Dr. Marc Sclafani and Dr. Robert Raimondi: “Honesty and Focus”

Honesty and Focus: You need to be honest with yourself. Who are you and who you want to be. If you try to please everyone, you will only become diluted. Focus on your ideal patient and do everything for them. Your ideal patient could be someone without a dr who needs quick care like all […]

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Honesty and Focus: You need to be honest with yourself. Who are you and who you want to be. If you try to please everyone, you will only become diluted. Focus on your ideal patient and do everything for them. Your ideal patient could be someone without a dr who needs quick care like all of the pop up walk in medical clinicals around New York City. If your ideal patient could be someone who wants to be pampered, greeted with a bottle of water, spa music, aromatherapy and at the end of the appointment to have a car waiting for that was organized by the office. I see both as a niche and I believe a private practice needs to identify who they are serving to be honest who they are and focus on executing. What is most important is to identify who you are and who will love what you do.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Marc Sclafani and Dr. Robert Raimondi of One Manhattan Dental.

Dr. Raimondi takes a personalized approach to dentistry. He enjoys working with patients to identify their wants and needs by designing and implementing treatment plans to help achieve them, whether it’s a healthier mouth or a smile transformation.

Following his undergraduate studies at Stony Brook University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, Dr. Raimondi obtained his DDS from the University of Buffalo. He performed his residency in general dentistry at Nassau University Medical Center before completing a three-year program in prosthodontics at the Manhattan Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital, while simultaneously studying at the New York University Advanced Education in Prosthodontics Program. He also teaches at the Manhattan VA Advanced Education in Prosthodontics Program.

Dr. Sclafani understands the role good oral health has on a person’s overall well-being and strives to help every patient look and feel as good as possible. This is a philosophy that has driven his dental practice for more than 30 years.

He received his DDS from Georgetown University in 1989, and then continued his studies there, earning a Certificate in Occlusion and TMJ therapy. He then returned to his hometown in New York, where he received his specialty degree in Prosthodontics from New York University College of Dentistry. He began a private practice, and taught at NYU College of Dentistry as an Assistant Clinical Professor in Prosthodontics for 10 years. Dr. Sclafani was recognized for his voluntary relief efforts for the Chief Medical Examiner identifying victims of the September 11 tragedy. He is very active with the Catholic Church and has sponsored needy children in third world countries for the past several years. Over the years, Dr. Sclafani has transformed hundreds of smiles and impacted thousands of lives, a trend he looks forward to continuing for many years to come with One Manhattan Dental.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell our readers a bit about your ‘backstory”?

I grew up on Long Island, in Babylon NY. My father is a retired Engineer and my mother a retired Nurse. We had dinner together almost every night as a family. No phone calls or distractions were allowed. Looking back on this I now see just how valuable this time together was. We would talk about our day; my parents would discuss the good and bad parts, who they interacted with, things that drove them crazy. This must have inspired me to become a prosthodontist. It truly is the perfect blend of biology, taking care of people and engineering. I earned an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and then went on to dental school. After dental school I did 4 years of post-graduate training in prosthodontics. In 2011 I joined the practice of a well established Prosthodontist, Paul Hoffman, who then retired within a year. I then maintained a solo practice until me and one of my closest friends came up with the idea of joining practice. We decided to join forces in an effort to form a practice that is exceptional to every single person it touches, to our team, patients and ourselves. I love living in Manhattan. Have a wife, son and a daughter expected in October. I love the journey and process of health and taking care of those around me. Working hard with those around me for a common goal. An attempt everyday to make everything that we touch better than before we existed with it.

I was lucky to know what I wanted to do with my life at such a young age. My father’s best friend was a dentist practicing in New York City in the early 70’. As a child I can recall the ride into Manhattan to go to the dentist and spending time in his office. On weekends I would work in my dad’s automobile dealership. This early exposure combined with the business experience that I learned from my dad gave me the desire to own my own business.

What made you want to start your own practice? Can you tell us the story of how you started it?

The idea of being controlled or restricted while trying to deliver health care is something that puzzles and frustrates me. I wanted control. Control to be able to take care of patients without guidance or restrictions of administrators. It took me some time to find my partner in my practice. After residency it was hard to find a very good opportunity so I worked for several different dentists. I remember one even made me take several different personality tests and him coming back to me saying that I was tired. One said he really liked me but could never work with a left handed dentist so could not offer me the position. Reflecting back on this always makes me laugh. The dentists that I worked for would guide me and have their ideas and opinions on treatment options, material choice, etc. I was able to learn many things from these individuals but I always noted an undertone that the cost and money component of the process was very important to them. Quickly after starting those jobs I started to seek out my own reality.

Still unable to find a practice to join I seeked out an office to rent space from. Paul and I were able to find terms that made sense for both of us. After being in his office one day a week for several months Paul and I went out for a sushi dinner. From across the table Paul took out a document from his backpack and placed it on the table. He then said something that I will never forget. “Rob, I would like to partner together and for you to eventually take over my practice. What is more important than anything on this term sheet is the character of the two of us, and that we reach a point that we are equally disassastfied.” This was the boost that I need to get my start. Paul’s then accelerated retirement let me with an amazing base of patients who are kind health focused individuals. I still look back at that time and find it amazing that so many people gave me the gift of their trust to this 32 year old kid who had no experience in running a dental practice or any business for that matter. It inspires me so much to even think about this.

After college I set my standards high and attended the best Dental School in the country, Georgetown University School of Dentistry and graduated in 1989. I then wanted to sharpen my skills and further my education by attending Post graduate school and specialized in Prosthodontics at NYU University. A Prosthodontist is a specialist highly trained in restorative, cosmetic and implant dentistry. During my graduate program I would visit and shadow other Prosthodontic offices which helped carve the path of my career. One particular office was located at 800 5th Avenue and was run by some of the most successful Prosthodontists in the world. Dr Lawrence Calgna, Dr Allan Silverstein and Dr Harold Litvak became my mentors and I still consult with them today. I remember seeing the faces of Frank Sinatra, Dianna Ross etc. come into the practice for treatment. What I learned from my mentors is to not take any shortcuts and to practice dentistry at the highest possible level. What I learned from them helped me start my own practice and do things my way, the proper way. I spent 20 years building my practice at different locations in Manhattan. I then was presented the opportunity to move my business to 800 5th avenue and practice with my mentors. After 1 year I was able to purchase one of these legacy practices and then 5 years later I purchased a second practice. I look back at all the obstacles and hurdles that got me where I am today.

Managing being a provider and a business owner can often be exhausting. Can you elaborate on how you manage(d) both roles? As a business owner, how do you know when to stop working IN your business (maybe see a full patient load) and shift to working ON your business?

For me it is a couple of things. All decisions in the business are centric with the main outcome of practice. It is to deliver the highest level of care possible with no compromises in treatment in the most comfortable environment achievable for our reality. Money is always one of the last things I think about when I am working on my business. Money is very important of course in a business. If you start by surrounding yourself with an exceptional team, taking great care of them, and then doing the same for each and every patient, set fair fees for both you and the patient the rest works itself out. We then schedule time dedicated to working on the business. This time cannot be interrupted by anything else. We work or regular issues that are important to our type of business but also take that time to focus on things that come up from the previous week. This allows me to be able to almost switch my brain from being in the business most of the week to working on the business during this time.

Managing a practice can be exhausting. I treat patients Monday through Thursday from 8–5 and do not have time to manage during my work day. To manage both these roles I carefully plan my day with my team. I am a dentist when I am working chairside with a patient. Every other minute of my day I am a business owner. Our practice follows a “play book”. Everything we do is scripted like a dance. From the way we answer the phone, to seating a patient to checking out a patient. If everyone does their job properly and follows what we call a value chain then our day runs smooth. Our value chain is our way to hold everyone accountable for their actions. We have weekly meetings with our office manager and also with our entire team.

From completing your degree to opening a clinic and becoming a business owner, the path was obviously full of many hurdles. Is there a specific hurdle that sticks out to you?

The hurdle is very often yourself. Mindset, stories that have gotten us to the point we are at but are the ones that will also prevent us from getting to the next step, I have worked hard to both be as self aware as possible but also surround myself with people who are able to see my blindspots, things that I do not see. Throughout my life I do not slow down with failure. We all fail. All of the time. I generally do not have an ego. When failure happens I get frustrated like everyone else but I also ask myself, what is great about this. I work hard to find the good, figure out what I did to lead to this failure and how to prevent it from happening again.

I have realized throughout my years that one secret to success is to become a team player. I can not focus on my dentistry and running my practice at the same time. Therefore my team from my office manager, front desk personnel and assistants need to support what I do and we all need to work together toward the same goal. Our goal is to provide the best patient care in the best environment utilizing the highest standards of materials.

How did you build up resilience to rebound from failures?

Perspective. I think in life most of the things that happen to us are small. Much like a plane, it is off course for the entire flight until the wheels actually touch the ground. This is how I look at the journey of my life. I am working on small shifts to make sure that I am heading in the right direction. When I get off course, I work hard to get back on track. Failures are simply challenges that you either have not yet learned how to prevent or things you didn’t see coming. These are both opportunities to grow. Do not live in failure. I do not live in the failure but I choose to live in the solution.

I have not dealt with many failures in my business. If there is a failure in my dentistry it is because I perform to the highest of standards and put pressure on myself to be the best.

What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Grow Your Private Practice” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1 & 2. Honesty and Focus: You need to be honest with yourself. Who are you and who you want to be. If you try to please everyone, you will only become diluted. Focus on your ideal patient and do everything for them. Your ideal patient could be someone without a dr who needs quick care like all of the pop up walk in medical clinicals around New York City. If your ideal patient could be someone who wants to be pampered, greeted with a bottle of water, spa music, aromatherapy and at the end of the appointment to have a car waiting for that was organized by the office. I see both as a niche and I believe a private practice needs to identify who they are serving to be honest who they are and focus on executing. What is most important is to identify who you are and who will love what you do.

3. Take care of those around you first. Your priority has to be on your team before anyone else. You need to be an “A” boss before anyone can be an “A” employee. Never take the trust of your employees for granted.

4. Hard work. Never to become complacent and never take anything for granted. I like to keep in mind the saying, “You are only as good as your last album.” I approach every single treatment as if it is the single most important thing I am ever doing.

5. Self work. Always. You need to constantly improve and work on developing those around you. You as a leader, as a boss, as a clinician, as an educator.

  1. Honesty is essential. You have to tell the truth.
  2. Fall in love with your ideal clients
  3. Constantly add value
  4. Be passionate about your business
  5. Proximity is Power Surround yourself with people who are better than you.

Many healthcare providers struggle with the idea of “monetization”. How did you overcome that mental block?

I think it comes down to a few things. One thing is what is going into what you are doing. In dentistry we can talk about it as such: What types of materials are you using, how much time is going into what you are doing, and how committed are you to a specific outcome. The other part of the equation is self worth, how hard are you willing to work at what you do for patients. For these things there is a fee. The easiest way is to figure this out is to find out what those around you doing what you do charge. Pick a fee that you feel good about but also one that makes you want to add incredible value to you patients. Then lastly the proof is in what happens next. Do patients respond well or not? Spend time evaluating your business and talking with patients. You need to be able to discuss what your fees mean with your patients. If not, either change how you deliver care or change your fees.

This year I joined forces with my friend and colleague and branded our business to create One Manhattan Dental.

What do you do when you feel unfocused or overwhelmed?

I find a way to recharge. I mediate daily. Exercise. When most overwhelmed I will completely unplug. Put away technology and spend time with my 19 month old son. I will see the world through his eyes and share it with him. The simplicity and joy from the world that he experiences is always inspiring to me and serves as the best reminder to what is important.I have daily routines and then things I do when I need to.

I’m a huge fan of mentorship throughout one’s career — None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Who has been your biggest mentor? What was the most valuable lesson you learned from them?

My first business partner — Paul Hoffman. Success doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep it simple. To focus on the things that matter most and to ignore the rest of the noise. It is mostly just noise.

What resources did you use (Blogs, webinars, conferences, coaching, etc.) that helped jumpstart you in the beginning of your business? Can you explain why they were helpful?

Everything. Information is cheaper and more accessible than it has ever been. Books from people like Simon Sinek, Seth Godin, Danny Meyer and Tony Robbins have helps to give me tools and strategies. Success teaches success. Now I am big on blogs and podcasts. There is so much great amazing content available to us on our phones and devices. What I do next is the major shift. I take notes. I have a note in my phone of things I would like to remember. It is great reading and the way you experience something today might be different in a year. It is great to go back on these things.

My business skills were influenced by Tony Robbins. I have attended several of his courses with my partner and with our entire staff. These business programs helped me become more of a business owner and less of a worker. Tony Robbins books and podcasts have kept me on the right path to success.

In interviews like this one, people often ask about the best advice that one was given. I’d like to flip the script. What’s the worst piece of advice or recommendation you’ve ever received? Can you share a story about that? Was there a lesson or take away from that story?

That I should know how to do everything in my office. That I need to know how every system works.This again causes one to dilute themselves and also gives them a sense of over importance. Find the best person you can for that job, treat and pay them well, hold them accountable and focus on what you are great at.

Please recommend one book that’s made the biggest impact on you? Can you explain why that resonated so much with you?

Starting with Why. It will help you to figure out who you are.

Setting the table. It will help to teach you how to treat people. Work to figure these two things out, there is not much that is important.

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