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Business Spotlight: Casting a Vision

Rising patient count and revenue lead to new home for Kelly Dental

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The move by a growing Springfield dentistry business to a much larger space provided an opportunity for another to do the same last year.

Kelly Dental LLC was a beneficiary of Innovative Dental moving in 2020 to a $15 million, 30,000-square-foot facility in south Springfield, just off U.S. Highway 65. Innovative Dental exited its roughly 5,300-square-foot clinic at 3424 S. Culpepper Court, just off National Avenue’s Medical Mile.

Kelly Dental owner Dr. Chase Kelly says he caught wind early about Innovative Dental’s former home going up for sale and recognized it as a chance to expand his then-8-year-old practice.

It wasn’t without hesitation, he adds.

“At first, I thought that’s way too big for me, and I told him no,” he says, regarding his initial conversation with Innovative Dental owner Dr. Grant Olson. “Then I called him back the next day after sleeping on it and said, ‘Actually, that’s exactly what I need to be doing.’”

Negotiations ensued, and while Kelly declined to disclose what he paid for the building, which included some dental equipment and furniture, he says it was less than the roughly $2.3 million listing price. The 10-employee business relocated in September 2021.

The new office triples the footprint for Kelly Dental, which previously operated in 1,800 square feet on South Enterprise Avenue. He says the practice offers a range of services for children and adults, such as general preventive care, cosmetic dentistry, dental implants and orthodontics. The space includes an in-house lab, exam rooms with nitrous oxide for those with dental anxiety, and consultation and finance rooms. It also is equipped with a coffee bar, kids area, outdoor garden and movie room with body massage chairs for patients to use while waiting.

Jumping in
Springfield native Kelly earned his doctor of dental surgery in 2013 from University of Missouri-Kansas City and just three months later purchased the practice of Irv Miller DDS PC in Springfield. Miller stayed on for about six months at the newly renamed Kelly Dental before retirement, Kelly says.

“It was long enough for me to get to meet everyone on their six-month maintenance cycle,” Kelly says, noting he began talks with Miller about buying the practice a year before graduating from UMKC. “I was either smart enough or dumb enough to come right out of school with no business experience. I just felt like jumping into it and learning. They say jump off the cliff and grow wings on the way down. I kind of decided to do that and learned as I went.”

He says Miller taught him QuickBooks, adding the two split the practice’s roughly 600 patients during a mentorship period.

“I didn’t want to grow too fast, but I wanted to add a lot of services,” Kelly says, adding he’s been the practice’s lone dentist since 2014.

There were areas where technology was dated when Kelly took over, he says. For example, the office didn’t have internet, and patient charting was still done on paper rather than digitally.

“I just saw a lot of potential,” he says.

Charle Ware is among the clients Kelly inherited in 2013. The Aurora native admits she initially wondered if Kelly's age might deter her from staying.

“It didn’t take long at all to see that he’s business all the way through,” she says, noting Kelly has customized six crowns for her front teeth. “He runs it very efficiently.”

Get growing
The patient count has grown to 1,700 over the past nine years – around a 180% increase, Kelly says, largely due to word of mouth.

“We’re always refining our systems and making sure we give patients the best experience and they can trust us,” he says, adding the practice has become more active on social media and engaged in search engine optimization-focused marketing in the past year.

“We’ve had more new patient flow because of that,” he says, noting an increase to 70 from 15 new patients a month since last year. “I thought if we hit 40 or more, I’d be extremely happy because that would be over double what we were getting before.”

The patient growth also translated to a boost in revenue last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Kelly says 2021 was a rebound year from 2020, when the office closed for six weeks due to the pandemic and patients were slow to return for a few months after. Year-over-year revenue was down 15% in 2020 but jumped 50% in 2021, he says, declining to disclose figures. This year is on pace to be up 40% from last year.

“We’re still trending at the same pace we would have organically without COVID,” he says.

In his near decade in business, Kelly says he’s slowly added services to his practice. Those include offering Invisalign teeth aligners and other orthodontic care, as well as same-day bridges, crowns and veneers.

“We do as many things as we can in-house,” he says, estimating 10% of work is referred to others for specialty dental treatments.

As staff use only half of the 10 operatories in the new office, Kelly says there’s plenty of room to accommodate future growth. At the current pace, he says a second dentist might be necessary down the road.

“Right now, business is good, and I don’t really need to add a second person,” he says. “It’s definitely not an end goal. We’re doing well as is. But we have the capacity now to leave all options open.”

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