Exploring Innovation, Marketing, and Technology with Gary Bird


Podcast Summary

In a thought-provoking podcast episode, Shawn Zajas sits down with Gary Byrd of SMC National to discuss the intricacies of innovation in the dental industry. The conversation delves into the challenges and opportunities that dentists face, particularly in the realms of marketing and technology. As Gary shares his personal journey, it becomes evident that his accidental entry into the dental industry through marketing eventually led him to focus exclusively on working with dentists. 

One of the pressing issues raised during the discussion is the outdated technology systems prevalent in dental practices. Gary highlights the difficulties practitioners encounter in accessing and analyzing data due to these archaic systems. To revolutionize patient care, he emphasizes the importance of integrating customer relationship management (CRM) systems into dentistry. By harnessing the power of CRM technology, dental professionals can enhance their understanding of patients’ needs and deliver personalized, efficient care. 

Throughout the conversation, Gary emphasizes the need for mindset shifts and belief sets to drive innovation within the dental industry. He recounts two significant shifts he experienced over the past decade. The first was his initial skepticism towards the importance of culture in business. Previously, Gary believed that winning was the ultimate goal, dismissing the significance of fostering a positive and cohesive culture. However, as his team grew, he recognized the limitations of his previous mindset and began hyper-focusing on creating a work environment where people genuinely wanted to be and retire from. 

The second mindset shift Gary embraced was the concept of extreme ownership. Previously, he would attribute failures or setbacks in the business to external factors, such as the team or technology. However, he realized that true leadership necessitated taking responsibility for outcomes and evaluating what changes he needed to make within himself to inspire and attract others. This transformative shift empowered Gary to make the necessary adjustments and improve the overall success of SMC National. 

Embracing failure and maintaining an infinite game mindset emerged as crucial themes throughout the conversation. Gary acknowledges that not every endeavor will yield the desired results, particularly when it comes to innovating within SMC National. However, he stresses the importance of learning from failures, making the necessary adjustments, and continually striving to improve. Failure is seen as an inherent part of the innovation process, and a growth mindset, coupled with a commitment to daily progress, is viewed as essential for long-term success. 

As the conversation nears its end, Shawn prompts Gary to share details about the services offered by SMC National and his involvement in other initiatives. Gary explains that SMC National functions as a growth partner for dental offices, helping them develop comprehensive strategies to achieve their growth goals. Instead of focusing on individual services like website building or social media posting, SMC National prioritizes providing comprehensive plans and infrastructure support. Additionally, Gary mentions hosting events that provide valuable insights into marketing and operations for dental practices. He also leads a marketing mastermind where he shares his expertise and addresses questions from marketing agencies. 

While specific predictions about the future of the dental industry were not explicitly mentioned in the provided conversation, Gary emphasizes the importance of innovation and staying ahead of industry trends. Dentists are encouraged to adopt a mindset of continuous improvement and consider expanding their impact beyond their dental practices by exploring opportunities like speaking engagements or starting their own ventures. 

In summary, the podcast episode offers a deep dive into the challenges and potential of innovation in the dental industry. It sheds light on the importance of integrating CRM systems, embracing a positive culture, taking extreme ownership, and maintaining an infinite game mindset. Through the insights shared by Gary Byrd, listeners gain a glimpse into the future of dentistry and the role that innovation, technology, and marketing will play in shaping the industry. 

Podcast Transcript


So for me, I always thought, if I’m just great at marketing, then I’ll just be a great entrepreneur. And if I’m a great entrepreneur that makes me a great leader, because I know the most about this thing. Nothing could be further from the truth. 


Shawn Zajas  00:13 

The future of dentistry belongs to the innovators. Welcome to innovation in dentistry. I’m your host, Shawn Zajas. And I believe that the future of dentistry is going to be unbelievably great over the next decade in two decades. But the question isn’t that the question is, are you going to be part of what makes dentistry great? Okay, so I am super excited today to have the honor of getting to interview Gary Byrd of SMC national, what you guys are doing in dentistry? I mean, come on. Everybody knows you guys. I love the way you elevate practices, you tell amazing stories and you help them market. First off before I set you up, let me just introduce you like, thank you so much for joining me, Gary. 


Gary 01:06 

Absolutely. I’m super excited. I got to meet you at a dental conference. And you were podcasting there actually. So that was pretty cool that now I get to be on your show. So it’s an honor is all mine. And I’m super excited to have a conversation with you today. 


Shawn Zajas  01:20 

Okay, so innovation in dentistry, Gary, that can mean a lot of things. Because innovation often does mean lots of things. You know, in dentistry, it could be clinical innovation. It could be technological innovation. But I feel like there’s no way those innovations even happen. If someone doesn’t first have that. That mindset shift and that belief set that’s like, why why not me? Why can’t I step up and pioneer positive change pioneer positive disruption? I have no idea how you got into this crazy industry really quick. Like, why are you in dentistry? 


Gary 01:56 

Yeah, so Okay, so I actually have a podcast. It’s called dental marketing theory. And we bring people on. And I asked that question like, how did you get here. So here’s what I found. dentist and dental hygienist are 100% here on purpose, usually a family member or close friend talks him into getting into that industry, and they’re very intentional. Everybody else is here by accident, where they Yeah, and that’s what my story is that I got into marketing. I started working with restaurants. Then I started working with sporting facilities. And I started working with car. Lots, and I like all these different businesses, right. And then I met a dentist, and we set up some marketing forum. And he went from doing about $90,000 a month to about 400. And some change a month, over an extended period of time. I didn’t realize how amazing that was like I didn’t, I was just like, yeah, we market it, and they grew. And that’s what’s supposed to happen. And then they started introducing us to other clients. And eventually, we ended up just working with dentist, we split the company. And now we’ve only been working with dentists for some time now for quite quite some time now. And yeah, so it was it was completely by accident. But then once you get into dental, it’s like this whole other world, right. And I know other industries are like that as well. But Dental is really there’s these huge moats around it, because you just don’t understand it. And you kind of it kind of makes you learn it. And you know, people from the outside tried to come in and it’s like, well, you know, we’re going to do marketing for you, and we’re going to help you get more pro fees. And then people are like, Well, we are an orthodontist, so that’s not going to work. And so it’s like there’s this disconnect that when you try to get into dental, that kind of prevents a lot of people from getting in. And then there’s a second thing that kind of prevents people from getting in, which is it’s we’re so far behind him that from a technology standpoint, because of the way the practice management software’s are structured from like the 80s and the 90s, that there’s been really not a lot of upgrades. And it’s really, really hard to be able to pull data to be able to get the information that you want. And so there’s companies built on top of companies built on top of companies getting that information. So that’s how we ended up here. And that’s what we’re in the middle of right now is we have integrations with a lot of practice management software’s to be able to track marketing, which is pretty unique, because most people do that in spreadsheets, we still have a lot of clients, we do it and have to do it in spreadsheets because of the way certain practice management software’s are set up. But yeah, that’s that’s a little bit about our story. 


Shawn Zajas  04:27 

So Gary, I did not know it’s an interesting take that almost like what causes technology to stagnate in dentistry is that the gatekeepers, these PMS ‘s that are huge, somehow have like, antiquated models or software that they’re set up on and instead of changing them, it’s just so much harder. Like I never I never heard that. So that’s a really interesting take. And it’s must be incredibly valuable that you guys have those integrations so that you can pull analytics that are actually insightful. 


Gary 04:58 

It’s still tough like it There’s no, here’s what’s tough about it even when we get integration, right. So let’s say you’re a dentist, we’re working with you, you have 10 practices. Well, each of your practices might be using different practice management software’s that’s very common. Or let’s say, you said, No, let’s, we’re only going to use one, each of your practices, we’ll be using them differently. Because there just didn’t, there wasn’t a lot of training on it. It’s like here, use this software. And so it’s, it’s done. That’s the biggest roadblock from a technology standpoint, unless you’re building something that just doesn’t need the data down at the bottom. But if you need data down from the bottom, which most most things do, if your revenue cycle management, marketing, anything to do with, you know, the patient that’s touching the patient, you need all that information. And a lot of times, it’s just not accessible, or it’s accessible, but it’s messy. So, we’re, you’re seeing a lot of cool companies that are being created right now, practice management software’s that are, like cloud based, they make it much easier to get and gain access. So it’s things are changing for sure. Like it’s moving in the right direction, I think some of the bigger practice management software’s, they don’t have a financial incentive to really change anything right now. Like, it just doesn’t like for what they have, you know, half of the market or 30% of the market. And it’s just like, what’s the, why would I change anything, it’s working for us. And a lot of times, it’s hard to tell that that is even a problem when you until you start digging into it. 


Shawn Zajas  06:29 

It reminds me of the Southwest Airlines kind of meltdown that happened not too long ago. And it was all based off the underpinnings of their software, or their management system that they kind of knew needed to change. But again, to go through that overhaul was going to set them back in the short term. And instead, it finally just kind of collapsed. And they were like, Okay, finally, we need to, but I hope that doesn’t happen in Dental. 


Gary 06:58 

I don’t think it’ll be a collapse, I think what would happen is what this is what happens. So you grow. And you say, Okay, I really want to grow, I want to grow my practice, I want to add more practices. And so you start adding practices, and then you start to realize this is way harder than I thought it was going to be because of the technology. And like I’ll give you an example, we’re building a CRM. So you probably know what a CRM is. And most businesses out there outside of dental know what a CRM is. But dental doesn’t know what a CRM is, most people that are in a practice, don’t know what a CRM is, because you there’s a bunch of reasons why but you can’t. There’s people out there that try to use CRMs, but they don’t connect to the practice management software. So then you’re doing double work, you’re like moving patients from here to over here. And so we’re working on building a CRM that we’re launching later this year, that integrates it’s only for dental that integrates with the practice management software, the ones that we were able to, and, and that’s, that’s the first step and like creating the whole patient journey. So kind of how I envisioned it is like, imagine if you could see where a patient was created from, like on the internet, like how they found you, what they clicked, what keywords they searched, then you could see how they move through your pipeline. So like front desk, or online forms, and then if they no showed or showed, and then how much treatment they bought. And then who then who they referred to your practice, once they came in and accepted treatment. Imagine if you could see that whole lifecycle all in one place without having to do any manual work like that would absolutely revolutionize how you treated each each of those steps. But again, in dental, you don’t even most people don’t even know that those steps exists prior to the practice management software. Because in Dental today, if you don’t make it into the practice management software, which means you have to show up, you don’t exist, you live in some front desk person’s email, or on a voicemail somewhere. 


Shawn Zajas  08:56 

Okay, that’s just crazy, a that they don’t know what a CRM is, and not to not to beat down our audience. But there’s opportunities for growth. And I think that’s exciting, right? There’s opportunities for them to level up the way in which they’re conducting themselves as an enterprise as a business. And a CRM is, is like an absolute must. So I love that you guys are innovating something on that front, but before we get into too much of the particulars backing up, so Gary, I understand how you as a marketer, got into dental. But how did Gary become a marketer like meaning? What was that story? 


Gary 09:33 

Yeah, so it’s super random. So I, I had a job I it was a it was a good paying job. It was selling textiles at a textile. So like when you walk into a restaurant, you know, how you there’s like the mats in the front and the towels and the aprons. There’s businesses out there that actually service those and same with mechanic shops and all those kinds of things. So I did that as like the boring job ever. Right? And before that I did mortgages And before that it did have insurance. So I was just like hopping around job to job. And what I realized about myself is that every year or so I would just be like, okay, cool. Like, I learned how to do this, what’s next. And as soon as I reached a roof, I just left and said, I’m going to do something new. And I’m going to try something else, another industry. And I didn’t really understand what that was. I understood what that meant at the time. But basically, I’m like a serial entrepreneur, I have to be doing something building something new. I have to, if I don’t, I like it’s all bad. So I, I started, one day, I woke up and I said, You know what, I’m going to quit my job. And I’m going to start an email marketing company. Now, that might not sound like high in tech, but in 2008, businesses didn’t have software’s yet to email their customers. They didn’t, there was no direct text, even this, even the POS the point of sales that when you walk into a restaurant, they didn’t even collect emails, or text messages, or phone numbers or any of that kind of stuff. Yeah, like it was still, like before that, or just as that was starting to come about. So I would go to these restaurants. And I started in the restaurant space. And I said, Hey, I will make your slowest day your busiest day. And he said, How are you going to do that. And I would say, I’m going to collect emails of your customers. On the weekend, all the people that come in on the weekend, we’re going to collect them. And then during the week, I’m going to email them and I’m going to say, hey, come back in on Tuesday for a buy one, get one free, or you know, get a free appetizer, whatever, right? So we would then email those out. And then I would build relationships between the different restaurants and say, Hey, pizza shop, this, you know, Thai restaurant down here, they’re not really competitors with you, outside of you both sell food, let’s send a group email where you’ll let them know what’s going on. And they’ll let you know vice versa. And you can both grow and will only promote your slower day, so you’re not losing anything. And so I built that up, built that up. And eventually I realized, like, this isn’t a long term play, like email marketing, is gonna go away, because people can do it themselves. They’ll get software’s and things like that. And then also it got really muddy like, used to be that everybody opened their emails, because they were only used for work communication. But now we all know it’s spam. And there’s so many things we use our email for. So then from there, we started adding other services. So it was like, let’s add social media was the next big thing that came out. This is like in 2008, then it was like SEO started becoming a big thing for the Google Maps came out during this time. And it was like no one knew anything about it. So I was like, I can learn it. So I learned it. And then after that it was websites and just like all the other stuff. So again, it was just starting and learning and growing. And the thing I love is even to this day, I’m still get to build new things, because it’s always changing. So right now our big thing that we’re doing is I’m building events. So we have four big events that we’re doing over the next 12 months. And we’re just building those out. Eventually, I want to get to the place where we’re doing an event every two months, and building those out. And and that’s super fun to me as well. It’s marketing but in person. 


Shawn Zajas  13:11 

So how long did it take you to kind of understand this is why Gary doesn’t want to stay at a spa. This is why you get inactive. Oh, I’m a serial entrepreneur. What was that was that like an eight year period was that like a five year period? 


Gary 13:27 

It was a long, it was a long time. Like I didn’t even know the word entrepreneur when I was working all those jobs. Like I never even heard of it, let alone like intrapreneur and entrepreneur and versus you know what I mean? Like, I just knew like sales, marketing, like I knew those terms. But marketing was very static at the time. If you remember pre internet, there wasn’t like it was like, Do you want to do billboards you want to do a television. And that wasn’t that wasn’t attractive to me, because it was, it’s been the same for a long time. So the whole industry changed kind of underneath me as it was happening. So for me when I really started realizing like, Oh, I’m an entrepreneur, was when YouTube started coming out. And like people on YouTube listening to podcast. Like podcasts weren’t a thing in 2008 like they were but there was like so small and you didn’t, you had to work really hard to like go listen to him. But when YouTube started coming out, and I started watching videos, and like hearing people talk about it, that’s when I realized like, oh, okay, so to answer your question, it was a long time. I mean, from when I was eight, like even in high school. I was like, I’m gonna do something, but I don’t know what I’m gonna do. And so I just dropped jobs, jobs, jobs a job until I finally figured that out. So yeah, it was probably six years, seven years, eight years, even when I was in the middle of being an entrepreneur. I didn’t really know that, like, I didn’t really think of it that way. You know what I mean? I was just, let’s, let’s try to help these businesses. So I think now it’s really cool. I work with some younger people and like some masterminds with their agencies and stuff. It’s so cool because around 18 and 19 years old, they already kind of know what they want to do, because they have all that information at their fingertips. So now, with social media and videos, you can just go out there and find people who are interested in the same things, and it helps you down that road. And it took me a long time to do that for myself. 


Shawn Zajas  15:19 

Like I knew, based off of you just people I’ve been interviewing, like, the second there’s that alignment, and like, Oh, this is there’s an alignment now with my interests, my identity, my strengths, this is who I am. And I can own this. It’s almost like our doors end up opening up, there’s that flow. And I know for dentists, you know, there, there’s that. What am I interested in a clinical sense, you know, am I going to specialize in this? Am I going to get continuing education in this area? You know, how much do I need to embrace technology? Well, you need to, but but when it comes to like my style as a business leader, or business owner, I think that’s where a lot of times, you know, I’m asking them, like, what is what is your brand? How do you? How do you brand your practice? And I sense that that’s kind of where they don’t know how to find what is it about them that that is either unique? Or they haven’t discovered that about themselves yet? 


Gary 16:19 

So we have a framework around this, that I think do you find interesting, yeah, and it’s true for all entrepreneurs, but it’s especially prevalent with dentist. So and I went through the same thing. So there’s like three stages that I think about. So there’s the technician. So this is, for dentists, this would be the clinical side, right. And for me, it would be learning how to run Google ads or learning SEO. And this is where you just like dive into it, and you’re obsessive over it, right? And you just, this is where your ADHD kicks in, and you’re just like, hyper focus, and you’re just like, obsessing over this thing, because you want to learn it. And every, I think everybody kind of goes through that if they’re going to be an entrepreneur. So that’s the technician side. Then there’s the entrepreneur side that comes out. And the entrepreneur side is like, can I make money off of this obsession? And the easy answer is yes, like, you can just go work for somebody else. And but most entrepreneurs will not be satisfied with that, because there’s a roof you keep hitting. So then you open up your own practice, right? And you’re like, Okay, making money at this is pretty cool. And then it’s like, well, I want to open another practice, or I want to do this at a bigger scale. But then there’s the third step. And this is where most people get lost in the sauce, and I did for years. Now you’re moving into leadership. And leadership is not entrepreneurship. And entrepreneurship is not being a great technician, right? Like, those are all three separate things. And they take a lot of time, each of them takes a lot of time, and you have to kind of know you’re stepping into it. So for me, I always thought, if I’m just great at marketing, then I’ll just be a great entrepreneur. And if I’m a great entrepreneur, that makes me a great leader, because I know the most about this thing. Nothing could be further from the truth, right? Like it doesn’t no one cares that you’re great at marketing, they want to be helped, they want to be supported, they want to kind of build their own road, and they want you to kind of remove the obstacles to allow them to make that happen. When I started to realize that and I started delineating those three things, it really helped me because it’s like, okay, I want to get better. As a leader, you know, what I don’t want to I don’t want to have a ton of direct reports. I want to be amazing at the technical side, or I want to be an amazing at the entrepreneur side where I really maximize the value there. And what I’ve realized with dentist is they’re kind of doing all three at the same time, but they’re treating it like it’s one thing. And it creates a lot of frustration and a lot of heartache. And it’s hard, like all three of them on their own by themselves is super hard. But when you’re trying to do all three at the same time, it becomes really complex. 


Shawn Zajas  18:53 

I think that does provide so much clarity, which can help. Yeah, I can imagine that because I will only, you know, broken it down just in dentistry is like oh, there’s a clinical hat that you have on or glasses, and then there’s the business glasses. But that kind of takes out the people aspect, which is the leadership. And yet, that’s what makes dentistry so difficult is you have this highly technical, highly clinical, you’re a surgeon, you’re not just a doctor that has to understand the mouth, you actually need to be able to provide the surgery, you’re a surgeon, and yet the same exact time you’re interfacing constantly with people where they need to trust you, like you understand you and you need to understand them or else you can’t actually broker trust and get treatment accepted. And you also need to broker trust with your team so that they can continue to follow to be homogenous with the brand that you’re keeping with whatever those values are. And then at the same time there’s best practices when it comes to just your your positioning your brand doing your marketing all the entrepreneurial stuff. And that is just such a, there’s got to be a better word I was gonna say cluster. But you know, I don’t like the implications of that. But it’s, it’s, it’s so difficult. And that’s why it’s really easy to honor dentists of like, Hey, guys, you have a really difficult job. And that’s what you need to continue aligning yourself with specialists, with coaches with good agencies, because this is not a one man or one woman show. No, you know, 


Gary 20:28 

it’s really hard. That’s really, really hard. And especially when you combine it all together, and then you put the pressure on yourself that you’re supposed to be excellent all three of them. It’s, it’s, it doesn’t, and I’ve only been in business for five years, just to become good at the technician side, it’s going to take you five to six years, then the entrepreneur sides, run it back, you know, 32345 years until you get really, really good at that maybe longer. And then the leadership side is as a whole separate thing that you have to learn. And you have to have energy to want to learn it. And if you’re doing full time treatment, and you’re running a successful business, you that doesn’t make you a great leader, like you’re not like when you when you take yourself out of those two other things, and then put people underneath you and get them to duplicate what you’ve already built. That’s when it’s like, Okay, now, I’m starting to figure this leadership thing out. And it’s so hard, it’s it’s hard, I’m still bump my head against it all the time. 


Shawn Zajas  21:27 

So my belief is that dentistry is going to continue to evolve, it’s going to continue to get great, but I’m always curious. And that’s kind of my question to the listeners is, well, will they be part of what makes it great? And in order for that to happen, it’s pretty much that whole idea of like, okay, what’s the problem that I pick up on? What’s the thing that irritates me? And how can I possibly be that answer to that, you know, almost like, follow the pain. At the same exact time, you might be able to say, Hey, I might be able to produce value, if I step up in this way. Or if I align myself with, you know, I’m a little more entrepreneurial, so maybe I can, I can lead in this way. But then you still have to come against the fear of it not working, you still have to come against the fact that the market is completely uncertain. There’s no guarantees. And that tension of just man for some sense of reward, there is going to be how do I dance with risk and the unknowns, you have reached this hype? As a company that is incredibly impressive. I’m imagining your growth journey wasn’t linear. Could you talk about a time when, I don’t know maybe you, you weren’t sure that it was going to work or you weren’t sure that it was going to take off? And what you did in those moments? Because I think that’s the scary thing is like, oh, my gosh, Shawn, Gary, I would do it. But But what if I absolutely fail, make a fool of myself? And it’s like, that’s where it’s like, well, the more I tell stories about people that survived and overcame that got back up, it’s like, well, let’s just kind of demystify that ambiguous fear, like you’re gonna make it. So anyway, take it away. 


Gary 22:59 

Well, here, so I’ll share some good news, I’ll share the positive news first. So in dental, so if you and I, Shawn, let’s say we just wanted to make a business, any business in any industry, the likelihood of us failing is about 90%. Like, that’s, that’s what entrepreneurship is, right? Like, it’s gonna fail eventually. And very likely, it’s gonna fail on a grand scale, like are in quickly. And so that’s just the odds of business. However, in dental, only 10% of dental practices fail. So it’s actually the opposite. So, so when you go into B, and then you can still fail, there’s still the opportunity to fail, but you’re, by default, because of the way the demand and just the dental industry as a whole, as a dentist, if you open up a practice 90% of the time, you’re going to be successful, like you’re going to be able to make it work, right. So I’ll remove that from the table, right, like, I’ll just start with that. Now, the thing that I’ve learned is a lot about business is getting dopamine hits, right. So most people know this now, because of social media. Social media gives you a dopamine hit, you post something, you get light each time you get a like, it gives you a dopamine hit. Gambling gives you a dopamine hit, working out, gives you a dopamine hit, seeing gains and those kinds of things. And there’s all these things in our life that give us dopamine hits. One thing in using that, that that framework that I gave you earlier, the technician, the entrepreneur, and the leadership, this is one thing that I learned and this was really hard lesson for me was on the technician side, and and on the entrepreneur side, I got tons of dopamine hits every single day. So on the technician side, I was like cool, I learned this new thing, watch what I can do. And I would go and like look, we produce more new patients or look, we we figured out how to reduce our no show rate or whatever it is, and it’s every day you’re you’re saving the day and you’re getting these dopamine hits, right. Entrepreneurship is very similar. It’s like how can I get more profitable? How can I get more people through the door? How can I, you know, help more patients. How can I you know, get more patient referrals from it? How can we change that? customer service that we can get more patient referrals. And these are all pretty quick, they’re not as quick as a technician dopamine hit, but they’re still pretty quick. And they’re often. Here’s the tricky part in leadership when you’re leading your dopamine hit stop, because you’re setting up other people to get those dopamine hits. And yours stop, like, almost completely. And now if I’m working, you and I are working together, and I’m your, let’s say, your manager, right, Shawn, and I’m like, Alright, Sean, so here’s, here’s what we’re gonna do, we’re gonna set this up, and I, and I expect you to execute on this, right? And so you’re like, alright, and you go out and do that? Well, you’re getting those dopamine hits, as you’re building that thing. And I have to wait a month or two months or three months. And then you come back to me and go, we did it. And you know, after we failed, we tried to, we did it. And then now I get the dopamine hit from that. But it’s two months, three months. And that was really hard. And I did not understand that. As we were growing. And I didn’t understand why I was like, I don’t like this as much, I’d rather just go do this, or go do that, or go do this. And once I realized like setting up other people for success is awesome. And it feels amazing when you do it. And when everybody’s aligned. But sometimes it takes a month or three months or a year, two years to get there. I think that really helped me because there was times where it was just like, I’d rather be doing anything else. There’s, there’s times in my business and dentists go through this to where they’re like, I just I just met with a dentist recently, it was like, I’ve been practicing, I’ve been doing this for 20 years, I thought I’d be at 10 practices or 20 practices by now I’m still at one, I got this hit this hit this hit this hit. And you can just tell he’s just like tired of it, he doesn’t want to do it anymore. And, and that’s part of business and learning. For me it was part of learning what I liked. And what I didn’t like. And just to give the audience like a simple worksheet that I worked through that really helped me and helped me communicate clearly, with those around me that I worked with, was I took a piece of paper, and I drew a line down the middle of it. And as I went through my day, I wrote down on the left side all the things I didn’t like doing. And I wrote on the right side all the things I love doing. And then I did that repetitively. And then I was like, Okay, how do I stop doing these things and find somebody who loves these things, the things I don’t like doing, I want to find somebody who loves these. And I slowly started moving those off my plate. And so now most of my day now is doing things that I’m good at and that I love doing. But it wasn’t always that way. And so it wasn’t the business. It wasn’t the entrepreneurship. It wasn’t that it was hard. It was that those times where I wanted to quit when there was no light at the end of the tunnel. And I thought I was going to have to do payroll forever, be the HR guy forever, or do sales or do all these things forever. But then I realized it was like, No, it doesn’t have to be that way. And I can I can structure this how I want to structure it and make it work the way I want to make it work for me. And it takes time takes energy. But that’s I don’t know, I kind of spitball several things there. But those, that’s how I kind of came to where I’m at now. So now most of my days. I do podcasts. I love being on your podcasts. I love filming podcasts. I do events, absolutely love that. I do like a lot of inspirational stuff. Like when it’s like, Hey, we got to get on the team on the same page with this. Here’s the messaging, let’s I’m able to do that. So those are that’s largely what I focus my energy on because it’s what I’m good at right now. So that’s that’s how I’ve kind of my entrepreneur journey. But I know there’s a lot of correlations there with Dentists. 


Shawn Zajas  28:40 

So how old is SMC national right now? 


 Gary 28:44 

Well, officially, we like I started the business in 2008. But I think officially so that would be like 16 years. But officially we’re about like when we incorporated all that stuff around 10 years old. 


Shawn Zajas  28:55 

So over the last 10 years, what would be like a key mindset that you realize you either like discovered and needed to embrace or a mindset that you needed to shed in order to keep growing? 


Gary 29:08 

Oh, this is a good one. Okay. So one of the key ones is I used to think culture. So when people would I would see videos, or I’d read books about culture. I literally thought that that was just for people who are trying to sell books and stuff. I was like, This is so stupid, like, who there’s so much fluff and people’s feelings. And it’s like, look, we’re out here to win. Like, if you want to win, come work with us, you know what I mean? So I really had this mindset. And once I shifted that, and once I understood because I reached the ceiling that that mindset work to it was a grind and just you know, make it work, right? But then it was like, oh, people don’t want to play with you anymore. You know what I mean? People don’t want to this isn’t working like this doesn’t this works with a small team that I’m touching each one of them. And they’re all have the same mindset. But when I stopped touching everybody, meaning I don’t have I have reports that have reports that have reports, you know, I mean, that doesn’t work. It just doesn’t. And so it was like, oh, maybe there was something to that culture stuff. Let me go learn about that. And let me how do we create that? And how do we, how do we go in and actually, so build that out. So literally went from not even thinking about culture. Even though I was building a culture, I didn’t realize I was, you know, what I mean, to, this is something that I’m going to really hyper focus on, and really try to make a place where, when the first time somebody came to me and said, I want to retire at SMC. That’s where I was like, Okay, this is like, bigger than me, this is like people’s families and their mortgages and what they’re going to do, so that that was one big mindset, shift, for sure. And then the other one that I that I really embraced is like Extreme Ownership. So it’s like, if this isn’t working, it’s on me. It’s not. So I always used to be like, oh, man, the team, it’s the team. So I don’t have a good team, and I can’t get a good team, or I can’t get the right technology, or I can’t get the and that just went on for years. And this man, my head, mainly, right, like I just kept telling the stories. That’s why you’re held back. But the problem with that is, is that you can’t really do anything about it. You know what I mean? You’re kind of stuck. And it’s an excuse is really what it boils down to. And so I had this massive mindset shift, which was, no, no, no, it’s me. And, and what do I need to change so that people want to follow me or people want to work here? Or people want to be around this, or people want to be involved with us? Like, what do I need to change about me. And when I took that Extreme Ownership approach, everything started falling into place, and really, really working for us. 


Shawn Zajas  31:46 

That is, I mean, super insightful. I remember hearing it put, like every ounce of responsibility you push away is every ounce of power that you lose. So if you’re not responsible for anything, then you have no power on your life to change anything. You know, and that’s why when all of a sudden you’re like, look, at some point, maybe maybe the fruit of this specific action or circumstance was literally that team member, right, that they did something that they shouldn’t have done. But if you follow the tree back to the back to where it came from, and the roots, like it’s all based off of my leadership, the tone that I set, the training that I either haven’t placed or don’t have, which is awesome, because it’s just opportunities. How do we how do we level up right? How do we increase this now, you said something earlier, Gary, about how almost like removing the fear, because if 90% of new businesses fail, but only 10% of dental practices failed, you know, dentists can be rest assured. But my whole thing is, I actually think a lot of dentists hold the keys outside of the practice. When it comes to I don’t know, being whether it’s being a speaker, whether it’s starting a software company, I don’t know just taking dentistry where it needs to go. And I think it might actually be outside of the practice, because of their unique perspective. And that’s where there is that 90% chance of oh my gosh, like I might fail, and that’s why I encourage people will fail forward, fail fast. But that sounds scary. That sounds like well, what do you mean, fail fast, fail forward, I don’t want to fail. Like how do you embrace that tension of knowing that what you’re doing may not work as you continue to innovate with SMC, 


Gary 33:31 

it’s probably not gonna work. Like that’s my mindset is like, this is iteration number one. Just my experience in business, this probably isn’t going to work. But let’s give it our best shot. And then let’s take the lessons and build on top of it. I think that’s one of the luxuries of having like a business that is established is that you can take more of those losses and build on top of them. Now, when you’re first starting, though, you have to be okay with failing like you have to come to there’s there’s two mindsets out there, right. So there’s like the Gary Vee, or the grant, Cardone, it’s like, I’m not trying to fail. I’m trying to win, you know what I mean? And it’s like, yeah, I get it. But how many failures do you have to have before you win? And, and that’s where I fall is like, yes, we are going to fail. We are going to strike out on this. And I don’t know how we’re going to strike out on it yet. But parts of it are gonna work and parts aren’t. Now let’s make adjustments to that. And keep learning and keep growing. And when you have that attitude, it really, it gives people around you a lot more opportunity to grow and a lot, a lot of opportunity to win. And that’s that’s how I look at it. Now. I never used to look at this that way before though. So this is actually cool that we’re having this conversation. So before. I don’t know if you’ve ever read the book, the infinite game by Simon Sinek 


Shawn Zajas  34:49 

I love love that. You can there’s no rules, but you just can’t run out of money. You can’t keep playing. 



Yeah. So So I used to have a fixed mindset around this like a sports athlete, right? So in in the book basically, for the audience that hasn’t, hasn’t read it, you either play an infinite game or you play a fixed game. So if we’re playing basketball, we know the rules. We know the score, we know everything about it. And at the end, someone is the winner, and someone who’s the loser, and the game ends, and then you play the next game, right? And then you just keep going on like that. I had a mindset, the business was that way. So I was like, Man, I want to be like Michael Jordan. Like, we’re trying to win everything. The problem is, so I used to tell people, like, I want to be the biggest in the best marketing company in the world. Well, what does that even mean? Who’s setting the score? Who are you competing against? Do they know you’re competing against them didn’t even know you exist? Right? And so when I learned that, it’s like, oh, no, I’m actually not, I’m not playing a fixed game, playing an infinite game that will be played even after I leave, and leave Earth, right, like this game will keep going on. And so I’m playing a infinite game. And so I’m really just competing against myself, which means I’m just trying to get 1% Better a day. That’s it, which anybody, like if I said, Hey, Shawn, what can you make 1% better in your life, you’re like, Oh, that’s easy. I can do this, or this. And it’s not even a lot of work. But that compounds over a year, it’s like, almost 400%, or over 400%, or something like that over the year as it compounds. And so it’s just like, we’re just trying to get better. How do we get better, a little bit better? I love that mindset. It’s so freeing. And so it just gives you that permission to to keep trying keep stabbing. Nope, that wasn’t it. All right, try that. Nope, that wasn’t it. Boom, that one worked. Alright, next thing, that wasn’t it, that wasn’t it. And it’s more of a process. Then we’re playing a basketball and I won or lost it. 


Shawn Zajas  36:45 

I just said, like, there’s so much humility in you, Gary. But then there’s also like, so much expertise, like I can tell that every victory that you’ve had, and every struggle that you’ve had to be able to discover something you so generously are like, Well, hey, like, I kind of screwed up. They’re like, I don’t want them to. So let me like you turn it in, you do have such a generosity of spirit. Now, I know you’re doing a lot with SMC and I know also on your own you, you coach, or you lead a mastermind, like, what do you want to bring attention to? So someone’s like, oh my gosh, like a I want to start marketing with these guys. Because I can tell like, I love what they’re doing. But aside from that, like, I know you also just do things on your on your own right. Like that’s not under SMCs banner wreck your masterminds? 


Gary 37:35 

Yeah, so Okay, so yeah, if someone wants to how I how I feed my kids. So I have five kids. And so how I feed them is we’re a growth partner. So if if you’re a dental office, and you said, Hey, I really want to grow, I don’t, we don’t like if someone comes to us and says, Hey, I want to build my website. That’s not really us. There’s great companies out there that can do that. Or, Hey, I just want to post on social media. There’s great companies out there that can do that. But if you say I really want to grow, and I met 100 new patients, and I need to get to 200 new patients for for my organization. And I need to figure out what that’s going to take what the infrastructure that’s going to need to be built. If I need to hire people, or whatever else, we can come in and like tell you exactly what it’s going to take to get there. That’s our superpower. And it’s very straightforward. And we can can tell you and give you a whole plan around that. So that’s, that’s number one. Number two, we have events that we do. So I’ve actually found a new passion that I love to do. We we went out there and I started going to events, speaking at events, hosting events, sponsoring events, and I realized there’s events that aren’t being done right now. And a lot of it was around like tactical business and tactical marketing techniques. So I was like, Well, what if I host an event that tells you how to build all your own marketing, so you don’t need me? And and operationally how that works. And Clint how that ties into clinical like, what if I bring in experts that just share the patient journey and just show you how to do everything. And it was such a success that we started opening up more of those. So we have those that’s on our website. And we have a but we’re doing with Dykema everyone a DICOM I have one with D Fisher. I have one with bio horizons. And we have another one that we’re working on. We’re around clear aligners with a big sponsor on that as well. So we those are, I love those, those are so much fun because they bring so much value. And then I also do a marketing mastermind once a month with just marketing agencies. It has nothing to do with dental. And this was just something that we did, because I got calls all the time like Hey, how’d you build your how’d you get on the Inc 5000 list twice? How did you build out your sales team? How did you build out your account management team out and I would always take those calls because I’m just like, Man, I wish somebody would have talked to me when I when I was building those things out and And so I always took the calls. And then I just got to the place where I couldn’t take every single call. So we started just a mastermind, and just every month meeting with people and just answering their questions and just saying, Hey, what are you struggling with, here’s how I would do it. And that’s, that’s, that was really rewarding that we don’t make it there. It’s free, we don’t make any money off of it or anything. 


Shawn Zajas  40:22 

So I love that you’ve been, like, so generous to share, you know, not just the mindset, but really like, the way to view business so that you can continue to level up as a dentist, even just that framework you shared was was amazing. But the flip side of innovation is like, where is the industry going? And I’m super curious about just like one take from you, you know, whether that’s, you know, the dental recession or what what you’re feeling about group dental groups, you know, and again, whether it’s over the next 5-10 years, just just any sense of what you see, 


Gary 40:53 

yeah, that’s a great question. So, prior to COVID, you could be great at marketing or not great at marketing, and you were gonna grow, and there was a largely a supply and demand issue. However, that’s changed. And that changed for a couple different reasons. Number one, Labor’s higher than it’s ever been before. So you’ve got people paying 50 $60 $70 an hour to hygenist, which means how, if they get paid that much, how much does everybody else make, right and it, it breaks down the whole business model of dental, when when you do that, the cost of goods are through the roof. So everything costs more everything that you buy, doesn’t matter what it is, it’s cost more now. And then you also have patients are being crushed by inflation at the same time. So that means they cut back. And just a simple illustration around this is like a lady that goes and gets her hair done. Once every couple months, let’s say once every two months, and she spends $200. To do that, cut it, color it and style it. She’s now not going to not get her hair done. But she does it every four months now instead of every three months. And that and that hits everybody, right, that hits dental as well. And so same day cancellations are actually higher than they’ve ever been in the dental industry right now. And the reason for that is people are like, man, we just spent, we just went on vacation and foods more expensive, gas is more expensive. I just can’t even go to the dentist because I know they’re going to tell me to fix something. So I’m gonna go, I’m just gonna push it back six months. And so they cancelled they have and it just absolutely smashes Dental, the dental industry because that’s where you were going to make money that day. And so now you didn’t make money that day, because that happened. And so the only way out of that there’s only one way out of it, that I’m aware of is through marketing, you have to get good at marketing. And you have to get more new patients into the door. And you have to actually get them in the door and get them to say yes to treatment, which is a whole a whole process. And that’s something that we do as a growth partner, we don’t just send leads to you, we send the right kind of leads, and then help you get them to say yes in the chair. And that means adding clear aligners to your practice. That means adding implants or full arch to your practices, so that you can actually grow, you can grow your way out of this trouble. You can. But it’s it’s hard. It’s a lot of work. And so that’s something that we’re really hyper focused on right now. Because dental Dental is feeling the pain in this area. And I think it’s going to be this way for a while. What’s what’s really cool, what’s really promising is dental has a lot of growth opportunities. There’s more patients, new patients that are looking for these services, than there are dentists to serve them. Just I think there’s the last that I heard, and I may be a little bit off on this. But somewhere in this ballpark. I think 10,000 baby boomers retire a day. And they and it’s not like they don’t have money. This is the richest generation have more assets more house, they also bought their houses prior to COVID. They bought all their stock prior to co so they like all their assets are gone up. They have money sitting in the bank, they want these kinds of treatments, but someone has to service them and you have to be able to communicate about about it, which is marketing and operations. So those that’s something that is going to you’re going to see radical changes in the dental industry around this. And the other thing is is that dental offices don’t like the word sales. So remember earlier we were talking about what there’s no CRMs and dental Why doesn’t anybody build a CRM and dental? Well, the reason why is because no one says your front desk is your salespeople. And no one says that your treatment coordinators are salespeople. So people who build software, don’t only build CRMs if you have a sales team, right, right. So there’s no there’s no CRM, once we realize this, and we’re like, Okay, well, we’re gonna build it anyways, even though you don’t call it sales. But that’s really what it is at the end of the day is that your lowest paid person at your office, which is your front desk, makes less than almost everybody like usually even makes less than the janitors and stuff that are cleaning up the building. They’re your salespeople. They’re in every other organization, everyone, salespeople are usually the highest paid people, they’re usually making the most money. So you have the lowest paid person at your front desk, you have no Analytics, you don’t know what their phone conversion rate is, you don’t know if they responded to their emails or not, if they responded to the people who had all these questions or not, and, and here’s the thing, that’s crazy. If you’re good at the front desk, you get removed from there instantly. So if you are I got hired at an office, and we killed it, we’re answering the phones, we’re converting everything in there, like, oh, you should be a treatment coordinator, or you should be you’re gonna do billing now. Or you’re gonna do this other thing now. And so you’re always taped, because 


Shawn Zajas  45:39 

because they need us substantiate paying more maybe, right? Because because they don’t realize how important that frontline image brand salesperson is. 


Gary 45:47 

100% Yeah. So they just move them. And then now you hire another 18/19/20 year old, who’s making minimum wage back into that position. And so you go through the cycle of like, cool, you’re just now getting good at it, and then boom, you’re back, like not getting people back in. So we’re trying to create software’s and systems and training and like all those things to help people visually see that because I could talk about it all day long, it’s not going to change. But if I can visually show you inside your business by removing Susan, who was doing a good job, and you moved her, and you moved in Bobby who sucks. And look at how that impacted your business, things will actually change inside that organization. 


Shawn Zajas  46:28 

100% Okay, so Gary, hopefully you haven’t heard any other episodes real. So you’re gonna know what’s coming. But this is the closing question. So you’re walking down the street. And off in the distance, you see 18 year old Gary, and you have one moment to just communicate a sentiment to him. Now the the assumption is that it’s like you have a second chance at life as an 18 year old, you know, to keep going. So knowing what you know, now, what do you say to 18 year old? Gary, 


Gary 47:00 

stop? I this is this is a great question. I thought you were going to ask me? Do you put your grocery carts away in a parking lot? And then judge me based on that? So I see that went online a lot. But no, this is? This is a really good question. And I’ve put a lot of thought into this, this particular question. So variations of it, 18 year old me Stop focusing on short term pleasure and start doing the things that are going to be hard that are going to have long term gain to them. And at 18 years old, it was just like, do I like this? Does it feel good right now, then I’m doing it. And now 40 year old Gary is, that’s not the one I’m interested in at all. It’s like, I’m going to invest into this for the next two or three years, because the long term dividends from it are going to pay huge. And it’s very painful right now. And it’s very time consuming and very rigorous. And it’s going to hurt now, but I know that gains at the end are going to be pay huge dividends. So it’s more of a sum it up, think long term, not short term. And think, think if it’s not painful now, then it’s probably not going to be worth it in the future. And if it’s just super easy, and you get into it, and you get instant gratification from it, it’s probably not very much value. 


Shawn Zajas  48:16 

Gary, it has been such an honor to interview you. And this whole episode has been so inspiring. You are one that plays the long game. And that’s why you’ve created time and time again, value because you’re not looking for the shortcut. So you create value with your primary thing. And then all of a sudden, you’re intentional about okay, we’re gonna go to events, and we’re gonna start rolling out events. But we’re gonna do it the right way. And now all of a sudden, the events are incredibly valuable and everything you’re doing has intention, and just has such value to dentistry. Seriously, thank you for the way you’re innovating. I’m excited to see what SMC and what you do over the next five or 10 years. But just thank you for letting me interview today. Gary, 


Gary 48:57 

thank you. I want to bring I want to return the favor and have you come on our show and get to grill you for a while too. I would I think that’d be fun. 


Shawn Zajas  49:05 

I will absolutely join you. So thank you. 


Gary 49:07 

Thank you so much. Awesome, man. Thank you. This is really good. This is probably the my favorite podcast I’ve ever done. So thank you so much for having me on. 


Shawn Zajas  49:14 

Thanks for listening, and be sure to follow so you never miss an episode. To learn more about what’s going on in dentistry. Check out innovation in dentistry.com 

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