much larger operation behind him. Sonntag is a member of the OPT-In Dental Laboratory Cooperative, a group of small, independently owned labs focused on helping its members build their businesses and strengthen their competitive advantage.
“All of our members have common goals and values and are committed to sharing information as freely as possible,” says Sonntag, RDT, AAACD, Owner of 4Points Dental Designs, Inc., St. Petersburg, FL. “And, since we’re all small businesses, we all have the same competition: big box labs and private equity-backed group labs. If we act as a group, it makes all of our individual laboratories stronger.”
That synergistic effect was the vision Dean Mersky, DDS, had in 2012 when he created the OPT-In Cooperative, an aggregate of small labs with 20 or fewer employees. Potential laboratory members undergo an interview process to ensure they fit with the...
Owner Chris May, CDT, was well positioned for growth. His 12-year-old laboratory, May Dental Arts in Fenton, MO, was successful, modern, efficient and well-staffed with 30 employees. But he also felt he had taken the business as far as he could on his own; he wanted additional capital, marketing assistance and IT support in order to grow his lab further.
May and industry veteran Donald Park have been friends for over five years, first meeting when Park worked for a CAD/CAM manufacturer and May was his customer. May knew that Park had a good understanding of laboratory operations and would periodically ask for his advice. Park knew May ran a top-notch laboratory. During that same time, Park had been talking with Long Trail Holdings, a private equity firm interested in getting into the dental laboratory market.
The result of those connections came to fruition earlier this year with the creation of Central Dental Holdings LLC (CDH), backed by Long Trail Holdings. CDH acquired May Dental Arts...
Artistic Dental Lab in Chicago has been a member of TEREC N.A. (Technical Research Consortium of North America) for only three months but CAD/CAM Manager Dan Ulaszek, CDT, feels they’ve already gotten their yearly dues’ worth and then some.
For example, at Ulaszek’s first meeting in January, another member recommended a milling disc supplier that will save Ulaszek over $2,000 a year, and he also had an opportunity to measure his lab’s production against other labs using the same systems. “You never really know how well you’re doing until you can compare apples to apples with another lab; that information is priceless,” he says. “We learned so many little pearls of wisdom at our very first meeting and have been able to look at our lab from a different point of view because of it.”
Founded in 1985, TEREC holds three meetings each year in different areas of the country. Each meeting features presentations from manufacturers and other industry...
When Gary Iocco was thinking about his long-term exit plan, he wasn’t sure he liked his options. “I didn’t have an employee interested in purchasing the lab so I thought the alternative was selling to a laboratory group,” said Iocco, Owner of Dimension Dental Design, Hastings, MN. “But I was concerned that a group would want me to change my business model, or perhaps even terminate employees or send work offshore. I just really didn’t want to do that.”
So what did he do? He joined forces with another successful laboratory owner—Todd Mayclin, CDT, Mayclin Dental Studio, Minneapolis—to form their own laboratory group. Mayclin had already acquired two other laboratories—E.C. Chmel, Eau Claire, WI and Jackson Fairmont, Fairmont, MN—and he and Iocco saw an opportunity to pool resources, ensure the longevity of each lab, and continue to grow with additional acquisitions.
In 2015, Iocco and Mayclin formed a multi-laboratory holding...
Given all of the talk about the commoditization of our industry, the CAL-Lab Group’s focus on maximizing profits during its 90th annual meeting in Chicago was right on point. Chaired by Jim Gorgol, CDT, the meeting attracted 774 attendees and highlighted strategies for building your bottom line, offering value to dentist-clients and increasing efficiency and productivity with digital technology.
Keynote speaker Gordon Christensen, DDS, MSD, PhD, addressed doing business in a slowly recovering economy during his presentation Paradigm Shifts in Dentistry Influencing the State of Dental Technology. “With the economy still recovering, patients hesitant to spend and benefit plans paying less, both technicians and doctors need to look at the areas that are on the rise, such as implants, digital technology and esthetic dentistry,” he said, also offering his take on new and up-and-coming trends. “Endodontics is going to be big due to aging baby boomers, and sleep dentistry...
ClearChoice Dental Implant Centers, a group of 29 practices around the country, is planning to double its network and hire up to 70 implant technicians in the next several years.
- November 2015
“We knew we could no longer build a value proposition around technology that can be procured by anyone,” says Lab Owner Mike Hill. Read about his strategies for engaging clients on a new level.
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- October 2015
Launched this month, Crownbox is an online marketplace where any laboratory or milling center can connect to buy and sell dental milling and printing services. “Crownbox is like an eBay for our industry, connecting buyers and sellers of dental CAD/CAM. It’s a venue for companies that have invested in CNC milling and 3D printing equipment to sell these services and for labs that would like more options when it comes to outsourcing partners. We’ve created a platform that improves access for everyone,” says Alex Frangadakis, Crownbox Founder and CEO.
Crownbox enables laboratories to order milled abutments, bars, crowns, printed models and partials, etc., from multiple milling centers simultaneously. Users can drag-and-drop .stl files, enter case details, submit orders and track cases at different locations and order status all within a single platform.
For sellers, Crownbox offers a new marketing opportunity and distribution channel. Milling centers can set up a free...
LMT Communications, Inc. · October 20 at 2:14 pm
For years, members of my family—as well as of our staff—have wanted to duck under the table whenever they’d go out to dinner with me. It is so widely known among my friends that I can be, well, a “difficult customer,” that when my sister wrote and sang a song about my restaurant escapades for a surprise birthday party years ago, it was met with uproarious laughter and praise.
There are two very good reasons for my “difficult” behavior: one is that I have dietary restrictions that require me to ask a lot of questions before I order. But the other is that, like everyone else, I work hard for the money I earn and therefore, when I spend it, I expect a certain level of customer service. When I don’t get it, I am vocal when it isn’t delivered.
I speak up because my intention is to help bring the concerns to light so they can be corrected. I think that’s what makes me particularly captivated by the TV show, Undercover Boss. I respect...
This article first appeared in LMT’s August 2015 edition of the LMT Insider, our monthly e-newsletter, and takes a closer look at the pros and cons of the minimum wage ordinances that have recently made national headlines.
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- September 2015
In the last year, MicroDental has acquired four laboratories and is actively seeking additional laboratory members. Here, MicroDental President Len Liptak details what the company is looking for and the benefits it offers.
- July 2015
Many years ago I attended a dental industry seminar on personnel nightmares, given by John Ness, Founder of PTC and the Productivity Training system. He described four types of potential troublemakers in organizations but I was particularly struck by the type he called “Harry.”
“Harry’s,” he said, are often delightful, can-do personalities, do impeccable work and seem like perfect employees, but they have a dark side. In ways it’s quite difficult to pinpoint, they also subtly undermine the operation and/or its leadership, dragging down company morale without anyone realizing how or why. “Harry’s” are often the most damaging personnel type of all.
I specifically remembered “Harry” because I suspected I had one on my staff. Like Ness explained, it was nearly impossible to put my finger on how “Harry” affected us and it took me more time than I wish it had to make a move.
Last month I gave a public shout out to my...
- June 2015
Whether you have two technicians or 20, there is perhaps no greater challenge in the laboratory than managing your staff. From morale issues to interpersonal conflicts, Lab Owner and Manager respondents to LMT’s Personnel Survey share their strategies for achieving pleasant and productive work environments.
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- April 2015
In our industry, where the economic barriers to entry are relatively low, it’s all too common to hear stories about employees leaving a lab and then winning that lab’s customers, or worse, other staff members. Of course, from the lab owner’s perspective, the former employee didn’t win the customer or staff member; in his mind, he was stolen!
Like some of you, we too have been burned and it’s happened often enough that we were compelled to change the way we deal with new hires. In California, the Department of Corporations allows companies to pursue financial damages if it’s determined that protected, confidential information has been taken from your business, so we incorporated two documents into our hiring process to legally protect us from employees pursuing our customers and staff once they leave our lab.
Our goal in this process is not to create overly burdensome legal documents but rather to simply obtain a mutual understanding of our company’s...
- March 2015
In our Ask SCORE column, George Obst, certified SCORE mentor and retired CEO and Founding Partner of Dental Services Group, draws upon his 30 years of experience to address questions about building successful and profitable laboratories.
How can I effectively solve recurring problems? In any type of business, unresolved problems can fester, leading to poor quality and service, and may ultimately lead to the failure of the business. To effectively solve a recurring issue, you need to identify and fix its underlying cause—not just the symptom.
To get to the root of the problem, a simple and effective technique is to ask “why” four or five times. The premise of this technique—started in the 1930s by Sakichi Toyoda, Founder of the Toyota Motor Company—is that the answers to most problems come from the people who are working within the process. Once the “why” questions are answered, corrective procedures can be put in place to ensure that the particular...
- January 2015
A few months ago, my son turned me on to two television reality shows that I feel have merit for anyone who runs a small business or aspires to: The Profit, on CNBC, showcasing the multi-talented Marcus Lemonis, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Camping World; and Fox’s Kitchen Nightmares, starring restaurateur, Chef Gordon Ramsay. Unfortunately, Ramsay retired this series at the end of 2014. Fortunately, there are 123 episodes you can watch on YouTube.
Say what you will about reality TV; these shows are like business school by proxy.
Without knowing any particular market, Lemonis attempts to save failing businesses—from beauty shops to sporting goods—assessing, reinventing and turning them around. For Lemonis, whose mantra is “people, product, process,” the buck stops with integrity. If the business owner(s) he comes to help is not completely transparent with him regarding the status of his business—financial and otherwise—he walks away—but...
- September 2013
Several years ago we received a case that sparked a complete shift in the way our lab is run. A doctor asked us to make two zirconia crowns for a 17-year-old girl. The crowns were to replace teeth #8-9 and the prescription specified that the length of the centrals be 18mm long! We called to clarify the instructions and the doctor confirmed that the patient had a standard bite, nothing was out of proportion and that she wanted teeth that were 18mm long.
Over the course of five phone calls, we presented every possible failure scenario. The doctor insisted: 18mm. In the end, we produced and delivered the crowns as directed. The case never came back and the doctor tells us it went very nicely. We continue to do business together and all is well—except for the fact that somewhere in Southern California there is a woman with tusk-like incisors!
At my former company, one of my salespeople had a saying, "If a client wants us to make our product look like a purple elephant, then our only...
Thanks to the advent of digital technology, many laboratory owners and managers are discovering new business models and finding ways to reinvent their businesses and reinvigorate their careers. Here are the stories of three lab owners/managers who have done so using Sirona Dental, Inc.'s CEREC Acquistion Centers, Sirona Connect.
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- April 2013
In the latest installment of Barry D. The Lab Guy, Laboratory Owner Mike Hill explains his strategies for protecting the bottom line.
- February 2013
With standing ovations for the last two presentations—by Mark Murphy, DDS, FAGD and Gordon Christensen, DDS, MSD, PhD—it was clear that the mood among attendees of the 2013 V21 Meeting at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas was upbeat and keenly focused on everything digital.
- February 2012
Have an ingenious marketing strategy? Innovative cost-cutting idea? New way to streamline production? Share your best business boosting strategies with over 3,000 of your peers on THE BRIDGE!
8 Faster, Smarter, Better Management Strategies to Boost Your Business: We Want to Hear Your Management Strategies
Problem: I'd like to implement pre-scheduling to help make our workload more consistent; we're overwhelmed one day and slow the next.
Strategy: Pre-scheduling—where the laboratory, rather than the dentist, determines the turnaround time for each case—helps ensure an even workflow, which minimizes the pressure of deadlines and enables a technician to focus on his product quality.
For example, some laboratories use a manual pre-scheduling system. Each technician has a designated block of time and pre-determined number of units he can handle per day. As cases come in, the office manager schedules them into an appointment book according to this set capacity and the laboratory's current workload. Once a technician's slot is full, no more cases are scheduled for him that day. The office manager then calls the dental office with the date on which the case will be delivered. There are also a variety of software packages on the market that can streamline the pre-scheduling process....
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