"Well, that day on top of the stack of unopened mail on my desk was a 3x5 yellow card. It was pure and simple and spoke straight to my pain. It said “Doctor, Have You Had Enough? Is it Time You Take Control of Your Life? Call This Number For A Free Consultation.” I closed the door to my tiny office, sat down at my messy desk and made the call that changed my life."
In The Beginning
Back in the sixties one of my favorite bands was “3 Dog Night”. Little did I know I was in for a 3 dog life. The first dog was a playful pup, only interested in girls and getting through school with as little effort as possible - in that order. God had his hand on me when I met Jan Gates. Looking back after 42 years of marriage, we are both confused as to what attracted her to me. She says somewhere under that long hair and deep in those marijuana glazed eyes she saw potential.
I am not sure if my insatiable desire to please is a strength or a weakness but, in this case, it flung me head long into a course that would take me to dental school. I would like to say seven years, marrying Jan, starting a family, and finishing dental school made me a better person, but that was not the case. Although I had a solo practice back in my home town of Guthrie, Oklahoma, two sons and an over-supportive wife, I found myself with a practice full of unhappy patients, miserable staff and an anemic bank account. The only evidence of my hard work was an abundance of past due bills and overloaded credit cards.
Rebuilding My Life
The second dog life was a bulldog. I remember the day just like it was yesterday. It was June 25, 1987. I will never forget how I felt that day, walking into my office after the worst week of my life. I had just buried my 2 year old son who had died in a tragic accident. I was still feeling the pain of that and the embarrassment of having to pay for his burial with yet another credit card. I had been out of the office for a week and knew I was facing a schedule full of folks who were half ticked and a pile of unopened mail.
Well, that day on top of the stack of unopened mail on my desk was a 3x5 yellow card. I am sure that card had been in my mail many times before and, in my busyness, it was perceived as just junk mail, but that day I picked it up and read it. It was pure and simple and spoke straight to my pain. It said “Doctor, Have You Had Enough? Is it Time You Take Control of Your Life? Call This Number For A Free Consultation.” I closed the door to my tiny office, sat down at my messy desk and made the call that changed my life. That day that 3 x 5 yellow post card and once perceived pest became a welcome guest.
The person who answered my desperate call was good. He asked the right questions, was empathetic with my pain and even though, I didn’t want to hear it, told me exactly what I needed to do next. He said “Doctor, we can help. However, you will need to be in Glendale, CA for a training program next week”.
I believe it was Mark Twain who said there are basically 2 kinds of folks, those with excuses and those with results. If I was looking for excuses that day, I had a few to pick from. I had just buried my son. I had been out of the office for a week already. Nathan, my surviving son, and my wife needed me at home for emotional support. I would need another credit card. These were just a few. However that day I was not looking for excuses, I was looking for relief. So, I applied for another credit card, told my bewildered receptionist that I was taking off another week, kissed my son and wife good bye and the bulldog headed off to Glendale for the journey that brought me here today.
My Life Now
My third dog life is a Saint Bernard. After hundreds of hours in classes, a stack of continuing education cassettes (this dates me), and a six-figure investment in my business education, I was able to take my fledgling dental practice from the bottom to one of the top 1% producing solo practices in the U.S. In my St. Bernard life stage, as I became more successful, I was invited to be a guest speaker in several diverse venues. Although I was fortunate to share the stage with many prestigious pros like Zig Zigglar, John Maxwell and Roger Staughbach, my favorite audience was dental students. I was and am still regularly invited to speak to junior and senior dental students on dental management. Being thrust back into the academic environment, I learned something distressing. For various reasons, dental manpower in the rural communities was trending downward. Very few new graduates had the financial resources and the professional confidence to venture out to these communities and set up a practice.
In the Oklahoma market, there are more dentists dying or retiring than new graduates willing to replace them. In 2001 I had a long-time friend and colleague approached me about working in my office after he fulfilled his service obligation to the Indian Health Service. I was hesitant because over the years I had tried and failed miserably in incorporating an associate into my practice. Not wanting to say no, I had another idea. By this time I had developed a very successful practice with proprietary systems. Could I help my friend duplicate my success in another location?
We launched what was to become the second Custom Dental practice in July of 2002. Today, Christ-directed, leadership-driven Custom Dental has replicated itself many times in Texas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma, and we have plans to add many more. The unique operating model allows a dentist to be in business for themselves but not by themselves. In 2008, I left chair side practice to support and mentor my partner docs as Custom Dental has become the fastest-growing owner-operated joint-venture dental business in the world.