“Practice Less, Earn More, And Love What You Do!”
With special guest - Dr. Ron Schefdore
Welcome to the Madow Brothers Audio Series with Rich and Dave Madow
Madow: Hi, this is Dr. Richard Madow and our guest today
is Dr. Ron Schefdore. How ya doing today, Ron?
Schefdore: Fantastic. I woke up today; it’s a great day.
Madow: That is always good to hear, always. Yeah, I’ll tell ya, when our guests don’t wake up, it makes for really boring interviews, so glad you’re here with us. I’m sure most people listening know your name. You’re a dentist who’s done so much to help other dentists but I’ll give you an introduction anyway, just in case people don’t know what you’re up to. I’ll start by saying before your introduction that we actually kind of met in person recently at the Chicago Midwinter Meeting. Dave and I were lecturing there and you were in the audience, and I’ve gotta say, it’s always flattering when a dentist who’s so accomplished, you know, like someone like you who’s got a fantastic practice and you lecture and you publish, you write, you help many other practices; it was just kind of flattering to see you in the audience, and I’m guessing you were one of those guys who just loves not only teaching but continually learning.
Schefdore: Absolutely, and I’m honored that you asked me to come on, and if I could help several guys and ladies improve their practice, great.
Madow: No question. Well, let’s do it then. Now you’re a full-time practicing dentist, and we’ll get to that in a minute ’cause I have an interesting question for you about that. You’re in the western suburbs of Chicago and your dental practice profits are always in the top five percent for all general dentists, which is just fantastic. Your practice is one where you focus on exceptional service and you really like documenting the improvement of a patient’s overall and oral health; I know you’re big into that. You’re a big communicator. You like to work with the medical professionals as well, to do like a mutually referring relationship kind of thing, so you’re really doing some things in your practice that a lot of dentists need to hear about. You’re a seminar leader, you’re always recognized by Dentistry Today magazine as giving some of the best seminars in the country. You’re also, I don’t know how you do all this but you’re also president of Pharmaden Nutraceuticals and Top Search Video. You wrote the book “Better Service, Better Dentistry, Better Income.” Over fifty of your articles have been published; not only have been published but you were a cover boy! You’ve been on the cover of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry Journal, Dentistry Today magazine, Dr. Woody Oakes’ Excellence in Dentistry magazine, his Profitable Dentist group; I know you’ve done a lot with them. You’ve been in U.S. News & World Report, Wall Street Journal, Prevention magazine, Reader’s Digest, an NBC report called “Can a Trip to the Dentist Save Your Life?” and you were also one of the guys behind the major paradigm shift in dentistry where dentists are being called upon to be, like, we’re kind of like front-line people in disease detection now, and I know we’ll talk quite a bit about that later but I guess the basic generic question is, what the heck, man, how do you have time to do all this stuff?
Schefdore: Well, first of all, you make me sound like I’m really something important, so thank you. I’m very humbled by all that, but how do I do it? You know, there’s one key that I’ve learned in my life; surround yourself with the best people.
Madow: That is a great tip.
Schefdore: And it’s true. I mean, staff members in your office, right, when you’ve got a nice strong team in your office, man, you can move mountains. You got a few weak links surrounding you, oh man, it’s just awful, so you know, you kind of hire slow and fire quick.
Madow: I was just discussing that line with my wife this morning.
Schefdore: Well, that one could be kind of expensive. You don’t want to be firing your wife and…
Madow: Oh no, no, no, I didn’t mean firing her; that will never happen, never, ever, ever. No, but she’s hiring someone in her firm and they’re having trouble finding the right person. I just said, take your time, you know, it doesn’t matter how long it takes, just make sure you have the right person.
Schefdore: Yeah, that’s absolutely, and even when you think you have the right person, you know that I found through the years too is hiring two or three people for the same position and basically, you know, in the next couple of weeks have them fight over it and see who, you know, the cream of the crop will come up.
Madow: Wow, interesting theory; that’s pretty cool.
Madow: Hey, something we were actually discussing before we went live on the air for this interview is that you’re, you do all these things and you’re still a full-time practicing dentist and we were just talking about the enjoyment of that. I mean, some of these other things I know take a lot of your time and you love doing it but the question is, do you still enjoy practicing dentistry?
Schefdore: I do, and I think the reason is, is because when you get to the point that you have treatment that you know so well and you can predict how well the outcomes are going to be, it’s so addictive because patients, I mean, hug me, give me tons of money, and through my efforts and my own hands of creation can get outcomes that I’m just so proud of. How do you quit that?
Madow: Well, getting hugs and getting tons of money are two great things; that’s for sure.
Schefdore: Well, that when I know I did it right, and that’s kind of a rule in our staff, with our staff too, is when we get done with treatment or we’re doing treatment and somebody gives us thousands of dollars and gives me a hug on the way out, we did it correctly that day.
Madow: That’s a, yeah, that’s like a benchmark; that’s pretty cool. Right, ’cause if they give you thousands of dollars but they’re unhappy, in the long run, nobody wins, that’s for sure.
Schefdore: Oh, everybody’s gonna be, I want to overdeliver as much as I can. It doesn’t always happen that way, you know, nothing’s perfect, and I don’t do all my cases perfect, but, boy, you know, when you’re really well trained and you’re really well at what you do and you don’t have to do tons of things. I want to make sure dentists get this because I think the young dentists, I think all dentists, they try to be everything to everybody and you just can’t; just do what you really like and focus in on that area but be really, really good at it, and it’s just so much easier.
Madow: So that’s a great point. Let’s talk about your practice. Just kind of in a general sense, what’s your practice like? I mean, you said do what you really like, so why don’t you tell people what you really like doing and what’s it like for a patient in your practice?
Schefdore: Ok, before we have to get into that, let’s go back thirty years from the beginning or thirty-one years ago so we can understand how I got to this point. Thirty years ago I bought a practice from an existing doctor, and that’s another thing about how that worked, but they were doing things that, you know, wiping their hands on the back of the towel and, never mind, oh, it was…
Madow: Sounds horrendous.
Schefdore: Thirty-one years ago it was just not the way it is today. So I got that practice and for the first six months I was an associate and then he worked for me after that; then he retired. And it was just a two-chair practice, a small practice, and I, he bought, he owned the building so eventually, you know, I got busy, hired one associate, went into the other side of the building, hired another associate, got busy, hired a third associate, and so it was in about, now, three, four, five years, I mean, we went from a hundred fifty thousand to a million, and what I learned, during that time, is that I was doing everything for everybody. I mean, I saw a two-year-old in one room; the next room I’d be doing a denture; the next room I’d be doing an extraction; the next room, and it was kind of overwhelming trying to be really, really good at everything and communicating with such a variety of people, that, how do you do that perfectly? I mean, it was just really frustrating and almost overwhelming. At the end of the day, I was, like, oh my God, how can I do this for another thirty years? So I said, well, maybe I should just, because I know how to build a practice quick, let me do another practice and then do a third practice and maybe move into the administrative part of it because it was kind of overwhelming. So we did a second practice and the same thing happened and exploded and the third practice and so then I had to get to the point where I’m either gonna administrate the practices or practice, and when it really got down to it, I really loved helping people. I just didn’t like the way my day was so frustrating and so pressured. So what I decided to do is go with the love, take a pay cut and be a dentist, ’cause administrating practices was a whole much more financially rewarding, but I went ahead and I sold the practices to the associates that helped me build, and this was over, like, a fifteen-year period. And what I did is I stayed in the third practice, which was the smallest practice by my house in a demographic area that could support what I really love to do. And I was trained in dental school to do full-mouth rehabs. My senior year, I was done a year early with my requirements, and so they said, what do you want to do, and me and the prosthodontist sat there for twelve months and did nothing but full-mouth rehabs, so that was awesome training. So I wanted to go back to that love, and we didn’t call it cosmetic dentistry then; we just called it full-mouth rehabs, but we were doing a lot of cosmetic dentistry. So I had that in my heart, you know, right from the beginning. So I sold the practices and said, ok, I’m gonna write the rules on how I want this practice, who I want to see, how long I want to take; I don’t care about the money, just let me design my day around the way I want it. And the other thing I did, these practices were running my family and running me and I said, that’s done; we’re not doing that anymore. I had to design my personal life actually first and then design my practice around my personal life, and I really would encourage all dentists to do that. I know it’s scary because you’re in such debt but when you’re losing your mind and you’re pressured all day and you gotta survive at thirty or forty years in this profession, you have to get your personal life the way you want it so you’re happy. And then design the practice around your personal life and don’t let it mess up your personal life. And that’s, I think the, one of the best things that I can give any dentist ’cause I see so many unhappy, very pressured dentists, and it’s just, they never took the time to design their life with their spouse the way they want, and then the practice will fit into that, and don’t worry, it won’t cost you any more money; you’ll make more money.
Madow: That’s a great tip, and I think a tip for people of any age, even though maybe, you know, it sounds like it’s intended for the younger people, but at any age, if you’re not happy with your personal life, you can do it, so I’m really glad you brought that up.
Schefdore: Yeah, if you have a lifestyle that you really like and then you’re doing the treatment that you like, people you enjoy and work with the staff that you enjoy, then the money rolls in and that’s what life is all about. It’s about that balance, that’s how to create that balance. Without that balance, I absolutely guarantee that you’re gonna be miserable. I’ve been there. I wanted, can you imagine, I even wanted to quit dentistry just because I couldn’t figure out the balance or didn’t have a mentor to help me and tell me, hey, look, we gotta get a balance and this is how we’re gonna do it. I wish they would have told us that in dental school; that would have been some great advice.
Madow: “I wish they would have told us in dental school” is a line you can never say enough.
Schefdore: Aw, it’s just awful when they don’t. You know, the other thing is, you know, we’re small-business people and they don’t give us any business skills. It’s just awful. I mean, how could you do that in a three- or four-hundred-thousand dollar education?
Madow: Well, that’s why people like us are around, helping dentists get all facets of their practice in place, so maybe we should thank the dental schools; I don’t know.
Schefdore: Well, yeah, you’re right. I mean, it’s a lot of fun, but geez, this is the best profession in the world. If they just prepared us students a little bit better on some of the things that are more important than clinical skills. I mean, clinical skills are great and you have to have ’em but you have to have that balance in your life first so you could do good clinical skills.
Madow: So hey, let’s flash forward to where you are today.
Schefdore: Ok, so today, what am I doing today? So after I opened up the third practice and made my rules, my energy level is really good from seven in the morning till three in the afternoon, so those are my office hours, and I don’t like to work weekends; in fact, I don’t like to work Fridays at all. I like working on me and my family on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, so I work Monday through Thursday seven to three; that’s just kind of my hours. I have an hour lunch and the reason I have an hour lunch is, isn’t to sit there and eat the whole time; I eat a real healthy, vegetables every day; I’m just boring as can be, fresh vegetables and a little bit of protein, and just to keep the energy up, but that hour gives my staff a chance to catch up with everything, return calls, just kind of put some order back in my day. So I take an hour lunch and don’t work evenings or Saturdays or anything like that, and new patients. New patients, when they come in, typically we’ll have a forty-five minute to an hour interview and we’re, I’m basically interviewing them and they’re interviewing me, and there’s certain things that I do to attract a certain clientele and there are specific questions that I need to ask. So what I’ve learned is when I ask these certain set of questions and I listen to their response, just shut up and just listen, you got one mouth and two ears, so I learned I better listen twice as much as I talk. When I do that, they tell me what I’m going to do. I don’t have to sell ’em anything; basically they’re giving me my marching orders, and the only words out of my mouth, you know, at the end is “When were you thinking of getting started?” right, and they go, well, right now, and I go, ok, and we just fit ’em in as soon as possible and we work out the finances. The finances don’t become that big of a, that bigger of a deal to ’em because they’ve already told me what they wanted and when to get started and we just work out the finances, you know, and we always tell them, look, how about can you afford X amount of dollars per month with no interest? Instead of giving them, look, this could be eighteen thousand dollars, you know, not a lot of people have eighteen grand just sitting around. But, you know, we do it in phases. We work out the finances with ’em that time and start treatment. So our acceptance rate’s high and I end up doing a lot of bigger cases only because I’m willing to listen and spend the time. In fact, I wrote that book, that you mentioned, “Better Service, Better Dentistry, Better Income,” just for this, a short, twice to the bathroom and a dentist will be done with it; it’s a great little book. But it kind of outlines how we took two practices from producing two hundred thousand to a million in a short amount of time. And so, anyway, I guess that’s a plug for the book, but it’s a really good little book.
Madow: Yeah, plug it all you want, but I could, back up for a second, ’cause I, it’s funny ’cause I talk about this in our seminars and I kind of do a tongue in cheek ’cause I’ve heard some just horrendous interviews between the dentists and the patients or horrendous things recommended by seminar leaders. I’m just curious; what are one or two of the key questions you like to ask during your patient interview?
Schefdore: Well, this is the most important one you’ll ever ask ’em. Introduce yourself, shake their hand, use both hands, look ’em in the eye, smile and say, “Hello, Mrs. Jones, welcome to our practice, how may I help you?” Sit down and shut up.
Madow: I guess you hear all kinds of things when you ask that question.
Schefdore: Oh, I hear everything and a lot of times they’ll end up crying. I mean, I’m not saying anything; they’re going on and they’re crying, they’re telling me about very personal things that you would never get, in fact, half their family members probably don’t even know about this stuff. Just shut up and listen and write.
Madow: Always a great tip. Hey, also let’s just back up a little bit even more because when I introduced you I said that you were in the western suburbs of Chicago, and for people that might not be familiar with that area, there aren’t too many dentists there, right? Only like one every square foot?
Schefdore: We breed like rabbits; we’re on every corner.
Madow: Yeah, every corner. It’s a really competitive area but you’ve done an amazing job of distinguishing yourself, and as you said before, you somehow attract these patients who kind of know what they’re getting into. You know, it sounds like when patients walk through your door, they know they’re getting really high quality dentistry in a great environment and they know they’re gonna pay a lot of money for it. How do you do it?
Schefdore: Well, it is, you know, too, they have to be presold, right? I mean, when you see an ad for Walmart, you know what you’re getting, right, because they’ve presold you before you ever go in the store. When you go into Marshall Field’s or an upscale place or restaurant or store that you’ve never been to before, didn’t they do just a great job of preselling you? What about Mercedes versus a Yugo? I mean, you know what you’re getting into before you go. So I just learned from the people that were selling me, it’s, like, ok, how did they sell me before I got in the door? And I hate to say “sell”; it’s educating them and having an image that you want to portray, which brings up a really, really good point. Every dentist has to decide what dentistry they’re gonna focus on and what patients they want to work on and what price point, and then you design your staff, your office décor, all your marketing materials from that. Not all of us, and the way I practice today is not the way any practice, any dentist has to practice. I just had to figure out what was good for me and my life and my universe; it doesn’t mean it’s the right way but it works for me and my family.
Madow: That’s, you constantly keep coming back to that topic, how you’re kind of doing things your way, the way that makes you happy, and I think that’s why you’ve been practicing for many years and you still love it and you’re still energetic and you’re still making a ton of money ’cause you really have designed it so you enjoy it, and it’s a super cool theme to keep coming back to. But let’s get to some of your marketing in a second because I think a lot of times when you talk about a practice like yours, which is, you know, high-end, high-priced, cosmetically-oriented, whatever you want to call it, you know, we get sick of some of those clichés, and you’re comparing it to Mercedes and a high-end department store, you do some marketing that some people might not associate with those kinds of practices. ’Cause I know a lot of people would say, oh, we only do word of mouth because like refers like, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah… But you’re a big Google guy for example. You’ve kind of found out how to make Google work for you. How do you do that?
Schefdore: Oh, well, that’s pretty cool. I try getting my website, you know, on the first page of Google ’cause all people look at is the first page, maybe the second page, and then today, fifty percent of the patients that look for a dentist use their iPhone and iPad, so if you look on an iPhone and iPad for a dentist and you look on that first page, you can’t even read the things; it was just awful. So I had to figure out how do I get my presence on the first page. I hired, I’m not kidding you, I spent twenty-five, thirty thousand dollars over the last, oh, three, four, five years ago trying to get my website up by reputable companies that swore they can get me there. It never worked. So I was so sick of getting screwed, you know, my daughter was graduating from Ohio State, so she’s a nerd, I’m a nerd, and there’s a room full of nerds that are friends and I kind of presented this problem to ’em after a few beers. I’m really trying to get my website on the first page. They said, ah, we’ll figure it out in thirty days. Guess what? They did. They, ok, if you look at Downers Grove Dentures, ok, that’s just one of sixty search words that I have on the first page of Google. Look at it on your iPhone; I’m the only one that you can see a phone number on, and it’s a short video; it’s gotta be coded correctly; it’s gotta have the right time. I mean, they figured this out, however Google’s rules are, took ’em a while, but they figured it out. So within a couple weeks I had like fifty videos on the first page of Google and the iPhone. I’m the only one on there. When that, things like that’s just one example. When that happens, this just gives you so much credibility because people today do not want to go to websites. It’s too long, it’s cumbersome, it’s just a pain in their butt. For example, before I came down here to Florida for a little break, I had two patients come in. One was an accountant. He owned his accountant firm. The other was a physician that works in the emergency room. Both of them, I asked ‘em, everybody that comes in, how’d you find us? And they go, well, I saw your video, and I said, why did you see the video? And they go, well, basically, you know, the physician said I was in between patients and I wanted some veneers; I’ve been reading about ’em; I just Googled, you know, Downers Grove Veneers, and you popped up with this little icon, this movie, and she says, within thirty seconds I got all your contact information, saw your before-and-after pictures, and knew you were the right guy for me, and I called you right away.
Madow: Wow, what a story. Unbelievable.
Schefdore: That’s an eighteen-thousand-dollar case for me.
Madow: Not bad from the iPhone. Pretty cool.
Schefdore: On an iPhone, and, you know, the accountant that owns this big accounting firm in Chicago, he said the exact same thing. He said he was in between clients, he wanted some dental implants, he says I Googled Downers Grove Dental Implants, you came up, I liked the icon, I liked the little video, and in thirty seconds I got all the information I see, and man, you look like you’re the man. They’re presold, they know what they’re getting, they know it’s not gonna be cheap, and I’m solving their problem all because, that was another, that’s probably a twenty-five thousand dollar case.
Madow: You don’t need too many of those.
Schefdore: Well, that’s the point, you know, if now for me, I like doing adults fifty and older that are train wrecks that need a lot of work. So I do full-mouth rehabs because really that was my training right from the beginning and I love doing it. They’re very, very challenging so they challenge every part of my skill, my skill level, but the rewards to me personally are really, really good because it’s almost like painting a picture when you’re done and you’re so proud of it, and then you get paid really well for it.