2018 Family Business Awards, Heritage/Legacy: Burkhart Dental Supply

Company values include providing strong, customer-oriented service and honoring its 400 employees, including about 150 in Washington.
| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

BURKHART DENTAL SUPPLY. President Lori Burkhart Isbell, foreground, with, from left, coworkers Tori Collins, Christa Hickox, Jeremy Barnes, Ellie Newton and Robb Marshall.

This article appears in print in the December 2018 issue. See more about the winners of the 2018 Family Business Awards here. Click here for a free subscription.

Burkhart Dental Supply
Location: Tacoma

First a teacher, Lori Burkhart Isbell never felt pressured to become president of a five-generation family business supplying the dental industry. Then she was invited to a company sales retreat, where she was drawn to the creativity, the employees and the company’s culture of service. She took a job in the business and spent about three years working with her father to transition to a leadership position.

Since 2006, Isbell has run daily operations with the blessing of her dad, Perry Burkhart, board chairman, and her two sisters. Her dad’s goal was establishing leadership to preserve the company’s culture and values; Isbell wanted to share equally with her sisters. “So, we created a holding company,” Isbell says.

Company values include providing strong, customer-oriented service and honoring its 400 employees, including about 150 in Washington. Sales and distribution of dental supplies ranging from bibs and gloves to materials for a tooth filling constitute the core business. Burkhart doesn’t manufacture products but does offer some private-label items. Another service provides dental office infrastructure equipment such as chairs, cabinets and lighting. A third repairs dental equipment. Customers are mainly in the western United States. In the past five years, sales have increased almost 20 percent as Burkhart supports nearly 30,000 dental offices.

Isbell’s great-great-grandfather, William Burkhart, started it all in 1888. “I’m the fifth generation to lead,” Isbell says, “but actually the sixth generation to work in the business.” That’s because founder William Burkhart, a dentist, asked his father, David, to make dental cabinets for him.

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