Profession Progression, the Story of a Lifetime, Part 4: Nancy Kagan

In My Story, She's a Dentist, She's an Entrepreneur by Nancy Kagan

When I sat down to put my career story on “paper,” I realized a few things:

  1. My story doesn’t begin with the start of my career.
  2. It’s been a long journey with many twists and turns.
  3. I’ve worked hard but have had tons of support along the way.

It Began With My Mother

My mother was a very strong woman. She faced adversity with grace and overcame obstacles with tenacity and a sense of humor. And that’s where my story begins.

She was 48 when my Dad died unexpectedly and she was forced to enter the workforce. It was from this mindset that she encouraged me to find a career pathwork that could sustain me should the unthinkable happen. A family friend was a dental hygienist, so that’s where the conversation began.

Joining the Workforce

I liked and did well in science classes, so it seemed like a good fit. Only 2 years of school, and I’d have a career that could sustain me. So, off to the Forsyth School for Dental Hygienists I went.

My entrée into the real world of dental hygiene was tough. Jobs were scarce, so 3 part-time jobs took up my week. Back then? No gloves. No alcohol to sterilize. And taking a day off meant canceling 16 patients, since we booked on the ½ hour.

Light Bulb Moment

You can imagine my boss’s reaction when I told him that I needed an unexpected day off to take my mom to a doctor’s appointment. On the way to that appointment, I was sharing his reaction with her and found myself saying. “I wish I could have gotten a temp like you can in the administrative space.” That’s when a light bulb want off in my head and a new career path was born.

But is that a viable service for dental offices when hygienists need time off? How could I do this? The questions wouldn’t stop flowing, and we were brainstorming possible solutions. In that car, Dental Temporaries was born.

The Winding Road

My First Entrepreneurial Experiment

I ran an ad in a local paper for hygiene candidates and sent out 600 flyers to offices in my area. My first interview was with Diane. She was ready and willing to be a “temp” hygienist. And then I got a call . . . for a temp. This was really happening! Quick call to Diane and I had my first placement. (And the reason I mention Diane is because she is now the owner of Dental Temporaries). Talk about full circle.

Management Opportunity

Yes, I sold DT. And my career path took a new twist. There was a new practice under construction that had an absentee owner, and I was asked to manage it. I stayed with that practice from construction until it was sold 12 years later.

That transition to new ownership didn’t turn out as well. The new owner was on site and did not have the same need for management as before. We parted company amicably, although it was hard to leave a practice I’d had a hand in building.

Initial Consulting Services

The broker for the sale of the practice I’d helped build is the one who gave me my next lead. He suggested that I might be able to help some of his docs that were buying practices yet had limited knowledge of the inner workings of a dental practice. Hmmmm. The idea of starting my own consulting services was appealing!

So he introduced me to a practice that was already established, but that he thought might be able to use my expertise. I went to that practice with the intention of helping them with some organizational issues . . . and spent the next 8 years there as their manager. Yes, another leg along my career journey! But really, their offer to hire me was attractive. And I wasn’t sure if I was quite ready yet to fly solo.

Another Blind Curve

As often happens, that partnership began to unravel. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, I made the brave (some may say crazy) decision to give my 90-day notice. It felt terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. Here I was, for the second time, facing career-ending circumstances that were not of my own doing.

Either I was going to be without work, or . . . There was only one decision to make. Time to learn to fly solo!

And Today?

Well, the story isn’t over. But if you want to know where I am in the journey now, you’ll find me at Summit Dental Partners, enjoying that consulting practice and all the challenges and inspirations it brings.

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