Change Begins with a Culture of One

In My Story by Penny Reed

I stared at the blank walls in my apartment. There were still many boxes to unpack. The silence was deafening, and my mind was racing. I was faced with questions we hope we never ask ourselves. How will I start over? Where am I going to get the money for groceries, let alone rent and my daughter’s private school tuition? I asked myself the most crushing question of all… how did I get here?

My career as a dental office manager began in 1992 when my dentist recruited me to become his office manager. I left my management position with the retail giant Wal-Mart and jumped into dentistry. There was so much to learn, and at that time, not a lot of resources available on how to successfully grow a practice. Two years later and with the blessing of the most amazing boss in the world, I had replaced myself in the office and plunged head-first into the world of dental consulting. It was exciting and scary yet it was the best move for me. I only had two choices, succeed or fail. I was determined that the answer was to succeed.

Fast forward to this moment in late 2013. I was entering my 20th year as a dental consultant, coach, and speaker. Over the prior two decades I had experienced many blessings of business and personal success, made many lifelong friends through client and networking relationships and experienced the joy of becoming a parent to a beautiful daughter. Less than 30 days prior, after years of counseling work and struggle, I painfully ended a relationship that was both a marriage and business partnership. The emotional and financial impact was overwhelming.

In addition, my focus for the prior five years had been maintaining my client base and carefully taking on new clients and limiting speaking engagements so I could decrease my time away from home and spend more time being a mom. From a business perspective, I now had very little momentum as I restarted my newly branded consulting business. To make things worse, in spite of my 20 years of experience, my confidence had pretty much evaporated.

As I sat there in silence, I did a lot of thinking and praying and shed more than a few tears. Then, I had a come-to-Penny meeting. I could either sit there and feel sorry for myself and be bitter or I could own my part in the previous environment that I helped to create, embrace the lessons I had learned, and create a new culture for my life and my business. My new beginning started with my culture of one.

That is where change begins, in our own environment. When it comes down to it, as business owners and CEOs (chief environment officers) of our lives, it all begins with the environment we establish and nurture in between our own ears. It begins our internal culture.

I started by doing everything I could to make improvements. I re-engaged at a deeper level with my church group, my family, and my friends. I spent more time with my daughter and refocused on my health and taking care of myself. I also knew that I must have a business advisor and coach if I wanted to shorten the runway from where I was now to where I wanted to be. I needed a coach who would listen, guide me on the path to reaching my business potential, believe in me, and most importantly work with me to believe in myself again. Until that belief was restored in my own internal culture, no lasting change would take place.

Change begins with a shift in culture followed by decisions. I found the right coach and he challenged me to write the book I wished I had when I was an office manager. I wanted to share a blueprint that could be applied to any size practice. After 15 months of loving labor, Growing Your Dental Business was born and delivered to my doorstep in May of 2015.

The book has been monumental in the success of my coaching and speaking business. A highly motivated practice owner or manager can take the principles in Growing Your Dental Business and grow their practice by 25% or more. However, the systems are only part of the equation. Everything we do in a dental office is accomplished through people. The ability for a dental team to quickly and consistently take action is directly related to the culture of the organization.

Your culture is foundational to consistently getting things done in your organization.

Just like in my own personal life, I knew the systems needed for running my consulting business yet I had to get my internal culture in order to begin to drive new results in my business environment.   As business owners and leaders, it begins by defining our own culture and then sharing those principles and expectations with our team.

What’s more important? The systems or the culture of an organization? The answer is both. Yet, a healthy culture must be in place in order to take systems and strategies and implement them quickly and consistently. Without the appropriate environment, the systems won’t stick.

A healthy culture seeks alignment of its vision and values with its attitudes and behaviors.

In order to drive culture, there must be clear communication of the expectations and these must be modeled so that the actions of the leaders match the message. A thriving culture must value the trait of coachability at the highest level. Change in the dental profession continues to accelerate. In order to be adaptable, every member of the dental organization must be coachable to continue to grow and achieve optimal results.

Dental business owners and leaders who commit to coaching on both culture and systems are the ones who achieve measurable and lasting success. Every dentist, whether they work in a practice, own a practice or a whole group of practices – deserves a financially and emotionally rewarding business. They also deserve a practice culture that has them and their teams look forward to coming to work each morning. When both culture and systems are addressed in a training and coaching relationship, the results are incredible.

From time to time, I reflect on my own business and whether or not I am modeling the message I am sharing in my presentations and coaching. I had a distinct moment of awareness a few months ago when I had a conversation with my friend and colleague Janice Hurley. She works with dentists and their teams, as well as other professionals, who want to be certain that their image matches their brand. After Janice and I spent some time catching up, she asked me a powerful question, “When are you going to invest in yourself so that your image and brand truly represent the message and coaching you provide to dentists and their teams”? It was as if she held up a mirror to me and in the reflection I saw how I was presenting myself through my professional style. I had to ask myself, what impression am I making on the audiences I speak to and does it accurately match the level of coaching and guidance I provide for my clients? It wasn’t an easy question to answer but I knew I had to take action. Within a few days, I booked a consultation with Janice and she worked with me to create my own style blueprint. One that has my image match my personality and skill level. The results were immediate. It was as if I stepped out of the black and white scenes from the Wizard of Oz, straight into the vibrant colors of Munchkin-land and the Emerald City. My image now represented my experience and rather colorful personality.

Four years ago, I never would have imagined that my life and business would be where they are now. By surrounding myself with personal and business relationships that are in alignment with my values the last few years have been incredibly rewarding. Not only have the professional results exceeded my expectations, the greatest benefits have been personal. Not long after those moments of staring at the wall in my apartment, I reconnected with my college sweetheart. Rob and I got married a year later on Valentine’s day and I received something else that day I had wanted for years, a second daughter. The journey hasn’t always been easy, but it sure has been worth it. It all began with the decision to focus on culture, starting with my culture of one.