Lab Manager | Run Your Lab Like a Business

Swimming, Not Sinking

"After a year of caution and conservatism, many lab managers, regardless of whether they are optimistic or pessimistic about the future, seem to believe that it is time to sink or swim and will therefore be taking an aggressive approach in 2010."

by Pamela Ahlberg
Register for free to listen to this article
Listen with Speechify

The takeaway message from this year’s confidence report is neither good nor bad. But while things have not gotten worse in the past year, there remains the sense that labs have lowered their expectations, accepted a belt-tightening mentality for the time being and are just waiting it out. There are slight differences within specific markets, however, with the microbiology sector showing the highest level of confidence and the clinical sector showing the lowest. But across all sectors, the survey revealed a barely one percent improvement in overall confidence from last year. Rafael Leniz, laboratory director of the Coachella Valley Water District in California: “I think 2011 will be even worse.” Wanda Ingersoll, Mississippi Public Health Laboratory’s division director: “We are unable to fund any salary increases or add any new positions.” Serena McCoy, a research technologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln: “Grants are becoming much more competitive as everyone is looking for money.” I think you get the picture.

Adding to this less-than-cheery outlook is the forensic lab sector, which faces its own unique challenges. “With substantive regulatory changes slated for 2011, [forensic] labs may soon experience alterations in how they are accredited and managed, how their staffers are trained and certified, and how they are funded and paid for their services,” says Bernard Tulsi in this month’s Perspective On: Forensic Labs article on page 64.

But despite current economic difficulties, labs still need to compete, and that requires buying new equipment. But what if your lab has no capital budget available or your existing bank lines are insufficient? What if your company is new in business or venture backed without revenue? The answer may be a capital lease or rental of the equipment. Dean Stolberg, in this month’s Business Management article, “Rent, Lease or Buy,” helps readers determine when they should consider financing, basic equipment financing types, and how to choose the right finance provider. Turn to page 90 to learn more.

Refuting what your mother might have told you when you were a kidthat nobody likes a showoff—is John Borchardt’s Leadership & Staffing article, “Showing Off Your Lab,” (page 28). If you’re managing a lab that could benefit from more business, better customer and public relations, more streamlined inspections, and greater appeal to prospective employees, a good show off strategy might be just what you need. “Laboratory visits can be the seed for joint development programs of new products that can help your own and your visitors’ companies grow. Lab visits can help dissolve an “us versus them” attitude—on your staff members’ and the customer’s part,” says Borchardt.

Alan Edwards echoes that message in this month’s Science Matters column saying, “Labs of all sizes... operate within an outdated business model that provides no opportunity to stand out in the crowd, even as personnel may feel confident in their ability to solve a customer’s problems. This dilemma demonstrates the need for modern laboratories, now more than ever, to adapt to the new marketing reality. As is true for most businesses, scientific labs will flourish if they stop competing on services and instead learn how to compete on best customer outcomes.”

In addition to these important and timely articles, our February/March issue devotes 18 pages to the new products you’ll be seeing at this year’s Pittcon (March 13 – 18, Atlanta, GA). If you will not be attending, let this be your virtual “walking the floor.” If you will be in Atlanta next month, please stop by the Lab Manager Magazine/LabX Booth 847 and say hello.

I’ll see you there.