I’ll never forget the day I walked into Dr. Lowery Faler’s to interview for the job as the “recall coordinator.” I was in my late 20s and had absolutely no idea what a periodontist was. All I knew was that I was tired of working in a retail environment and was ready to learn something new. It was time for me to find a career where I could be happy, one that would give me an opportunity to do more with my life and my family. Little did I know that I was about to meet the first of many women in dentistry who would forever change the course of my life.
Bonnie Anglin was a fine woman and a great office manager. On the day I met her, the practice was closed for business. We spoke for almost an hour, and I feel sure that the only reason I got that job was because she liked me. That was fine with me. I liked her too, and with her help—and a recall system that was perfectly documented in a blue folder (which I still have)—I began to learn the intricate details of how a dental practice works. Bonnie had a system for everything and so did the dentist’s wife, Patricia Faler. Mrs. Pat taught me the financial aspect of running a practice after Bonnie moved away. These two smart women in dentistry helped shape and mold me into the office manager that I would become seven years later when I began working at their daughter’s orthodontic practice.
It was while working at this orthodontic practice that the “Front Desk Lady” was created. As a new practice, we often did tours for general dentists and new patients to get them acquainted with us and our facility. During one such tour, one of our orthodontist was introducing the team. When she came to me she said, “And this is Lisa. She’s our … (short pause) … she’s our front desk lady!” Dr. Henderson seemed so pleased that she had a title for me, but I was quite honestly a little mortified. “Front Desk Lady”, I thought to myself, “I am the office manager!” Neither Dr. Henderson nor I knew that someday this title would be the cornerstone for the building of my very own business. She is to this day a good friend and a great example of how women in dentistry should lift each other up.
It would take several years before I began my journey as the Front Desk Lady. By this time, I was working at a general dentist’s practice as the office manager (for real this time). The practice was looking to hire a patient coordinator and was surprised to find that there were no candidates with previous experience in the dental field. Having started many years ago with no experience myself, I understood the desire to get into a new profession. What happens, though, if there is not someone to properly train the dental front office team? How would the dentist and the rest of the team operate successfully, if they did not have someone who truly understands the importance of focusing on the patient to help build relationships and grow the practice?
These questions had me searching for more information about what training is available to help dental front office teams. During this search, I stumbled upon the American Association of Dental Office Management. A group devoted to helping front office team members learn and grow much like our clinical team counterparts. I immediately joined and was instantly impressed with the level of quality educational material and educators. I had found the next group of women in dentistry that would propel my career to the next level.
I attended my first AADOM conference in Las Vegas in 2010. I was nervous and excited all at the same time. I didn’t know anyone there, and I wasn’t the most outgoing person. I called my sister and asked her to join me. She goes to Las Vegas frequently with her family, and I figured she could show me the town. She agreed, and the arrangements were made. Melonie and I had a great time together in Las Vegas. What made it even better was that I made so many new friends, too! Friendships that I still cherish and value. It was also at this conference that I made the announcement to my new friend Deanna that one day I wanted to be a consultant, too. Deanna was so encouraging and told me that if that was what I wanted to do, then I should follow my dream. She and other friends I made via AADOM over the years still push me. They are some of my biggest supporters and fine examples of yet more strong women in dentistry!
Fast forward six years, and I have created a business that allows me to travel the nation coaching teams and speaking at events to share communication skills I learned as a dental team member over the last 20 years. I am blessed with the opportunity to help others make a difference in their practice and their personal lives. Together we discuss and learn how good conversation skills teamed with effective communication skills can make a huge impact in building strong relationships that grow businesses. I found the new career that I was looking for all those years ago, and I was helped along the way by some pretty wonderful women. I’m honored to call them friends.
I continue to learn and develop my skills by surrounding myself with some of the best people I know in dentistry and in business. I choose to live out my motto, “Do well, be well,” by helping those looking to get into the field now. It is my hope that one day I can make a difference in someone else’s life, just like many of the strong women in dentistry have done and continue to do for me.
— Lisa Spradley