Four years ago, David Lopez found his calling. A striving Fort Lauderdale entrepreneur, Lopez came across a unique opportunity: a mobile dental equipment repair company. With a strong background in franchising, Lopez, who was looking for a recession-proof business model that could offer a high return on investment, knew he had found what he had been looking for and couldn’t pass it up.
So he bought a van with his friend and partner, Mike Parker. They equipped it with tools and inventory and started to approach dentists’ offices to offer on-site handpiece repair, equipment service and sales. Two years later, Dental Fix Rx was born.
Since its creation, Dental Fix’s mission has been to revolutionize the dental service industry by delivering high-quality and immediate service at a competitive price, through a dedicated mobile network of highly trained and successful franchise professionals.
The company soon gained recognition by providing a much-needed solution to dentists in an innovative way. Dental Fix removed the need for doctors to ship their handpieces to repair centers, eliminating their frustration and the four-week wait period to get them back, as well as saving them money.
Today, Davie-based Dental Fix has more than 100 franchises, a presence in more than 70 territories and serves more than 7,500 dentists in North America.
“From the beginning, I saw the many benefits of this business,” Lopez says. “Dental Fix’s startup costs were low and offered an easy-to-operate platform. Also, I did not have to worry about inventory cost fluctuations and minimum-wage employees. The best part was the return on investment. There are not too many businesses out there where you can bill $175 an hour to customers after a six-week training program.”
“I knew Dental Fix was going to be a game changer in the industry,” says Parker, also a van operator. “As an independent van operator, it was very difficult to compete against the big companies, since I did not have easy access to parts or equipment. It was also very costly for me to employ personnel to handle the calls and manage the schedule. With Dental Fix, I save at least $3,000 a month. As an owner, this is a huge benefit.”
Because Dental Fix provides a need-based service, the business was able to survive the economic recession. After all, no matter how bad the economy is, people will always need to go to the dentist and dentists’ equipment will always need to be repaired.
Lopez realized Dental Fix’s untapped business potential early on in the game, and began to strategize a growth plan. He was determined to enter the franchise arena.
Building a franchise takes a plan
“Building a franchise is about building a scalable system,” noted Lopez. “Before setting course, I needed to understand the type of systems we needed in place in order to successfully scale it.”
Lopez began to dissect the business carefully. For more than six months, he documented all the processes of the business. He also launched a second van with his brother-in-law, which served as the perfect test lab by addressing challenges and grasping what worked best.
The business, however, was still far from ready. Lopez’s biggest concern — and one he needed to address promptly — was the establishment of a competent training program.
With no competition in the market, he had to design the program from scratch. He set up a training facility, arranged sessions with repair technicians and videotaped them fixing the equipment. These recording sessions enabled him to create a complete training program with videos and hands-on training.
Even though the company was selling franchises, Dental Fix operated with negative cash flow for the first two years. The company’s focus was on putting the necessary systems and processes in place.
“We knew we were sitting on a huge opportunity, but we needed to first take the time to develop the right infrastructure,” says Lopez. “We were fine with the fact that we were operating at a loss the first two years because we had a clear plan.”
Despite the risky strategy, Lopez was able to bring Dental Fix to the development stage he desired. Currently, the company features a state-of-the-art training center and provides an extensive six-week training program that successfully prepares franchisees to repair, maintain and rebuild equipment.
The company also offers a strong support system through account management services, a technical support hotline, periodic visits to individual markets and proven marketing strategies.
Establish the appropriate company culture
Even though Dental Fix serves the dental industry, its clients are the franchisees, not the dentists. Lopez’s “our customer comes first” motto is ingrained into the company’s culture. A sign above his office door serves as a friendly reminder to all employees and newcomers: “Our franchise owner’s interests come first. If they succeed, our success will follow.”
The company’s corporate staff, as well as the franchise owners, comes from very diverse backgrounds, but none have previous experience in the dental service industry. It is not allowed if you want to be part of the Dental Fix organization.
“The reason is simple,” Lopez says. “Often, experience comes with bad habits. Dental Fix is an organization that is innovating the dental service industry. We adequately train all corporate staff and franchise owners with our values and systems. We are not a dental company. We are a franchise company, whose franchisees happen to be in the dental business. We want a culture that puts our customers first and thinks outside the box.”
Bumps along the road make a business stronger
Like in all great stories, the path to success is never easy. In the second year of operation, Dental Fix had to go through litigation after suing a former franchisee, who used to own and operate seven territories, for trying to copy its business model. After seven months of litigation and loosing almost 30 percent of its territories overnight, Dental Fix won the case.
This was an important lesson for Lopez, who has become very selective when it comes to granting franchises.
“As an entrepreneur, you will make many mistakes. The important thing is that when you make a mistake, you learn from it and do not do it again. Now, we only sell franchises to owner operators,” Lopez says.
Dental Fix’s future looks bright. The company is undergoing an aggressive expansion plan, calling for 500 mobile centers in the next five years throughout the United States and Canada.
“We have come a long way,” Lopez says. “The initial two years we focused on developing a solid infrastructure. Now, we are focusing on recruiting the right franchise partners, including do-it-yourselfers and military veterans. We are building an incredible organization. I can confidently say that there is no service franchise that provides a better return on investment than Dental Fix Rx.” ●