Founder, CEO, Progressive Dental
After graduating from Palm Harbor University High School, Bart Knellinger knew he wanted to start a business. So instead of going to college, he moved to Chicago and sold pizza coupons and oil changes door to door. From there, he found a full-time gig at Idearc Media to sell advertising packages to businesses and became the top sales rep in his first year.
But it bothered Knellinger that he didn’t have much access to help his clients with business strategy because his company wasn’t tracking ad campaign effectiveness. That’s when he decided to shadow his dad, a Palm Harbor dentist, to learn what his practice was doing for advertising. He quickly learned that, for dentists, running a practice is an afterthought. Knellinger persuaded his dad to start focusing on explaining the value of his more expensive dental services and to run education-based marketing campaigns about things such as gum disease. The practice grew from $800,000 in revenue to $3 million in two years.
Knellinger also attended continuing education courses, and convinced a company selling lasers that treats gum disease that he could sell its $100,000 lasers along with a full advertising package. In the first year he sold double that of the other 13 sales reps combined, he says.
Other dental practices started to learn about Knellinger’s advertising business, and his revenues grew from $170,000 in 2010 to a projected $15 million this year, earning him a spot on the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing companies two years in a row. Now the 35-employee company helps dental practices with everything from writing a business plan to continuing education to setting up a patient financing plan.
— Traci Beach
Name: Bart Knellinger
City of residence: Dunedin
Twitter handle: N/A
Title: Founder/CEO of Progressive Dental Marketing
Years on the Gulf Coast: 32
Marital status/children: Married
Alma mater: Palm Harbor University High School, no college
Best place to network: CE courses related to advanced technology
Coolest business experience: Being recognized at the Inc 500 Conference two years in a row.
The most important business lesson I’ve learned: The main reason for not accomplishing everything that you desire is not from a lack of resources but from a lack of resourcefulness. And that the ultimate resource is our natural human resources like creativity, passion, determination and love.
One website that makes your job easier: YouTube. It’s amazing you can sit through a $500,000 education and seminars from the smartest and most successful people in the country right from YouTube.
One community group you’re most involved with: We are very involved with local community study clubs in which doctors come together to talk about how to provide a higher level of care and service to people in the community. We participate in more than 50.
Favorite off-hours activity: Fly-fishing
Two people, dead or alive, you’d like to have dinner with: Mark Cuban, Thomas Jefferson
What you would be doing if you could pick another career: My career as an entrepreneur luckily can fall into several ideas or industries. But ultimately I would not pick anything else besides the challenge of entrepreneurship.
Most adventurous thing you’ve ever done: Becoming an entrepreneur
What’s at the top of your bucket list: Witness one of my sales reps earn more than $1 million dollars in one calendar year.
What new skill would you like to learn: I would like to improve on the skill of time management and execution.
Who would play you in a movie about your life: Leonardo Dicaprio
If I had a magic wand I’d: Ensure 100 years of perfect health for my family and employees.