Q&A with Whip Mix President Jim Myers
Whip Mix Corporation is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Inside Dental Technology spoke to Whip Mix President Jim Myers about what has changed and what has stayed the same in that time, and how Whip Mix has remained a leader in the industry through it all.
IDT: How have laboratories’ needs changed over the years in regard to what they need from their manufacturer and vendor partners?
Myers: As many industry experts far smarter than me have said many times, the biggest challenge facing the dental laboratory industry is the transformative effect of technology. The digital transformation, if you will. As a manufacturer participating in that evolution, and one that carries a broad range of dental solutions, we must decide what technologies suit our strategic purpose and expertise. In other words, as many options present themselves we must limit ourselves to those products where we can truly provide a value and advantage. For the laboratory it is no different. Not only is there a decision of when to jump in, but also where to jump in: the shallow end with our feet still on the bottom, or go bold and head for the deep end where more possibilities exist—a strategy where, pardon the pun, you can offer a deeper level of service to the customer. Should one keep with tried-and-true castings, or move to milling and then possibly 3D printing? Do you outsource all of these higher tech alternatives, or utilize some hybrid approach where outsourcing certain operations and in-sourcing other operations becomes an alternative? There are a multitude of options available today. Once these decisions are made, then the laboratory customer is faced with another equally important decision and that is deciding which supplier is right for them.
The good news is that Whip Mix is here to help and guide a customer through this journey. There is a maxim used here that is “more reasons, one source.” It speaks directly to the situation described above. Not only can Whip Mix help you in the more traditional restorative methodologies, we can also provide you the latest in digital solutions including materials, equipment, and perhaps the most important component of all, the technical support to make it all work.
Sometimes this becomes a tough decision for Whip Mix as well, because we realize we may not be the right solution for every customer and every situation. Our goal is to build a relationship, not just a sale. And we plan on being there as more and more technologies evolve and become a reality in our industry.
IDT: How has Whip Mix managed to sustain success into its 100th year through all these changes?
Myers: The answer to how Whip Mix has sustained itself for 100 years in business is actually a rather simple one: loyalty. Loyalty instills the desire to do the right thing by our customers and our team members. For 100 years, team members have been arriving to work ready and willing to do the best they can. You might say it’s our culture—a family culture that is built on unity and the dedication to do right by one another. It is also a culture of continuous improvement or “lean thinking,” whereby we drive out wasteful processes and maximize value for all of our stakeholders. The result is a product line and a level of service that a customer can depend on. And they do. We have not built a reputation on always being the lowest-cost offering. We don’t throw gadgetry and high prices at our customers either. We strive to offer an experience that provides value to the customer. If there is a bump in the road (and there can be) or an instance when we haven’t met a customer’s expectations, then we will make it right. When you buy from Whip Mix, you have a partner who has stepped up beside you, locked arms, and vowed to be there with you through thick and thin. Maybe that sounds dramatic or an exaggeration, but I have seen it in action. I don’t believe you can last 100 years without that attitude. As we look to the next hundred years, our customers today continue to not only experience that, but to expect a true and dependable partner in their success.
Our versatility in this changing industry is directly related to the same thing. Loyal customers recognize and expect the value and service that we bring. So, when we introduce new products, like photopolymer resins for 3D printing, loyal customers are willing to give us a try. We are becoming a more technologically capable company. They trust that we have researched and developed the expertise to offer something new. Admittedly, at times there are growing pains. Today’s technologies are challenging all of us to adapt. But, once again, our commitment to the customer is as dependable as ever.
Adapting with new products is only part of the answer, however. Most important is that without versatile team members we would have nothing to design, build, and ship. So a key to sustained success over such a long period of time is a whole lot of good people who are willing to change what they have done, in some cases for 30 and 40 years, and work with new materials, tools, procedures, and customers. It is not always comfortable but the credit goes to them for making the change and keeping Whip Mix products and service at the level it has been for all these years.
IDT: What core values were instilled in the company at its inception that have shaped it and still ring true today?
Myers: Our core values are rooted in the words of wisdom provided by our founder’s son Edmund Steinbock, Jr. Mr. Ed, as he was affectionately known, began working at Whip Mix in 1946 and after running the company as CEO from 1956 to 1985, continued here in various capacities until 2006. I will make the presumption that Mr. Ed’s values were taught to him by his father and our founder Edmund Steinbock, Sr. Posted around our company in 1980 and instilled in the team members that walk our grounds today are what we know as “Mr. Ed’s Words of Wisdom.” Among these principles are ideas such as “love the customer,” “make reliable products,” “strive to be different,” and “people want to work.”
Over the years, these words have been revisited and refreshed to reflect our company’s values as we move into our second hundred years. But look closely, and you can see that the values from our founders have stood the test of time.
This is how we think about our core values today:
Whip Mix Core Values
• to the customers we love
• to the team members we cherish
• to the suppliers we value
• to the community and environment we share
• for the industries we serve
• for the company we represent
• for the jobs we do
• in the promises we make
• in the products we make
• for the future we face
So, yes, our values since inception still ring true today:
Love the Customer – Loyalty
People Want to Work – Passion
Make Reliable Products – Integrity
Strive to be Different – Versatility
IDT: What are you most excited about in the future, whether for the laboratory profession overall or for Whip Mix specifically?
Myers: The thing that I am most excited about for Whip Mix is something very few companies get to do, and that is growing a 100-year-old company. We’ve seen some statistics that say that only 0.006% of companies can claim to be in their 100th year of business. That’s a pretty incredible statistic and one that we are immensely proud of as a company. The exciting part is that we are not content to rest on our laurels, but instead find ourselves energized on how we can take the company into the second hundred years, how we can bring newer technologies to our customers, how we can build long-lasting relationships with a new generation of customers.
We are not your father’s Oldsmobile any longer, folks. We now have a company that is investing in 3D print technology. We are investing in developing the latest in ceramic materials. We are hiring a work force that has the latest technical, regulatory, and service skills required to compete in today’s world. We are re-training many long-term team members so that they too can have the skills the future commands. We are developing a company-wide culture of results and accountability, including the financial analysis needed to ensure we remain a strong and viable contributor to the dental industry.
These are exciting times around Whip Mix. Our legacy product lines remain strong, and in fact, continue to gain new customers in key areas. Our newest digital solutions, such as 3D print resin and zirconia, along with printers, mills, and scanners, continue to gain momentum. We even have begun looking into new areas of oral health care that include airway management and many other opportunities that will help Whip Mix build a bright future.