Kiera Dent of The Dental A Team: 5 Things You Need To Create A Successful Career As A Dentist
An Interview With Luke Kervin
Be a Culture Master — Owning my first practice, I had no idea what a toxic culture could do to my practice. And I surely had no idea what a THRIVING culture meant. Thriving cultures are a top secret of the most successful dentists and their practices. The reality is YOU are the culture master. YOU are the one who is running your culture right now. The things you love about your practice and the things you don’t are all a reflection of you. Culture is a slow burn and it doesn’t happen overnight.
As part of our series about healthcare leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kiera Dent.
Kiera Dent is the owner and founder of The Dental A Team Consulting and consults in hundreds of dental offices nationwide. Together, she and her team tackle in-person dental office consulting, find the office’s blindspots and create easy, fun, and results driven solutions. Kiera’s mission is to positively impact the world of dentistry in the greatest way possible and is obsessed with sharing her knowledge to help dentists achieve their dream lives.
Visit her at The Dental A Team HERE.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! What is your “backstory”?
Thank you so much for having me! I am beyond honored to share my insights.
I wasn’t naturally talented or gifted when it came to dentistry. I started out as a dental assistant and in fact, I struggled. I hit my dentist in the head with the overhead light many times, struggled to get the perfect x-ray, struggled to learn the steps of the procedures, struggled getting a handle on billing, scheduling, presenting treatment plans, etc. I think all the “struggle” created empathy and understanding for others as I transitioned throughout my career working in all the different facets of the dental practice–dental assistant, treatment coordinator, dental biller, dental scheduler, dental office manager, dental regional manager of 10 locations in two states, working at Midwestern University’s College of Dental Medicine, multi-practice owner taking my first dental practice in Colorado from $500K to $2.4M in 9 months, opening my second location, and becoming the podcast host of The Dental A Team.
I feel these different “lenses” have allowed me to see many different sides of the practice: practice team member, practice owner, business owner, coach, and friend. With this unique perspective, our nationwide dental consulting company allows us to help hundreds of dentists and teams increase their profitability by 20% in 90 days with a team driven approach with people who love their jobs and consistently deliver VIP patient experiences.
I have failed many times, I have succeeded many times and I believe my moral obligation and insane passion is to help as many dentists and people as possible enjoy this amazing profession we all get to be part of. Dentistry is the best and we are dang lucky to be part of it!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Consultants are meant to help an office, right? Come in, see the office from a bird’s eye view, offer direction and guidance and get the entire team aligned. Well, I effectively, and completely accidentally, got rid of an entire team in less than 12 hours, leaving me in absolute and utter shock. As this was only the third office of my career, I chalked it up to inexperience. Yet nothing could prepare me for the guilt and shame I felt as a consultant. For three months I felt I had ruined this doctor’s life, failed my primary responsibility as a consultant, and thought I truly wasn’t meant to be a consultant. Vindication finally came when I found out that all the employees who quit, terminated because I was hot on their trail for embezzlement that day in the office. It’s crazy how checking in on routine items of AR, billing, scheduling, can make unethical employees squeamish. Remembering how I felt sitting outside the office, in complete shock, feeling like I had just been termed “Worst Consultant of All Time” to later finding out I was actually a great consultant who helped this dentist eliminate the people who were truly sucking her practice dry was by far a moment I will never forget! This story ends with us rebuilding her team, creating policies to protect her from embezzlement, and helping her build her dream practice. It was a moment that forever shaped both of our lives for the better.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Dental assistants get paid to suck spit for a living, and also for saying some completely ludicrous comments from time to time. One day, I was taking orthodontic pictures of a patient who was getting braces. To see all of the teeth at various different angles, we use cheek retractors. I told the patient, “Alrighty- now I’m going to spread your cheeks and take a picture.” Pause. Complete silence. Then redness crept up my cheeks, turning me into a blushing tomato. What had I just said? Did that really just come out of my mouth? The patient burst out laughing. And not just a simple chuckle; but full belly laughs, crying from laughing so hard with hysterical laughing! She couldn’t control herself and I started laughing too! This was by far the most ridiculous thing I had ever said, or have said since. I realized I needed to think twice before speaking. To this day, this patient and I always giggle and she asks me, “What crazy thing will you say to me today?”.
This was a moment that taught me that life is funny and we should be okay to laugh and giggle and go with the flow. Looking on the bright side, flowing with ease, and finding the joy in life is what life is meant to be and I’m consistently committed to creating more belly laughing moments in life!
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
YES! Our mission at The Dental A Team is to positively impact the world of dentistry in the greatest way possible. With this mission in mind, we are rolling out, “Dental Practice Fundamentals” June 2022! This will be a monthly CE, fixed with an online resource library and monthly accountability and teaching masterminds that are all about systems and implementation with offices just like them and consultants to help guide them! This simple, interactive program is a way to massively impact new and existing dentists to develop their systems in a way that involves them and their teams. I can’t even wait to roll this out and help more offices alleviate stress, find simple ways to systematize their practices, learn shortcuts to success, and live lives of ease!
We also just launched “Thirsty Thursday” every third Thursday of the month for a free CE event for the dentist who is thirsty for more dentistry in real life. We can’t wait to dive deep into relevant hot topics each month with our doctors and teams. We hope you and your office want to raise a glass and “Cheers” to that!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
The Dental A Team is a company that was formed from the ashes of my life. I had built massive success with my dental practices in Colorado and hung my identity upon this success. When my marriage was failing, health declining, and my overall mental stability in shambles, I sold my portion of the practices to return to a life I didn’t know or even want. My husband and I were separated and divorce papers filed. After attempting suicide and screaming, “I never want another tomorrow,” feeling completely and utterly hopeless, Tony Robbins entered my life.
I had seen a quote by him on an Instagram post, then found him on YouTube and started listening to him daily. One of my favorite quotes from him is, “Life is happening for you and not to you.” This resonated. If I could see my success and “failed” life as something FOR me and not to me, life looked very different. This was the glimmering strand of hope that I had been searching for. Slowly, I started to rebuild my life- this time putting in the blocks and pieces I wanted for me instead of what I thought others wanted me to build.
The Dental A Team was created and I decided to attend my first live Tony Robbins event- Business Mastery. I was terrified and electrified! I was fan-girling for sure to meet the man who had been there when all of my hope was lost. People don’t often realize their impact. People don’t know how their words can save people from utter destruction.
That event was life-changing. I learned that the secret to living is giving. At the event, my team and I were able to create a business and give back thousands of meals to hungry families in just 5 days! Our team won the event and I was able to get a hug from the man who had changed me without even knowing, Tony Robbins himself. He will never know the impact he has had on me. I listened to his timeless advice while I ran, got ready each day, and especially on the days I didn’t want another tomorrow. He showed me how to create my life with teachings and principles that worked! I changed myself with new habits and rituals–created different thought patterns, asked better questions, and surrounded myself with people who were the kind of people I wanted to become. There are not enough words to show the gratitude I have for this mentor of mine. My life, our company, the people and offices we serve and provide massive value to are all compliments to Tony Robbins. Without him, I know none of this would be here today.
Is there a particular book that made an impact on you? Can you share a story?
Oh my gosh, yes! I was never a solid reader and then I discovered the magic of Audible. Listening at 3–5x the speed forces me to listen intensely and I have learned so much from the minds of these incredible authors! Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman is at the top of the list. I was first introduced to this book when I was asked to come to a dental office and help as a meeting facilitator for Traction. I had never read this book so on my flight to NY, I was listening to this book at 5x the speed with a paper copy in hand, highlighting all the main points. This book is a game changer for business owners. It taught me how to run effective meetings, think of how my business will look in 10 years, and to assess the key areas in a systematic way. That was such a mental exercise to think of myself, 10 years older, and what I really wanted my business to look like financially, our contribution to society, growth wise, personally? From the time I did this first dental meeting in NY to today, The Dental A Team has grown 240% in 2 years and I owe the bulk of this growth, clarity, and company unity to this incredible book!
I also have a few others that I love. These are good life-changing books, if the principles are applied and executed.
- The Go Giver by Bob Burg reminds me to always give more than anyone can ever imagine and to find the good in life. The secret to living is giving!
- Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babintaught taught me that everything- good or bad– in the company is 100% my responsibility. When I took ownership of this, my life changed. I could be the change because I was no longer blaming. It was terrifying and then liberating!
- Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod picked me up on my road to building the company. It gave me structure and daily purpose. I still live this Miracle Morning 6 years later and have shared this with so many others!
- The 5 Dysfunctions of Teams by Patrick Lencioni has been a game changer and has helped me rally my team and learn how to create a transparent team that truly can function.
- Profit First by Mike Michaolowicz completely shifted how I think of my company and profit. It finally made sense on HOW to pay myself AND be profitable. Prior to that I was just paying the company and feeling resentful. This man is a legend. Anything you can read by him will completely change you for the better!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
My mission has always been to positively impact the world of dentistry in the greatest way possible. Thankfully we have been insanely blessed and are living that mission with our dental practices and our team. When I first started, I was passionate about providing a job where people could be at home with their kiddos and make a great living while serving our clients. And we have done just that! We’ve also been fortunate to help give dentists their dream lives of going home when they want to, being profitable, and being able to serve their communities with a team they love working with. I had a dentist tell me, “Kiera- I am so thankful you do what you do. You have changed my life for the better. You have changed my team and their lives for the better. And this was all because you decided to start this company.” That motivates me to find even more ways to give back on a bigger, more impactful level- constantly pushing the question of “How can we impact and serve even more?”.
Every year, our company also gives back through our Dental A Team’s LIVE TO GIVE portion of our company. We have donated thousands of meals, coats to homeless shelters and people within our communities, and scholarships to organizations. This year we are working with the Make a Wish foundation and in the next few years we will be starting our company’s nonprofit to either serve with medical benefits and dentistry, deliver a billion gallons of fresh water or some other life changing need. I believe the secret to living is giving and we are constantly looking for more ways to give to others on a greater scale and help others live their dream lives.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story about how that was relevant to you in your own life?
“Don’t Just Dream; Do!” This was a quote I made up in high school and put on my mirror to remind myself that I needed to actually execute if I wanted life to happen!! The best story to illustrate this is when I was starting my company and literally didn’t know the first step to running a business. So- I just started. I created an email account, filed with the state for a business license, came up with a name, went to Logocontest.com and made a logo. Ordered 1000 folders with that newly acquired logo– I knew I was going to be big! (I ended up throwing away 990 of those 1000 folders when we rebranded!) The point of all of this is, and it feels so cliche, is to just start moving. Don’t just dream; do! Execute. Get moving. You have a huge life waiting out there for you– Don’t just dream of that life, execute and start living it!
Can you share your top three “oral hygiene tweaks” that will help people look and feel great?
Use fluoride toothpaste! I am a huge believer in fluoride toothpaste because it’s the only way to be proactive and preventative TODAY! Use it once a day, at night. Brush, spit, and don’t rinse. Leave that film on at night and your teeth will thank you! I love Fluoridex or Prevident; both can be bought at your dental office.
Floss– just do it. It will make you feel better and something you can be proud of! I love floss picks in my nightstand to floss before going to bed. And up until about 4 years ago, I didn’t floss. I felt awful that I worked in the dental practice and did the cardinal dental sin- no flossing. Bottom line is, we can never go back in time and fix what we haven’t done. All we can do is start today. Have today be your flossing resolution day. Do something that your future self will be thankful for!
Get custom trays and gel for whitening!! I love custom trays and gel because you can do it any time, determine how white you want your smile and it’s customized to you! Your dental office can make these for you.
Ok thank you for all of that. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Successful Career As A Dentist” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Be a Leader and Do Your Job.
I was at a conference one day and I heard the presenter, Keith Cunningham, say- “CEOs, do your job!” It hit me like a bullet in the chest. I hadn’t been doing my job. I had been doing part of my job but not the part that I didn’t enjoy. Whether you are the main owner, associate dentist, or resident, being a dentist means you are a leader. So step up! DO YOUR JOB! Lead your team. Read books on leadership, business ownership, growth, and constantly be hungry to be the next best version of you. I get it– doing dentistry with the patients and the team is the fun part. BUT the “non-sexy” part of running the numbers, figuring out culture, cultivating team members, reducing your overhead, listening to podcasts and reading books are the pieces that will move the needle forward. Don’t forget- you are a leader first, dentist second. And if you will focus on these in this order, you will find massive success.
- Second piece of leadership is consistent execution. Being a great leader means you consistently execute on the decisions made. One of my top doctors in upstate New York runs an insanely successful group of practices. He is a leader first and dentist second and consistently executes. He ensures his team is well taken care of, provides the culture and the standards and is constantly pushing the envelope for the next best thing clinically, personally and professionally. His team knows he will always execute. They know he expects them to do the same. Be a leader. Show up and do your job. And be the best you can be every single day!
- Know Your Numbers- The Vitals of Your Practice
A lot of offices get into hot water by not knowing their numbers. Working at the dental college, I saw what is taught in school and there’s not a lot of business. You learn to be great clinicians with exceptional bedside manners. And then you enter private practice, or associateships, and have no idea how to collect money or make the practice profitable. I was in the same boat on my first practice- working from 2 am until 10 pm each day and wondering if we would “make it” and not knowing what to do. The answer lies in the vitals of your practice- the numbers! Know your overhead and what impacts that number. Know what industry standards are for payroll, supplies, marketing, labs, legal, front office supplies, rent, etc. By knowing your numbers, you will be able to know which dial of the practice to focus on and in what order. Sequence matters. The numbers ensure you are focused on the most important aspects of the practice.
I had a dentist once on the verge of bankruptcy because he refused to look at his numbers monthly which meant he was drowning and couldn’t pay bills. Instead of fixing the problem, he just kept spending more money hoping to fix it. His bucket was bleeding out and he was just dumping more and more in the top hoping to stay afloat. We stopped the hemorrhaging and started with the basics: Profit and Loss statement reviewed monthly. Where were his numbers in relationship to industry standards? Where was the money going? Were we collecting? That helped us see we had a broken system on the billing aspect of the practice. His front office would sit on a stack of checks for 2–3 weeks because they were “too busy.” That created a cash flow problem because we never knew our collection percentage and didn’t know where the money was coming from. Once we fixed those holes, we reallocated some payroll funds and were able to determine if bonuses could be paid or if they needed to be eliminated. Then we determined what was needed from a new patient stand point. There were many other areas we fixed but the overarching idea is that by knowing your numbers, you will make smarter decisions, help more patients, and feel more confident about your business, leading to greater happiness and a lot less stress!
- Be a Culture Master
Owning my first practice, I had no idea what a toxic culture could do to my practice. And I surely had no idea what a THRIVING culture meant. Thriving cultures are a top secret of the most successful dentists and their practices. The reality is YOU are the culture master. YOU are the one who is running your culture right now. The things you love about your practice and the things you don’t are all a reflection of you. Culture is a slow burn and it doesn’t happen overnight. I have an office in Rhode Island whose team was doing well; but he knew it could be better. He reached out for help. We first identified what their ideal culture was and then assessed how their practice was based on those ideals. This helped us see the gaps of where we could shift the culture. The dentist is the one who sets the tone–things like accountability, ownership for mistakes, growth-minded, humility, confidence, success, positivity. Many people don’t realize that to have a successful career as a dentist, it’s about the culture of your practice. This dentist started becoming this ideal team member. He also started having peer-to-peer recognition. They started focusing on different core values each month. As culture cultivators, you develop the team that “automatically” flows because they are living by culture and no longer needing the accountability as much. Become a Culture Master and watch your career flow with ease.
- Empower Your Team
One of the biggest mistakes I see new and experienced dentists make is the thought that they have to “know it all.” The reality is– you don’t. By acknowledging this, you create two things. 1- Humility and a culture with the freedom to make mistakes and allow your team to do the same thing. 2- A team who is empowered to grow the practice far beyond anything you can imagine. I was quoted in a seminar one time when I said, “As a team member, my number one priority was to make the doctor’s life as easy as possible. I don’t care what the number is, the goal, etc. I just want to know the vision and then let me run with it to make your life easy”. To illustrate this more, there was a practice in Washington state whose doctor felt that he needed to have the entire vision to take to his team. I casually suggested he create a rough draft of the vision and then ask his team what they thought. Upon doing so, he was blown away when the team created a much larger vision than even he was thinking the practice could be. One of the key pieces of a successful career is to empower your team and allow them to grow the vision with you. This gets team buy-in, solutions created, easier momentum, a team that loves their job, and all of that makes your career smooth sailing. Remember you do not need to know it all. You just need to give the vision, empower your team to grow it even bigger than you can imagine, and get out of their way, expecting them to exceed expectations!
- Keep Your Passion Alive
The final piece of a successful career as a dentist is to keep your passion for dentistry alive. So many dentists come out hungry and excited with this brewing passion for dentistry and then the drudge of the day in and day out comes into play and they start to forget why they even became a dentist. Keep this passion alive with a conviction that cannot be shaken. I have a dentist in Hawaii who has kept her passion alive for several years by constantly feeding it through CE and growing herself through personal development. Each year she chooses a CE topic she wants to invest in; anywhere from sleep apnea, to 3D printing, to scanning, to ortho, to leadership, to Kois and Spear, to refining her preps, to placing implants. The list is endless. She goes to in person events and virtual events to keep the passion alive. It’s been said, “Progress equals happiness”. If you aren’t progressing you are dying. There is no joy in stagnation. Find ways to challenge yourself and your team. Find ways to keep your passion alive. Have a date with yourself annually to see where you stack up well and where you want to grow. Remember, with great success comes great responsibility. Find the joy in that responsibility. Find the passion in running a successful business within your practice. See it with a lens of gratitude rather than drudgery. Remind yourself that you are truly in the best industry possible- the one where you are building confidence and changing lives one smile at a time.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Love ourselves genuinely. This feels “woo-woo” and for the longest time, I felt that way too. I didn’t think that loving myself completely would ever change the world. However, with a lot of coaching and guidance, I realized the same love I am willing to give myself is the highest amount of love I can give to anyone else. Speaking kinder to myself, caring for myself, treating myself like the best employee, and truly showing up for myself is where it begins. Bottom line- this starts internally. If more people would genuinely love themselves, they would have a desire to show forth more love towards others and this would radically change our world for the better.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
TAYLOR SWIFT! GAHHHHHHHHHH! Taylor Swift has been someone I have loved since she began her music career, looked up to, and would be in complete and total ecstasy to meet her for even two seconds. I had a dream one night that she and I were friends and it was so sad when I woke up and realized it was just a dream. She is powerful, fearless, has pushed through and found her version of herself. She has been an example of being strong and relentless and has given me, and thousands of others, the permission to do the same. Her song, “The Man” is a song that spoke to me as a female entrepreneur. I have often felt I needed to be a man in order to be successful, that being a woman was second class. Just knowing someone else felt like me was refreshing, giving me the ability to turn my femininity into a strength and my ultimate power. Not only has she done that for me, but she has also helped me overcome being anorexic. I remember watching her documentary, Miss Americana, about starving herself and how she realized that was not the way to treat her body. I connected. I can be healthy and happy and take care of myself rather than feeling like my image is connected to my success. She has given me the confidence to be an incredible influence for good as a female. She loves her fans. She always surprises and delights her fans and I’ve been lucky enough to experience that. On my birthday in May 2019, I went to her “Reputation” concert with my younger sister and best friend. We were sitting about 10 rows from the top. The lights went down and we were all screaming with so much excitement to see THE TAYLOR SWIFT; and then out of nowhere, someone came and asked “Would you like floor passes??” I was on cloud 9!!!! It still is one of the highlights of my life! COMPLETELY AMAZING!!!! She is someone I have followed, appreciated her authenticity and loved all along the way. To be able to give her a hug and tell her how thankful I am that she created what she has and became who she is would be a dream come true. Even if nothing else, being able to write this gratitude and share my appreciation with this audience is one small way I am able to thank someone who has literally changed me. Thank you, Authority Magazine, for giving me this opportunity to express my gratitude!
What is the best way for our readers to follow you online?
Join us on our podcast, The Dental A Team Podcast with Kiera Dent! We release three short podcasts each week- Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday- for dentists and teams, jam-packed with actionable content! Having been coined “The Dr. Suess of Systems”, we make it easy, fun and a way to get your entire team onboard! Our focus is on profitability, systemization top to bottom, and team development top to bottom. Come on over– we would love to welcome you to our Dental A Team Podcast family!
OR- connect on social media: Instagram: @dentalateam / Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thedentalateam/ LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/the-dental-a-team
Thank you so much for these wonderful insights!