My name is Bil Watson. I’m the CEO of Brighter Image Lab and we create amazing smile makeovers for people who can’t (or refuse to) pay what the dentist would charge.
The game-changer that allowed us to lead the industry in this segment was the design and creation of the removable dental veneer. We have three branded tiers of veneers (PressOn Veneers™, BilVeneers™, and IncrediBIL™ Veneers) each one more advanced than the last - but all of them being a fantastic, affordable option for a new smile.
Our clients come from all places, all backgrounds. They’re very diverse, but they all share 3 things in common. #1) they’re unhappy with their smiles, #2) they’re not satisfied with the traditional options offered by dentists, #3) they want an affordable option.
That combination of the right audience, with an innovative new product, has allowed us to take advantage of substantial growth in the last 10 years. Even earning us a spot on the INC 5000.
What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?
I know I’m probably in the minority on this, but I hate that term. I mean, I get that it's how we try to define people who create, and build, and grow companies but I feel like it’s been really been co-opted by every other 20 something on Instagram. Seeing people treat the word entrepreneur like it’s a lifestyle instead of a job description has just ruined the term for me.
People spend too much time trying to make something perfect before they’ll move forward. Don’t do that. Life rewards action, so take some action.
But whatever you want to call it - I don’t remember a time before that. I had my first business before I turned 18, and it was never about looking for some perfect opportunity. I was just working. The more work I did, the better I got at it, and I knew as long as I followed the money, I’d be okay.
I don’t have some secret formula for seeing the future of a company, or an industry, or anything like that. Shoot, if you asked me in the 80s, I’d have told you that anything related to recreational golf was doomed to fail. I didn’t see any way that the industry would survive. And last year there was something like 400m rounds of golf played in the US alone. So I’m the last guy you want to make predictions.
Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?
On day one, I didn’t know I was on a journey. I knew a little about working on cars from a part-time job I had at 16, and so I figured out how to tint windows, and get people to pay me for it. So I did that. I did a lot of it, and people learned to come to me for it.
After a while, a good guy I had known for a long time offered to rent me a garage space next to his CB radio shop so I could grow. Before I knew it, I had more work than I could do. From there it eventually grew into a franchised brand with over 100 locations.
With Brighter Image Lab, what got me really invested is that I noticed people were going out of their way to avoid asking their dentist for help. Something about that didn’t seem right, so I just tried to figure out why that was. I spent a lot of time learning how I could provide them the things they weren’t getting from the current system. It started as teeth whitening. For years we were the #1 online seller for teeth whitening, but eventually, that market got saturated and it became harder to compete with the fly-by-night guys.
Eventually, I realized that the people who were ordering online teeth whitening need a lot more than just whitening. I was seeing people’s dental models come through and they’d be missing half of their teeth. Or they’d be crooked or broken or stained beyond belief. I’d look at my staff and say “They really want to whiten this?” They needed something better than what teeth whitening could offer, so that’s when I went to work developing the removable veneers.
Within three months of launching, it was our flagship product. We were back-ordered for weeks, and we had to work our way out of it, at a time when we were still brand-new to making them. It was a steep learning curve, but we came out on the other side, at the forefront of an entirely new industry, and we’ve been working to stay there ever since.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Brighter Image Lab is stronger than it's ever been. This year we expect to not only make it back on the INC 5000 for a second time, but we expect to be much higher on the list than before.
We’ve seen a lot of companies shrink in 2020. It’s sad to see people affected by a pandemic in this way. But the natural order of business means that companies live and companies die, and when you see contraction at this level, we knew there was going to be room for growth. We got together as a team and we committed very early on that we weren’t going to slow down a bit. We spent the last few weeks of Q1 making a battle plan; snatching up all kinds of remnant advertising, exploring platforms other people thought were dead and gone, and we invested in the tools we needed to grow. That commitment to being aggressive has paid off better than any of us imagined!
On the near horizon, you’re going to see not just growth, but expansion. We already do a lot of business in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the UK, but before the end of 2020, we’ll be ready to service those clients with a new regional presence, which will allow us to grow the markets substantially in the next 12 months.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Don’t judge yourself by your best or your worst days. The reality is always somewhere in the middle.
There’s an ocean of people out there who need your product, and if there isn’t, you’re selling the wrong product.
Nothing can replace passion in what you do. There’s not a single day that goes by when I don’t get new photos of our clients with an amazing new smile. The change that it makes for them, the way that it improves their lives… I’m not just saying this - it’s what keeps me going. If it weren’t for them I’d have gotten out of this 10 different times already - because it’s been HARD. But I have a passion for what we do here, and the difference we make.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
In the beginning, the tools we needed were hard to find, or non-existent. Now it seems like just about anything you want to do, you can find 10 different places - and you can actually afford them!
We use a lot of prebuilt software that we configure to our needs. Probably the most prevalent is the Zendesk Suite. It does a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to providing a solid customer service experience.
We have a totally customized CRM/ERP that we built on the back of an out-of-the-box shopping cart/POS software. That’s really the central nervous system of our whole operation.
But the real magic is our 3D Design & Manufacturing system. I won’t get into the specifics because we enjoy some trade secrets that keep our head and shoulders above any imitators, but I can tell you that to get this thing rolling we had some of the best minds in the dental industry, working alongside MIT software engineers, and it took all of us, just to get to a 1.0 processes. I think we’ve stopped counting now, but I’d say our veneers are in their 7th or 8th generation of major improvements, all new and emerging technologies.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I think I’ve mentioned this a few times, in other interviews, but the book Purple Cow by Seth Godin really helped me set my mindset right. Our products are so disruptive and odd to someone who’s learning about them for the first time, that learning how to craft a message that matches what we do was a lot easier with the advice I got from that book.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
There’s a great quote from the cast/crew of Saturday Night Live, that I always loved. “We don’t go live because we’re ready, we go live because it’s 11:00.” In other words, get to work! People spend too much time trying to make something perfect before they’ll move forward. Don’t do that. Life rewards action, so take some action.
I also think that knowledge/experience isn’t a limiting factor anymore. If you can get access to YouTube, you have the world’s best education at your fingertips. There’s more than 10 lifetime's worth of information on any given topic, so saying “I want to - but I don’t know how” isn’t really an excuse anymore. At least not in my mind.
Where can we go to learn more?
We have profiles in all the places you could want: Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter - but the one you’re really going to want to follow is YouTube. YouTube is where you’ll get to know me, my staff, but most of all you’ll meet our clients. They’re the real stars of our channel and that’s where you see what we’re really about. In the end, it’s not about us, it’s about them. To know them is to know us, so go subscribe and see what we do.
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