DE EXCLUSIVE -- Dr. Kevin Winter's office move blog

Nov. 17, 2008
A Tulsa-area dentist shares the trials and tribulations of relocating his office.

UPDATE -- 02/10/09
Part IV -- The pace quickens
Note: The following was written by Dr. Kevin Winters, who graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1989. After completing a GPR at the University of Louisville-Humana Hospital, he opened a general practice in Claremore, Okla. After developing a successful general practice and being awarded the Young Dentist of the Year Award in 1995, Dr. Winters transitioned his general practice into one that concentrates on esthetics and reconstruction. He is one of the original clinical instructors at the Las Vegas Institute. He also lectures and conducts seminars across the nation.

Dr. Winters can be reached at (918) 341-4403 or by e-mail at [email protected].

By Dr. Kevin Winters
There has been much progress since my last entry. Mud and tape are being put on the walls, the trim work has started, logos are being designed, supplies are being ordered, and many other activities. Things are starting to happen very quickly now. Let me tell you how we have gotten to this point.

I concluded my last article waiting on bids from contractors. I received several, but from the first one I received I had no doubt whom I would choose. Hunter Construction was the firm for me, but I should tell you how that came to be.

If you have gone through this process, you have an idea what to expect from a construction quote. Three of the four I received fit this description: the bid contained general categories with numbers and disclaimers attached, claiming that these were estimates and every effort was made to arrive at the numbers in good faith.

Then came a bid from Hunter Construction. First, they wouldn't give me the bid. They wanted to arrange a meeting with Ron Fernandez, my Henry Schein equipment specialist, and me. We went to their office to watch a formal presentation that was one of the most detailed presentations I have ever seen. I hope my case presentations come across half as organized and thorough. It was obvious they had done their homework and were truly thinking of every last detail. I was very impressed.

Ron, who has dealt with many contractors building offices, was blown away. He had never seen such attention to detail. Needless to say, we awarded the bid to Hunter Construction.

My experience with them during the process has also been outstanding. Periodic meetings to discuss details, and phone calls to ask questions or clarify ideas have been the norm. With painting starting tomorrow, this has been a smooth experience.

Becky Wright of McFarland Davies Architects continues to impress us. She really shares my vision for what the office should look like. There were a few issues in the construction process where the contractor suggested ways of doing things that would have made the construction go a bit more easily. However, the suggestions would have taken away from the final esthetic appeal of the office. Much to her credit, Becky never waivered from our vision. She stood her ground, and although there may have been a few extra preliminary steps, the final results will be outstanding. I know I will thank her for not compromising.

As things were being laid out, it was hard for me to visualize what the office was really going to look like. But as soon as the framing began and the sheetrock went up, what had only been a vision in my mind was now taking shape right before my eyes. I could see how my thoughts and ideas were coming to fruition, and how Becky's expertise was coming to life.

Next comes the final furniture selection and some of the finishing touches, which is the icing on the cake.

Designing my logo has been interesting. The options here are many. Professional agencies can be quite expensive for a small company, and finding individual graphic designers can be a bit of a crapshoot, although sometimes one can hit a homerun. I actually was referred to two online companies who design logos. The price was very competitive, so I gave them both an opportunity. From the beginning it was clear one company "got it," while the other struggled.

The process for a logo is really quite simple. Tell the artists your ideas, what you do, your target market, a vision of what you want, and let them be creative. The company I chose ( came up with several different ideas that were all better than what the other company came up with. They were very responsive to requests for change and revisions, right up until the final product was approved. This was a very good experience and I would highly recommend them.

I have selected New Patients, Inc. to help with my initial marketing. Howie Horrocks, who has been in the dental marketing business for years, is the head of New Patients, Inc. Mark Dilatush with the company also has many years in dental marketing. After reading many of Howie's articles and books and reading Mark's posts on several different Internet forums, it's obvious to me that these guys get it. I've been involved with my own marketing for my entire career, but I think there comes a time when one needs to let the pros take over. I look forward to my association with them and fully expect outstanding results from their efforts.

Another big aspect of my marketing will be a greater Internet presence. TNT Dental is a proven winner in designing unique and effective Web sites for many outstanding dentists. The great thing about their sites is each one's individuality, while at the same time they are written and designed to be very Internet friendly. It doesn't really matter how cool a site is, if no one can find it you don't get much value out of it.

My site is still being developed. I will provide more details as the process continues.

In my next article, I will continue with the progress of my office. The equipment installation will be completed and we will be readying things to open the doors.

UPDATE -- 11/17/08
Part III -- It's coming together

Well, this part of the new office experience has actually been fun. I chose a wonderful architectural firm, McFarland Davies, in Tulsa, OK. I spent a great deal of time telling them my vision for the office. They really listened and asked questions. They made me think of things I had not considered, and the final result has been absolutely awesome.

Part of their firm is complete interior design consulting. My introduction to Becky Wright came with a great deal of anticipation and hesitation because of my goals of how I want the new office to look.

Once again, a professional who really took the time to listen and not interject her own ideas greeted me. But I will say this. When I told Becky my thoughts and ideas, she took the information and ran with it. I told her I wanted an office that absolutely did NOT look like a dental office. I wanted something completely different. If anyone walked in and said "What a nice dental office," then it would be a failure.

After spending a lot of time in Las Vegas through the years as a clinical instructor at the Las Vegas Institute, I marveled at the incredible design and décor in Vegas restaurants. I love the lighting, the colors. I really wanted to use some of that style in my office, and Becky seemed to really understand that. We have gone through several meetings to discuss colors, textures, lighting, flooring, and more. Becky has been incredibly thorough and insightful.

It's been great to work with Becky on many levels, but I really appreciate her insights from a female perspective. It is my opinion that a dental office should be attractive to women. They make the appointments. They talk about their experiences. They are the key to a dentist's practice growth.

As a result, one area where I really valued Becky's insight was in making the bathroom extra special. Let's face it; I have enough trouble remembering to lower the toilet seat, let alone knowing what it takes to make the bathroom a special place for the ladies. I left this all in her hands. I am obviously very excited about Becky and her proposals.

I mentioned my relationship with Ron Fernandez, equipment specialist for Sullivan Schein, in previous articles. Ron has been invaluable in making both equipment and design decisions for the clinical part of the practice. From the layout of the operatories to catching a design flaw in order to lower the ceiling six inches, Ron has not only guided me through a completely new process, but he has both made me money and saved me money.

With Ron by my side, we decided to travel to the ADA convention in San Antonio. If you have never been to one of these national conventions, you must go. This one was the biggest dental convention floor I've ever seen. All in one place, dentists can see every kind of dental equipment and service imaginable. Most manufacturers roll out their latest and greatest products at the ADA.

In my case, while building a new practice, the timing was perfect. I could see and compare equipment. I was introduced to products and services I had seen in ads or heard about, and could now actually see live and get the latest information about. I was like a kid in a candy store. I highly recommend making a trip like this if you ever build a new office. If possible, take someone like Ron with you. He was perfect to bounce ideas off of and get feedback from.

So now I have plans. I've started to select equipment. Now I need to find someone to build out the space. This is another area where Ron's expertise has come into play. Obviously with him doing so many new offices, he has met quite a few contractors, both good and bad. Personally, I didn't know anyone to go to, so in addition to relying on Ron, I spoke with a patient and friend in the process of building a new plastic surgery office. The group was having a great experience with the contractor they were using, so I wanted to get a bid from him. I will also get three others. For me, time is of the essence, so that has been stressed to all of them. My quotes will be due in the next few days.

In my next article, I will continue this story regarding the challenges I have faced, as well as talk more about the process of building a new dental practice.

Note: The following was written by Dr. Kevin Winters, who graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1989. After completing a GPR at the University of Louisville-Humana Hospital, he opened a general practice in Claremore, Okla. After developing a successful general practice and being awarded the Young Dentist of the Year Award in 1995, Dr. Winters transitioned his general practice into one that concentrates on esthetics and reconstruction. He is one of the original clinical instructors at the Las Vegas Institute. He also lectures and conducts seminars across the nation.

Dr. Winters can be reached at (918) 341-4403 or by e-mail at [email protected].

By Dr. Kevin Winters

Part II -- Entering new territory

The process of selling a practice and starting a new one is completely foreign to me. I've never done it before. I bought my practice right out of my GPR, and it was already established. I've been there ever since. So to sell my practice and start a new one, I've relied on common sense and talked with several people I felt were reliable.

One of the first things I did was work with a commercial real estate agent. My timeframe did not allow for building a new office, so I needed space to lease in my desired location. While doing my research and due diligence, the same name kept coming up. Carl Vincent of Corporate Realty Advisors, LLC in Tulsa, Okla., was my choice. He has done a first rate and completely professional job for me.

After explaining the kind of practice I wanted and several ideas of where it might work, Carl was able to provide me with an in depth market analysis of these areas. He found not only per capita income, but also information on spending habits, traffic counts on certain streets, and more. It's amazing the kind of facts that can be found. With this information I confirmed that where I wanted to be was in fact the best choice. Armed with this information, Carl led me to several desirable locations, and I found what I thought was the ideal place — new construction on the corner of a busy intersection. It had great visibility with area for signage. It was perfect, so we began the lease negotiations.

This is where Carl really shone. He was able to understand the wording of the contract and find areas where I wasn't protected. He handled all of the negotiations with rates and terms, and got things right where I wanted them.

Then the unforeseen happened. The doctor purchasing my practice had a delay in his financing. This was going to postpone our closing by about two weeks. We informed the owner of the property of our delay, and that it would in no way change my desire to lease the space. About seven days later, Carl was informed that the owner had leased the space to someone else. The owner did not even call to tell me he needed a check immediately or anything else. There was no contact at all. Obviously, this took the wind out of my sails pretty quickly.

My advice in this area is to be careful and not make assumptions. I've always tried to do the right thing when it comes to business and life in general. Don't assume everyone else is like you. Some people just do not operate in an ethical, moral way.

Next on my list was to find a company to work with to get the office equipped properly and guide me along the way. Of course, the big companies like Sullivan-Schein, Patterson, Burkhart and others have an immense amount of experience in this process. Also, many regional companies offer very good service. I've chosen Schein. I've found the company to be very responsive to my needs and requests, and I've begun to understand the complexities of setting up an office. Ron Fernandez, equipment specialist for Henry Schein, is a wealth of knowledge. From the ergonomic layout of the operatory to the equipment, Ron's knowledge has been invaluable.

Finding this person in your area will create the result you've always wanted. Be sure to interview several companies and the equipment specialists within each. Time spent here will be invaluable.

So, I've chosen my real estate agent and my equipment specialist. What's next? Deciding who's going to plan the layout and design of the office is huge, and of course there are many companies to choose from. Most do a very nice job. I chose a local architect for my project. Shane Fernandez of McFarland Davies Architects in Tulsa really stood out to me. After meeting with him and explaining my vision, I could tell he "got it." I like the fact that he hasn't designed a dental office, because I don't want my office to look like a "dental office." My equipment specialist will consult and work closely with him to make sure the dental-specific things are properly laid out, but then the architect can use his talent to make the office really unique.

I'm now ready to sign a lease on a different space. It's actually in a higher per capita income area than where I was looking before. The space is a very unusual shape, and my architect loved the possibilities. We have a rough outline and are ready to go.

In my next article, I will talk about the next step in this exciting process — working with the architect and finding a contractor.

Part I -- I Think I Can, I Think I Can

Note: The following was written by Dr. Kevin Winters, who graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1989. After completing a GPR at the University of Louisville-Humana Hospital, he opened a general practice in Claremore, Okla. After developing a successful general practice and being awarded the Young Dentist of the Year Award in 1995, Dr. Winters transitioned his general practice into one that concentrates on esthetics and reconstruction. He is one of the original clinical instructors at the Las Vegas Institute. He also lectures and conducts seminars across the nation.

Dr. Winters can be reached at (918) 341-4403 or by e-mail at [email protected].

By Dr. Kevin Winters

This should be fun. I'm not really sure what I'm getting into and the exciting thing is that you are going to share it with me as I go. It will be almost like a live experiment happening in real time with no one knowing the outcome until we get there.

So, if I have intrigued your interest, let me share with you what it is I am talking about. For about the last six years I have been trying to sell my practice in a small rural town in Oklahoma. I have been able to establish the type of practice that most people say could not be done in a small town. I emphasize cosmetics and restorative dentistry with much higher than average fees for the area. I do quite a bit of marketing trying to attract people from Tulsa, Okla., to my small town of Claremore, about 30 minutes away.

Through the years I have been quite successful but reached a point where I felt my growth potential had leveled off at this location. Locally, I am known as "the high-priced cosmetic guy" and in the region, although I have good name recognition, many people feel that driving 30 minutes from Tulsa is just too far out of the way. It is funny about the mentality people have for health care. If you are in a smaller town, you must go to the "big city" for quality health care. If you are in a big city already, why would you ever consider going to a small town for quality health care?

In spite of this, through the years I have been able to do very well in this practice. We have done a lot of dentistry and made many people very happy. It has provided a great living for myself and my family.

However, I don't know if it is just me or what, but I knew if given the opportunity to be in a more desirable area, one where the kind of dentistry I want to do might fit in a little better, I could take my practice to a new level.

So, about six years ago, I put my practice up for sale. Knowing the process would be slow, I expected it might take 18 to 24 months before anything happened. What I did not realize was that, after two different brokers and my own efforts to sell the practice, I would not have a single offer to purchase the practice. That's right, not a single offer for six years.

I did have one glimmer of hope about three years ago. I had an associate come in to the practice for about three months with the goal of then making a purchase at that point. The way it turned out was gut-wrenching at the time. After getting all excited and preparing for the new possibilities just around the corner, this doctor pulled the rug from under my feet. He decided he was not ready to own a practice and left to go work for a corporate dental office. Man! Talk about dejected. It was as if all my dreams were thrown right back at me and stuffed in the trash. The only thing to do was to keep on keeping on. I put the practice back on the market and kept working hard in the practice.

As 2006 and 2007 progressed, I resigned myself to the fact that the practice was just not going to sell. At the same time, I knew I did not want to stay where I was. I felt somewhat trapped because I really did not want to get into the whole "bring in an associate and manage two practices" lifestyle. After all, I am a dentist and I wanted to do dentistry. If I had wanted to run businesses, I would have got a different degree.

Well, we all know reality is not always what we may desire. We are all businessmen and businesswomen. The reality is that we probably spend more time running our business than we do in improving our dental skills. So my new philosophy in 2008 was to figure out a way to get an associate in to my existing practice and start a new one, from scratch, in Tulsa. I started looking at land and buildings in areas that I considered good demographic matches. I readjusted my own mindset to follow this new path but, at the same time, I never abandoned my mantra of "my practice will sell this year." It was something I told myself on a daily basis. It was this power of positive thinking that I think ultimately led me to where I am now, working with a dentist to buy my practice and building a new one.

That's right. Six years later, no offers, one prospect and not much hope of seeing things change other than what I envisioned in my own mind, I am waiting on bank financing for the purchaser, working out the contract with lawyers, working with architects and dreaming of my new office that may be only four to five months away from opening.

This series of articles is going to log my trials and tribulations along the way. I am going to discuss with you the why's, what's, and who's of starting a new office. Hopefully through this process you will be able to learn from the mistakes I'm sure I will make and also benefit from the things I do and experiences I have. I encourage feedback to share with other readers here in Dental Economics and hopefully we can all learn from each other.

I think this is a perfect example of how although our plans may not always fit perfectly in to our timelines, keeping the faith and continuing on down the path toward your dreams will ultimately get you where you want to be.