On May 1st, 2017, my brother, brother-in-law, and I transitioned ODL from its first generation founder to us, the second generation. Since then we have employed an additional 15 people, built a management team, added another 3D printer, brought on more customers, and have experienced a significant growth in an industry that some say is going more in-house.
I believe the opportunity to bring 3D / lab work into the practice is indeed a viable option, but at the end of the day, I think the relationship between the lab and the doctor is an asset as opposed to an expense. I see offices buying 3D printers and attempting to integrate a digital workflow. At the same time, I see other offices selling the same equipment to focus more on the practice as opposed to taking on the burden of a lab. Don’t get me wrong, I love innovation and encourage everyone to jump in feet first, but only if it makes sense.
The lab business is hard, and it becomes more apparent every day that it takes hard work and dedication to make a quality custom fitting product. Of course, making custom production repeatable is the most significant challenge.
We have learned that when you are growing, it is essential to know how to apologize and always make things right. With the digital age upon us, it opens the doors to innovation, but at the same time, it presents significant challenges. It is not plug-and-play, and don’t be fooled by those who tell you it is because they want to sell you a product. We had to grow through issues with banding fixed appliances, to searching for the correct model separator, and then to answer the question of managing an entirely new digital workflow where employees are searching for files as opposed to case pans! At the end of the day, that is the risk we want to take as a lab, and then when things go south, my team and I know it is imperative to make it right.
The one thing that we focused the most on in the past year is maintaining a culture of values and authenticity. That comes from the top down. I have learned that the more transparent we can be as leaders, the more our teammates will trust us, so long as it is genuine. That means having meaningful and sometimes uncomfortable conversations with employees and with each other and keeping those around us accountable for what they said they were going to bring to the table. Culture is indeed the buzzword of the past couple years, and for good reason. People gravitate toward positive working environments, where the leadership team cares for those in the organization.
Overall, the past year has been 365 days of learning and growing. Cheers to the next 365 and beyond!