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HSP #68 with Alan Miller audio
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HSP #68 with Alan Miller video
"I learned business by putting myself around winners." Listen to Alan Miller explains the AMD story, and the amazing community on Dentaltown.
Alan M. Miller
Toll Free 866-999-2635
Direct 317.202.9530 ext 101
Howard Farran: It is going to be so fun today for me. I am going to interview one of idols and role models, Alan Miller. I usually interview dentists but the reason I brought Alan in here is he didn’t know he was going to be interviewed until about three seconds ago and I don’t think he’s looking forward to this nearly as much as I am, but the reason I love you so much Alan is because…you know I grew up, seven kids with a stay home catholic mom, a dad that delivered Rainbow bread, $11 000 a year and it seems like when I got into dentistry, so much of the dental education was… like you go to study club and the first dentist stand up and he’d be all proud and say I just want to make an announcement, I trim all my own dyes and then the next dentist stands up and says not only do I trim my own dyes, but I quarter my own stone, pour out my own models, then trim my own dyes and then the next dentist not to be outdone, he’s like well I have my own beehive I grow my own wax, I quarter my own stone, I pour out my own mould…in dentistry it was like the sacred cow to make the longest distance between two points when they were all done at the end of the day they had this thousand dollar crown and the when a guy like Jim Glidewell comes out who says you know what forget all of the rich people and their $1000 crowns. I am going to focus on a very low cost crown and so many dentists want to throw Glidewell under a bus, but I look at people like Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines as giving Americans the freedom to fly. I see people like Jim Glidewell using their genius mind to give Americans the freedom to have a low cost crown and I see you and I get out of school, a freaking laser was $50 000 and then out of nowhere some Hoosier from Indiana figured out, I mean you basically lowered the price of a laser 90% with AMD which stands for Alan Miller Dental?
Alan Miller: Design.
Howard Farran: Alan Miller Design. So first of all everybody is out in, most of these people who are watching probably never knew that AMD lasers stood for you, Alan Miller. So Alan, how did you get into dentistry, how did you get into lasers? And the other thing I want you to key on is, most dentists spend their whole life in their office. You’ve seen a gazillion offices. You know every dentist around, so I would like a millionaire entrepreneur business man to be looking at these dentists and saying look buddy, you only see you in the mirror. I see you and the mirror. So tell us your story. Just tell us the AMD story.
Alan Miller: You know Howard, thanks for the introduction, first of all. There were five kids in our family, Irish, growing up we all had to work our rear ends off, there was no hand me downs so to speak unless it was a used pair of Converse sneakers, but the reality is…
Howard Farran: Did you grow up in Indiana?
Alan Miller: Yeah I’m a Hoosier by trade.
Howard Farran: Irish Catholic?
Alan Miller: Irish Catholic.
Howard Farran: We’re probably cousins and don’t even know it. You got the good looking gene and I got the fat, bald gene but we’re still Irish cousins.
Alan Miller: Oh yeah. Come on. The reality is all of us kids grew up, you know working. There was no hand me downs and fortunately you know my parents made us work and I worked my rear end off to get where I’m at. I’ve been in dentistry now for 25 years. Kind of fortunate, I came from the medical side and came from cardiac pacemakers. Unfortunately the company I was working for got the doors closed from the FDA. My brother Jack is a dentist, he was the racing dentist. He used to race for Chris race cars, Indie cars. Uncle was an oral surgeon, lots of doctors and nurses in the family and then the black sheep. You know you’re number four out of five, you know you take your own path. I always enjoyed sales, enjoyed marketing. I’m kind of an introvert, a lot of people don’t know that, but I love to design products and I’ve helped design a lot of dental products and got involved in lasers back in the 90’s with BioLase, great company and I have been in…
Howard Farran: So you were repping for BioLase in the 90’s?
Alan Miller: I was repping for BioLase.
Howard Farran: And that was what, a $50 000 laser?
Alan Miller: Yeah, back then it was a WaterLase. Even the soft tissue lasers were in the 20’s and I’ve travelled around the world. I probably have been in 5000 plus dental office throughout the US, countless countries throughout Asia, Europe, Latin America and I’m fortunate because I’ve had the ability to travel. I listen to people and one thing I’ve learnt about any of these dental products was it was really two different areas that people focus on. One, it was either a product for the niche dentist or it was one for the masses and I really felt that laser technology, specifically soft tissue lasers, everybody can have one. I mean if you’ve got a dental drill, why not a soft tissue hand piece? Scalpels suck, electrocautery sucks because of all the issues with it and lasers, you know other than the price, are really…should be the standard of care and it was really just a matter of me just sitting down, figuring out how to build these things with a Walmart mentality or, you know Southwest mentality and making it affordable for everybody and it took me years to figure out how to reduce the number of parts inside the laser, how to get the labour cost down and how to build these things on a mass quantity to drive the pricing down from $50 000 to $2500, so everybody could afford one instead of making it a niche product and fortunately, I took a huge gamble Howard, I mean took my life savings on the Picasso products. I was all in with marketing, starting with Dentaltown. Actually my first advertising if I can remember was June of 2009 the very first ad came out on Dentaltown.
Howard Farran: Was that with Pete Janicki?
Alan Miller: Yeah it sure was.
Howard Farran: I love Pete.
Alan Miller: And that launched the company and it was crazy because I was hoping to sell a couple of thousand units over two years and I think we sold the first 2000 in the first couple of months and the company just took off. I think we have our product now in over 70 countries.
Howard Farran: Wow.
Alan Miller: Around the world and you know my focus is still how do I make this affordable for doctors? You know not only the lasers but making sure that the solution, the soft tissue solution is there for them. So that’s the education, it’s the accessories, it’s the culture of our company that when they call us, the answer is yes. Whatever we can do for them we say yes and you know a lot of the laser companies have folded up shop over the last five years and I don’t think it’s so much about our product being special, but I think it’s about the people behind the company and the leadership that I try to give our employees which is, I try to lead by, you now example and even though I am not involved daily with a lot of the operations I think you’ve got to have somebody that is passionate about the product and passionate about helping dentistry worldwide and that’s who I’ve always tried to be. I believe in this product to the point, I think I’ve donated probably 300 or 400 lasers around the world too. Missions down in South America, or monasteries in Greece or children’s health clinics and that’s all straight out of my pocket. I believe in giving back to this industry that’s been so good to me and you know Dentaltown has been great to me and you know it’s my way of saying thank you and putting this technology in the hands of doctors around the world because the ultimate winners are the patients I believe. I know me or my kids or my friends, if they want to have surgery it’s got to be done with a laser. It’s just better clinically. It’s really when you cut, you coagulate, there’s no blood, there’s no swelling. It is more comfortable post op and for dentists it takes the headache out of their day in and day out operations. I mean the guys using the Picasso Laser don’t pack cord anymore, which is a pain in the ass. You know the little simple things, around metal its safe. So little things when you’ve got a matrix band and you’ve got some tissue up underneath it, what do you do? You pull out your laser, it’s safe to remove the tissue and there’s 100 little procedures but quite frankly I’m here from the good graces of God. I’m not that smart of a guy, I just worked my butt off.
Howard Farran: I think you… I think you might be the smartest guy I’ve ever met in dentistry. I truly believe that, but I want to say one thing to our viewers, a couple of things. A lot of dentists tell me they still use the electrosurgery and they don’t get any post operative discomfort about it. By the way every one of you guys that ever have said that when I’m in the office, I go to your assistant and say who did you electrosurge on yesterday or the day before and they’ll say oh Amy Lou. So I’ll go up front, I’ll say call Amy Lou, I’ll call up and say Amy, this is from Dr. Good’s office, are you having any discomfort? Every single time, oh yeah I’ve eaten all my Vicodin can I get a refill? I mean if you look in the mirror and you say that you use an electrosurge and it doesn’t cause post operative discomfort, you’re the craziest guy in the room right now and we’re both crazy. So you are crazier than us. So the electrosurge is dead and I understand using the electrosurge when your alternative cost $25 000, I get that, but now when it costs, what is it, $2500?
Alan Miller: Yeah $2500, $3500 it’s basically free at this point.
Howard Farran: Yeah there’s no reason, the electrosurge, in fact the electrosurge should not even be legal. I mean that thing…we already got a bad enough reputation as dentists with pain, last thing you need is to using a radio waves to burn bone.
Alan Miller: Yeah
Howard Farran: In tissue for implants, you can’t do that with an electrosurge?
Alan Miller: No.
Howard Farran: Yeah that would be crazy.
Alan Miller: I mean like the rest of the guys lecturing on implants. You know I just listen to him, he’s lecturing here at the Townie meeting, just got up in front of the entire group and said that if you are doing implants, you’ve got to have a laser and you know the guys just doing basic GP stuff, the reality is when you use a laser it’s predictable tissue response.
Howard Farran: You know what, I don’t want to ask you. I feel bad to ask you this live on camera, but I do want to ask you this. It sounds kind of intuitive, but you’re a genius I think you might get it, is I still think when we got your laser, we were educated. We were trained. It was CD ROMS or DVD’s…
Alan Miller: DVD’s.
Howard Farran: DVD’s. I wish those DVD’s were on Dentaltown because I think you’re training people after they buy it if…I believe that if you put that on Dentaltown and they could be trained and they haven’t bought it, after they get done with the training they will say damn, I do need that. I think the training…
Alan Miller: You’re welcome to have them. I would love to post them.
Howard Farran: I would love to put those online because they were, and the other thins is, Jen’s been my assistant for 28 years and we did it as an office. We did the training together as an office but it just mesmerized her. I mean she’s been more fired up by the laser than any of the three dentists. I mean we like it, Jen’s crazy about it.
Alan Miller: That is good to hear.
Howard Farran: But she loved the learning about it, she loved…because the DVD’s were very well done, it was really… so what would you say to a dentist out there who says I like to… my job is to ask the questions, some guys are driving to work… so what is the actual difference between an electrosurge and a laser? Some guy is driving across rural Tennessee right now and wants to know that. What would you say?
Alan Miller: I would say there are three things. One is lasers are safe around metal. So if you’ve got decay that goes sub gene and you’ve got old amalgam there, no worries. Pull out your laser, trim the tissue, it coagulates at the same time. It takes a 30 minute procedure which is a pain in the butt, makes it a couple of minutes and it’s simple. If you’ve got a matrix band, you’ve got tissue up around it, big deal. Pull out your laser, orthodontic brackets, not an issue to remove hyperplastic tissue or of course, uncovering an implant so a big deference is lasers are safe around metal. The second one is area of necrosis with a laser is minimal compared to electrocautery so what’s the biggest pain in the butt, when you want to raise eight and nine, and you pull out electrocautery and you trim that tissue, you’re always worried about what? Where is it going to end up? Am I going to be exposing a margin? Guess what? With a laser, where you cut is where it stays, so predictable tissue response every time. All the cosmetic guys, they all have lasers, they won’t practice dentistry without a laser. Predictable tissue response and number three is patient acceptance. Do you want to put a grounding patch on your patient’s thigh or on their back or do you want to say hey, here is our laser, it’s safe and we’re going to go ahead and do surgery with the laser. I mean a lot of it is perception Howard, as you know. There are practices that are winners and there are practices that want to be winners and the guys who embrace technology and embrace education like coming into events like the Townie, to learn more, those are the winners and that’s why… you know I would say the majority of Townies have Picasso Lasers already. It’s our biggest group, our biggest group of customers at AMD Lasers are Townies. They love education, they embrace technology and it makes them winners and everybody is else is just kind of following in that wave. So like electrocautery has had its place. I know if it’s going to be me or my kids or my family and they need a procedure done, I’d rather have a laser which is a lot more comfortable.
Howard Farran: So I want to go back to the fact that you know, you’ve seen 5000 dentists in 70 different countries, so this is April 17th and next month 5000 kids are going to come out of dental school and they’re all scared. I always tell everybody there’s two times when you don’t sleep, that’s the night before dental school starts and the night before it’s over because you’re like okay what’s next? So 5000 kids are going to walk out of a dental school next month… you’ve seen them all and you’ve seen them all for decades. What advice would you give those kids?
Alan Miller: Move back home with your parents. I’m not kidding.
Howard Farran: You are kidding or you’re not kidding?
Alan Miller: I’m not kidding. I’ll tell you what, I feel really a lot of pain for new dental guys and girls coming out because I think the average in debt is $400 000 and something thousand dollars. I mean to me that’s unbelievable that they’re coming out of school…
Howard Farran: I heard it’s 250 to 300.
Alan Miller: 250 to 300?
Howard Farran: But you’ve heard 400?
Alan Miller: I heard 490 from somebody today.
Howard Farran: But I think, put that in perspective because, their first divorce will cost a million. They’re getting out cheap but what advice would you give these guys who are $250 000 in debt and pre-divorce?
Alan Miller: I would say get some education on running a business. You know I think dental school is good for showing you and teaching you how to learn dentistry, but the reality is, if you’re going to get involved in either opening your own practice or working for somebody, some good basic business sense has to be put into place because I think a lot of girls and guys when they get out, you know they want to quickly get their own practice, they want to try and build a practice and I think the reality is they need business sense. They need to identify where they want to practice, that is the number one thing because there’s a lot of practices that are located in big cities that are faltering, or have gone bankrupt and it’s crazy to me. Growing up in Indiana everybody want to be Indianapolis or Carmel, Indiana. It’s not Carmel, Indiana it’s Carmel Indiana and it’s saturated with dentists. When you go 20, 30 minutes outside of those areas, there’s no dentist and there’s tons of population.
Howard Farran: You see if I was in Indiana, I’d want to go to the birthplace of David Letterman, wherever that was.
Alan Miller: Muncie, I believe. But first of all finding locations where you can actually make money.
Howard Farran: What you’re saying is that you wouldn’t want to leave America and open up in Somalia or Yemen?
Alan Miller: Oh absolutely not.
Howard Farran: So if demographics would tell you no to go to Yemen or Somalia, then why are you going to downtown San Francisco?
Alan Miller: Yeah, exactly. And I think that’s business sense that is not taught in the dental schools. One is where do you want to be located? Okay. Where do you want to open up your shop? Most people want to be where all the other dentists are which is crazy. I want to, if I’m a dentist I want to go to where there’s no other dentist and get all the business there.
Howard Farran: And you know the number one comment that pisses me off about my success, they go oh you’re lucky, you set up in South Phoenix in 1987. Dude, I was born in Wichita, Kansas. I moved 1000 miles from my home only to hear the rest of my life, oh you were lucky you set up in Phoenix. Yeah I know that! I wrote the department of economic security, asked what the job growth was and they sent me a report that from ’85 to the year 2000, United States will create 30 million new jobs and half of them would be in five cities. Boston, Tampa, Phoenix, Orange County and Silicone Valley.
Alan Miller: Yeah.
Howard Farran: So I picked Phoenix. So now I’m lucky because I moved 1000 miles away from home. So you’re saying demographics are important?
Alan Miller: Like research and education. Dentists get trained on how to do dentistry, why not get trained on how to run a business that’s going to be profitable because reality is, all these practices I see, there’s no golden parachute anymore. It used to be 20 years ago, you could work for 20, 30 years and sell your practice for millions of dollars. It’s not like that anymore, so it’s all about not how much you make, but it’s about how much you keep right?
Howard Farran: Right.
Alan Miller: And I don’t think a lot of the new dentists coming out of dental school understand that. They have huge debt and they need to be much more strategic about where they want to place themselves either by starting a new practice or working for somebody and eventually growing into their own practice.
Howard Farran: So Alan I don’t know how old you are, but I assume we’re kind of the same. I’m 52.
Alan Miller: 36
Howard Farran: You’re 36?
Alan Miller: I’m kidding I’m 50.
Howard Farran: You’re 50?
Alan Miller: I am 50.
Howard Farran: So why do you think it was Alan, when I got out of school in ’87 and you got out of school and said you know what, I just want to get some experience for a couple of years. I want to join the Army or Navy, Air force, they’ve got a lot of continued education. You know I’ve never done an implant or … I want to get beefed up and all your friends say oh yeah go Army, go Navy, go Air force but now when a kid walks out in 2015, says you know what I just think I want to go work at like Harland or Pacific Dental for a couple of years. Just get some experience first, get my feet grounded. They look at him like oh my God, you’re working for corporate dentistry. I mean do you think… I guess my question is… you just told them they should learn business. They learned how to do a root canal, they need to learn some business but how do you learn business? Does working for corporate dentistry teach you business or how do you recommend… is there a book you think they should read? How did you learn business and how do these dental graduates graduating in a month learn business?
Alan Miller: You know I think that’s a couple of different questions there. I learned business by putting myself around winners. Every company I have been with, I tried to associate myself with the guys driving up in the Bentleys. They guys going like this and swinging their arms where everybody else worked and I asked lots of questions. I mean the reality is if you hang around bowlers you’re going to bowl, right? So if you hang around winners, eventually I think you’re going to be playing in that space. So… these girls and guys coming out of school I can tell you, that if you want to be a winner, you need to be educated, you need to ask questions. There’s nothing wrong with the Hartland Dentals and you know the big buying groups out there. I really see that as a future because dentistry is tough and they’ve got some unique abilities that an individual dentist doesn’t and I think it’s a good education for dentists just coming out of school. How can they learn business… they’re going to learn that there is more to dentistry than just doing dentistry. It’s how to manage people, it’s how to get along with people, and it’s how to manage everything that comes into a practice. Whether it’s…you know the materials needed or the equipment needed. It’s how to get along with others. As you know the world is not so much, we have the best laser on the market it’s that we manage our relationships I think better than our competitors and I think being a dentist is a lot more than just dentistry. It is how to market your practice, it’s how to manage your employees, it’s how to motivate your employees for production and it’s how you treat patients that makes them want to come back and also recommend their friends that come visit you and these are the things that are though to learn in dental school that are core to success for every good dental practice out there. You’re living proof of that Howard.
Howard Farran: So give them more tips on how to learn these skills. Like when they come out of school, they’re not going to know how to manage people. How does a dental student, the first five years out of school learn how to manage people or where would they learn skills like that?
Alan Miller: There are tons of events like this. They can go to Townie meetings. I’m a big reader like you, I think…
Howard Farran: Yeah.
Alan Miller: How many books are you up to, 5000?
Howard Farran: Yeah.
Alan Miller: How many now?
Howard Farran: Well I read one a week for my whole life, my personal library has got a 1000 books in it. All leaders are readers.
Alan Miller: Yeah, love to read and you know, there is nothing bad that comes out of reading. Get in as much material whether it’s Entrepreneur magazine or Inc. or Fortune or Forbes you name it, or Cumming and learning from events like this, but the reality is, eat your pride and ask questions of the peers who are successful.
Howard Farran: And I want to make one comment on what Alan said because an interesting thing is diseases on the extreme kind of give you an idea of how a normal healthy mind works. For instance a palm tree can’t have depression, you never see an oak tree commit suicide so when you see 30 000 Americans kill themselves each year that means everybody can get down. When you sit there and see ADD where a kid needs medications, that means we’re all a little ADD and what I think, I think books are coming back in huge range because of smartphones, audio books. You know it took a lot of discipline to sit in a chair and read a 1000 black and white pages for six hours to kill a book. Now you can download an audiobook and go about your dishes and laundry and cleaning the house and walking the dogs so audio books are just huge. I think that’s bringing big stuff back to reading.
Alan Miller: The only other advice I…
Howard Farran: Okay, I want to say one more thing about what you said, where you exemplify, is Harvard Business Review has done this study several times every five years for the last 25 years. You know they’ll go in and they will say what do the top 10% performers, what do their CEO’s that the bottom 10% don’t and every time they have done this study about what is a leader, humility is always the number one thing because humility allows you to listen to your staff, allows you to listen to your customers and every time I meet a Jim Glidewell of Glidewell, an Alan Miller of AMD lasers, these are humble guys and these are guys if you walk up and ask them what they’re (unclear) they’re totally humble and they listen to their customers and if I asked the American public, describe dentists, physicians and lawyers. If I said describe a lawyer, where would the word humble come up on the first…how many words would come out of their mouth before someone said humble? 100? 1000? Arrogant, didn’t listen, didn’t pay attention, I mean when I ask people sitting next to me in airplanes well what do you think of dentists in general or what would you describe as your average experience with a dentist? Usually one of the first three words is arrogant or talks down to me or was judgmental or made me feel bad and they didn’t realize, and the patients think they were born with soft teeth and you’re talking down to them and making them feel bad, and guys like Alan are humble and they’re nice and they’re sweet and they’re fun. I mean I smile from ear to hear every time I even hear your name and that’s because you listen to all these dentists, you listen to your staff.
Alan Miller: That and I think like most guys, like myself we all fail. You know I think that’s a common trait. Every business entrepreneur would tell you Howard, they try they fail. What sets them different from most people out there is when we fail, we learn from it and we get back up and we have a tendency to go like this, we do well, we fail, we do well, we fail, we do well, we fail, we’re always learning. We embrace failing because it’s a growth for us and that’s the only way that we can learn. So I can tell you, AMD, we don’t always bet a thousand, you know there are times that I’ll release an accessory or try stuff and I go oh my gosh, that was a total flop. But then I go aha, this is why is wasn’t that great. We get smarter, we get stronger and then we basically adapt and move forward and I’ve done that with lots of companies, you can’t always get it right and I think that’s where being humble comes from is I know it’s, I’m not perfect. I know the company is not perfect. We work our asses off and we try, but when we make mistakes we embrace them. We apologize if necessary and we say you know what, hey we screwed up we’re going to try harder. We didn’t take care of you or something didn’t work out, we love you, we’re going to try harder, but we learnt from it and that’s why our product improvements and our culture from the company comes from and I think if you look at me or Jim Glidewell for who I have the most respect for in the world, or Fred Doyle or yourself or any successful guys, is we all skin our knees but we move forward and for new dentists coming out there into the world, be prepared you’re going to fail but embrace it. It’s a good thing, you’re going to get stronger, you going to learn from it, you’re going to learn when your staff, you know messes up or you have people quit or you’ve got to fire them or whatever happens, you learn from that and as long as you are learning and moving forward, that’s the difference between successful, risk taking entrepreneurs who kick ass or everybody else is, risk be…risk, don’t be risk adverse because you’re never going to progress. You wouldn’t even have all these wonderful people here if you were scared of risk but embrace it and embrace failure but learn from it and move forward.
Howard Farran: Yeah our Dentaltown, we’ve lost a million dollars twice and I think it’s hilarious and because number one, those are two mistakes we’ll never do again. Japanese…the oldest Japanese proverb says successful man falls seven times and gets up eight. We all fall down. Mohamed Ali says every boxer gets knocked on the mat, it’s the champions who get back up and so I think humility is a huge thing. I think when you’re young coming out of school, I remember when I hired my first hygienist I was just out of school. I was 24, it was in 1987 and I ran an ad for a hygienist and seven came, and six of them came and they were young and cute and hot and all that stuff and the back of my mind is like never. I don’t know what I’m doing, I know you don’t know what you’re doing and I kept interviewing until finally this 55 year old lady walked in, and I was really honest when I said, I said I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m hiring a hygienist, I don’t even know the code for a cleaning! How can I bill cleaning, I don’t even know what I’m doing and I’m not very good on reading X-rays. And she just says oh don’t worry, she goes I’ll show you everything and I’ll come in and I’ll show you the cavities and you just nod yes and if you disagree, don’t disagree with me in front of the patient, when the patient leaves we will talk. So it’s that pure humility of getting an older lady who’s been doing for it 25 years and I had the humility to admit I don’t know my ass from anything and I’m a doctor and you’re a hygienist, so humility is good. So again, you are wildly successful and you are wildly smart. These kids are graduating in a month, give them more low hanging fruit on what they could do to be successful five years out of school. You’ve seen so many offices, think of the, if you’ve seen 5000 offices, what do the 500 most successful offices do more of than the 500 least successful offices?
Alan Miller: Communicate with their staff and their patients. I mean to me its huge thing. I’ll walk into a practice Howard I can tell you in 10 to 30 seconds everything about that practice. I mean it’s scary, you know the practices kind of fit into a couple of different buckets and you can feel the energy when you walk through the front door of successful versus barely making at and they are wondering why they are barely making it. It is all about energy, passion and attitude. It’s crazy and then the young dentists coming out of school they’ve got to remember a couple of things. The staff is critically important but they have to manage their staff effectively which means attitude towards the patients because without patients you’re screwed right? And you need half your patients to bring in more patients. So attitude is driven by leadership and to me even…you can be young and out of school and fresh and totally green which is a good thing because patients and staff will appreciate when you are honest about who you are, as long as you’ve got that passion, you love dentistry, you love your patients. Passion drives success. So to me it’s hey if you spend all these years in school and you’re finally getting out, have passion for what you do, success will follow you.
Howard Farran: It’s so funny how… for you and I, it’s just obvious. I mean and the dentist don’t get it and I’ve said to the dentist a million times. I’ve been in all the greats, whether it be Omar Reed or Hornbrook or Dickson or whatever, you walk into Omar Reed and he walks into a room with a patient, he’s like Mary, how are you doing? The whole office is energized and then you walk in the other 80% of dental offices and it’s like going into the post office or the DVD or morgue and if the hygienist tries to explain something to the dentist she gets reprimanded because she is not a doctor and she’s diagnosing and you’re an assistant you suction spit. Why did you tell her that she had a crack? Are you a dentist? Are you insane? And everybody is just like on pins and needles, it’s silent, it’s dysfunctional and it’s four out of five dental offices you go into. I mean like getting on board of Southwest Airlines. The employees are alive.
Alan Miller: Yeah
Howard Farran: And then you get on the other airline that’s lost money every quarter for the last ten years and can never find your luggage and it’s just attitude.
Alan Miller: It’s all about attitude.
Howard Farran: It’s all karma.
Alan Miller: It is. It is.
Howard Farran: And the patients feel it and it makes them buy.
Alan Miller: Yeah.
Howard Farran: When a real estate agent is showing you a home and she’s fired up and she’s hot and she pulled up in her pink Mercedes you buy the house.
Alan Miller: Yeah. You know it comes back to treating people the way you want to be treated. It sounds corny but I will tell you again, probably 5000 offices around the world, you can feel the energy in each office when you walk through that front door. It’s the way you’re greeted, the way the dentist comes out, you know do they remember you and are they actually interested in you? You know the one thing… I love Southwest and I love successful companies and I always, like our sales people you know what I try to teach them is… you ever been on Southwest flight? Do you know how much fun it is? From before you get on the flight, you’re on the flight, but when you get off that flight, every single person that flew with them gets a thanks for coming, have a great day and they make you feel like it’s genuine. They do that day in day out, every single person that flies on that plane. That’s amazing and a dental practice has a fraction of patients compared to just one flight and if a flight attendant can say thanks for coming, have a great day, you guys are awesome. They’re on there singing, they do it over and over and over. Why can’t a dentist or a hygienist or a front office or an assistant make each patient feel that special? It shouldn’t be that difficult because Southwest certainly pulls it off.
Howard Farran: It’s just attitude.
Alan Miller: It’s just bad attitude.
Howard Farran: And you know I get so mad when people say ah, Southwest airlines, those cheap airlines. I’m sorry but Southwest airlines is the only airline in America where no one has died on the plane. No one ever died in a Southwest airlines plane. US Air, how many planes have US Air had fall out of the sky and part of it is because of low cost and genius minds like you or…you started this interview like how do it I get rid of less parts, how do I get rid of moving parts? By Southwest only flying one plane, a 737 every mechanic masters it.
Alan Miller: Yeah.
Howard Farran: They’ve got spare parts for only one plane and the other airlines, since they’re flying seven different airplanes, their mechanics don’t know how to fix them all and the parts go crazy, the prices go up and planes fall out of the sky. So often times the genius companies, they figured out to lower their cost. They don’t use the hub and spoke system. They only fly direct. The reason why I fly Southwest airlines every time is because I have four boys and I’ve got a three year old granddaughter and no one has ever died on Southwest Airlines. Number two, so many of the other airlines if they’re not going to be profitable they cancel the flight. Southwest Airlines…if they saying they’re taking off at seven o’clock they will take off at seven and they don’t care if you’re the only guy in the plane.
Alan Miller: Yeah
Howard Farran: And they can’t lose your luggage because they fly point to point.
Alan Miller: Don’t you think their success though… they give you the cheapest outline there but people love flying Southwest because of their attitude?
Howard Farran: Yeah.
Alan Miller: I mean I love when I walk up to one of their gates and it’s Christmas time or Halloween. The whole thing is decorated, the people are wearing costumes. I go next door to Delta or US Air and it’s just depressing.
Howard Farran: It’s pronounced US scare.
Alan Miller: US scare, sorry. I think anyways dentist’s offices should take a hint from successful companies. You want to be successful, watch what successful companies are doing which is all about attitude.
Howard Farran: And steal their employees. I stole one of the best receptionists ever from Chase Bank across the street from me. When I went in there, there was five or six tellers but there was always one that was just adorable and lovely and sweet and nice and I’m sitting there thinking, you know you’ve got to dot I’s and cross T’s to work at a bank till. You can’t be ignorant and be a bank teller. You wouldn’t last. She was one of the best employees I ever got. I know another dentist who hired one from Starbucks. Hey I’ve got to ask you a question I hear about you all the time. A lot of people are always saying is he ever going to do a hard tissue laser? So is that fair to ask? Or do you want me to roll back the camera and delete that question or?
Alan Miller: No it’s a fair question.
Howard Farran: Is that a fair question because Alan, I’ve had that question 20, 30 times in my last few years.
Alan Miller: You know I have a passion for hard tissue lasers for sure and it’s…I did put together the Picasso ATL before I sold the company to Dentsply. I did buy the company back in August of last year, so I’ve been fairly busy. It’s definitely on the front burner.
Howard Farran: So when someone says hard tissue laser, does that automatically mean carbon dioxide, CO2?
Alan Miller: No. No erbium.
Howard Farran: Erbium? Okay so explain that, what is the difference between a soft tissue and hard tissue as far as…is it YAG for soft tissue erbium, carbon dioxide? Will you educate us on that?
Alan Miller: Sure. Soft tissue lasers are strictly soft tissue first of all. You can use a CO2 laser, you can use a diode laser, and you can you a Nd:YAG laser and actually you can use a erbium laser to all cut soft tissue.
Howard Farran: And all those names are because that’s the element that when it’s energized will send out a…explain the names.
Alan Miller: Okay so there’s different mediums that will produce photons and you can use a gas, you can use a crystal like an erbium would be a crystal or you can use electro mechanical, a little bit different type of a crystal to produce a laser wavelength. All laser wavelengths are absorbed in their target tissue a little bit differently. So diode lasers are traditionally really inexpensive to manufacture, that’s why we use a diode for our laser medium. You can do the same cut with a different type of laser, it just increases the cost. To cut bone in specifically cavity preps, you can not use diode crystal. You need more of an erbium or a like Convergent has a CO2 laser to cut and do cavity preps, unfortunately those laser are traditionally around $70 000 in cost.
Howard Farran: Which is a year dental school.
Alan Miller: Yeah. It’s a niche product, here is the problem Howard. Diode lasers, everybody should have one, everybody can have one. Everybody’s going to use a diode soft tissue laser like Picasso Daily. I mean it’s …you’re going to have you dental drill, you are going to either have electrocautery or a scalpel or you should have a laser. It’s something you can use daily on patients. Hard tissue lasers are traditional much slower on cavity preps and because of their high cost, it made them a very small niche product. Probably only 3% or 4% of the US dentists even have a hard tissue laser whereas 45% of the dentists have soft tissue lasers. So it’s a niche product, so I like being Walmart, I like being Southwest. I like giving products that everybody can use. Hard tissue lasers are in Nordstrom, where that’s your US Scare, it’s because of the high cost. It’s never going to be a mainstream product and that breaks my heart. I’m working on technology to bring the pricing way, way down for hard tissue lasers but it’s still not quite there and when I release a product, I want something that everybody can afford and that is marketed and positioned well. And you know I see hard tissue lasers, without all the BS around them, as being great for pediatric practices because they’re fast on kids. I see them great for class three, class five and incisor preps but quite frankly all the hard tissue lasers out there are slow on adult occlusal preps. You will pull you hair out when you use one because, plot the drill you get it done in seconds compared to 10 minutes with a hard tissue laser and you have a busy practice and nobody wants to screw with it, but I think if the price is low enough and the lasers are positioned properly to do what they actually do best, opposed to no shot, no pain dentistry that’s all a bunch of crap. I think then they have their place but right now, it’s still not there and quite frankly I still need to get the other 50% of the dentists out there that don’t even have a soft tissue laser, I need to get them equipped before we really try to move hard tissue lasers mainstream.
Howard Farran: Just quit using your electrosurge dude. It’s crazy and insane and if you say it does not cause post operative pain, you probably don’t know that because when they call in for their refill on Vicodin they’re talking to your receptionist and not you because seriously, it’s brutal. So you’re saying, and Alan you’ve been in this industry a long time, the first round of no shot, no drill was actually air abrasion.
Alan Miller: Yeah it sure was.
Howard Farran: Remember 10, 15 years ago it was aluminum dioxide was it?
Alan Miller: Yeah and it went everywhere.
Howard Farran: And they were spraying that out and the bottom line is it just made a huge mess.
Alan Miller: Yeah.
Howard Farran: And it just, it wasn’t, my litmus test is, is it faster? Is it easier? Is it higher in quality? Is it lower in cost?
Alan Miller: There you go.
Howard Farran: And if you don’t follow those four things and…. So you think, so you explained that well. Get everybody with a soft tissue first.
Alan Miller: Look I think they have their place but I can tell you at my other company was National Laser Technology, you remember? We did aftermarket service on BioLase equipment and aftermarket sales of hard tissue lasers. I can tell you that we took a lot of trade-ins for soft tissue lasers. I did a lot of pick ups on repossessions for banks because they were expensive and the feedback that I got was like my hard tissue laser, never use it or when I do use it, it’s for soft tissue.
Howard Farran: But you say it’s good for pediatric?
Alan Miller: I think it’s probably the best for pediatric practice you can get.
Howard Farran: I’ll be honest with you, there’s nine specialties. I love endo. I love oral surgery. I love pulling wisdom teeth, I love it all except for pediatric dentistry.
Alan Miller: Yeah
Howard Farran: Oh my God if I had to be a pediatric dentist or work at Taco Bell, I would turn in my license. So if this could help a pediatric dentist, when people say what do you think about pediatric dentists I think well vodka and Xanax for starters, I don’t know, but it’s the only thing that when a four year old kid is screaming, my resting pulse is like 140 so I’m so grateful to all the people who become pediatric dentists. So again Alan, I’ve only got you…it’s already been 45 minutes and I’ve only got you for 15 more minutes and I just want to ask you a different question. So you have seen 5000 offices for the last 25 years in dentistry. What do you tell the burned out dentist? His practice, from 40 to 50, his office is flat, bottom line Alan, he’s just burned out. He’s a tired dog.
Alan Miller: I know a bunch of those guys.
Howard Farran: You’re a people person, you know these guys. What would you tell a burnt out dog? How could a burnt out dog who has been flat for a decade, who if he won the lottery tomorrow he would burn down his practice, how can that old dog get fired back up?
Alan Miller: It’s funny you ask…I think you’ve been in 5000 practices. You talked to all these guys. I have some friends, lots of friends who are dentists, you included and you know, it’s sad to see some of these practices where these guys are saying I hate doing dentistry and their more than burnt out. A lot of them have neck problems, they have shoulder problems and they’ve gone through countless staff members. You know they have had financial issues or personal issued throughout their career and it’s not a pretty sight and quite frankly it can be depressing and I talk with a lot of these guys and they’re all looking from something to energize, you know reinvigorate their practice, reinvigorate their passion because they’ve lost the passion and you know, I can only talk to them as a friend. You know my advice is from personal experience as I’ve said we’ve all had ups and downs whether its business related or personally related and all I can tell them is look, life is ups and downs. Your career, your marriage, your family and your friends. You are going to have good points and bad points in your life and its how you handle the low points that define who you are, right. Everybody loves you when you’re on top, right Howard?
Howard Farran: Right.
Alan Miller: But it’s when you’re at the bottom.
Howard Farran: When you fall down.
Alan Miller: When you fall down, that’s when you know who your friends and family really are and it’s how you handle that. So the best advice I can give to anybody is advice I take myself, and that’s pray, find out what’s really important and really not to sweat the small stuff and to expect that some days just suck right?
Howard Farran: Yeah.
Alan Miller: They just do, for no reason. They suck and it’s expected and you’re going to have good days, you’re going to have good months and you are going to have great years and guess what? You’re going to have some shitty days, some shitty months and some shitty years. Just expect it and expect that it’s going to go back up. There are ways to reenergize passion and that’s through education. I see the Townies who show up here. Oh man they’re positive, they’re fun. I love coming to the Townie show and I go to shows around the world. I just got back from IBS in Germany and yeah I am fortunate, I go to Middle East. I go to Latin America, I go to Europe, all over Asia and the Korea and SIDEX and you name it, I love coming to the show because the energy is so positive and I think there’s probably some Townies that are Townies because they were looking for help and being involved with this kind of positive organization that you know, can help the lows not be so low and help that passion to keep in there through education is paramount in you know a thriving practice and a thriving mind and a thriving heart and that translates down to the patients. So some advice I can say is pray, expect you are going to have shitty days and stay involved in the community. Do not isolate yourself that you’re the only guy with those problems because that is all crap. Everybody has the same problems. You know anybody that says I am burnt out, oh woe is me, I’m the only guy that is burnt out, guess what probably the neighbor down the street, you know who is mailman feels the same and the dentist next door feels the same way and you’re not alone and sometimes just knowing you’re not alone and where to get help is a great thing. Stay involved in the dental community. Get on the message boards I love. I’ve been a member for, I don’t know how long, but get help from your colleagues. If you’re feeling sad, you’re feeling alone, you’re feeling burnt out, you’re feeling like the passion is gone, ask. Get on the message boards and ask for help and it’s amazing how many Townies are out there that want to help each other. I mean that is what… you built an amazing organization and I can only thank you for inviting me here, but quite frankly Howard, you’re a hero of mine.
Howard Farran: Well thanks. I think one of the most powerful things you have said is how counterintuitive success is, because when you think you’re having this problem, you know you’re getting sued because your root canal was horrible or you’re getting divorced or you’re getting this or depression or whatever, but everybody thinks it’s all them so they keep it a secret and the two biggest problems we’ve had in history is lack of transparency among government, lacks of checks and balances among governments and so you’re hardwired not to be transparent and when a dentist gets on Dentaltown and just says man I really, really effed up. Look at this root canal and I just got a letter from a lawyer, it’s going to the board and I feel like want to throw up and then everybody is private messaging him and talking to him, and they all run to the side and a lot of times a dentist would have a situation where they will say you know I’ve got two practices I want to buy, I’m not getting any business and they’ll be counterintuitive and they’ll be transparent and say here’s the two options, what should I do and everybody runs to their side and the reason this meeting is so cool is because you can go to a big meeting like the IDS and an expert of 30 000 people would say oh Howard’s having fun because he’s had a meeting with 100 000 dentists, but you just walk around feeling alone.
Alan Miller: Yeah.
Howard Farran : And then you come to a Townie meeting, there might only be 1000 dentists, one hundredth the size but everybody knows everybody from the boards.
Alan Miller: Yeah.
Howard Farran: So it’s like a big, fraternity, family party and so I always think that, when I look at Dentaltown and I keep seeing where 5% of the people do 85% of the posting, yet the lurkers are on there all day every day for decades and never posted. Dude quit lurking. You know it reminds me what my dad told me and my dad said he’s, I said to him, I must have been feeling embarrassed or shy or whatever because he said Howard, he goes this morning, three and half billion people woke up and not one of them was thinking about you. So don’t be afraid what anybody thinks about you, because no one thinks about you. So if you freaking want anything, go to the top of the mountain and yell it as loud as you want and don’t worry about what anybody’s thinking about you because no one is thinking about you. And you have to tell people what you want and tell them that you’re over here and you need help, you have a problem, you’ve got something to sell. He’d always say get out there and act like you’re running for mayor. So now I’ve got you for only five more minutes, so in the five minute close, give these graduates that come out next month and the dentists that have been flat for the last 10 years give these graduates that come out next month and the dentists that have been flat for the last ten years. I only got you for three more minutes. Take the close, give them advice to take to their office make a good transition out of dental school going forward or take their practice up to the next level.
Alan Miller: I guess my closing words would be have faith, have passion. Follow your passion and you’ll be successful. Surround yourself with winners, ask questions and communicate with the community. Get involved with Dentaltown. I mean I see the winners here. If you want to be a winner, get involved. You’re not alone, there’s lots of help and many thanks to Dr. Howard Farran and his amazing staff and for making dentistry better.
Howard Farran: And thanks for doing this for me. I just grabbed you off the stage. You’ve been my idol for 25 years buddy. I love you to death. Thanks for giving me an hour of your time Alan.
Alan Miller: Thank you Howard.
Howard Farran: All right, bye-bye. H
Hey I want you to come next year to the 14th annual Townie meeting in April and have a blast. There’s nothing more fun than a Townie meeting.