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Chris (00:05):

Hi everybody. This is Chris Pistorius, again, with the Dental Marketing Podcast. Today, we’ve got a great interview. A true dental professional. We have Marie Sessions and she is with Dental Specialty Associates. They’re in Arizona. They have a few locations, actually, and they’re actually a great client of ours, as well. Marie, thanks so much for being on the program today.

Marie (00:31):

No problem, Chris. Thanks for having me.

Chris (00:33):

Sure. And you’re the… What’s your title? And just tell us a little bit about… about your practices and what you guys do.

Marie (00:40):

So, my official title is Regional Manager of our company but, I pretty much do everything from changing light bulbs to answering the phone, whatever the office needs on a day-to-day basis. But we have two specialty offices, Dental Specialty Associates, and my owners also own two general dental locations called Imagine Dental throughout the Valley. And so, I oversee and manage all four locations.

Chris (01:10):

Awesome. And how long have you been with Dental Specialty?

Marie (01:13):

I’ve been with them for about eight years and we’ve been opened for about 13. So, I’ve been here for a while.

Chris (01:22):

That’s great. And you got to be enjoying the Arizona weather when you can, right?

Marie (01:26):

Yes, absolutely. It’s nice today because it’s a bit rainy, which it hasn’t been in quite some time, but yes, we love the sunshine here.

Chris (01:33):

Yeah, absolutely. So, tell me why, what intrigued you in this position with Dental Specialty? I mean, when you have multiple locations, as many of our listeners probably do, you’ve got to stay busy, right? So, what are some tips and tricks for you in managing multiple locations?

Marie (01:53):

So, I think one thing that makes our practice unique is we’re very inclusive of everybody, everyone’s needs. A lot of doctors and offices don’t take insurances because insurances are super difficult to deal with, but they’re also a great referral source. Everybody works for somebody that has dental insurance through their employer or whatever the case may be, and we accept every insurance. So, whether it’s a state plan, discount plan, HMO, PPO, which, I’m sure, some people would be like that, is absolutely crazy. But long-term, we get a ton of patients that are able to see and maintain it, a really high volume of new patients because of it.

Chris (02:42):

Yeah. That’s interesting. I think that’s a great look at it and it’s, definitely, a way different business model, if you will than other’s approach. We’ve done these interviews and we have clients that are strictly fee for service and that worked well for them, right? But there are also other, other avenues to look at when, especially, if you’re starting a practice, right? And you’re trying to plan out like, “All right, in five years, we want to be here. In 10 years, we want to be here.” There is a happy medium, and then there’s a kind of take a lot of insurances and you’re reaping the benefits of that now, it sounds like.

Marie (03:22):

Yeah, we are. And I think if you do it long enough and you’re doing it right, it doesn’t have to run the office, you can kind of run it and allow it to build your practice in a positive way and not let it overturn your schedules and be running around like a chicken with your head cut-off if you’re doing it effectively. So, it’s benefiting the practice, you’re able to maintain a high volume, but you’re not running around like crazy people for no money, which, I don’t think there’s anybody who wants to be doing that. So, we’ve been able to kind of make it effective and feasible, and profitable for all of us.

Chris (04:03):

Yeah. So it sounds like, even though you do accept a lot of insurances, you understand that that, you control it so that, you’re not just filling up a schedule to fill it up. You actually… You need to make some money too, right?

Marie (04:16):

Yeah, exactly. So, we work hard at training the front and, realizing that there’s still a number to be met. It’s not… I have to often tell the staff and the girls, “We’re still a business.” We love to help everybody. And I have a great staff with very big hearts, but we still got to pay everybody. So, there’s, definitely, a bottom line. And I think having specialty within the office, definitely helps with that because a lot of specialty procedures are covered. So, you’re coming here and you might be seen in hygiene, and but then as soon as you have a tooth problem or need an implant, we’re also here and are able to accommodate that. So, those services that aren’t covered by insurance, we have the opportunity to expand on with all of our patients, as well.

Chris (05:04):

Yeah. That’s awesome. And I know you’ve been there a majority of the time since they’ve been opened, but do you know, do you have a little history on the practice? And I’m assuming they started with one practice and kind of figured out how to go about it or did they kind of have this plan from day one?

Marie (05:22):

No, we started with one. So, my owners, Dr. Lillian and Dr. Berger met. They had both worked at Southwest Dental Group, which in Arizona is kind of a big multi-location, Aspen Dental-type place if you will. They had all services in one location and, both, my owners worked for that practice. So, they met each other, became friends, and decided that it was a good business model that worked well, but there were some things wrong with it. The personability, it’s very much not learning anybody’s name, not very personable, not that connection that you want to build when you’re building a private practice. So, they decided to start their own and here we are with Dental Specialty Associates. So, we’re trying to be premier specialty implant doctors in Arizona and kind of having all those services in one place to make it easy for a patient to complete the process.

Marie (06:21):

So, you don’t have to go to a bunch of specialists to see, you can just come to us and we can take care of you from start to finish. It’s the same people, the same doctors. It’s really personable, for as many patients as we see, we try really hard to know everyone’s name and, “Hi, how are you?” So, you don’t get that sterile, “I’m here for the first time. I’m never going to come back,” feeling that you sometimes get at a specialty office when you’re just going to go in there for one thing. So-

Chris (06:51):

Yeah, that’s great. I mean, I think that’s a great story and, obviously, it’s been successful for you guys. And I think a lot of people listening or watching today can really get a lot of feedback from that. Especially, the folks that are maybe thinking about going out on their own, or maybe they’re to start a school, thinking about starting a practice, this type of experience you just can’t buy, right?

Marie (07:13):

No, you really can’t. And there’s something to be said, both my owners have been doing it long enough. They have years and years of experience and they complement each other really well. I think that there’s… Part of this specialty experience is being lost a little bit in so many private practices because they want to keep everything in-house. So, they don’t want to lose anything to a specialist referral. They’re trying to place implants themselves or have someone come in to do Endo or all of those things. And I think, there’s something to be said for allowing each person to do what they’re good at. And so, being able to refer to an oral surgeon for oral surgery procedures, and it’s still being in the same place, they’re not losing anything. Productivity-wise, it’s really nice for the patient because they’re being taken care of really, really well. And the standards are being maintained across the board.

Chris (08:10):

Right. That’s awesome. And I think that’s a great way to a great strategy to go about it. Let me ask you… I’m sure every practice is a little different in your organization, but I always talk to people in the marketing side of things. And we, obviously, are doing that with you now in terms of… Let’s figure out who’s our ideal patient, right? Who is it that we want to come in? Because, typically if you can do that, and it doesn’t have to be just one type, like in your situation, there could be multiple. But the better we can drill into, who is it that you want to bring into the practice, it makes marketing, your practice, so much easier because you can target those specific things and qualities. So, whom would you say is the ideal patient for you guys?

Marie (08:57):

Yeah. Well, like you said, I think we definitely do have two very different sides of the practice in attracting multiple areas. So, we have the single families with young kids who need to come in and have basic hygiene maintained but are also going to have dental issues all throughout life. Whether, it be crowns and wisdom teeth, and just basic necessities that are the bread and butter of your practice, and those are patients that we want all the time, anytime. Welcoming new families and… Great.

Marie (09:33):

That’s one part of it. I think another part of it is an ideal patient is knowing that they’re coming to the right place, feeling confident in who they’ve been referred to, and knowing that they’re going to get the best treatment possible. And of course, wanting to say yes, as soon as you present them with whatever they need. Yes to the implants, making it easy and seamless and just being decisive and knowing that their dental health is a priority. Educated in terms of rehab research, that they need an implant or on for, or whatever the case may be. And coming in with that knowledge base of, “I know what it is. I know what I want. I don’t want to be in dentures. I want implant retained dentures.” And knowing that they’re going to get it at the best quality with the best doctors here.

Chris (10:25):

Yeah, that’s awesome. And I think, you’ve really already, kind of, said this in a summary, but if you had a sentence or two to, kind of, talk about your unique selling proposition. We all know that dental is extremely competitive for dentistry, private practice, wherever it may be. But why should somebody come to visit one of your locations versus maybe the 50 others around it?

Marie (10:51):

For sure. I think that the decades of experience from the providers, mixed with the personable feeling that you’re not going to get at any corporate facility. Knowing that you’re going to have the best doctors with the best services and the best equipment, all in one place while still feeling like we care is you can’t beat that. Especially, in, let’s say, like the healthcare field where it’s all insurance-based. You see a nurse practitioner, you don’t get to see a doctor, spend any time with them, or anything like that. You’re coming to a place where quality and care are the top priority. And I think, there’s a lot to be said for that in the kind of corporate-dentistry-hamster-wheel that gets put out there a lot, because they’re able to afford to wash out the little guy. So, we’re competing with them and doing it well and you’re still going to get high quality because the owners are doing it.

Chris (11:56):

Right. I think that’s awesome. Dentistry, I think can be very… I almost said trendy, but a very innovative, new technologies, the new services that a general dentist can offer. What do you see in the horizon in terms of dentistry? I mean, is there a new technology out there that you’ve heard of, or you guys are looking at or any type of services?

Marie (12:21):

Yeah. I mean… Yeah, just as something as easy as digital scans with crowns and taking out impression material, nobody likes to have goop shoved in their mouth for anything. Much less, whether it be a crown, or a night guard, or a denture, even if we have digital 3D scanners in our office that scan everything. So, I think there’s definitely in terms of fabrication and digital technology on the horizon for dentistry. I think that’s going to be a big game-changer for a lot of offices because your quality inadvertently is going to go up. On the implant side, I think it’s limitless there. There’s so much new technology out there. Every time you turn around, there’s something new going on with the implant side of things that’s really inspiring because nobody wants to be in dentures and spores. You and I do know that when we go to lose all of our teeth, that we’re going to have an option that isn’t sitting on the counter-top is going to be awesome.

Chris (13:37):

Yeah. I got to tell you, my dad had dentures at a pretty, fairly, early age and there’re some images there I just can’t get rid of. So-

Marie (13:45):

Yeah, I know and I never want to be that. It’s never going to be a good look for anybody, and to know that that it’s come such a long way already and where it’s going in terms of placement and all of that good stuff. I think that it’s super, super exciting.

Chris (14:02):

Yeah. Absolutely. So, let’s say that there’s somebody out there in your position, has been in dentistry and they’re thinking about getting into management whether it’s one office or it’s multiple locations. What would you say to them right now? And tips, advice like run for the hills or embrace it-

Marie (14:19):

No, I mean, run for the hills. I’m sure somebody might say that. I love what I do, and I’m super passionate about my patients and the practice and it excites me. It’s hard to sleep on Sunday nights because Monday I’m like, “Oh, we get to do this and we’re going to do that.” And it’s just I love it. So, I would say that if you don’t love it, don’t do it. Because it’s a really hard thing to, kind of, have been in it. It’ll wear you out, but if your heart’s in it and this is what you wanted to do then, definitely, I would say that it’s the best thing ever. And don’t get hung up on it in a title. I would say that part of managing is doing everything. And, honestly, the days that I have someone call out and have to answer the phone and get to talk to 20 people are still fun for me. I don’t see that as a sort of thing. I see it as, “Great. I got to interact with all my new patients.” So-

Chris (15:20):

It keeps your skills up to date too, right?

Marie (15:24):

It does. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. So, I would say, just be passionate about it and if you have that passion for it, go for it.

Chris (15:31):

I’ve got a question for you. I’ve been getting a lot of feedback, especially, in the last few months. And I assume there’s some COVID-related stuff with that, too. But even single practices are having this issue of staffing. We’re seeing a lot of turnover going on in the industry. Can’t keep people, can’t find qualified people. There are different strategies. Do you bring in somebody with dental experience or you bring somebody that you can, kind of, train and mold the way you want them? What’s your advice on hiring and firing and training? What’s been successful?

Marie (16:05):

This is, honestly, as a manager, anybody going into it, one of the hardest parts of my job because it’s so out of my control, right? Obviously, everything else I can either do myself this, I can’t control any of this. And it is really difficult because you don’t want to have a high turnover, but you don’t want to keep bad people. You’re not going to really know anyone, what they can do until they’re there. So, I’ve just gotten, kind of, it to the point where I lay our philosophy out in the interview. This is what we do. This is who we are. We’d love to have you be a part of that. And sometimes people come in and it’s just not a good fit. And I’ve learned that if it’s not a good fit to just let it go. Because you end up losing more in the long run on your phones, and your schedules, and all of those things that I’m not around to see all the time then it is worth the retention.

Marie (17:05):

And then in terms of finding people, I mean, I go back and forth. There are some times where it’s yes, we need the experience because we just don’t have as much time to train. And then there’re times like right now I’m having the hardest time finding a good front office, people that we’re in line at Chick-fil-A and I’m like, “Well, that girl can hustle.” And I bet you look at her and talking to all those people and she’s smiling while she’s doing it. Maybe she should come work for us-

Chris (17:34):

That can’t be taught. That’s a personality trait.

Marie (17:40):

Exactly. And so, I learned that the things you can’t teach… We can teach anybody about teeth. We all learned it. You can watch videos. I can teach you what a crown is. The doctors will… I’ll show you along the way. I can’t teach someone how to be nice. And to give you that thing through the phone that makes you want to schedule, that’s a total, like you said, personality thing. And if you find it, whether it be at a store or a restaurant, just at this point, I’m hiring him, like, “What do you want? Come work for us.” Because that’s stuff, that’s going to keep new patients coming in.

Chris (18:17):

Yeah. That’s awesome. That’s a great tip there at the end. So I’m going to wrap it up here in just a question or two but… I know you’re not the owner of the practices, but where do you see Dental Specialty Associates in the next five years? Are you guys… Do you think you’ll grow? Do you think you’ll just get better or both?

Marie (18:36):

Absolutely. I think the growth is, kind of, limitless right now. Especially, with the state of everything, and with you guys helping us achieve our goals and new patient-wise. I think the goal for the next five years would be to be the premier implant doctors in Arizona, placing dentures all on fours, all of that good stuff that whenever that conversation is had around the Valley, it’s our name is in the mix with it. We’re right up there with ClearChoice and all of those places. It’s, “No, you want to go to Dental Specialty Associates, these doctors know what they’re doing.” So, I think the next five years, that would be our goal, is to just kind of be taking over that part of the market here in the Valley.

Chris (19:24):

That’s awesome. Well, you just said, I think we might splice out of this and use it for like a TV commercial or something for you guys. That was like, spot on. That was great.

Marie (19:33):

Whatever you want to use [crosstalk 00:19:35].

Chris (19:36):

Awesome. Well, Marie, I really appreciate your time.

Marie (19:39):

No problem. Thank you so much for having me.

Chris (19:41):

Yeah. And maybe we’ll check back in with you guys in the next few months and just see how you’re doing and maybe do a little bit of a follow-up.

Marie (19:49):

Yeah, absolutely. Just let me know. I’m always around Chris. Have a great day.

Chris (19:53):

Awesome. Thanks again.

Marie (19:54):


Chris (19:55):

All right. Everybody thanks this has been another episode of the Dental Marketing Podcast. I hope you got some great information from Marie about their situation and be sure to tune in to our next episode. Thanks again.