Personal Care Dentistry
Dr. Walter Hunt of Personal Care Dentistry in Roseville, MN has been a long time customer of North American Banking Company. He purchased his practice in 1977 and has expanded it five times since then, growing to a practice that sees up to 140 patients every month. We spoke with Dr. Hunt about how he expanded his business and what he likes about banking with North American Banking Company.
How did you get into dentistry?
I knew I wanted to be in the health sciences. I knew I didn’t want to be on call all the time. I wanted to have more say in my own hours. After looking at all of the different options, dentistry seemed like it would afford me everything I wanted. It just seemed like a good fit.
Taking that step from being a dentist then to deciding to start your own practice—what decisions and thoughts led you in that direction?
I got out of dental school and I came to work for a dentist in this building who had decided he didn’t want to run the practice himself. He had actually retired from the practice but he was having guys come in and work it for him. I started here in April of 1977 and at the time I was working a couple of days a week for him. He had other associates working the other three days. Over that summer, the other associates left and I picked up their days. So by September, I was working the practice full time.
In mid-September on a Wednesday, the doctor came in and informed me that he had sold the practice to someone else and that Friday would be my last day. So I was a little upset—I had a kid at home and a house to pay for. So I went back and looked at my contract to see if he should pay me two weeks severance or something and I found in the contract in one of the paragraphs that if he sold the practice, I had the first right of refusal. I had two days to think about it and I thought, “Yes, I can do this. I can run this practice. I’ve already been working with the patients. “ A lot of patients had been leaving the practice because they were seeing a different guy every time they came in for the past two years, so it was on kind of a downhill slide. But I just saw a lot of potential and I just believed in myself. So I informed him two days later that he was selling the practice to me and not the other guy.
So two weeks later I signed the papers and I owned the practice. I kind of fell into it but it was something that I knew I was going to do eventually. I knew I wasn’t going to be a worker for someone else. It’s just not in my genes. I want to run the show.
Was it a nervous feeling?
More excitement than fear because I knew I would do whatever it took. If I had to stay open evenings and work on Saturdays and Sundays, I was willing to do that. That was the good thing about dentistry. I wasn’t going to go out of business. I knew that. It might take more effort than what I was expecting but I knew I could do it—whatever had to be done. I was excited.
Let’s talk about your relationship with North American Banking Company. How did you become a customer?
I was an original investor in the bank when it first started. A good friend of mine also knew Mike Bilski [CEO] and they were looking for investors. We had a lunch meeting once and I thought it was a good idea and I invested. When I did that I moved all of my banking obviously over to North American Banking Company.
What’s it like to work with Mike Ostergren [Business Banking Officer]?
Mike and the rest of the people that work at the bank have been great. You call them up, say “Hey I think I’m going to need something?” and they say “Come on over and show us what you need.” What I like best is they listen, they try to get all of the facts, they try to understand and they just make the process easy for me. They are really interested in my success. Obviously they are because they want to be paid back. But I just feel like they a truly a partner when we go into these things. I just feel like I can go to them anytime and it’s not an adversarial relationship. I get a fast decision. Over the years we have worked enough together where I think they trust me. So that is a nice thing to have because I know a lot of times when you talk to bankers, they are always looking for the secret behind what you are doing. It’s nice to get to a relationship where you’re over that.
What advice do you have for other business owners that are thinking about getting bank financing for their businesses?
I’d say do your do diligence, have your eyes wide open. But at the same time, don’t be afraid to do it. Be willing to work hard. It’s worth it. Listen to any advice your banker has for you. If they have any concerns make sure you can address them. Remember that they are looking out for your best interests as well. I’m one of those guys that believes if you’re not growing, you’re shrinking. It’s comfortable a lot of times when things are going well and you’re able to pay your bills. And it is sometimes uncomfortable to go outside of that and expand. But it is worth it every time. I’ve done it five times and it’s worth it every time.
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