Carpe diem

March 21, 2012

The decision to start up your own business is never an easy one, especially in troubling economic times like now. But for Joe Dennison and Jon Rogers, CDT, their recent decision to open the doors of Classic Dental Studio was assisted by being shown the door, and a pathway to a new business.

The decision to start up your own business is never an easy one, especially in troubling economic times like now. But for Joe Dennison and Jon Rogers, CDT, their recent decision to open the doors of Classic Dental Studio was assisted by being shown the door, and a pathway to a new business.

Dennison and Rogers had been working together at a San Diego-area lab as a consultant and manager, respectively, when they were dismissed unexpectedly due to staff cuts. While consoling each other and discussing their separate futures, they had a mutual epiphany. “Jon and I had a lot of the same philosophies of business and a customer-oriented approach to doing business. We realized it could be a good fit,” said Dennison. And the wheels were set in motion for them to start a new lab venture, with Dennison handling the business end and Rogers working on the artistry. “Together, working as a team, we believed we could do a great job and compete very well locally.”

Starting up a start-up

Their combined experiences and connections in the dental industry helped the duo hit the ground running. “Leaning on my partner’s reputation in town as being a high-level technician, we were able to do the quick jump-start without any debt threshold that would impede us from the growth we wanted,” said Dennison.

Rogers had various equipment and supplies in storage from his previous run as a lab owner, which greatly minimized capital need for start-up. “I had a business line of credit from when I had a small marketing company as well as a business card that I used during my consulting time,” said Dennison. “I was able to transfer those two items over to our new corporation. That was really the only funding we needed to get it going.”

Even with a solid financial footing to begin with, as with any new business operation, the owners needed to cut as many corners at the onset to help stay on course. Dennison said that he and Rogers did not take a salary the first month, but that helped with cash flow enough to be able to hire a third staff the following month. They sublet 1,400 square feet of space from another lab in Escondido at the beginning, but added Dennison, “By months three and four, I was building capital to be able to make a move. We knew we were going to have to move right away because we wanted to be in our own space.” After a few tight months-financially and physically-they were able to move into a new location in Poway with 2,500 square feet that would allow them to accommodate their expanding staff. “We grew and hired four more people before we moved.”

Building momentum

Now, just more than a year after its inception, Classic Dental Studio has a total of nine employees, and Dennison said they are looking to add a few more key people this year. “When you look at the statistics, we’re already in the top 25% of labs in the United States in terms of size of staff,” he pointed out.

However, he said their focus will be on a core clientele of 35 high-end dentists. “We’ve added 50% of our customers in the last six months. That was our goal, and that was what we had to do to meet our payroll,” he said.

The goal now is to put together a team of experienced and qualified technicians and ceramists. “My biggest challenge is finding talent. We really don’t have a desire to get big,” he said, acknowledging that “We’re not trying to do quantity but quality.”

Part of that desire for quality over quantity that his objective client base of “the higher echelon of customers” such as dentists involved with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. “We want to attract that higher-dollar clientele that wants a local custom lab” as opposed to a larger production-type operation. He and Rogers have contemplated AACD technician accreditation and have weighed accreditation as a business proposition. Dennison is the marketing chair of the local AACD chapter, which he sees as extremely valuable as a means of indirectly promoting the lab to potential, desirable clients. “I also do a lot of networking with local supplier reps. We work together,” said Dennison. “They know what kind of customer we’re looking for ,and they can help us out in that direction.”

For the time being though, Dennison said Classic Dental Studio is right where it needs to be in terms of workload, which allows the business to build connections with its doctors. “We provide a high level of attention to our current customers. It’s a small-business-to-small-business relationship that demands a greater level of communication.”