Ask Tom Mayer for his actual job title and you’re likely to hear one of several monikers. “I prefer Rainmaker,” is one of his favorite answers. He prefers it so much, in fact, that he’s been using it on his business cards and website. “Saying CEO or Founder is so boring,” claims Mayer. “What do words like that tell you about someone’s responsibilities within their company?”
Rainmaker seems a fitting description for the man at the helm of Spirit Dental and its parent company, Direct Benefits. His track record for business savvy and chutzpah dates back to his childhood. (A “kid-for-rent” lawn service, started by Mayer at age 11, proved to be the springboard for a succession of highly profitable enterprises that Mayer has successfully launched, grown and sold over the years.) Indeed, Mayer’s story reads more like a classic tale of a self-made, American entrepreneur than a resume. The son of an elementary school janitor and a very artistic mother, Mayer credits his father for his work ethic and his mother for the ingenuity that has driven Spirit Dental’s innovative product design. “But it was really my dad’s experience with inadequate dental insurance – and the financial hardship that created for our family – that drove me to start Spirit Dental,” says Mayer. As a school employee, Mayer’s father had one of the best plans in the industry. But his diabetes caused lifelong dental issues. Often, his yearly $1,000 maximum was gone by February. “That’s when I was a kid,” says Mayer. “You know the worst part of that story? The worst part is that a $1,000 maximum was still considered the gold standard until about 2001.”
That’s when Mayer founded Spirit Dental.
According to Mayer, the dental insurance industry has been dominated by a handful of behemoth providers for decades. As a result, he says, the American public has come to believe that all dental insurance is expensive, difficult to acquire, and rarely sufficient to cover major procedures. “We rejected that thinking,” says Mayer. “And we began designing our products from the consumer’s point of view.”
Today, Spirit Dental offers a range of products to families and individuals, including retirees, that Mayer says are superior to anything else on the market. But, he is quick to add, creating better products was the easy part. Changing Americans’ beliefs about dental insurance has proven to be the challenge.
“When people start looking for dental insurance, they look at the same old companies that have been doing this for decades,” says Mayer. “And they see pricing and coverage limits that make them think they can’t afford to protect their oral health.” As a result, says Mayer, people have begun seeing dental insurance as a luxury. It’s a view that Mayer sees as potentially life threatening. “Studies have shown correlations between gum disease and heart disease, diabetes, and other serious illnesses,” says Mayer. “Just a simple, routine dental check up can uncover up to 120 illnesses early enough for them to be treatable. But every year, increasing numbers of people choose to skip their visits to the dentist because of the cost. That’s pretty scary when you realize that 75% of American adults have some form of periodontal disease and don't even know it.” Perhaps even scarier is the fact that more than one fifth of all American adults and 15.6% of American children (ages 6-19) have untreated cavities, placing them at risk for potentially fatal infections.
Those are the reasons that Spirit Dental exists, says Mayer. “We’ve set big goals for this company, but making a whole lot more money isn’t one of them,” he says. “Our goal is to start a revolution within the dental insurance industry.” With that, Mayer reiterates his open invitation to American consumers, whether they currently have dental insurance or not: “Take 30 seconds out of your day. Get dental insurance quotes from Spirit Dental, along with our (much larger) competitors. I guarantee you, you’ll see the differences.” After that, says Mayer, consumers can choose their next step. “We would love to see everyone sign up with Spirit Dental. But we would be just as happy if they went back to their giant insurance companies and asked them why they won’t provide $3,500 annual maximums, no waiting periods, and coverage of major procedures,” says Mayer.
Mayer, a self-described “very private person,” says calling himself the Rainmaker means being willing to go to whatever lengths necessary to achieve the company’s goals. “So, if I have to dress up like the Tooth Fairy and ride around town, on my motorcycle, inviting people to take the 30 second challenge, that’s what I’ll do.”
To learn more about Spirit Dental and Tom Mayer, please visit us at www.spiritdental.com. Click here to get your Spirit Dental 30 Second Quote.
(To see Tom Mayer as the Tooth Fairy, click here.)