I totally fell into dentistry when plan A and then plan B did not work out the way I had mapped out. Right out of high school, I decided to take some classes at the local community college since I did not get accepted at any of the universities I had applied for and my goal was to be a big marketing director at a major corporation. Before I was 20 years old, I got married, bought a house and took a job at a local bank with the intention of moving up the ladder into the marketing department. About six months into my employment at the bank, they filed bankruptcy and I was suddenly out of a job and scrambling to find work to pay the mortgage and all the bills.
My uncle Dave owned his own company installing computer systems and networks into medical and dental offices and was looking for an office support person for his team. I took the job out of desperation and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. My day consisted of building computers from scratch and helping with software support to our clients across Washington state. Surprisingly, I found myself enjoying the software support and helping the office teams troubleshoot issues. Sometimes, I would even go into an office to do some training. Going into the office was where I found the most joy and, in 1992, I went to work for my first dental practice. It was a little challenging trying to juggle marriage, work, night classes, owning a home and caring for a new baby, so something had to go. You guessed it . . . I dropped out of college and was now on the path of dentistry.
The first dental practice I went to work in was a very productive, goal-oriented office with an amazing consulting group on board to help with yearly planning, systems implementation and team training. What I loved about the dental practice was every day was different and I was always learning something new. I soaked in all the information, knowledge and continuing education I could. If I was going to be in dentistry all my life, I wanted to be good at it.
I had been working at the practice for about three months when it happened . . . I had an A-Ha moment. Every year the practice I was working with had an annual planning meeting with the dental consulting firm where we talked about the previous year, what the goals were for the next year and how we were going to get there. The consultant was orchestrating this beautiful, constructive meeting with the team and everyone was involved learning and participating. I knew at that moment that is what I wanted to do.
A couple of years later, we purchased some land on Whidbey Island (north of Seattle) and planned on building a home there. I knew that the commute would be too much so I put my feelers out to find a job in a dental practice on the island so I would not have to do the ferry boat commute every day. Right away, I landed a job in a dental practice that would turn out to be a life-changing experience and career mover for me. In the back of my mind, I still had that burning desire to do more and grow into an educator for dental teams, a resource for dental teams and an advocate for dental teams. This is where my journey begins.
When I started working for Dr. Giswold at Saratoga Dental, they had very few systems in place, the office had only been open for a little over a year and the doctor had not received a paycheck in four months. What they did have is great people and the doctor had a vision that felt good in my gut. Dr. Giswold believed in holistic dentistry and treating the entire person, not just the teeth. It felt good and I watched how we were changing the lives of our patients every day. I started taking the systems and goal-setting skills I had learned from my previous practice and started putting them into work in my new office and watched as the numbers started to improve. The team trusted me and it was fun watching them open up to new ideas for growth.
With my background in technology, computer systems and software training, I was always putting little hints into my doctor’s ear about upgrading the system and finding a new computer software that would make our lives so much better. In 2003, he finally gave me the green light to start researching new computer systems, getting some quotes for an upgraded network and doing some demos on software. I had scheduled demos with the top three software companies. When I had my Dentrix demo, who do you think walked in? My Uncle Dave. He had sold his computer company to Henry Schein and was now the Dentrix and computer sales rep. Sometimes life makes a full circle.
We did decide to purchase new computers, install a network and install Dentrix that year and I was stoked. I felt like I was in my element and it was something I could not only use to enhance my knowledge but also teach my team. Then, in 2005, Dentrix was looking for certified trainers in my area and I thought, “What better way for me to learn more about my software than to become certified?” Over the next several years as a certified Dentrix trainer, I was asked to be their national blog author, be a presenter during the national Dentrix Business of Dentistry Conference and give presentations at local events all over the country.
During this time, I was still working full time at Saratoga Dental. My doctor was super supportive and allowed me to pursue my career as long as it did not interfere with my job performance and it did not affect our office numbers. At the same time, he was starting to work less and less in preparation for transitioning out of the practice since his son was attending dental school and the plan was that he would take over the practice.
There were a couple of things happening in my life and I knew it was time I started facing the obvious and make a life choice that would change my future. The obvious was that my husband of 20+ years had other priorities and I needed to choose between ignoring them for the financial security or take the leap of faith and go out on my own. I also needed to make a decision that was in the best interest of my daughter because she would need support for the rest of her life.
In 2009, in my mind, I knew what my decision was going to be and started making preparations behind the scenes to get my business set up so I could start growing it while I still had a dual income and I didn’t have to stress about money. Dr. Giswold was getting ready to transition out of the practice and so I told him my two-year plan as well. I would help coach the new doctor and train a new person to replace me so there would be no break in any of the systems. I had been working for him for over 16 years and he was not only my boss but had become like a father to me. He had watched me grow and I had helped his business grow.
In 2011, I filed for divorce, hired someone to replace me at my practice, graduated my daughter from high school, moved out of my home and met the love of my life. It was the scariest and best decision of my life. In 2012, I tripled my income and I am the happiest I have ever been.