Youthful, patient-focused dentist Dr. Matt Penz has come home to Rochester to make his mark on the community. Penz and his wife, Kate, are sticking to their identity and core values and working to build their new practice, Penz Dental Care, patient by patient.
Every aspect of Penz Dental Care hinges around relationships and building trust in the community. It starts with the office itself. “I wanted people to feel like they were coming into a comfortable, homey, friendly environment,” Penz explained.
When walking into the Penz Dental Care office along 2nd Street SW, visitors are greeted with a cheery, bright blue and white waiting room with refurbished wood paneling and the Penz modern, tooth-like logo emblazoned on the wall. Plump couches, coffee, and HGTV help to mitigate any dental anxiety patients may be experiencing. Kate Penz herself mans the front desk and is the first point of contact. There are even massaging dental chairs to set the practice apart and help put patients’ minds at ease.
Penz says that dentistry is a very personal craft. He and his wife strive to make real human connections with their patients. “I didn’t want patients to feel like a number,” he explained.
Penz prides himself on the quality of his work and “how things turn out and how they look and how they function.”
“Sometimes it takes a little extra time to get it right. But you’re going to walk out of our office knowing that I did the right thing for you. Even if it puts me behind on the next patient!” he chuckled.
As a business owner, Penz obviously wants the practice to grow, but not at the expense of patient care. “I never want to compromise the quality or taking our time with building relationships and trust with patients,” he said.
Penz has purposefully grown his business slowly, gaining high quality patients and hiring staff that fit the vision he is trying to create. Penz Dental Care hasn’t sent out a plethora of mailers or first time specials. Instead, they are sticking to their core values of providing high quality patient care and creating personal, human connections with their patients. If you do this, Penz believes, “the rest of it will take care of itself.”
“If you focus on the bottom line all the time, you’re going to miss out on a lot of things,” he explained.
It’s essential to Penz to remain authentic and to attract patients in Rochester who are looking for their dental home. “We’re trying to tell a story. And we use social media as a window into our office,” he explained.
This authenticity also includes integration of his childhood sports passion into the practice. Penz played quarterback on the Mayo High School football team and continued in this position at nearby St. Olaf College. He hopes to funnel this passion to give back to the community of Rochester, a collection of people who he felt really helped to shape who he is today. Penz proudly showed me his in-house mouthgard machine. He personally fits custom mouthgards for local teams like Med City Freeze and MedCity Mafia and is undergoing further training to become a certified team dentist.
Penz says he always wanted to start his own practice. “I just had no idea how I was going to get there,” he explained. He did know, however, that Rochester was the only place he could ever imagine launching his own business.
Penz was working in an established dental practice in Chaska when he realized it was time to go all in on his dream.
“It’s hard to say, yep, we’re going to walk away from a steady income and jump in and take on this project,” explained Kate Penz, who admits she is more risk-averse. “2016 will go down in the books as being a little bit of an insane year.”
Penz and Kate began seriously talking about their plan in January of 2016. They viewed the office space in March and took over that location in July. After that, they traveled back and forth between Chaska and Rochester every Tuesday, the only day Penz was off work, to set up their new space. Luckily, the office had been in use by another dentist previously, allowing them to do in nine months what usually takes eighteen- and with less capital. Penz, Kate, and their two-year-old daughter moved to Rochester in August. In September, the doors to Penz Dental Care opened.
Throughout this whole time, Kate was pregnant with their second daughter, who was born in December.
Penz says he got the “entrepreneurial bug” from his father, who worked construction for many years in Rochester. Penz knew he wanted to build his own dental practice from scratch, rather than take over an existing practice.
“I knew myself well enough that I wanted more control over the environment, the atmosphere, the culture of my business,” he explained. He looked forward to putting together all the pieces of his new practice, including hiring the perfect staff for the culture he wished to create.
Kate explained that the first round of hiring was difficult. They had no office space yet. Instead, they had to meet with prospective employees in coffee shops. “People had to take a chance on us. They didn’t know if we were going to make it or not,” she explained.
As a new dental practice, their first month of opening was rough.
“You don’t know if patients are going to come in the door. If anybody’s going to call,” Kate explained.
But Penz and his team knew it was going to take time to build the practice. They’ve made huge strides over the past seven months. Now, they’re starting to see patients come back for their second visit and continue to build relationships and trust with those people. Just this week, Penz Dental Care brought on a new dental hygienist.
“There’s always going to be hurdles, I’m finding, in the infant stages. It’s not always smooth, and the challenges fall on your shoulders at the end of the day as a small business owner. You’re the one turning on the lights in the morning and locking up at night. Even though I'm working harder now than I ever have, it's all worth it,” Penz summed up.