May 17, 2023

Episode #81: Megan Lohman – Plan Forward

Plan Forward offers a solution for designing and managing your inhouse membership plans, for dental practices. We enable practices to determine the pricing and terms of their own plans and drive a recurring revenue stream. Uninsured patients benefit too, with access to a custom plan with simple, transparent pricing and terms. Our solution includes a best-in-class software platform and a customer service team that partners with practices to grow these plans and ensure their success.

As Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Plan Forward, Megan is passionate about creating profitable insurance alternatives for dentists and loves being an integral part of Plan Forward’s evolution. She has a heavy focus on product development, enterprise client onboarding, and internal operations. Prior to starting her career in the dental space, Megan gained business experience in sales, recruiting, and was the first employee of a marketing agency where she had her first taste of entrepreneurship. Megan graduated from Indiana University and currently resides in Westfield, IN with her husband, Peter, two kids, Henry and Leah, and their German Shepherd, Vino.


hello this is coach Tim Campsall and I’m your host for the self-made is a myth make a difference together show where we are chatting with business owners and entrepreneurs to learn their journey of building their business and because we know that success in business doesn’t come uh alone and in isolation we’re taking some time to recognize the folks who have helped us along the way and and give them some shout outs and and share the ways that they have helped us to build our business today I’m excited to have a fellow business owner from Indiana with us my guest was part of a 3200 meter relay team in high school and uh she broke the school record for the fastest time her favorite thing to do in her downtime is to go to the beach and with her family and brunch with girlfriends and she’s most proud of creating something that has enough potential in the marketplace that she was able to get her business partner to join her on this adventure it’s my pleasure to welcome Megan to the show today hello Megan hello thank you for having me absolutely well hey let’s start with um having you introduce yourself tell us a little bit of your personal story where you were born and live and your family and some of your hobbies yeah um so I’m from Northern Indiana I grew up in Fort Wayne um I went to college at IU so down in Bloomington um after college I moved around a little bit and then ultimately landed back here in Indianapolis um I’ve been here I guess ever since 2007 and I got married so I married my husband Peter and I live in Westfield with our two kids we have a daughter Leah who will be seven and a son Henry will be nine actually this summer so they keep us busy we have a German shepherd and um yeah we love we love Westfield fantastic well we are neighbors I’m uh I’m in Noblesville but right on the Westfield border we are neighbors we could have just met in person it might have been easier

um is there a funny story that your family likes to tell about you that you’d be willing to share with us today

um yeah so I don’t know how funny it is it was funny to me but when I was growing up um as a teenager I was I was a little bit rebellious um I’ve always been a risk taker and um I I was always with my friends I never wanted to be home I was always on the go and I think this really just gave my parents a run for their money and um so when my husband actually went to ask my dad’s permission to propose um I guess I didn’t realize how much of a run for uh their money I gave them but my dad you know he immediately was like you know yes of course he’s like but man if you have a daughter good luck she was a handful that’s literally the first thing he thought of and the only thing he said and I was like well okay that’s awesome

hey Megan tell us how did the business come about and at what point did you have the confidence that you could run your own business so I worked at a dental practice here in Westfield and um I wasn’t you know it was really more of a stepping stone job for me I thought at the time I was looking at going back to school for education and we were getting married you know it was kind of a personal transition time in my life and so when I started working in this dental practice for with my friend’s husband and um you know I had a little bit of a different perspective when I started working in the practice than maybe some dental office administrators and it was very clear to me that you know there were just so many nuances and inefficiencies within the practice and challenges with dental insurance specifically when patients were asking um you know me for advice or guidance on what to do because their dental insurance was changing and so it was a little bit baptism by fire where I learned more the business side of of how to run a dental practice and I stayed there much longer than really either one of us ever intended and um he the the doctor opened a second practice so I kind of helped with that business transition and just working with the patients and trying to help them solve a problem and come up with a solution for dental benefits was really we really you know learned that cutting out the middleman in dentistry is really advantageous for patients and for for the business owner um so we we kind of created this organic homegrown plan in the practice and started offering it to our patients and it created this solution you know that that ended up really working out so well both for patients and for the for the business um and I I’m not sure I would say I ever was like yes I’m confident this is something that I could do and you know this is this is the time but what I was confident in is that we we had I was confident in the solution I was confident that this was a great solution for patients and for dentists and that um we had great experience and exposure to all different types all different sides of the business including the legislative side which um you know we’re in a regulated space and so we just had all the pieces that are really necessary to do what we do really well so I was confident in that uh and then I had some cheerleaders behind me namely the dentist and my husband at the time really kind of pushing me forward so I relied on their confidence and just kept putting one foot in front of the other I love it that’s fantastic so tell us a little bit more about the company what’s what’s the name what do you guys do how do you help people yeah it’s called plan forward and it’s a SAS software that we um offered in dentists so our customers the dental practice and they use our software to offer subscription plans to uninsured patients so our the plan itself is what we help the the dental office create and price and give them marketing materials and training and kind of support them getting it off the ground and then our software is really the the engine that white labels all of this for the practice and um it it runs the subscription if you will within the dental practice fantastic and for those listening if you’re not sure what SAS is it’s software as a service so think of you know software programs that are sold like a product except it’s software right yes exactly so once we implement the start using our software it’s evil relationship as long as we’re doing our part and the patients are happy um we we’re pretty much stuck together awesome so you mentioned this already a little bit but tell us a story where someone pushed you or inspired you that you could do it even though maybe you weren’t sure that you could and the impact that that person had on you yeah um we’re five years in about five and a half years in and there was one specific quarter that was just really really hard and um I remember we were at the very end of our cash flow our pipeline you know wasn’t looking super strong our our prospects were also facing lots of challenges themselves and so our sales cycle was taking longer than it ever had before and it was just it was a struggle and at that time I really I didn’t know the answer and I didn’t I couldn’t see the business surviving truthfully and I was in a meeting with our my two closest advisors Mike Reynolds and Scott craigie and um I remember that mean I was terrified and I could tell that they they knew I was terrified and so they were like well you know what’s the absolute worst case scenario and I was like well we have to shut this down like we’re done and they’re like okay well let’s talk through that and so we did this like visualization and we went through this exercise of the absolute worst case scenario in the steps that you know would have to be taken and how we would actually shut the business down and after going through that process it almost like removed the fear of I mean it was still a terrible time but it was like just going there and talking it out loud helped to kind of allow myself to look past it and so once we did it um they were like okay well how do you feel and I I was like well it was awful but I’m not ready to be done yet like I still want to keep going and so they’re like okay well what you know they then what was next was what are the hard decisions that need to be made right now quickly to survive and that was not a fun process but it was like this has to be take this has to be done or else this worst case scenario is gonna happen and so I think you know it was absolutely the hardest time as a as a business leader but it was such a moment of growth and just such a powerful moment from just a leadership perspective and you know it’s just it’s part of the territory wow I I love that idea of what’s the worst case scenario so that you can you can just experience it right and live it a little bit and and see what that’s going to feel like that’s a that’s a great exercise yeah I mean it’s hopefully you’re visualizing positive experiences too but like thinking about what’s the best case scenario to like help motivate you to get there but at the same time sometimes you have to do you have to go the other way too to understand that the world will still keep spinning and you know there you have choices yeah to build on your point that that’s an exercise that we typically do with our clients what’s the worst case what’s the best case what’s the most probable all right so now found that you’ve you know you’ve had those emotions now let’s move forward but the most probable all right and yeah put strategies in place to mitigate against the the worst case yeah yeah absolutely so what’s been your biggest learning as a business owner

don’t let yourself get too high and don’t let you know um and I think that so I work with a professional coach as well and um I think we discovered in one of our more recent meetings that I think that’s almost like a survival tactic that also sometimes can work against you because you don’t necessarily let yourself feel the highs and lows and kind of process those emotions and um somebody I was on a flight literally the day before we started playing forward and like the day before day one of doing this and um this guy I’m on the flight was an entrepreneur and he said I think this was like you know an intervention a higher power like right next to me and he said the first two years are going to be brutal just get through the first two years and I never forgot that and so I allowed myself to not have any work-life balance to just go all in for the first two years um and so I did that and then it was don’t get high don’t get too low and I think that was kind of the survival mechanism that allowed um myself and the people around me to like keep pushing this thing forward until it kind of got started to get some legs um but I think the other biggest thing that for me I’m a little bit of a people pleaser I’ve become less of one but it’s also the the biggest learning is not everyone is going to understand your decisions and not everyone’s going to agree with them and not everyone’s gonna like you and you have to be okay with that and that’s okay yes you know it’s it’s complicated yes what’s the famous uh saying other people’s opinions are none of my business exactly that’s absolutely true it’s like something that you know I think sometimes especially for people Pleasers that’s a hard thing to remember it is yes and you mentioned the the emotional you know the ups and downs I call that the emotional rollercoaster right it’s um I’ve been in this uh mindset coaching program for about two years and and one of the things that that we learn in that is our feelings are real they just may not be the correct feelings because they’re tied to a false belief yeah so if we if we believe you know sometimes we as business owners we can get caught in the the wheel of I’m not good enough I’m not capable I’m not going to be able to figure this out right and like well no that’s those aren’t true because look at the things I’ve done in my past right so now we can change that feeling right and it Smooths out that roller coaster ride a little bit more yeah well an imposter syndrome is so real um you know especially if you’re someone like myself who I never aspired to be an entrepreneur I never thought I would ever own my own business or take this leap and so to to just kind of find myself in this position and and growing and it’s working and you know to then have to continue to kind of find that confidence and to tell myself like I’ve earned this seat at the table right it’s hard yes and it doesn’t help when of course everybody on social media only puts their their best foot forward right so definitely yeah I I’ve heard a lot of folks say hey Tim you know we do events where we bring business owners together and they get to share some of those realities and they’re like oh my goodness I thought I was the only one that thought that way or struggled with that and now that I’ve heard that everybody in the room does it’s just this big sense of relief of oh so we’re kind of all in this together yeah absolutely absolutely and I mean that’s that’s another thing a learning you know have other Founders and CEOs you know in your circle because um it’s it’s hard you know it’s Lonely at the Top as they say it is yes indeed um so Megan we know that business success doesn’t happen in isolation so kind of building off of what you just said tell us about um if it’s the same story then we’ll we can skip through this but what’s the biggest challenge you had um as a a Founder over the years and yeah um who’s somebody that came alongside of you and helped you to get through that challenge yeah um well ironically it’s the same advisor obviously he’s had a big impact in in in helping you know plan forward get to where it is but a couple years ago we went through uh company recap and um it was basically you know changing the ownership structure of the company from when it was originally founded and as you can imagine um that’s a really hard thing to do we had investors we had you know Founders business partners you know there were a lot of people that had different perspectives and um this you know Scott my advisor was able to help me walk through you know and filter these different scenarios and talk through you know and take emotion out of it and and help you know and help kind of um Shepherd me through that process with with doing the recap and um he also had a loud voice at the table you know and so um I think going through that experience and I mean it was every bit of a five or six month process that was just incredibly stressful um but you know I think going through that having Scott having a professional coach that I work with my husband you know those are some of the the core people that um at the end of the day I don’t I don’t know if I would have been able to to push through that process with without those people yeah that’s awesome you mentioned earlier being lonely at the top and having these decisions that you know we’ve never faced before and having to sort through them so it’s great to hear that you’ve had you know people that you could rely on to to think things out loud because oftentimes that’s the that’s really the the best part of it is right be able to bounce some ideas out loud and get other people to pick it apart and and and flip it around on us and you know everything that we need is really inside of us but we don’t always know and appreciate that right well and another thing I think at least for Founders who end up taking outside Capital um sometimes your advisors are your investors and it can be hard to share the things that terrify you and the scary stuff and the bad stuff with the people that also invested in the company and had confidence to to support you and so um while they I I think most investors understand you know especially if they were Founders at one point or an operator um you know they expect you to have that and they want to hear that but from from my seat it can be really terrifying to really open up and to be honest about what’s going on to get the help that you know in the direction that you might need yes hey folks who’ve given me all your money I just uh made a bad decision and lost some of it

put you on the spot here a little bit uh three people that in your business owner Journey that you’re most grateful for being there to help with your growth who are those three people and how they help you hmm well it would be an absolute Miss if I didn’t say my husband um and not because he’s my husband but he literally you know we have two small kids we started this when they were one and three and so financially you know he’s helped back the business and the family and emotionally he’s you know held me up when I you know maybe wasn’t at my best and just literally taking care of the kids when I was all in on the work so I mean he’s hands down the one that deserves you know all the credit to be fair um but in in the business world and the business Community you know people outside of my family um Scott craigie is absolutely uh you know number one um these are all number one um Mike Reynolds and really Lacey ladies at innovate map innovate map has just been a huge huge supporter and cheerleader of of us they’ve you know done a lot of work with us but not only you know I am do I love of working with them they’re friends at this point and they really just support they’ve supported me in the business even when I’m not working with them you know I know I can call and um and they’re going to help however they can um and I think the third one is um Jenny Vance she was she’s still in Indianapolis she’s been a huge member of the entrepreneurial ecosystem here and she’s just a sales Guru or a revenue generation Guru growth Guru and she was someone who I connected with early on when we had our our MVP and I was like okay how do you build this thing and I had no idea so I combed LinkedIn to find someone local who I was like I want to meet that person to figure out how to sell and that person was Jenny Vance and luckily we had a mutual connection they put us in touch we met at the Speakeasy and um she not only did she impress me from day one but um she championed me personally as you can do this you’re you know I see this business having value you know I can see you being a leader have confidence and so even still to this day if I’m having a really challenging you know if I’m going through a difficult decision she’s my first phone call um because she’s someone who I can be totally my authentic self and she’ll give me the goods the bads and the others she she’s also she’s probably the other one on that list that’s awesome I love that you mentioned be your authentic self so it takes away a lot of stress to to not have to you know dress up in a certain way or pretend to be a certain person right and there’s there’s just not enough time and and energy when you’re in a startup mode right to be Faking It Right you’ve got to be all in just doing what’s required so that’s awesome that you’ve got people that you can you can just be your true self with yeah I mean there’s there’s no other way to your point

fill in all the time as you think about the next three to five years what are the biggest challenges that you see that you’re gonna face to in getting to your goals and who are the types of people that you’ll need to help you solve those problems um I I can feel it and I I believe we’re at just this kind of this critical scale point and um the thing that makes the engine move as people and the team and we are at this point where we’re going to be adding to the team and it’s it’s all about the onboarding and the training and you know making sure you’re hopefully vetting people and getting getting the right people on board that want to be here but also I think there’s pressure too in you know people are people people are complex it’s hard you know as a as a leader it’s you know you want to build a good culture and you want this to be someplace people want to be and there’s a lot of pressure that comes with that so I think for me specifically um for I have a co-ceo now who you know which is just has been an amazing experience but I tend to focus more on internally in the business and the operation so I’m heavily involved when people you know join the team and so I just feel that obligation and um you know desire to create something great that people want to be a part of but I think that people are the biggest challenge so I think building the team over the next three to five years and really making sure that um the company is what what you know we hoped it would be from the beginning is going to be one of the biggest challenges I like your perspective of having a place that people want to be a part of right creating that culture that folks enjoy and they tell others about because um at the end of the day we spend a lot of time at work and so having it be something that we look forward to doing and something that we enjoy and that we have relationships and friendships at work and right and we we are we agree with the the bigger goal or the bigger purpose of the organization is we all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves and and so I love that you’re that you’re intentional about creating that environment and that culture and and bringing the right people on board because we’ve all had experiences where we’ve brought on the wrong people right and realize that oh that that was that’s not a good cultural fit that’s right and it’s like oh go back to your you know interview questions and you know try to add some more what did we miss here or you know how did we miss the boat you know I think everyone’s been in that situation and so just trying to do a good job you know up front too of of bringing on the right people because not only is it you know it’s a risk to culture but it’s also so expensive and time consuming when you do bring on the wrong people um and you know anyway enough said but actually I just didn’t want to add I use that to with my kids too to try to motivate them I mean they’re little still though they’re like Mom do you have to work still when are you gonna be done working and I’m like listen this is why it’s important to do really good in school and do your best because you’re going to have to work when you’re done with school you want to do a job that you want to do you know you want to be able to choose the kind of job you want to do that’s awesome there you go right being able to to use the same examples in two different you know in your two different lives that’s that’s efficient right I’m all about efficiency deficiency and scalability last question Megan um Brown awesome uh business Guru and and author uh one of his quotes is we become the average of the five people we spend the most time with so as you think about that what advice would you have for for business owners and Founders and um entrepreneurs who are trying to do it on their own who think that they they can’t ask for help they shouldn’t ask for help they just got to do it themselves yeah um my biggest advice is stop trying to do it by yourself and I I mean literally from early on um my advice you know we were thinking about and looking for really a co-founder or a co-ceo because especially and and we get pushback on that sometimes and people question how does this co-ceo model thing work and there’s a great article by Mark Benny off about the co-ceo model and especially at our stage it’s so it’s been so amazing so I would recommend specifically for for that kind of that startup phase or when you’re going through kind of the capital raise before you’re maybe profitable that two CEOs is so amazing because you tend to be doing two full-time jobs anyway on top of a personal life if you have any you know if you have a personal life at that point but you know one person to work outside of the business and on the business strategically and the other person to really work in the business and manage the business it is just it’s it’s made a world of difference and it’s allowed me um to take this this job and you know that’s really become more than a job that’s stressful and it’s anxiety provoking and you know there’s there’s a lot of you know heavy emotions and thoughts that go into to trying to grow something but it’s taken that and it’s made it something that really is like fulfilling because I have a business partner that you know is in it with me a hundred and ten percent and so maybe it’s not doing a recap bringing somebody in and having a co-ceo but you know having that person that’s in the The Trenches with you and as dedicated and invested as you are it like it just divides the the weight of it all and it somewhat allows you to to just enjoy it a little bit more and when I talk to entrepreneurs who are at my similar stage or people that I’ve met who um you know where we kind of all started together almost everyone is like where did you find your co-ceo how did you find your co-ceo I’ve been thinking about something like that a lot or I want to bring on a CEO you know somebody who’s in it with them and I would just I wouldn’t hesitate it has been the best decision um that that we could have made for the business it’s fantastic you’ve also talked a lot throughout this interview about your outside counsel and advisors and stuff so um just share a little bit more about the value that they’ve brought to you guys oh my gosh you um

I think select them wisely and choose I got advice at one point you know choose an advisor for kind of each area of the business you think of the different functional areas of the business pick someone who’s done it before and is ahead of you because they just have such insight into what you will likely be facing and they’ll they’ll they’ve been there and so um from formal and informal advisors um you know I just there’s no way that you can be prepared for everything you’re going to face and when you are faced with these difficult challenges you usually need answers quickly

someone who’s got some context about you and the company and maybe where you’ve been and where you’re going so that they can help guide you or at least give the best you know recommendation that they can if you’re coming in cold no you know the person doesn’t know you at all right it’s going to be harder to get good advice from somebody because they don’t really know the situation yes you made it that gave me a picture in my head of you know when you call it you know for a problem right so if the plane is you know is diving what you don’t want the person on the other end of the lines well have you plugged it in right have you exactly exactly where I’m at yeah where’s the extra engine

sounds like you’ve had um some incredible people in your your journey so far that you’ve been blessed to have um you know walking this journey with you if they were all on the show here today what would you want to say to them thank you um please don’t leave my side this is you know we’re not stopping it’s not gonna get any easier if anything you know the problems are going to get bigger and the decisions are going to get heavier and you know I need every single one of you who who’ve been there and thank you to the people that are to come I mean really it’s all about that fantastic well it has been a pleasure speaking with you today thank you so much for being on the show thank you so much this has been so much fun to everyone who tuned in thanks for listening to the self-made as a missed show with your host coach Tim cancel be sure to help us spread this Movement by liking the show and uh posting it on your social media and to join our movement go to all right folks that’s a wrap make sure to pay it forward and I’ll see you all next time take care