Profession Progression, the Story of a Lifetime, Part 1: Michelle Kratt

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Michelle Kratt started her dental practice career at age 15.

A Childhood Medical Vision

It’s amazing how your dreams and ambitions can change from what you envision yourself doing as a child. For me, a dental practice never entered my mind – I was determined to be a respiratory therapist.

As a severe asthmatic, I spent so much of my childhood in the hospital that when added up, I actually missed two full years of school. After all that time at the doctor’s office and in the hospital, I had decided I was going to do something to help other people with asthma. After all, who can relate better with respiratory-disease patients than someone who went through it themselves? Well, here I am 26 years later, and I did not end up as a respiratory therapist. Instead, I sit here today as a dental practice management consultant.

Why Dental Practice After All That?

Actually, I can thank my asthma for leading me on this amazing career path. Because I was always so sick, my mother was constantly having to reschedule or cancel my dentist appointments. The dental staff was so concerned about me that my mother and the office manager became friends. When I turned 15, my mother asked if they needed any help in the office. She said I was driving her crazy, and she needed a part-time job. And that’s how it all began!

I started off going in for a couple hours every Sunday. I was there all by myself, and I would file charts, pull charts for Monday, and confirm appointments. Over time, I started going into the office after school to do the filing and some confirming. And at some point, they decided to start training me on how to work at the front desk. Eventually I knew the full front-desk routine and worked almost every day after school until 8 p.m.

When I look back, I think of how different dentistry is now. Back then we had an actual appointment book for each doctor, used handwritten receipts, and kept paper charts. We had a DOS computer, but we barely used it! Now, everything is done on the computer, and offices even have automated confirmation systems.

From Front Desk to Dental Assistant

One day during my junior year in high school, one of the assistants went home sick, and they told me I had to go into the operatory and help the doctor. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or what anything meant. But the doctor very patiently guided me, explaining what was happening throughout the procedure.

I enjoyed it so much that I got to thinking that assisting might be something I’d be interested in. So I asked if they could start teaching me. One of the dental assistants took me under her wing and began teaching and mentoring me. In time, I decided to go to school to become a dental assistant.

And that’s how I joined the dental practice as a certified DANB for 15 years.

Setbacks Become My Profession Progression

In 2004, while I was 10 weeks pregnant, I was in a car accident and had to spend the remainder of my pregnancy on bedrest. After the accident, I had chronic back problems and was no longer able to assist full time. However, since I still had the administrative knowledge, I began working up front again. I became the treatment coordinator and eventually the dental practice office manager.

After spending twenty years working in dental offices in different capacities, I felt I had reached my growth limit and decided to spread my wings. After starting and running two successful dental study clubs for administrative team members, I joined a local practice-management company.

Always More to Learn

I thought that after working in the dental field for twenty years, I knew a lot. But during my time with that consulting company, I found out there was so much more for me to learn. The company worked with doctors in all phases of their careers, and I found myself drawn to the ones who were looking to open (or had recently opened) their own dental practice. More and more of my time was spent working with this type of doctor/practice. I found that having so much experience in the industry made me a perfect coach, leading to their success.

Continuing the Journey – A Novel Twist

Again, I felt I had reached my limit with the small, local consulting company and decided to spread my wings once again. This time in a brand new direction. Through a friend and colleague, I found out about a position at a bank that was looking to implement a healthcare financing department. They needed to be sure a dental practice was experiencing industry-standard growth, especially during those first 12 months, so they could re-pay their loan. To do that, they needed a dental-practice expert monitoring the start-ups.

What a great opportunity this was for me! Not only did I learn a whole other side of dentistry, I also got to educate some of the loan underwriters on what is needed to open a dental office and what makes them successful. But even though I enjoyed the job, I found myself longing to work side-by-side with the doctors who were opening their practices from scratch.

What I Was Born For

After two and a half years at the bank, I was ready for the next leg of this wonderful life-long journey! And even though all the stops along the way have helped to prepare me for this, I feel like coaching doctors is what I was born to do.

Having worked in the dental industry for so long, I had met a lot of people and apparently made lasting impressions. Because of that, I began working in my current position with Ideal Practices, LLC, a company that only works with dentists that want to start up their own dental practice. Coaching doctors who not only desire to be great clinicians but also successful business owners is a dream come true. I get so much joy from being onsite with them when they open for the first time and then seeing them celebrate their one-year anniversary and prosperity.

Again, I think it’s funny how life takes you on paths that you never thought imaginable. Never in a million years would I have imagined that I would have so much knowledge of the “dental world” and that I would actually have a niche in the industry. What a great 26 years this has been! I can’t wait to see what the next 26 bring.

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