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Recently, I was talking to industry veteran George Obst about my startup years and our conversation got me thinking about how the priorities of a small business owner shift as the business matures.
In the beginning, it was all about having enough customers to pay the bills while at the same time making sure our products—the magazine and then LAB DAY—met the needs of the market so we could be sure we’d keep being able to pay those bills. Those were the years of 100-hour workweeks.
Once we established our market presence, we continued to build market share and market value. Four years after starting LMT we introduced Synergy, a magazine for both dental technicians and dentists. We knew it was “an idea ahead of its time” but were eager to push the envelope because we truly believe in the importance of the team effort. However, the market wasn’t receptive and we learned quickly what made us happy and what made us unhappy in our work lives; we folded it after...
In our Ask SCORE column, George Obst, certified SCORE mentor and retired CEO and Founding Partner of Dental Services Group, addresses how to create a market-driven organization.
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...
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...
- December 2014
Q. The pace of change in our industry is accelerating. How do I keep up?
A. As the external environment changes your thinking and strategies need to change as well. For many of us that means acquiring new skills. You need to engage change proactively, making the necessary business changes to maintain a competitive advantage and you need to anticipate how your customer expectations are changing so you are not caught “flat footed.”
Ram Charan, a noted management consultant and author, has identified seven interrelated learnable skills that separate the performers from non-performers. Success on a continuous basis in this world of change depends on your ability to cultivate and practice these seven skills sets:
Pinpoint external changes and trends quickly and accurately.
Use this information to position your business and to re-position your thinking. This process has to happen quickly enough to be effective because of the pace of change, and means aligning your actions with today’s...
- April 2011
We're in scary economic times and there's no doubt fewer patients are opting for expensive oral restorations, like cosmetic options and implants. While patients continue to take care of their oral health, removable restorations are less expensive alternatives and "drill and fill" is a substitute for crowns.
How a laboratory responds to these tough economic times determines not only its present survival but also its future success. When business is down, proactive laboratories reduce expenses, improve cash flow and boost sales. Here are 10 tips for doing just that:
Take an in-depth evaluation of your expenses and reduce them as long as they won't impact your level of quality or service--both are essential to maintain during tough times so you don't lose the customers you currently have.
Trim hours for all of your staff over a fairly short duration, like a period of one month, or ask if any employees would consider unpaid time off. While these strategies require a "buy in" on the...
George Obst details how creating a culture of listening uncovers your dentist-clients' unmet needs and gives you a leg up in meeting their expectations.
Want to boost sales, market share and profits even if dentistry is in a temporary no-growth or downward mode? Put your clients in charge of running your laboratory by consistently seeking their feedback and making changes to improve operations and service based on what you hear.
This customer-driven business concept is detailed in The Customer-Driven Company: Moving from Talk to Action, by Richard Whiteley, and I saw it work firsthand during my 20 years as a member of Dental Services Group's (DSG) management team.
Before you can give customers what they want you have to know what they want. And while many laboratories do a terrific job of communicating with dentists about technical issues, a customer-driven operation takes things a step further by creating a culture of consistent and constant listening that happens at every level...
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Dental Services Group's annual meeting is well-regarded for its open environment and sense of camaraderie among the laboratories. With the theme, Gateway to the Future, this year's event emphasized management and leadership, new technology and custom