In 2007, Becker Dental Lab was doing well, but the business was about $170,000 in debt, including delivery cars, an equipment loan from a supplier, a business renovation loan, credit cards and a line of credit. Ken and his two brothers, Dan and Ryan, all worked at the lab—owned by their parents—and planned to buy it from them in two years, so they wanted the business in top financial shape.
Ken, who oversees the lab's finances, set out to eliminate that debt and the stress that went along with it. Using strategies endorsed by financial gurus John Cummutta and Dave Ramsey, Ken put large purchases on hold, made some other minor internal cost-cutting measures and then itemized and prioritized what they owed. He then got his brothers to agree to reserve about 10% of the lab's income—by reducing their own salaries and using excess cash generated from higher-than-expected revenues—to pay off the debts in order of priority. It took discipline, but within two years, everything was paid off.
In 2009, the brothers bought the lab and today the only debt they have is related to the purchase of the business. Rather than relying on credit, the laboratory has even built up a savings account it uses to make equipment purchases and other investments to keep the company moving forward. In fact, the Beckers recently paid cash for the lab's new milling machine.
"There were a few bumps in the road that tested our determination, but taking the bank off the payroll has been a tremendous help in eliminating risk and financial strain," says Ken. "It's also helped us navigate the turbulent economic conditions that continue to plague the industry."
Brother Dan couldn't agree more. "Ken has turned our lab into a slim, trim, debt-free laboratory," he says. "He is a talented ceramist but also our level-headed financial guy and has set business values in our company that will help us into the future."