Our lab was a definite leader. We had automated edging, surfacing and conveyors long before they were the norm. Our owner was truly a “lab guy,” focusing on production and essentially never doing any job outside of his lab career (other than service in the Army). What made us leaders? As the owner of the company, he made great decisions most of the time. Here are some things that stand out.
Focus on production: It sounds a little funny to consider these areas as “production,” but this included all three of the “pick two” categories: price, quality and service. I believe that all three areas feed off great production. We had one price list, and it was aggressive but not the lowest anywhere. Most of our competitors were priced higher. Our quality was driven by investing in the best equipment available, having great partnerships with the suppliers we worked with, and training our people to be the best they could be. Our service was also excellent, with a strong customer service department driven by a friendly and knowledgeable staff. We also made great use of our suppliers with frequent lunch-and-learn sessions. We were also very good on turnaround time and excelled at getting the tough jobs done, especially after experiencing a remake. By having great production, our costs were kept lower, and our inherent value to our customers was higher.
People: No lab can be great without having great employees. We had very talented people in all areas of the lab, many of whom were 20- or 30-year veterans.
The owner made sure to keep our “bench strength” as good as it could be and paid our staff well.
For areas outside of his skill set, he hired or consulted with good people. He was not afraid of spending money to make money.
I believe each of these areas are still key to being successful for today’s labs.
Eric Rollins is a veteran of the optical retail, frame and lab industries. His firm, Rollins Consulting, LLC, consults with the three Os to improve profitability. Email him at EricRollins@Comcast.net.