I cheated on my dentist and I will never do it again. This is a story about the importance of trust if you want to build a great business. It is also a story about not taking your business for granted if you’ve been at it for a while.
During regular times, I’d see the dentist every six months to get my teeth cleaned. Once a year, I’d get some x-rays and go from there. However, due to the pandemic, I skipped out on seeing the dentist for 18 months.
Getting breathed on with my mouth open in an indoor space for over an hour didn’t seem prudent. So I waited until I got fully vaccinated before going.
In the meantime, I flossed, brushed, and rinsed religiously. I even bought a metal plaque scraper and pick to help remove any buildup. In essence, I became my own dental hygienist.
Seeing A New Dentist Out Of Convenience
I had been going to my dentist in downtown San Francisco for over 12 years. While I worked downtown, my dentist was a convenient 8-minute walk from my office. But once I moved to the western part of San Francisco in 2014, the commute to my dentist grew to 20-25 minutes each way plus parking.
My wife smartly found a new dentist on the west side of the city in 2017. So finally, after so many years, I decided to give her dentist a go this year. I felt bad about not going to my previous dentist, but I wanted to see a dentist that was walking distance from my home.
With some concern, given I hadn’t been inside a building with strangers for 18 months, I went to the new dentist for a cleaning. I had to wait for about 20 minutes before being seen.
Once the hygienist started, she said, “You waited too long to see a dentist,” implying that I had poor dental hygiene. “You should have come earlier,” she went on.
I was taken aback because no other dental hygienist has ever implied I had poor dental hygiene. Further, she shared no concern about how new patients might feel coming in during a pandemic.
When providing feedback, it’s generally good to balance a negative with a positive. The dental hygienist’s lack of emotional intelligence was apparent. She certainly wasn’t making me feel welcome.
As a business owner, I understand using dental hygienists as “top-of-the-funnel lead generators” to get patients to potentially do more dental work than perhaps needed. Having the dentist then come and agree to the “suspect areas” the hygienist finds is one of the best ways to convince a patient to do some work.
It’s kind of like a car salesman going to his manager to consult on a counter-offer. The manager then comes out to try and make the close. The one-two punch is hard to resist.
Unfortunately, I have trust issues with new dentists because I’ve been encouraged to do fillings pre-maturely before by other dentists. Further, I have a dentist friend who has told me stories about unscrupulous dental practices.
As a new patient, I began to have my doubts about this new place.
Couldn’t Be Bothered To Explain
When the dentist came, she said that I needed a filling because my cavity broke down. Fair enough. When I calmly asked her to point out the cavity on the x-ray, she sarcastically said, “You can’t see that obvious big hole?“
My bad. I guess I should have been well-versed in reading x-rays! When I looked at the image, I just saw teeth with various dark and light spaces all over the place.
The dentist then said I’d probably need a crown on a cracked molar, which was a surprise. I had never gotten a crown before. Therefore, I asked her to explain the difference between a crown and a filling.
As soon as I asked her, she let out a sigh of annoyance. In her head, she was probably thinking, how dare he question my judgement. She rattled off an explanation and wanted to move on.
But I wasn’t finished yet. I wanted her to explain how long a crown would take, how and what should I eat with a temporary crown, and what was the failure rate of a crown. Basic questions any reasonable person would ask.
At this point, she got up and left!
As a new or existing patient, you have the right to get your questions answered before agreeing to any procedure. This is especially true for an uncomfortable procedure that costs 5X more on average than a filling.
If you’re curious, the average tooth-color filling costs between $200 – $450. The average cost of a crown is around $1,100 – $1,500. As a money guy, I can’t help but want to know these things.
For the dentist to not be patient enough to answer my questions was disappointing. I did not feel comfortable enough to go back because she had lost my trust. And I’m sure she was annoyed that I didn’t fully trust her by asking questions. What a waste of time.
But if your goal is to build a great business, a client’s trust is extremely important. Building trust is especially important if a client has to pay money and go through an uncomfortable procedure.
I understand dental practices were particularly hit hard in 2020. However, bulldozing a client into doing things to boost revenue is not great long term. There’s more to the story I won’t get into.
The bottom line is that I’m returning to my original love, my dentist downtown. And now so is my wife. After 12 years of building a great relationship, leaving her for a new dentist close by was a mistake. I took her care for granted. Never again!
Building A Great Business With Trust
Different businesses build trust in different ways.
To get investors to trust in his company, the billionaire scientist behind the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine didn’t sell a single share as of May, 2021. And of course, Uğur Şahin, was one of the first to take his own vaccine.
To get customers to keep coming back, Nordstrom’s has a “no questions asked” return policy. Legend has it a customer in the ’70s successfully returned car tires to Nordstrom—the funny thing being that Nordstrom doesn’t sell tires.
For Financial Samurai, given I’m not a public person and don’t charge to read anything, the main way I’ve built trust is by consistently writing useful content since 2009. Over the years, I’ve developed an archive of over 2,000 posts that share my thoughts on almost every personal finance topic imaginable.
Keeping up a 3X a week publication schedule with two little kids at home during a pandemic is also an exercise in trust-building. Goodness knows I wanted to quit many times. But during uncertain times, I felt it was more important to keep on writing about personal finance.
After writing for so long, it’s easy to take for granted the new readers that stop by every day through search. It’s easy for me to think they should know about XYZ because I’ve written about the topic before. But from their perspective, they don’t know who the hell I am, what I’ve done, or what I stand for.
Therefore, my dentist experience reminds me never to take new readers for granted by writing thorough posts, providing guidance to previously written posts, and responding to comment questions.
Investing In What I Believe
When it comes to investing, I’m consistently putting my money where my mouth is. Otherwise, writing about investing eventually becomes pointless jibber jabber.
For example, after writing, How To Predict The Stock Market Bottom Like Nostradamus on March 18, 2020, I invested a healthy sum between March – April 2020. I then decided to purchase a new house around the time I wrote, Real Estate Buying Strategies During COVID-19, in mid-2020.
Today, I’m no longer investing new money in the S&P 500 because I find valuations to be excessive. But I’ve been thinking this way since the 4,100 level.
Instead, I’m investing in a commercial real estate opportunity, a venture debt fund, and paying down some mortgage debt.
I’m also bullish on the U.S. housing market for the next several years, although the pace of price growth should decelerate. If I could own more single family rentals, I would. Alas, money is finite.
And If I’m wrong about my beliefs, I’ll tell you through an update. You’ll also get to clearly see whether my actions worked out or not by observing how assets perform over time. There’s really nowhere to hide if you take a public stance. All this, and I’m not even in the investment advice business.
To be more balanced, I may write posts like how I bought a vacation property a year before the bottom fell out. Its value still hasn’t fully recovered today. So sad.
Or maybe I’ll keep things real and share things like the negatives of early retirement nobody likes talking about. I could have pretended everything was hunky dory after leaving finance. But that wasn’t the reality.
Using Products I Recommend
I was recently listening to a personal finance blogger on a podcast who said he works with over 500 advertising partnerships. I was blown away because how can someone ever get to know or use that many products? The answer is he doesn’t.
He hires freelance writers to write search engine optimized content to rank well in Google. It’s a smart strategy that is making him a lot of money. Google can’t really tell if an author has expertise or not.
However, it’s a hard strategy for me to get behind because I like to meet with or speak to the people behind the product. Then I like to try out their product to ensure it’s legit. I’ve been burned before, so I certainly don’t want readers to experience the same.
My strategy of only writing about things I believe in is not good for revenue maximization. However, it feels good to the soul. And hopefully, it builds trust with readers as well.
Great Business Owners Don’t Get Complacent
Unfortunately, the longer you live, the more bad (and good) things will happen to you.
You’ll either get ripped off by a company, invest in a bad stock tip from an acquaintance, get stabbed in the back by a colleague, get passed up for a promotion or a raise that your manager promised, and so much more. As a result, you will naturally find it harder to trust new people.
Once we accept that trust gets harder to come by, if we want to grow a great business, we must work harder to build trust. Resting on our laurels because we have a lot of experience, positive reviews, or a booming business is dangerous. Instead, we should stay humble and pretend like we’re just starting out.
If you are acquiring new customers, please spend enough time to make them feel comfortable with your services or products. Once you gain your customer’s trust, they might become customers for life. Further, you might gain an evangelist who tells all their contacts how great your business is.
A Great Business Can Be Anything You Want
Finally, I’ve come to realize a great business can also be defined in many different ways. Some people measure a great business in terms of the number of employees, revenue, profitability, or impact.
Somewhat selfishly, I think a great business is something you enjoy doing that buys you and your family more freedom. In other words, I much prefer owning a lifestyle business that charges customers nothing and has zero employees over a business with lots of employees and many moving parts.
As soon as I start feeling like my business is taking away too much of my freedom, I re-strategize. And one such strategy is to take a good long sabbatical after the 4th of July weekend.
For those of you trying to build a business, good on you! A day job is much easier than being an entrepreneur.
You’re never going to get everybody to like you or your product and that’s OK. But if you can build trust through consistency, even your naysayers have no choice but to respect you.
Readers, what does a great business mean to you? Anybody have a bad dental experience before? I just learned that the University of Pacific Dental School charges $119,000 a year in tuition. If you are a dentist, I’d love to know your thought process behind wanting to become a dentist.
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