By Willie Jolley
NNPA Columnist

No investors. No venture capitalists. No “Fund Me” campaigns. It was  “bootstrapping” with all the money taken from their savings account and money borrowed from the best man at their wedding. They started with little, but have built a massive entrepreneurial enterprise.

Have you been to a dentist lately? If so, you’ve probably been impacted by the rubber gloves, masks, thank you cards, industrial supplies and customer service excellence of SmartPractice® and its co-founders Jim and Naomi Rhode.

For more than 45 years, SmartPractice® has been the leading dental supply company in America – helping dentists interact better with their patients. Their focus on excellence in customer service and finding a need and filling it, has allowed them to expand those services into the areas of chiropractic, veterinary, general medicine, eye care, dermatology and the allergy fields.

They have been awarded the Award of Excellence for they way they treat their employees and customers. And for the 11th year in a row, SmartPractice®  has been named the healthiest midsized company in America to work for!   Their U.S. complex houses a gym with health programs and workout classes.

Who are the people behind this 100 percent privately held company?

Jim and Naomi Rhode. They began with nothing more than a dream and determination. They purchased a small dental lab from Naomi’s brother, who wanted out of the business. They now have more than 400 employees in the U.S., Canada and Japan, plus 5,000 employees in China.  Their annual corporate revenue exceeds $120 million.

While they have transitioned their leadership roles to family members, Jim and Naomi are still active entrepreneurs who are in-demand speakers as well. They are the only husband and wife team, who have served individual terms as president of the National Speakers Association.  In addition to speaking and consulting about what it takes to succeed as entrepreneurs, they freely share insights about how to succeed in marriage and life!

“While building a business, build a life,” the Rhodes say.  Couples must decide how much time they’re going to spend together. And work at being better together. Work together through bad and good times. They are business owners who are also people of faith. They say “Build a business that glorifies God and do it as Christians, but not as casual Christians! Take your message of excellence to the marketplace and serve others.”  They explain that the Hebrew word for “worship” is work and service. And they have done that exceedingly well.

From his years as a long-range planner, Jim Rhode has used his team building skills, financial analysis and operation streamlining. Naomi Rhode brought her exceptional communication skills and customer service savvy. They are a dynamic duo.

Early on in their business, they agreed to build their business before they built their dream home. They decided on “no blaming, just working the business together.

Their business model has been a triangle, with three areas of revenue: speaking at dental conventions to attract new clients, sponsoring seminars that provided added value and trust of those clients and selling products (the SmartPractice supplies).

Jim and Naomi have been married 58 years and still behave like newlyweds, with three successful adult children and 12 wonderful grandchildren. They share these lessons:

  1. Make a conscious decision to design your life the way you want it to be.
  2. Marry the right person. Marriage is a choice. Choose wisely. Then make good choices… and make the choices good every single day.
  3. Look for multiple ways to be successful.
  4. Work at communicating your ideas more effectively.
  5. Being an entrepreneur is more than 9 to 5.
  6. Be frugal. Look for every way to save a penny.
  7. Get a coach. Successful CEOs have coaches.
  8. Surround yourself with only quality people. You are whom you are around.
  9. Find a need and fill it. Then repeat the process.
  10. Be willing to bootstrap. If you cannot borrow money, use your own money, and/or your own sweat equity, and pull yourself up.
  11. When you work with family, make sure you commit to be in it to win it.  Together.  Be 1,000 percent committed to your marriage and family.
  12. Success in life and business is a choice, so choose to succeed. Then go to work to make it happen.

Willie Jolley is America’s #1 Inspirational/Motivational Speaker/Singer/Author!  He is the host of the #1 Motivational Show on Sirius XM Satellite Radio and the opening speaker on the national “Get Motivated Business Seminar Tour.” A member the National Speakers Association’s Hall of Fame, Jolley was named “One of the Outstanding 5 Speakers In The World” by Toastmaster International.  He is the author of several best-selling books and can be reached through his website (


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