The Dental Experience Podcast

Hosted ByRyan Vet

A Dental Podcast All About Creating Experiences Worth Sharing
No matter your role, as dental professionals, it is our responsibility to provide exemplary patient experience and care. In each episode of this dental podcast we will hear from experts on how to create a positive patient experience while simultaneously growing your practice.

Episode 307: Making Money is Killing Your Business, with Chuck Blakeman

As we look ahead to 2021, we all reevaluate goals for our dental practices. Eventually, the thought process comes down to, How do we make more money?  But for serial entrepreneur Chuck Blakeman, he’s here to tell you that making money should not be your number one priority. He’s grown 12 businesses in 8 industries on 4 continents, and as he says, “the faster the business went, the more revenue, the higher success the business went, the lousier my life got.”


Chuck Blakeman: The more revenue, the higher success the business went, the lousier my life got.

Shut up, sit down, don’t make waves, live invisibly and go out quietly with a gold watch.

And I can eat the darn ice cream anytime I want! Mom’s not going to yell at me.

Ryan Vet: Welcome to another episode of The Dental Experience podcast.

I’m so excited to have with me a very special guest, Chuck Blakeman. So, Chuck is just an inspirational individual who is a serial entrepreneur, a social entrepreneur, and really focuses all of his businesses on making a difference in the people that those businesses serve. And he’s a bestselling author, he writes for Inc. Magazine. He’s got an awesome Ted Talk on his website, if you have not yet been to his website, highly recommend that. I think he just got off the treadmill, or at least that’s the, the name of his new podcast and new seminar. So, give a warm, welcome to Chuck.

Chuck Blakeman: Thanks for having me on. I’m excited to be with you.

Ryan Vet: I am, too. And I know we’re going to talk about how we can really practice leadership to rehumanize dentistry and really bring it back to why a lot of us joined the industry, either as professionals, practitioners, or as the industry side of things. But before that, you’ve got this new thing called “Get Off the Treadmill,” and I have to know, A., where did that come from, and B, could you tell us a little bit about it?

Chuck Blakeman: You bet. Yeah, I’m on the business side of dentistry, and I built – before I got into the dental industry about 10 years ago, I was a serial entrepreneur. I built 12 businesses in eight industries on four continents, and my, my marching orders were why do what others can and will do when there’s so much to do that others can’t and won’t do? Hence, my experience in my first four or five businesses, every time I built something that was successful, the more successful it got the faster my treadmill went, and I never, and I would start again thinking, ‘Well, you know, this will be different somehow,’ and it never was different.

It just – the faster the business went, the more revenue, the higher success the business went, the lousier my life got. So in my sixth business, I don’t even know – I had no idea how I was going to do it,   just resolved starting my sixth business. I am not going to live this way again. I don’t know how this is going to happen, but this business is going to serve me. I’m not going to be owned by the business, I’m going to own it. And I’m not going to own a job, I’m going to own a business.

And to that end, I said, “I don’t know how I’m going to get to do this, but this, every one of my businesses have produced only money and they have robbed me of time. I’m going to figure out how to get a business that builds, that gives me both time and money, and I’m going to figure out how to make more money in less time.” So that was my marching orders for myself and my sixth business, and off I went, and I got it my first draw. And it wasn’t because I was any smarter or any luckier, it’s just because I changed my intention. For five businesses, I intended to make money and work really hard, and what I got was hard work and some money. And my sixth business, I intended to get off the treadmill, and I got off the treadmill. So, that’s the genesis of that, and then I had friends who wanted to help, they wanted me to help them with that.

And that became a book in 2010. It was a bestseller, and beat out a lot of books by very famous authors like Bo Burlingham and Seth Godin and others like that, that year. And somebody in a, yeah. Somebody in dentistry was reading that book in 2010, I think it was, or 11 and missed an airplane by about two hours, they were so engrossed in my book. “Making Money is Killing Your Business,” was the name of that one. And they were so engrossed by it that they missed the airplane by about two hours. They took a picture of the book and an empty Concourse and said, “This book made me miss my airplane,” and they were very well-connected in dentistry. And so, a lot of dentistry people picked up the book, and I ended up speaking at some conferences and off I went, I figured out I really liked being in dentistry. So, we shifted our focus over here, and we’ve been here ever since.

Ryan Vet: That’s great. I mean, that’s similar to me.

I grew up in my career, not in dentistry at all, doing consulting and speaking in business leadership, and entrepreneurship, and marketing, and then married a dentist – or a dentist in training – then got involved as an executive at a dental company. And, before I knew it, I, too, was engrossed in the dental space and that I shifted my personal consultingand speaking career to the same thing that you did, Chuck, shifted it to dentistry. Because once you get in, it’s a pretty fantastic industry, and it’s hard to leave it.

Chuck Blakeman: I, I appreciate that Ryan. It is absolutely something about dentistry and dentists that they actually have a passion for their patients, and I don’t find that in some parts of medicine. But, the thing that really attracted me was how, how married my thought of getting off the treadmill was actually with dentistry and how, how well suited dentistry was to the idea that they could actually get to where they choose to do dentistry or choose to leave.

Or, you know, whatever you want to do, you want to lead the business side, you want to stay in the operatory, you figure that out, and then we’ll get you to where you get to choose to do that rather than have to do it. It’s the difference between being a hostage and a prisoner. And so we, we work hard at getting them off the treadmill personally, and then we rehumanize the rest of their practice by giving everybody their brain back, which furthers their ability to get off the treadmill, ’cause that’s the biggest issue we have. We think we have to be involved with everything.

Ryan Vet: Yeah, that’s so true. And earlier, we had Dino Watt on, and he talked a lot about creating a legacy and what does it mean to have a legacy. But Chuck, a couple of minutes ago, you just mentioned this idea of success and you were chasing after success, and one of the lectures I’m giving for the first time this year is talking about chasing significance over running towards success. I would love to hear a little bit about your perspective because it seems like we’re very much aligned. It’s easy to start these businesses. We’ve got that drive, we want to do that. But, often in doing that and pursuing what the world says is a success standard, we wear ourselves out and we feel the opposite of success. Could you talk a little bit about that and maybe some tips you have?

Chuck Blakeman: Yeah, I think everything we – everything I’ve learned about this stuff is traced back to the industrial age.

It seems that the factories are to blame for a lot of the things we have messed up in our heads about how business works and what success is. And the factory has taught us that success had to do with money. They had to teach that because they robbed people of their time. They, if you want to make more money, you spend more time, not invest, but you spend. We were not paid for results, we were paid for time.

Show up for eight hours, and you get $4 an hour or $12, whatever it is, and we got that mindset that we’re being paid for time rather than results. First time in the history of man, by the way, for thousands of years, free people all over the world got paid for results. How many shoes you made, how well you made them and how happy your clients were. That’s all you got paid for, nobody cared how long it took you. And all of a sudden, we get into the factories and it’s all about time, and it’s been about time ever since and to the point where we actually think that the way to build a great dental practice to spend more time at work.

Warren Buffet doesn’t suffer from that disease, Richard Branson doesn’t suffer from it, we don’t need to either. We need to figure out how to make more money in less time. So, success was ill-defined and they, they defined it as who dies with the most toys wins. Well, we’ve tried that, and found it wanting, and so we’ve come up with a different understanding of success.

The, the factory system, the three S’s of the, what we call the industrial age, our safety, security, and stability. That’s what was success was supposed to be. Safety: live in the suburbs, don’t live with the icky people downtown. And then security: have a big wad of cash in the bank. And then stability: every day should look the same, predictability.

If you have those three things, safety, security, stability, you have a great life. Well, when you think about where those things are on Maslow’s Hierarchy or any other hierarchy of needs, they’re at or near the bottom. But, that’s what my mom taught me because she didn’t have any of them. She was a depression baby and safety, security stability, were – she was looking up with those things.

So, that’s what the industrial age factory system taught us to chase was safety, security, and money. Get into the suburbs, have a big wad of cash and everyday should look the same, and you’ll somehow magically be happy, and that’s absolutely not the truth. So the fourth “S” of what we call “the participation age,” is significance.

And that’s the one that we ought to be chasing. That’s the one we were made to chase. Millennials are the first generation since the factory system that have not grown up in the shadow of the industrial age. And so, they were not taught like we were, at least I was, I was taught, “Shut up, sit down, don’t make waves, live invisibly and go out quietly with a gold watch.” That’s what we were taught, and millennials just say, “Wait a minute, I’m not going to work to make money anymore. I’m going to work to make meaning. I don’t need to go to work to make money. There’s a lot more safety, security stability in the world today than, than you had, and so I’m not interested in those things. I want a position where I can go to work and make meaning,” and success is redefined as having a practice where you can walk out at the next, the end of the day and say, “I made a difference, and we made a difference, and our legacy is we’re going to make a difference even long after I’m gone.”

So it’s about making meaning, not making money.

Ryan Vet: That’s so good, and that’s so true. And, I am a millennial and it’s true to see this shift where people are all about these causes and investing in things that are bigger than themselves. And so, I think everything you just said is spot on.

Chuck Blakeman: And by the way, you make more money doing this.

So it’s not like you make less, if you focus on making meaning you will make more money. That’s why I named my first book, “Making Money is Killing Your Business,” because if you’re chasing money, it’s the wrong reason to be in business. That’s why I love dentistry. So many dentists really, you know, they’re not in business to make the money and because of that, they can make a lot more of it.

Ryan Vet: That’s awesome. And it’s easy in a career to get sidetracked by, especially not in dentistry where there’s not a huge ladder to climb, but even so opening multiple practices or hitting certain revenue targets, there, there is that innate desire to, to do more, to be better, to become bigger. In that process, you can easily put profits before people. You can put profits as your primary goal instead of focusing on people and the reason we all are in the industry that we want to be in. So, what’s a piece of advice you have for course correcting if someone starts getting led astray by the allure of money over people?

Chuck Blakeman: Yeah, that’s a great question.

The number one issue we have in life, and in dentistry, is that we make decisions based on the short term, not on the longterm. That’s pretty much the fundamental issue, the tyranny of the urgent versus the priority of the important. The long-term things are always important, but they’re never urgent. The urgent things are always urgent, but they’re never important.

And so we figure out how do I pay my lease this month? How do I pay my people? How do I take home some money? And let me do it again next month, and we wonder why we’re still in the same place five years down. The mantra is this, the question is, is this: are you making decisions based on where you are or on where you want to be?

If you’re making decisions based on where you are, where do you think you’ll be next year? In the same place. So, the advice I would have is – and we need utter clarity about what we call a practice maturity date. Not when we leave the practice, but when it’s really serving us the way we want it to serve us, what does it look like?

How much time and money is that practice throwing off, and how much significance is it creating for me and others in the world around us? The formula is T plus M plus E – time, money and energy – equals significance. So how much time, money and energy do I have at the end of the day to create significance in the world around me with my family or, or a nonprofit or whatever it is, I need to figure out what I’m doing this for. On the back of my first book, I wrote, I wrote this big statement: “use your business, or in this case, use your practice to build your ideal lifestyle.”

Most of us feel used by our practice. So, we need to figure out what we want, turn the whole thing on its head and decide we’re going to use it to get where we want to get in the world and where the people around us want to get.

That’s the biggest lesson I learned in my sixth business. The first five businesses, I created them to the point where all of a sudden they were using me. And, I wrestled this one, the sixth one to the, to the ground and said, “No, you’re going to serve me, and you’re going to serve the people around us,” and we built constraints and rules to make sure that would happen.

So that’s the, that’s the number one thing is, we call it “the big why.” The lifetime goals, the ideal lifestyle is built on lifetime goals. What do you want, you know, what do you want as your legacy and why are you doing this in the long run? The things that we call the lifetime goal, you know, it’s a lifetime goal because you can never check it off as complete.

So, what are the things you can never check off as complete? Having great relationships, building a nonprofit that’ll go on when you’re not here, solving poverty in Africa, being a great mom. All those things are things you can never check off as complete, and that’s what life is about. Use your practice to get there.

So, figure out what you want in the long run and then use today to build tomorrow.

Ryan Vet: That’s so good, Chuck. Listening to your Ted Talk, people can obviously get a lot more inspiration from you and learn a lot more about you, but in your Ted talk, you said something interesting, and I want to bring that up here and you, you’re kind of going through talking about companies and what if a company had no HR?

What if company had basically no boundaries except just beliefs, is how you ended it. But, in that, you talked about titles and responsibilities and what if people were self-managed by this idea that there’s something bigger, more significant. How would you, ’cause you talked a lot about just now the practice owner pretty much, and talking about their significance and what does that mean?

There’s a lot of other people in the practice. You’ve got the front office team members, you’ve got hygienists, you have assistants, you might have associates and you have the people that interact with the practice every day. Those people don’t necessarily have the title of “owner,” and it might be more difficult for them to, you know, find their significance.

But what advice do you have for those people?

Chuck Blakeman: Yeah, we have two, two summits that we do on a regular basis, we switch them on and off. The first one is for the practice owner to get them off the treadmill. How do they personally get more time, money, and energy out of this practice? And the second around the idea of, of rehumanizing the workplace and giving everybody their brain back so that they all get off the treadmill.

How do we get people to the highest and best use of their time within our practice? By extension, that continues to get the dentist further off the treadmill. The biggest problem we have in business is engagement. 30% of people at work are engaged. That means 70% are phoning it in. They’re just coming in for time.

If I put in my time, I’ll get paid. And only 30% are saying, “Hey, how can I knock it out of the park here?” If you had a machine that was working at 30%, would you just put up with that? It’s been this way for years. But the reason it’s that way is we made it that way. It’s not because people are stupid and lazy, it’s because we make them stupid and lazy by not allowing or, and requiring them, to use their brains and make decisions locally.

The simple process here is distributed decision-making through DDM teams, distributed decision-making teams. The front desk should be making decisions that the front desk has to own. Not as a vacuum, they should make them in concert with everybody else in the practice. We live in community, this isn’t lone ranger stuff.

This is community stuff, but it’s about the front desk, making decisions, making the final decision along with all the input they get from everybody, including the dentist who has to be happy with that. And the hygienist, the same thing. And we make decisions where they have to be carried out because input equals ownership.

Input equals ownership means that I get to be an adult. If I get to make decisions – it’s the one thing, if you think about it, Ryan, what makes us an adult? What defines adulthood more than any other thing? It’s I get out of college, I get my own apartment and I can eat the darn ice cream anytime I want, mom.

It’s decision-making and what do we do to people at work? We take all that away from them because we’re pretty sure they can’t handle it. So, we teach people how to create. We teach the dentist and the teams, how to recreate these distributed decision-making teams. That were there before the factories.

And we teach people how to get, rehumanize their workplace and give everybody their brains back and do simple things that create horizontal dependency on each other as community at work, rather than a vertical dependency on the one guy or woman at the top who is wearing themselves out trying to be the dentist and run this practice and make all the decisions. We’ve got to give people their brains back, or they will not be engaged.

Ryan Vet: Hmm. That’s so good, and I appreciate you sharing, and I would love to talk – shift gears away from dentistry. You’ve done multiple businesses, and I’m sure in all of those, they haven’t all been successful.

And I would love to learn, you know, we, we always see people with these long resumes – Inc. and Ted Talks and everything else, that’s so impressive from bestselling books and all of that – but it’s hard, or it’s easy to forget that they’ve also had their, their failures. You think of Michael Jordan getting cut from his basketball teamm or Walt Disney’s drawings getting rejected from his high school, school newspaper. So quickly, and you don’t have to be very specific, but I would love for you to just share one failure and how you learned from that, and how that helped your career go even further to realize that significance is more powerful than success.

Yeah, that’s a great question. And yeah, I learned more from what I did wrong than what I’ve done right, I think everybody does. And anybody who tells you that they had an easy road and gives the impression that they got to where they are by just rainbows and unicorns is blowing smoke. My biggest failure was that I was born left-handed, right-brained, ADHD and dyslexic, and nobody knew that stuff when I was a kid.

And so, as a result, I graduated at the very bottom of my class. They actually had me in the principal’s office deciding whether they would let me graduate, it was that bad. I think they kicked me out so they wouldn’t have me in another year. So, I was an unmitigated failure coming out of, out of high school.

That was my failure was that I was a failure. Just if there were 524 jobs and 523 kids, or 525 kids and 524 jobs, I’d be the last kid standing out of my high school class, would not have a job. I was convinced of it. So I actually went into the army because I figured out they’re the only people. I know they have to take me because you know, I’ve got a, I’ve got a high school diploma, so.

It took me 19 years to get my bachelor’s again, being ADHD and dyslexic and left-handed right-brained, I went to music school and did whatever I could to figure it out. And along the way, I started my first business and it seemed to go okay, and I started a second one that seemed to go okay. And sure, I made mistakes along the way.

I actually never had a business that lost money until I invested in, in a non – a not-for-profit -hundreds of thousands, if not more in a not-for-profit – to solve poverty in Africa. That’s so, the one colossal failure I’ve had, and even that I don’t call it failure yet because there’s still a possibility it could work, but lots of things have gotten in the way of that.

But, what I learned was – from, from being a failure, was –  that the key to being a success is not how smart you are, and it’s not how lucky you are, it’s how relentless you are. So the word relentless defines my life, and I’m writing a book in my head right now, and it’s called “Relentless,” and it’s about that.

And I’ve found some, some, some incredible tear-jerking, dentist stories about the same kind of thing, where they had to struggle through the same, you know, the same backgrounds to get where they are. So that’s my, that’s my lesson to everybody is, it’s not about how, how smart you are, how lucky you are. It’s about will you get up? Like Winston Churchill said, leadership is getting up one more time than you got knocked down.

That’s so good. And there’s a two episodes from season one that should definitely make it into your book. You’ve got Dr. Christina Rosenthal who told, was told that she wouldn’t amount to much and has created an incredible career and a program called DDS, which is talking about determined to be a doctor someday, and she invests in children who normally wouldn’t be able to go to school for any number of reasons.

And Dr. Bill Simon out of Chicago, who’s been held up at gunpoint, whose had practices burned down embezzlement and everything else, but in both of their cases, just inspiring stories. So, I think you should definitely chat with them about your book and see if they could play a role.

Chuck Blakeman: Oh, absolutely. I want to get those stories from you, you bet.

Ryan Vet: And Chuck, just to, to wrap up here, as we’re getting low on time, I heard that you had a heart attack that really changed the course of your life, and I would love, just in closing, for you to tell us just a little bit about that and how that’s changed your trajectory.

Chuck Blakeman: Sure. Well, you know, what it did was confirm my trajectory more than anything. It changed my diet trajectory. I found out that sugar was a drug and a poison. I was very disappointed because I really liked it. So, I went off sugar and I was already very fit in a lot of ways. I was riding my bike 10,000 miles a year, bicycle, and doing all kinds of crazy stuff like that.

But I lost 25 pounds just getting off of sugar, but what it did while I was sitting in the, in the emergency room, when the doctor told me I was having a heart attack, I said, “Cool.” And I looked at myself, and I was surprised, and I said “What’s going on here? And he said, “Yeah, yeah, you’ll be in surgery in another thirty minutes.” I said, or “In 20, 30 minutes,” I said, “Do I get to watch?”

And the guy looks at mem and he looks at the nurse and he says to the nurse, “This is the happiest guy I’ve ever shared this with,” and he walked out. And when he was walking out, I said, inside of my head, “Hey, I’m ready to go, aren’t you?” It was a complete surprise to me, Ryan. But what it did was confirm to me, I’ve said all my life, that I want to live a life that if I go today, it was a life worth living.

And I got a chance to try that. You know, nobody wants to try, but I got a chance to try that on for size in a real life situation, you could die today. 40% of people die the day they have their first heart attack, and my response to that was, “Okay. I’m not, I don’t want to go, but this was a life well lived.”

So, it has confirmed that every day is precious and, and every day you could not be here. And boy, you want to be able to stand up and say, “OK, I don’t want to go today, but if I have to go today, I’m ready.”

So I plan to live until I’m 120, that’s my objective. The first person to be, to live to 150 was born like, eight years ago.

So I’m not being greedy, 120 is good. But if I go before that, I’m ready to go any day ’cause this is a life well lived. Let’s live every day figuring out what do we want in the long-term? What is our big “Why?” What is our lifetime goals? And let’s live every day, let’s use today, use today to build tomorrow.

Ryan Vet: That’s great, Chuck. Well, I appreciate you sharing so many personal stories that really are inspiring and can help us just shape our, our own career and our own goals and in moving forward, so I appreciate that.

And you have a lot of other good things to say. So, how can our listeners get in touch with you or learn more about some of the seminars or some of the places where you’re speaking?

Chuck Blakeman: Yeah, real simple. Chuck Blakeman dot com. B L A K E M A N.

Ryan Vet: That’s great, Chuck. And if you do go to, which I hope you do a link is in the show notes right now for you, check out his Ted Talk. It’s excellent. Definitely worth, worth watching. But Chuck, it’s been a real pleasure having you on the show today.

Thank you so much for coming.

Chuck Blakeman: Oh, Ryan, it’s been a gas. Thanks for having me.

Ryan Vet: Yep. Everyone, thank you for listening to The Dental Experience podcast, until next time.

Thank you for listening to The Dental Experience podcast. For show notes, to ask a question or for more information, visit The ideas discussed during this episode are the opinions of the participants and do not serve as legal, financial, or clinical advice. Until next time, this is The Dental Experience podcast.

Full Episode Transcript

Chuck Blakeman’s Books:
Making Money is Killing Your Business
Why Employees are Always a Bad Idea

Chuck’s Ted Talk, The Emerging Work World in the Participation Age

This episode of The Dental Experience Podcast is sponsored by Trident Lab. Dental Experience podcast listeners – that’s you – you can write the code Dental Experience on your first case, and you can save up to $50. Simply visit for more details.

The Dental Experience Podcast is hosted by Ryan Vet and is edited by Earfluence.

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