Symplicity Designs,
 

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Hallmark Dental Laboratory is a Halifax-based group of dental technicians who manufacture teeth for dentists and their patients. William Hall founded the company in 1981 on the dual foundation of superior quality and unmatched personal service. Today, a second generation — Christian and Mark Hall — is leading this organization.

Christian Hall joined us in Halifax for The SHIFT: Productivity, Your Organization, & the Future of Atlantic Canada to share his organization’s Performance Excellence journey.

At Hallmark Dental Lab, we provide exceptional customer service. Our customer service has set us apart from day one. My father started that tradition and I feel like we as a team have really followed in his footsteps, always being there for our clients, always putting them first, and always answering their questions when they needed them answered.

In the past, Christian considered Hallmark a lifestyle business. He was simply looking for enough money to live his life at the standard to which he’d become accustomed. But this started to change as he assessed the business’s growth.

In the last seven years, Hallmark doubled its revenues, but profits were stagnant. Furthermore, the growth came with increased complexity. With eight or nine people, everyone worked in one room and it was easy to know where the business was with each customer order. As they grew to over two dozen people, keeping track of these orders wasn’t so easy. These two factors contributed to high stress levels in the organization — both among employees and the leadership. As Christian notes,

Revenues were great, business was great, we were busy, however, when we looked at the financials, our revenue was great but our bottom line wasn’t following. And with us being so busy and growing … it was all very chaotic. And the stress started to build up with the team and with management.

The leadership team considered their options. They could strip the company down to its bare bones and make the same profit, or they could try to improve and build upon what they had. According to Christian,

It got to the point where we were wondering whether to just downsize or to find another solution. Symplicity happened to be that solution.

This is when the leadership team really began to challenge their lifestyle business mindset. They realized that the status quo did not align with taking care of their people. This meant making sure that they have room to grow in the future and that Hallmark does its part to grow the economy. Hallmark decided to become a great company that happens to make great teeth. For Christian,

Symplicity really opened our eyes to growing the economy and realizing that Atlantic Canada could be a place where we could make really good positive changes. I guess we were kind of in that mindset. Thinking that we can’t grow, it’s just not possible. So, the only other option would be to downsize. But Symplicity really allowed us to open our eyes and realize that, no, we can do it in Atlantic Canada, we can do it in Halifax, we do have the right people. We just need the processes in place and the Formal Management System to allow that to happen.

Their Formal Management System has already seen Hallmark through significant improvements. Their first improvement project focused on decreasing the cycle time for monolithic crowns. Starting at a base of 10 days, the project’s goal was to reduce this to 7 and lower. So far, the average is down to 7 with an aim to getting it down to 5 in the next year. The end goal is to get the average down to 1, something that they can do now, just not consistently.

Furthermore, the sense of ownership and teamwork at Hallmark is starting to foster a new culture. The culture of most labs revolves around individual efforts, with each technician getting paid for the number of pieces he or she completes, regardless of where the real customer priorities are. Prior to embarking on their Performance Excellence journey, Hallmark’s culture was similar — everyone was focused on their own work.

But the culture is starting to change. Hallmark recently lost an employee, meaning that one department was short-staffed. But instead of letting the work pile up, 10 team members pitched in to help the lone technician dealing with these jobs. This is the sense of teamwork and ownership that Hallmark hopes to cultivate moving forward. For Christian, Hallmark is:

Realizing that we can be not only one of the greatest dental labs in the country, but one of the greatest companies in the country. And if you had asked me a year ago, I would have said no, that’s crazy we just make teeth, we can’t do that.

But now their mindset has changed. Christian continues,

It’s a real shift in our mentality to really realize that we can actually get there. It’s amazing that when we look around and we see everybody working together and working on all these projects that we truly do believe that we can be one of the best companies in the country.

Hallmark’s Performance Excellence journey is just beginning. They’re excited to move forward to secure sustainable, profitable growth for the organization and its employees.