We have become so accustomed in the last year to hearing tales of woe from New Orleans that it's difficult to imagine anyone wanting to start a new business there. Yet, Dr. Jason Varnado is off to a great start. I fint that most successful dentsist share four qualities -- a strong personal vision and philosophy, strategic planning and expense control, and attention to development of systems, nad powerful leadership qualities. With a daughter just a few months old and a new business, Dr. Varnado is an extremely busy man. I appreciate him taking the time to share his stroy. -- Dr. Michael Gradeless
Dr. Varnado: I am a 34-year-old dentist practicing in New Iberia, La. After graduating from LSU School of Dentistry in 1999, I joined the Air Force, where I was accepted into an Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency. After fulfilling my Air Force commitment in 2003, I became an associate in New Iberia for three years, and built a name for myself in a new town.
I wanted to start my own practice when I realized I had gone as far I could as an associate, and my plan to become a partner was not panning out, however, I was able to maintain an amicable relationship with my boss. This was very important to me, as I was able to keep my job while planning my new office. While searching for the right building, I was introduced to Mike Talley of Patterson Dental Company, and he helped with the search. I initially thought about building a new office, but a loan for the land and start-up costs would have been too much.
After several months and several buildings, I finally found the perfect one. The many factors I had to consider were location, size, parking space, handicap accessibility, and whether the interior walls would need to be removed or replaced for the ideal operatories. Mike helped me through this extensive planning process, and we found a building that required very little construction. Then Mike introduced me to MATSCO, a financial company that specializes in new dentists, and they made the financial preparations manageable.
The work had just begun. Some of the biggest challenges I faced were finding an electrician, plumber, carpenter, and contractor, and then getting estimates for each job. I’m thankful I was well established in the community and knew the right people to call.
My vision for a new office has always been to provide ambulatory dental care, including diagnostic, education, and preventive emergency, and surgical services to promote and sustain wellness, restore form and function, prevent crisis and maximize satisfaction. I know this sounds extensive, but I want to do what good I can to as many people as I can for as long as I can. If I do this, all my goals will be achieved.
Marketing is important to me, and I hit everything hard in the beginning, including newspaper, radio, billboards, and even a grand opening LSU football tailgate party, complete with a big-screen TV and the best Cajun chefs around.
I continued to maintain a good relationship with my boss, who helped me schedule my first three weeks from his office. I believe one of the main reasons my success began quickly is my AEGD education. Since my boss did not do molar endodontics or third molar extractions with IV sedation, he scheduled those appointments for me.
I credit the U.S. Air Force and the AEGD residency with helping me perfect my skills. For three years after graduation I did as much surgery (extractions, perio, and endo) as I wanted, without worrying about costs or overhead. It was nice to practice with five other dentists with whom I could consult. I also learned a lot about leadership in the Air Force. While the Air Force was a great experience, having my own practice is much better. I am excited to go to work every day, and I can be myself with every patient. Our patients feel comfortable because our office is comfortable. Patients may not walk in with a smile, but they leave with one. My hard work has helped me create the practice of my dreams.
Another big reason for my success is that I can do just about anything in dentistry. I only refer out very complex surgical cases. I perform comprehensive examinations with appropriate X-rays on all patients, and with our software and imaging capabilities, I can show patients any problems they might have. Our financial arrangement options through CareCredit and Capitol One are very helpful for patients who need treatment but cannot afford it.
The practice is maintained with the help of many people. Our great front-desk manager accomplishes strategic planning, and our CPA does all of the billing and payroll. The front-desk staff utilizes our technology to set monthly goals and keep track of overhead. Patterson Dental set up a paperless office for us and trained the staff to use Eaglesoft Dental software, which I don’t think we could live without.
After reaching our monthly goals for six months straight, we set a new goal. If we go over that goal, the staff and I will split what is left after we determine the percentage of collections and overhead for the month. Now the whole staff works a little harder because we all get rewarded.
I continue to advertise and promote my practice. I believe happiness in dentistry comes from continuing to learn new procedures and providing caring and competent dentistry. I am open with my patients, and I have high ethical standards. Also, I try to give patients pain-free dentistry, with options of topical, warm local anesthetics, the shaking cheek method, nitrous oxide, and oral or IV sedation. I normally have patients go from requiring IV sedation for a procedure to needing nothing at all in two to three months.If I could give other new dentists one piece of advice, it would be to persevere. When you first look at all you have to do to open your own business, it is overwhelming. It is like standing at the start of a marathon unable to see the finish line. Don’t let this get you down. Simply start walking, but do not run because you will not make it. Do not be afraid to ask for help. There is no way I could have made it without my wife’s support and love, and my faith in God and myself. Believe in yourself, because success is doing what you love and loving what you do.
Dr. Michael Gradeless, a 1980 graduate of Indiana University, practices preventive dentistry in Indianapolis with an emphasis on cosmetics and implants. He is an adjunct faculty member at Indiana University, where he teaches the Pride Institute university curriculum of dental management. Contact him at (317) 841-3130, or e-mail [email protected].