A gavel hangs on the wall in the consultation room at Columbia Center for Dentistry. At first sight, it might seem out of place — this is a dentist's office, after all — but for Dr. Brad Miller, the gavel is a quiet reminder of the legacy his family began building in Columbia, long before he went into business.
"My grandfather Herb Jeans was actually mayor of Columbia, from 1969 to 1971," Brad says. "He built the Parkade Plaza and has always been an inspiration to me. That gavel reminds me that I'm carrying on his legacy, so to speak."
Although Brad didn't follow his grandfather into politics, he did inherit his knack for entrepreneurship, as well as a love for his hometown. Brad grew up in Columbia, and after graduating from the University of Missouri and then attending dental school at UMKC, he says this city was the only place he wanted to be.
"I really didn't think about going anywhere besides coming back and staying in Columbia," Brad says. "Twenty-five years later, and I'm still seeing patients now that I saw when I was starting out. It's incredibly rewarding that people put that kind of trust in me — and that they've done it for such a long time."
For Brad, that trust is essential to his practice. But then so is his vision. Poised at the helm of a thriving small business, he and his wife, Brittany, decided to take on a new challenge, one that would continue the practice's forward momentum while opening them up to new opportunities. It was a big leap. But the Millers were all in.
It takes two
Even before they met, Brad and Brittany Miller had a lot in common — careers in health care, Midwestern roots and a serious love of Harleys, to name a few. So it's probably no surprise that the couple, who connected through mutual friends about six years ago, hit it off right away.
"We were pretty much inseparable from day one," Brad says. "We really do like each other — and that's good when you're together as much as we are."
In 2011, Brittany, a nurse, came on board at Brad's dental practice as the office administrator "because it just made perfect sense," she says. Today, Brad and Brittany, who were married in 2013, both work at the practice, building the business together.
"When you work with your spouse, there's so much more riding on it than a work relationship," Brad says. "This is a partnership. Brit is my partner and my best friend. We put that to the test by working together. I know people question that, but there's no one you can trust more to get something done than someone you can trust completely."
"We have to give each other 100 percent," she says.
"We're also both 100 percent vested in this business venture," Brad adds. "We have a lot going on, and it takes the two of us really being involved in it to make it happen."
The business venture Brad is referring to is the new mixed-used building on Rainbow Trout Drive that houses Columbia Center for Dentistry. Although Brad isn't new to building offices (the current office is the third he's built with Landmark Bank in Columbia), it is the biggest project he's ever undertaken. The large structure not only houses Brad's dental practice on the lower level, but it also includes two other lower-level offices, along with executive-style condos above. The Millers own and manage the entire building.
"The interesting thing is, when we built this building, we built the apartment above the dental practice to live in, so we live where we work," Brad says. "When I say we're all in, I really do mean that."
Day in the life
Proximity means the day starts early for Brad and Brittany. From the minute their feet hit the floor, they're running ideas, planning the day and solving problems. If it sounds overwhelming, rest assured that Brad and Brittany say the benefits of living where they work far outweigh the drawbacks.
"We have the dental practice, and we also have the work that comes with owning a building like this and keeping our tenants happy," Brad says. "Being here makes absolutely the most sense."
From the dental practice side of the business, Brad's team of eight employees (he's the only dentist on staff) meets every morning to go over what they're doing as a group and how they're serving their patients' needs.
"We work hard to make sure we help each patient with their dental health and happiness," Brittany says.
"We have great patients," Brad adds. "They're really nice people. And I really, really like what I do. It's work, and it's a challenge. But I'm really happy with the life we've built."
For Brittany, solving people's problems and making their lives better are the best parts of the job.
"I get excited whenever I see someone who comes in really scared of dental work, and they come and put their trust in us, and then they get the work done," Brittany says. "Then I see them in the checkout area, and they say, "That wasn't bad at all," or they're just in shock about how it's nothing like they pictured in their mind. Seeing people have that revelation is amazing."
"Changing people's perceptions and giving them a positive perspective," Brad adds. "We love that."
Even as their practice continues to grow, the Millers are clear that Columbia Center for Dentistry is a hometown business — and they are a hometown family. Their blended family includes a grown son who's in the Marines, a married daughter and son-in-law and a 13-year-old daughter.
"For our family and our business, Columbia is where we want to be," Brittany says.
Around town, the Millers are involved with the Columbia Equestrian Center, where their daughter trains for competitive hunter jumper shows. They volunteer and donate to the Central Missouri Food Bank, Kings Daughters, Smiles for Life and Rainbow House, among other organizations, and Brad is president of the board at Woodhaven and a board member of Columbia South Rotary. When they do have free time, they enjoy the trails, local restaurants and all the benefits that come from living in a vibrant college community. And they love working with other local businesses.
"That's why I'm so happy with Landmark," Brad says. "If anyone should be able to help me with my hometown business, it's a hometown bank. When we pitched the idea for the new building, they were behind us 100 percent. It takes a bank like Landmark, one that cares about its community and customers, to help build a dream like ours."
And it's a dream that's been years in the making.
"When I had the chance to have a business of my own, I thought a lot about my grandfather, his hard work and success," Brad says. "I'm proud to be continuing that legacy in the place where I grew up. Every day, we get up, do our best and try to be thankful for it. Then the next day, we do it again."
"In life and with the bank, when you find happiness, you stick with it," Brittany adds. "That is our motto for life."
To learn more about Columbia Center for Dentistry, visit columbiacenterfordentistry.com.
Back to Blog