When he was young, Joseph Kunnel thought his future lay in medicine, or perhaps as a teacher. Soon after beginning his college education, however, he found himself drawn to the specialty of orthodontics. He now has five offices, providing care to a wide variety of people. He has helped countless patients find better smiles and better health.

Where did the idea of studying an orthodontics come from? 

The first two years of dental school are focused on the basics and building foundations. Once I got into my third and fourth year, I began working more directly with patients. I found myself intrigued by the specialty. It came very naturally to me. During my internship, I spent time in each specialty, and when I was doing the orthodontics rotation, it really excited me to see how everything was done. I was a bit surprised because I had thought my future would be more in the teaching world.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive? 

My practice has five offices. Some of the offices have more patients than others. In those offices, I can sometimes see up to 70 patients a day, depending on what procedures are being performed. My typical day will usually start at 8:30 in the morning and I will leave about 5 or 5:30 in the evening. We do have some days that we open later so we can offer later appointments for those patients that need time after work. I like to have some time left at the end of the day to come home and relax.

How do you bring ideas to life? 

I have spent a lot of time doing clinical and scientific research, so I think that helps with bringing ideas into reality. If someone presents an idea, the first thing I will do is research it to see if it has been tried before and how well it worked. This could be reading articles or speaking with others in the field. With regard to treatment options, I am always studying new ways of doing things, If I feel there is a treatment that may be beneficial for a patient, I will let them know about it, including any side effects and possible outcomes. If they decide to go ahead, then we will proceed.

What’s one trend that excites you? 

The scope of my specialty now is expanding. We are learning more about how our specialists can help younger patients with many things. We have found children who have narrow jaws or have sleeping issues because their nose is narrow. These are clinical situations that some of the newer things that we have learned can help with. We can identify things earlier and decide on a course of action before it becomes an issue.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur? 

I have never looked at my practice as a business. My approach has always been to learn as much as possible through reading, research, or meeting with others in the field. My practice allows me to help people and it is so important that I am educated on the latest, most effective methods for treatments. I believe my relentless pursuit of knowledge has really helped my practice to grow.

What advice would you give your younger self?

When I was young, I was heavily encouraged to go into the medical field. I actually started my college career with that idea in mind, but it didn’t take long for me to see I was more interested in the dental field and in research. I would tell my younger self to pursue what makes you happy from the start. You can’t live your life based on what others expect of you, you have to find your own path.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on? 

In this field, it can be easy to fall into a method and not want to change that method. I have seen others in my field sometimes take a more aggressive treatment approach than I think is needed. I believe when deciding what needs to be done, it should not just include what is effective, but also what is easier on the patient. If we need to break up a procedure into more than one appointment, I would rather do that for the comfort of my patient than to finish it all at once, which may mean a harder recovery time.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do? 

I build relationships with other practitioners in the area so that we can all have a great resource within our field. I still teach as I am needed. Networking and making connections help you see how other offices do things and to have open discussions about new methods. This also helps bring more patients because doctors will refer their patients. Anything you can do that will increase your knowledge helps your business.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how. 

My strategy has always been to provide the best service you can and patients will come to you. I have done some advertising, of course, but most of my patients are referred from other patients. They will recommend my practice because we have a good team that really focuses on patient care, efficiency, and positive outcomes.

What is one challenge you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it? 

Understanding what a patient’s expectations are can sometimes be a challenge. Especially when I was younger, it could be a challenge finding out exactly what they were looking for. I had to learn how to really listen to the reason for being there, then dig deeper to find an underlying cause if there was one. From there, I could determine an effective treatment.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers? (this should be an actual idea for a business, not business advice) 

Orthodontics can take 3 to 4 years to complete the treatment. I am hopeful that as we advance in technology, we will be able to shorten the length of time it takes. This is something I have been researching myself.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why? (personal or professional) 

I bought new exercise equipment recently that will allow me to be active while doing something else, like watching TV or reading.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it? 

We have a software program we use in the practice that can predict and present, in 3D, the expected outcomes for my patients. This allows me to show patients how they will look upon completion and set proper expectations regarding any limits we may have.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why? 

Atlas Shrugged by Ann Rand It’s a bit political, but focuses on looking to better yourself as an individual in order to create a better society. It’s a very interesting read.

What is your favorite quote? 

“Be good today”

Key learnings: Write up 3-5 bullet points summarizing the key learnings from your interview.

  • Never stop learning
  • Treat everyone equally
  • Set expectations
  • Lead with compassion