Dr. Chris Steven Villanueva – Founder of MB2 Dental

I really think a lot of CEOs make the mistake of getting down into the minutiae of the day-to-day tasks and micromanaging. If you have hired the right people, you should be setting vision, keeping them inspired and staying the heck out of their way!

MB2 Dental was founded by Dr. Chris Steven Villanueva, an active practitioner with a vision of promoting the best of best from both the sole-practitioner and corporate dentistry sides of the industry. Having spent time on both sides of the provider-business equation, he started his company with direct knowledge of what it took to furnish vital support without compromising the integrity of his beloved profession.

Recognizing that dental practitioners needed specialized assistance that didn’t come with strings attached, Dr. Villanueva founded MB2 Dental. Since then, the firm has supported practitioners at no less than 70 affiliated locations across six states, has 533 employees, and its close-knit leadership looks forward to continuing the trend of excellence.

Typical dental practice management networks are like traditional dental practices: drab and uninspired. Dr. Villanueva created MB2 Dental in order to bring something completely new to the field focusing on more than just profit margins.

He built MB2 Dental to be a dentist-owned firm focused on autonomy, support, personal growth, and having fun together. MB2 Dental helps practices make improvements that actually benefit the patients who patronize them. These innovations promote improved operating standards that lead to happier practitioners and which facilitate healthy organic business growth.

Where did the idea for MB2 Dental Solutions come from?

When I graduated from dental school – the only two options for dentists were to either join a large group practice, (economies of scale, shared best practices, state of the art technology, CE availability, etc.), or start a private practice (complete clinical autonomy, less bureaucracy, ownership, etc.). I had the idea to create a model where you get the best of both worlds – so came MB2. We put doctors, and therefore patients, first…period.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I am a night owl. I get most of my great ideas late at night when I have time and space to think creatively (not to mention, my four kids under 6 are finally asleep). One piece of advice given to me by my mentor early on was to “never be the smartest person in the room” – as such, I have surrounded myself with really smart, creative, and outspoken team members. I stay productive, and keep everyone at our company productive, by staying out of everyone’s way. I really think a lot of CEOs make the mistake of getting down into the minutiae of the day-to-day tasks and micromanaging. If you have hired the right people, you should be setting vision, keeping them inspired and staying the heck out of their way!

How do you bring ideas to life?

I have surrounded myself at work and in my personal life with really smart people who help breathe life into great ideas. There is a huge amount of collaboration that goes into bringing something from a thought to fruition. Starting with collaboration creates buy-in. I am a firm believer that we are better together than we are individually. My ideas typically come from out-of-the-box places such as at lunch, at 2am, or while playing video games with my kids!

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I am really excited with the role that technology is playing, and most importantly, the role it will play in our industry. I’m by hobby a “tech-guy” so it’s fascinating to see the new things that are coming out each year, all of which enhance the patient experience.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I don’t take myself too seriously. I think it makes me more productive because I don’t get stuck in the ego of decisions or ideas. I think it is also easiest to gain trust through humor. Being able to laugh at myself has always served me well. I’m also a firm believer that you must have a fun or unique culture at the office where people can be honest with one another. Work is, well, “work”, so I always try to lighten the mood around the office and promote an open environment.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

The worst job I ever had was one of my first dental associate jobs out of dental school. I worked for a dentist whose wife ran the business side of the practice. It was awful, because a non-clinician was “calling-the-shots” so to speak from a business perspective, and that took a toll on patient care.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would have built infrastructure earlier vs. later. This decision is always difficult, as you’re struggling with “when” to add the next level of infrastructure. We have been through some rough patches in building our business, but during those times it really proved to me the resilience and character of our business and those doctors and employees behind it. With every turn in the road we have stuck to those values that make us great, and have risen with integrity over obstacles that have taken down other companies of our size. It all comes down to keeping integrity at the center of your business. Building infrastructure before you think you need it is always good advice.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Give yourself time for self-reflection. I have this crazy idea that a “vacation” should be vacating your normal day-to-day life – and not doing something lazy and “soft” like sitting on a beach (my friends, family and partners think I’m nuts as I try to convince them of this). For me, doing something like this really makes me appreciate the simplicity of my day-to-day life upon return.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

I determined early on that our business would be built on people (aka, our doctors) and not on the best real estate, proprietary software, genius marketing ideas, etc. (Although, don’t get me wrong, all that stuff is great and we strive for these as well.) Having the right person in place (for us a local operating owner) is everything for our community-based dental practice. We feel that this enables us to combine the positives of group practices/DSO’s with the positives of the private practice/neighborhood dentist that we all grew up visiting.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Myself and three dentist colleagues of mine decided we were going to become the next world-renowned chefs and decided to open a pizza restaurant near one of our offices. Evidently, our glorious pizza wasn’t as good as we thought as the restaurant sat empty while we ate most of the pizza ourselves (pepperoni and jalapeño was the best). Through this, I learned the value of focusing on something that you’re good at, and try to stay in that lane without being distracted by other “shiny” objects.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I have a child that has a severe food allergy (sesame & tree nuts). I would love to have had some resource to consult that can map out the world around me from a food-allergy parent perspective so we didn’t have to learn by trial. For example, if we take a trip to Disney World, which restaurants are food-allergy friendly? What snack stands cater to allergies? It could be an app on your iPhone or some kind of Google Map plugin… I would like to make it into a business, but maybe someone can beat me to it and help out families all over the map trying to navigate the world of food allergies. It’s scary stuff!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

We keep some high-end personalized nerf guns around the office to shoot at each other. Nothing lightens the mood like nerf-surprise-attacking someone stepping out of the elevator.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

We use a home-grown reporting software that will blow your mind. It took years of misses and frustrations to get here of course. We had to create something from scratch due to the intricacies of our business platform and for compliance reasons. But the insights it provides every department in our business, we couldn’t do without. We turned the corner from spending time reporting (often times manually which would lead to mistakes), to spending time strategizing with these reporting tools. I would recommend every company invest in the strength of their IT and reporting functionalities. My favorite thing about it is that we named it “Jarvis”. I am a Marvel and Iron Man junkie, so it’s just flat out cool to consult our own Jarvis in a real-world business setting. Plus when we meet old-school suit types and get to talk to them about “Jarvis,” it just makes me chuckle.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I really love Start With Why by Simon Sinek. In our company it is important to have everyone on the same page about WHY we are doing what we are doing. Because everyone’s role is so different (from doctors, to billing specialists, to our IT department) keeping everyone centered around our core values, of (1) making the patient experience better, and (2) empowering our doctors to provide the best patient care they can, gives everything we do behind the scenes meaning. Sinek’s book is an easy afternoon read that will fly by with current examples of companies that have built their success around “why” they do what they do. It can apply to any business in any industry and has really helped me to set our company vision – highly recommend it.


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