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The Road Less Travelled – From Entrepreneurship to Leadership



The Road Less Travelled - From Entrepreneurship to Leadership

Decades ago, most technological advances merely improved on an existing concept, such as making lawnmowers with a self-propelled feature, vacuum cleaners that no longer required a bag, and landline phones having a call-waiting feature. Today, and for the past ten years or more, technological advances have now affected the whole, to an extent that has metamorphosed the users of that technology, both individually and in relationship with one another, causing a major shift in every field of human activity.

Today, a DENTAL COMPANY, called SmileCo – Winnipeg, Manitoba based – has essentially rewoven the tapestry for the dental industry: This company’s reweaving has only been possible with significant advancements in both dental and non-dental techniques introduced over the past decades. It has transformed the traditional mode of operations within the dental industry. The owners of this dental and consulting firm are two dentists, a married couple, Dr. Nathan Jeal and Dr. Bao-Tran Nguyen


The Faces Behind This Smile

The principle players behind this smile are Nate and Bao-Tran. But what seems most characteristic of these owners, while vividly aware of their respective gifts, is that they have an innate sense of their own limitations. They know, as business owners, that they are – always – just part of the whole. In their words, “Growth of a business requires that we have access to other people who can complete the hundreds of tasks that seem to always be on our list. Our job is not to do everything. In fact, if we do too much, it will hamper growth, preventing us from scaling the company. There are talented people across the planet who possess skills, and time, to complete tasks that we simply cannot.”

Up-close and personal: Nate and Bao-Tran, though both powerfully driven as individuals and as a couple are also modest people. Bao-Tran grew up in a Vietnamese refugee camp, and Nate chose to embark on formal education, earning the same degree in dentistry as his partner, only after having struggled as an employee in multiple industries outside of dentistry. Though it’s beyond the scope of this particular article, it would be remiss not to acknowledge that just as they are aware of needing the gifts of others in the pursuit of their dreams, they have reaped the benefit of several extraordinary mentors, all of whom represent a spectrum of businesses. The type of mentorship they received confirms what they had believed about humans in general: “That we can only harness internal drives which already exist.” They now mirror to others how they were mentored in hopes of helping aspiring entrepreneurs achieve even bigger goals.


From Novice to Experts

Within a year of credentialing as dentists, the novitiate period was over for this couple. It became time for Nate and Bao-Tran to make their business moves within dentistry, which have ultimately resulted in the reweaving of the dental practice tapestry. In just a few years, they had acquired multiple dental locations, comprising over 100 staff members. This growth rate, though intentional and welcome, presented its challenges. Curiously though, with hindsight, these challenges informed them of new ways of doing business, paving a new runway for yet another takeoff. 

This power-house business couple, despite being “late bloomers,” as they refer themselves, are not just clinical dentists working at a dental chair. Zoom out: Their particular gifts guide their attention on a much larger scale, providing formative assistance to fellow dentists’, and reimagining how dentistry can be delivered with more efficiency, greater predictability and less stress. Before they began their trek into the business world, being an entrepreneurial dentist [couple] was an oxymoron. While the primary end product of their business remains the same, namely that every patient under their care will walk out with that “smile” they desire, it has also been significantly expanded, and in some ways, transformed. These annexes include coaching and mentorship, along with presenting business development strategies to other dentists, located across North America. Nate, himself, has been featured in several books and podcasts series. He’s also been invited to conduct lectures and seminars to hundreds of dentists, spanning three countries. And overlapped with all these activities are Nate and Bao-Tran’s full day training courses.


Key to Expansion: The In Vivo Testing Laboratory

Nate and Bao-Tran imagine the foundation of their marketing and practice growth strategies as being an “in vivo testing laboratory.” Their “playbook” comes from direct experience and careful note-taking while maintaining a binocular vision having two foci: The first on dental practice growth, and the second on each of their clients’ development as a professional with the right mindset and understanding. Within their business context, “in vivo” is about the testing of subjects and of techniques, whether instrumental or organizational and directly assessing real-life outcomes. 


Within any testing, the “n” number must be high enough from which to draw valid outcomes. In owning multiple dental sites, this type of testing is not only ideal, it’s necessary. One pragmatic outcome of this type of testing is the attainment of the right solution to genuine problems, all in the midst of an ever-evolving landscape in the dental industry. This “in vivo” type of testing also provides teaching materials for their seminars, extracted from real-life examples experienced in their businesses. So it’s understandable that Nate and Bao-Tran envision what they do as being “a fascinating junction of science, art, and technology.”


Within this real-life laboratory, if something doesn’t attain the desired goal, eliminate it or tweek it. For Nate and Bao-Tran, failure is always a prerequisite to success, something to be transformed into the next test. Their philosophy around this is simple but somewhat unique: “Acceptance of risk and embracing failure are the two most important challenges that most entrepreneurs have to overcome. When there is an aversion to calculated risk, it is nearly impossible to grow beyond one’s current situation. Similarly, a fear of failure is limiting to many people who might otherwise find fulfillment and success as entrepreneurs. Risk is simply a part of the game. Failure, too, is a part of growing, and should be considered the cost of ‘tuition’ for education in real life.” 


This married business couple, Nate and Bao-Tran, are a powerhouse of energy; having built their empire from zero; everything they do is fast; and they’re always projecting ahead, asking themselves, “Ok, what’s next.” Bao-Tran reflects, “Working on what you enjoy, and you are good at it, really does offer a lot of freedom. So why would I ever stop?” Nate is the same way, declaring, “There’s no reason to stop working if you can focus on what you’re passionate about, by eliminating everything that you don’t like doing.” And what is the most recent business activity this couple “likes doing?” This year, they have written and released a book, entitled, “The Fast Formula.” This book is a “deep dive into their practical protocols for business and life.”

Nicolas Bueno is the Content Manager at HighKey Agency. With a background in public relations and his passion for business, he now shares exciting stories of entrepreneurs and how they’re succeeding in their fields!