Dr. Jordan Bower completed his undergraduate studies at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in general biology, with a minor in chemistry. During college, he was a staff member in the cell and molecular bio lab, as well as a Division 1 NCAA student athlete. Dr. Bower earned his dental degree at Temple University Kornberg School of Dentistry in 2013, and then spent a year in corporate dentistry in Philadelphia. He relocated to the Lehigh Valley area to work at a semi-corporate multi-specialty dental center for five years. In 2018, Dr. Bower launched his startup dental practice, Fresh Smiles, in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania.
ASDA Blog: How did you prepare to own your own business?
Dr. Jordan Bower: I consumed as much content as possible: podcasts, books, FB group posts. Financially, I made minimum payments on my student loans and hustled at my associateship to stockpile cash for the transition.
How did you pick your practice location?
I knew I wanted my practice to be close to Philly, so I looked at demographics for areas within a 30-minute drive to center city Philadelphia. I knew approximately where I wanted to practice, and the demographics helped me find the right neighborhood within that area. My personal preferences weighed in as well.
Did you work with a company to start your practice?
Yes, Ideal Practices. I attended one of their courses and learned that successful dental startups are doable, but they are a ton of work. I realized I was up for the challenge after learning about the complexity of the overall process. Since I was working as a full-time associate, I hired consultants to partner with me.
What were some of your biggest challenges?
Some of the obstacles were finding real estate, lease negotiation, communication with the contractor, the timing of all the installs. There were a lot of moving parts, but at no time was it too overwhelming. As soon as we opened, the focus shifted immediately to marketing and cash flow. I knew I had a finite amount of time to become cash-flow positive before the working capital was gone. Any time we did not have a patient in the chair, it was all hands on deck to fill gaps in our schedule.
How did you market your practice?
Initially, we worked with a full-service marketing agency who built our website and ran our online ads. We did not see a huge ROI with traditional methods, so about nine months in, we shifted to spending more time with ground marketing and local sponsorships.
How did you build your team?
I remember conducting interviews at the local Panera while my office construction was being completed. Some people who sounded great over the phone were not in person! Ultimately, I went with a gut decision and hired for culture. One of the dental assistants I initially hired has since been promoted to office manager, and he’s doing great in that role. Adding a hygienist in month seven was a critical step for us. I am slowly and cautiously building my team, trying to protect our culture and patient experience.
Would you have done anything differently if you could go back in time?
In the beginning, I should have focused more on building systems for our future needs, because now as we are growing, it is the systems that keep us functioning. I also would not have bought a pan; I should have saved toward a CBCT.
What else has been an important part of your startup story?
Most public startup stories talk about breaking even in month two or $1 million collected in the first year. With my story, we fought for every dollar, and it was a rough first 10 months until we were cash-flow positive. It’s important for people to know that it’s OK to not “blow up.” Our story has been slow but consistent growth, and we have been on a great trajectory so far.
What advice do you have for students?
It’s smart to always be thinking about the next step — whatever that may be. If a student dentist is thinking about practice ownership, then it is never too early to start drafting your vision and making plans for your dream office. It’s also important to note that we are our own best investment, so applying yourself while still in dental school can be the best ROI and growth you can get.
~Mark Berenshteyn, Harvard ’22