Michelle Wilson, Executive Director at TriVillage Chamber Partnership, and host of Business Inspires, spoke with Dr. Bill Thompson and Becky Thompson during this episode of Business Inspires.
So I typically start this podcast out asking when you were little what you wanted to be when you grow up, however. I read that you wanted to be a dentist because it was better than being a garbage man which is what your first grade classmate wanted to be.
Well, that’s right. I mean talking about being a dentist when I was in first grade. It is more for the comic effect I think that because everybody else wanted to be firemen and policemen. And you know as I as I grew up then my ambitions changed. You know I wanted to be a racecar driver it was applying to an airplane pilot. And as I got into my later teenage years and I was working in a machine shop that my neighborhood started and I worked there off and on for seven years during high school and college and discovered I really like working with my hands and solving problems and that’s really what led me into dentistry then great.
So you mean you’ve really wanted to truly wanted to be that since you were a child and here you are here I am. This is your 40th year with Grandview Dental Care.
That’s really really amazing and I grew up in the TriVillage area, in Grandview, so I’ve seen you know the iterations of Grandview Dental Care grow and just become bigger and better. So very happy for you.
A lot of the bigger and better is due to technology the technology and dentistry just like the technology and our our whole world has advanced incredibly that when I was in dental school we were doing Silver amalgam fillings that they didn’t even teach how to do the enamel fillings and back teeth back then porcelain had just been introduced to make nice looking crowns. You know a sample of the outside world technology the compact disc wasn’t introduced until the year after. And I didn’t have a cell phone for another 10 years after I started practice. I started back when dentistry was still sort of events infancy compared to where we are now.
Absolutely and I think the first time I walked into going to dental care I was really fascinated with the technology that you had it and it’s even changed since then. But coming from the dentist I used to see it. It was a whole new world. So I commend you for keeping up with that and making sure that your practice stayed on top of that and that you were really catering to the customer the client which I’m sure made your job easier as well.
Well our focus is to do the best that is available for our patients.
That goes all the way down through all of our staff. I have to say our staff is is the secret to our successes that they are committed they’re dedicated.
They all want to do the best possible care for all of her patients and they do.
We have a great staff. I think that speaks volumes very fortunate. A top down effect really. I mean clearly you’ve set that stage of what your expectations are and they’ve been there a long time. Am I right. I mean most most of your stuff has been there for a number of years.
We have staff that have been there for more than 20 years. We have newer staff that and we know that the cool thing about staff our staff anyway. You know each each member is added one at a time and they’re trained.
And we mostly want to impart to them the importance of you know what we’re doing for patients that you know you do what’s best for your patients. And so a part of that too is keeping up with technology going to a continuing education courses. And the technology today is incredible in that our X-ray technology we have three dimensional x rays that enable us to precisely place implants.
We have a CAD CAM machine that makes crowns from optical images. So basically we take a picture of a tooth design a crown make it in the office in a patient box out with a new crown.
You make it any in your office in the office. Yeah. Didn’t that used to be a multiday or week process to send it out.
Yeah yeah. And it’s done with optical images. We take a picture of the tooth basically and the computer works its magic and we design the crowd and then the computer mills it and we fire it in the porcelain furnace to put eyes glaze on it. It looks like a brand new to.
Oh my goodness.
And does it last as long as I’m sure yeah the materials that we have are just incredibly strong. In fact one of the advertisements for one of the materials shows them pounding a crown into a two by four by the hammer and not breaking it. So that’s in recent studies that show that teeth with crowns are twice as strong as natural teeth. So when we do a crown that’s like putting new enamel on the tooth it’s really really amazing.
My goodness is that with a veneer is veneers like half a crown.
It’s facing and it’s bonded to the front of the Tooth OK and veneers are great we do veneers mostly for cosmetic reasons people with discolored teeth are seriously worn teeth veneers are a great solution because we don’t have to cut down the tooth quite as much as we do for a crown and the veneers last just for decades.
I mean it’s rare that I have to replace a veneer.
That’s great. Yeah so what besides technology are some of the major changes you’ve seen in 40 years or dentistry. Are you seeing that people are taking better care of their teeth in general or because there’s more education and options available. Or I mean I remember my childhood dentist and I won’t name that person because he made me afraid of going to school and he wasn’t he wasn’t mean. He was kind but it just was a little bit archaic and painful. So I mean have you noticed any changes just with you know with clients customers throughout the years.
Well you asked if people are taking better care of their teeth. And I would say it’s 50/50 that about 50 percent of the population goes to the dentist on a regular basis. The other 50 percent we might see on an emergency basis.
But I would say all in all our regular care patients for the most part look great. I mean we have patients come in and they get their teeth cleaned. They look terrific.
Maybe they’ve had some cosmetic dentistry done too and that we’re always proud of them.
And so in them we see patients who haven’t been for many years and they come in embarrassed and worried about how how much dentistry they’re going to need and we take care of them too. It’s dentistry is it’s technology and it’s problem solving for patients and sometimes it can be very challenging to solve some patients problems. But some of her patients one of the procedures we do is all on for dentures where a patient comes in and if they have teeth that are truly unsalvageable we take out the teeth and we put in the implants and we attach a denture to the implants. So they walk in with bad teeth and walk out good solid nice looking teeth.
Same day same to improve it’s probably life changing for so many events.
Absolutely life changing. We had a patient maybe six months ago. He came in. He was obviously depressed. He had medical problems liver failure kidney problems. And I remember my staff member coming in to talk to me about the patient saying yeah he’s really down in the dumps. And was really pretty unpleasant. And so I went and talked to him. He came back. We did the on for procedure. And he came in six weeks later for a follow-up check. The same staff member came in and said This is a different person. He’s happy he’s smiling he’s. And it’s just incredible. Yes, it changed his life. It absolutely changed his life.
And on the backside of that what I find interesting is your staff member being in tune with the way the person walked in and that they were maybe unhappy or they were depressed. So did they receive any kind of training beyond their dental training or is that just something that does offer any supply counseling the training we’ve done we do the desk personality types.
Ok. And in fact, we just talked about that last week with our annual meeting. We have monthly meetings and we talk about issues. We had a psychologist come in for several sessions three years ago and just talked about dynamics and communication and so it’s you know communication is everything you know.
Sure. I mean I think that’s key to giving a really great service obviously they know their dental skills and things that they need to look for and take care of but to really be in tune with the person. I think this speaks volumes for what you’re doing for your staff and certainly for your patients.
It’s really important.
Yeah absolutely. So tell me about some of your biggest challenges over the past 40 years in establishing a business or growing the business.
I think one of the biggest challenges was when we moved from across the street to our present location in 12 20 Grandview Avenue. It was a Saturday morning. I had my son’s football buddies calming help and it was the middle of a blizzard. We are moving dental chairs across the street in 10 inches of snow.
Oh my gosh. So I mean I have to laugh. I look back on it. I mean it was comical.
But the good thing about it was there was no traffic.
That’s great. And what are some of your favorite successes?
Oh, I think the all dentures are life-changing. But cosmetic work veneers crowns. When we have a patient come in and do a cosmetic case for them it’s life-changing as well. I mean they go from being afraid to smile to really just beaming from ear to ear. It’s it’s really a lot of fun to see that that change.
And so what with the changes. What do you think you might do differently if you were starting a practice today.
I think starting a practice today would be really really frightening because with the advances in technology the expense of starting a practice today would be just enormous. I’m fortunate in that over a period of forty years I’ve had 40 years to pay for it. And but starting out today just purchasing all of the equipment that’s really necessary to provide the best and dental care the cost is really prohibitive.
The other challenges I think you know staffing that it takes time to find the right people.
I really wanted to circle back to what you said kind of at the beginning were talking about what you wanted to do when you grew up and you said flatly because you do fly a plane. Am I right. I do. Yes. And you built a plane.
I built the plane that I fly. I learned to fly in the 1990s. I got my instrument rating and I started looking at airplanes and really the airplanes that are available on the market are kind of 1940s technology. And so I wanted something faster and more efficient.
So I looked at what was available for kit built a home built airplanes also called experimental airplanes and I found an airplane design that I liked. I came in a kit for him took almost four years to build it. But it’s a very fast cruise at about 100 220 miles an hour on ten gallons an hour. So it gets better gas mileage hard as I had never had thought that. Yeah and we sold one of our favorite places as Hilton Head in Hilton Head is about two hours and 30 minutes away for us.
Oh my gosh so much nicer than that nine-hour drive out here doing Hilton Head.
You are really clicking along pretty well.
Good for you. You followed a couple of your dreams. And then as you’re hitting this 40-year mark are you looking now to kind of phase into retirement, or do you know what you want to do in the next two to five years. Yes, let’s hear it.
So the plan is coming I’m working half-time right now. I work Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday off. And I love having a four day weekend. I mean it’s really really really nice. We do some traveling side take some vacation time and that’s really made my work life. Very nice and pretty much my play life. Nice as well.
Was that planned or did that just happen with the growth that you experienced you’re able to rely on your staf?.
We have two other excellent doctors in the practice. And so we are all able to take some leisure time and cover for each other. So that’s made all the difference in the world. I mean that’s being able to take time off without closing the office or are having staff members not report for work. You know that’s it has really been pretty amazing.
Yeah. Good. So you guys retirement. Yeah yeah and that’s a couple of years away. OK.
And what will I do when I retire. I’m thinking maybe hopping an RV and go for a while. Oh my gosh. We’ll see.
That would be really nice. Very nice. Good for you. And I wanted to touch also on. You said you like working with your hands Becky.
Tell me a story at one point which I thought was fascinating that you needed to move a stair staircase in your building when you guys did some expansion. And and you just said I can do that. And you did it in a day. I think that’s fascinating that you would take me six weeks to figure out if I could do it let alone move on it so well.
I did think about it for a while before I did it so I did it as I knew I knew how it was going to go.
But when we moved to our building in 1993 the contractor it kind of made the staircase a little short. It was a hazard. And so we finally decided well we can’t have this hazardous staircase like this.
Yeah just probably over the movie I’m just kind of redesigned things.
Oh my goodness. Do you enjoy when you were doing work with your hands is there something specific you’d like to do on your downtime besides building airplanes and moving staircases. Do you do any woodworking or anything like that.
I do projects around the house woodworking. We’ve redone the kitchen ourselves. In fact there’s not a room we haven’t touched and are awesome. We have one of the old Grandview houses that was built back in 1993 and there’s always something to do. These older houses so I enjoy that. I have a classic 1962 wooden boat that I refinished and did the mechanicals on it and I enjoy that I have another boat that I may restore as well. And I still like working on the airplanes. So those are the kinds of things you know. It’s a thing of figuring out a project problem solving and getting it done.
Well that’s that’s admirable. And it sounds like travel is really a big part of your downtime and the time when you’re away from work.
Travel is is a lot of fun. We really enjoy that.
Is there someplace you you haven’t traveled to. That’s a dream of yours.
Absolutely yeah. We we have a trip planned to New Zealand coming up soon. That’s going to be quite an adventure. I’d like to see Alaska and look to see Tahiti what sounds like you’ll have time here in a couple of years.
So good for you. How and how far away can your plane travel.
You mentioned Hilton head do you guys take it as often as possible or not as much as we used to. Becky’s not as crazy about flying as I am.
And I mean for me flying as a reality is a form of relaxation for me.
When I lift off of wheels fold up underneath your plane that I’m not thinking about anything else other than flying. Well good for us. So you know it may seem like Royal Flying would be really stressful. But think about flying is that I’m not focused on anything else.
I’m flying. That’s really interesting. I mean what a what a nice stress reliever it sounds like for you. I mean the destination I’m certain is is wonderful for all of you. But but getting there sounds like it’s enjoyable as well.
I enjoy it. Yeah.
And I don’t want to leave Becky out of this entirely because Becky really handles the marketing for the practice. But you’re also really involved in making sure that gravy dental care is present in the community. And I think that’s you know a big part of your success here in the tribal area certainly the Grandview community.
I would agree absolutely. So I wanted to recognize the fact that you do that and you’re very conscientious about it and very consistent about making sure that you’re supporting community causes. Right. But I’m very behind the scenes at Grandview dental care. They don’t want me.
You know what the patients. I’m a little abrupt.
You do a great job and you do a very good job of keeping going to be dental care in the public eye. Thank you. It’s Farshid that there’s is a great community. It is. Yeah. To do that. And there’s a lot of small businesses and it’s fun to share and fun to promote other businesses. Right. Fun to be a part of. Yeah. It’s very vibrant small town feel but so close to to everything that you know we’re really lucky that we have this very tight knit community and you do such a nice job. Q Thank you. I think that in the forefront. Thank you. So where can we find gravey dental care.
We are at 1220 Grandview Avenue just one block north of first avenue on Grandview Avenue.
How about some social media and website information. Becky Grandview dental care dot com and where we’re very active on Facebook with the contest find contests.