“They only got what they needed.” – Dr. Thomas Harvey, DDS

by laurie

The brief excerpt below is from the book; 50 Interviews: Entrepreneurs Thriving in Uncertain Times. The award winning 300 page book includes exclusive interviews with over 50 successful entrepreneurs in a variety of industries.

“Men cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of
the shore” – Lord Chesterfield

Dr. Thomas Harvey established his dentistry practice, Dr. Thomas Harvey, DDS
in 1976 in Fort Collins, Colorado. Dr Harvey had no prior business
experience and now employs four people. His initial startup cost was $50,000
which he borrowed from the bank.


Q: Did you use a business plan?
A: No.

Q: The genesis of the idea?
A: My brother was a dentist and our family friend was a dentist. I didn’t
want the responsibility of a medical practice. I enjoy working with my hands
and I love tinkering.

Q: What were your biggest challenges?
A: I recall only 4 hours being spent on the topic of business in dentistry
school. Getting started on my own, things were lean in the beginning (little
cash flow). Finding new clients was a challenge. Back in the 1970’s, things
were a lot different in this profession and you were not allowed to
advertise. You were only allowed to put a small office opening advertisement
for the first two weeks after you opened your practice. We got creative and
ran our ad for one week when we first opened, and ran the second week six
months after we opened. The other dentists in the area were irate with us.
Today things are much different. Having a business acumen is vital to having
a surviving practice!

Q: Are there one or two things you can attribute your success to? Luck,
timing, someone who helped you?
A: Time passing (patience) has really made the biggest difference. When
times were tough, I was fortunate to have some financial resources to help
pull me through. For a few years I had to set up a satellite office 100
miles away just to get enough business. I interviewed dentists in the area
while I was still in dentistry school.

Q: How do you attract and retain the best employees? Any thoughts on the
employee-ownership model?
A: I believe in treating everyone like equals. I prefer to spend my day in
our common room, and not in my office. Everyone is equal and has equal say
in decisions. I see my employees as partners. In medical professions, you
can’t have multiple owners.

Q: Anything else to add?
A: As an owner, you have to be willing to do things an employee isn’t
willing to do. Today, there is a quandary around over-treatment. It’s a
conflict of interest when you see doctors making a lot of money. It comes
down to the ultimate question, “can you go home and sleep at night?”

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