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Business Survival in ’09

This month I interview Dr. Farshad Athari, DDS, Founder of PleasantSmiles Dentistry. Dr. Athari shares some of the strategies and insights he uses to combat this tough economy.

Introduction:
Dr. Farshad Athari, DDS, is founder and lead dentist of PleasantSmiles Dentistry located in North Las Vegas, NV. Dr. Athari started his practice just over a year ago with a different approach to the field of dentistry and has attained a high level of success despite the down economy and advise to the contrary from his former colleagues and peers in his field. Dr. Athari’s philosophy is the driving force in his business model and it differs from the mainstream in many ways, mainly his doctor patient relationship. Dr. Athari believes that utilizing the latest technology to automate most of his clinic he can free up his time enough to spend quality time with his patients building long lasting relationships. He believes this approach will allow his practice to grow exponentially through referrals and word of mouth while offering a high quality service at an affordable rate for everyone. While most practitioners in the medical field try to see as many patients as possible, spend as little time with each patient and charge as much as the market will bear for everything, Dr. Athari’s approach is quite different and that’s why I asked him to participate in this project.

When I approached Dr Athari with this interview he instantly responded to my request. Dr. Athari understands the concept of helping others and has taken this opportunity to share his ideals and philosophy with us.

What services or products do you offer?
Dr. Athari – General dentistry

Has your business been negatively or positively impacted during this economic downturn? and how?
Dr. Athari – Our company has been the child of recession. The construction was completed in November 07, so there are no comparison points to previous years but you don’t have to go too far to realize the effects of the recession. There are many lessons one could learn from any challenge in life and therefore make it a positive experience. If you can step back a little and absorb your surroundings a bit, then the panic’s disappearance will allow room for a free mind to flourish. This in turn will be conducive to new ideas being born. Ideas that can make your business become more efficient in time management, minimize lost productivity, improve customer relations, and any strategy that smart companies would usually pay outside agencies to attain for them in order to maximize the desired goals. In the past we might have been too busy to care enough for these inefficiencies or simply didn’t need the extra money. So now is a great time to use that resource that is probably still lingering from the past. Remember times will change but habits rarely do. It will probably enlighten you to the amount of wasteful spending that has been done so far. It is kind of like when tax season comes around and you find out how much you spent on things that are less important to you now and how you would have rather spent it a second time around. Except the difference is the fact that you will learn how to micromanage small details from now on. And of course you can get into great detail about the science of management.

What have you done to cope with these problems in your daily operations?
Dr. Athari – We have incorporated text messaging and emails to minimize lost time in personal communication between staff and patients and other business partners and doctors. Developing protocols for procedures and organized tasks have directly increased profits.

How have you modified your overall strategy to counter the effects of a down economy?
Dr. Athari – Pleasantsmiles is too young to answer this question; however we anticipated the down turn early 04 when plans were being drawn out for the development of the business. A lot of the office designs and business ideas were based on that model. For example the office was made completely paperless to minimize major paper disadvantage as we all have come to realize. Paper and chart storage is eliminated, freeing up valuable space. Implementation of spacious cabinetry to prevent the need of future extra square footage due to lack of space would create a solid infrastructure for any business model and a clean presentation to customers. The first impression of any business is as important as one’s reputation. People tend to be more willing when they are shown better ways in any class of business. Investment in high tech equipment to stay at the forefront of the profession will benefit any business directly by allowing more capabilities on demand and also showing one’s dedication to their line of work. The impressions we make will reflect themselves somewhere out there, don’t we wish they would be the best ones so others can remember us more fondly? Best customers are referred rather than gained by way of advertising.

How important is marketing to the success of your business?
Dr. Athari – Marketing is very important when coupled with service and quality. It almost goes hand in hand. Without the support of a strong customer base not too many businesses will be able to compete for a healthy existence.

How important is your website to your overall strategy?
Dr. Athari – Patients fill out all forms online minimizing lost time in-office 30 minutes per patient to be exact. Location, directions and other information is available as well minimizing phone related questions and service related issues. In a way the website is as important as clean clothing. It is a true representation of one’s business and it should be done with great patience and expertise.

How do you use the Internet to communicate your message to prospective customers?
Dr. Athari – By way of various advertising modes people are introduced to our website to learn about us. The first encounter if interesting enough may give me the opportunity for someone to spend a little more time and learn more about us.

What’s your game plan to grow your business over the next 2 to 5 years?
Dr. Athari – Most important game plan needs to be word of mouth. If people like me then more people are likely to visit me. The only way for that to happen is for one to tell their pleasant experience to another.

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be helpful to other small business owners who might be feeling discouraged in these tough times?
Dr. Athari – I believe innovation, quality, and service along with understanding your client’s needs will ensure success.

Thank you Dr. Athari for taking time out of your schedule to share these ideas with others.

If you would like to be considered for an interview please call or email Andrew.

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