Epilog Laser, a leading manufacturer of laser engravers and marking systems for wood, metal and plastic, is marking its silver anniversary next year with well-deserved. The company has come a long, long way since its founders Steve Garnier and John Doran were building their first laser systems in Steve’s basement back in 1988. Now, the Golden, Colorado-based company is some 90 employees strong and offers around 30 different laser = configurations for industry, small businesses and woodworkers.
I’ve had the opportunity at past trade shows to interview Epilog and learn more about their new product innovations, but I’ve been equally impressed with how upbeat and positive the folks in the booth are about working for the company. Honestly, it’s a bit infectious. So, to pay tribute to the company’s milestone anniversary, I asked Mike Dean, director of sales and marketing, to share a few good reasons why Epilog has cause to celebrate. He offered five that are not only worth remembering but also probably explain why Epilog has been ranked among the 10 best Denver-based businesses in which to work for four years, according to a competition held by the Denver Business Journal.
1. A “Made in America” approach.
Dean says Epilog’s commitment to stateside manufacturing stems from a belief that business is a two-way street. “We’ve always thought that working closely with our partners (suppliers, employees, distributors and so forth) would help us to be successful in the long term because we support the people who support us.” While Dean feels this commitment probably wasn’t the most economical way to do business initially, it’s paid dividends in the long run “because everyone we’ve worked with has become laser experts, too.” This cooperative effort and “tribal knowledge,” as he calls it, “is a hallmark of manufacturing in America” and a key element in Epilog’s continued success.
2. Bringing new levels of customization to woodworking.
While the ability to engrave and mark wood with a computer-driven laser may not be a need-based requirement for most hobbyist woodworkers, it can provide a distinctive look and “calling card” that adds value to high-end projects. Dean says that, while a cabinetmaker won’t use the system for cutting out cabinet parts, the photorealistic effect of the laser is perfect for cutting custom inlays on a cabinet door or drawer face. Customers also use Epilog systems to engrave their logo inside cabinet doors, “which equates to an advertisement every time someone opens the door.” And, adding custom messages, photographic etches or other custom graphics to other projects such as humidors, jewelry boxes and plaques allows woodworkers to charge more for their services, he adds.
3. Quality components and customer service.
One significant difference between Epilog and most of its competition is that Epilog manufactures about 90 percent of its own laser tubes. Dean compares the laser tube to a car engine, both being the most expensive technology in the machine and making the biggest contribution to performance and reliability. By doing in-house manufacturing, Epilog can provide superior image quality and flexibility. Dean says he always encourages prospective customers to do side-by-side comparisons between Epilog and other options at trade shows, “because it’s the best way to see what you’re getting. And the difference is really visible!” Epilog also offers extensive sales education for its customers. That education includes user clinics as well as a virtual training suite for tutorials and instructions on common laser practices. Dean says Epilog’s technical support team is renowned for their exceptional support and troubleshooting, as is testified on the company’s customer testimonials page.
4. A solid team philosophy embedded in Epilog’s corporate culture.
An outward focus on customers stems from Epilog’s inward commitment to employees, Dean reports. He says the company isn’t about micromanaging and doesn’t tend to consider job titles important monikers about who is empowered to do what. Instead, Epilog “hires the most intelligent, tech-savvy and creative people … and then we get out of the way and let them do their jobs. Management looks out for employees, always keeping them in the loop of new developments, opportunities and challenges.” Five of the original six employees from 1992 are still working for the company, and he reports only about one employee per year leaves Epilog for other job opportunities.
5. Giving back to the larger community.
Dean says Epilog channels some of its resources back to those in need on both the national and local levels every year. The company sponsors an annual toy drive for American Military Families. This year, Epilog raised money and other donations for the Colorado Chapter of Walk MS, the local MS 150 bike tour, the Golden Chamber of Commerce and several local elementary schools, plus the Tennyson Center for Children. “Oftentimes, our employees ask the workforce at large for donations to the causes they support, and they turn out to be some of the top fundraisers for their events of interest,” he adds. “We tend to support the efforts of everybody else here.”
For all of these reasons, and what he equates to sheer good luck, Dean says Epilog not only weathered the recent recession but actually grew over the past four years’ time. “We actually have a lot of competition in the engraving and marking business, but we’ve always made an effort to be at the head of the line. Our long-term philosophy, a solid base of distributors and our great employees are what makes Epilog a special place and gives us so much to be thankful for. It’s been a great 25 years!”