Legendary Entrepreneurs of The Dental Industry, Jim and Naomi Rhode

In Culture by Dental Entrepreneur

When most of us think back on our life and those we have met, there are few people we would call “legendary.” The list for me is short. I was blessed with parents who attained that status with their marriage and career achievements. I have also been blessed to have Jim and Naomi Rhode as friends and mentors in dentistry. I refer to them as my “dental parents.” This article details the key takeaways of how they became “Legends in the Dental Industry.”

Like my parents, Jim and Naomi met and got married right out of college, and 66 years later, their achievements define the word “legendary.” Their journey in dentistry started in 1967. When they retired, they had grown their company, Smart Practice, to $100 million in annual revenue and positively impacted thousands of dentists, consultants, speakers, and vendors while maintaining a fantastic marriage.

They are referred to as “legendary” by all that know their story. They will say their 3 children, 12 grandkids, and 8 great-grandchildren are their greatest achievements. (Including spouses, 5 of them are Dentists.   Their achievements in dentistry and speaking can fill an entire page. What sets them apart from other legends is their fantastic marriage and partnership that spans over 6 decades together. 

Naomi has been awarded the CPAE, National Speakers Association Hall of Fame.

Both Jim and Naomi have been honored with the Cavett Award for their contributions to the Speaking Profession. 

Both were presidents of NSA, and Naomi was President of the Global Speakers Federation.

Naomi’s theme as President was ‘The Privilege of the Platform.’

Jim’s theme as President was ‘Voicing Vision and Values.’

Both themes have been long remembered and valued.

Jim was Arizona Entrepreneur of the Year in 1990, co-authored 3 books, spoke in Hawaii 88 times, spent 30 weeks a year speaking.

Naomi was an alumnus of the Year for the University of Minnesota Dental Hygiene School, authored five books, and Co-Authored many others.

It’s clear that Jim and Naomi Rhode, the founders of Smart Practice, have significantly impacted the dental industry and earned their legendary status through their dedication, innovation, and commitment to building solid relationships. Their story is inspiring, and their approach to business and life holds valuable lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs. Here are the key takeaways from their story:

  1. Building Genuine Relationships: One of the core principles that Jim and Naomi Rhode built their business and life upon is the importance of genuine relationships. They understood that fostering strong connections with patients, clients, and colleagues is crucial for success. This principle likely contributed to their long-lasting impact and the success of Smart Practice.
  2. Collaboration: The fact that Jim and Naomi Rhode worked together as a couple speaks to their ability to collaborate effectively. Their shared goals and efforts likely contributed to their achievements, and their partnership is a testament to teamwork’s power.
  3. Overcoming Challenges: Jim’s background, born during the Depression and having started as a long-range corporate planner, after graduating in Engineering from the University Of Minnesota, shows that success can come from unlikely beginnings. Despite challenges, he found his way into dentistry and identified opportunities within the field.
  4. Value of Small Improvements: They believe in finding 1% improvements in dental practices and building upon them to achieve success. This approach demonstrates how even incremental changes can lead to significant advancements. (Jim reports that a 1% improvement seldom remains 1%, rather: it grows to 3-10% improvement).
  5. Vision and Innovation: Jim’s involvement in disruptive innovations like preventive dentistry and patient education revolutionized the industry. Their emphasis on teaching patients proper oral care techniques highlights the value of patient education and behavioral change to prevent dental issues. Jim and Naomi Rhode’s visionary approach to dentistry, including preventive care and patient education, set them apart as industry pioneers. Their ability to recognize trends and adapt strategies to meet evolving needs contributed to their long-term success.
  6. Continuous Learning and Improvement: The Rhodes’ commitment to personal and professional growth is evident through their engagement with influential figures and dedication to continuous learning. They embraced opportunities to improve their skills and knowledge, likely contributing to their long-term success. Jim and Naomi Rhode’s involvement in education, both for themselves and others, reflects their dedication to continuous improvement. Their contributions to dental education have inspired countless professionals to strive for excellence.
  7. Impactful Speaking: Jim and Naomi Rhode’s extensive speaking engagements were crucial in disseminating their knowledge and ideas. Sharing insights through speaking engagements allowed them to reach a wider audience and inspire positive change in the dental industry. Their “Three Pillars of Success” approach started with speaking, then extensive multi-day seminars to build trust that drove the third pillar of product sales.
  8. Adaptability: The dental industry is subject to changes and advancements like any other. Their ability to adapt to these changes and stay relevant over decades demonstrates their flexibility and resilience.
  9. Strong Values and Ethics: Jim and Naomi’s emphasis on honesty, trust, and doing the right thing highlight the importance of integrity in business and life. Their deep faith in God is as strong as it comes. Their strong commitment to family is second to none. These values likely contributed to their reputation and enduring success. 
  10. Entrepreneurial Spirit: The Rhodes’ entrepreneurial spirit is evident in their willingness to take risks and explore new avenues. Their journey from starting Smart Practice to achieving a leadership position in the industry showcases their ability to identify and execute opportunities effectively.
  11. Thought Leadership: Through their speaking engagements, books, and publications, the Rhodes established themselves as thought leaders in the dental field. Sharing their expertise and insight helped elevate their reputation and influence within the industry.
  12. Longevity: The fact that Jim and Naomi remained active and influential in the dental industry for decades highlights their enduring impact. Their ability to stay relevant and maintain their status as legends over time is a testament to their lasting contributions.
  13. Impact: Their motivation to be change agents and positively impact people and practices exemplifies that success should be driven by a desire to create meaningful change rather than just financial gain. Their contributions to organizations and causes within the dental community demonstrate their desire to give back and uplift others. Even today, in their mid-80s, they continue to mentor and coach dental speakers and dentists.
  14. Role Models: Their recognition of influential dental industry figures as idols and legends showcases their humility and willingness to learn from others. This openness likely contributed to their continuous growth and development. They are role models for generations to come. They are proof that good people can finish first and that a marriage that includes being work partners can be achieved.
  15. Legacy: Perhaps one of the most significant aspects of Jim and Naomi’s journey is the legacy they have built. Their impact on the dental industry and the lives they’ve touched through their work and teachings will continue to inspire and shape the industry for generations to come.

Overall, Jim and Naomi Rhode’s journey in the dental industry showcases the transformative power of deep faith, genuine relationships, innovation, continuous learning, and values-driven decision-making. Their story inspires entrepreneurs in any industry looking to leave a lasting legacy through their work and contributions.

About Travis Rodgers:


Travis Rodgers specializes in technology, strategy, fundraising, go-to-market strategies, and tools for dental software companies. He is VP of Business Development for Revere Partners Venture Capital. His company, DrDDS Innovations, is best known for building many practice management integrations, custom software solutions, white-labeled software, dental databases, and marketing systems used by dental vendors and dental practices. He has developed 27 different dental software programs and helped launch hundreds of dental products since 2003. Travis grew up in Silicon Valley and is a lifetime entrepreneur. Travis is considered “The Technology Guy” in the dental industry. He was the first to develop the electronic referral, online scheduling, and a patient file-sharing app in the dental industry. Travis is a speaker and consultant on technology and implementing change in dental practices. You can find Travis on LinkedIn or subscribe to his Dental Venture Capital newsletter.