EP 002 How to Run a Successful Dental Practice

Welcome to episode 002 of The Dental Marketing Podcast. This week we talked with Drs. Steven and Barjesh Walters about how to run a successful dental practice.

Drs. Steven and Barjesh Walters are the owners of Advanced Dental Care & Aesthetics.

They and their team are dedicated to providing the highest quality of dental care available along with outstanding customer service. The doctors has been providing exceptional dentistry to patients from northeast Ohio and beyond since 1989.

They are proud to have been selected by their peers among Northern Ohio Live Magazine’s Top Dentists in the greater Cleveland area. They’ve been in Cleveland Magazine’s annual “Dentists of Cleveland” since its rating started in 2009. The Consumers’ Research Council of America also selected them among America’s Best Dentists in Restorative and Cosmetic Dentistry.

Here’s just a taste of what we talked about today:

Being Successful in the Business for so Long

Drs. Steven and Barjesh Walters started becoming successful in their practice when they hired a consultant and worked with people who taught them the business aspects of the practice, such as how to systematize things, how to bring new patients into the practice, and how to monitor the numbers and the profitability of the business.

The other side of that was continuing their education—getting up to speed with many of the specialty services they provided in their practice.

Tips for Finding Quality People

Dr. Barjesh mentioned that they are so reliant on their team, which is wonderful, and due to that, they succeed  because their team is involved with hiring new team members.

Without some key team members, they would not have seen their growth over the last ten years. It is also finding people who buy their practice’s vision and want to carry that out with them.

Other Topics We Covered on the Show:

  • Why did Dr. Steven and Dr. Barjesh Walters decide to start their own practice?
  • One of the biggest mistakes they’ve made in their practice over the years.
  • Dr. Steven and Dr. Barjesh gave some tips to make a marriage work while working in the same place.
  • Dr. Steven talked about his specialization, which is IV sedation.
  • They also shared a little bit about family practice.

How To Stay Connected with  Drs. Steven and Barjesh Walters

Want to stay connected with Drs. Steven and Barjesh Walters? Please check out their social profiles below.

With that… let’s go and listen to the full episode…


[00:00:00] Narrator: Welcome to the Dental Marketing Podcast, a podcast that helps dentists win in the online world of modern day marketing. Each week, we cover the most cutting edge marketing tactics and strategies that are working right now across our client base to drive leads, phone calls, and more new patients for dentists.

[00:00:21] Now here’s your host and founder of Kickstart Dental Marketing, Chris Pistorius.

[00:00:29] Chris Pistorius: Hi everybody. Welcome to the Dental Marketing Podcast. I’m your host, Chris Pistorius. So I appreciate you tuning in. Today we’ve got awesome guests. We’ve got Dr. Barjesh Walters, and Dr. Steve Walters joining us today. They are the owners of Advanced Dental Care and Aesthetics. They’ve been in business since 1989 and we’re gonna talk to them today just about all kinds of fun and cool stuff regarding dentistry.

[00:00:54] So guys, I really appreciate you being on the call today.

[00:00:58] Drs. Steven and Barjesh Walters: Thanks for having us Chris. Happy to be here.

[00:01:00] Chris Pistorius: Of course, I’ve only said your name like a hundred times and I just butchered it when it really counted, so I just completely folded on that one. But anyway, thanks for coming today. And first of all, how’s the weather in Ohio?

[00:01:14] Drs. Steven and Barjesh Walters: Little windy and cloudy today, but it’s you know, feeling like fall, which is what we expect this time of year.

[00:01:20] Chris Pistorius: Yeah. Same here. And you know, we’re recording this in the middle of October, basically. And I’m in Denver and we’re starting to get the cold mornings and evenings and then it kind of warms up nicely during the day, which I love, but it’s coming for sure.

[00:01:35]So tell me, back in 1989, why did you guys decide to go out and start your own practice?

[00:01:44] Drs. Steven and Barjesh Walters: Well, my dad was in practice and so when I finished my residency, I joined him and you know, kind of took it from there. And then Barjesh was a couple years behind me, also did a residency at the same hospital.

[00:01:55] We were both added Metro and Cleveland and we decided to get married and kind of the rest is history, so, you know, we got kicked off right there.

[00:02:04] Chris Pistorius: That’s awesome. So, if you remember back then, you know, was it like a stressful event for you to start your own practice? Do you remember? Or was it like, it’s time to go, I’m confident.

[00:02:16] Drs. Steven and Barjesh Walters: We were a little stressed, you know, my dad had a small practice, three operatory office, and so, you know, typical kind of the older school kind of practice. And so when we came in we could see a lot of potential but it was a little stressful.

[00:02:32] We knew we had to grow and expand the facility and but didn’t know how to do that, didn’t know how to do it, and try to get some new patients in the door to fill our schedules. So yeah, I would say it was a little stressful at the beginning.

[00:02:46] Chris Pistorius: Yeah. Even though you might have had a little bit of head start, you know, it wasn’t like you’re going from a blank sheet of paper, but still it definitely probably took you outta your comfort zone for a little while.

[00:02:55] Anyway, so I like to get right to the questions that a lot of our watchers and listeners or, dentists that are dentists and some of them are getting ready to make the jump of owning their own practice. And some of them already had their own practice and they’re just looking for tips and, you know, new ideas.

[00:03:13] You know, I think that’s really what makes the world go round or new ideas. So, you know, you’ve been in business since 1989. What do you think is like the top or the top two or three things that have made you successful and allowed you to be in business successfully for so long?

[00:03:30] Drs. Steven and Barjesh Walters: Well, I think for us, the change really occurred when we got help and we hired a consultant and started to work with some people that could begin to teach us some of the business aspects of the practice, how to systematize things, how to bring new patients into the practice.

[00:03:49] How to monitor the numbers and the profitability of the business. And so I think that was one of the big change happened for us is when we really reached out and, started to get some help. And I think the other side of that was also continuing education, you know, getting really up to speed with a lot of the specialty services that we provided in our practice.

[00:04:08] And that, we’ll talk about later, leads into the sedation part of it. But really getting comfortable doing a lot of our own root canal therapy and procedures. A lot of oral surgery we do in the office. I took a orthodontic continuum.

[00:04:23] We took both took full mile rehabilitation continuum. So I think those were the things that really, aside from the consulting and helping us to run the business better. Just expanding our service mix was the other big thing that we did that really kind of launched our practice to where we are today.

[00:04:40] Chris Pistorius: Yeah, that’s awesome. And you know, I find the same in my business, you know, a marketing agency. I really didn’t think I had a business until I probably started building out systems and procedures and then hiring people to run those systems in procedures. And I mentioned this a lot in my podcast, but there’s a book out there called the E-myth Revisited and it talks, I don’t if you guys have read it, but it talks exactly like this.

[00:05:05] And he talks about, you should set your business up as if it were a franchise, as much as you can, even though it’s not a franchise. Because when you do that, it really forces you to build out systems and kind of a book of this is how you do your job and every task, if you will, is in that book. And so if you hire a new front desk person, if you hire, you know, whoever it may be, they can basically take that manual, if you will, and know exactly how to do that job.

[00:05:30] Now obviously there’s customized training that has to happen too. You know, so many dentists I’ve found struggle with this, and they think that, you know, they come outta school or they start their own practice and they think, hey, I’m a great dentist, so I’m gonna automatically be, you know, a successful business owner.

[00:05:47] That’s not the case. You know, it’s you’ve gotta know how to do other things within your business to make it successful. And if you don’t know how to do it, how to hire and delegate those people to make those decisions. So I think that’s a biggie that you just pointed out.

[00:06:02] So on the opposite side of that, you know, obviously you’ve made a very smart decision with systems and procedures. What’s one of the biggest mistakes you made over the years?

[00:06:14] Drs. Steven and Barjesh Walters: I’d say early on, trying to do it ourselves. Yeah, waiting too long, I think. Waiting too long. Yeah. You know, it’s always when you see the change that happens when you get the right guidance and education in different parts of owning and running a business. You realize just you have no business doing any of that when you’re first out of school. I remember when Steve actually approached me first and said, I think we need to hire a consultant.

[00:06:42] And my concern was, how are we gonna pay for that? Like, you know, just making ends meet right now with paying the bills and paying ourselves a little something. And it was the best thing we ever did. And you really can’t launch yourself to the next level until you have someone teach you all the things you don’t learn in dental school.

[00:07:05] How to not just create systems and put them in place, but how to give your team leadership ability and skills and give them some ownership. And I think one of the biggest changes we made was really have a clinical team leader or front desk team leader. And actually not just in name, but they can actually.

[00:07:27] Hire team members. They can fire team members. They can, you know correctively coach team members, things that, you know, when we’re in patient’s mouths, we don’t have the time or opportunity to do a lot of that. So, things kind of keep getting brushed under the rug, so to speak.

[00:07:48] So I think that was a huge benefit of, you know, making some of those changes. But really, you know, one of the things that we learned along the way is, one of the biggest mistakes dentists make is not making change happen soon enough, either with the system or a team member that’s not doing a great job.

[00:08:09] We kind of like hang on to it longer than we should. Yeah, and so I’d say that’s probably one of the biggest mistakes we made was not do it soon enough and then therefore not be able to put those changes in place sooner.

[00:08:21] Chris Pistorius: Yeah, that’s great insight. You know, somebody told me you should always hire slow and fire fast, right?

[00:08:27] But it’s hard to, it’s easy to say that, but when you build a relationship with somebody and you know that their family depends on the job and it’s hard to make a change like that, you want to give them, you know, every benefit of the doubt and probably too much sometimes, you know? And so, it’s one of those things where you’ve gotta try to separate that and it’s tough to do.

[00:08:48] So you guys kind of have, Oh, I’m sorry. Go ahead.

[00:08:51] Drs. Steven and Barjesh Walters: I was just gonna say, I think we take ownership when somebody maybe isn’t performing their job to our expectations. It’s like, okay, have we done enough? Have we given enough coaching? Have we given enough training? Have we done all of those things?

[00:09:07] In marketing, you know, I could not do what we do in our practice without your assistance because that’s not my realm of expertise, so I need somebody guiding me with that. Makes huge difference.

[00:09:23] Chris Pistorius: Yeah, absolutely. It’s sometimes worth it to hire a professional, right? Like if I had to do my own taxes, I’d probably be already be in prison. Cause I don’t know how to do that and I’m never gonna learn how. So I’m gonna have a professional do that for sure. So yeah, I totally get that. So you guys kind of have a dynamic one two punch at your practice too. And it’s funny cuz I do interview quite a few kind of husband, wife doctors that are within the practice.

[00:09:52] So I’ve got two questions for you. First of all, has it been hard, or what are your tips to make a marriage work while you’re also working in the same place?

[00:10:02] Drs. Steven and Barjesh Walters: You take that. Maybe you should say this hard. Yeah, I mean, I don’t think it’s been hard at all. I can’t imagine it any other way to be honest.

[00:10:14] Now we have friends who are husband and wife dentists that do not practice together. Okay. So I think you have to know what your dynamic is and if, I think you’ll both really type A personalities. And you both want control of everything all the time, then that might be a lot harder. Where Steve and I have kind of divided things that naturally fit our abilities and our personalities and so there’s certain parts of the practice that I manage and happily give him the other parts.

[00:10:46] And so, you know, somebody asked us one time like what kind of corporation we were and I’m like, I dunno, Steve, what kinda corporation? It comes to like the tax stuff and the business stuff and, you know, follow him. I’m the numbers guy and, she’s the people person. So she does the HR and handles the staffing and, that sort of thing.

[00:11:09] And the marketing, you know, you handle that.

[00:11:12] Chris Pistorius: Yeah. That’s great. That’s what I’m talking about with that one, two punch. I think you’re absolutely right. If you have two people that are exactly the same, it’s gonna be hard, not necessarily not to get along. But, you know, you need somebody in there that’s good at one thing and you’re good at another thing, you know?

[00:11:27] And you guys also have kind of that dynamic going in the practice itself in terms of the services that you offer, right? Like I know Steve, you really specialize more a lot in the IV sedation, right?

[00:11:40] Drs. Steven and Barjesh Walters: Yeah, exactly. So, you know, again, with a lot of the training we’ve done and just my interest in providing that service, you know, I was kind of the one that went off and, got the training to do that.

[00:11:50] And you know, I think that’s been kind of my focus the last few years and I think, you know, Barjesh with, you know, the family and, kind of being more the person managing the household was, you know, kept with more of the restorative and the pediatric side of the practice. So, we were able to kind of divide it up.

[00:12:08] So it’s nice because I can get a lot of the restorative and, you know, seeing the kids and things like that on my schedule and, really focus on the longer, bigger cases, which it would be hard to do if I was also throwing a lot of hygiene checks and put things into my schedule. So that works.

[00:12:24] Chris Pistorius: Yeah.

[00:12:24] Narrator: Are you looking to grow your practice, but are a little unclear on what the best way is? Let us help you out. We have over 13 years of experience in helping practices just like yours, increased new patient growth. Just go to KicktartDental.com and sign up for a free strategy session where we will give you some great insights on how to take your practice to the next level.

[00:12:51] Chris Pistorius: So let’s talk a little bit about IV sedation, cuz I know that there’s a lot of dentists out there that if they’re not doing it now they’re, you know, it’s definitely something of interest to them. And I think it goes along with a little bit about what you’re saying is continually getting better and able to do more things and offer more services.

[00:13:07] Is that how you kind of got into that IV sedation side?

[00:13:10] Drs. Steven and Barjesh Walters: Well, I think that, and I just saw a need for it, honestly. I mean, I think all of us as dentists see patients who are just have such a high level of fear to have anything done, and for various reasons, one might be needle phobia, bad gag reflex, a bad experience in the past.

[00:13:27] There’s numerous reasons why tha t is you know, a challenge for people. But you know, I just saw a need for it and I felt it would be a good fit in our practice. And again, based on kind of the fact that we had done, you know, residencies, hospital based residencies, we had experience with sedation cases in the operating room at the hospital, and we trained, so we were comfortable with it.

[00:13:49] And then am I interested in doing more specialty services again, enjoying surgery and, root canal procedures and things like that just lent itself to doing these longer, more comprehensive cases with patients sedated so that’s kind of the impetus in the I started to focus more on that.

[00:14:10] Chris Pistorius: So you saw the need was there, and then after you implemented, I’m assuming you’ve been doing it so long, the need was definitely there. Right. Did you see an uptick in the practice after you started offering that?

[00:14:20] Drs. Steven and Barjesh Walters: Yeah. You know, I think as we started to let people know that we had that available you know, just word of mouth and, we did a little bit of just getting the word out, you know?

[00:14:30] By a different medium. I mean, we did a little bit of radio advertising, we did some web marketing, things like that. And then just talking to Dentist in town, actually we were just talking about how many patients we get from other Dentist in the city that have patients that have the need for this service.

[00:14:46] So just again, getting the word out and, letting people know that we had that available and word of mouth with patients that had it done telling other family members and friends, and it kind of blossomed after that.

[00:15:00] Chris Pistorius: Yeah. That’s awesome. Okay. And then, you know, I want to kind of stay in the realm of, you know, the family practice, because unless I’m incorrect, you have some more family members getting ready to join your practice, or maybe they already have, right?

[00:15:14] Drs. Steven and Barjesh Walters: They have, yes, our daughter and her husband. So we have a Steve and Barjesh 2.0, and we’re so excited about it. And we have another associate, Alicia, who has been with us for about three years. And yeah, the three of them are such a great team and we’re so excited to have them along with us. It’s exciting to see them learn and continue to grow, and all three of them are doing a great job.

[00:15:46] Chris Pistorius: Yeah, that’s great. So almost kind of, what is it? Would that be a third generation of dentist, right?

[00:15:53] Drs. Steven and Barjesh Walters: Yes. Third generation. So, yeah Christmas. Yes.

[00:15:56] Chris Pistorius: Yeah. So, okay. All right, so, you know, one thing that I want, you guys have had success so many years, and you know, I’ve been in business only 13 years, and I can tell you from that my success has really been from the people that I’ve hired because they play sun such an integral part and in the early days, I had trouble hiring people. I wasn’t good at it, and I honestly, I’m not sure that I’m that great at it now, but that can really make or break any business. And I would love to hear, and I know our audience would, any tips or tricks that you’ve learned over the years on how to find people but find quality people?

[00:16:39] And anything that you have on that I think would be extremely beneficial to our audience?

[00:16:46] Drs. Steven and Barjesh Walters: I think you’re absolutely right and we are nowhere without our team. I couldn’t make it through a day. I mean, my father and son-in-law, because they’re just recently out of their residency program. They know how to do everything with technology and all of that.

[00:17:05] And as we implemented new things, we are so reliant on our team, which is wonderful, but it also makes it so that then they are involved with hiring new team members. And so that’s been a great thing. I think we definitely would not have seen the growth. We have over the last 10 years without some of our key team members in place.

[00:17:33] And it’s really just finding people that buy your vision of your practice and really want to carry that out with you. And if you have a few, like two or three team members that really have bought in and are on the same page with you, and it’s heartwarming because sometimes when we’re not in the office all, and then when we return, they’ll say, yeah, you know, we have this situation.

[00:18:00] And I thought to myself, what would Dr. Barjesh do? And that’s what I did. And so, yeah, that’s really a blessing to have people like that. You know, right now, I think in the 30 years that we’ve been in practice right now is probably the biggest challenge we’ve had in finding team members and I think it’s across the board.

[00:18:23] Everyone I speak to, we have a lot of dentists in our family outside of, you know, the four of us even. My brother, I’ve lots of cousins who are dentists and everyone is experiencing that.

[00:18:36] Chris Pistorius: Yeah, they are.

[00:18:38] Drs. Steven and Barjesh Walters: Now, that’s a tough question to answer cuz I don’t know that I’m doing that so well just because I feel like the pool of applicants is pretty slim and because we are so team focused in that, even from care standpoint.

[00:19:01] My dental assistants are not just helping rooms and sucking spit. I mean, they are designing crowns, they’re scanning, they’re doing everything that, you know, assistance can legally do. They’re, you know, making temporaries, they’re doing everything. And so that’s a much higher skill level.

[00:19:22] Yeah. And I’m happy and willing to train somebody who has the ability and wants to learn, but lately it’s just been hard. We’re trying to kind of think outside the box when we’re looking for people, but in 30 years, I’ve never run into what we’re running into right now.

[00:19:42] Chris Pistorius: Yeah, you’ve gotta get creative and, you know, I don’t think anybody’s got an answer for it right now, but I bet if you start interviewing people like you in the next couple of years, you’re like, oh, well, this is what it took.

[00:19:54] But I gotta tell you, in my world we had to get really creative. I mean, we now offer employees one paid week off every 10 weeks and they have to take it off. And it’s created, I’m glad we did it now cause it’s actually turned out to be a good thing because our employees seem more refreshed, you know, they’re always looking forward to that, you know, after 10 weeks they’ve got a paid week and it makes ’em work better as a team because half the company goes on break every 10 weeks, right?

[00:20:26] So they’ve gotta make sure everybody’s caught up and, knows what’s going on. But the point of that is that, you know, five years ago I would’ve even thought of doing that. I’d be like, yeah, you’re lucky to get two weeks. Right? That’s not the atmosphere in, and you definitely gotta be creative and think outside of the box to get people to be interested in your company.

[00:20:44] So interesting dynamic for sure. Well, we’re wrapping up here, but I also wanted to get your opinion in the hiring realm of, I’m seeing more dental practices these days, hiring people with no experience, like a clean slate. And at first I was a little apprehensive thinking that’s not gonna work well, but to my dismay, It’s worked really well for people.

[00:21:09] And I want to know if you’ve done that before, if you’ve had that experience of, you know what, as long as they have a good personality and they’re hard workers and they’ve got those core things, you can’t teach the mentality of we can teach them to do these jobs. Have you done that before? And what’s been your experience?

[00:21:25] Drs. Steven and Barjesh Walters: We have done that before, and quite often, it ends successfully. But you hit the nail on the head. It is, they need to come in with those traits that you can’t teach. They need to have a really good attitude. They need to come to learn. They need to really have good communication skills, those types of things.

[00:21:45] And some of those things we can teach, but really there are some basic things that make a successful dental assistant or make a successful admin team member that we cannot teach. Cuz we’ve tried in the past, I’ve had team members come on board that have had years of experience and when they’re missing those few things, it’s very difficult to have long term success with that team member.

[00:22:11] I’ve had some team members who I actually hired as a sterilization assistant. Who then became a dental to chairside assistant and then became a clinical team leader and then actually is now working for a big chain flying all over opening offices. So really, it’s pretty remarkable how quickly you can get a team member up to speed if they have those few qualities.

[00:22:47] And even as a patient coordinator my office manager, April, has hired some team members that have come in with zero dental experience and have been some of the best team members we’ve had at the front desk.

[00:23:03] Yeah, that’s good.

[00:23:04] Chris Pistorius: And I think that opens up your pool of candidates, right? Because now you’re not just having to look for experienced people. You can really open it up. I mean, I made a job offer once to a waitress because she took such good care of us and had such an awesome attitude and just I was like, we can teach her to do some of this stuff.

[00:23:23] She has qualities that I can’t teach her, right? And so I think that’s what you’ve gotta start opening this up to for all you Dentist out there listening office managers, you know, if you’re just wanting to hire experienced people try it, I really think it’s long now, let me back up a little bit.

[00:23:40] Try it once you have a good training program documented and in place, would you guys agree with that?

[00:23:47] Drs. Steven and Barjesh Walters: Yes. It is.

[00:23:49] Chris Pistorius: It’s important. So anyway, I’ve gone over time here with you guys. I really appreciate you being with us, Dr. Walters and Dr. Walters. I would love to the opportunity maybe in a few months, check in with you guys and just see how things are going and see if the kids have completely taken over the practice already. Does that sound good?

[00:24:09] Drs. Steven and Barjesh Walters: Yes.

[00:24:09] Chris Pistorius: All right guys. Well thanks so much. I appreciate it. And we’ll talk to you very soon.

[00:24:16] Goodbye.

[00:24:16] Narrator: Thanks for joining us this week on the Dental Marketing Podcast. Make sure to visit our website, www.KickStartDental.com/podcast, where you can subscribe to the show in iTunes, Spotify, or via RSS so you’ll never miss a show.

[00:24:33] While you’re at it, if you found value in the show, we’d appreciate a rating on iTunes, or if you’d simply tell a friend about the show, that would help us out too. If you are ready to grow your practice, then you might want to schedule a free strategy session with us, just go to KickStartDental.com and click the free strategy session button and give us 15 minutes of your time to change your practice forever.

[00:24:56] Be sure to tune in next week for our next episode. And thanks for listening to The Dental Marketing Podcast by Kickstart Dental Marketing, where dentists go to win online.