Graduation day from high school was nearing and I had no plan, actually, I was one of those lost teenagers (a good one for sure) that didn’t really have a path. I knew I wanted a career but what it was going to be…. I had no clue. I did know a few things: one I wanted a family, a husband -you know those things and I knew I was a hard worker and whatever my life threw me, I would take it head on and give it my best. I grew up with a strong work ethic that was well established early on in my life. From odd jobs before workforce age to a steady job in high school and multiple jobs at one time after graduation. I remember working at TCBY yogurt, Sears Payment Center on for a 12 hour Sunday shift, the grave yard shift at Sams Wholesale running a forklift and US Airways throwing luggage all at the same time. I used a paper calendar to track my schedule. This all happened the summer I graduated high school. I wanted to move out on my own and prove that I could make it, and so I did. At the end of summer all of my friends were going away to school and I was drowning in long work hours, minimum wage and no real-life path. I panicked so I took a loan out for school and enrolled in the local community college. College started, I had no clue what I was going to do or really why I was going but I was. The work load was hectic so I had to drop some jobs and refocus on what I could do more of and would cover my expenses, so the airline industry became my full-time career. I carried very late hours that were dictated by the weather all over the country and when I wasn’t at work or school, I was studying. Things started looking up for me. I had met the man I thought was in my dreams. I married, transferred my education and my work to Charlotte, North Carolina and my new life had started. (so, I thought)
Working, studying, making a life as a new married couple was my focus. My husband traveled with his job so we had to work on finding time together. Time apart was difficult for us both and being away from family was even more difficult. As time went along I was hit with the career change request from my husband who didn’t enjoy my late-night work hours, off schedule lifestyle and hectic school schedule. Through many of teary nights on the phone with my mom and various conversations with friends, I decided to focus my college education towards the dental hygiene requirements. In North Carolina at the time there was a wait list so while I was in school, my father in law introduced me to his dentist who allowed me to come into his dental office and observe. I fell in love with dentistry instantly. The patients, the variety, the ability to impact someone’s life … was so exciting to me. I had no knowledge other than what I had observed, but I found my path instantly. I continued to go to school, work at the airlines and volunteer at the dental office until one day the doctors offered me a position as a sterilization tech. After much prayer, my husband and I took the large pay cut and a leap of faith. I accepted the position. I washed those instruments and cleaned those rooms with the biggest smile on my face each day! I just loved being around dentistry… Over the next year, the dentists sent me to school at Bowman Grey for dental assisting and I began to learn new skills. As for my dental environment, it was toxic; full of stagnant women who didn’t enjoy their careers; 21 to be exact. All working to get to the 5 pm whistle. It was disheartening for sure. The clinical assistants didn’t enjoy my excitement for dentistry and worked each day to crush it. I remember so many times individuals would set me up for failure or sabotage the day with harassing gossip and unkind words. I spent many lunch hours crying in my car and many nights worrying about how I could survive the next day’s work. One day I walked into the doors of the office and felt the tension was at an all-time high. No one was speaking to each other; the doctors were not even looking at each other. In that moment of tension who knew it would be the change I needed to set me on the path that would lead me to where I am today. That afternoon all the patients had been rescheduled and there was a mandatory meeting for the entire office. The news broke that the office was going to be facing so extreme changes over the few months. One of the partners was leaving and one was going to be cutting back in order to retire the following year. I had no idea where I fit in all the transition, but I was relieved that change was on the horizon. There was a dental assistant that approached me and offered to help me perfect my skills in the evening (yep off the clock… after 5:00 pm) She was willing and I was eager. I remember that moment so clearly. Amanda was a gift in my career. She and I began to bond over provisionals and impressions. She gave of her time and her talent. She invested in me. Over the next few months, the door opened for me to approach the partner that was leaving and see if there was any opportunity available for me to work with him. The leap of faith that the dentist took in me was risky. I was still a newer chairside assistant, but for sure eager and willing to do whatever. Going with the dentist leaving the practice opened my eyes to digital dentistry. I experienced the building of a practice, becoming paperless, integrating digital radiographs, various marketing techniques, and most importantly in that moment- I learned how to work the front office! All of this at one time and here that was in the first year with him. Over the upcoming years I was exposed to education and training opportunities that I couldn’t believe were happening to me. The world of dentistry was larger than I had ever imagined. I became a student at the Nash Institute where I met Dr. Ross and Debora Nash, Dr. Ed Suh, Dr. Bob Lowe, Shannon Pace Brinker, Dr. Ron Jackson the late Bob Passaro, CDT and many other influential people who had a hand in my education.
I was so on fire, I was taking everything and implementing it. I felt so unstoppable at that point. There was so much talent inside of me but I had no real control. (I was like a water hose on full blast) After completing the training programs at the Institute I begged to volunteer, clean up after courses etc… (whatever it took to keep my ears on the education) The energy was infectious and I had to be a part of it. I knew at that moment that I would be a student of dentistry for the rest of my life; that I would never know enough.
I remember getting a call from Shannon Pace Brinker one day saying that there was an opportunity coming available and she wanted to know if I would be interested in meeting with the Nash’s and knowing more about it. You would have thought I had won the lottery. Over the next four years I sat chairside with Dr. Nash, was exposed to writing, teaching, traveling, learning and well all that wild talent started getting groomed in. My feelings were hurt daily from feedback but my skin toughened up and I started seeing the value of feedback. It made me an exceptional assistant, new patient coordinator and in time teacher. Through The Nash Institute as a student, I had Dr. Ed Suh as an instructor and now I had the privilege to have him as a colleague, mentor and friend. He exposed me to neuromuscular dentistry. First as a patient of pain and then as a life- long student and then team trainer. I had a horrible car accident during my days as a student at the institute it left me with debilitating headaches, neck pain, back pain and my fingers couldn’t stop tingling. The amount of pain that I was in was slowly taking me out of dentistry. I would be numb when I got up from the chair, my legs and my hands wouldn’t stop aching but my headaches always trumped everything when it came to the pain scale. I remember Dr. Nash calling Dr. Suh and asking him to bring all of his equipment down to work on his girl! That he couldn’t look over at me and watch me be in so much pain all the time. Dr. Suh did just that and a small piece of anatomical plastic that had years of education behind it saved my life. Dr. Suh was able to get me out of pain over the next year and that experience in itself put my dental education on steroids. I felt like God had given me a second chance to lead instead of follow. My journey up to this point had been full of twists and turns. I have met so many professionals that have made an impression on my life. I credit my management training to Dr. Jeff Blank who opened opportunities door for me and allowed me the freedom to be an innovator in his practice. In 18 months, we added 1.2 million dollars in additional revenue to his practice. (that was a big accomplishment) He took many risks in dentistry, he has multiple patents hanging in his office on his wall and he was a determined out of the box thinker. I gravitated to that kind of thinking. All of the concepts about team work that I had been trained on were placed into action on the job in his practice. That was just a crazy time for me in my life. I was in the middle of my marriage of 10 years ending, I was driving 80 min to work each way and I was so in love with dentistry that I was putting in 70 or 80 hours a week not to count the many hours of reading and going to continuing education. I had developed a great relationship with an awesome lab in Gilroy, CA. Bob Clark, an owner there who fabricated that awesome piece of anatomical plastic for my mouth years back, was working with Jeff now. That allowed me to learn a ton from the lab and understand what an important part of the team they really were. I remember taking trips to CA to observe processes and systems that the lab had, it was a missing piece in the circle of care for me. During all of this I had just bought my first home as a single woman. I had no family NC/SC after my divorce. It was a challenge to be alone again. I filled my nights and days with dentistry. Forums, articles, photography… you name it I was doing it. I was drowning my sorrows in dentistry.
My hard work must have paid off because I remember getting a call one evening from a dentist down in Savannah, GA. I had no clue who this doctor was but it was neat to have someone call and say they were interested in me. That turned into a relocation to GA and an opportunity to work for one of the fiercest dentists in the entire industry and work it well. Dr. Brad Durham, Savannah GA. If you can work for him and you can learn from him at the same time, then you can accomplish anything! He was the most demanding on his team but he was also the most rewarding at the end of the day. He is one of the most successful dentists I know. I had adapted my management style to his personality needs and really polished my communication skills. (but kept my Tennessee twang.) I was teaching teams across the country for these dentists as they had teaching facilities alongside their practices. It was an awesome opportunity to impact someone’s life… share my journey in hopes that it would leave a spark ignited inside of them to be anything they wanted to be.
Throughout all of the dental experiences I learned… I grew… I kept changing over and over and over. That was the commonality in all of it was change. I never imagined owning my own business. It wasn’t on my radar, but while working for each of these amazing dentists and experiencing their business styles, seeing the way they each dreamed, worked, lead, invested it stuck with me and when the time was right. When I felt like I couldn’t be what the doctor wanted me to be any more I decided to do it all on my own. I loaded up my car and left Georgia behind. I moved back to my hometown of Kingsport Tennessee and decided that I was enough. I filed for an LLC on Legal Zoom and the inception of Bryant Consultants came to be on a black leather couch in my mom’s basement. I had my home for rent in NC/SC, I abandoned my lease in GA and I had no clients, no plan on paper and I was a grown adult living in my mother’s basement.
I did have my family and I did have all the education I have acquired over a decade and a half. I put myself together and started writing down my plan. I figured out what I would need to do in order to take on some clients. At the time, I didn’t know where I would get the clients but I was doing all the work to have a business and a plan…. And so, the challenges of being a business owner begin. No clients and only a small savings…
So, I stuck with the basics that I taught others and worked on relationships. I spent many hours answering questions on the forums that I was on. I helped others. I invested in them via the internet and the phone. I took on my first client and poured my heart and soul into that practice. 7 years later that team has taken the systems I train them on and made their practice a success. I had taken a huge leap of faith and I had to have faith. Word of mouth had become my best referral for sure. If you do right by people and you get the results you commit to then they refer! Exceed their expectations and they refer even more. (I didn’t even ask for it. it was just happening, over and over) Bryant Consultants was growing. After my first year in business, I met a man (my mom found him… and that’s its own funny story) who didn’t run when he found out all of the ups and downs I had. When he found out that I was sleeping on the couch in my mom’s basement he didn’t bat his eye. I knew immediately that I had found my partner in life that could support my dreams, make new ones with me. We married two months later. He moved to Tennessee from Asheboro, NC and we started working towards our new dreams together. During that year we started a family and created a marketing side to our company. It was a dream that he and my brother had and wanted to build. It took off and then we grew another side of the business; a corporate consulting team after my sister retired from corporate America. I am so pleased to be a family owned and operated company that keeps helping others reach their dreams. We have opened up doors for others to reach their own dreams. My personal focus has been growing practices for dental owners. Whether they need strategy coaching, team training, maybe they are ready to add a doctor, add another practice (or two) or even create a transition plan for retirement. I pride myself in my business creativity and the ability to dream with my clients and even for my clients (sometimes). I am very invested in what I do and the teams I work with. I want them to love what they do and go as far as they want to go in their career. On the side, I have grown a love for speaking and writing. That is a dental hobby for me. I don’t see myself giving up practice consulting for a speaking career so for the time being it will be just that… a great hobby! I find it a great accomplishment to have found balance in my life between work and family. To have started a family while building my business and stayed the course through it all is important to me It’s such an awesome experience to be able to take my family on the road with me. My husband who works from his computer, my 5-year-old daughter and my 3-month-old son. This makes traveling the best ever!
If I could pass on any guidance to women in dentistry or woman seeking a career in dentistry is that the industry is full of opportunities! Don’t give up if a door closes or you can’t seem to budge one open. Always be open to learning something new even if it has nothing to do with your current path. I want to see more and more woman entrepreneurs rise up to their calling and resist the fear of failure, more woman writers, and more and more woman dentists practicing than ever before. The opportunities will not fall in your lap so sitting around hoping will not be enough. Be open and be willing to do whatever the job takes. I know that if I wouldn’t have learned front office early in my career I would have never had the opportunity to be a new patient coordinator for Dr. Nash or even have the opportunity to manage a practice. I also wouldn’t have been able to make it through a horrible car wreck and still be able to work. God had a plan for me and it took me being willing, humble even when I felt worthless and fearful of everything. I kept going. I started out making $0.00 sterilizing instruments in a 3-doctor practice, sitting on a waiting list for hygiene school and working my way to a paid position as well as every area of the practice that I could through 2 decades of my career. This is a true accomplishment considering I started with no experience and no money and now I’m extremely blessed to work with offices all over the country. I found joy and I found complete satisfaction in being a strong woman in dentistry.