Last year, I don’t recall when exactly, I was speaking to a group of younger dentists looking to open their own practices. I was in one of my least favorite cities: Vegas.

The other speakers there were a group of unusual characters from all over the US. There were a couple bankers, both of whom left me completely unimpressed, an architect, a seasoned, grizzled ol’ vet dentist who had plenty of lessons on what not to do, and a few others. The bankers and their cavalier (and personal behaviors) attitudes left the most vivid mark on my memory except for one thing…the hour I spent inside a snazzy recycled eyeglass retail store front.

As a former pre-optometry major in college (I couldn’t handle the tiny rooms), glasses and vision have always held an interest. And, when at age 13, while fighting a bright spring steelhead fish, it spit out the hook, and said hook ended up dead center in the middle of my eye, it cemented my curiosity even more. (I remember that hurting something fierce and getting knocked to the ground when the lure hit my eye socket and one of the hooks on the treble hanging up in my eye.)

So I wandered in, full of curiosity about a store on the strip, in Vegas, selling used eyewear. Keep in mind, these were cosmetic eye pieces, not Rx.  

In under 30 seconds, I was engaged in very intelligent conversation about the variety of eyepieces available and the story behind each and every pair.

30 minutes later, I’m inside this guy’s vault where he has eyewear that is worth, at least to him, tens of thousands of dollars. That evening, I wore some of the most iconic eyewear from Hollywood icons to rock-n-roll legends. Not a single pair was under $200 on their floor, and those were pairs that had very uninteresting stories attached to them.

The more interesting the story and more recognizable the character who wore the glasses (or a pair like them, from the same era and same manufacturer), the more the glasses were worth.

Each and every pair that he showed me to try on was worth no less than a grand and some were as high as $25,000 if memory serves. I was the only guy in the store for that entire time. He treated me like a long lost friend and his own demeanor was “retro” or recycled and he fit the part. He was a fantastic salesman and entertaining to boot.

In any business, there are lessons to be learned, shared and then possibly adapted in our own businesses. I’m always looking for these. One point in particular I see in some of the most successful businesses is their compelling or interesting origin story. Every time I speak to a dentist I have not met, I ask them, “What got you interested in Dentistry?” And, every time, the story is unique, and oftentimes, shocking or compelling.

Thing is, few share that story of ‘why.’ Why they decided to become a dentist. Why they sacrificed 8 years of their life (and more sense) to become a dentist. Why do they feel compelled to help people improve their oral health…

And, to me, this part of your origin story is one of the things no other dentist can steal or copy. It makes YOU and your practice, its focus, the people inside, and the outcomes you generate, completely unique.

Most don’t tell their story. They don’t value or understand the value of an origin story and how it can connect others to you and move others towards you (while fortunately, repelling those who are not like you and who you likely won’t be able to help). You see, people seek connection with those they do business with. They seek like-minds. They are looking to know “who” you are and what drives you to do dentistry. What’s more, if you don’t tell them, they’ll make their own BS up. In presence of a vacuum, nature will allow it to be filled. A business without a back story is a vacuum.

There are many places where you should share your story. The more you tell it, the more valuable it becomes to differentiate you from other dentists. The more you tell your story, the more people you’ll encounter that can relate to you and what you to be part of their lives, in particular if you appear, as I’ve written before, “real and reachable.”

You can and should tell your entire story online at your website. You can and should share it every year in your patient newsletter. Post it in a frame on a wall, in particular if you have a picture from a period of time relating to your story.

Feel free to tell each and every new patient you see. If you’re uncomfortable sharing it, get it in print and let your words do the work for you.

The people inside businesses that have stories are talked about. They’re discussed. They’re liked (or disliked). Don’t let others tell a story that doesn’t reflect who you are and your “why.” Get your own story out there and let it be part of your marketing process.