As part of our series about the “**Five Things You Need to Be a Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Brian Harris, also known as “The Virtual Dentist,” is recognized as one of the nation’s top cosmetic dentists, but if you were to ask him what he does for a living, he will tell you that he is a Confidence Builder. People fly to Phoenix, AZ from all over the globe to transform their smile because of his personalized approach to cosmetic dentistry. Using his Smile Virtual software platform and his Smile Test Drive process, he allows patients to test out their new look before they commit to anything permanent.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
For 13 years, I ran from room to room in my dental practice doing fillings, crowns, dental implants, orthodontics, root canals tooth extractions and smile makeovers. While I loved the challenge of doing it all, I dreamed about what it would be like to wake up every day and only do what I loved to do, design smiles and transform people’s lives.
I was talking to my wife one night and told her how great it would be to only do smile transformations and she straight up asked me “Then why don’t you? The problem is that everyone knows you are a dentist, but nobody knows what you do.” She went on to explain that unless people went searching online or actually came to see me as a patient, they had no idea of the kind of work that I could do.
It was January 2017 and that was the week I started posting my work on social media and showing the world what I do. Shortly afterwards, people started sending me messages and asking questions. People I went to high school with, neighbors down the street and even total strangers would message me and ask for advice. Instead of telling them to come in for a consult, I started messaging them back and just answering them. Messages turned into videos and within a couple months, I sat down with my marketing coordinator Jenn Rhoades and developed a complete strategy for incorporating virtual consults in my practice.
A short six months later, my schedule was fully booked out for two months with smile makeover cases and we knew we were onto something.
That is when Smile Virtual was born.
A few years later, we now have doctors all over the world using our software platform and methodology. I am now recognized as The Virtual Dentist and I mentor thousands of dentists on how they can better serve their patients using video technology to help them get their questions answered.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
At Smile Virtual, we believe that everyone deserves to smile with confidence and we help connect people looking to improve theirsmile with trusted dentists around the world. We believe that these video consults should be done for free and that doctors should first look to serve before they sell anything.
Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
We were at our peak growth when COVID hit, and all dental offices were shut down for months. Doctors worried about their finances were canceling their memberships and,at the same time, we saw a huge surge in signups as it was the only way doctors could connect with their patients. Each day was a total rollercoaster as the dental community looked to us for answers.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
Of course. Building a company is hard work. There are the highestof highs and the lowest of lows. The thing that sustains my drive is the desire to have real impact in the world. Financial gain is always wonderful, but the 65,000 people that have now gone through the virtual consult process and are transforming their lives….that’s powerful.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
Respond, don’t react. Take a step back, get a strategy and thentake action.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
Do the work. Get in the trenches with your team and work alongside them.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
Via a video consult:) Seriously though, I think video is powerful because people can see your face, hear your words and feel the sincerity of your message. It also allows you to control the narrative and make sure you say all the important things that need to be said.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
I believe that you need to be flexible and go where the wind blows you. When it gets hard, that’s when you get scrappy.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Yes…love what you do. When you love what you do, it takes some of that stress away. If you are not happy, change it or change the way you look at it.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
- They get scared and distracted. Focus on what you are doing, not your competition. Channel that creative energy and operate from a place of abundance and not out of a scarcity mindset.
- Focus on what’s working and continue to do more of it.
- Fail fast. If you fail, accept it and move on and don’t think about it again.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
I think in those times, the secret is to send out a survey and find out what your customer really needs and then go help them. Thereis a time to sell and a time to serve. Focus on the serving.
Based on your experience and success, what is the most important thing a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example.
Listen. Listen to your team and ask them for input. Often times, some of the best ideas come from those closest to you because they can see things differently. As we were getting ready to launch the latest version of our software, we were so focused onthe tech, yet the doctors really just wanted to fee like they belonged to a community. One of my newer employees suggested that we launch a forum where our members could interact. It has been such a great way to build the sense of community.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I love the quote by astronaut Jim Lovell “There are those that make things happen, those that watch things happen, and those that wonder what happened. To be successful in business, you need to be the kind of person that makes things happen.”
If you want to be successful you need to move. You can’t wait around for great opportunities, you have to go create them.
How can our readers further follow your work?
The best place right now is on Instagram. They can find me at @drbrianharris