March 2019

Bryan Laskin
Founder of Lake Minnetonka Dental and OperaDDS

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Bryan Laskin, DDS is the founder of Lake Minnetonka Dental in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area. Along with founding his dental practice, Dr. Laskin has started several technology companies to aid healthcare practices including a HIPAA compliant communication system called OperaDDS and a virtual reality system for dental patients called OperaVR. Dr. Laskin is passionate about improving lives by elevating health through teamwork and technology. He is an active member of the American Dental Association, Minnesota Dental Association, Minneapolis District Dental Society, and several continuing education organizations. Dr. Laskin regularly donates his time and services to Donated Dental Services, volunteering comprehensive dental treatment free of charge to the disabled, elderly, or medically compromised individuals who cannot afford necessary treatment nor get public aid. He and his wife, Tesa, have two beautiful children, and in his spare time he enjoys martial arts, snowboarding, and guitar.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

All of the technology ideas that I’ve brought to life originated from me creating solutions to problems that I saw in my own practice. My focus is on using technology to improve the patient experience and make life easier for dentists.

As a dentist, I was looking for a communication system that was both effective and HIPAA compliant. I couldn’t find a viable solution, so I created one. I wanted an end-to-end system that included everything from paperless, patient-facing forms to phone texting applications that improve patient recall to a texting platform that allows patients to communicate the way that is most convenient to them. OperaDDS does that all. It helped our office run smoothly, efficiently and securely, so we wanted to help other providers do the same.

I began working on OperaVR after hearing from a speaker who talked about the benefits of virtual reality in treating pain and anxiety. The more research I did, the more convinced I became that it could improve the patient experience at dental practices. Anxiety prevents a lot of people from going to the dentist to get needed care. OperaVR has been a way to reach those patients, transport them to another world virtually and get them the care they need.

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

I like to start early to be productive. On a typical day, I wake up around 5 a.m. and exercise. While each day can be very different, I like to be hyper scheduled and avoid things like open-ended meetings. At the end of every day I pick three big objectives for the following day. I rank them 1 to 3, and I tackle them in order the following day. Having a few priorities every day and being very clear about them helps me to get less sidetracked.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I like to solve complex problems with easy solutions by breaking a problem down to the most basic solution I can create and then testing it. I start with the easiest product to fix an issue and build it up from there. I make changes and tweaks based on where I think the product should end up long term and what people tell me they want for it in the short term. Every idea for a product I have brought to life started as a more basic version of what it is now. The key is not to get overwhelmed. If you have a kernel of an idea, get started.

Feedback and how you deal with it is also key in bringing ideas to life. I have to have conviction in my idea and confidence that I understand the problem I am solving better than anyone. Understanding what feedback to act on has been crucial for me. If people can’t see your vision, their feedback can get you off track. If you ignore feedback, you can develop a solution that no one cares about. I listen to feedback, but then make my own decisions. I’ve always lead with my gut.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Virtual reality excites me. The power of therapeutic VR is barely being understood right now, but the transformation I’ve seen with patients has been phenomenal. It’s not just me, either. The dentists who are using OperaVR tell me the same thing; they’re blown away by the positive reactions from their patients. I think the healthcare applications for virtual reality are limitless. I have a friend who was in intense pain every time her husband had to change the dressing on a wound on her chest. She was desperate for some relief and asked me if she could try using OperaVR at home to distract her when her husband redresses the wound. She said it made an incredible difference. The experience motivated me to begin work on a straight to consumer VR product that anyone can buy and use at home for therapies like this. It’s in development right now. This experience with a friend is just one example of how VR’s power to ease pain and anxiety can be life-changing. This is a very exciting time for VR.

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

Meditation is key for me. I try to make sure I meditate every morning before I get my day started. When something comes up that causes me to skip meditating, I am not nearly as focused, and the difference throughout my day is clear. As an entrepreneur and creator of multiple products, there is always a lot swirling through my mind. Meditating allows me to take all of those thoughts and bring focus.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell my younger self to think bigger. I’m in this amazing position where I am combining my passion for technology and my passion for dentistry. If I would have believed this was an option earlier in my career, I’m convinced I’d be even further along and would have developed even more innovative tech products. Trusting my gut has been key, and I wish I would have started doing it sooner.

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

The Star Wars prequels are actually really good! I’m showing my colors here as a huge Star Wars fan. I know people think the prequels are garbage, but I saw Episode I in the theatre seven times. The art direction was amazing. They introduced iconic characters like Darth Maul and General Grievous. On top of that, the John Williams soundtracks are some of the best. I know it’s not a popular opinion, but I stand by it!

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

Maintain your curiosity. I question myself at every turn. If you think you know something or have it completely figured out, that is when you start to fail. Remaining curious allows you the ability to adapt. The marketplace is constantly changing, especially with technology. It’s easier to adapt to the changes if you are constantly questioning.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Building a great team and then not being afraid to rely on them has been huge for me. Delegating has definitely helped me grow my businesses. I am self aware enough to know that I am stronger in some areas than others. There are also tasks I believe I can be good at, but they are energy draining for me. It’s been crucial for me to build a team full of people that are good at doing the things I don’t enjoy doing. It allows me to focus on thinking big, concentrate on growing my companies and continue to innovate.

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

I’ve had multiple failures as an entrepreneur, and I think that’s a good thing! I’m committed to staying on the cutting edge of technology, but not all my ideas have worked. There have been multiple times I’ve created products that I felt were important but no one else cared about. Every one of those products was a learning experience that made me better. I’ve overcome those failures by constantly testing the marketplace. I put the product out there and if it fails or I quickly realize it is going to fail I move on. I think this is part of innovation.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Some of my first product ideas were related to pizza, and I still think they’d be hits. One is a pizza oven with a mirror on the bottom so you can see when the crust is done cooking without taking the pizza out or trying to lift it up. The other is a pizza cutter that can use magnetic slicers so you can cut an equal size of an odd number of slices. I got an A when I presented those ideas in a high school class, and I still hope someone runs with them.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I just bought a Neo Geo Mini video game system. It’s a 6-inch version of a classic arcade machine that I played in my teenage years. It’s been a blast to go back to some of the technology I grew up being excited about. But, the best part is that my son told me yesterday, “I like the Neo Geo better than our PlayStation.” It warmed my heart to see him connect with something I have such fond memories of.

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

The chat feature of OperaDDS was a game changer for interoffice communication with my team. Old methods like chasing each other down or using headsets or light systems were not efficient. The chat feature allows me to coordinate with the team via instant messaging that is secure and can be read right on an Apple Watch. It has been a key to increasing productivity and administering high quality care to patients. We can send patient updates or handoff checklists electronically. It means we’re all walking into every appointment prepared and not wasting our time or the patient’s time.

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

Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen
In the speed of today’s world, it’s easy to be passed over or have your message overwhelmed by noise. This book talks about the importance of making sure you are giving people a simple, clear message that communicates your ideas. I think it’s vital for entrepreneurs, and in this book, Donald Miller does a great job of explaining how to do it.

What is your favorite quote?

“A smart man can get himself out of a situation that a wise man wouldn’t get into in the first place.”

Key learnings:

  • The best innovations come by creating solutions to problems you know well.
  • Identify 3 key objectives for every day before you go to bed the night prior. Creating clear priorities for yourself will help you to get less sidetracked.
  • Feedback and how you deal with it is crucial to growing any business. Listen to feedback, filter it, then make your own decision.
  • Build a team you trust and don’t be afraid to delegate.
  • Read “Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen” to learn how to create a simple, clear message for your business that will resonate with customers.