I have had a very unorthodox way of getting to the point in time where I became the Founder and CEO of my company, Victory Dental Management. I want to share with you my backstory and hope it can encourage you.
I am a firm believer that everyone needs to shadow, intern, or volunteer in the industry in which you want to have a career. For me, that was very valuable experience. I planned to attend pharmacy school, but realized after a few years working as a pharmacy tech, that I really didn’t like it. I remember feeling a bit lost and found myself asking, what am I going to do now? I had already taken my pre-pharmacy classes, and now I was going to have to change majors. As I navigated through that change, it required me to take some classes during the summer so I could graduate with my class. Where I found myself was earning my BS in Business Administration, with concentrations in Marketing, Management, and Pre-Law. I decided to add the law concentration as not only was I interested in Law, but also wanted that critical thinking process I enjoyed so much. I found that I missed that as I no longer concentrated on a science major. Having developed those skills, there was a void for me, and I was afraid to lose that ability for which I had worked so hard to hone. It’s worth mentioning here that as I decided against pharmacy school at this point in my life, my twin sister decided to attend pharmacy school.
After the change to another major, the summer jobs/internships that were available to me were limited due to my summer class schedule. I remembering looking at some options and thinking, trucking, now that is different. So, I took a summer position at Overnite Transportation within their marketing department. To say this area of commerce is fascinating does not do it justice. I absolutely loved it! I enjoyed it so much, I knew after graduation I wanted to work at Overnite. I returned to college to finish my senior year with my future plans firmly set.
Unfortunately, when I graduated, Overnite had a hiring freeze in place, and I needed to work somewhere to pay rent on my apartment. As I was having my yearly appointment with my ophthalmologist, he asked if I knew anyone that would be a good candidate to be his office manager. I had never worked in a medical office before, but after my appointment he interviewed me for the position. It was a win-win for both of us. I now had a full-time job, and was getting the opportunity to learn something new. This opportunity enabled me to learn ICD-9 early in my working career, and become proficient. From the beginning, the ophthalmologist knew my intention was to return to Overnite Transportation so we devised a plan for my short time there. He needed me to transform his employees into a team, and lead them to the next level. All the while I was training my replacement on how to do things as I did not want to leave him in an unprofessional manner.
I learned more through this short experience than a coding system. I learned to never underestimate the power of being your authentic self, taking risks and seeking new opportunities. In most industries, there is a classification system. For medical, it is now ICD-10. For trucking, there is freight classification, and from a biology standpoint, binomial nomenclature. So, you can see how understanding one system should give you a leg up on understanding others. This area of critical thinking and using all of your knowledge/experience is helpful no matter where you find yourself.
The next opportunity came as local a pharmacy software company needed to hire for customer support representatives. They were seeking college graduates who also possessed pharmacy tech experience. It was as if this job had been created for my current experience, and I had to apply for this position. The working hours and salary were so much better than the medical office. Ironically, this company wrote the software that was being taught at the pharmacy school of which I was to attend. As I had mentioned previously, my twin sister was attending pharmacy school. So, I had the opportunity to teach her and other select friends a great deal about the software. From a practical application, it was more than her professors knew. Fun times – they all aced the software test J Even though I enjoyed working for this company, I still waited for Overnite to remove their hiring freeze.
After waiting for over a year, I finally received the call that Overnite was ending their hiring freeze. I found opportunities available within several departments which wanted to hire me. I decided to accept employment as part of the national account team. To be able to understand the challenges of my national accounts, I decided I needed to take the time to learn more about transportation operations and logistics. This skill set was invaluable to me as I set a goal to learn why things happened a certain way and how to work in and out of the system. During these years, I earned several promotions in different departments. After many years of climbing the corporate ladder, I was given the opportunity to lead a sales team. All of the skills and opportunities that I had experienced, had come together. Albeit not quite the way I had planned, but nonetheless, skills as an entrepreneur were coming together and being built.
It was during this time that my husband and I started our family. It took 4 years and a round of IVF to have our little girl Megan. Then, exactly 15 months later, our son Nicholas was born. During those painful 4 years of trying to start a family, you tend to realize what is most important, and how as a couple, we would raise a child if we got so lucky. I am sharing this because it is part of my story as well as it frames my thoughts and priorities as a business owner. It is also a part of my mindset, never give up.
When my children were infants, my best friend asked me to work for the dental practice that she and her husband own. I put her off for several years since I didn’t know how it would be to work for friends. I had no experience working for a friend and continued to believe our friendship was too important to risk. Finally, I relented and was so glad that I did. Dentistry has been such a wonderful industry of which I am now a part. From the first day in the office I was very happy that my 5 years of Latin was finally paying off. So many dental terms have Latin root words – yea! The great thing about a dental practice is, first and foremost, it is a business where a true team can make a difference in someone’s life. Think about that for a moment. Not a lot of other industries can say that about themselves. Our field is filled with compassionate people who want to help others. I love being a part of this. After managing this practice and making such a difference I knew I would find ways to expand my responsibilities and grow in this field of dentistry.
The next opportunity I had was to work for a dental claims clearinghouse as well as a few clients that needed my help. Learning about the dental industry from a clearinghouse perspective is a very eye opening experience while at the same time working for a start-up company. I knew from my experience with the few clients I had at the time, I could make a positive impact in the lives of other doctors and teams. This really fueled my curiosity of creating my own company. I was now at a cross roads of putting all of my effort into building my own company or working with my twin sister.
It was at this point in my career I had the opportunity, really out of the blue, to do something my twin and I had always thought we should do together. Run a pharmacy using both of our skill sets. She was interviewing to be a pharmacist at a startup that wanted to make a difference to those patients that needed their meds delivered. The owner said he wished he could find someone who had pharmacy operational knowledge, knew how to run a company, and had a logistics background as well. He had given up on finding someone with all of those skills until she told him about me. I am glad that my sister and I had that opportunity, but the pull to build my own company full time was too great to resist any longer.
I founded Victory Dental Management, and have never looked back. Being my own boss, like most things, has both positive and negative attributes. The most positive for me was being able to be there for my family. Like I mentioned earlier, my family is the most important thing to me. That is the reason I work so hard. Being CEO also enables me to decide on my travel schedule. Take for instance Chicago midwinter. I have not had the opportunity yet to go since it conflicts with Megan’s basketball schedule. That is one of the things I love most is setting my guidelines and priorities to complement my family schedule.
Before I started a family, I was asked to help coach a girls’ basketball team. Coaching is natural to me, whether on the court or in a dental practice. After having that experience and enjoying it so much, I hoped that my children might enjoy the sport that I played until knee surgeries kept me off the court. Thankfully, Megan showed an interest and a great ability with basketball. I had the pleasure of coaching her school and AAU team for years. There is nothing like sharing those experiences with your own child. Coaching basketball to all ages of girls from 5-18, gives me the opportunity to teach life lessons such as having a positive mindset, perseverance, working as a team, etc. Since these qualities are sorely lacking in our younger generation, I always make teaching them a priority for every basketball team. I am intentional about looking for these teaching moments at practice, games, or just when we get together and socialize.
I find that I am just as intentional about weaving these lessons in when I coach dental practices as well. I believe dentistry is about relationships. The more that you work on your interpersonal skills with other people, the more successful you will be. It doesn’t matter if you are a dentist, a coach, a consultant, a speaker, dental team member, a vendor to dentistry, or whatever you do as a career. People skills will always be important.
As you know from reading this so far, I am very involved with my children and will support them with any opportunity that I can. Megan was born with a heavy dose of compassion, so when she decided nursing would be her future profession, I support her decision and help her with opportunity. I have been able to help her navigate the waters so she can shadow in different areas within the medical profession. The purpose being to help her gain knowledge and maybe pick an area about which she would like to learn more. She has decided to work with special needs children and has done that for the last few years in a pediatric orthopedic practice. Her ability to calm those children in the cast room or during an exam is certainly a gift.
Nicholas has always been a very curious child. He wants to know how things work. He was chosen to be a page in our state legislature in Virginia, specifically the House of Delegates where he learned how our state government works. Due to his very high academic accomplishments, Duke University invited him to take the SAT in the 7th grade and attend an exclusive summer program where he chose to take Engineering and Physics. He is like a sponge that just wants to learn about many areas. Currently he is also a Life Scout and will be working on getting his Eagle rank and attends a regional high school for gifted children.
Now I am not saying any of this to be boastful, although I am very proud of my children. I tell you this because I have always raised my children with the idea of they need to experience a lot of different things so they know what is available to them and what they might enjoy. I can’t tell you how many sports, academic areas, and clubs they both have tried. I just didn’t want to say to myself when they turned 18, wow, I wished I would have ______. That would kill me. At 16 and 15 years of age, they have found what they enjoy and are not afraid of trying something new. All of this came at a sacrifice though. As a working mom, sometimes it is difficult to be a taxi driver and get them everywhere they need to go. I want to encourage you if you are in this phase right now. Since my oldest can drive now things have changed a bit. Please realize it is a phase and try and enjoy it as long as you can. Your children will not be this age but for a very short time.
As a mom who is a business owner with a family, I get it. I understand the struggle. Please make the choice that makes sense to you and forget about what others say, this is your life and your family. Don’t let someone else’s thoughts decide your path of action. You only have one opportunity with your kids. Be unique-it’s a lot of fun! As an entrepreneur, it has its challenges but that makes the rewards that much sweeter.