Emmet Scott believes the dentist’s office shouldn’t be a place of fear for children. Here’s how he’s using credit cards to ensure his company, National Dental Partners, brings smiles to faces all over Texas.
No child should fear going to the dentist. In fact, the right practice can even be appealing to kids. So believes entrepreneur Emmet Scott, CEO and co-founder of National Dental Partners (NDP).
The company’s flagship brand, Smile Magic Family Dental, has replaced clinical-looking waiting rooms, where parents shush their children and instruct them to sit quietly, with environments designed for play and freedom.
“Though I’m not a dentist, I live, breathe and spend much of my working hours thinking about it,” says Scott. “It’s my purpose to be a true dental industry disrupter and I’m passionate about using my extensive business expertise and innovative strategies to create a fantastic experience for patients, teams and doctors, and share that knowledge and experience with others.”
The plan is working. Today, Smile Magic has a dozen locations throughout Texas and is a $53 million brand. Not stopping there, the company is in serious expansion mode. To ensure expansion success, Scott uses credit cards to help finance Smile Magic’s future.
See related: Inclusivity for a dangerous industry
Can you take us back to the beginning of Smile Magic?
The story of our business began like so many others – big dreams to do things differently. But our dreams had overhead and financial requirements that were larger than we would be able to contribute on our own in the early days.
What we wanted to do, the way we wanted to innovate in the dental industry, required more capital than the banks normally lent, so we had to get creative – and personal. We reached out to friends and family for support and, in fact, our third location was made possible because my partner’s dad put his family’s cabin up to help us finance our dream.
Talk about incentivizing! When there are people you love who show their belief in and support of you in such big ways, you commit to showing up for them and your business in big ways. And we have!
How did you manage the start-up expenses?
In truth, we expected the high costs of the dental equipment and things like that, but what came as a surprise for us were the expenses related to marketing and signage.
We knew that working in the dental industry was going to be competitive, and we had to be seen and heard amongst the noise of a lot of other dentists. That visibility comes with a price tag.
Drawing attention to your new business – the marketing, the brand-building – that comes with a hefty, though worthwhile, price tag.
Then, as we’ve grown, other expenses have come that we may not have expected, but that are born from our commitment to celebrating our team and making work fun. For instance, to keep showing our gratitude to our team (who keeps showing up for us and our patients during the pandemic), we’ve brought in ice cream trucks, taco trucks, thrown parties – we even have an on-staff event planner to help make our company events the best they can be.
These have definitely been expenses I didn’t imagine when I was in accounting school, but they are of great importance to our business.
How have you been using credit cards for the business?
We have used credit cards from the beginning – often using them as a line of credit of sorts to help support our projects and our growth. We’ve also then used the points we earn for corporate events, executive retreats and to reward the team for jobs well done.
I’ll tell you about a couple of our favorites as we’ve used them all! Right now, we’re enjoying using The Platinum Card® from American Express because it is quite flexible and easy to work with when it comes to issuing employee cards. Lately, we’ve also started using Mastercard with Divvy for expense management.
What normally goes on the cards?
At our company, expenses can range from dental supplies to office supplies to marketing supplies and materials. As we grow and expand, those expenses grow with us.
What began as limited marketing expenses, for instance, has now grown to include not just signage but advertising buys, content and online marketing opportunities and expenses related to running a business podcast. All of these have come with – and aided in – our growth.
How are you managing the financial aspects of running Smile Magic?
We’re in the business of regularly expanding – whether building new or elevating existing practices. When doing this, we use leverage when we need to build out a dental practice because there is just so much (and so many expenses) included in those events, from equipment to plumbing.
This is when I’m playing an investment manager role, not just an expense manager – investing in our highest return and continuing to scale.
What do you have planned for the company?
We’re growing in both our own practices and we’re supporting partner practices through our work as a Dental Service Organization. It’s an incredibly exciting time to be at NDP and I feel fortunate for all of this growth during this wild year.
Our goals remain to keep creating the most amazing patient experience in all of our practices. On a larger level, we at NDP want to continue to support entrepreneurs in the dental and healthcare space. With the right business support on the back-end, companies and doctors can thrive while better serving their patients. And we are dedicated to helping them make that happen!
Is there anything you wish you could do over?
I see my life as one of a leader who is constantly working to grow and develop myself, so I can’t say I regret who I was, I’m happy to have learned from the situations I’ve been in. It’s truly my desire to make personal development a part of my approach to business growth and encouraging that in others is how we lead our team as well. So, none of us have regrets, so much as lessons learned that push us forward.
Any advice to entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Know that things will be messy along your journey. Expect and prepare for that, and know those times will also pass. Persevere, persevere, persevere! Stay aligned with your team, too. Communicate with them, be consistent with them and never outrun them.
Regarding money, I would say that it’s important to include financial professionals on your team who are supporting you and guiding you to ensure that you don’t over-leverage. It’s also vital to have good communication with the banks and investors you’re working within an ongoing and consistent manner.