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01 Aug 2003 | Australasian Dental Practice

news > Spectrum > Page 24

Local knowledge the key says Pearl

Nine months after the listing of dental laboratory conglomerate, Pearl Healthcare (ASX:PHL), managing director Herb Zimmer says that the key for the success of the group in the future will be to maintain the individual branding of their currently 23 laboratories and enhance the relationships between the lab principals and their dentist clients.


"We don't see any value in branding all the laboratories under the Pearl Healthcare name," he said. "It didn't work with Mayne Health and we don't see the benefits in the dental laboratory business either. We believe maintaining the individuality of the labs and the relationships they have with their clients is where we will succeed."

Mr Zimmer said that Pearl will instead seek to introduce new services to the labs which are currently available in some but not others. These include Space Maintainers' orthodontic products which were being produced under licence by three of the labs acquired by the group. Availability of the MCI splint, which was developed locally by Dr Harry Ball and sold through some of the acquired labs, will likewise be expanded.

"We want to introduce more products and more services to the group. We also want to introduce some new ideas for the labs to communicate with dentists such as seminars on various dental-related subjects."

Ruth Port, well known for bringing many leading speakers to Australia from around the world, has assisted Pearl in organising the first of these, a series of seminars for the group with Kathy Metaxas presenting a 2-day Dental Business Conference based on a program developed by American practice management guru, Linda Miles.

"We're also trialling new production ideas in two labs, refining the production process to increase their performance and consistency in delivering services to customers."

Mr Zimmer said the upper management of Pearl were still working to stabilise the business two thirds of the way through the first year. He said that at present, 17 of the 23 laboratories were on target to meet financial and performance goals with remedial action being taken to address issues in the other six.

"We're also starting to develop a number of useful programs. We have a committee looking at technician training and development, for example, to ensure both our staffing requirements are met and that Pearl employees have a defined career path. We have also upgraded all Occupational Health and Safety practices at the labs. We want to ensure Pearl is a safe, comfortable and enjoyable place to work."

The group has an unused debt facility of $900,000 and cash on hand in reserve for the acquisition of new dental laboratories, however, since listing, the Alvarez Dental Laboratory is the only new addition.

"We're not just buying for the sake of buying," Mr Zimmer continued. "If we decide that acquiring a lab will add value to the group and we can buy at a reasonable valuation, then we have both operating cash and a debt facility we can utilise.

"Having said that, we also now have a much clearer idea of what to look for in a lab and have definite ideas about suitable candidates."

At time of going to press, Pearl Healthcare Limited was trading at 13.5 cents.

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