Looking Back 20 Years

“Those years were tough for sure, but what I learned first-hand was invaluable. I loved what I was doing, maybe too much, but I could clearly see that year after year, new grad after new grad, dentists seemed to make the same mistakes and had developed the same ineffective attitudes toward team members and often patients. I knew there had to be a better way. So I focused really hard on documenting success and how to best achieve and repeat it.”

Rick Workman

Rick Workman, DMD, Founder & Executive Chairman at Heartland Dental

This July marks the 20th anniversary of Heartland Dental. Over that time, much has changed with both the dental and DSO industries. Through that evolution, Heartland Dental has continually refined its level of service as the needs of dentists and dental professionals have advanced, becoming the largest dental support organization today. But that wasn’t the case in the beginning. The roots of Heartland Dental can be traced back to one dental office in particular.

Dr. Rick Workman, the company’s founder, grew up on a farm in downstate Illinois. After graduating from the Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine in 1980, he hadn’t planned on opening a dental office, but could not find a job paying $25,000 per year. Not wanting to move back to the farm, he opened his first office in Effingham, Illinois.

“I practiced out of a split-level house, with a $15 hand-painted sign as my main source of marketing for the first four years,” explained Dr. Workman. “But through hard work, it soon became a success in the community.”

Dr. Workman’s success wouldn’t be limited to that single office, however. As the years passed, he continued spreading oral health care throughout the state of Illinois, turning his single office into a group practice. All of that growth came at a price of its own though.

“With all of the growth taking place, I became a workaholic or maybe just highly passionate about becoming better. Maybe it was those reoccurring nightmares about ending up back on the farm. For the next 17 years, I spent approximately 50 hours a week doing chairside dentistry, while also committing 25-30 hours at night and on weekends working on how to become a better dentist and have a better practice,” said Dr. Workman. “Those years were tough for sure, but what I learned first-hand was invaluable. I loved what I was doing, maybe too much, but I could clearly see that year after year, new grad after new grad, dentists seemed to make the same mistakes and had developed the same ineffective attitudes toward team members and often patients. I knew there had to be a better way. So I focused really hard on documenting success and how to best achieve and repeat it.”

That realization became the driving force behind Heartland Dental and its mission and vision. By 1997, his first practice had grown into a group practice with over 25 locations in Illinois. We actually sold 21 of those locations on July 1st, 1997. The four offices remaining became a company named Heartland Dental Care. In late 1997, the company expanded into Indiana and Missouri. Fast forward 20 years, today Heartland Dental supports over 1,250 dentists and 11,000 employees in nearly 800 locations in 34 states. Knowing how to help dentists learn a better way has been core to the company’s success.

As Heartland Dental looks back on the past two decades, be on the lookout for more communication in the coming months celebrating the dental support milestones and achievements the company has experienced along the way. 

 

 

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