In Iowa where I live and practice, 2018 ended the same way it always does…dark and cold. But for me, the year was dark in more than one way. I was the owner of a very successful dental practice, but I was unhappy and secretly hated going to work. Being the boss and worrying about all The Things had really started to wear on me, sucking the joy out of what could have been a very fun and enjoyable journey. I was in a position I had anticipated to be satisfying. I had pictured being in this place for well over a decade, but now that I was there, I realized it wasn’t that great.
Fortunately, the following year I discovered, through life coaching, that I was the one person responsible for how I felt, not the practice or my employees or my family. This meant that I, alone, could change what was happening with my dissatisfaction and stress at work. The coaching turned my practice and my life around. After seeing just how transformative this coaching was as a dental practice owner, I noticed that there was a gap in the market for other dentists to discover and apply such life changing information. In this article, I tell my story of how my initial dark year turned into a movement that is now changing the lives of many.
Starting a movement? Get ready to feel all the feels
Launching a coaching or a consulting business from scratch is very different from starting or buying a dental practice. As a dentist, my role, and the need for what I do, is very clear. All I had to do was sign up with some insurance plans, get my dental license and be nice to my patients to create a viable practice. (On the other hand, creating something more profitable and more enjoyable took considerably more work but that’s not the focus of this article.) When I saw that there was a coaching gap in dentistry, when I dreamed of filling that role, I entered a more entrepreneurial realm. I was going to create something from nothing, I wanted to serve my fellow dentists but there was no blueprint, no franchise I could buy, or even a mentor who could tell me how they created a life coaching business for dentists.
When I first dreamed about having a successful life coaching practice for dentists, I pictured how fun and amazing it would be to hop on my computer a few hours a day, inspire others, and then go pet my cat. I didn’t really consider what I was going to need to do (and feel) in the meantime. This included the following emotions: discouragement, overwhelm, despondence, shame, and the occasional sprinkling of exhilaration. Why are there so many feelings associated with being an entrepreneur? Because nobody is telling you what to do or how to do it. You, yourself, are creating this new entity from just your passion and your dreams.
Throwing spaghetti against the wall
The first little steps that I took in creating something from nothing were very similar to what I would picture from a movie in the 80s featuring an inventor. Sitting in my basement lab, a lot of smoke blew up in my face. I started a YouTube channel where I posted helpful videos with messages I had for my ideal client. The channel never really took off, I think to this day I have fewer than 150 subscribers, but I got practice being helpful despite not getting much traction. I also had some crash-and-burns on social media. I had to learn the hard way, the balance between being helpful in someone else’s space (Facebook groups) and coming off as needy or pushy to those for whom I had a message. Ugh. The smoke from some of those early mistakes is still dissipating in the basement…
Eventually I started a podcast to get my message out, and it grew slowly over time until it wasn’t slow anymore. I had reached a critical mass where enough of my people had found me, and now the podcast is a steady, reliable asset. Like throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks, the podcast has stayed up on that wall now for over two years.
After the podcast grew, I gained traction and authority, which allowed me to sell my services to those in my target market. I coached clients one-on-one, helping them work through their own thoughts and feelings about their practices and their lives! Eventually my reach was wide enough that I was able to launch a group program, where women who own practices meet together, supporting one another and learning the principles as a team. My first group coaching is now a year old, and continues to gain momentum as a place where women can learn to get back to loving their practices.
Being willing to fail
My life coaching instructor and mentor taught me another helpful principle that I found myself needing over and over. She taught me that the cost of achieving my dreams, of building that coaching practice, was my willingness to fail and try again. My willingness to feel like a failure was the tuition I had to pay in order to build the dream. If I wasn’t afraid to fail, I could keep trying until I found the magic mix of content and medium that reached the right people.
Think about it! Picture your own creation: whether it be a product or a service, becoming the best and most awesome entity you could imagine. Everybody wants it! Now ask yourself, if you knew you could have that perfect business, would you be willing to feel some uncomfortable emotions to get there? If I said, you can have this dream business, all you have to do is be willing to feel discomfort, shame, disappointment, and worry, would you be willing to feel it? Of course you would! Emotions are temporary, and honestly not as bad as the energy we put into avoiding them.
Picture a second thing in your mind. Envision a task or an initiative you have been meaning to do for the growth of your baby, but that you have been putting off. Why have you been putting it off? Could it be because it might not work? And if it doesn’t work, what’s so bad about that? I will tell you: you are worried about how you feel after you try. So what if you weren’t afraid of that feeling of failure? You would just do the initiative!
I found that once I embraced the yuck of facing failure, it diffused the fear and allowed me to try things that I would not have tried before!
Where we are going isn’t better than right now
As a brand new coach, fresh out of certification, I felt anxious to get going. I saw examples of coaches who had grown their business quickly. I immediately started comparing my baby to theirs. My coach told me something very important: “Where they are on their journey is not better than where you are on your journey. Their present situation does not feel better than your present tense.” When I get all angsty or get to comparing myself to others, I try to remind myself that when I get to where that other person is now in my business progression, I will still be me and I will still have feelings and thoughts that are very human. I will not be crossing the magic entrepreneurial bridge into nirvana. That bridge does not exist! We will always be striving for the next step, the next level because of the nature of being entrepreneurs. The dentists you serve are so lucky you are here on this journey for them. Keep building, keep trying, and remind yourself (and them!) that the time to enjoy the journey starts now.
Dr. Laura Mach is a former dental assistant, practicing dentist, dental practice owner, and certified life coach. She teaches women who own their practices how to have a more satisfying, less fear-filled experience with practice ownership. She has a podcast, Love Your Practice, on iTunes and Spotify and hosts a membership mastermind for women owners. She also lectures on the benefits and practicalities of treating transgender patients. You can find her at LoveYourPractice.net and email@example.com