Moderator: Welcome to today’s episode of True to Form with your host, CEO and founder of Crystal Clear motivational speaker in three time, Inc 500 entrepreneur Adam Degraide. True to Form is a podcast that highlights leaders making headway, in the aesthetic anti-aging and elective medical industries. Learn from the experts to discover the secrets to success and the pitfalls to avoid when it comes to growing all aspects of your elective medical practice, with the fearless, the outspoken, the one of a kind, Adam Degraide.
Adam: Hey everyone, it’s Adam Degraide for True to Form, so glad to have you here this week, very exciting to be speaking with Dr. Larry Moray, who brings a unique perspective to his practice. His life philosophy has been to enjoy the riches of life’s many experiences, and this permeates through all his endeavors, he’s passionate, you’re going to hear that today in the interview. Dr. Moray moved to Chapel Hill in 1979 and during a PhD program in Neurobiology. He later completed dental training at the University of North Carolina, School of Dentistry and spend one year in a hospital dental residency in Hampton, Virginia. Dr. Moray taught at the VCU MCV school of Dentistry, and managed the Hospital Dental Clinic at MCV hospitals in Richmond Virginia; from 1991 to 1994. Following graduation from his orthodontic residency at UNC in 1997, Dr. Moray opened his first office at Preston Corners. The Happy Tooth has grown tremendously under his guidance and his team of dental professionals now serve over 10 communities throughout North Carolina. For our listeners, you could find him online at happytoothnc.com, and you can also learn about the Happy Tooth Foundation there as well. All right, so let’s get ready for a well, welcome to True to Form Dr. Moray. Am I saying that right? Is it Moray?
Dr. Moray: Moray, that’s yeah, I hope I answer anything?
Adam: I’m also answering anything as well too. So thank you so much for joining us today on True to Form, it’s a great honor to have you, so successful as an orthodontist, you’ve got multiple locations. You know, I’d like to start off by having you educate people that are listening. Tell us about your decision to become an orthodontist. You know what impacted you and why you chose your specific area of medicine. People always love hearing, what happened when you woke up and said, “You know what, I think I want to be an orthodontist.” How did that happen?
Dr. Moray: Yeah, you know, I don’t know if you have enough time for that, but I come from a long line of dentists. My dad, stepdad and uncle were all dentists. My grandfather ran a dental lab above, I actually lived above the dental labs. So there’s been dentistry in my family for as long as I know, and that has been something that I have worked hard to avoid. So it took me quite some time to realize that dentistry was my true DNA and calling.
Adam: Certainly sounds like it was in your DNA, I mean it’s pretty amazing when you getting – your grandfather’s living above the lab. It means he’s getting up in the morning, going down and working, that’s amazing
Dr. Moray: Yeah exactly, and he was an immigrant and he understood the merits of hard work and dedication and you get out of something what you put in. So he worked hard and instilled that in his kids and they instilled it in me. So I started out thinking I was going to get a PhD and be a researcher and educator. And I tried that route it just didn’t quite fit. And I was taking a break from my PhD studies, and I met a guy who was doing a residency in periodontics. And we talked a little bit about dentistry as an option and, it kind of touched all of the things that I wanted. I wanted to be in a health related science field I wanted to be able to work with people, and I wanted to be in a service industry and help people. And dentistry was kind of all the above. I enjoy working with my hands. And so it just, it just made sense, and that was about the extent of the thought, and so I applied. After I finished dental school I decided I wanted to consider may be a doing a hospital, a career in hospital dentistry, because I felt I could really help people that way. So I did a year of hospital dental residency at the VA Hospital in Hampton, Virginia. And then was offered a position running the Hospital Dental Clinic at MCB Hospitals in Richmond, did that for three years. And then a lot of my friends, folks I hung out with were orthodontists. I had worked in the Department of orthodontics at UNC Chapel Hill for a number of years and the chairman at that time Bill Prophet was a father figure and a mentor to me. And you know I just always felt home, in the Ortho Department, and I decided I needed to kind of follow that calling, and so went back to school, got my orthodontic degree, in ’97. And you know just kind of thought I’d have a small office, and walk to work every day, and then became where the fact that there were a lot of folks whose lives I could impact, by doing Medicaid orthodontics, and by having offices across the state. I met my wife at about that time, and she decided she wanted to go to dental school. So the two of us together have sort of been on this mission to be sure everybody has access to the great quality orthodontic care.
Adam: It seems to me like, serving and loving teeth is, like you said, literally in your DNA, including you and your wife’s DNA. You know I love the – growing up with the dentists all around you, and having your family involved in it, did they teach you about the risks and the responsibilities of actually opening up your own practice where, payroll is on your back, you know, marketing is on your back? I mean think about it. I mean you know, to go from being highly educated, getting your degree, working in residency to saying, you know what, I want to hang up a shingle that says ‘Happy Tooth’ on it, and run a business. Did they help you prepare for that?
Dr. Moray: No, not really, my dad passed away when I was almost 12, and my stepdad never really discussed that with me. He complained about how hard it was to run the business, but not in a real direct way, he would complain about losing staff, and about having to train staff, and issues with patients. But I think my dad and my stepdad and I know my uncle and grandfather, you know they all existed at time when all you had to do was hang up a shingle. You didn’t really worry about marketing, and it was much simpler and more in a sense, traditional model. And the times have changed a lot since then.
Adam: Yeah, they are. It’s interesting, I would imagine it was probably easy for him to hang a shingle up, meet people down in the community center, you know, at church on Sundays and or Saturdays and –.
Dr. Moray: Yeah, exactly.
Adam: At the end of the day that’s how you grew your business. And I always tell people now it’s very different when you’re looking at Google Street, Facebook town, Yahoo city. I mean all these different places that we have to be in and communicate in, and that’s pretty amazing, the name Happy Tooth, I actually love it. Tell me the thinking behind choosing that name?
Dr. Moray: Well again, a long story, I’ll try to keep it shorter. About 15 or so years ago, North Carolina was the state in the country that had the most rapidly growing Spanish speaking population. And I had lived in Chapel Hill since 1979. And the demographic was clearly changing radically. And I just got to thinking, you know, where do these folks going when they have dental issues? If I was in Mexico and didn’t speak Spanish, what would I do if I had a tooth ache? I sure as heck wouldn’t pick up the Spanish yellow pages, and look for an ad in English. So I got a bug up my butt, my wife and I did to do, a free bilingual dental clinic. And we did that originally at of one of our orthodontic offices, and we just made up a bunch of flyers and spread it out, spread them out in the community. But as we were kind of going through the planning stages, it turned out that there were a lot of people in our community, who had been dentists in Latin America who were not able to work as dentists in the US because they didn’t have a US degree. And so those were the folks that got together and helped me basically plan everything and put the forms together. And during the conversations someone said, “Well we need a name. What are we going to call ourselves?” And one of the guys who was helping me at the time was an orthodontic resident at UNC Chapel Hill. He had gone to Dental School in Mexico City, was from Mexico City, had done a pediatric dental residency at the University of Alabama. When he was there, he was – you know, the designated Spanish speaking doctor. So all the Hispanic kids were on, in his family of patients. And he would have the kids draw pictures of what it meant to them to go to the dentist. So one little kid drew a big molar tooth, put a happy face on it and around it wrote; excuse me, el diente feliz, the happy tooth. And so that’s how the general dental bilingual offices got branded initially. And then I kind of wanted to, you know have an umbrella and bring everything under one brand. And so we became the Happy Tooth. Where are we are, where it comes from, yeah.
Adam: That’s an amazing, that’s an amazing story. And I think about how you were, so forward thinking of that. And it is so simple too, I always find that the best forms of marketing are the well they’re easy to understand and they’re simple. And you know you want, when you go to your dentist or your orthodontist especially, you want ‘your teeth to be happy’ and that’s the whole point of actually fixing our teeth, right? So just out of curiosity, you know, how was the way you treat and care for patients? How has that changed over the last five to 10 years? Or has it changed?
Dr. Moray: Well yeah, you know, from my perspective, for me it hasn’t changed. I think in the industry, there’s a lot of change going on and, I think that change all centers around, what the patient’s expectations are, and exceeding your patient’s expectations, making it as easy as possible for them to afford treatment, to get treatment, doing as much as you can digitally so that folks don’t have to leave home. Everybody’s busy, everyone’s time is precious, and being able to accommodate that for your patients, be sure that they show up, you get them in right away and get them out quickly; because they have other things they need to do. You know maybe, maybe if it’s a child, they have a soccer practice and then cross country and then some other extracurricular thing and then they got homework. It’s crazy how busy we’ve gotten. And as a health care provider, we’ve got to be cognizant of that and accommodating of that. So I think that’s really the biggest way things have changed. And there’s been changes in technology treatment wise as well, but I think the biggest in terms of running a practice is just really accommodating your patient’s needs and exceeding those expectations.
Adam: That’s awesome, it makes perfect sense. You look at how busy we are, more video consults, Skype consults are happening more and more in different types of industries. And I like I would imagine the checkups, I don’t know. I’m not an orthodontist, so I’ve got no idea what is – what’d you need to actually take a look at? But I would imagine that could present some challenges. Do you see any big changes happening in the near future? Or do you see it because it’s, as you mentioned, technology’s changing so quickly, besides the change you’ve already seen as far as time and you know, people’s flexibility and being nimble. Any other big changes you see coming?
Dr. Moray: Yeah, I think that the big changes, at least the things that I would like to be able to do is to make it easier for folks to get to the office, have more offices, you know, have a transportation company that will work with us. I’ve played with the idea of this whole Uber patient thing. But why not do it yourself? Why not have an app where a patient can just, get a ride share, to get to your office, rather than have a few–.
Adam: That makes a lot of sense for you. How many offices do you currently have? I believe it’s like over 10, right?
Dr. Moray: Yeah, we have 12 offices total, and looking at growing. So for us especially because we see a very broad demographic, we do see a lot of Medicaid patients and transportation for that demographic is really tough. So anything that we can do to make it easier for them, and I think that that goes across the board. You know at some point everything is going to become so digitally driven that, I suspect there’ll be very little time actually in the doctor’s office. Yeah, but you know, I can’t predict how that’s going to happen, I just know what’s going to happen, yeah that’s happening.
Adam: This absolutely happening, even in my old job up there I do about 75% of my meetings via phone and via web.
Dr. Moray: Yeah it’s funny.
Adam: Just because I’m so mobile, you know what I’m saying? You know what I mean? I’m so mobile, we’re all over the world now so quickly, you know.
Dr. Moray: Yeah, when I first started, we used to have people come in, we would get the initial records, and then I would sit down and I would do this huge word document and I insert the pictures and I write this big narrative and I would email it to them, so that they didn’t have to come back, for another consultation appointment. The traditional model was bring the patient in, take the diagnostic records, send them away, bring them back for a consultation, here’s what we’re going to do, you know, and then bring them back and put their braces on. And then at about the time I got done with my residency there was a shift occurring where you brought the patient in, and you just put the seps [Phonetic] [00:15:20] in at that appointment and you brought them back and put their braces on. And now if people want to come in, just get their braces or they want to get their clear liners or they want you to ship their clear liners direct to them, they don’t want to come in. You know, but 22 years ago I was spending hours putting these documents together, to email to people because they understood the value of their time. Now it’s a lot quicker and easier than it was, I typed with two fingers, so you can imagine how long it took me to do that
Adam: I can only imagine. Thinking of technology in a lot of ways has made our lives easier and also more difficult too, right, because if technology is not working, then we’re like, “Oh my Goodness, what now?”
Dr. Moray: Yeah exactly.
Adam: So you’ve obviously have so many great experiences. Your family’s been in dentistry for so many years, you’ve everything from labs to treatment to care, you’re having multiple practices. What lessons have you learned over the past few years that you could share with your colleagues?
Dr. Moray: You know I would tell – folks what I have always told people, and that is just to remember to treat everybody the way you want to be treated, and to respect other people’s needs and perspectives. I think when I started out in dentistry there was a feeling that as a doctor you commanded a lot of respect and I don’t think that respect was always reciprocated to the patients and the staff. And my feeling has always been, as I said, “Treat us is the way you want to be treated.” Because I think ultimately everybody winds up being happy that way. And you have to also be open to perspectives. You can’t say things like; “Well if it was me I would do it this way,” because that person isn’t you. So you have to be open. You have to take the time to listen. I insist when I do a new patient consultation, I insist on speaking with the patient. If it’s a 12-year-old kid, I’m talking to the kid because that’s the person I’m going to be working with for the next year or two. I’ll get back to the parent, but I need to win that kid over first, that’s number one. And I want to create a bond with that future patient. And I love meeting people. One of the beautiful things about North Carolina, since I moved down here is that the demographic has changed immensely. And there are people from all over the world, at the university, at Research Triangle Park. These are the folks I’m working with this patients. And so I am learning about the world without ever having to leave Chapel Hill, North Carolina, it’s awesome. That takes some time to sit, sit and listen and talk.
Adam: You know what, I love about the listening to you, Dr. Moray, is the fact that you are 100% passionate about your business. It is evident in listening to you, that not only do you care about the business, you care about your patients, and you want to meet them where they want to be met, which is amazing. What’s on the horizon for you and your practice, you know, over the next three, four, five years.
Dr. Moray: Well, we’d like to expand our footprint, in North Carolina, maybe into Virginia, just to be able to get to more people. There’s a lot of areas in North Carolina, there’s counties in North Carolina that don’t even have general dentists, much less orthodontists. So coming up with creative way, to access those people may be doing a network of mobile orthodontic, clinics just to get into those underserved areas. That’s kind of what I am doing right now.
Adam: And I look at that and I love that idea, it sounds amazing. That’s great.
Dr. Moray: Thank you.
Adam: So are any events, treatments, charities, or anything that you’re involved in that you want to share with our listeners and, charity is important. I mean we at Crystal Clear, you know, we support Make-A-Wish and [Indiscernible] [0:19:07] project, and so many things that are really trying to impact the community. Is there anything that you’re currently involved in doing?
Dr. Moray: Well my wife and I both, folks who care a lot about our, our country’s kids. And even in a community like Chapel Hill there’s a lot of kids who don’t have enough food who are food insecure. So several years ago we formed the Happy Tooth Foundation and that foundation has worked closely with local groups to feed hungry kids. And then a couple of years ago, we decided that we would do a summer camp for low income kids.
Adam: That’s great.
Dr. Moray: And so the camp started out as kind of a cycling camp, and then it became a travel on camp. So the first year, 60 plus percent of the kids didn’t know how to swim. Thirty plus percent didn’t know how to ride a bike. So we taught the kids how to swim and ride a bike. And by the end of the summer, they all completed a youth triathlon just south of Chapel Hill. We’re gonna, uh, branch out more with that concept, and we hope to be able to send kids to camp in all the communities in which we have offices. So it was a small group of kids, but the change in their self esteem, we ran self-esteem indices, beginning of the summer, the end of the summer, and they all had a great increase in self esteem. And that’s really what you need. If you believe in yourself and you believe in your path, the power of hard work and then your innate abilities, you can do anything you want. You just got to have that belief and-.
Adam: No doubt about it.
Dr. Moray: And I think there’s a lot of kids’ out there that whose potentials never become realized. There’s Albert Einsteins, Bill Gates and all kinds of folks out there who get stuck at an early age, and get labeled, and never get out of that cycle of poverty. And if we can do something to help even a few kids break that cycle, I think our society will be much improved overall. And that’s, that’s our goal.
Adam: No doubt, that’s fantastic. That’s unbelievable that you guys are doing that. There’s no doubt about it that if you believe in yourself and you help people see bigger than even they can see themselves, the world can change. You know it’s funny, my 4-year-old, I mean my 3-year-old is turning four. And the other day I’m in an airplane, the guy said, “[Indiscernible] [00:21:37] for your birthday?” And he goes, “You know what, I’m going to get just a little bit taller.” And that’s kind of the way it is, right? With kids it’s like, you want to support them, so they get a little bit taller and that’s amazing and fantastic. Any last words of advice here on True to Form for the next generation of docs?
Dr. Moray: You know I think that my only advice would be to ask the future generation to think about where they come from. Think about their responsibilities to give back, and to do all they can to support their communities, and to help folks that are less fortunate, and to open their hearts and their offices, to those people. Because we have the power and the potential to really change lives. As healthcare providers, we are uniquely positioned to do so and I feel we have a moral and ethical obligation to do so. So that’s my parting comment.
Adam: Dr. Moray it has been such a pleasure having you join us today on True to Form. Tune in next week; you never know who you’re going to hear on True to Form. Thank you everyone for listening.
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