Porcelain, zirconia, and implants, oh my! If you’re not sure how those seemingly random items are related, you are not alone. When you need to fix a broken tooth or replace one with a crown or an implant, have you ever wondered where and how that item is created? Honestly, I hadn’t thought much about it until I met with the Dohertys of Chesapeake Crown & Bridge. They own and run a local dental lab providing dentists and their patients with beautiful custom restorations.
After just a few minutes of chatting with Tom, Pam, and their son Brad, it’s obvious that the Dohertys work well together. They shared stories, encouraging each other and the smiles and laughter came easily. After the interview, the Dohertys gave an enlightening tour of the lab. The amount of technology and artistry behind the recreation of a smile is considerable and the Chesapeake Crown & Bridge dental lab is using their top-notch skills to provide the best customer experience!
Tell us about your business and what makes it unique.
The history of Chesapeake Crown & Bridge begins in a home garage in the late 80’s and continues today in Chesapeake. It’s a story of a chance encounter at the workplace of a young man and woman. They married, had children, and built a family legacy together based on a solid work ethic, good decisions, and persistence.
Tom, a Navy veteran, tells his story with a smile and a chuckle. He began his dental ceramist career with education and lab training in Washington DC. (Pam playfully confides that this was after reading a brochure that advertised little to no homework!) Using his knowledge and skills, they began their business as a part time job in their garage. When their side business grew, they hired a few employees, including their son Brad. Their business continued to grow and in 2006 they moved into an office suite. Just a few short years later, they moved into a larger office next door and designed the lab that is there today.
Brad didn’t have much interest in what was going on in the garage when he was growing up, but he had seen an advertisement that as a dental ceramist he could make $60-70,000 a year. He noted that it had worked well for his dad and decided to go to school. Tom helped Brad find a job with a local company so he could learn the business from the bottom up. As most entrepreneurs do, he realized that he could only go so far working for someone else and after 5 years he joined the family business.
When Brad joined the company they didn’t have a single computer, but today they have many computers, most of them on the production side used for designing, printing, scanning, and milling. In the past these expensive technologies were only available to large companies. In today’s world these technologies are more affordable allowing Chesapeake Crown & Bridge to stay competitive, and maintain the excellent quality of their work and products.
Jessica, Brad’s wife, is also an integral member of the Chesapeake Crown & Bridge team. Not only does she find the time to keep up morale at the lab with seasonal and holiday decor, she keeps the workflow moving by scanning the models when they come out of the model room getting them ready to be designed. She also orders supplies, and maintains the standards in the lab.
You’ll find Pam in the office, managing the staff and finances behind the scenes. She is a native of the area and began her training as a dental assistant at Old Dominion University. Reminiscing about the business in their garage she laughs, “The family didn’t think we worked. They just thought we had fun all day!”
The Doherty family legacy is at the heart of Chesapeake Crown & Bridge. Brad and Jessica’s daughters, Ashley and Megan worked in the lab after school and even during the summer. Both young women have plans to work in the healthcare field as a physician’s assistant and dentist, respectively.
Have you made any mistakes in your business where you thought, "I should have done that differently!"?
Not surprisingly, the Dohertys have not had a lot of mishaps in their entrepreneurial journey. They have maintained their customer relationships, grown their customer base, and have expanded their business when it made sense for them to do so. Attending annual conferences, trade shows and being active in industry related forums are some of the ways the Chesapeake Crown & Bridge family stay on top of the latest trends and keep their skills up-to-date.
Brad: Our doctors expect us to have the latest and greatest. Often they call us asking “Have you heard…?” and we are able to say, “Yes, we know all about it. We’re doing it already.” We have worked with some of our dentists for over a decade and some have never set foot in our lab, not because we haven’t invited them, but they trust us to produce a quality product with exceptional customer service.
Tom’s advice for anyone thinking about entering the field of dental technology: Learn the fundamentals at school and then find a lab that will take you in when you don’t know one tooth from another. The technology moves so quick; you need hands-on experience to keep up.
As a business owner, taking care of all the aspects of your business, when and why did you decide it was time to outsource your bookkeeping?
Tom: Being the owner is so different from being an employee. As an owner, especially when it’s family-owned, it’s almost 24/7. It’s always on your mind – it’s your responsibility; no one else is going to look after your business like you.
Pam: We have a love/hate relationship with QuickBooks. We had a situation where our QuickBooks data was wiped out right before my very eyes! Luckily, I had a good backup. I did my research looking for someone in the area to help us.
I found Erin’s profile and decided to give her a call. She has been a Godsend to me. I had been wanting to give up the payroll for a while, wanting to get some time away from the lab. It’s been great!
There is no question that you can ask [Erin] that is a dumb question. She is so nice and knowledgeable and she explains things so well; you never feel that way. I’m so happy I found her!
What else has Chesapeake Crown & Bridge been up to?
Broken teeth are not only a human problem, but a working dog problem, too! Chesapeake Crown & Bridge recently began working with a local veterinarian to restore canine smiles.
While it may sound unusual, Brad tells us the process is very much the same as creating dental prosthesis for people. Impressions and or scans are taken, designs are created and the end result is a shiny new smile for the dog!
Do you want to know more about Chesapeake Crown & Bridge ?
Visit them here: Website
Bottom Line’s Bottom Line
Knowing when to reach out for help is an important skill for all entrepreneurs and business owners. Sometimes you need to focus on what you do best and outsource the rest. Other times you need more education or someone to help guide you in the direction you want your business to go.
We love to learn about our local businesses and are grateful when we have the opportunity to meet the family behind the business. Tom, Pam, and Brad are doing business right at Chesapeake Crown & Bridge! We wish them many years of giving people a reason to smile!