Practice Management and the Value of High-Quality Customer Care with Dr. Sonny Spera DDS
June 13, 2019
Our guest this week Dr. Sonny Spera, DDS sits down with Shaun Keating and talks about practice management and the importance of having High-Quality Customer Care in each practice you own. Dr. Spera goes in depth on how he expanded to multiple Dental Practices and how his involvement in each location helped him increase his success rate. Finally, why it’s important to evaluate your current personal and financial situations before you plan on expanding into a second location. You will hear all this and more on this week’s episode of The Dental Up Podcast!
You will also hear on this episode:
-Adapting to your new location and finding out the vibe and procedures that coincide with your new surroundings.
-Hear Dr. Spera’s latest Referral Program called, “Send Someone you love to someone you trust.”
-Build a strong Practice Culture by asking your team what charities they care for and how your practice can step in and help.
-Involvement with “Doctor’s with a Heart Day” and its involvement with the community.
Host: Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Dental Up podcast brought to you by Keating Dental Lab, a full service award winning dental laboratory. Each week, you’ll learn tips and techniques from real world dentists bringing you in depth interviews, motivating stories, current events and sports. Here’s your host, Sean Keating. Sean Keating: Hey everyone, Sean here. Welcome to another episode of the Dental Up podcast. Our guest this week majored in chemistry and psychology from Syracuse University, and he later graduated from SUNY Buffalo Dental School in 1989. Currently practice from Montrose, New York, please welcome Dr Sonny Spera, DDS. How’s it going, Dr. Spera? Dr. Sonny Spera: Oh, Sean. How you doing? An introduction like that gets me pretty psyched up, you know? Sean Keating: That’s awesome, dude. Hey man, thank you so much for your time. I know how busy you are, and dude, I can’t thank you enough for coming onboard. I always like to start off talking a little bit about sports, man. Now, you’re a New York guy. Your Mets and Yankees aren’t doing … Well, the Yankees are doing pretty good, but are you a baseball guy? Football, baseball, badminton? What do you like in sports? Dr. Sonny Spera: Well, my personal thing is I’m a basketball guy because I played the college, so basketball’s my love. But, baseball is a big interest, too. I actually got drafted by the Brewers in college, so I have an interest in baseball. I am truly a Mets fan so I’ve had some misery for a number of years. Sean Keating: Yeah, that’s hard. Dr. Sonny Spera: Even though we won a couple in a row now, but I don’t want to say that too loud because that’s just the kiss of death. Sean Keating: Oh, I know. No, I hear you. Yeah. You guys are like 23 and 25. You’re 12 and eight at home with the Mets, but hey, you never know. It’s still early, and with baseball, what position were you? What position did you play? Dr. Sonny Spera: I was a pitcher. Sean Keating: Oh, good for you, man. That’s awesome. Which what was one of your best pitches? Do you have a knuckle ball? Was it a slider? Curve ball? Fast Ball? What was your a go to pitch? Dr. Sonny Spera: My go to pitch probably was my fast ball and I threw it. You know, back then there was no such thing as two seams and four seams. You either had a fast ball or you had a curve ball. Some guys had sliders. I couldn’t do that. I just, my arm just didn’t have it. But where my point of delivery came from … I had a pretty good movement on my fast ball, kind of tailed as a righty it tailed in hard on the right handed hitter so … Sean Keating: Yeah. Dr. Sonny Spera: That was my pitch. That was my go to. Sean Keating: Wait, wait. Where’d you finally get it up to mid 80’s or so? Did you ever get in the … low 90’s or what are your throwing? What kind of heat? Dr. Sonny Spera: I know it’s funny because that was such a secret thing. Like if a scout came to see you, they held that like they held that frigging radar gun right next to their chest and they look at and they didn’t show anybody around them and I think I got in the upper 80’s I’ll be honest with you. Sean Keating: Well that’s huge though. That’s awesome. Dr. Sonny Spera: So they saw potential in me because it was a club sport at Syracuse. I wasn’t a year round sport. It wasn’t even a spring sport. So they were like, yeah, we could work with this kid. You know, so. Sean Keating: Oh, that’s awesome. Dr. Sonny Spera: That’s why … that’s what Milwaukee saw in me, the crazy people out there. Sean Keating: Hey, Milwaukee is in the NBA … trying to get to the NBA finals, man. They got a big game tonight against Toronto. Game what, game five? It’s tied at two each. And what do you think about the basketball? It’s fricking golden state again man, it was like five years in a row and they’re going for three in a row and a three-peat. It’s kind of reminds me of the old Lakers. Riley. Dr. Sonny Spera: Yeah. It’s hard to … I mean I loved … If you like basketball, basketball at a [inaudible 00:03:39] level is the pros. But it’s hard. I mean the competitive balance is so out of whack. Golden State a foregone conclusion. But Milwaukee, they got a nice squat. They got a nice deep team. Yeah. The only thing is, I mean there superstar just- Sean Keating: He kind of choked. Dr. Sonny Spera: Just doesn’t have a jump shot. If he had a 15 footer, he would be lethal. Right now he’s a Greek freak, but yeah if he could hit a jumper, boy, he’d be on unstoppable. Sean Keating: I think like game three, he hit like two of seven field goals, or free throws. And he did an air ball again the last game. That’s two games in a row. He’s shot air balls, but he is the Greek freak and … Sean Keating: But you know, you know you got like [Barkley 00:04:25] popping off the top five best players in the league now. And he didn’t even have Steph Curry in it. So he’s kind of getting a lot of hack, you know, flack for that right now. But he had [inaudible 00:04:35] or whatever his name is in the top five. But I think he still has a little bit of his game. I mean he’s never been in this high of a … you know, under this much pressure being in the playoffs this deep. But he’s really good, close to the rim and all that. But yeah, he does need that shot, you know, 15 feet or wherever. But he, I don’t know. I think he’s a great player, but I don’t … I think Steph’s a little better cause I think they had like [Harden, 00:00:04:59], Lebron, [Katie 00:05:01]. Then they had Giannis. Oh and then one other guy, but they didn’t have Steph and he’s … Barkley’s getting a lot of flack, but Barkley flaps his chops a lot anyways. That’s kind of fun. Dr. Sonny Spera: Yeah. That guy’s not afraid to give his opinion, which makes him unique because he’ll say it. Whether you like it or don’t like it, you’re going to hear it. Sean Keating: Exactly. Him and that Steve Smith do. They’re kind of making some noise lately. But yeah, I don’t know. I’m excited because it’s a Thursday night. I get to go the pizza parlor, man. Have a pitcher of beer and watch some basketball, baby. So I tell you [inaudible 00:05:38] big fans of those teams, but hey, what the heck man. Dr. Sonny Spera: I’ll be glued. Sean Keating: It’ll be fun. Dr. Sonny Spera: I’ll be glued to the [inaudible 00:05:43]. Sean Keating: All right, well hey, let’s go ahead and dental up. So tell me, doctor, why did you get into dentistry and at what point did you think I want to be a dentist? Dr. Sonny Spera: Well, I was young. I was real young, in fact. I said … I was talking, I was like, “Yeah, I think I want to be a pediatrician.” Cause I loved kids, I enjoyed playing with kids and you know, my neighborhood and the younger kids, you know, in church I would always kind of pay attention to what they were doing. And I still am fascinated by how kids act and interact and … You’re almost jealous that they’re just carefree. So I kind of had that thought. Yeah, I said that to my dad and my dad said, “Well why don’t you be a dentist?” You know? And I was like, “What?” He was like, “Well it’s a better lifestyle.” You know, I was probably 12, 13. And I was like, “Well, you know.” And he did make sense in something, he said, “Yeah you’re pretty good with your hands. I’d taken guitar lessons, piano lessons kind of picked them up pretty quick. So I was like, “Yeah. You know what? All right, I’m going to be a dentist.” Sean Keating: No kidding. Dr. Sonny Spera: And that was my plan and that’s it. Everybody I talked to discouraged me. Sean Keating: No kidding. Dr. Sonny Spera: That was the one thing that was really strange. All along in my life everybody discouraged … like everybody. Including my coaches, my high school guidance counselor, right through college, my college professional advisor. I think personally it probably motivated me more. Sean Keating: Oh absolutely. Well that’s awesome. That’s pretty young man. 12, 13 years old. That’s awesome. What about your pops who suggested it? What kind of work did he do? Dr. Sonny Spera: He worked for IBM. He was a … you know a technical technician kind of guy. Trouble shooting was probably his specialty and he didn’t … He took some … he graduated high school, he took some college training and junior college and then in some air force training. But you know, by no means didn’t have really a college degree and my mom had a GED. You know got a high school equivalency diploma. Sean Keating: Yeah. Hey, I’m with your mom man. Dr. Sonny Spera: It was a big step for our family, you know. Sean Keating: What about with you when you got out of college, did you go as an associate or did you start a practice? Tell me how it started out after college. Dr. Sonny Spera: Oh, after dental school? Sean Keating: Yeah. Dr. Sonny Spera: So graduating [inaudible 00:08:04] like you said, and then I joined a group. Two young dentists that were graduates of 1983 from my dental school. And I had interviewed with a bunch of places like in Syracuse area. Then a bunch of places in Binghamton, upstate New York. And it just seemed like they were a little bit younger and I like what they had going on. I thought, “Okay, well two doctor practice as opposed to a one doctor practice. I think I could get busier sooner.” So yeah, I went as an associate. I worked there for two years before I went on my own. Sean Keating: So when you went out on your own, how was that starting off? Kinda tough. Dr. Sonny Spera: I was buying a practice that was in a very small rural towns and it was probably 10 miles from the practice I had. I was practicing in kind of in the Binghamton city limit area. Now I was moving to [Conklin 00:08:55] which was a very small rural town, very close to the PA border. In fact it’s the last exit on route 81 so I had wanted to do it with these guys. I said, “Hey, why don’t we do this? This could be a satellite office.” You know. Blah Blah Blah. And then they … cause the dentist out there and an eye injury. You covered other guy’s practices in the event they ever had an injury or something, you know. So we were in there and I was like, “Yeah, this is a fairly good practice. You got two hygienists.” It was in the basement of a raised ranch house. Sean Keating: Yeah. Dr. Sonny Spera: So, that was a little unique. So that was a lot different than where I was, but I was … I thought there’s something here. And so I took the leap and I did it and then … And the whole time it was a learning, learning, learning process, too. I at least had … and I had an idea in my mind, this is how I want to practice. So from the guys and the format and the way that we practice, I had an idea, I didn’t go in and say, well let’s try this. Let’s try that. I kind of knew how I thought I wanted my practice to look like and what I wanted it to look like. So it took some time because you know, there’s a patient base for almost 20 years. They were used to a certain way, a certain speed, a certain philosophy. And I was going to do it a little bit differently, as easy as I could transition it, you know? So that, that was my plan and that’s what happened. Sean Keating: Well that’s awesome. So what about on the practice? What kind of layout do you have? Tell me a little bit about your practice, what kind of lay out, and your employees if you could. Dr. Sonny Spera: Well now we’ve grown that one little practice to we’re five offices, five locations, and we’re six doctors in total. So the layout … each office is laid out a little differently, but a lot of similarities because we’ve actually built facilities. So we built the new office and then we’ve built, so we built three offices from scratch. We renovated one and then we have another one that’s kind of set the way it is that we just bought. Then the last one, we’re in the process of buying now to the building and then we’re going to modify it a little bit, but it’s got some limitations on it. Sean Keating: Tell me how that works now. So you got like five different practices. What there’s five dentists? Are you guys like just a … you just started a business together? How’s that work out? Tell me what kind of thing you got going on there. Dr. Sonny Spera: Oh man. How long is the podcast? Sean Keating: We’ve got a half an hour [inaudible 00:11:29].That’s just a trip. I mean [inaudible 00:00:11:32]. Tell me a little bit about it. Dr. Sonny Spera: I’ll try to give you a reader’s digest version. Dr. Sonny Spera: But that practice that I started out on my own. We grew that practice, we put it in a new building. Then about a year or two later we bought another practice in another location and then two years later we put that in a new building. So we had two offices. Dr. Sonny Spera: And I was happy and I was, I thought that was going to work out just fine. They were on kind of bookends of Binghamton, so one was rural south east of Binghamton. The other one was west of Binghamton about seven miles. So it covered a pretty wide swat that you kind drew radiuses around there, right? Sean Keating: Absolutely man. Dr. Sonny Spera: Then, you know a friend of mine up in Norwich, which is about an hour away, so completely different community. And when we went into that practice, I went in and I told one of my docs, and he came in as a partner. Sean Keating: Okay. Dr. Sonny Spera: So now we formed another practice. He’s a partner with me there. Then we’ve added two partners up there and then I have one partner in the Montrose office, the Binghamton office, I have three partners. So there’s four of us that are partners. Sean Keating: Yeah. That’s awesome dude. Little entrepreneur. I got a lot of guys that it’s hard for them to take the … bite the bullet and get the second practice. I mean, what kind of advice would you give some of our doctors out there that are looking to buy a second practice, seeing that you have several, what kind of advice could he give us for some of the guys just trying to get the second one. Dr. Sonny Spera: My advice, you’re buying that second practice is you really got to think it through and then you have to have a lot of contingencies in your head and then you, you got to know what you want to do. Do you want to incorporate it into one, make it one office or do you want to have it two separate offices like two separate softwares, two separate business entities or are you going to have it all one? Are you going to be involved in insurance? The other one’s fee for service. You know, how do you want to grow that pie? Because you’re going to add to your exposure in terms of your overhead, your fixed costs, everything. Dr. Sonny Spera: And then secondly is, how are you going to cover it? Are you going to go? If you’re going to buy a second practice and just put a doctor in there who’s just like an associate, has no interest in owning it, it’s not going to be the same and it’s not going to run the same. Dr. Sonny Spera: But if you want it to be the same, you got to put yourself in there. You’ve got to, to me anyway. I think you got to be part of that fabric. And then if you’re big in your community, then you’ve got to become part of that community. If it’s a different community. Sean Keating: Absolutely. Dr. Sonny Spera: You know, you gotta make sure that your entity, like for us, we’re Progressive Dental. So we want Progressive Dental to be a fabric of our communities that we live in, we serve, we work, et cetera. And that takes a lot of effort and a lot of time. Sean Keating: Oh absolutely. Dr. Sonny Spera: You’ve got to have staff and everybody’s got to buy in. But that would be my thought. And then if that’s your concept, great. If you’re just looking, “Hey, I’m going to buy this as an investment or I’m going to set another doctor up.” Dr. Sonny Spera: And I think the geography dictates differently. I think if you’re more city, more urban, I think maybe those things can work. But where we are, where it’s a little more diverse, spread out. I don’t think … I don’t think that works so well because I think you just lose … you lose that ownership, you lose that relationship connection. Dr. Sonny Spera: I really don’t want a doc coming in to work for me that’s a hit it and quit it kind of guy or gal who really is just put the patient in chair, let me do the work, run them out the door. I don’t even care what their name is and you know, just tell me the procedure. Sit them down, give me my syringe, get out my way. I don’t want that. That’s going to burn out quick. Cause that’s not who we are. That’s not our culture. Dr. Sonny Spera: So, I think that determines everything that you do. So anytime that we’ve added anything and done anything, it’s been a group decision with all the docs. What do you think? Where does this work? How does this affect you? How about your personal life? How about your professional life? Can you swing this? Are you robbing from Peter to pay Paul? Like are you taking time away from your core? And then we all have personal lives. I mean, how much do you want to work? How much family sacrifice or personal professional sacrifice do you want to do? You got to have people in, you gotta have people that are committed, you know? Sean Keating: Absolutely. And it’s like a … It’s almost like a marriage. I mean it’s hard enough to have one practice with a partner or two partners. I mean, to work that whole synergy out and it’s tough. But to have several offices. As long as you’re on the same page and long as they all got skin in the game too, like you’re saying with the ownership, I think it’s a pretty neat thing. It’s kind of like, if you can replicate that at a one good practice and make it into a second or third or fourth, it does work. I have, I’ve quite a few different dentists that have multiple practices and it’s kind of neat when they’re all on the same page and they’re all working together. Sean Keating: Now with your different practices and the different demographics, are you all doing kind of the same kind of dentistry? Is it a cosmetic? Is one more removable? Is one more like say that’s more insurance driven doing certain procedures in that one compared to the fee for service ones? Tell me a little bit about the difference on procedures per different area. Dr. Sonny Spera: Okay, well that’s a good question because each office has its own vibe. Each office has its own like community, like one is probably, I would say lower white collar, upper blue collar one. I would say it’s probably, blue collar, flannel collar. And one is probably, kind of overalls and jeans. And one is probably a real eclectic mix. So they all have a little different vibe. Dr. Sonny Spera: Now we treat them all exactly the same in that we offer the same exact services. But yeah, probably the mix of what we do. Like we may do a little more removable in one office and maybe a little more fixed in the other office. Sean Keating: Okay. Dr. Sonny Spera: And we have a lab and we have two certified dental technicians on site and we have a third lab helper that’s trained in most everything. Dr. Sonny Spera: So we have the ability to send someone from one office to another office. You’ve got a denture needs a reline, do it while you wait. You got a tooth off a denture, we’ll fix it, you know, give me an hour, we’ll take care of it. Dr. Sonny Spera: We do use the other offices that way.The biggest challenge that we have is getting everybody, all our docs kind of on that same page. So when we get together, just doctors, that’s some of the most important things we talk about, how do we [inaudible 00:18:02] this, what do you see here? And just making sure that we have a good feel for it because I might not be the doc that they see that day in that office, but you want to be able to pick it up and have a continuity of care that has no compromise. You know? Sean Keating: Absolutely. No, it’s so important. And I see it too with driving patients to the [inaudible 00:18:22]. Be involved in the communities that you’re in and there’s so many different things to do, but what are you guys doing to drive marketing and to drive patients to your practice with your marketing strategy? Are you doing social media, you’re doing mailer, working with the public sector? Tell me a little bit about that. How you drive patients to your practices. Dr. Sonny Spera: Well I think the biggest thing that we do for our practice … I mean we’re probably 80% internal referral. So, like referrals like. So our biggest thing is really making sure that we take care of the patients that we have as best as we can. Kind of leave no stone unturned to get their satisfaction and get their approval or their relationships solid with us so that they’re happy and they wants to refer people to us. We did just start a referral program with that. Like we got the doctor, [Steve Rasner 00:19:18] and it’s … send someone you love to someone you trust. Sean Keating: There you go. I like that. Dr. Sonny Spera: So we do that and then we have a little reward for those people that do that so that kind of helps our internal program a little bit. As far as the external stuff, we like to have a presence in our communities. Dr. Sonny Spera: So you know, participating in fundraisers and runs and there was a Binghamton bridge run that just came up recently. And out in the schools. February is children’s dental health month, we visited almost, I think it was three thousand four thousand kids across the communities in those areas. So we’re out like every day of the week and all the different schools presenting and kind of have a nice little presentation that we do there. We want people to see us and know who we are so that … our website I think is pretty decent. We’re going to jazz it a little bit, but our … I think our website speaks pretty well for us. Dr. Sonny Spera: But social media, I think you want to … I think for us, we want to be out there, we want people to engage. We do get a really good engagement with our patients. A lot of interaction back and forth. Dr. Sonny Spera: And for us it’s … our tagline, it’s personal. So anything we do, we want it to be personal. So like if we’re going to do something, we want Progressive Dental people there. We want to connect personally. Dr. Sonny Spera: Like the YMCA up in Norwich, they have all kinds of programs, but we’re going to try to get involved with a couple of them where we really put our heart and souls into it. Like there’s basketball camp run by the … the Thompsons. Daphne and her husband, promoting [inaudible 00:21:03]. So we get involved with that at a very high level. Dr. Sonny Spera: Then there’s the daycare program … There’s a lot of little things that we try to do and now that what we just put this year and I told the staff and the team was, “Why don’t you guys decide …” And we put a budget for them and said, “Why don’t you find something that you are absolutely near and dear to your heart committed to and we’ll put money up for those, for those things in your name or our name.” So that part of your workplace experience also has that goodwill component or that outreach component to whatever it is. Dr. Sonny Spera: Let’s say you’re a dog lover and you SPCA and [inaudible 00:21:49]. Okay, well let’s make sure we incorporate some of that budget to go towards [inaudible 00:21:55] or excuse me, Shenango County SPCA society or- Sean Keating: I love that. That’s great. [crosstalk 00:22:01] Dr. Sonny Spera: dog park. So yeah. So now it’s really getting them involved in the grass roots part of it because you know you get millions of requests and … My daughter’s selling cookie dough for the school baseball team and the PTA and we do support the school’s heavily, our community schools. But, we do want our team to really personalize it. Like what is it, what is it that you feel is a really deep connection to whatever is out there. Let’s make sure we put that connection. Sean Keating: Tell me a little bit about your involvement. You have this 20th annual Doctors With A Heart Day 2019. What’s that about? Tell me a little bit about that if you could. Dr. Sonny Spera: Oh, that’s phenomenal. I think this is year 22, I think. But it was something that Dwayne Schmidt, in the Gentle Dental in Cedar Rapids, Iowa was a very big contributor to dental economics. He wrote some books and articles. And about 24, five years ago, I got friendly with him and at that time, email just started. So it was mostly phone conversation, some email and I got to visit his office and one of the things that he was doing was this free day of dental care called Doctors With A Heart Day. And he just said, “You close your cash drawers and you do whatever you can complete in one visit for anybody who can’t afford it.” Sean Keating: No kidding. Dr. Sonny Spera: And you just open your door, and you open your heart and it is by far one of the best days of the year to practice. Sean Keating: No kidding, unbelievable. Dr. Sonny Spera: The patient is so appreciative and so thankful. Some of them it’s just … they just wanted to see somebody and talk. Maybe they don’t do any work, but they had a couple of things they weren’t sure and they wanted to talk to a dentist. Sean Keating: Aw, man. Dr. Sonny Spera: Or they want an x-ray, or you know what I got a tooth that’s all funky looking and broken and chipped and I have a job interview next week and they leave with a composite and you shaped it and it looks pretty nice. They’re feeling, 10 feet tall and you have a part of that, you and your team. Yeah. It’s really the team and everybody that’s involved. I mean you walk out of there, you know, 20 feet tall. Sean Keating: Oh that’s so. I love hearing that. Now we do a lot of those different programs with dentists across the US on different things, helping the patients, the people out there, you know. And it’s just a … such a neat thing where for you to be able to do a direct chair side, like you said a composite that … cause you can only do so much with it in in the same day, so you probably a lot of extractions, this and that, cleanings and stuff like that. But to be able to do something direct. Yeah, some direct chairside. I’ve seen some composites man are pretty neat how you can close up places or cracks and chips and that’s a pretty neat thing to be able to leave that chair that quick and to have a big difference like that. So that’s huge man. Sean Keating: I really love that. So yeah, you really got it going, baby. I love this. You’re a mover and a shaker. I remember I had this … I had a couple of doctors, Gentle Dental up in … they were up in New York. They had a bunch of different practices. I still remember that doctor to [inaudible 00:25:07], man. I think he’s still practicing. But yeah, it’s a neat thing man. What you got going? I really love that. So tell me a little bit about where you do your CE. Tell me about some of the conventions you go to or don’t go to. Anyone in particular. Like CE wise. Tell me a little bit about that if you could. Dr. Sonny Spera: I like to do as much as I can. I enjoy it. And now that my son graduated dental school so he joined the practice. Sean Keating: Oh yeah. Congratulations. That’s awesome. Dr. Sonny Spera: Thank you. Thank you. That’s been phenomenal. So, that’s helped us with our practice base and the way our schedules worked out so I’ve been able to take a little more time away and get to a different conferences and stuff. The Greater New York meeting I was not able to go to for a number of years cause I coached high school basketball for a long time. Sean Keating: Okay. Dr. Sonny Spera: That’s a major Catholic, thanksgiving time. So we have our six district hosts and brings in speakers twice a year. Usually pretty good ones. But I’ve gone to Dentaltown for two years. Phenomenal. Loved it. Plan on going again. Every now and then I’ll go to the ADA Conference. I went to the Yankee Dental this year. That was a great, great event. Sean Keating: Oh I love the Yankee … Little cold, but man that’s fun. I love the food there, man. All the shellfish. Dr. Sonny Spera: Oh, god you like seafood, man, it’s awesome. Sean Keating: I sure do. Dr. Sonny Spera: That was only my first time at the Yankee though. So I plan on going back next year. Let’s see, I’d been … Gordon Christensen, a couple of classes, you know, out of his place in Utah. Beautiful country. And you know, he’s the grandfather at dentistry. So … Sean Keating: Yes, he is. Dr. Sonny Spera: You get a chance to take something from him, you got to go. He’s great. Sean Keating: Oh absolutely, man. Dr. Sonny Spera: Benco, our dental supply company, they sponsor different events and speakers. And I tried to get to that, too. This year I’ll probably end up taking probably about a hundred 150 hours of CE. Sean Keating: Beautiful. Dr. Sonny Spera: Most years I’m probably like 30. Something like that. Sean Keating: What about with all your practices and stuff? Anyone in particular that really … you took from a practice management standpoint? I mean anyone in … or is it just pretty much how you made things happen or tell me a little bit about that if you could. Dr. Sonny Spera: Practice management. I owe a lot, a lot to Howard [Farran 00:27:28]. Sean Keating: Oh. Beautiful. Dr. Sonny Spera: No mistake about it. Game changer. Still is. I read his books, I used to … Farran report and I read a couple of business of dentistry. It’s fun. And he just was talking a language in a perspective that nobody in dentistry was talking about. Nobody was talking about. Everybody was talking about [inaudible 00:27:52] treat the top 10%. Make your practice [inaudible 00:27:55]. Do the top 10%, blah, blah, blah and really exclusive and [inaudible 00:28:00] you know? Okay, great. Well that’s one case every few months. Like that’s not how you’re going to make a living. And just the way that you could really just look at it from a different perspective. So we went out and visited his practice. Dr. Sonny Spera: This was like in the 90’s. My partner at the time, we flew out there, we were using a dental lab that was right down the street from him, Don Van [Hunt 00:00:28:24]. So I was like, “Well, we’ll go, go see Don and let’s go see if this is for real.” If he walks the walk and just talk the talk or what, and I’ll never forget it. Dr. Sonny Spera: We went in there and we were … we talked to him for awhile and he was like, “Are you guys doing ortho?” We’re like, “No.” He goes, “Yeah, do ortho. ortho’s simple.” Blah, blah, blah. He goes, “Let me explain. You got 10 minutes, I’ll teach you ortho.” Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Next thing you know, he’s [inaudible 00:28:47]. I’m like, “Okay.” And he’s like [inaudible 00:28:49] “Yeah, you’re doing endo. Great. What kind of endo? You’re not doing rotary [inaudible 00:28:53]? You gotta do rotary, [inaudible 00:28:54]. I’ll tell you what. [inaudible 00:28:55].” Dr. Sonny Spera: So next thing you know, on our flight home, my partner and I, we literally sat down with just a blank legal pad and we were like, “Okay, what are we going to do?” And we’re like, “Okay, endo. Gotta take this course, got to get the rotary, got to get the equipment, we’re investing in it, we’re going.” And there was always implants or do this, you know? He’s … Sean Keating: He’s a stud, man. Dr. Sonny Spera: He’s got it on the ball. I owe a lot to him. I think he’s changed … The kind of course of my practice quite a bit. My dad had a pretty good influence on when we started to structure some of this. Like if you’re going to grow, you’ve got to have some business structure in place where, okay, what’s your management look like? And most of us don’t … Nobody likes red tape and bureaucracy, but if you’re going to grow and grow wider, you’ve got to have people … you’ve got to be able to have small groups. Dr. Sonny Spera: So if people want to talk, they’re able to talk. Making sure that everybody has the right track. So okay, first talk to this person. And of course, anytime they want to talk to me or the other owners, no problem. But we do want to give them a feeling that it’s still a one-on-one communication chain. But he helped kind of design that. Sean Keating: What can you tell some of the newer dentists starting off some of the things they should do, maybe not do? What’s some advice can you give some of our newer people starting off? Dr. Sonny Spera: Well I think the biggest thing that in this, I don’t want to sound vague or like really like cute. I think they have to know who they are and what they want. And it sounds simple, but I think there’s a lot more to that. I think you really got to understand like personality type. Like we do a lot of that with our office. [inaudible 00:30:36]. We use the disc system, D-I-S-C. Dr. Sonny Spera: And every personality is different. And every personality communicates or wants to be communicated differently. I think that’s a big thing. But then also … what floats your boat, man? What jazzes your music. What really turns you on and if it’s endo … man, go do as much endo as you can get good at it. Sean Keating: Exactly. Dr. Sonny Spera: Make sure you have good mentors and teachers. That’s the most important thing that young people need, I think. Is to make sure that you’ve got good, training or good … and consistency or mentors, people that, like for me, Dwayne Schmidt, Howard Farran. People that I knew and grew up with in this profession. Dr. Sonny Spera: That have spoken to me and have been there and I’ve learned from and continue to learn from. But I think as a young doc, if you’re just kind of getting into it, find what your passion is, and then get really, really good at it. Sean Keating: Absolutely. No great advise, dude. For sure. And Howard Farran, man. He helped me, too with my lab. I mean, he, back in 2003 I started 2002, but he just really kind of helped me and he put the word out with my lab with a lot of the townies and now. So I love Howard myself, like you. And he’s great for the world of dentistry, man. His thing is you’ll never practice alone. And it’s so true. You could go ask any kind of questions and even the lowly dental techs could get on that forum and talk with Dennis and kind of a neat thing, man. I’m, I’m so thankful and very blessed meeting him and having him part of my life. Sean Keating: But yeah, I just see this real quick and some of your volunteer and all the different things you do, but you’re part of the Sons of Italy. So I take it you’re an Italian, huh. Dr. Sonny Spera: Yeah. I’m Italian. Yeah. Sean Keating: My next question is- Dr. Sonny Spera: Sons of Italy. Sean Keating: Do you got a Ferrari now? I mean in Italy … Dr. Sonny Spera: Oh, no, no, no. Sean Keating: Come on, man. You’re from Italy, dude. Dr. Sonny Spera: American made only. That’s what I drive. That’s my rule. Sean Keating: Ah, come on. I had my Ford also, but I’m Irish. But I still love those Ferrari’s baby. I got three of them, no. Dr. Sonny Spera: Another thing about Howard though, if you think about it like what he’s done, right? Granted, okay, I paid a little bit for this or that, but a lot of things he’s just done because it’s been helpful to me. Sean Keating: Absolutely. Dr. Sonny Spera: Been helpful to other dentists. And that’s what a lot of dentists … I mean we’ve got … dentists I think are such a compassionate people and I think the more that you share and the more like the more that you give, the more that you get, you know? Sean Keating: Absolutely. Dr. Sonny Spera: And I truly believe that and that that’s kind of what should be our mission. Sean Keating: Oh, absolutely. No. It’s better to give than receive. And it just comes back to the more you give, the more you get back. And it’s just … I love that man. Dr. Sonny Spera: Tenfold. Sean Keating: I love how you majored in Chemistry and Psychology. I mean you got a … you’re very well rounded and I could tell because 90% of this is psychological. You know like you’re a coach you’re a … I mean you just have to have so many things to be a good dentist going for you. And I just think you got a good grasp of it and I think you got a really good business mind. And it’s just, you keep knocking it out of the park like you are Doctor Spera, and I can’t thank you enough for coming on this podcast. I know you’ve got to get back to your patients. But man thank you so much and there was anything I could ever do, let me know. But again, thanks for your time and great story and again, anything I can do, let me know man. Good talking to ya. Dr. Sonny Spera: Thanks brother. The last thing I will leave with you, and I’ve heard this from a lot of other dentists, dentistry is the easy … the dentistry is the easy part. It’s the relationship. Sean Keating: Yeah, absolutely. Dr. Sonny Spera: That’s, that’s the challenge. Whether it’s with your staff or your patients, relationship is everything. Sean Keating: Absolutely. That’s so on the money there, Doctor Spera. And hey God bless you and your family and thanks again. We’ll talk to you real soon. Dr. Sonny Spera: Thanks John. Appreciate it, brother. Sean Keating: All right man, bye bye. Host: Thanks for joining us on The Dental Up podcast show this week. Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter or search The Dental Up podcast on iTunes for our weekly feed. Don’t forget to visit Keating dental lab.com/promo for exclusive offers. Keating Dental Lab is a full service dental laboratory and we’re nationwide. We’d love for you to send us a case so we can show you the Keating difference. If you dig what you heard, please leave a review on iTunes and we’ll be back next week.