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Learning about Benco Dental's westward expansion

June 30, 2011
Proofs editor Kevin Henry sits down with Paul Jackson, vice president of marketing for Benco Dental, to talk about his company's latest moves across the nation.
By Kevin Henry
Editor, Proofs
On June 20, Benco Dental opened the doors of its fifth distribution center in Reno, Nev., accomplishing its dream of gaining nationwide status. Benco Dental’s other distribution centers are in Fort Wayne, Ind., Jacksonville, Fla., Dallas, Texas, and Wilkes-Barre, Pa.Benco Dental has been family-owned for more than 80 years, and its executives say the move to become a company with a nationwide footprint has been a deliberately measured process spanning several years.“Remaining a privately-held, family business has allowed us to focus on making responsible, long-term choices,” said Chuck Cohen, managing director of Benco Dental. “We did not want to rush into expanding nationally; this transition had to make sense for us and our customers.”“Building a nationwide presence isn’t simply about growing. It’s about getting better,” notes Rick Cohen, managing director of Benco Dental. “Rather than making compromises with stockholders, our decisions have been made in the interest of our own stakeholders — customers, vendor partners, and associates. Continuously reinvesting in our business and gradually expanding westward has been in direct response to their needs.”
Benco Dental executives say the decision to open a distribution center in Reno was based on the city’s prime location. Its proximity to the 11 Western states gives Benco Dental the ability to reach more than 75% of its customers within one day. This is incredibly important to a company that recently shipped its 10 millionth order.I recently had the chance to sit down with Paul Jackson, vice president of marketing of Benco Dental, to talk about the westward expansion and what it means to the company and the dental industry.Kevin Henry: How have Benco employees received the news of this expansion?Paul Jackson: I just came from a meeting of regional managers and local reps and everyone was very positive. Strategically, we’re now able to deliver product to our West Coast customers in two days or less. Part of our core values is being able to support our customers within two days, and now we can.Henry: What was the tipping point for Benco to go ahead and build the distribution center in Reno?Jackson: It’s part of a steady westward expansion we have had. It’s a natural progression for our company and it was the next logical piece of real estate for us. When we were building our distribution centers, we had to choose which one to build first … the one in Wilkes-Barre or the one in Reno. We decided to build Wilkes-Barre first because the timing wasn’t perfect for Reno. We felt it was now.We have 22,000 SKUs and $4.5 million in inventory at the Reno distribution center. We can fully support customers in the West. We have an established region (Arizona) that is already being serviced out of Reno. We see major growth coming in our newest regions: Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.Reno will open a lot of doors for us. We have vendors who work with us who want us to serve the entire United States. That’s been a problem for us in the past and we’ve been bypassed at times. That’s not a problem anymore.Henry: Are you trying to send a message to the industry with this expansion?Jackson: Actually, our primary goal is not to send a message. We’re simply trying to grow and give dentists and dental labs options. Our primary goal is to take care of customers. We’re not going after anyone or any company.Henry: From a national perspective, does this expansion put more of an industrywide target on Benco’s back?Jackson: We can’t let things like that affect us. We have to stay with our plan and not be distracted. Currently, we are more than 8% growth (as a total company). We have to focus and keep executing our mission and delivering to our customers.Henry: What’s next for Benco Dental?Jackson: We’re acquiring property in Southern California to establish a branch/region and showroom. We looked at doing it in Las Vegas, but we wanted to be closer to Los Angeles to make it easier for customers to visit. The showroom in Los Angeles is important to give customers a chance to experience equipment choices that can improve their practice. This showroom will be a case where the whole is truly greater than sum of the parts. Our CenterPoint showroom in Wilkes-Barre is more than we expected and we have the same expectations for Los Angeles. When you walk into a new showroom, enthusiasm naturally rises. You don’t realize how much more productive you can be in a new environment until you move into it.