3rd Place: Business Person of the Year 2017
The friendly and vibrant personality of Dr. Cuong Huynh, — AKA Dr. C — shows through in his chiropractic practice and in his community involvement.
You never expect to enter any sort of doctor’s office and feel comfortable. You’re there because you are somehow broken, begrudgingly spending time and money to be “fixed.” Often times, it’s cold, white and sterile. And you’re probably stuck waiting alone in a tiny room wondering what will happen next. However, when I walked into Discover Chiropractic to interview Dr. Cuong Huynh, runner up for the 2017 Business Person of the Year award, I felt anything but uncomfortable. The office has more of a coffeehouse vibe, with comfortable seating, a low counter, natural light, earth tones, and a team of front-end employees who will reach out and shake your hand with a smile. Once we started chatting, I immediately experienced the kind, caring attitude that Dr. C’s nominator (a past patient) spoke so highly of. We dove right in, chatting about his own experience with pain, how he was introduced to the world of chiropractic care, and his passion for building community through stellar customer service.
Growing up, Dr. C was the kind of kid you don’t see all day, and then have to search out at night. “My brother and I were both really active,” he says. “We lived in this apartment complex and there was a nicely wooded area outside of the school so we were always hanging out outdoors.” Combined with sports, all of this activity took a toll on Dr. C, and he developed severe pains in his feet and back. Things got so bad that if someone tapped his back in the right spot, he would fall to the ground in agony. His friends would use this weakness to mess with him, pressing into his back and watching him crumple. “They just thought it was funny,” says Dr. C. “But my mom took me to all the doctors we could think of. We had every test, every scan you can think of done.”
Time after time, the doctors found nothing, labeling Dr. C’s injuries as growing pains and putting him on painkillers. “My foot doctor eventually said that I had flat feet so he put some insoles in my shoes. They were supposed to help, but they ended up making things worse,” he says. By freshman year of high school, the pain was so excruciating that Dr. C had to quit track, football and basketball. “I loved sports,” he says. “I had to let them go. The next year was really tough because I didn’t realize how much of an impact that was going to have on me.” When his friends would ask him why he wasn’t going out for the teams, he would make excuses like ‘I’m working, I can’t make it’.
“I was trying to hide the fact that I couldn’t run anymore. I was ashamed of it,” he says. That shame depressed Dr. C throughout the rest of his high school years, taking an emotional toll on his personality and social life. “To be honest, I probably wasn’t the best person to be around. I just wasn’t myself,” he says.
Fast-forward a few unhappy and anger-filled years and Dr. C entered college to start a pre-med program. He figured he would be a medical doctor, or a dentist. “I was good at it, I liked the sciences,” he says. But without any kind of passion driving those career paths, he still felt a little lost. The only kind of exercise he could still do due to his injuries was weightlifting, so he would work out and make friends at the gym. One of his friends turned out to be a chiropractor. “We got to talking, I told him a little bit about my story, and he told me he could help me,” says Dr. C. “I didn’t understand, it just didn’t make any sense. After everything I’d been through, how could he possibly help me?”
However, the more his friend explained the relationships between biology and neurology and anatomy and physiology, Dr. C. began to connect the dots. Eventually, he let his friend adjust him for the first time. “I was pretty scared. But I just trusted him,” says Dr. C. Afterwards, he was astounded. “You suffer in pain for so long that you get used to it, and you kind of forget what it’s like to feel normal again. That feeling was so foreign,” he says. His friend traced his injuries back to a motor vehicle accident when Dr. C was only five years old. The car was rear-ended and Dr. C suffered a whiplash injury that went untreated, wearing away at him over the years.
Eventually, Dr. C was running again. Slowly at first but eventually doing a half marathon. “It was so cool, on the inside I was screaming,” he says. That was when he thought to himself, ‘Hey, there are other kids like me out there, kids who were never diagnosed properly and who are suffering.’
Dr. C found his passion. “It just kind of hit home. I realized that I wanted to find those kids and help them before they ever had to go through what I went through.”
He didn’t even have to change his degree since chiropractic had the same prerequisites. After graduating from the University of Washington, Dr. C moved to California to get his Doctorate in Chiropractic in San Jose. It was in graduate school that Dr. C. met his wife, fellow chiropractor Dr. Deb Bobendrier. After graduation, the two took jobs out west to learn the ropes. “We were learning a lot of stuff. We were having fun, but there is a part of it that we thought we were missing. We didn’t know what it was at that time. We couldn’t pinpoint it. But it wasn’t exactly what we had envisioned when we would have a practice,” says Dr. C.
In 2007 the two made the decision to leave those jobs and move back to Mankato, closer to Dr. Bobendrier’s hometown of Pipestone, MN. In 2008 they opened Discover Chiropractic in Mankato. “We didn’t know a single person there. I walked into the building that we had picked out and it was four walls and a dirt floor. It was so scary,” he says. But they kept their vision and stuck to it. After about four years, the practice moved to their current location on Riverfront Drive. In 2013 they opened a second clinic in Nicollet, where Dr. Bobendrier practices.
Between their two locations, Dr. C and Dr. Bobendrier see anywhere from 6,000 to 7,000 patients a year. Their business is clearly growing, and it’s not only because more people are becoming familiar with the benefits of chiropractic care. Dr. C’s nominator for Business Person of the Year and a former patient, believes it is his care and attention to detail that is driving the growth of Discover Chiropractic. Dr. C and his team believe in taking customer service to a new level, a level they believe is rarely experienced these days in the world of healthcare.
“Everybody says that their most important value is providing great customer service to patients and their care. The reality of what we saw is that it’s not really there,” says Dr. C. “I’m not saying that every place is bad. But I think as a society, we’ve provided very bad service for so long that we’ve gotten used to it.”
When working with Discover Chiropractic, the attention to customer service that goes above and beyond is immediately visible. The practice website lays out a mission, vision and core values that are brimming with positivity and action. Visitors can find a detailed description of what to expect when they come to the office, calming any pre-visit anxiety. The same care has been taken with on-site facilities; the Riverfront location offers ample parking, an inviting lobby with cheerful staff, and a children’s play area. The private rooms are warm and tastefully decorated, contrasting with the cold, sterile environments we’ve come to associate with healthcare. All of these measures help to instill trust between patient and doctor, a trust traced back to Dr. C’s initial introduction to chiropractic care. He trusted his friend from the gym and that trust brought healing to his decades-old childhood injuries. It makes sense that he wants to pass that sentiment along to patients in his own practice.
“Every decision we’ve ever made is focused on giving our patients a better experience,” says Dr. C. “We pay attention to every little detail. How they’re treated. What they see. What they smell. What they hear.” Instead of comparing themselves to “the best” chiropractor out there, Discover focuses on what the patient’s best, last experience is. That is what they are trying to compete with when thinking about customer service, striving to be better and innovative with how they take care of people. Dr. C loves changing things. One example of this, is how he handles the widely dreaded patient paperwork shenanigans. “I hate, hate paperwork. I hate going to my doctor and filling out, like, twenty pages and signing my life away,” he says. “When we first started our practice, our intake forms were twenty to thirty pages long. That’s what we were trained to do. But over time we changed that.” New patient paperwork at Discover Chiropractic now consists of a single page.
One of Dr. C’s favorite parts of owning a business is working as a team to change people’s lives. When patients first come to him, they are often miserable, hurting, angry, or reclusive. Because they’re hurting, they are, as Dr. C says, not themselves. “But you take that away from them. You help them feel better, help them get better. You get to see that real person behind all of that,” he adds. For Dr. C, helping people express themselves fully—to be part of a community—is the best part of being a chiropractor. The most challenging aspect of his job is overcoming the perceptions that surround chiropractic care. Many people are uneducated about this non-invasive form of healthcare, and changing those perceptions can only happen one person at a time. This is why paying attention to all of the little details and providing excellent customer service matter to Dr. C. “People always fear what they don’t understand,” he says. “But in the end, it’s worth it to me because this is my passion in life. What I want to do is take care of these people.”
When asked how it feels to be nominated for the Connect Business Magazine Business Person of the Year Award, Dr. C says he feels honored. “I’m honored because I feel like I’m still a newbie in this town. I’ve been here for eight years, and I moved here and didn’t know a single soul. I look back to where I was then and what I know now. I must’ve built a pretty good network of friends out here.” With a vision focused on building a thriving community, it’s no wonder that Discover Chiropractic has built strong networks in Mankato. “We’ve gotten heavily involved in the community in projects that are different every single year. My staff and I get together, and we pick a project,” he says. “My wife and I have other projects that are just close to heart.” Together, they have co-chaired Relay For Life, volunteered with the YWCA’s Girls on the Run program, the Southern Minnesota Children’s Museum, the Rotary Club, and countless other organizations. “There are so many different organizations that need help, whether it’s manpower or monetary. So we do the best we can and always encourage other people to go out there and help too,” says Dr. C. “The more people we can get out the better, because that helps build this community. It makes it a place that people want to be.”
Some Advice, On The House
“If you’re sitting at a computer all day, change it. We’re not designed to sit all day long. But if you have to, make sure your employees have access to a good chiropractor. Employers can save money and increase productivity by paying attention to ergonomics, exercise, nutrition, and chiropractic care to help prevent injuries before they start.”
And from a lesson learned firsthand: “If you or your kids have been hurt, or were in a car accident, please get checked by your chiropractor. It was the root of how I got to where I am, because a small problem that was barely noticeable got missed and turned into a tidal wave of an issue.”
Dr. C’s Advice on Being an Entrepreneur:
- Number one, just genuinely care about people. It takes you a long way.
- If you’ve got a vision in life that you want to follow, keep it in front of you. Do everything you can to move toward it.
- There are benefits and challenges—it’s a trade off. You have to decide what you want in life.
Chiropractic comes from the Greek words chiro and praktikos, meaning, “to do by hand.” A Doctorate in Chiropractic typically requires four years of undergraduate education, followed by four years of specialized training in an accredited Chiropractic college. Training includes extensive hours in human sciences, practical lab, diagnostics, and treatment.
Dr. C’s Degrees:
- Associate’s degree at Tacoma Community College
- Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Washington
- Doctorate in Chiropractic at Palmer College of Chiropractic West
Outside of Work
“I’m a big baseball nut.”
“I joined CrossFit last year, which was really fun.”
“I garden and raise tropical fish—I started the fish because I wanted to use the water for my plants in the garden.”
“My wife and I are BIG dog lovers. That’s why we have an office that is dog friendly as well as people friendly!”