Dr. Vilas Sastry, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member from Las Vegas, is the CEO of Aces Dental, a Las Vegas based Dental Service organization. We asked him about his entrepreneurial journey, which started during tough economic times, and how he's been able to grow his practice. Here's what he had to say.
Las Vegas: the cosmetic dentistry capital of the world. You could throw a rock in the air and it would hit a dentist on the way down. It was in this ultra-competitive environment that I decided to start my practice in 2006 with a massive loan from the bank. As a new doctor fresh out of school, I had no clue how to value a business. The practice that I had just purchased did not perform nearly as well as it was originally made out to be, and it began to spiral downward financially almost from the start.
Analyze Marketing Costs
One of the most important lessons I learned in all of this is that marketing expenses can destroy your practice before they can help. From print ads to radio to Internet, I did it all, and it was a spectacular failure. Marketing isn't cheap and when you are spending upwards of $5,000 per month and seeing little to no return, you know you are on a fast track to failure. If I could go back, I would look at the expenses first and determine how I was not going to spend any money before I even started the business/practice. It was at this time that the great recession began, and Las Vegas was hit really hard by the banking and housing crisis.
Adopting a Clearer Vision
How did I survive these tougher times? The cosmetic dentistry practices began to fail in Las Vegas as the majority of our ideal clientele began leveraging their homes in the form of second mortgages, in order to pay for the treatments. As money became very tight for people, their willingness to spend money on any type of dentistry became almost exclusive to the treatments related to getting out of pain. I realized that every single dentist in the city was focused on providing cosmetics and I decided to go in reverse to the very basics of dentistry; I'd care for those patients who had the most need at the time when they were in pain. It seemed like no dentists were taking care of folks in pain.
Having a clear vision for what you'd like your practice to look like from the very outset is critical if you're hoping to have any measure of success. Reverse engineering the process is often times what a lot of businesses end up doing, but this is a very costly endeavor, and I can tell you that this is been the case with me, as well.
Speaking to My Younger Self
It's been ten years since I started my practice. As most any business owner would tell their younger self, it's important to start out with a clear base of indispensable services and focus your delivery of those services. That way, you are at least off the ground and cash flowing. If I wouldn't have switched gears and kept marketing to an increasingly niche market, I don't know that my business would have survived the economic recession. Luckily, I caught myself in time and paved an easy path to the finish line.