Son's vision reinvigorates Rogers Dental Laboratories, Athens, TN, and his father's passion for the business.
After owning his own laboratory for nearly 30 years, Roy Rogers was ready to turn the reins over to his son and--in his words--"go home and start fishing." But his son, Jason, had other ideas. Having joined the laboratory 13 years earlier, Jason saw the potential for growth in the family business but knew it was stifled in its current location: a cramped, mid-1940s building that barely had room for its 10 technicians. There was limited parking, no breakroom and--most importantly--no room to accommodate new technology. "It just wasn't exciting to come to work. I knew that if I was going to do this for the next 50 years, I had to be excited," says Jason, vice president of Rogers Family Laboratory.
Agreeing to put aside his fishing pole, Roy joined Jason in crafting a vision for a new facility: a state-of-the-art, 8,000-sq.-ft. facility in Athens, Tennessee, that would allow them to signficantly increase the size of their business.
In August 2006, after a year of planning and construction, they moved into their $800,000 laboratory. The open space features windows that overlook the woods, state-of-the-art benches with Corian surfaces, a 60-seat continuing education center with an 85" video screen, a mini-operatory and a beautiful breakroom with an adjacent covered patio. The laboratory is now also equipped with microscopes at every station and a barcode and case-tracking system. But it's not only the physical aspects of the laboratory that got a makeover. A number of other changes propelled Rogers on a path to tremendous growth. In addition to quadrupling the size of its staff--from 10 to 45--in just over two years, the lab experienced a 70% increase in revenue in 2007 and 80% growth in 2008.
One factor fueling this growth is that the new facility has ample space for a CAD/CAM department. Headed by Jason, the laboratory now has designing, milling, wax printing and custom abutment capabilities, which are responsible for approximately 15% of the revenue growth. "We've really embraced the technology and know that to continue growing, we have to be diligent about investigating new things as they come down the road," says Jason.
The laboratory also expanded its market area, adding five new delivery cars--for a total of seven--and, for the first time, two outside sales representatives. Other changes involve the management aspects of the laboratory. "I decided to follow the philosophy of doing what I do best and letting others do the rest," says Roy.
As a result, Jim Gamble joined the laboratory two years ago to head marketing and sales and Rob Woolsey came on board as general manager. "Jim constantly keeps our name out there, visiting offices and planning courses in our education center. And Rob has brought a new dimension to the laboratory as far as motivating people and managing production," says Roy. "We now have the best team I could imagine."
That's not to say there haven't been growing pains. A few of the lab's original employees opted not to stay with the laboratory after moving into the new building. "We're still a family lab but with growth came more standardized procedures. Not everyone was comfortable with the change," says Jason. Fortunately, the new facility has attracted quality technician-applicants from all around Tennessee--as far north as Knoxville and as far south as Chattanooga. Morale is now at an all-time high and employees take great pride in their workplace, which Roy says is reflected in their work. "I've always said, 'make everything like it's going into your momma's mouth' and everyone here shares that philosophy: every patient deserves our very best work."
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