Watch the Full Interview with The Smile Lounge's Andrew Henderson
Cardinal: Hello, and welcome to another episode of WCBC Review, where we put the spotlight on small businesses .Today we're interviewing Andrew Henderson of the Smile Lounge in Tigard. How are you today Andrew?
Andrew: I'm doing good. How are you, Cardinal?
Cardinal: I am pretty good. You know, just another beautiful day in paradise. So Andrew is a dentist.
And how long have you been in business Andrew?
Andrew: So we just opened our doors one month ago. So fresh.
Cardinal: Super fresh, the paints, still drying on the walls. So for anybody watching this in the future, currently, we are in the middle of a pandemic. Straight up Panorama. It's a little crazy. And I'm really curious, Andrew, what inspired you to start up a brick and mortar practice? In the middle of COVID-19?
Andrew: Yeah. So coming out of dental school, I knew I always wanted to have my own practice and then you go and typically get more experience working for other offices. And I feel like in dentistry, kind of the typical model is you just see as many patients as you can and cram them all in and you don't really get to build the relationships with your patients, like is the more fulfilling part of the job for me.
And so I've always known, I wanted to have a practice. That's more slower pace. I can take time with my patients, get to know them, really address their concerns. And I had already kind of started the process of creating my own office. And I was looking at places to rent and that's when the pandemic hit.
So I'd already done all this effort of looking at spaces. And so it was like, well, do we move forward? Or do we just kind of pull the plug in, put things on pause? And I've got four kids and it's like, there's never a great time to have a baby. You just gotta, you just gotta go, go for it. And so I feel like that was the same thing about starting a business. And just go for it.
Cardinal: Imperfect action. I love it. We live by that here. Just, you know, it's sort of a learn as you go sort of thing, but it is a little risky when you've got capital involved. But you do have to have a certain amount of trust in the process for sure. I love that. So I'm sure you've got a long list here, but what was the toughest thing that you ran into when you opened?
Andrew: The toughest thing has really just been getting people's attention and letting them know that we're here. A lot of people, I think the statistics showed about 60% of people are putting off going to their dentist. Because yeah, the pandemic, it's one of those things. We're all just getting used to going at home. Going to the dentist isn't really a priority anyways. And so any excuse we can to find to not go to the dentist will take it. So just getting people, getting, gaining awareness that we're here and. And getting people to actually go to the dentist has been the challenge.
Cardinal: I feel like getting people to go to the dentist is sort of a age old dentist challenge.
Cardinal: It's one of those things where it doesn't feel too good in the moment, but it pays off big time longterm.
Cardinal: So I realize you're pretty fresh, but if you had to start over from day, one of even just like the phase of planning your business, is there anything that you would have done differently?
Andrew: I feel like how I started my process was I really focused and kind of honed in on my vision, and got a really defined picture of what I wanted to create. And that was the kind of the perfect place for me to start. Because it just gave me kind of a good roadmap of where I wanted to go. And so plotting along the steps to get there has been a lot easier. But there have definitely been things that I would do a little bit differently.
There's. Some, I think some ways I could have cut costs and got opened up a little bit quicker. I was lucky enough to find a space that had already had a dental office in it before. So construction was a little bit cheaper and easier. But I still wanted to add more treatment rooms in so I could eventually treat more patients down the road.
I feel like that's kind of the big thing that I would have changed. I would've saved that remodeling process later and just done more to invest in marketing earlier and, and get open sooner.
Cardinal: Yeah. That's really interesting. It's sort of a, the old adage of build it and they will come.
You got to. Balance that with letting them know that you even exist.
Andrew: Right. I kind of went for like the whole big dream practice, and then I could have started off with a more modest starter practice if you know what I mean.
Cardinal: Yeah. Well now you're set up and you got the serious roadmap there being like, okay, well now we have to get there.
Andrew: Exactly. It's just sink or swim. Yeah,
Cardinal: There's been an interesting amount of research, also gone into how our expectations reflect, how we act and move through the world. I was just listening to a podcast episode from Invisibilia that was about like our expectations of blind people and how we don't really give them a lot of autonomy in a lot of ways, because we expect that they can't do as much. When they started to interview folks blind folks who were in a situation where they didn't have those expectations put upon them, they learned to do things like echolocation. And they can go hiking and ride a bike and like do all of these things because they didn't have that limited expectation on them.
So I feel like you're doing a great job with setting that expectation high for yourself, not putting any limit on yourself and be like, okay, now we got to get there.
Andrew: No, I can totally relate to that. I have a son who's on the autism spectrum. And there's so many things that sometimes similar with a blind person, you kind of want to define them by their ability and you don't want to put them in a position where they're set up to fail.
But oftentimes if they have these challenges, they can rise to meet them. I found.
Cardinal: Yes, exactly. Exactly. Oh man, I've got so much to say about autism as well. It's a, it's one of my passions is understanding those on the spectrum and really kind of building that bridge, but we'll try and stick to the business side of things here.
Andrew: So it's, it's also a passion of mine as well. So that's fine with every new patient that we see. We actually worked with a local nonprofit, and we donate sensory tools. To kids in the community who are challenged with autism. Cause we want to give back to the community in ways beyond just our four walls and, and treating people's dental needs.
Because my family personally has received so much help in helping my son with autism. And so just any way that I can give back those kids They need it and it can be so beneficial for them. So that's a passion of mine as well.
Cardinal: Oh, I love that. That's so great. Yeah. The, the autistic folks that I know, it's the amount of like more sensory input coming in.
There's gotta be more sensory input going out so they can process all of it and get it out and be able to yeah. Just process and not get too overwhelmed. So that's great. That's, I'm so glad you're doing that. Andrew. That's important work.
Andrew: Yeah. And the nonprofit that we work with is amazing. They're called The Shadow Project and they don't just do sensory and autism related things.
With schools, they also are working with primarily elementary students to improve their reading ability who have ADHD and dyslexia, as well as just working on goal setting and, and that process and habit of working and achieving their goals. So they're doing some really amazing work and I'm really happy that I found them and been able to partner with them.
Cardinal: Fantastic. Great. So that's, that's another reason for people to go see you. That kind of comes into my next question is, is if someone had to choose between you and three other businesses, why choose Smile Lounge?
Andrew: One thing we're really trying to position ourselves to make an impact on the community in that way, giving back, with our kind of charity work and partners.
The other thing I feel like we're really working to do is to. Really just create an experience here. That's not the typical you get in, get out and it's got the typical dental sounds and typical dental smells, all the stuff that makes the experience kind of just, eh, That part, that people just dread. So, we've got TVs on the ceiling, so you can watch Netflix during your appointment.
We've got wireless headphones to some people hate the sound of the drill, and it'll totally block that out and you can just focus and relax and just kind of come here and take a break from the world and not, not have to. Worry about all the typical anxiety inducing stuff that comes with the dental office.
Cardinal: That's awesome. I love the TV's on the ceiling. It's really, now I almost kind of want to go.
Andrew: Exactly. But honestly, more than more than those kinds of amenities, we really just care about people. And we're really passionate about dentistry and oral health and helping people meet whatever goals they have.
I mean, some people it's, "I haven't been to the dentist in years and I want to figure out what's going on". Some people it's "I'm in tremendous pain help me." And some people it's like, "Oh, everything's good. I just need a checkup". So kind of wherever people are on that, spectrum love meeting, meeting them and helping them and get them to whatever point they want to be at.
Cardinal: Awesome. Putting the smile and Smile Lounge or putting the lounge in Smile Lounge too, actually.
Andrew: Yeah, that was kind of a bit of the inspiration for the name.
Cardinal: love it. So in a perfect world we don't quite know when the pandemic will be done. But let's assume that it wraps up soon. Knock on wood. A year in the future, where do you want your business to be?
Andrew: I would love for us to just, one be seeing as many patients as we can and, and being able to impact people on that individual level. But to, to just be even more integrated into the community, working with other local businesses. Working, doing more charitable work. Really just, yeah. Getting to know more people in the community and, and helping out wherever we kind of can.
Cardinal: That's great. Are you wanting to hire more people and expand your team? How many people are on your team?
Andrew: So right now I've got myself, we have a front front office administrator and insurance coordinator, and we've got a dental assistant as well. So in the future, I'd like to hire a hygienist because right now I'm doing all the cleanings.
But that's kind of the other thing that the other practices I've worked at is some patients it's like every time they come in, they're seeing a new, new dentist, a new hygienist. And so there's not really that consistency of care that I, that I personally would like from my health care. So I'm really looking to get and maintain long-term employees.
And I'm not really looking at hiring another dentist anytime in the future. So interesting. So, well, a lot of times people it's kind of that growth mindset. You just want to kind of grow, grow, grow, and expand. But for me, the most rewarding part of the current of my career is just being able to make those relationships with people and learn about them and their family.
And. And just being able to kind of connect with each other and help each other on that one-on-one level. And I feel like as, as you grow and expand, that kind of gets lost throughout all of the stuff that comes with running a business.
Cardinal: Yup. And that connection is especially important in the healthcare world.
We can be. So de-humanized and just feel like a number going through the system. I feel like you sort of hearkened back to the older days of, of medicine where you had a family practitioner and they knew your mom and your grandma, and did knew you when you were a baby and take care of you as you grow up and have that, that high level of care and understanding of what's going on in your life and your
Andrew: yeah, because healthcare it's. It should be more personalized where they, they really know you. It's not like they just look at your chart and, you know, you're just kind of a body in front of them.
Cardinal: Yeah. I can be really hard. And understaffed environments, overworked, I used to be as CNA. And I went into it wanting to have that personal connection and I quickly discovered that that was impossible with the amount of work that they put on us and the way that they managed, how we got matched up to patients and everything. It was a mess.
Andrew: I would say. Yeah, dental and medical are still kind of separate. And I mean the medical world, it's just even more impossible than have that kind of experience without, without costs just being absolutely outrageous.
Cardinal: So you mentioned earlier that you're, you're wanting to bring in more people. What's the number one way that you currently have of bringing in new, new patients?
Andrew: Right now it's really just been kind of a lot of one-on-one meeting with people meeting other local business owners, talking with people online Trying to just be active on social media, not just posting a bunch of stuff and gaining a following, but, but really just seeing what other people are doing and engaging with them on their own pages and just seeing what other people are doing and just being social on social media.
It's not like a one-way thing where we just want all the attention. It's it's really gotta be relationship driven. Not just a one way street.
Cardinal: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I like that. You have, you have a grasp of that understanding. I feel like that's a stumbling block for a lot of people. It's, it's definitely a two-way street there.
So it sounds like word of mouth is, is big for you at the moment. Absolutely. Seems appropriate for a dentist to grow through word of mouth.
So we're nearing the end of the interview. And I like to wrap up with the question of, if you had a new business owner in front of you, what advice would you give them?
Andrew: It's a great question. And the advice that I would give myself would be to enjoy the journey and just take one step at a time.
There are so many times throughout the process where it can just feel so overwhelming and it can really being an entrepreneur can feel isolating, like you're on such a unique journey and. Nobody really knows exactly what you're going through and unless you have a good support system and kind of a good head on your shoulders where you're not just thinking about it all the time, it can, it can be really tough.
Cardinal: Yup. That's one thing we're trying to remedy here at WCBC is, is connecting people that way because, Oh my gosh, it is so isolating and it's hard to even. Talk to your friends about it. Cause they don't really understand what you're going through.
Andrew: Not at all.
Cardinal: I'm, I'm lucky enough to be in business with my partner, my life partner and my business partner. So at least we've got that going.
Andrew: That's awesome.
Cardinal: Thank goodness. All right, true. Where can people find you? Where are they? Where can they look you up at?
Andrew: Yeah, so we are, we have a website www . Dot the Smile Lounge Oregon .com. I'm also on Instagram at Andrew the dentist Facebook, the Smile Lounge.
Yeah, those are the main, the main ways you can get ahold of me and check out kind of what we're doing and what we're doing in the community.
Cardinal: Sounds awesome. I might just have to visit the Smile Lounge myself. We'll see.
Andrew: We'd be happy to have you.
Cardinal: Great. Okay, Andrew. Well, we were happy to have you thank you so much for coming on to WCBC Review, and I hope that you have a great rest of your day and that you achieve all of your business dreams.
Andrew: Thank you. I appreciate it. Bye. Bye. You take care.
WCBC Review interviews Andrew Henderson of The Smile Lounge in Tigard, Oregon.
In this episode we discuss having faith in yourself, building real relationships with customers, and the good things we can do for the world as business owners.
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