Mike Gassman, In Hand Dental CEO and founder, sat down with Anna Crowe of the Get Real Podcast to talk about In Hand Dental, and the best practices he’s learned about running a business. Anna had the following questions for him.
Anna Crowe: What would you say is the best thing about being a leader in your industry?
Mike Gassman: What I like to think of myself as is a trailblazer because I’m always willing to use technology and my experiences to find new and better ways to make people’s lives healthier and better. We love what we do with In Hand Dental because you see the results right there on your patient’s face, in their smile. The other thing about that market is that orthodontists are at the leading edge of the fee-for-value approach to healthcare, which is where things really should be going. So people say they have a destination, “I want my teeth to look better, I’m willing to pay to get it done. I don’t care how you get it done.” And it's really easy to tell whether you’ve got the right outcome or not. So it’s a fun segment to be in.
Anna Crowe: I’m sure you make such a huge difference in the lives of your patients. It must be really rewarding.
Mike Gassman: It’s amazing how they respond to it. I mean it’s incredible how dedicated they are to get it done. People care about how they look. It’s like the old Saturday Night Live show: it’s better to look good than to feel good. So they care more about their teeth than about their knees. And it just makes them happy.
Anna Crowe: I hear from other successful executives and leaders that creating authentic connections can be challenging with all the noise out there today. I’d love to hear your take on that.
Mike Gassman: There’s definitely a lot of noise, both national and local. In the local news here in Kansas City there’s business issues and personal issues going on. Healthcare issues, politics. I mean it’s really hard to get above that. But there have always been challenges no matter what area you are in. What I’ve always felt is you need to treat your customers and your staff well, at all times. Just like you would if you were the patient or you were the employee. And then the old story of you need to listen to them, you need to hear what they’re saying, hear what’s important to them and then use those things to improve their lives and improve your company and your product.
Anna Crowe: That’s fantastic. So important to listen to the customer, actively doing so, too. What other real advice would you have for other executives or leaders? Is there anything else that you think is really important?
Mike Gassman: In business it’s really important to know your market. So if you personally experience a need and find a way to solve it, you’ve got a really good chance of being successful. So you want to be an expert in your space. You don’t want to be looking for a hot space to get involved in. You want to already know the space and be an expert in it. And you don’t want to chase the money. You want to solve the problem and let the money find you after you do it. I think that’s number one.
Number two is losing ego and growing the heart. So we’re not in this to be acclaimed and win awards and everything else. People, whether it’s employees or customers, can sense your commitment and your honesty. They see it in how you act, whether it’s a facial expression or in things you do, more than what you say. So I think you want to be consistent with your word. If you say something, you want to stay true to that, true to your promises, whether it’s a warranty for your customers or a promotion for an employee. And then the employees are going to stay with you and the customers are going to stay with you.
Third thing is: you never give up. If you truly believe in what you do and you really researched it and you really believe you made a good decision, then you’re going to do fine. And if you don’t believe in what you do, then you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. If you have a setback, or even multiple setbacks, you don’t let that keep you from going forward because there’s a lot of reasons behind it. And sometimes those setbacks are not because you did something bad. It’s because you did something too good too early. And we did that with an LTD lighting business where we were two years ahead of the curve. And for that kind of high-expense lighting where you save money on maintenance and cost of energy and so on, when you look at that dollar-for-dollar, it was a 24-month return on investment. But people only look at one budget cycle, so we had to get that down to under 12 months so it’s in the same budget cycle. Then they picked it up. But we were two years early with the best product in the market.
And the last thing is: you keep your priorities in order. My parents taught me a certain way and I tell my kids the same thing: priorities are God, family, work, in that order, but they all get your full attention. So you don’t just pick one and not the others. And you don’t lose yourself in any one of them or anything else because balance is the key.
So those are the things I would tell people. They’re a little general but I think they apply in a lot of cases.
Anna Crowe: They’re great reminders and I think you have a unique spin on them. It’s wonderful to have those things front and center because you can lose sight of them. Last question: tell us about your first job.
Mike Gassman: My true first job was summer of seventh grade, I worked at a fireworks stand and I worked eight hours a day and I got paid with things that blew up. But the real first job was in a TV repair shop, from eighth grade through the first three summers of college. So I did everything from making house calls to showing appliances to managing inventory to being shocked by 25,000 volts in the back of a TV. So it was being part of a small business, locally-owned. You learned all the different aspects from the front of the shop to the back of the shop, and people coming in and out. I think that was a tremendous help to learning salesmanship.
Anna Crowe: How do people get a hold of you to learn more about your business?
Mike Gassman: You can go to AlignFlow.com (now inhanddental.com) and learn more about teledentistry and my contact information is out there. We’re out here in the middle of the country, so we’re good most times of the day. And our team would be happy to tell you about it and see how it can help you out.
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You can watch the full video here.