By Pete Mercer
What’s in a name? Finding the right name for your dental practice or DSO can be a challenging ordeal. While you want it to feel familiar, you also want it to stick out in a way that is memorable and recognizable to everyone. Many labor over the naming process of their organization, spending a great deal of time trying to find something that conveys meaning and some level of expertise in the field.
Kessel Run Management is a dental management organization based in Houston, Texas. Run by Dr. Kyle Hale, Kessel Run was created as a common management entity to preside over the five locations he and his family were operating in the Houston area. A longtime Star Wars fan, Hale named the organization after the infamous Kessel Run, a dangerous smuggling route used by the rugged hero Han Solo, as seen in 2018’s Solo: A Star Wars Story. Now, Kessel Run has two more de novo practices (making it seven practices in total) on the way, as well as 17 managed practices for their Invisalign group purchasing.
Describing the unique name, Dr. Hale said, “We named it just as a joke and we never changed it. We’ve been told, ‘Oh, you’ve got to change it. You got to change it.’ But what I’m trying to build is something that’s going to be durable, last for a long time, focused on generational wealth and generational opportunities. And if my grandkids have to work for Kessel Run and they’re not nerds about it all, then they’ll just have to think about me one day longer than they would have otherwise.” While Kessel Run Management might have started as a joke, it could prove to be the most memorable and fitting choice for an innovative organization in the dental field.
Finding the right footing
Before it was Kessel Run, it was a nameless entity governing a couple of practices in the Houston area that were run by Dr. Hale’s wife, father-in-law, and sister-in-law. When Dr. Hale graduated from dental school, there wasn’t room for him to operate in the family business, so he went out and bought a practice of his own. Around the time that Dr. Hale bought his third practice, his father-in-law was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
“All the knowledge about practice management and practice leadership went to Florida while he went to get treatment,” Dr. Hale said. “It was almost a full year that he was gone. With the help of his office manager, who had just recently retired after 28 years of working for him, and my other sister-in-law, we had to find a way to keep the business going.”
Dr. Hale realized that there were things about dental business that he had no idea existed or that could exist. A little out of his element, Dr. Hale focused on running a better, linear business. Eventually, they acquired two more practices in a natural way. “We spent pretty much all of COVID growing. We focused on building that internal process, essential systems, and essential team that we had thought about outsourcing before.”
Before, Dr. Hale and his team described Kessel Run as similar to the well-intentioned, yet aggressive anti-heroes in comic books or Star Wars, but in the dental space. They are very pro-dentist owner, dentist-led, and dentist-driven. Now that they’ve found their footing, Dr. Hale says that they run the business like it’s a management company, even with a little rebellious spirit in the way that they treat it.
Leveraging the business side of dentistry
Somewhere along the way, Dr. Hale and his team realized that the business side of Kessel Run was eating up a lot of their time throughout the week. Dr. Hale’s sister-in-law found an extra $20,000 hiding in patient AR, giving their organization a financial cushion to operate during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Eventually, they started to make better business decisions along the way, but that first year was really difficult.
“In that first year of trying to systematize so many things, we rubbed long-term employees the wrong way with how coarse and direct we were, and they felt like it was threatening their livelihood,” Dr. Hale said. “We totally screwed that first year up. But when we started running the business well in 2019, it really prepared us for the shutdown in 2020 where we were one of the fortunate offices that had cash flow.”
Dr. Hale and his team turned what had been a “hobby that paid really well” into a profitable business with structure and potential for growth in the future. “We realized we had to do something more structured, and we had to start setting time aside to work on the business. And if we don’t enjoy doing that, then maybe we aren’t long for practice ownership, especially multiple practice ownership.”
Regarding that future growth, Kessel Run’s two new de novo practices are basically branching into a new business – airwave dentistry, a new and growing field that’s focused on the structure of the mouth and how that impacts your breathing. With this new venture, Dr. Hale is expecting to continue to grow what is already a successful organization that is generating $10 million in annual revenue for 2022.
Dr. Hale said, “It’s really exciting for me because we have a very clear, clinical North Star with how we’re pushing every decision, how we’re making purchases, how we’re looking into technology and the patient experience, and how we curate appointments. We are really excited about the new business, and we are still excited to see what kind of growth and relationship we can develop.”