image001Greater Lansing Business Monthly
Professional Services Entrepreneurs – 2011
Valley Dental Spa

Dr. Martin Valley, owner of Valley Dental Spa in Okemos, says that receiving his Entrepreneurial Award was “a truly humbling experience.” He first and foremost thanks his wife and co-owner, Dawn.

He said that they had been told early on that “husbands and wives can’t work together in the dental field,” but added that he hasn’t “regretted a single day we’ve worked together.” He also thanked his staff and said, “Ultimately, none of this would be possible without God’s grace. God’s priorities are our priorities.”
Dr Valley talked about what brought him into the dental profession. “I knew I wanted to be my own boss,” he begins, “and strangely enough, I knew in ninth grade that if I wasn’t going to be a professional football player, I was going to go into dentistry. I don’t know what it was that made me consider that, [but] by my senior year in high school I knew that’s that what I wanted to do… go into dentistry. [I] wanted to be in a profession where I could help other people. ”Valley opened his dental practice in 1991. Several years into the work, “We were outgrowing the space a lot. I knew I wanted to own my own building, and change what the focus of our practice was. We thought the spa atmosphere would take it to a whole new level.”
As it turns out, that was putting it mildly.
In 2006, they opened in their current location. “The changeover was a mix: We had many people that were like, ‘You’re really not charging us for any of this? For all the extra that we’re getting?’ We only had a couple families of existing patients [out of about 1,000 at the time] that said, ‘This spa thing isn’t for us.’” Valley says that moving to the spa experience, “seemed like a natural progression, or common sense sort of thing, because a lot of people [are] apprehensive about going to the dentist,” and he and his staff do all they can to make the experience more relaxing. Their goal? To make sure patients leave feeling better than when they walked in the door.
“It’s really not about me or our office. It’s not about me as a dentist, or the dollars and cents, and that’s really hard for a lot of dentists to put aside, and that’s where our faith comes in,” Valley explains. “We’re really trusting in where God’s leading us, and it’s OK to say, maybe it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense financially, but this is what’s best for the patient to make them feel special. That’s the bottom line.”

His wife believes that the reason a lot of other offices aren’t doing [the spa experience] is that “there’s something about being the first person in town with a great idea. A few other offices have [gone part way], but they don’t want to totally jump in and go all out. The risk seems like too much, so they try one or two things, and they don’t have any ‘wow factor.’ When we did it, we just made the jump and went all out.”
Dr. Valley adds that the work atmosphere they’ve developed makes it easy to find new employees, because people in their profession, including the hygienists and dental assistants, “really are in it to serve other people.” When they hear about Valley’s practice, their excitement level goes through the roof. Along with excitement and the success it’s brought, the couple has considered the possibility of franchising, and has looked at locations as far away as Colorado and Texas. What’s preventing them from making this jump? “Life circumstances are the bottom line. It’s where our kids are–-a 13-year-old, 12-year-old and a 9-year-old–-they are our priority right now, and I don’t want to be traveling all over the country,” Valley says. “Still, [it’s] a possibility in the future.”
Dawn says that a big key to their concept is that “we take customer service to a level that people in recent generations haven’t seen. For whatever reason, people have gotten away from that. [They’re] not treated with respect or the appreciation they deserve for visiting the business. We’ve gotten back to that, where people genuinely know that they’re appreciated. They chose to see us.”
Valley’s advice for entrepreneurs of all ages is simple: “You find out what you’re passionate about, whether it’s serving people, [or] if it’s something else-–whatever God created you to be–-you find out what you’re passionate about and you just dive into that 100 percent. Do it the best that you possibly can instead of going halfway, or making decisions based on what’s affordable or will pay the bills. I think a lot of us make that mistake, and we end up being in something that we’re not fully happy about. If you’re not fully invested in it, it’s not going to succeed. Eventually it’s going to catch up to you.”