Building a Family-Owned Dental Practice with Father and Son Duo Rick & Sully Sullivan


Rick and Sully Sullivan are the father & son owners of Sullivan Dental Partners, a fourth-generation practice in Brentwood, Tennessee, that has been in service since 1970. They are best known for constantly innovating and keeping up with the latest dentistry tools while keeping costs attractive to patients. Their team is composed of experts in endodontics, prosthodontics, sedation, and implant dentistry. Unlike other successful practices, Rick and Sully are continuously pursuing continuing education to ensure they remain at the top of their trade.

Rick and Sully join us to discuss what it’s like to run a successful, family-owned and operated dental practice and why they decided to set up a bigger office in an entirely new location. We discuss why Rick hired Sully as an associate and his biggest fears with hiring a family member. We discuss what the first months were like for Sully and how they kept everything professional regardless of what happened during the day. Rick discusses the time he was battling his inner demons and why his recovery was critical in Sully’s professional career. We also discuss what they do to stay at the top while working fewer hours.

“We got here because we continually invested in ourselves and technology.” – Rick Sullivan

This week on T-Bone Speaks Dentistry Podcast:

  • Rick’s dental experience before owning a practice
  • Rick’s biggest fear with bringing in an associate who happened to be his son Sully
  • What Sully’s first few months were like as an associate
  • The difference between working with a colleague and working with your father or son
  • Rick’s advice on handling the first six months of bringing in an associate
  • Where Rick’s practice would be if they didn’t take their son as an associate
  • Why Sully was more productive despite working fewer hours
  • How a cone beam can elevate your business’ growth
  • The different communication tools practices should own that helps patients understand a diagnosis better
  • How Rick and Sully were handling the competitive aspect of a professional relationship
  • Rick’s battle with alcoholism, his recovery, and how it improved his professional relationship with Sully
  • The realization that they were outgrowing their old office due to increasing productivity and new procedures
  • What the office transition was like between choosing a new space, the sale, and family drama.
  • Avoiding opportunity costs in dentistry
  • Rick’s thoughts on Sully’s suggestion of bringing in a third dentist
  • How they arrived at their 3 and 4-day work schedule
  • How they got to the level of dentistry they are performing today

Our Favorite Quotes:

  • “Depending on how you practice is how you should build your office.” – Sully Sullivan
  • “The dentistry you’re going to find and diagnose with a cone beam, and help patients understand and accept, is off the charts.” – Rick Sullivan
  • “If you don’t leverage and befriend reps, you wouldn’t know what it would cost to build something.” – Tarun Agarwall

Connect with Rick and Sully Sullivan:

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