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...
What should be included in a personnel manual?
The length and complexity of your manual should be tailored to your lab’s needs and environment. You can include attendance and other employee expectations, holidays and vacation time, sick/personal time, overtime, benefits and insurance, digital device use guidelines, leaves of absence, safety practices, non-compete contracts and grounds for termination.
Experts also say two items are a must: a disclaimer stating that the manual is not an employment contract and a policy that prohibits sexual harassment and discrimination based on race, gender, age, physical ability and religion.
Once you’ve drafted your policy, have an attorney review it, provide copies to all existing employees and make it standard practice to review the manual with each new employee.
What’s the average end-of-year bonus for a technician?
+/-$1,000, according to LMT’s 2014 Wage Survey.
Which position is the highest paid in the laboratory?
LMT surveyed our readers to learn more about what makes you you!+
How are you connected?
More than 70% of you own a smartphone, computer and/or tablet
76% of you spend 1-6 hours per day using digital devices including computers, laptops, MP3 players, smartphones and tablets
What are the top five ways you use your devices?
Of the 50% of you who attended a non-dental technology college, what degrees do you hold?
How many children do you have?
What are your favorite hobbies?
Watching/attending sporting events
TOP DOG: 59% of you own a dog—what other pets do you own?
What are your top 3 hot button issues?
How many of you are active in regional or state dental laboratory associations?
How do you spend time off the bench?
The majority of you...
Read up to 6 books per year
Sleep 6-7 hours per night
How can I get more work from current accounts?
Cross selling your services to existing customers—rather than getting new business from new accounts—is easier because they already know you and your work and they’re more likely to be enticed to try your other offerings. Given that most dentists use at least two laboratories, try to hone in on why your clients are sending work to another lab; it may be that they are simply unaware of all the services you offer.
Here are some other cross-selling strategies:
Every case that leaves your lab should have a case stuffer about the other services you offer.
Offer a “no-hassle” return policy to clients who want to try another department in your lab; promise a full refund if the dentist isn’t happy with the case.
Train staff to continuously look for cross-selling opportunities. For instance, if your lab is making a crown that is going to receive a partial and the dentist is sending the partial case elsewhere,...
Read More 7 minute read
- 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.
The sleep apnea market presents some unique challenges for labs. LMT explains what you need to know to navigate this niche.
Read More 8 minute read
An estimated 25 million adults in the U.S. suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. Oral appliances have proven to be a viable option for treatment and a huge opportunity for dentists and labs, but there are numerous complexities in the market.
- September 2015
Your website is a reflection of your laboratory; many times it’s the first impression a potential client will have of your lab. Jordon Comstock offers tips to keep in mind when designing your website.
A record-breaking crowd welcomed LMT’s LAB DAY East to its new Atlantic City, NJ venue on September 19. More than 1,020 attendees flocked to the Atlantic City Convention Center for a jam-packed day of education, networking and comparison shopping.
Social media is a relationship-focused, human-to-human marketing approach that can open up communication between you and your customers. Author Mark Schaefer offers some tips to help you take on the social media world headfirst.
Respondents to LMT’s 2015 Marketing Survey are using new as well as tried-and-true strategies to cement client relationships, boost loyalty and increase referrals.
Read More 6 minute read
- 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.
- December 2014
Every now and then something comes along to add spice and extra-rich texture to the make-up of our community and that kind of energy is both welcome and contagious. If you’re familiar with the group that calls itself DTG, the Dental Technicians Guild, you know what I mean. It has an edgy cool that exudes energy and also draws it in. Its goal is to celebrate a passion for restorations that mimic natural dentition in both form and function.
Social media plays a large role in keeping members of the group active and engaged 24/7. DTG members share photos of their work on the Guild’s members-only Facebook page and enhance their skills and capabilities by openly sharing tips, techniques and ideas with one another. The Guild also has its own magazine featuring member contributions and hosts an annual meeting in Utah every year.
The exclusivity factor has its appeal: to keep the group functioning as well as it currently does, it needs to be manageably sized, so it isn’t all that...
- June 2014
SEO ensures that your target audience has the ability to quickly find your laboratory’s website through a search engine; it’s what gets your website found and helps build traffic to your site.
- April 2014
“Change, consolidation and new business models are inevitable, but survival, growth and a seat at the table are optional. Your future in the next several years is dependent on what you decide to do,” said Mark Murphy, DDS, in his State of the Industry presentation at the 88th Annual Cal-Lab Meeting. “We have tremendous control over what our role will be in the future. You can’t change the direction of the wind, but you sure can set your sails.”
Other speakers during this year’s meeting offered ideas on exactly how to set those sails. Terry Fine, President of AMG Creative, encouraged attendees to embrace social media as a marketing tool during his presentation, Social Media: Truths, Perceptions and Myths, citing these statistics:
70% of small businesses use Facebook for marketing.
69% of dentists have a Facebook page.
On average, for every eight minutes people spend online, one minute is on Facebook.
The fastest growing demographic group on Twitter is...
- February 2014
In its infancy, laboratory owners didn’t immediately see the internet’s application to their business. However, in the past 15 years, the number of laboratories with internet access has tripled, with 88% of U.S. laboratories LMT surveyed now having online capability. The ability to transmit data over the internet is fueling the growth of milling centers and subcontracting businesses. Emailing questions, case considerations and photos with clients has become the norm. And the opportunity for far-reaching promotion has prompted more than 40% of laboratories to market their nother third to use social media to network with clients.
- October 2013
This Fall I’m heading to the great state of Arizona for a couple of months and I’m hoping to meet some laboratory owners while I’m there. I’m also hoping I can make some stops during the drive out (the last week of October) and possibly the first week of January on the drive back.
Our route takes us through Harrisburg, PA, then along the Pennsylvania Turnpike and over to I-70 and down to I-40. We’ll be going through Columbus, OH; Indianapolis; St. Louis and Springfield, MO; Tulsa and Oklahoma City, OK; then across to Amarillo, TX; Albuquerque, NM; and into Flagstaff, AZ.
We are taking all three dogs and our one remaining twenty-one-and-a-half-year-old cat and renting a house in Fountain Hills, just north of Phoenix, through the end of the year. I’m letting you know so you can let me know if you’d welcome a quick hello. I’d love to know some history about your laboratory and how you’re faring in this digital age. If your lab is near any...
It's time to get involved in social media: it's free, it's easy, and more and more of your competitors are doing it.
When it comes to marketing, more laboratories are going digital to reach dentists: theyâre building websites, using social media, advertising online and phasing out printed marketing pieces in favor of digital ones.
Read More 7 minute read
- September 2013
A year ago, Whip Mix Corp. promoted its Vice President of Manufacturing, Jim Myers, to President of the company, succeeding Allen Steinbock, the grandson of Whip Mix Founder Edmund Steinbock, Sr. This promotion makes Myers the first non-family member President in the company's history. LMT travelled to Louisville, KY, to talk with Myers about his new position and where the company is headed.
LMT: As President, how has your role changed?
Myers: For 11 years, my priority was our manufacturing processes; now, it's more focused on customer needs and opportunities. I have much more interaction with our sales team and Whip Mix customers.
LMT: What stands out to you regarding your customers?
Myers: The most striking thing about our laboratory customers is their level of energy, dedication and desire to improve their businesses. Rather than hoping digital technology won't affect them, they're rolling up their sleeves, re-inventing themselves and embracing new technology.
LMT: Tell us more...
Read More 4 minute read
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.
- August 2013
Written by Erik K. Curtis, DDS, MA, MAGD and reprinted with permission from AGD Impact, October 2012. (c)Academy of General Dentistry. All rights reserved. On the Web at www.agd.org. License #37166
America loves big business. Never mind the warnings of philosophers and other naysayers. For every Occupy Wall Street curmudgeon huddling under a leaky tent to protest stratospheric CEO incomes, a million of his compatriots get in line at the local Apple store to purchase the company's latest and greatest products. For every crusader decrying the ethics of the bottom line, an army of analysts crisply counters that an entrepreneurial, creative private sector is what makes this country great. For every science fiction movie featuring an evil corporation bent on taking over the world, there is a corporate cinema screening that very film. Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Media, even Big Chocolate: For most of us, big organizations mean the security of efficiency, reliability, consistency, and cost control.
Read More 16 minute read
- February 2013
From consistency and good service to referrals and successful seminars, these tips and techniques help you maintain the relationships you have and find the customers you want.