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Episode #543: The Truth About Being a Dental Entrepreneur, with Dr. Barrett Straub

If you do great dentistry, the rest will take care of itself. That’s what dental school tells you, but there’s one problem: “the rest” doesn’t just take care of itself. There is much more to being a successful practice owner. To fill in those gaps and provide guidance, Kirk Behrendt and Dr. Barrett Straub brings in Dr. Timothy Baggott and Dr. Ashley Berghuis to talk about ACT’s Dental Entrepreneur Program and how it helped them become better leaders, better entrepreneurs, and have a better life. To learn more about DEP and the things dental school didn’t teach you, listen to Episode 543 of The Best Practices Show!

Episode Resources:

Links Mentioned in This Episode:

Margin by Dr. Richard A. Swenson:

The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon:

ACT’s Dental Entrepreneur Program:

Main Takeaways:

Most dentists graduate with high clinical skills, but low business skills.

Doing amazing clinical dentistry is the easy part of your practice.

Owning your own practice will put you in control of your life.

Cultivate an environment that you and your team will love.

Start by making one small improvement every day.

Learning doesn’t stop if you want to succeed.


“The important piece of being a dentist is you have a life too. A lot of times when you get into dental conversations, it’s all about, ‘Oh, yeah. The practice, and the production, and another day.’ A big reason you became a dentist is to have a life. And we also understand that they compete. They compete for resources, energy, and time.” (4:28—4:49) -Kirk

“The first seven, eight, ten years of my career — you’re so fixated on developing your dental skills. As you forge the clinician you want to be, and as the business becomes a more consuming part of the equation, you realize all those skills, that’s kind of the easy part, and this other stuff that you didn’t go to school for and that you’re figuring out on a daily basis is a whole new bag of challenges.” (6:11—6:40) -Dr. Baggott

“As I’ve gotten more secure or more confident, I’ve honed in more on the little things and realized there is no magic bullet to suddenly take your practice to these million-dollar projections that you hear people talk about. It’s really just . . . tweaking things on a daily basis. Turn this knob a little bit here, turn this knob a little bit here. And it’s not as overwhelming for me and for the staff if we can, every day, leave the office a little bit better than we left it.” (7:12—7:45) -Dr. Baggott

“In dental school, they teach you how to be a good clinician. You get out of school, and your first couple of years out, the wheels are turning, you’re doing great with your skills, and you’re honing those in, trying to get faster and more efficient. But you don’t know how to manage your staff. All the numbers, and being an entrepreneur, being a business owner, you don’t learn that stuff in school. They dabble in it a little bit, but you really don’t get a whole lot of that in school.” (8:13—8:41) -Dr. Berghuis

“I think after that five-year hump is when you start to realize, okay, you have the skills. Now, it’s making sure that your staff is on the same page with those core values and making sure your practice has the value that you want it to and it’s what you want it to be.” (8:47—9:05) -Dr. Berghuis

“I think we’re people pleasers as dentists, to a fault. And so, we want our staff to be happy. We want our patients to be happy. And if we feel like somebody isn’t, I think that’s what keeps us up at night too, other than the business part.” (9:32—9:45) -Dr. Berghuis

“Dentistry is lonely. I always say dentistry is lonely. Leadership is lonely. And dentistry, especially, can be lonely because we didn’t learn a lot of this in dental school. And every dental school, probably in the world but certainly in America, we get this advice: just do great dentistry, and the rest will take care of itself. I think it’s some of the worst advice I’ve ever gotten.” (10:15—10:38) -Dr. Straub

“It’s true, you always want to do the best clinical dentistry. But there are world-quality, amazing clinical dentists out there that are running horribly failing practices because they are living by that, doing amazing clinical dentistry. Their patients don’t know it, their team doesn’t know it, their books are a mess, and they have the bedside manner of a table and can’t talk to someone — and they’re still doing great clinical dentistry. But that’s only part of it. We have to do that. That’s a minimal requirement. But there’s so much more. We’ve got to be good businesspeople, we’ve got to be likable, we have to learn how to communicate with people, and we’ve got to be good leaders.” (10:38—11:16) -Dr. Straub

“It’s hard sometimes because the world is sharing stories with us and there’s competing information coming at us. We’re reading different dental magazines and listening to different podcasts, and when we’re there alone, we’re thinking, ‘Gosh, I’ve got to produce $3 million. Everyone’s got 15 hygienists or eight practice locations. I should do that too.’ And for some people, that is the right path. But for some, it’s not. And that’s the beauty of dentistry. But it’s hard sometimes to wade through the noise and find your true one path that’s right for all of us and go down that road.” (11:17—11:54) -Dr. Straub

“I think that’s the biggest challenge that I face, and all of us, is getting to that hump where it’s like, okay, I have this self-confidence. I’ve been around long enough. I see where I want to go, and I’m going to put on earmuffs for some of this noise, and I’m going to listen only to the advice and the people and the things that share my core values and are going to get [me] closer to that final goal.” (11:54—12:19) -Dr. Straub

“What I find the most rewarding is not when I have a good day, it’s when my entire staff — especially watching my associates — have a good day. They’re newer grads. They’ve been out of school a couple of years. So, watching them grow, watching them have success, honestly, is more rewarding for me, at this point.” (16:05—16:23) -Dr. Baggott

“Most dentists do want to live that American dream of leading their own practice. It’s difficult in the beginning, obviously, and I think that scares a lot of young dentists away because, financially, they didn’t get a lot of information in school on how to do those things. But I think going through the trenches in the beginning, you’re going to reap the rewards later.” (19:52—20:11) -Dr. Berghuis

“I worked the corporate life for a while a couple of years out of school. And there are pros when you’re just out of school because you can just focus on the dentistry. But if you don’t have the personality to be an employee, which I do not, it’s tough to stay in that position for a long period of time.” (20:16—20:33) -Dr. Berghuis

“As an entrepreneur, I think of, ‘Hey, if I solve one problem, and then I solve another, I get to make a buck. And if I solve a few more problems, I get to make another buck.’ And eventually, you solve enough problems, you can make a living. And that’s kind of how I feel. And I don’t say that to scare people away from ownership. I’ve come to embrace it. When you take that mentality, it makes it easier to fight through the suction pump that keeps struggling. If something breaks, can you fix it? There’s going to be an endless amount of problems that you can solve, and you’ve got to look them in the face, and smile, and take them one at a time, write them on a Post-it note, and then start throwing them away.”  (22:24—23:07) -Dr. Baggott


0:00 Introduction.

0:54 Dr. Berghuis’s background.

2:33 Dr. Baggott’s background.

4:51 Dr. Straub’s background.

5:56 The reality of being an entrepreneur and a dentist.

6:42 Things that keep dentists up at night.

10:13 Dentistry and leadership is lonely.

12:20 One-year goals for a better life.

18:22 Associateship or ownership?

20:33 The path to ownership.

24:36 About ACT’s Dental Entrepreneur Program.

28:25 Leave the campsite better than you found it.

Dr. Barrett Straub Bio:

Dr. Barrett Straub practices general and sedation dentistry in Port Washington, Wisconsin. He has worked hard to develop his practice into a top-performing, fee-for-service practice that focuses on improving the lives of patients through dentistry.

A graduate of Marquette Dental School, Dr. Straub’s advanced training and CE includes work at the Spear Institute, LVI, DOCS, and as a member of the Milwaukee Study Club. He is a past member of the Wisconsin Dental Association Board of Trustees and was awarded the Marquette Dental School 2017 Young Alumnus of the Year. As a former ACT coaching client that experienced first-hand the transformation that coaching can provide, he is passionate about helping other dentists create the practice they’ve always wanted.

Dr. Straub loves to hunt, golf, and spend winter on the ice, curling. He is married to Katie, with two daughters, Abby and Elizabeth.

Dr. Timothy Baggott Bio:

Dr. Timothy Baggott has lived in the Greater Milwaukee area his entire life. After completing his undergraduate studies at Marquette University as a Pre-Dental Scholar, Dr. Baggott graduated Cum Laude from Marquette University School of Dentistry in 2010. Upon graduation, he began a private practice in Greenfield, sharing a location with his father, Dr. William Baggott. In 2013, Dr. Baggott returned to MUSOD as an Adjunct Professor. In 2018, Dr. Baggott took over the downtown dental practice of Dr. Paul Smaglick. He has served on the Board of Directors for the Greater Milwaukee Dental Association, as well as a delegate for the Milwaukee Region for the Wisconsin Dental Association House of Delegates.

Outside the office, Dr. Baggott enjoys spending time with his wife, Laura, and three kids, Ken, Andrew, and Evelyn.

Dr. Ashley Berghuis Bio:

Dr. Ashley Berghuis grew up in southwest Michigan, more specifically Gull Lake, and completed her undergraduate studies at Western Michigan University. She moved to southeast Wisconsin after undergrad to complete her dental education at Marquette University, where she graduated Cum Laude and fell in love with the cheese-head state.

Dr. Berghuis finds it important to give back to her community and the dental field through volunteering. She has been involved with Give Kids a Smile Day, Mission of Mercy, and many school oral health programs in the area.

Outside of dentistry, she is an avid football fan who enjoys hiking, traveling, yoga, spending time with family, friends, and her rescue Black Lab mix, Riley.


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