What ignited your dental light?
Was it a burning desire to help others? Working with your hands? A reverence for the dental profession?
What fuels your dental light now?
Is it an appreciative smile? A raving referral? Reaching your goals?
We each have our stories of why we got into this profession and why we stick with it. And in each story comes tales of peaks and valleys, victories and losses, joys and heartbreaks. Sharing them with each other is interesting, enlightening, and just plain fun. Of course, I wish this wasn’t a one-way conversation; I’d much rather we be sitting across from each other exchanging our stories over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee.
Falling in love with dentistry
For me, it all started with that four-lettered word, love. I fell in love with a first-year dental student. I listened to the cadaver stories, the picky professor complaints, and the first real-patient anxieties. I sprinted around the apartment chased by an impassioned future dentist with a syringe trying to “practice” intraoral injections. I received a gift of lip gloss that turned out to be topical gel and walked around with numb lips for an hour.
I soon learned that dentistry was an important part of my life. What surprised me was that a tree-hugging, outdoorsy, forestry major would become an impassioned dental employee, devotee, and advocate.
Dental school ended. It was the early 80’s; interest rates were 21%; debts were due. We had a baby, we were expecting twins, and we had to build a dental practice. Whew, that was an interesting time.
We moved to a tiny town which hadn’t had a dentist in 40 years. Its employee pool consisted of zero candidates with dental experience. It was up to the two of us. We knew we had to divide and conquer; he would handle the clinical and I the business side.
Learning dental practice management from scratch
Thanks to dental school and the Army, the clinical part was more clear-cut. The practice management and human resources were a different story. At that time there was little to no practice management training, information, or resources available. Scheduling was poke and hope. Insurance was trial and error. Money issues were awkward and unenforceable. Hiring and firing a total guess. We made LOTS of mistakes, lost some patients, lost some money, and lost some sleep.
Thank goodness it wasn’t long until Linda Miles stepped up to the podium, and I attended my first practice management seminar. I was so ecstatic to hear someone talk about practice management that I wanted to kiss her square on the lips. Fortunately, I was able to refrain myself.
Immediately, I was hooked and attended every practice management seminar I could. Dental Economics and Dental Entrepreneur became my Bible. I discovered that I found great pleasure in systemizing, organizing, solving problems, streamlining processes, and empowering others.
Over the next 33 years, while managing our practice, I wore many, many hats. I was a dental assistant, HIPAA and OSHA officers, sterilization queen, scheduling guru, collection agency, team trainer, bathroom cleaner, interior decorator, and pretty much anything legally possible. I loved every minute of it.
As I become more engrossed in the industry, I realized that dentistry was unappreciated and I wanted to change that. I dreamed of getting my MBA to learn more about business and management. I knew that one day I wanted to help other dental practices be more efficient, more successful, and have more fun in their work! I was a full blown dental advocate and budding dental consultant, coach, speaker, and writer.
Did I ever get my MBA? I did, and I am not going to tell you how old I was when I went back to get it. Let’s just say, I was not just years older, but DECADES older than not only my classmates but my professors as well! Yes, it was interesting, hard work, and I am so glad I did it.
In 2005, I established Baird Concepts to help other dental teams be more successful. In 2010, we sold my husband’s practice. Now, I use my business education, a wealth of experience, and passion for dentistry toward helping other dental practices avoid costly mistakes, resolve problems, be more efficient, overcome barriers, reduce stress, develop self-managed teams, avoid embezzlement, and achieve their full potential.
In a nutshell, that is my story, but there is something missing: it is your story. I invite you to pick up the phone and share with me your story, your frustrations, and your dreams. Who knows where it might lead!