24 min readThe Jameson Files 107 – Dr. Shannon Maddox – The Pitfalls of Buying and Building a Dental Practice

Carrie Webber

Carrie Webber [00:00:10] Hi everyone and welcome back to the Jameson files. I’m Carrie Webber and I’m your host And I’m so excited for another episode of our podcast where I get the opportunity to interview an amazing doctor from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. A dear friend of mine and my own personal dentist, Dr. Shannon Maddox. Dr. Maddox thank you so much for joining us today. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:00:36]Thanks for having me. 

Carrie Webber [00:00:37] Dr. Maddox has an amazing origin story and one that probably will resonate really deeply with a lot of you out there and what your story looks like or what decisions you’re on the cusp of making for yourselves in your professional career. So I’m just thrilled to have a chance to talk about that. You went to dental school right here in Oklahoma at the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry and went on to do a residency at OU as well, correct? 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:01:07]Yes. 

Carrie Webber [00:01:08] So why didn’t you tell me the story. Because you started in corporate and then the great thing about your story is how you started in corporate and moved on into practice ownership right. So what did you tell me a little bit about what what that part of your history and your career looked like. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:01:28]Sure. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:01:29]And so like you said I graduated from you and then did a year long residency. So I had a pretty good handle when I finished my AGD residency about what type of practice I wanted to go into. But I had no clue what kind of dentistry that I wanted to do. So in that course of that year I had been taking job offer or doing job interviews and going to different practices and trying to figure out what the next step looked like. And I just couldn’t get a good feel. I just never walked in and felt like this is it. This is what I want to do. This is where I want to be. And I really if I was going to go into private practice I wanted it to be it. I wanted it to be the practice that I was going to be in for the rest of my life. And so I just never got that feel. And in retrospect it’s because I had no clue what kind of dentistry I wanted to do. 

Carrie Webber [00:02:20] Right.

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:02:23]And so I needed to pay bills and had massive amounts of debt. And so I needed to find a job regardless. And so I went in to a corporate practice setting and I worked. I was it was a office that was a one doctor practice that was really really busy with that one doctor and so they were moving it to be a two doctor practice. And so it was very busy very. There was a wide range of people a wide array of people, rather, that coming into the practice so and we had a lot of people that were very dental aware and a lot of people that had never seen a dentist in their life. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:03:06]And so I got a lot of experience through that year about the different kinds of dentistry that we could provide people and really got a handle on what kind of dentistry I wanted to provide people. But in the end it was not as fulfilling as I had probably wanted my practice to be. 

Carrie Webber [00:03:29] So what does that mean. What what does that mean to you. Right. Give me some examples of what that look like. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:03:34]So I worked in corporate for about a year and a half. And but for the last six months of that I was actively kind of moving out of corporate dentistry. So I would say that for that year was really kind of I might be in this for a while. What does that look like. And so I was really fortunate. I learned a lot. I learned a lot about dentistry and learned a lot about patients. I learned a lot about insurance not necessarily from an insurance standpoint. So I didn’t learn a lot about the ins and outs of how insurance works in those types of things. But I did learn a lot about the patient that was motivated by insurance. And a lot about how they saw the world and what they were motivated by and and those are all really valuable things to the way that I practice now. And so that was really great. 

Carrie Webber [00:04:30] Right right. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:04:31]But what was not great is I was trying to practice dentistry the way that I wanted to practice dentistry and doing the best that I possibly could. But I was within the confines of the systems that they had created for me right. So I couldn’t for lack of a better term reach my full potential or what I thought my full potential was as a dentist. 

Carrie Webber [00:04:55] Right.

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:04:55]Or as a practitioner even within those confines and I was just tired of the box. I was tired of “do a really good crown prep . . . but then send it to this lab and make sure you take on this case because you need to meet your quota for the month and make sure that you keep this patient that probably isn’t a great fit for you. Just because we need you to see that patient.”.

Carrie Webber [00:05:21] Right.

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:05:22]And I didn’t have any control over my team. I worked alongside them. I worked with them but I was not their boss. And so, there I was in a leadership role of sorts, such but I had no authority. 

Carrie Webber [00:05:37] And did that reflect in kind of the day to day for you when you when you were restricted in how you could and would lead them and how they took you as a leader. Did you sense that. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:05:49]Yeah, to some degree and I guess it probably depends on the person that I was working with. 

Carrie Webber [00:05:54] Right.

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:05:54]So there were people yes that didn’t – like – “I don’t have to listen to you. You’re not my boss. I can do what I want. Probably people that I wouldn’t have on the bus on a normal day. Right. But I was forced to continue to work with because I wasn’t their boss. But there were also some really really excellent people that I worked with that just didn’t see the world that way. They were on my team. They were invested in my success, and they were they wanted to help make us successful as a team. They would succeed, I would succeed, it was kind of a two way street. And those were the type of people that reminded me that, okay, there’s something better better than this. 

Carrie Webber [00:06:41] So when you went into that and you were finishing up residency, that was about eight or nine years ago? 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:06:47]Yeah. 

Carrie Webber [00:06:47] And I think probably your story is a lot of people’s story in terms of – you’re finishing up, you know, dental school, your residency, but they’re still not quite that clarity that would allow you to step into your career with full confidence. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:07:04]Right. 

Carrie Webber [00:07:06] And so that year year and a half as that started to kind of solidify. When did you kind of take a shift and make that decision like OK I have a little bit more clarity now about what I want. And what did that look like for you. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:07:20]So I was fortunate in the sense that the next opportunity fell in my lap. Yeah I had a mutual friend that called me out of the blue I had never I’m not one did. Met when things are not great. So things were not great. And I knew they weren’t great but only my closest closest people knew that. 

Carrie Webber [00:07:42] Right.

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:07:43]And I had a friend out of the blue reach out and she said, “I have no idea if you’re happy where you’re at. You may be completely happy ,and I might be, you know, stepping on toes, but I’ve heard this” – she’s connected to Jameson – “I’ve heard of this practice. This might be something that you’re interested in. If it is, call me back.” Which speaks to, always ask the question, do you want to stay here. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:08:11]And so I caledl back, obviously. And I remember the first conversation I had about the practice that I now own. It went something like I’m really interested I’m getting married next week can I go do that first and call you back when my life’s a little crazy. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:08:32]And so obviously that worked out and I called back about two weeks later. And we started talking about me taking over this existing practice and what did that practice look like. What would it look like when I was in charge. And honestly, the one thing that I probably was most terrified about was the business. The thing that I was most excited about, actually, was I was going to have autonomy over my life and over my team. 

Carrie Webber [00:09:03] Right.

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:09:04]But I was also going to be in charge of my life and my team. And it was the double edged sword of like oh I’m not sure if I’m ready to manage a group of people or lead a group of people. And so that was the the kicker. 

Carrie Webber [00:09:19] But, you were in enough space of readiness knowing, “I don’t want to continue here.”. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:09:24]Yeah. 

Carrie Webber [00:09:25] Here’s the opportunity and sometimes you just have to take a leap. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:09:27]Absolutely. 

Carrie Webber [00:09:28] And you know to get out of that fear factor of this is outside my realm of my comfort zone. And you took that leap when the opportunity presented itself. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:09:36]Yeah absolutely. And I didn’t know a lot of what I was fearful of. Which is probably a good thing. There’s a lot of things that I probably should have been scared about. 

Carrie Webber [00:09:46] I call that blind optimism. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:09:48]Yeah! There’s a lot of things I just didn’t know. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:09:50]But I knew I couldn’t stay. I wasn’t. This was not who I was. This is not the dentistry or the dentist that I wanted to be. I never did anything that I was not proud of. I was you know but I also knew that I wasn’t reaching the full potential that I wanted to reach. And so I knew I couldn’t stay. And that sounded too good to not take. And so I I had a clear enough vision that it wasn’t what I wanted long term. Right. And I knew it kind of going into it. I knew it wasn’t what I wanted long term. So I always knew there was gonna be a time in the future where it was gonna be like Okay now’s the time to go. 

Carrie Webber [00:10:32] You knew going into it, “This is a temporary plan until I get a little bit more clarity. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:10:39]I did. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:10:41]That’s not to say that everybody does. Some people may think that it’s their permanent plan and may decide later that it’s not. But I knew that it wasn’t permanently for me, so I just was at a spot where I just couldn’t stay any longer. 

Carrie Webber [00:10:56] Right.

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:10:57]And I wanted to have what I had with a few people at my office that allowed me autonomy and control and enough team building relationship that it was like “I want this for an entire office.”. 

Carrie Webber [00:11:12] Yeah. So let’s talk about your practice. We’ve had the privilege of working with you and your team and you reminded me I have lost complete concept of time and you’re telling me we’re going on seven years of knowing each other right and having the privilege of working with you and your team from the beginning. 

Carrie Webber [00:11:33] But it wasn’t all roses. In fact, I’ve talked about you a lot in my lectures or pictures always splattered up everywhere. (Thank you so much for that.) 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:11:44]Not embarrassing at all. (tongue in cheek)

Carrie Webber [00:11:47] But it’s you know it’s kind of the you had so many things – talk about that blind optimism, you know. But had you known then what you know now, I’d be curious, you know, how that would have felt to you. But let’s talk a little bit about stepping into that leadership owner role. 

Carrie Webber [00:12:08] I love what you said about you know you were ready to have a hand in and having more control of your future your professional life your vision and to be able to create that kind of team that kind of practice that you ultimately were ready for. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:12:25]Right. 

Carrie Webber [00:12:25] But what did it take to get to where you are now from where you when you first started and stepped into ownership. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:12:33]Yeah, so I had to tread carefully because the office that I had taken over was an existing practice. They had had an existing doctor. That doctor had decided to sell and move to a different state. And he and his team believed in what they were creating. He had a team that was behind him and was for him and for the practice and was certainly for their patients. They wanted nothing but the best for their patients. And so they were shell shocked when he decided to leave, and they didn’t have a lot of time to comprehend that he was leaving and somebody else was taking over. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:13:22]And what did that mean for their livelihood? What does that mean for their patients? What did that mean for their practice? And they really – I was fortunate enough that they viewed it as their practice. That was a culture that was already in place. It was not a clock in and clock out type of atmosphere. They were bought into what he was doing. And so in that respect it was nice, because they had that kind of perspective. 

Carrie Webber [00:13:49] Right.

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:13:50]But what was hard about that was they had a perspective of his vision. What did his vision look like, what were they accomplishing together as a team, and now that he’s gone, what does this mean for us? And so we had to talk a lot about what does the future look like. What does five years look like, what doess two years look like, what does next month look like? I mean, it was as simple as, like, next month we’re going to do this. Six months down the line we’re gonna do this. With the vision of five years, 10 years, kind of in the background. We had to be pretty specific and have very small attainable small goals. 

Carrie Webber [00:14:33] You had to really peel it back. I mean you had that long term but you had to take it all the way back to like what are we doing in the next 24 hours. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:14:40]Yeah, exactly. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:14:42]Cause I knew what I wanted long term and I had to cast that for them. I had to show them what that looked like but it was on a different path than they had been on. Not to say that that part that they had been on was bad it wasn’t. It just wasn’t mine. Right. And so how were we going to kind of redirect the ship. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:15:00]How are we going to redirect the patients the patient base was on? And we have to remember that they’re on this journey with you. They’ve been going to this person. They like that person. They have a relationship with that person. And then this new dentist pops in. And this is a different feel. And what’s different about it? Is it’s something I like? It’s it’s something I don’t. How do you guide them through that and allow them to gain trust in you too. And so that was a little bit of the struggle, but it’s how we got from point A to point B, you know, because I had people that were willing to kind of OK, let’s do this. 

Carrie Webber [00:15:42] Yeah.

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:15:43]And I mean, it took constant refocusing. 

Carrie Webber [00:15:46] Well I think this is, you know, there’s probably a lot of you out there that are either a part of a team or you’re a doctor transitioning in the doctor transitioning out that that passing of goodwill and the passing of the baton of leadership and vision. I think that is key for successful transition. And so I want to stick on this for just a minute because I think it’s so powerful. 

Carrie Webber [00:16:13] Because not only did you find yourself thrust into having to have that clarity of vision from the very beginning but the consistency of which you communicated that and that you prioritize the time to communicate and plan with this team. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:16:30]Yeah. 

Carrie Webber [00:16:30] For the successful transition not only for the team but for the practice. And as you said so beautifully for the patients. So can you. Can you dive in just a little bit about what those conversations look like. Were you scheduling regular meetings as a team? What did that planning of “what are we going to do in the next week look? How did you orchestrate that? How did you stay so consistent in it and not, you know, in the hard times it wasn’t all easy. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:16:56]No, it was not easy. 

Carrie Webber [00:17:01] But you stayed consistent to your vision and held true to it and worked, from my perspective, to communicate and prioritize time with them to hold true to what you wanted to accomplish. And you never backed down from that. You supported them, trying to help them and the patients embrace it and have that buy-in of where you were going. But even when there were challenges, you didn’t back down from that. So what did that look like? How did you orchestrate that, and how did you keep your energy for that pursuit up? 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:17:38]Yeah so that’s probably one of the most difficult things was not sticking my head in the sand. 

Carrie Webber [00:17:44] Yeah.

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:17:45]Not going to the place of like “OK, we’re making money, we’re taking care of people. It’s good enough.” And continuing to challenge good enough because good enough sounds really fun sometimes, right. You’re tired. You don’t want to keep going. You don’t want to schedule the team meeting that’s going to turn in to you know a potential situation and you don’t want to have the hard conversations because it’s good enough and it’s easy to not have our conversations. 

Carrie Webber [00:18:18] It’s easy to just settle for good enough. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:18:21]Yes it is. And especially where I was at in my personal life. Yeah. Like I’m dealing with babies at home, and I’m tired, and I’m not sleeping great. And like, I would rather just not have the fight today. So, but the thing that keeps you going is like, “I can do better. I can be a better dentist if these people believe in what we’re doing, and so I’ve got to keep continuing to remind them of what we can do, because I can do better. And I can. And I’m really motivated by what I can do and what we can do as a team for our patients that really, really motivates me. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:18:57]And so if I can talk about thatwith my team, then I can I can motivate myself and kind of be that source of motivation for other people. And so I try and talk about that in the beginning. I tried to talk about it at huddle every morning, like, “OK, how can we better take care of this person? Or this person said no last time, what’s the holdup? What can we do to better educate them about what’s going on? 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:19:24]So a little bit of that was daily, and it was daily, refocusing. When you go into the back and you’re about to grab lunch and somebody is down because, you know, this patient said this, that, and the other. Like, OK, maybe we’re not the best fit. Maybe the previous owner was, you know, maybe that was a better dental path for them. And it’s OK if they decide to self-select out. Until then we’re going to keep doing what we do. And if they decide to not be a part of it, that’s OK. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:19:54]And I had to be OK with that. I had to be ok with losing the occasional patient. I had to be OK with it, and I had to cheer on a team that was really connected to those people. 

Carrie Webber [00:20:03] Yeah.

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:20:04]I don’t want to lose that patient. I’ve seen that patient for years. 

Carrie Webber [00:20:06] Yeah.

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:20:07]But this is different. So yes and we schedule regular meetings we scheduled consultations. We invested time in the team. Jameson helped a ton with that. Jameson helped me a ton with that because – I don’t know when I – there’s not a lot of people that a dentist can talk to when you’re empty. When you’re bucket’s empty and there’s nothing to fill it back up. There’s not a lot of people that you can talk to about that. You can maybe talk to your spouse, if your spouse is in dentistry. Sometimes they’re looking at you like please don’t talk to me about teeth.

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:20:42]I don’t know. Your friends are, you know, they’re doing their own thing at their own practices. So Jameson helped me a ton in that respect, because it was just a sounding board for like, okay, do this, try this, have you done this, have you… You know, just kind of different ideas that have worked with other people. So that kind of helped me remain focused, and if I stayed focused, then the team could, kind of policy. 

Carrie Webber [00:21:05] Yeah and you know you, you did that all so beautifully and continue to do so. I had the privilege of knowing you. It took several years to really, as I say, kind of repair the ship. There were a lot of things that, when you stepped into ownership – investments in updating technology, investments in cleaning up and updating the practice, you know. You had to do a lot of things, you know, dealing with a lot of the plans that they were in network with. You were having to make some decisions on it in addition to putting systems in place that better fit your vision and helping your team and transition the patient’s mindset and getting them engaged in rebuilding your patient base for yourself. 

Carrie Webber [00:21:50] But I had the privilege of sitting there when you got a chance to recast some vision. You know we’ve we’ve gotten to this point now. Now here’s what I really want us to focus on moving forward. How does it feel to be in kind of a to be through that initial transition and now do you feel a sense of this is closer to what I want to be pursuing. I mean how does it feel for you now as the leader of that practice? 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:22:14]So, it’s funny. It feels good. But again, good enough is a really nice place to sit. So I tend to just always – I’m just this way. I see imperfections, and I want to make them better, and I see that room for improvement, and we can do it. And so I struggle a little bit with, like, OK, this feels good. 

Carrie Webber [00:22:41] Yeah. I could sit here for a little bit, if I let myself. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:22:45]Yes. Yeah. And so I – there’s always room to make it better for patients. There’s always room to make it better for team members. There’s always room. So but yeah. Then it feels great to be through the initial. And to have a team that believes in what we’re doing and is there and wants to kind of be there for the long haul that’s wonderful! And it’s certainly something that I would celebrate. And I do try. But it’s a little bit of, like, OK, what’s next? 

Carrie Webber [00:23:22] All right. Well you know our founder always, Cathy Jameson, says there’s no such thing as status quo. You’re either going up or you’re going down. So we have to be in that continuous path of improvement. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:23:33]Right. 

Carrie Webber [00:23:34] And I heard it in a podcast once someone say that the universe is always conspiring against you to tear your business apart. So you have to, you know, I think those of us in ownership and businesses, while we want to celebrate the progress, and it’s important sometimes for, if you have perfectionist in you, to remember to celebrate the progress. 

Dr. Shannon Maddox [00:23:56]Right. 

Carrie Webber [00:23:57] But we’re always going to be fanatical about working on our businesses. And I think that’s what’s taking you so far so beautifully. But I think your story is – I can’t wait to see what the next seven years look like for you, what your vision is for the next five to 10 years. I’m excited to sit down with you over time and see where you progressed. But a beautiful story of someone that has taken the pursuit of creating clarity in your vision and bringing it to life with everything that comes with that all the obstacles that get in your way and your strength and carrying forward your vision has just been a joy to watch. So I can’t wait to talk more with you in future. 

Carrie Webber [00:24:46] Thank you for joining us on this episode of The Jameson files. Visit us online at JMSN dot com. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Google Play Music, or Spotify. Do you have questions or topics you’d like for us to answer or cover on the next podcast? Email us at podcast at JMSN dot com. 

Leave a Comment