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From Solo Practitioner to Dental Empire: How I Built a $9 Million Dental Group in Just Three Years

Articles, Editors Pick, Practice Life

By Dr. Andrew Vallo, Multi Dental Practice Owner

As a young dentist fresh out of Ohio State Dental School in 2016, I had big dreams of owning my own practice. After cutting my teeth in public health for a couple of years, my wife and I decided to take a leap of faith and move to Florida in 2019. 

My initial plan was to purchase an existing practice, but when the seller backed out at the last minute, I found myself at a crossroads. Instead of giving up, I chose to dive headfirst into the world of entrepreneurship and start my own practice from scratch.

“The road less traveled.”

Starting a dental practice from the ground up is not for the faint of heart. It requires a unique blend of clinical expertise, business acumen, and sheer determination. When I made the decision to open my own practice, I knew that I was embarking on a challenging journey. However, I also knew that I had the skills, knowledge, and passion necessary to make my dream a reality.

One of the first challenges I faced was finding the right location for my practice. I spent countless hours researching demographics, analyzing market trends, and scouting potential sites. Ultimately, I settled on Tampa—a location that I believed had the potential to support a thriving dental practice. With a location secured, I turned my attention to designing a state-of-the-art facility that would set my practice apart from the competition.

Building a foundation for success.

In April 2021—after nearly two years of meticulous planning and navigating the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic—I opened the doors to my first startup: The Dental Boutique. From day one, I was determined to build a practice that was poised for growth. By investing in my practice and my team from the start, I was able to create a strong foundation for success.

So, how did I do that? I designed the space with seven operatories and hired a full-time hygienist. I also invested heavily in marketing, initially allocating around $5,000 per month to attract new patients. This investment paid off quickly, as we generated $1.3 million in revenue by the end of our first year and $2.3 million in our second. This was all going against “conventional wisdom,” which often comes from a scarcity mindset teaching dentists to be “lean and mean” to avoid overspending. Instead, I embraced an abundance mindset—which has been one of the biggest factors in my rocket-like growth. 

One of the key factors in the success of The Dental Boutique was our focus on providing an exceptional patient experience. From the moment patients walked through our doors and experienced our custom office scent of “White Tea and Thyme,” we made it our mission to make them feel welcome, comfortable, and valued. We offered a comfort menu, invested in state-of-the-art technology, hired a team of highly skilled professionals, and went above and beyond to exceed patient expectations at every turn.

Expanding the empire.

Buoyed by the success of The Dental Boutique, I partnered with a periodontist to open my second startup—Best Value Dentures and Implants—in December 2021. Our goal was to offer affordable dental implant services to patients who might otherwise be unable to access this life-changing treatment. In just 12 months, we generated $1.5 million in revenue, followed by $1.9 million in our second year.

Recognizing the potential for further growth, I decided to expand to new locations. In June 2022, I began planning to open both brands under one roof on the other side of Tampa. The result was a 4,200-square-foot space with 13 operatories, a shared waiting area, sterilization, and a front desk. When we opened our doors in January 2024, we set new records, becoming the fastest startup to reach $200,000 in collections within the first 30 days.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned on my entrepreneurial journey is the power of partnership. When I partnered with a periodontist to open Best Value Dentures and Implants, I knew that I was tapping into a wealth of knowledge and expertise that would help take my practice to the next level. By combining our skills and resources, we were able to create a practice that was greater than the sum of its parts.

When growing a dental empire, choosing the right bank to partner with is so important.

A successful partnership isn’t just about working with other dentists. It’s also about building relationships with key stakeholders such as suppliers, marketing firms, and—more specifically—banks. Expanding to new locations requires significant capital investment and, like many entrepreneurs, I needed to secure financing to bring my vision to life. 

When I first approached banks to get a loan for my first dental practice, I was primarily focused on getting the best interest rate possible. I ultimately chose to work with Wells Fargo because they offered the most competitive rates at the time. However, as I began to grow and expand my practice, I quickly realized that my relationship with the bank would be about more than just interest rates. When I decided to open my second practice just five months after launching my first, I went back to Wells Fargo to secure additional financing. To my surprise, they were hesitant to approve the loan, citing the fact that I had only been in business for a short time.

This experience taught me a valuable lesson about the importance of building a strong relationship with your bank from the outset. When you’re first starting out, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of securing your first loan and forget to think about your long-term growth plans. However, as your practice grows and evolves, you’ll likely need to go back to your bank for additional financing, and that’s when having a strong partnership can make all the difference.

After my experience with Wells Fargo, I decided to shop around for a new banking partner that would be more supportive of my growth plans. I ultimately chose to work with Huntington Bank, which not only approved my loan for my second practice but also agreed to take over my existing loan from Wells Fargo. While the interest rates weren’t as favorable as what I had originally secured with Wells Fargo, the peace of mind that came with knowing I had a banking partner who believed in my vision was well worth the trade-off.

The power of cash reserves.

Another important lesson I learned about financing a dental practice—empire or not—is the importance of having cash reserves on hand. When I first started out, I had about $100,000 in savings, which I was able to accumulate by making only the minimum payments on my student loans and avoiding investments to stay as liquid as possible. I worked really hard as an associate dentist to save up that money. This cash reserve gave me a cushion to fall back on as I navigated the challenges of starting a new business and also made me a more attractive candidate for financing in the eyes of the bank, as it demonstrated that I had the financial stability to weather any potential setbacks.

Over time, as my practice has grown and become more profitable, I’ve made it a priority to continue building my cash reserves by keeping my spending constant even as my income has increased. This has allowed me to invest in new equipment, expand my facilities, and even acquire additional practices without having to rely solely on financing from the bank. It’s also given me peace of mind knowing that I have a safety net in place should any unexpected challenges arise. I continue to make the minimum payments on my student loans to prioritize building cash. Basically, just because you make more money doesn’t mean you should spend it.

There’s not just one “secret to success.”

As I reflect on my entrepreneurial journey, there’s no “one secret” that has contributed to my success. In addition to having a clear vision for my practice and finding the right bank partner to support my growth plans, I have always been willing to invest heavily in marketing—especially digital and social media marketing. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram (you can follow me at @dr.andrewvallo) have been incredibly effective in attracting new patients to my practices. This marketing spend—in combination with a great marketing company—has led my flagship office to consistently see 250+ new patients a month.

Additionally, I have made it a priority to provide an exceptional patient experience and actively seek out positive Google reviews, recognizing that online reputation is crucial in today’s digital age. I developed intentional systems and verbiage to help my first startup amass 1,400 Google reviews in our first 2 years open. 

As your practice grows, it’s also essential to focus on working on the business rather than in the business. This means delegating tasks to your team and continuously educating yourself on the business aspects of dentistry through podcasts, books, and courses. That’s why another major factor in my success has been my commitment to lifelong learning. As a dentist and business owner, I am constantly seeking out new knowledge and skills that can help me better serve my patients and grow my practice.

What does your success story look like?

As I look to the future, my plan is to acquire two more practices in 2024 and shift from the startup model to the acquisition model. To support this growth, I have added a fractional CFO (my father) and an executive assistant to my leadership team, allowing me to focus on honing our systems and becoming a well-run corporation.

For those looking to follow in my footsteps, my advice is simple: Stay involved in key processes like marketing, trust in your team, and don’t be afraid to let go of toxic employees or make changes that benefit your business in the long run. Most importantly, never stop learning and always be willing to adapt to new challenges and opportunities.

Much of my dental business acumen came from hundreds of hours of listening to various dental and business podcasts, which ultimately led me to start my own dental podcast “Dental Unfiltered”. In my podcast, I share the various dental office systems that have helped me grow my dental empire. This is my way of “paying it forward” from all the free content I consumed over the years. We have no sponsors for the podcast; our only goal is to provide valuable content to other dentists looking to advance their careers. If you’re interested in learning more about my journey or have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at docvallodds@gmail.com. I’m always happy to connect with fellow dental professionals and aspiring entrepreneurs.

There’s a “why” behind it all.

In addition to serving thousands of patients and creating jobs for more than 40 employees, there have been some other incredible positives of creating this dental group.

One such positive has been our “No Hungry Pets Program” that my wife and I founded in partnership with the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. For each new patient our offices see, we donate a month worth of dog food to help feed the area’s homeless pets. Because of the success of our group, we have been able to donate tens of thousands of dollars to the Humane Society.

My entrepreneurial journey has been one of hard work, strategic planning, and a willingness to embrace change. By following these principles, I have been able to build a thriving dental enterprise with a projected revenue of $9 million for 2024. To all the aspiring dental entrepreneurs out there, I say this: With dedication, perseverance, and a commitment to lifelong learning, you can achieve remarkable things in the world of dentistry.

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