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Build an educated, well-served dental community and oh, have some fun along the way.
That may sound a little vague and maybe a little too unattainable for a dental supply company, but those are indeed integral parts of the success story taking place at Midway Dental.
At a time when some big dental suppliers are being hit hard by competition and an online-driven change in the purchasing landscape, Midway Dental is growing rapidly and doing its best to make sure its employees and clients are enjoying every step along the way.
The company, started in the 1980s in South Bend, Ind., specializes in office rebuilds, operatory workflow efficiencies, and pairing the right equipment with new offices planning something big. With its Midway Education Centers (MEC), educating its end users is also a huge part of the company’s game plan.
Co-owner Dawn Metcalf serves as vice president of education for Midway Dental and, along with her brother Jeff Abigt, strives to continue what their father Roger started when he began Midway Dental Supply, Inc. in 1984. His vision was to create a partnership-based business where trust and service were not a thing of the past. With more than 40 years of combined experience in the dental field, the siblings are prepared to grow Midway Dental in the future without compromising the values on which it was built.
Metcalf credits a strong team that includes company president and CEO Steve Kizy, equipment specialist Ryan Clery, and her brother Jeff, the VP of equipment sales, just to name a few. It was in 2013 that Midway Dental made the first of several impactful moves, taking steps to enable the company to experience some startling growth in recent years. Midway purchased a Michigan-based dental supply company owned by Kizy and brought the Detroit native on board to help expand the company’s dental supply chain as well as help start up the education centers.
“I met Steve, who was actually a customer of a vendor rep that had his own company up in Michigan, and he was all of 29 years old at that point,” Metcalf says. “Steve Kizy’s passion for the business and his entrepreneurial spirit is exactly what we needed. Kizy was brought on as president and CEO of the company which moved the company in the right direction. In three years Midway has grown from $9 million to just shy of $100 million in total sales.”
Teaching, having fun
Midway’s education courses have played a big part in the company’s recent success.
“Education became an initiative, and actually it was Ryan Clery’s brainchild,” she says.
Clery, one of several experienced dental reps who joined Midway after departing from a competitor, agrees that the company’s courses are great for both clinicians and their staff, as well as for the company.
“In terms of education for our clients, we really wanted to build a community,” Clery says. “While my day to day is helping to set up my clients’ equipment and technologies or I may have multiple appointments, the leadership we have allows us to innovate and to come up with new ideas.”
The MEC courses are non-commercialized and the topics are provided by input from their clients, Clery says. This seems to explain in part why they’ve been so successful.
“The customers, the clinicians have a big say in choosing the course topics,” Clery says. “That's kind of where we get some ideas but also we kind of have our finger on the pulse of what's going on in dentistry and we want to help. We're doing clinical courses and business courses. We know it's not just about how to place the best composite, and the best technique with implants, but things like sleep apnea, periodontics, case acceptance, and dealing with insurance and all those other things that come with the business ownership side of dentistry they didn't necessarily learn.”
The MEC curriculum covers a variety of topics geared toward business, office managers, and file systems, and the courses take place at various locations around the country, as well as an annual course tied to a trip to 'MECxico'.
“So our education center is very unique,” Metcalf says. “We try to create an experience for the attendee and let them have fun. It's a very laid back environment. They come to our events and they get top of the line food, pleasant venues and top-level education.”
MEC currently has complete training centers in Detroit, Chicago, and a newly opened facility outside Milwaukee.
Those are the company’s education centers, but offsite courses are regularly held in other locations such as Grand Rapids, Mich., South Bend, Indianapolis, and Columbus, Ohio. These set-ups take place at nice venues where the doctors and hygienists come in and experience a “luxurious day of learning.”
“The thing that makes us different with our education center is we are truly not commercialized. Even though we're a sales-based company the Education Center is a completely unbiased non-commercial zone,” Metcalf says. “When doctors come into our events, they understand that, and because our sponsors also understand that, the speakers are not influenced by the sponsors in the room. The sponsors are there just for networking and financial support.”
Kizy believes it’s the whole team at Midway Dental that has helped make the company such a force in the industry in recent years.
“We create an environment that fosters creativity,” Kizy says. “Nobody is better or more in line with the market than our sales. So, when they're in front of the customers, they see what's going on.
“We take the direction from them. I really give the credit to our team not just our sales, but our service team, our equipment team, our customer service team, our warehouse team. Just the different pieces of our company, they'll provide good insight. Opening up the lines from the bottom up, not from top down.”
While several small dental supply companies have been acquired or gone out of business in the last 15-20 years, Midway Dental is thriving.
“I think the reason that Midway Dental is still here is because we don't just state that we're committed to our clients, we actually do it,” Metcalf summarizes. “I've said for so many years, when you come on board with Midway we're going to make a mistake. We're going to screw up at some point. There's going to be something that we do wrong. But I will guarantee you that, how we address the problem and fix it is going to be way different than what you're used to from other dental supply partners. That's where we shine, and I think doctors understand that and they really feel that we have their back, and I think that's apparent because you know, we are going into 35 years now. You’re doing something right.”
No one's perfect. Everyone makes mistakes and it's just how you how you deal with them and improve on things going forward that makes a difference, she says.
Metcalf is proud that a number of new team members have told her how refreshing it is to be working for a company where everybody's pulling the rope in the same direction. “One person recently said, ‘you have no idea how refreshing it is and how nice it is to build a good culture and have things fall into place.’ People come on board with us and they're amazed and I keep telling them this is not a dental nirvana, okay, we make mistakes. But we really feel that that the good outweighs the bad, and it definitely does.”
Clery hammers home the importance of taking care of every customer. While education is a huge component at Midway, so is selling and maintaining the best equipment processes, which are custom designed for each particular practice.
“We’ve had really great success, and a lot of it is because we've developed some systems that have really helped us to be a partner in the whole transaction system,” Clery says. “That's part of what's cool is we're a very flat organization. We don't have these layers, and we have leaders who have emerged that allow us to do some really cool things.”
Metcalf says the business has “quadrupled” and has gone from 36 employees to a figure now nearing 200. Recently the company added a loyalty program called Midway Connect, and the monthly subscription program offers deals and discounts on things including shipping, education courses and rebates.