Why Collaboration is Key

In Success by Linda Miles

Webster’s defines collaboration as the action of working with someone to produce or create something as in an intellectual endeavor.

Collaboration is very similar to, but more closely aligned than cooperation. Teams that work collaboratively can obtain greater resources, recognition and rewards when facing competition for the end result. This is especially true when one or more on the team has strengths that complement the weaknesses of another. By collaborating, we are able to leverage each individual’s talents by creating a more cohesive product in any business.

Just when I thought I was retiring completely in June 2016 by closing my corporation, disconnecting the office of LLM&A phones, faxes and post office box address … Lee Tarvin and I said, “This is it, the grand finale month of our long and wonderful careers in dentistry.” (Lee was my right-hand person for 32 of my 35 years in business). At ages 74 and 72, we were both looking forward to full retirement. As we looked back on our three plus decades, we reflected on how lucky we had been to have those wonderful years with long-lasting relationships and good memories.

As Lee and I discovered, when you’re a speaker or consultant, you’re an absentee owner of your business. Therefore, it’s important to have a personal assistant who has strengths you don’t or a person who loves doing the parts of the business you’re not best at doing. I was the creative visionary who came up with more good ideas for helping practices than we could have ever used each year. Lee took the project we were currently working on and helped me created the roles and responsibilities of each team member who was going to be involved, and together they carried the project to fruition. She didn’t want my job, and I didn’t want her details part. So for us as team leaders and collaborators, we were in sync. We also encouraged our coworkers to question the obstacles and to offer better solutions and ideas which helped the company grow. We wanted DeWers and thinkers!

Some examples of collaboration within dental groups I’ve witnessed over the years include:

1. The Lucy Hobbs Anniversary Project in its Fifth Year:

Lucy Hobbs was the first woman to graduate from dental school almost 150 years ago. Knowing that today more than half the graduating classes of dentists are female, Benco Dental started the LHP in 2012. Through collaboration of their marketing department, a few selected dental companies, dental schools, the ADA and a survey, they created the LHP for honoring highly visible, high-powered women in dentistry. In November 2017, there will be a Lucy Hobbs Meet and Greet in conjunction with the Greater NY Dental Meeting, and starting in November 2018, around the GNYDM, a three-day, power-packed meeting for all women in dentistry will be held.

2. The Speaking Consulting Network (SCN), the Dental Consultant Connection (DCC) and the Academy of Dental Management Consultants (ADMC):

Collaboration is strong. When a practice hires a management consultant, the practice has varying degrees of issues that are all interconnected. No matter how great the consultant or the consulting firm, most of them can’t be all things to all people. They must reach out to others in their group who are specialists in certain services such as medical/ dental cross coding, IT, clinical excellence, human resources, compliance experts and fraud investigation, along with the many aspects of practice and team development. Reaching out to the members of their groups who are the experts is truly providing a higher level of service to clients.

3. The Founding of Ultimate Team Mastery with Dr. Tanya Brown in April of 2016:

I wanted to do an online webinar series on practice and team development, but I’m not very tech-savvy, nor did I have my AGD accreditation for Dental CEUs. Tanya, who is also a great management speaker and consultant, is tech-savvy and has CEU certification, so we collaborated and have enjoyed a year of working together and great success with UTM.

4. Our DeW Life (Entrepreneurial Women in Dentistry) leader, Anne Duffy:

Anne realized after the success of Dental Entrepreneur Magazine that in order to successfully create a special lifestyle magazine for all women in dentistry, she needed to collaborate with a village of women entrepreneurs in the dental industry who share her love of empowering and mentoring other women. DeW Life, thanks to Anne, is off to a roaring start and serves a need that has not been filled even with more women than men graduating dental schools each year … not to mention the 750,000 team members, speakers, consultants, editors and dental company representatives who will become subscribers of DeW Life.

5. Whole Health Dentistry:

This group is getting a lot of new attention and traction since the inception of AAOSH eight years ago. Dentists, physicians, nutritionists, nurses, chiropractors and dental-team members are collaborating on ways to best identify, communicate and treat illnesses that manifest in the oral cavity. For the first time in my personal dental career (56 years), I am seeing a new sense of collaboration between healthcare professionals, now that they know the mouth and body have been reunited. Dentists are truly the only physician of the mouth and are getting the respect they deserve from other healthcare professionals. New services, such as Oral DNA, complete oral cancer screenings and dental oncology (getting patients dentally ready to start their chemo and radiation treatments) are spreading to other practices. Not only has the care of the patient improved, practices are getting into this type of whole health dentistry on the ground floor. I predict this is the next biggest movement in the dental profession.

6. Oral Cancer Cause (OCC) Becoming a 501 3C in 2013:

Robin Morrison and I met at an AADOM meeting where we discussed her brother, Mike, who had passed away months earlier, and my sister-in-law, Charlotte, who was with hospice in her final battle with head and neck cancer. With our combined 80-plus years in dentistry, we were both very busy but very committed to financially and emotionally help oral cancer families as the patient goes through their medical treatment, which is often worse than the diagnoses. This project would not have come to fruition without our collaboration and determination. With an all-volunteer force, except for Executive Director Amber Young’s 20-hours-per-week salary, 100-percent of our funds (minus marketing costs) go to the families for transportation for treatments, child care if the mom is unable to care for their small children, co-payments and dental reconstruction. Our advisory board and the promotion of Amber Young from Chief Brand Officer to Executive Director has created tremendous growth of OCC this past year.

If you have heard the gloom and doom that some dentists and other dental professionals are spreading, I hope you will find like-minded, positive and forward-thinking women in dentistry the DeW Lifers like to spend time with. These heavy-duty collaborators are not only excited about the future of dentistry, but they are the pioneers of new everything. They are not settlers. They embrace new technology. They take leadership courses as they know leaders create other leaders, not followers. These women are from all walks of dentistry. Some are dentists, some are team members and others are representatives from leading dental companies. You will find speakers, consultants, meeting planners, writers and dental-lab professionals. Successful collaboration begins with clear communication, a common goal and those who are as passionate and enthusiastic about the future of dentistry. Select your mentors carefully and begin the collaboration process. Don’t forget that the more involved you are in organized dentistry and dental meetings where the top 20 percent hang out, the more likely you are to be included in collaborative projects. The best reward of that plan will be the relationships you make and the lifelong friends you will acquire.