Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Gary Bird, Founder and CEO of SMC National, located in Roseville, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We're one of the largest dental marketing agencies in the country. Specifically, we focus on generating new patients for dental groups and DSOs (management companies that own or oversee multiple dental practices and are often backed by private equity investors).
We do this by creating incredibly efficient, streamlined marketing funnels based on a ton of back-end data in order to give our clients better results at a lower cost per lead.
Tell us about yourself
I'm a compulsive entrepreneur and founder of SMC National, one of the leading marketing agencies in the dental industry.
I started a business that later grew into SMC about 15 years ago. I was working a regular 9-5 and making decent money… but I realized I was constantly getting bored and switching jobs once a year or so.
I knew I needed to find something harder that would keep me feeling like I was always growing. I chose to focus on marketing because you can start a digital marketing business with almost zero overhead — you don't need to invest in product development or distribution; just sign your first client.
My first year in business was really tough. It was 2008, in the midst of the Great Recession, and I had zero startup funding — just a personal credit card. For a while, my only mission was to sign three clients a week in order to keep food on the table for my family.
But eventually, things stabilized, my agency grew, and I knew I'd discovered something that made me feel genuinely excited to get up every day. That's one thing that hasn't changed since the beginning — I love being an entrepreneur. I've gone from doing email marketing for local restaurants to delivering new dental patients at scale, but whatever I'm working on, I try to keep my focus on getting 1 percent better every day.
I can't wait to see what happens next.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I'm so proud of the fact that we've made the INC 5000 list twice in a row. And that we not only made it through COVID without closing our doors but actually quadrupled the size of our business between 2020 and 2022.
Most of all, though, I'm thrilled that we've built such a brilliant team and an incredible culture that people want to be a part of it.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Honestly? Owning a business can feel really lonely. When you're first starting out, everything is on you — you're the sales team, account manager, creative director, support, all of it. And if you're lucky enough to see your business grow into a big company, all of a sudden, you're responsible for something that is employing dozens or even hundreds of people.
Either way, people don't always understand the perspective you have to take when you're the one sitting in the owner's chair.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
I'm a huge Simon Sinek fan, so I'll go with:
- Figure out your "why."
- Figure out your "who."
- Figure out your "how."
You need to start with your "why" because your business needs to have a purpose. You (and eventually your team) need a reason to get up and work hard every day, beyond only money.
But your business also needs to solve a concrete problem — one that people will pay you to solve. So that problem needs to be part of your why as well. Then you need to figure out who you can solve that problem for (your client base) and how you're going to solve it (your service or product).
That's really all the foundation you need to build a business. The rest is just execution.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Hosting podcasts is something I enjoy doing and have found to be a great help to others. Some videos have received millions of views! Here are six shows I host!
Dental Marketing Theory https://smcnational.com/media/podcast/
Dental Rift https://dentalrift.com/
8 Figure Agency Show https://8figureagencyshow.com/
Agency Growth Engine https://agencygrowthengine.com/podcast/
Stay tuned for two more already in the works: Dental Marketing GOAT and Full Arch Advantage.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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