Starting out by babysitting for the local dentist set Mary on a career path that led through almost every aspect of dentistry into her ulimate role as dental consultant.
Childhood and Dentistry?
I grew up in a small town in South Carolina. My first “job” was as a babysitter for our family dentist and his wife, who also attended the same church as my family. I loved this family, but I did not like having dental work done on me. I didn’t even pretend otherwise. When confirmation calls came in for dental appointments, there were times I forgot to tell my mom. As it turned out, she was always a step ahead of me and made sure I was there at the appointed times.
Although I disliked having dental work, my dentist was very kind, as was his hygienist. His sense of humor while delivering treatment led me to be interested in dentistry. They seemed to have fun at work! I shadowed him and his staff a bit while in high school, graduated a year early, and started dental assisting school before my high school classmates started their senior year in high school. It was hard! I missed my friends, my parents, and my hometown.
Youngest Person in Dental Class
I was the youngest person in my dental assisting class. It was tough at first. I didn’t study much in high school. Microbiology, head and neck anatomy, and radiology changed that! I worked hard, developed good study habits and made great grades.
By the way, I got over the disdain for having dental work done. Anyone who has ever attended, Dental Assisting, Dental Hygiene or Dental School, will tell you that we’ve been known to practice on each other. After being a guinea pig for what seemed like 50 alginate impressions, I had to get over it.
The year I graduated, my dentist was the president of the local dental society and attended our awards ceremony. I assume this was part of his duties and can’t believe I never asked him. As it happened, I received the award for Outstanding Clinical Performance, and my dentist was there to present it. How ironic and special. Before the night ended, I would receive another amazing honor. My classmates voted me the recipient of our Class Merit Award. I remember feeling incredibly honored, a little embarrassed, and very happy that my parents and my dentist were there to witness it.
So, here I am, more than thirty years later. I still love dentistry and feel blessed to have a career I love.
Becoming a Dental Consultant
That young woman, who turned 19 just three weeks prior, would never have believed that 17 years later, she would become a consultant and entrepreneur in the dental industry. In the early 1980s, more than 90% of women in dentistry were employees in a dental practice. There were very few female dentists and fewer female consultants and business owners.
During those early years in dentistry, I worked as a chairside assistant, scheduling, financial coordinator, and office manager. I moved a lot during those years. Although it was tough at the time, moving often did have one benefit. I saw the effect Management Style has on Practice Culture, Employee Satisfaction, Patient Satisfaction, Loyalty, and ultimately, Practice Success.
Realizing a strong desire to expand my career and education, I returned to college and studied Business Management. Armed with experience and knowledge of the inner-workings of dental practices, I began the next phase of my career and started working with a large dental-practice management and transition group. I worked as a dental consultant with this firm until they decided to focus solely on practice transitions. To be fair, the owner did extend an offer to stay on and work in his transitions division. At the time, I couldn’t do it. Practice Management was my passion.
Launching My Own Dental Consultant Firm
My next step would be to launch a consulting firm of my own and with that, The Dental Business™ was founded.
One of my first clients was newly divorced, deeply in debt, and behind on taxes. This kind gentleman picked me up for a dinner meeting in an old truck that smelled of gasoline. Just to be clear, he drove the truck out of necessity, not nostalgia.
This client was in his early 40s, knew he still had a lot of work and life ahead of him, and didn’t like the direction things were going. That being said, hiring a consultant was not an easy decision for him. Of course, there was the financial concern and it was likely the largest. However, he was also concerned about his team and how bringing a dental consultant in would affect the practice dynamic.
What his team needed to hear was that he didn’t hire me because he felt any member of the team was incompetent. He hired me because he needed to increase his income and realized he and his team would need help to make it happen.
Incredible Successes for the Team
After completing the initial practice assessment, I knew he would see improvement immediately if he would agree to my recommended changes. Initially, he had difficulty moving on from old systems. But he agreed to implement the necessary changes to policies and systems. This decision changed his lifestyle and that of his team.
The year before he hired me, the practice collected 487,000.00. I began consulting with his practice during the month of February, and by the end of the year, the practice had receivables of 662,000.00. That’s a 175,000.00 and 36% increase in collections in one year and with only ten months of consulting. Besides that, his collections were at 98%, he worked 186 days that year, and took a total of six weeks off.
Prior to our first in-office visit, this client sent a document with his 2-year, 5-year, and 10-year goals. In just one year, we met his 2-year goals. By the end of the 2nd year, we surpassed his 5-year goals. And by the end of the 3rd year, we met his 10-year goals.
It wasn’t always a walk in the park, and it did take work. We were committed to seeing the practice become successful, and successful it is!
Can’t Quit Coaching Success!
This client is the reason I still coach and consult in dental practices today. Being a small business is difficult. And I wasn’t ignorant to the fact that I could make more money doing something else. But, I refused to give up. My true passion is helping dental teams whose owners and managers lie awake at night, worrying about the schedule, staffing issues, how they’re going to meet payroll, and when or if they should sell the practice.
I knew then, and I know now that I’m doing what I’m meant to do. And that is to work with dental teams and dental practice owners who have the desire to be successful, enjoy going to work each day, have a patient base that happily refers others, and have worry-free time away from the office. This my WHY.
Mary can be reached by email at, firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Mary’s Coaching Programs: www.thedentalbusiness.com.