Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Friends and Family

Like everyone else, we have had a LOT of get togethers lately, starting with Thanksgiving at the Pond's:
My Dad's birthday:

Carson's work party at Rhonda's house:

a white trash Christmas party (cheesiness intended)
and a pajama breakfast for our ward Christmas party

And for the Maple Valley crowd here are a few pictures I couldn't resist:

Remind me not to call the Blues very early in the morning.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

You don't want no drama

I have not posted for almost 2.5 months. I decided not to post until I had a firm start date for the new practice for 2 reasons: 1-It's been too depressing to post about anything else while having so many delays (explained below) and 2-I've been very busy with my current job, fixing problems for my startup, my calling at church and getting the final things ready/purchased for the startup.

So, an official start date...unless other unforseen problems arise or the city delays a final 'permit for occupancy' we are looking at Monday, December 22nd! People often ask why it has been delayed so long, and it is hard to quickly explain. Therefore, unless you like drama and want the whole depressing story, you can skip this entire post. It's one big, dark cloud with a couple areas of silver lining. Even if nobody reads this, it will be good to get it all out.

All through school Marisa and I researched where to do a startup. We found a location that had a great patient to doctor ratio. The one dentist in the area was so busy he gave most of his restoration placements to his hygienists and still didn't have enough time to do things that he wanted such as Invisalign. It was a golden opportunity.

After graduating and working 6 months (a little over 3 years ago) I worked on a lease with my lease negotiator to get a building in Snoqualmie. At the end of the 'letter of intent' negotiations the landlord backed out because he didn't feel comfortable paying out such a large tenant improvement allowance when I hadn't been out of school for very long. My bank who was ponying up the money said there is less than 1% default on dental loans, but the landlord still backed out. Later, someone came in who bought up the entire 10,000 s.f. office floor. It was hard not to believe he backed out because he had a better offer. Either way, it still hurt.

At that time there were no other locations available for a business in the area. Two buildings were under development. Building A was beautiful, as good of a location as possible, and about 6 months away from being approved and finishing construction of the shell. Building B was a mile away, not as attractive, but only about 3-4 months from being approved and finished with shell construction.

The choice of which location seemed pretty obvious, although at that time the 2-3 months difference did seem like more of a factor because I couldn't wait to get started! I had been anticipating running my own office since the days at BYU when I borrowed the Howard Farran Dental MBA in 30 Days cassette tapes from the dentist I assisted for. All during dental school I received the magazine Dental Economics, read it and loved it. Many fellow students in dental school said I was stupid and over-confident to go straight into private practice instead of doing a Residency of some sort. In hind sight, the big blessing has been that I've had a great job financially speaking, but a long commute. I only expected to do that long drive for a few months though.

Unprecedented Delay
From the time I signed the lease with building A, the landlord told me it would only be 6 months until I could start my construction on the inside. Every 3 months I would check in to see how the next three months were going to go so that I could get ready to get bids for construction, etc. Every time I called I was told that the city was being very slow and it would be another 6 months. Do the math, checking in every three months for 2.5 years means I was erroneosly told "6 more months" 11 times including the initial! It wasn't that my landlord was feeding me a line to keep me hanging on. Eventually, he got his attorney involved and they sued the city for making this project take FOUR TIMES longer than the average King County project time. Even the state came in and did an audit of the city to see if they were purposely adding on extra permits and resubmittal permiting fees to inrease their profit. Amazingly, things started to pick up...

In addition to the difficult pill I had to swallow from my landlord every 3 months I had to tell this story about 5 thousand times over these past couple of years. Everybody asked how much longer: everybody from dental school, all my family, everybody from our old ward before the split, everybody from our new ward after the split, all my neighbors, all the specialists that I meet with periodically, all the dentists that I have gotten to know in the area, all my friends from growing up, everybody! Because there were a lot of people who genuinely cared, I was unfortunately asked quite frequently how the new practice was going. It was the logical assumption to think I had already started when 7 months ago I told them it would be 6 more months.

From Perfect to "Just Good"
Things began to slowly break down during this long delay. Another guy decided to come in and set up a practice. Like I said before, there were only two locations. The location I chose not to go with, is what he chose because it was all that was available. As luck would have it, that building didn't have nearly as many delays as mine so it was up and ready for him. Now the situation would go from 'more than enough patients' to 'maybe some competition.' I talked to the guy a lot at first, but then he stopped answering my emails. I was quite surprised because I thought he was a pretty nice guy. He even started advertising at my building since I share it with a gas station. Now, not only was there another denist in town, he wouldn't talk to me. He was also going to open before me and steal my thunder that I had been anticipating for 2.5 finally give the people in the area a choice! The one practice that was already there wasn't very technoligically advanced so I was going to really shine.

Last July that first (and used to be only) practice was sold to a dentist that (rumor has it) not very many people liked. All of the sudden the practice started hemorraging patients and staff like crazy. How great would that have been to be open and scoop all them up? Too good for me I guess, in the end they all just went to the other new guy since I wasn't open yet.

Because I had so many delays I tried to forsee every problem and prepare for it before hand. Sometimes this was not enough. In the end I had many people say, "That's weird" on the phone because I was the 1 in a 1000 person too often. The city lost my business application, which they said has never happened. The energy company lost my gas meter permit that I called on specifically to make sure it was going according to plan. After my call, they lost it and delayed the project 2 weeks. Isolite (equipment) lost my order and they are running 3 months behind so I won't get it until after opening. My sign company that I first worked with forgot about me and completed two other jobs before "remembering." My water feature was done incorrectly and shipped at the wrong time and wrong place, twice! I'll spare you the rest...except for the fact that if I don't open this year it could cost me over 20k in tax write-off on my loan. We'll see what happens.

Silver Lining
There had to be some good right? There were a couple of big ones. Because the delay was much longer than the landlord had anticipated, my contract timeline window passed. I had the opportunity to get out of the contract. I didn't want to because this was still the best location around any desireable commute from our house and we didn't want to move. To entice me to stay the landlord offered to give me the first year rent free! I actually felt a little guilty saying yes to the offer. I guess he really liked me and wanted me to stay.

Also, I was able to do a lot of research during those 3 years. I found the cheapest way to do many things and not cut corners on quality. For example, I found a custom dental cabinet company out of Oregon to do my dental cabinets for 30% of what the suppliers charge for their cheaper lines. This company not only did them 3 times cheaper, they also made them higher quality. That and many other things have allowed me to do this startup for about 50% of what others have similarly done in the area. One Dr. I used to work with did a start up in an office almost the same size with very similar quality for 180% more. Another larger practice in the area was 220% more than mine!

I was able to do a lot of the work on my own. I designed my own website, sign...

business cards...


That has been both a money saver and satisfying. In the end though, despite having a well paying job with tons of great experience for the last three years and all these money savers, I would have preferred in some ways to start up a long time ago. One good thing is that we are booked for the first two weeks before even opening our doors. Hopefully that will continue. In the end, it was probably meant to be, but learning patience is not fun. Especially when your number one personality disorder is not being able to handle things out of your control very well.

I'll post pictures soon when it is open...hopefully in just a couple weeks!