Dr. Dani Gray
Take the Leap
For Dr. Dani Gray, being a first-generation dentist and building a practice from scratch didn't deter her big dreams of opening her own office, all before hitting 30.
“Growing up, I had multiple congenitally missing teeth. I got teased and bullied for many of my formative years. I was careful about how I spoke and hated to smile in front of anyone. If it weren’t for the dental team I had- my general dentist, orthodontist, endodontist and oral surgeon, I wouldn’t have the confidence and drive I have today that made me the dentist I am.”
When you meet Dr. Gray, you might first see the energetic and outgoing girl next door who was a college cheerleader rather than the scrappy, entrepreneurial self-starter who was determined to start her own practice after several years of working in corporate dental service organizations and large group practices. Family connections brought her to Clarksville, Tennessee, home to Fort Campbell and Austin Peay State University. After a few years at a large group practice, an orthodontist who was building his new office asked her to come work for him. Ready for a change, she took the opportunity.
“The build out of the new office took several months, so I traveled around Tennessee and Kentucky contracting at various practices in the interim. I saw every type of dental office model, philosophy on patient care and style of dentistry out there. That time really made me aware of the type of dentist I wanted to be, and more importantly, the type of practice and legacy I wanted to start for myself and my family. It needed to be focused on patient care and comfort, not how many patients I could turn over in a day.”
During those first couple years with the orthodontist, Dr. Dray built her office knowledge- she staffed the office, created dental practice systems, managed the day to day operations, and created the relationships with labs and dental specialist. It was time to take that leap and start the process of launching her own practice.
“It was risky- my husband Chris was in between jobs at the time and we knew financially it was going to be a huge investment risk- but we knew what we wanted to do, and the team of people I had to help me realize that vision was going to see it through.”
She didn’t want her space to feel like a doctor’s office or a clinic. She sought inspiration from social media and home design websites, and taking all of the offices she had worked in as examples of what she did and didn’t want. Stumbling across a kitchen designer on Houzz.com, she knew she found the right person to help her take her personality and philosophy to make it come alive in her new office.
“Melissa Morgan and I clicked instantly. I had very specific ideas around the layout and organization of the various space- I’m a perfectionist and very organized so while the look and feel of my office was very important, the set-up and organization of the operatories, sterilization and lab areas was critical.
Walking through Dr. Gray’s finished office over a year later, you can see her vision clearly- instead of waiting in an uncomfortable lobby, her reception area feels like you’re at home in your living room. Bright and airy, there’s a modern and clean feel with cool industrial features like a garage door to open up on warm days where the team puts out corn hole boards for guest to play while they wait on their family members getting treatment. Her treatment area was designed to be open, inviting and efficient so the staff and team had good work-flow and could move freely around to get to patients and sterilization.
“Every operatory needed to be set-up exactly the same way so anyone working in them is always comfortable and knows exactly where everything is. We dedicated a wall in the sterilization room with over 100 parts buckets so all materials and components have their own dedicated labeled spot, again for efficiency and workflow. My Pelton rep was instrumental in helping me make sure we selected the right equipment for the operatories and designing the space for the best workflow.”
“I wanted to invest in the best technology, so I chose a Pelton rear delivery unit that could integrate with KaVo Electric handpieces, and I wanted a classic, premium dental chair that I knew would last- buying a chair, the place where you sit at and do all your work every day, on the cheap just didn’t make sense to me. I needed something that was a good fit for me ergonomically. Being a smaller female, finding a chair that goes as low to the ground as the Spirit chair does was very important.
Back of house features a big staff lounge, break room, consult room and a photo area where patients can pose with props and show off their smiles to post on social media using OLIVE, an on location video interactive video experience invented by Kevin Barnett with Hi5 practice. Her husband Chris has taken over the office full-time co-managing the business and all of the marketing. Together, they’ve worked with various digital marketing companies and social media platforms to boost their advertising and awareness to help build a solid and continuously growing patient base.
“The investment in IT infrastructure and support for not only the business operations, but marketing and advertising is critical, especially for a new practice that is looking to attract new patients.”
Dr. Gray is largely involved in the Clarksville community- being a former college athlete, she is the official dentist of the Austin Peay State Governors, and partners with the cheerleading squad and mascot for health fairs and community events.
“Clarksville has a big transient population with the school and military base here- so I do a lot of work to build relationships in my neighborhood to be a resource for those newcomers. It’s easy for students to forget about the importance of oral health when they are away from home, so I try and make it easy and fearless to come visit the dentist.”
“It’s been just over a year, and what we’ve been able to do is so exciting. I have an amazing team who is nothing short of family. We have daily morning huddles to go over individual patient needs and concerns and monthly business reviews to talk about things other than patients and practice issues. This allows our team to always be on the same page with clear communication to allow the practice the most optimal growth. Once a month, we take a Renew Night Out to get away from the office and just focus on the team building relationships. My team cares, and they know I care. It makes all the difference.”
Renew Dental has had enormous success in its first year, bringing in almost double the amount of collections that a typical first year office generates. The success already has her planning the expansion of the office to finish out a couple empty operatories, and eventually expanding her space to grow even more.
“When a patient is in my chair, we strive to make them feel like they are the only one in the building. I book the time I need to make sure they are comfortable and understand what we’re going to do. I’ve been there- I spent so much of my youth in that chair, and I know how scary dentistry can be. But when I can show them what we can do, where I came from and what I’ve been able to build here to give them this comfortable, warm environment that doesn’t feel so clinical, it makes all the difference in the world.”
“If I can do this- anyone can. I’m a first-generation dentist who grew up in a single-parent household with two siblings. I took a chance, I took that leap because I knew owning my own practice was what I wanted to do. And this office that we’ve built, the team we have, and the patients who depend on us to renew themselves, to renew their smiles, is making that dream come true.”