Are you burned out? Wearing yourself too thin? In danger of mental/emotional/physical health interrupting your day to day work in your dental practice? Listen to this episode NOW to hear Dr. Davenport and Dr. John discuss capacity blockage solutions and other ways to implement systems within your practice to help you have a fulfilling dental career AND an exit strategy. Do not miss this story, much like Dr. John’s of solutions to problems you may not realize you have that will have your practice growing by tomorrow.
“EP59: Ready to GROW with Dr. Dick Davenport” Transcript:
Thank you, John. Happy to be with you.
Appreciate you being on today. Dr. Davenport is one of the members of our CEO Mastermind, which is a group that works on building an enterprise. Running a practice is one set of skills, but building a dental enterprise is another set. And he’s in the process of mastering those things, so I thought it would be a good conversation and I wondered if you could just let our listeners in a little bit on your dental story. Kind of, where did you start and what were some of the key points, milestones in your career and where are you now?
Okay. Well I graduated from dental school in 1982 from Houston and immediately moved to the Laredo area. I had a four -year public health commitment to fulfill and I ended up staying eight years. And then I went in to private practice in 1990. I shared space with a dentist and started out with two operatories and I don’t know how many months that situation lasted, but eventually I got busy enough that I needed to expand. And it just so happened there was a space right next door to us that opened up. So I closed up the hole in the wall I had created in his office and broke into the next office to four operatories. Stayed there until 1998 when I moved to my current location with eight operatories, and at that time I never thought I would fill it up. My first associate probably came in around 1999, she stayed a year. She got married and moved to Amarillo and then I went back solo until about 2001, 2002 and my current senior associate joined us at that time. And we stayed as– well, when he came in we were just the two of us and two hygienists, we eventually grew to a third hygienist and stayed that way until 2014 when my youngest son graduated from San Antonio and came back and joined the practice. We were all– I mean, three dentists and three hygienists and eight operatory office and that’s very, very crowded. And we were going through creating transition documents and the company we were working with pointed out the fact that I was holding back my son by making him work in such tight quarters. So we decided to open the second location and this was in 2016. And that’s how we ended up with the second location, it was just a brief conversation with someone during a legal process and it’s, kind of, taken us to where we are today or least close to where we are today. Anything else you want to know [about?]?
Yeah. That’s fantastic. So along the way, you had a few bumps, right? So there was largely smoothness but a bump or two along the way. Any story you want to share about a point of frustration or point of difficulty?
There’s a lot of them. Running a small business [in?] a dental practice is difficult and it’s never a straight line up. It’s always a lot of peaks and valleys and sometimes those valleys are very, very tough, and even years into a practice you can run through periods of time when you’re paying your staff but you’re not paying yourself and we went through a few of those. And then there’s associate issues, always the personnel issues, and then in October 2016, I had a health issue. I survived a heart attack in 2016 and that’s kind of what led me to TTI, and I had to find a way to transition away from being the person who did everything and that’s truly what I did. I was not a very good delegator and I ruled my practice with an iron fist, and that’s the way I’d done it since the beginning and it worked great until it didn’t.
Yeah. I appreciate you bringing it up and bringing it up in that way because it was one of the things that I wanted to, first of all, really commend you on in the changes that you’ve made in the last couple years. I’ve had a chance to watch you and watch how you work with your team and watch how your team has risen, really. And so at one point, I would say you were kind of relatively high on the micro-manager scale, and you’ve really backed away from that, and I’ve watched your team just grow and grow and grow. Their capabilities get better, their judgment gets better, their commitment level gets better. You really have a highly engaged leadership team, so tell me about that process. How did you begin letting go because most of us really find it difficult to do that.
Well, I mean, after my heart attack, my wife set me and my son down and said, “Something had to change.” Right? And, I mean, his practice was not performing at the level we wanted it to, so during that conversation, he said, “Well, mom, that’s great, but my practice is kind of floundering, so we still have to do something.” So we made some personal changes at his office, and even that was pretty stressful on me and she got a little bit more forceful and said, “We have to find a way to change this.” This was in November which is, I guess, when you send out your email blast for the summit– your first email blast, I guess, and that was right before the New Orleans summit, so I told Matt and Kim, who is now our practice manager that I thought we should go. And so we went to New Orleans and I left the decision up to Matt and Kim. I said, “I think we should do up at– y’all are the two that will have to carry it forward.” And after the first day of the summit, they decided we would sign up with you. And then, that’s when we found out when we had to create a leadership team, which [laughter] I had– I don’t even know how many employees I had. But I looked at Joan. And I said, “Who’s going to do this [laughter]?” And she gave me a couple of names and two of our hygienists, one of our hygienists had just recently divorced and was about to move. And she said she would stay for another year just to help us with the transition. And the assistant that I didn’t think would really do agreed to do it. And so we took off to Louisville June ’18 with me and Matt, one hygienist and one dental assistant. Kim delivered her baby– her second baby on the day as we were flying to Louisville. So it was the four of us up there and had no idea what we were getting into. And we got exposed to these other practices that were working through leadership teams. And we got a better idea of what we needed to do and to look for. So really, my key to success to just go all-in with leadership. And so over time, I don’t really recall how many months we– I’m a chemist over at both practice locations. So she’s our practice manager. And at each location, we have a front desk, which serves as our office manager. And then, we have a hygiene leader and a chairside leader. So we have a leadership team of 17 people. And a couple of weeks ago, we increased it to 8 because our dental assistant leader at my office was having trouble implementing things. So we brought in a second one that was a little bit better at making sure things get done, not just coming up with ideas. So now, we have a leadership team of 8 people. And they’ve taped them over. I mean, when we had our first hygiene explosion was Robin, it’s like I walked out of there, told Matt– I said, “I just don’t see how this is going to work. And all of my staff said, “No, it’ll work,” and, “We’ll make it work.” And they’re right. And all I did was back off and let them do it. And I mean, there was certainly mistakes made along the way. But they weren’t major mistakes. And they were all done with the right intention. It’s been phenomenal for us. I mean, it’s just been a total– total transition for my process.
If you’re like me, the– if you have done all of this stuff, there probably still would’ve been some mistakes because you would’ve learned some stuff along the way. And so as it turns out when I look back at anything I did, it’s usually 85 or 80 percent good. There’s 10 or 15 percent that I– or 20% or whatever that I could’ve done better. And when I hand it off to somebody else, it’s the same kind of thing. They get it 85, 80 percent of the way, something like that. But the stuff they missed were different from the things I missed. And so we tend to judge that. But you didn’t do that. You just kind of let them go. Let them learn from it. And that was really fantastic. So the hygiene explosion for those of you who aren’t familiar– that is one of the team– that is when one of the team training institute hygiene coaches come into an office and really teach the team on how to have a highly-efficient and really exceptional patient experience going through one of the three roles of hygiene. And it often causes a tremendous uptick in productivity. And I know that’s what you guys had. And so if you’re in the middle of everything, you’re in the middle of everything. And the way you step back and let your team rise really was a big step, wasn’t it?
Oh, it was. We certainly wouldn’t be where we’re at if I had tried to control everything myself. There’s just too much to be done. And then, the other thing you miss, or that I discovered, that I was holding them back, the lack of enthusiasm if there’s only one person doing everything. You need a team that’s buying into the overall process and working together to try to achieve a goal. And so they really took to that. I mean it’s been a lot of work. We have a lot of meetings. Don’t get me wrong. We work at it week after week after week. And we do our quarterly leadership meetings, where we go through and we establish goals, our 90-day sprint, and we assign tasks to everyone, and we follow them and make sure it gets done. We try to hold everyone accountable, but I’m not looking over their shoulder while they do everything that’s on their list. And, I mean, the benefit is, I mean– occasionally I see Kim’s door closed, and I know she’s having a conversation with someone. But I get the general idea later of what happened. But she never fills me in with the details because I really don’t need to know.
You don’t need to know because she’s taking care of it. The other thing that I’ve noticed about your team, and this happens virtually with everyone when they get a team together that understands their values, that understands their mission, understands the plan, is they bring their energy to it. And if you don’t have all that in place, it seems like the owner and the founder is the one that’s giving all the energy. They’re the ones that are driving everything, and it’s exhausting, isn’t it?
Oh, it is. And it’s impossible to continue long-term, especially when you get to a practice the size that we have. You just can’t do it.
So you were kind of forced into the growth situation by a combination of your son joining the practice and the associate getting more productive, and. I was just curious how you’re looking at growth right now. First of all, what’s kind of your three-year plan? And then what are kind of the next steps on getting there?
Well, I mean, actually on Friday, we just had our first quarter leader meeting, where we go through, follow the template, basically, of the vision day that we did. And we look at our one year, two year, and three-year goals, and where we’re at and how close we are to them, how we’re going to get to where we want to go. And, I mean, we came pretty close to the first year. And, I mean, we look at growth now, until the guy with the transition team told me that I was stifling Matthew, I didn’t really know what capacity blockage was. And he didn’t use that exact term, but when we left Louisville, we were quite aware of our capacity blockage, both through facility and staff. And so we have a much better understanding of what’s holding our growth back and which for us it’s mainly capacity, and, right now, just lack of a doctor. We need one additional doctor, but the problem is that probably within six months of bringing this doctor, we’re going to be facility capacity [locked?] again. And then we’ll have a real issue of what we’re going to do, whether we just stay at the two locations, or do we expand? And at my practice we– because my son and I are at different locations, we’ve now implemented evening hours so my office is open from 8:30 to 7:30, Monday through Thursday, as well as 8:30 to 4:00 on Fridays. So we’ve tried everything we can to expand capacity at my office, and I’m assuming we’ll do the same thing at Matt’s office whenever we get an additional dentist because there’s just no more square footage available.
And the problem with that is you expand your hours into the hours that are convenient for patients and all of a sudden you’ve got a lot more patients and a lot more people to take care of.
It is, yeah.
It’s very, very predictable. As you grow, you build another office, now you borrow some more money, and the closer you get to retirement, and the closer you get to wanting to be out of the practice, a lot of doctors worry about that debt. They may have listened to Dave Ramsey who says no debt’s good for business people, and all that. So I’m curious how you are thinking about and looking at that.
Well, we’ve assumed a lot of debt in the last two years– the last three years, I guess, since 2016. Obviously, we built the second office, and that was quite of an investment, which wasn’t totally unanticipated, but then after we left [inaudible] one of our capacity blockage solutions was to convert my consultation room into an operatory, and, of course, I had some like 25-year-old A-dec equipment in there, and my wife walked in and said, “Well, you’re going to have to replace everything.” And at the end of this month, we will have slowly– or we we complete the slow transition of completely redoing my office. I mean, we moved walls, we redid floors, all new cabinetry, all new equipment. And the message we’re trying to send is, “While I’m not going to be there, I have at this point 28 employees that fully would like to continue working once I leave.” So we’re just trying to build a business that will carry on a life of its own without me being there, and the debt was quickly be paid off. I mean, it’s producing a lot of money.
And that’s the thing, and as the enterprise grows, the income pays off the debt and you’re not working as much as you were. And you’ll quickly come to the point where going into work or not is really kind of a decision or choice not using retirement assets, right? Just from the income generated from the practices, you’ll be able to live on that not touching any of your retirement, and you’ll be able to ride that really a very long ways, right?
I think so because early on I thought– when Matt first graduated from dental school, I thought he would be there two to three years and I would probably retire. And that would have put me a 62 or so, more or less. And I quickly realized I was much too young to retire. And but now with the pace I’m doing now, because I only work– I only see patients four hours a day, four days a week. And so it’s– dentistry is now a hobby for me as much as anything, but this horse is going to allow me to pretty much stay on this road until I just want to leave on my own free will. And whether that’s 68 or 70. And like you said, my retirement income is just continuing to grow. It’s not being touched at all.
And that’s the beautiful thing about having an enterprise and why the TTI CEO Mastermind Group is so good because it really helps people see that, see how to do it, all the mechanics of that. Now you’ve really, for your associate doctor and your son, you’ve really created kind of, I think, a unique and special place for them to have great careers. And so, wonder if you talk a little bit about the things that you do to make it a great experience for associates and kind of, some of the secrets that you have that have helped you to be so successful with that.
I mean, we just treat people right. I mean, my senior associate came in with– we initially had a contract, it was a two-year contract and about 18 months into it, I told him, I said, “It’s time to renegotiate.” And he said, “No, just a handshake.” So he and I have been on a handshake agreement for 16 years. And now he’s just– I have a certain things I expect from people and I guess I’m pretty good at making sure they’re aware of those but then I just keep my word. I treat people the way I would like to be treated. And we, I mean, now, obviously, my senior associate doesn’t need any mentoring. But Matt occasionally still needs mentoring. I have my third associate, whose been with us for about 15 months. And I mean, just a great mentoring program for her. I mean, that’s why– I mean, it’s one of the things she likes the most is she has a lot of support. We’re not trying to force her into a really uncomfortable high production situations. And she’s able to grow slowly. And, I mean, we’re not one of those super practices where I mean, I really don’t know how many times any of my doctors have ever produced over $100,000 a month. We’re normally in that 75, 80, 85 thousand, rarely $90,000 a month, about what our doctors produce. So I mean, it’s nice steady work. And don’t get me wrong, we’re getting better as we keep learning from TTI but it’s– I think my practice is not like a lot of practices that I hear about when I go to the meetings.
We have a great, great staff. It’s a real good hygiene staff, a great front desk staff, most of them– most of my staff people been there a long time. Great systems are in place. All you have to do is come in and work, I mean, everything else is done.
So, I think that’s the many of the secrets. First of all, you keep up– you keep your facilities beautiful. You just talked about reinvesting, redoing the whole original practice, the second practice is new. You mentioned [A-dec?], which is the Mercedes, at least of dental equipment. And so you keep investing back in the business from a physical standpoint, but also from a time standpoint in mentoring. And so a doctor can come in and can practice but– I like the way you said it. You’re not pushing people to reduce [more?]. You’re teaching them, hoping their skill sets improve and their productivity will improve with it. But it’s not this high-pressure “got to do so much per month”, and it’s just really a nice comfortable place for people to work, to learn, to improve, isn’t it?
Yes, yes. I mean, eventually it will work out for both of us, and we just have to be patient. I think with my most– with my newest associate, I mean, the fact that we were capacity-blocked held her back a little bit. And hopefully with [Matt’s?] associate that we’re looking for it’s– they’ll have more capacity there. They’re not going to be held back as much. But we like to think it’s a good environment, and it’s–
It’s an awesome place to play– to practice. And as your practice has continually got better at giving consumers what they want, the patient demand is there. You really have figured out how to make a great opportunity for dentists. So you mentioned our summit that you went to, that you got a lot out of. And our summit this year is May 1st and 2nd in Dallas, Texas. And to found out more about that, you can get with thechampionsofdentistry.com. You can find out more about who’s going to be there. We’re going to spend a little time with Emmitt Smith, famous former Dallas Cowboy. We’re going to have a really good time, and there’s going to be lots of great speakers, and a lot of great information. And I’m looking forward to seeing many of you there. So Dr. Davenport, there are probably some people out here who are listening to the opportunity that you have for associates, and they’re saying, “Man, I would love to have that.” I know a lot of employee dentists are in situations where they’re getting kind of beat up and kind of pressured and pushed, and don’t have the same kind of support that you give. And I know that you are going to have a need for additional doctors as your enterprise continues to grow. So if somebody is interested in being a part of your organization, how can they get a hold of you?
All of our information’s on our website, davenportdentalgroup.com. And our phone number is 956-726-9980.
That’s fantastic. I can tell our listeners that– what a great guy you are. I’ve watched your team now for a couple of years, watched them grow. And I know the atmosphere and the values that your practice is built on, and it’s a place that would really be helpful for somebody who wants to come, wants to have a great career, and wants to work in a place that’s really a loving and kind place.
Well, thank you. I appreciate that, and we appreciate what you all have done for us, so.
Well, we’re happy to do it. The Team Training Institute is a place for all kinds of practices where you can learn systems and, one of the things I wanted to mention– when you were talking about, “Well, I don’t have to practice that much. I don’t really have any superstar doctors. I’ve got good team retention. We have really good systems.” All those things are driving the value of your enterprise up. And a lot of that, I know you learned from TTI; from other sources, too, but all those things are making your practice more and more valuable. And of course, the results are getting better and better, and that makes the practice more valuable, as well. But you are really well-positioned to ride this wonderful situation and grow it, if you want, for many, many years. And I’m just really proud of everything that you’ve done Dr. Davenport, and really feel grateful that you and I have the opportunity to work together.
Thank you, John. Thank you. I appreciate it.
You’re sure welcome. Well, that’s it for this episode of the W Production Podcast. I’m Dr. John Meis. Thank you so much for listening. We’ll see you on the next episode. [music]