TMM Interview with Dr. Teresa T. Mercado
What ignited the spark in you to start your dental practice?
In South Carolina, we noticed there are many corporate dental clinics and a shortage of private practices that provide a concierge level of care and services. We wanted to build a practice that mirrored our philosophy: to deliver first class service through our passion for dentistry, done with a servant's heart. The spark was ignited with a vision to provide an exceptional level of care, through advanced dentistry, serving one patient at a time, in a soothing and comfortable environment.
When did you know you wanted to be a business owner?
Since I graduated from dental school in 1997, I always wanted to have the freedom and flexibility to balance my passion for dentistry and family. So, my husband, Eric and I opened our first office in California a couple of years after graduation. It was a challenge because I was pregnant with our first child and Eric was still working full time at Cisco Systems. It was like having two newborns at the same time. I wore many hats: dentist, practice manager, wife, and mother. Even though it was a lot to juggle, I learned and grew a lot in every aspect of operating a dental practice and balancing between family and a career. When we relocated here to Fort Mill, South Carolina, we knew that a second private practice was inevitable.
What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
The major difference is entrepreneurs take chances in themselves and the products and services they provide; there is a greater motivation to do what it takes to succeed because the risks are often more substantial. Whereas working for someone, there is often more of a sense of stability and security. Entrepreneurs and employees need each other; it’s a symbiotic relationship.
What is your ultimate business goal?
Our ultimate business goal is to be known as the private practice that delivers a high level of care and customer service through relationship-based dentistry. We want our patients to share their exceptional experience with their loved ones.
How important is a “shop local” campaign to your business?
“Shop local” is important because we want and do provide our service to our local communities. We cross-refer to other like-minded businesses in the community that we feel provide the same level of customer service as we do. About seventy-five percent of our patients are within 10-15 miles; the rest travel 20-50 miles. We appreciate all the patients that come to us because we know they all have a choice. And, we are happy they chose us.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
I feel we distinguish ourselves from our competitors through our “above the standard” type care we provide. This is demonstrated through the exceptional customer service we provide, the soothing and calming décor, advanced technology, the entire team’s skill and commitment to excellence, and lastly, the relationships we build with our patients.
How does technology impact your business?
Technology is a big part of our practice. When we built the practice in 2015-16, we wanted to make sure we had the technology that allowed us to provide the level of care we envisioned. In order to do so, we had to invest in the most up to date technology such as Cone-Beam Computed Tomography, also known as 3-Dimensional Imaging. This allows us to diagnose pathology that is not evident in 2-Dimensional Imaging. In our practice, having a CBCT system is the standard of care for dental implant placement, which allows us to do implant planning for proper position and restoration. The other technology includes, but not limited to; 3-D Imaging (Cone Beam Computed Tomography), Guided Implant Surgery, Digital X-Rays, Intraoral Scanner, Intraoral Camera, and Laser Technology. We are constantly researching ways technology can benefit our patients as well as our practice in making things more efficient.
What is the future for this type of business?
We know there will always be a niche for a patient who seeks a private practice setting that provides a concierge level of care and extraordinary customer service. Our practice focuses on providing patients with the information they need so they can make the best choice for their dental needs, sees one patient at a time to give patients an exceptional experience through the skill to do it well, the time to do it right and the materials and lab utilized. We do not aim to have 40-50 new patients a month. We only accept a limited number each month. This allows us to focus on delivering the level of care and attention that is above and beyond for each patient. Our new patients often share with us that they choose us because they felt like a number at the corporate dental offices, wait time is often over an hour and often with a different provider each time; they are looking for a dentist with experience, the knowledge that they can trust and build a lifelong relationship. There will always be a niche of patients that seek the personal care and attention that we provide.
If you could time travel back to day one of your startup and have 15 minutes with your former self to communicate any lessons you’ve acquired with the intention of saving yourself mistakes and heartache, what would you tell yourself?
The mistakes and heartaches that I learned were primarily from my first dental practice in 2000. When we build out our second practice in Fort Mill during 2016, I had time to plan everything from choosing a business name, to reflect on a mission statement that represents who I am, to choosing the A-team, to build out the practice and to executing the vision of Monarch Dentistry of Gold Hill. However, the one thing I would tell myself to avoid mistakes and heartaches would be during this second build-out is to strive for excellence, instead of perfection because we are fallible human beings and perfection leads to disappointment. Striving for excellence teaches me to learn from mistakes and to grow from it.
About TMM Staff
A team of staff writers at The Mill Magazine work closely together to provide fresh content on topics we find interesting and hope you do, too.