Issue April 2016, Volume 33, No.4
In 1973, Friendship Dental Laboratories, Inc. opened it’s doors in Rosedale, MD. Owner Gus Diacoloukas, CDT, began training his sons Nick & George, also CDTs, at a young age. In 2003, Nick & George bought their father’s partner’s shares. Since then, they have grown the lab from 40 employees to 110. Nick believes that being a united family with a shared vision of growth is what guides them together in the same direction.
“In 2009 we bought our first true CAD/CAM system and although it had its limitations, it was really eye-opening,” said Nick. “With real world dentistry, you need the technology for output that is clinically acceptable. Once we started working with a milling partner called Digital Dental and saw the phenomenal output, we decided to make a huge capital investment and have been adding milling machines ever since.”
Even with their recent growth and success, Nick recognizes that the industry is the most uncertain that it’s ever been. The family is focused on getting back to the fundamentals of communication and customer service and integrating technologies and efficiencies that fit the future.
“Because we all trust one another, we feel ok with these challenges,” said Nick. “But it wasn’t an overnight process. From the time I was a kid in the lab, I was always artistic and appreciated old school technology, such as the lost-wax technique. I only saw the limitations of digital systems and was convinced I could produce the best marginal integrity with my hands. But once I saw the precision of the digital results, I became a believer.”
Not only has each member of the Diacoloukas’ family set themselves apart with their technical skills, Nick believes that each has brought his own personal character strengths into the lab. Gus was always about pride, productivity and success. Nick focused on quality and high communication and George is a blend of both. George and Nick ended up completing the cycle of leadership and bought out their father’s shares in 2015.
“My dad was always very proactive and when he was approached twenty years ago about being bought out, he started thinking about an exit strategy,” said Nick. “He got the ball rolling early which was critical to the ease and success in which we were able to step up to the plate and become the lab’s leaders. I hope to do the same for my sons, Gus and Valanti, who have also just joined the business.”
Throughout the years of George and Nick working at the lab, the mustard seeds were planted that one day they would take over. It was a slow process with a lot of employee communication and strategic decisions.
“Gus was very focused and knew where he wanted his sons to be and it was with him”, said Nick. “It wasn’t until I was able to look back 30 years later that I had the wisdom to understand and appreciate what he was doing. He was doing it all for the family, and that’s not just us. All of our employees are considered family. Our employees know that regardless of our challenges, we are a winning team, all pulling in the same direction. At the end of the day, when it comes to working with family, if you persevere, love will prevail. It’s kind of like iron sharpens iron; you start to develop character and it gives you a different perspective and a sense of hope. This hope comes full circle when facing the uncertainties in the industry and will propel us into the future to only get better, together.”