with Dr. Wong, Orthodontist and Salal Member
Appropriately, one of the first things you notice about orthodontist Dr. Keith Wong is his wonderful smile. His staff and new offices are every bit as warm and welcoming as he is, and his smile may be all the advertising he needs.
Dr. Wong was born and raised in East Lansing, Michigan. Son of an elementary school teacher and an engineer, Dr. Wong was drawn to orthodontics very early. “Orthodontics combines the spatial, aesthetic puzzle plus the biomechanical/biological, and then there’s this human being—it’s not just teeth. You’re working together and working towards something the patient can get excited about. It’s a way to get involved in this person’s life in a positive way.”
Dr. Wong attended the University of Michigan School of Dentistry before receiving his MS in Dentistry from the prestigious Department of Orthodontics at Saint Louis University. After completing his residency, he built—from scratch— a very successful, three-office orthodontic practice in and around East Lansing.
Unfortunately, 70-hour work-weeks at a large practice didn’t allow him time to build the kinds of relationships with his patients he felt were important. Then the sudden loss of his father reminded Dr. Wong of the fragility and brevity of life, so he and life-partner Mary decided to make a change: he sold the offices and they moved to Seattle in 1999.
For the next few years, Dr. Wong maintained a connection with one of the practices in Michigan, and he was able to fly back and forth. He enjoyed treating patients without the pressures of owning and running a large practice, and this led him to his next decision: a smaller practice in Seattle.
The business in Seattle is very different, intentionally so: Dr. Wong’s offices are in a largely residential area in Seattle’s Capitol Hill district, in a quiet neighborhood with few businesses.
“You know the people around; the people just drop in and say ‘hi,’” says Dr. Wong. “We were drawn here. It was the right place. I feel I really connect with the people. We’re about community and service; I’d like to think people feel this office is a little different—the people are relationship-based and interactive and see you, the patient, as an individual.”
“Relationship” is an important word for Dr. Wong, and a good way to describe his business practice and philosophy. He strongly believes in building relationships with patients and with his professional and geographical communities, and this idea informs and underlies his practice. For example, his building and business practices are very “green,” not because it’s fashionable but because he and his staff believe protecting the environment is part of providing the best possible service to patients and the community.
When it came time to open up his Seattle practice, he turned to the Credit Union he already knew: Salal. He and Mary have been members since June of 2000, and he felt comfortable about entrusting his business accounts to Salal. “I love the credit union philosophy: it’s about community and relationship. Your banker knows the true context of who you are and what your needs are. At Salal, I feel like they know me and care about me—they’re on Capitol Hill, they’re part of the community.”
How was it working with Salal as a business owner? Dr. Wong wanted to work with Salal enough to wait until our Member Business Services department was up and running. He especially likes that the person he spoke with and worked with—Carmella Houston, VP of Business Services—is also the person who ultimately makes the lending decisions.
“At a bank, you can have a great person talking to you, they may even know your needs, but when it comes time to, say, get a loan, that probably isn’t the person who decides. At Salal, I call and Carmella picks up the phone! She really understands our needs and situation, and when I asked her ‘who is the decision-maker?’ she said, ‘You’re looking at her.’ For any business owner…Salal is a blessing. They’re perfect for Seattle—local, community-based, relationship-based. Carmella is just super; she didn’t just hand me off to someone else. It was like having your friend be your banker; it worked out perfectly.”
Salal Credit Union is honored to be part of helping Dr. Wong build his orthodontics practice. To learn more about Dr. Wong, visit his website, http://drkeithbwongseattle.com/. If you’re a business owner in Washington State, we hope you’ll consider Salal CU for your business needs as well.