Real-Life Tips & Tricks on Running a Successful Practice

This week on the No BS Dental Marketing Podcast, I was fortunate to chat with Dr. Steven Cohen and Dr. Michael Kotecki – two orthodontists who have achieved tremendous success in their practices based out of Philadelphia and New Jersey! In our discussion, they open up about tips for marketing your services as well as building a top-notch team that will help you reach new levels of growth. Tune into this episode to hear what these experts recommend!

Practices have come a long way over the years and technology plays a crucial role. Dr. Cohen and Dr. Kotecki understand that one of the most important aspects of running a successful practice is having strong partnerships with all stakeholders, from colleagues to patients. Good communication and compatibility are essential for creating an environment that feels like part of the community.

Their advice for opening or taking over a new practice is to focus on need rather than affluence, have good communication from the start, and embrace technology to enhance the patient experience. Technology can provide tools such as digital X-rays and patient education software which can improve overall efficiency in the office and make patients feel more at ease during their visit. By taking advantage of what technology has to offer, a practice has the potential to reach success.

Dr. Cohen and Dr. Kotecki understand that partnerships are essential to running a successful practice, so it’s important to create an environment where everyone feels like they can collaborate and contribute meaningfully. With strong partnerships and the right tools, any practice can harness its full potential for success.

Other subjects we covered on the show:

  • We get to know how Dr. Cohen and Dr. Kotecki have created a remarkable story of success: they’ve built their own dental practice from the ground up! With hard work, dedication, and resilience as cornerstones in their journey, these two inspiring individuals made it happen—proving anything is possible with enough determination.
  • They also emphasized that achieving financial success is not the only milestone on your journey to long-term growth. Make sure you prioritize building a good reputation too!

AND MORE TOPICS COVERED IN THE FULL INTERVIEW!!! You can check that out and subscribe at

If you want to know more about Dr. Steven Cohen and Dr. Michael Kotecki, you may reach out to them at:



[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.

[00:00:30] Chris Pistorius: Hey everybody. Welcome to the NO BS Dental Marketing podcast. I am your host, Chris Pistorius, and on this show we talk about straight to the point, no BS tactics, tricks, and strategies to help you grow your practice. Now, there’s no fluff here. There’s just great information that you can start using today to help increase your bottom.

[00:00:51] So if you’re a dental practice owner, a manager, a front desk professional, or really whatever, just be sure to click the subscribe button below or somewhere on this page so that you can make sure you keep up with all of our episodes and tips and tricks.

[00:01:05] So today I’ve got two great guests for us. I’ve got Dr. Steven Cohen and Dr. Michael Kotecki. They two very successful orthodontic practices in Philadelphia, as well as in Centerton, New Jersey guys welcome to the show and thanks for being here.

[00:01:24] Dr. Steven Cohen: Thanks for having us, Chris.

[00:01:25] Dr. Michael Kotecki: Thank you.

[00:01:26] Chris Pistorius: Yeah, so, you know, a lot of my audience, kind of like what we talked about in the pre show are you know, they’re dentists, they’re orthodontists or some sort of specialists and you know, they’re running businesses and you know, like I talk about a lot.

[00:01:40] Especially younger dentists coming outta school. Dental school I think does a great job obviously of creating really good dentists and orthodontists and whatnot, but sometimes they don’t always teach us how to run a business. Right. And how to be successful when you go run your own practice.

[00:01:57] And so this podcast really wants to expose some of that and give people just real life worldly tips and tricks on how they can be successful if they make that choice to run their own practice. So if you guys could maybe just give me a little background on, on yourselves and just how you got started with these practices.

[00:02:17] Dr. Steven Cohen: So, I’ll start. I started with an older orthodontist back in 1994 that was in Philly.

[00:02:26] So I saw an opportunity to integrate with an existing practice, which I think is still a really good model. And then later on I had an opportunity to start from scratch, which was really scary because you don’t have any patient base at all. So that opportunity to start a practice was really scary.

[00:02:49] I used all of the skills that I learned because you had mentioned dental school. Dental school and orthodontic residency program doesn’t prepare us for the real world, unfortunately. So I had a really good mentor that kind of guided me. And then the main aspect was treating people well. So our patients became I guess the life blood of the practice and then also the dentist that would refer those patients too.

[00:03:17] So I think really good communication helped foster a really good practice mantra that other colleagues really kind of bought into that it was a good place for their patients. So they would continue to refer. Mike is in a different kind of spectrum, so to speak, in terms of coming in, he might offer some different views. So I’ll let you chime in there, Mike.

[00:03:41] Dr. Michael Kotecki: Yeah, sure. So, I graduated dental school in 2016 from Columbia. I was in the Army Scholarship, so did couple years down in Georgia and the Army as a general dentist. You definitely don’t have to market at all, in the army, patients are they’re scheduled and they’re coming on.

[00:03:57] That’s their orders, so they’re coming. But yeah. Then after that did residency at Einstein for orthodontics. That’s where I met Dr. Cohen. I think that stood out really to me with his practice was the technology, kind of the modern way of approaching orthodontics. Got to hear him lecture at sone of our meetings talking about 3D printing, digital orthodontics, and I was just like, mine was blown.

[00:04:18] And that’s I’m sure we’ll get into that a little more, but that’s kind of where I started, and where I’m at now.

[00:04:23] Chris Pistorius: Gotcha. That’s awesome. So, you know, you guys, and Dr. Cohen, how long have you been in business on your own now?

[00:04:31] Dr. Steven Cohen: Since 94, and graduated residency program probably on a Friday and went to work on a Monday. No rest for the weary. So it’s been a little while.

[00:04:44] Chris Pistorius: Right. So I guess for both of you, if I’ll ask you both this question. You know, there’s a lot of dentists, and orthodontists out there that are fine just working for somebody else. Right. What is it about you that made you wanna make that decision to run your own practice?

[00:05:00] Dr. Steven Cohen: You know, I never envisioned myself working for someone else. I think there was always a goal in school that you would have your own office. And you know, people talk about the golden age of practice. People talk about it being over, you know, is it done? Certainly the dynamics of the profession are changing, just like the dynamics of any other business change through time.

[00:05:27] But I always knew that I wanted my own thing. So from early on I tried to affiliate with someone that I thought was going to be at the end of their life expectancy so that I can kind of assume that and start in my own practice was almost I didn’t really consider it, it was just an opportunity where a building became available in the town where I live.

[00:05:54] And I said, if I don’t do this, someone else will. So I did it. I don’t regret it. But two headache, or I don’t wanna say two headaches, two offices, two sets of responsibilities. I’ve heard colleagues talk about, you know, it’s two sets of headaches they wanna minimize that.

[00:06:14] Me, I looked at that as opportunities. Was there an opportunity to improve, grow, you don’t know at the time, unless you, you take that opportunity. One door closes, one, one window opens.

[00:06:28] Chris Pistorius: Yeah. So how, and I’ll get right back to you, Mike, but how long was it between the time you opened your first office and your second?

[00:06:35] Dr. Steven Cohen: It was about, 12 years.

[00:06:39] Chris Pistorius: Okay. So it took about 12 years to get to that second location. Okay. And then Mike, tell me why do you wanna be and what is it about ownership for you that really wants to take you that path in your career?

[00:06:52] Dr. Michael Kotecki: Yeah. I think for me, you know, I did a year off before I started dental school, and then I was in the Army, so I’m 34 when I get outta school, I’m watching all my friends. You know, have babies and may be making money for those 12 years while I’m still in school.

[00:07:10] So for me it was, you know, I wanted to get into ownership right away and just have that autonomy, being able to practice how I want when I want, and just be able to lead a team.

[00:07:21] Chris Pistorius: Yeah. Okay. Dr. Cohen, what would you change? I mean, say, you know, you, you come out, you start your own practice. You said there was a building available, so you took it. What would you change in that first couple of years if you had to do it all over again right now?

[00:07:36] Dr. Steven Cohen: Oh gosh.

[00:07:37] Chris Pistorius: I guess another way I could put it is did you make any critical mistakes in that, your first year or two, figuring it out, that if you could tell somebody, don’t do this or this.

[00:07:47] Dr. Steven Cohen: You know, I’ve approached life in practice almost the way Wayne Gretzky said is, you know, the shot not taken as the shot not missed, or some variation of that.

[00:08:00] Yeah. I’m sure I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way, but, you know, they’re not mission critical. They’re, you know, I’m not a significant risk taker. Could I have taken out a significant loan? Sure. I could have in 06, took out a loan and done some grand stuff.

[00:08:21] And then we all know that the economy fell out in 07 and, you know, orthodontists were opening up their offices, and there were tough times. I didn’t want to do that. I think what was important to me was being able to spend time with my family, that would be the biggest regret I think in this whole process.

[00:08:43] Practice owners typically get joined to their practice. If I were to say married you’re married to it. So there are some things that get sacrificed along the way. And I wish, and I did do a really good job. There were times where I spent more time with my kids and then my wife was working, and then I was working a little bit less until the right opportunities start to fall a place.

[00:09:07] I don’t think I would change that. I just wish I maybe I had more time in a day that I could accomplish all the tasks. It seems like it’s a never-ending inbox. You know, if we had 28 hours in a day, that would be perfect for me cuz I’m either the fish that’s swimming or I’m asleep, so I just need more time in a day. That’d be the only thing that I would want to repeat.

[00:09:31] Chris Pistorius: Yeah. Yeah, I hear you there. I know how you feel with that. Dr. Kotecki, you know, I think that a lot of, you know, we represent a few dentists here at Kickstart and I’ve worked with several that have come from a military background, and I think that’s interesting for a lot of people that’ll be watching this, that are maybe thinking about even just getting into dentistry or starting dental school.

[00:09:54] Why the military for you, why the Army option? Why did that work for you?

[00:10:00] Dr. Michael Kotecki: Yeah, so my cousin was doing RO T C for the Marines at the time when I was applying to dental school, and that kind of inspired me. I had a few, you know, family members in the military and, you know, interested in serving my country.

[00:10:13] And I also just felt like the training I was gonna get in there was just gonna be top notch, which it was the mentorship, the training, the leadership. It’s just, yeah, I’d recommend anyone to do it. Honestly, you come outta school debt free. You get great training. The facilities are unbelievable.

[00:10:31] You know, you come outta dental school, you know, you’re cleaning your own chairs and everything. All of a sudden I’ve got my own two chairs with my own two assistants in this beautiful off, you know, location. Like amazing. So, I definitely recommend anyone do it. The leadership I was in charge of infection control at my base.

[00:10:50] So, we’ve got five dental clinics. Probably 60 dentists and I’m right outta school and they just give me this job. I’m in charge of infection control and I gotta figure out how to do that for the whole base and just what I learned from doing that and the leadership and everything like that was invaluable. So, definitely greatful that I did that.

[00:11:10] Chris Pistorius: Yeah, that’s awesome. Well, thank you for your service, by the way. I don’t know if I’d said that yet, but it’s, you know, I have the utmost respect for anybody in the military. And so I think that’s a very honorable and respective way to go about. Becoming any sort of a professional, much less a dentist.

[00:11:26] So incredible story. Dr. Cohen, 12 years goes by and you decide at some point it’s time to do this again. Let’s have another practice. And I’m sure there’s some, you know, financial motivation behind that. You know, obviously that opens up another profit center for a practice like you.

[00:11:45] But was that your main motivation? What was your thinking there on, okay, I’ve done this 11 years, I’m ready to open another one.

[00:11:52] Dr. Steven Cohen: No. It was almost, it was probably less of a profit, believe it or not. And it was a really difficult decision because at the time when I was associated with the first orthodontist in Philadelphia, I was program director at at Einstein’s residency program where Dr. Kotecki and I met, and I still teach.

[00:12:14] So it required me stepping down and making that really difficult decision. Not a transition, but a decision because I really enjoy academics. I really enjoy interacting and I enjoy teaching. So I looked at it almost like setting up a life plan or a transition. I live about a mile and a half from the office.

[00:12:36] You know, I’m kind of like the town orthodontist. It’s really small. So if I were to say the town doctor, there’s probably only, there’s a family practice and then I’m like the other Doctor that’s there. So, you know, that was gonna be a significant change. It was kind of circumstances.

[00:12:54] It seemed like the right thing to do when you trust your gut. So that’s why I decided to do it. But it was a tough decision. It wasn’t an easy one. And I still kind of motivated myself to be involved with academics and the practice, which I guess if I went back to the question, if I could do anything differently, if I could have perfected cloning myself, that would’ve been another opportunity where I could be everywhere and be the same guy.

[00:13:26] Chris Pistorius: Yeah, no, totally understand that for sure. Let’s talk about partnerships. You know, I do get asked from time to time on, you know, some of our clients that run their own practice, they get lonely sometimes and they feel like that it’s good to have a partner in business to be able to run things by and get feedback and, you know, kind of have that ownership. Relationship. Right.

[00:13:52] And maybe you guys could both fill me in on your guys’ partnership, how you, I think you said you met in some more academic way, but how did you guys both know that maybe working together was gonna be a good fit for you? And, and Dr. Cohen, you had already established this practice.

[00:14:10] I mean, why did you feel like you needed that?

[00:14:14] Dr. Steven Cohen: So I’ll go first and then. Dr. Kotecki could go. So, you know, I was always motivating residents to make sure they had their resumes out, and what opportunities existed. And then I just said, don’t forget the old guy in the corner and that was, I think that may have been the pretext for, you know, like you, you’re not old, but that aspect of a togetherness, you know, bouncing things off. Yeah, I’ve been in charge of my own world for a long time, and you make your own decisions. I view it as a refreshing opportunity because, I’m still learning. I’m learning every day. So I learn from Dr. Kotecki.

[00:15:01] You know, he learns from me. And that cliche, two heads are better than one. I think it’s a tremendous, again, opportunity to blast off. And I would definitely encourage doctors in the same position, let’s say, at their life to consider that some of us are control freaks.

[00:15:23] And I say some of us, because I’m including myself in that. And there’s a tremendous amount of restraint. I think that you have to have to relinquish some of that control, but when you do, it allows things to kind of blossom. And that’s what I look at in terms of that opportunity.

[00:15:47] Dr. Michael Kotecki: Yeah. For me, I mean, yeah, I remember when he said that old guys in the corner, forget about me, and you’re not old. I mean, yeah, I was, you know, you’re coming outta residency, you’re seeing six patients today, and then you’re all of a sudden the next week you’re seeing 60 patients day or a hundred patients a day, whatever it is, like you need some mentor, or at least I thought it felt like I need a mentorship along that process.

[00:16:09] So luckily Dr. Cohen said that that day. And it’s been great. Honestly, like today, we’re in different offices. We each are seeing patients in each office for half a day. And then some days we’re together. And just those days when we’re together and all the chairs are full and we’re bouncing back and forth and we’re talking about patients, that’s just awesome to like be doing that together, learning from each other. It’s really cool.

[00:16:32] Chris Pistorius: Yeah, that’s incredible to have a partnership that, you know, and not all partnerships work, right? I mean, that’s the way human nature is. But you know, you guys certainly seem like you both have good temperaments about it, and you know, it’s a difficult decision to make when you go into to a partnership, but I think compatibility is a huge thing.

[00:16:56] And especially with you guys having some history, that definitely helps as well.

[00:17:00] 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, increase new patient growth. Just go to 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.

[00:17:27] Chris Pistorius: I guess for both of you, what I want to ask is, what’s one piece of advice that you would give to somebody that’s thinking of opening their own practice? What would be the number one thing you would have them think about first?

[00:17:46] Dr. Steven Cohen: So, for me, I would approach things. Maybe slightly differently rather than looking at opportunities demographics, opportunity for growth.

[00:18:04] I would look less in terms of areas of, let’s say affluence and I would look at need, you know, and how I say that is we’re practicing in the Northeast and the northeast is saturated, but there are still practices that are starting and being taken over. You know, if you want less competition, go to less competitive areas.

[00:18:29] There was one time when I was looking at opportunities and while you’re in school at one meeting, guy said, you know, you gotta move to the Midwest, Dr. Cohen. And, you know, I don’t know anyone in the Midwest, but he said, you know, Michigan’s looking for practices. And I’m envious of the individuals that just pack up and move.

[00:18:51] I wasn’t one of those individuals. I was kind of like, all right, you know, I want to be here. But I would say look at demographics. Look at maybe areas that could potentially be underserved and you might have a greater opportunity to have a little bit more of a jumpstart to be successful.

[00:19:12] And if you were taking over a practice, I would say communication. You gotta have really good communication from the very beginning. Talking about things almost ensures your success. It can’t talk, you’re gonna fail.

[00:19:29] Chris Pistorius: Awesome.

[00:19:31] Dr. Michael Kotecki: Yeah, I’d definitely agree with all that. And kind of along those lines, if it’s just somewhere where you can really feel like a part of that community, like, and centered in like Dr. Cohen said, it’s a small town and we’re like the small town orthodontists. Everybody knows everybody. Our assistants know everybody. Our assistants friends are coming in, their nieces, their nephews, you know, in South Philly, that’s a small, kind of a small town within a big city.

[00:19:56] I’m right up the street from this office, Dr. Cohen’s right up the street from that office. Just getting that like community feel, I think really helps spread the word and will help you get a good start.

[00:20:09] Chris Pistorius: Awesome. Okay, well I’m gonna wrap up with one question that nobody really likes when I do this, and that’s why I didn’t prepare you guys for it.

[00:20:16] Just so keep you on edge a little bit. But I’m want you both to answer this. What’s one question that you wish I would’ve asked you today and how would you have answered it?

[00:20:29] That’s a tough one, huh? That’s my jeopardy music. You got one, Mike?

[00:20:35] Dr. Michael Kotecki: I got one.

[00:20:36] Chris Pistorius: All right. Go ahead.

[00:20:37] Dr. Michael Kotecki: It would be, you know, what separates you from other offices?

[00:20:43] Chris Pistorius: Hmm. That’s a good one, putting that on my list. This is why I asked that. gives me ideas.

[00:20:53] Dr. Michael Kotecki: Should I answer it or?

[00:20:54] Chris Pistorius: Oh, please, please. Yes.

[00:20:57] Dr. Michael Kotecki: So it goes back to the technology I think that I mentioned at the very beginning. You know, we’re 3D scanning C B C. We’re printing all our own aligners using ulab, moving all our own teeth. 3D printing night guards, like whatever the latest thing is.

[00:21:13] We’re doing it, we’re trying it. And I think the patients really appreciate that and it’s just really cool.

[00:21:20] Chris Pistorius: Do you think, I want to expand on that a little bit. Do you think marketing-wise, and when you’re talking with patients that, you know, like even when front desk people answer the phones and just ask question or answer questions, do you think it’s important to talk about the technology side of your industry?

[00:21:38] Dr. Michael Kotecki: Yeah. And we’ve been trying to do that more. I mean,ever since I started we’re the spiel is always like, you know, we don’t do the goofy molds anymore. Remember those mom when you got braces? Like here’s our 3D scan. Lately we’ve been doing our three shaped scan at the beginning, and just today I’m doing a consult, and then I’ve got touchscreen, laptop, we’re looking at the models. And you just see like their eyes light up.

[00:22:04] Chris Pistorius: Yeah. I think it’s important to talk about, especially in your industry with the parents, hey, remember when we used to do it this way? Well, this is how it’s changed. So,you’re putting that technology kind of into layman’s terms that anybody, you know, like myself would be able to understand so.

[00:22:19] Dr. Michael Kotecki: Right. And completely like we’re doing that the next level, I guess, is kind of like, remember Invisalign now we’re doing it all ourselves, controlling everything ourself, printing it here in the basement. So if you need a new tray, give us a call. We’ll make one that day. So that kind of a thing is what we’re really trying to talk about more.

[00:22:40] Chris Pistorius: Yeah. And Steve, I’m not letting you off the hook. So, what’s your answer?

[00:22:46] Dr. Steven Cohen: All right. So do you want me to answer Dr. Kotecki’s question?

[00:22:51] Chris Pistorius: No. Do you have a question? Do you have an example? Yeah.

[00:22:54] Dr. Steven Cohen: How would you grade your success?

[00:22:58] Chris Pistorius: Hmm, that’s a good one.

[00:23:00] Dr. Steven Cohen: So, I think a lot of us do focus on dollars, and, you know, I think that most dentists, most orthodontists, specialists, we’re all successful. We all do okay financially. I think that my greatest success is being privileged to have a good reputation. So, I think of that the most because that carries you during the really good times. It carries you during the challenging times.

[00:23:35] And how you build your reputation is by taking a lot of what Dr. Kotecki mentioned in terms of we use all this technology. I view it as fun, it’s keeping it alive. But we’re using that technology really to enhance the patient experience, which then comes back to our reputation. So, you know, patients know where their care can be trusted, where they can go.

[00:24:08] They’re gonna know when they’re getting the best care possible. And not just us, but any practice, you have to embrace the technology that’s available. That’s the stuff that costs money. That’s where you’re gonna end up taking your loans out, but that’s going to enhance your reputation.

[00:24:25] It’s gonna enhance your overall patient experience, and then it’s gonna build your reputation. So don’t just look at the financials As we come to the end of the year and I look at the financials, but I also have to be reminded of how good it’s been.

[00:24:41] Chris Pistorius: Yeah, that’s great, that’s a great piece of advice, and that was awesome. We’re gonna wrap this up. I’d love to maybe reconnect with you guys in a few months and just get updates and, you know, just kind of see how things have changed for you at all and how 2023 is going, if that’s okay with you?

[00:24:58] Dr. Steven Cohen: Sounds great.

[00:24:59] Chris Pistorius: Awesome. Well, thanks again guys, for being on. I appreciate your time. Looking forward to great 2023 for you and everybody else. Thanks so much for listening in today. If you like today’s episode, please do hit that subscribe button. We release a new episode like this every week to help busy dental professionals like you and to help you get the most out of your practice.

[00:25:20] Or if you’re thinking about starting your own practice as you learned today. There’s lots of great advice that you can get from people. So appreciate everybody watching. Thank you so much, and we’ll be sure to see you in the next episode.

[00:25:33] Narrator: Thanks for joining us this week on the Dental Marketing Podcast. Make sure to visit our website,, where you can subscribe to the show in iTunes, Spotify, or via rss so you’ll never miss a show. 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.

[00:25:56] 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 and click the free strategy session button and give us 15 minutes of your time to change your practice forever. Be sure to tune in next week for our next episode.

[00:26:15] And thanks for listening to The Dental Marketing Podcast by Kickstart Dental Marketing, where dentists go to win online.