Legacy Laboratories: Garland Dental Services/IBEX Dental Technologies

March 21, 2012

When the ship sailed, Daniel Serrago, president of Garland Dental Services and IBEX Dental Technologies was on it, but he was already planning a new future. The year was 1996, and Daniel, who had worked for 15 years as a radio electronics officer on commercial ships, was in search of a different career. His two children were entering adolescence and he wanted to be at home with them and his wife, rather than working at sea for months at a time.

When the ship sailed, Daniel Serrago, president of Garland Dental Services and IBEX Dental Technologies was on it, but he was already planning a new future.

The year was 1996, and Daniel, who had worked for 15 years as a radio electronics officer on commercial ships, was in search of a different career. His two children were entering adolescence and he wanted to be at home with them and his wife, rather than working at sea for months at a time.

The idea to start his first company, Garland Dental Services, came from a visit to his dentist.

“I was literally going on a ship in three or four days, and I mentioned it to my dentist, and he said, ‘Why don’t you repair dental equipment?’” Daniel recalled.

After the dentist explained that it could cost him $200 to ship a handpiece out-of-state to get fixed, and that he then had to wait several weeks or longer to get it back, Daniel recognized the inkling of a business venture. He spent his next stint at sea researching the idea and, in July 1996, founded Garland Dental Services, a dental equipment repair and parts company.

With what he calls “a God-given talent for fixing things,” Daniel was sure he would be able to adapt his skills to a different industry.

“I’d sailed on ships with equipment that I’d never seen before,” he said. “You look at it, you study it and you realize, ‘I can do this.’”

With many Mom and Pop dental equipment repair businesses in the area, Daniel said he had ample competition. Finding quality parts and marketing his business were two of his greatest challenges and two of the biggest factors in Garland’s growth. In the first four months of starting the company in his house and garage, Daniel visited 860 dentists to talk to them about Garland.

“I had a good number of dentists hand me something to repair right then,” he said.

Dental labs, however, would become the majority of the business. He visited one lab where the owner spent time showing Daniel the lab’s equipment, and explaining why they needed a company that could repair their equipment rather than sending it to the manufacturer.

“There wasn’t a good conduit for repair in the lab industry,” Daniel said. “For manufacturers, a speedy repair is four to six weeks. I saved labs money and I was faster.”

Today, Garland is one of the largest privately-owned repair companies in the country; about 85 percent of Garland’s work comes from dental labs and 15 percent comes from dentists. The company also does repairs for manufacturers.

“We’re the behind-the-scenes service entity for a lot of well-known manufacturers,” said Julie Hyland, the company’s business manager. She said the company aims for quality in all it does.

“We use the highest grade of parts,” she said. “We always want our repairs to go past warranty. The dental tech and the dentist need to be able to make a living and to be able to count on parts.”

A few years ago, Daniel decided to start IBEX Dental Technologies, which manufactures porcelain and pressing furnaces. After repairing these machines for many years, “I had a very keen sense of what they do well and what they don’t do well,” he said.

The goal of IBEX is to provide state-of-the art furnaces that any lab would be able to afford. It took a year and a half of design work and a partnership with Jim Emmons, president of Spectrafire Technologies to come up with the product. Emmons is a three-time winner of the Advanced Ceramics Competition of the Texas Dental Association and recipient of the Harry Hageman Inventors award.

“He helped me along in the process to make sure our ovens are doing what they are supposed to do,” said Daniel, adding that IBEX ovens sell for $3,995-$4,995.

Today, Garland and IBEX employ a staff of 10, including numerous family members. Daniel’s daughter, Rebekah, is director of marketing for IBEX. His wife, Sharon, does accounting and runs an art studio inside the facility; his brother, Tommy, does handpiece repairs for Garland and helps with IBEX. Tommy’s wife, Kathy, runs the parts department.

A second family is also involved in the business. Julie’s father, Charles Fletcher, is a retired mechanical engineer who started doing oven repairs when he decided retirement wasn’t for him. Charles is in charge of furnace and large equipment repairs for Garland, and many in the lab industry know him as ‘The Oven Guy’. Julie’s daughter, Mandi, handles Garland’s repair accounts.

Julie said the company’s team is always willing to provide technical advice free of charge, and does so in a friendly manner.

“We always go above and beyond what’s expected of us,” she said. “We have that southern charm going for us. What more can you want?”