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Biz lessons from the dentist

I had a dental visit last week. I have one every six months, like many people. I don’t actually mind these because  — knock on wood — I’ve been blessed with healthy teeth.

I was thinking about what I could learn and share about business as Julie, the hygienist, was cleaning my teeth. After all, you can’t exactly carry on your end of a conversation while this is going on.

Create relationships

Julie has been a dental hygienist in this small practice for nearly 40 years, and I’ve been going for at least half that time.

While she started her job because she loved cleaning teeth, Julie told me that for her it had not been about cleaning teeth for a long time.

It was about the people and the relationships. She says she loves her patients and that is what gets her up in the morning to come to work.

She always asks about my dog, what’s been going on in my life, any travels that I may have mentioned six months earlier. She remembers what we discussed last visit, so she can bring me up-to-date with her life and kids.

Do you know what gets you up and goes to your studio every day? If not, take some time to try to figure that out.

Find your passion

One of the other things we talk about is Julie’s “other job.” This is what she does that she loves while the hygienist work pays the bills.

She is an equine and small animal massage and bodywork therapist and currently the only person licensed for both horses and small animals in our state. She is also a reiki practitioner for people.

Julie just lights up when she talks about working with horses and the trust that develops between the two of them. She spends a lot of time working at a horse rescue farm.

I am struck by the passion Julie has for something that she took up just a few years ago, something she expects to continue once she really is “retired” from her dental hygiene work.

Right now she is building up her equine business to prepare for that. We sometimes talk marketing around this.

Speaking of other jobs once you retire, the dentist’s office has some wonderful framed photographs of nature and wildlife. These were taken by a local television sportscaster who turned to photography after a 41-year long career in television.

Many artists are passionate about their work and are in the same place.

You may be making art and preparing to spend more time at it once you retire.

You may be making art as a hobby or a side gig, preparing to focus more fully on it once you have time and are in a financial position to do do.

Over the years, Julie has cut back on her dental hours as she has built the equine business. She will retire to her equine business at some point.

How are you fitting your passion into your life? Will you progress to a career with your art? What plans are in place to do this?


When it’s time for Julie to pass me off to the dentist so he can take a look at my teeth, she makes a quick trip to the scheduling calendar and returns with a card for the next appointment. She knows what day of the week and time I prefer, though she will usually confirm as she hands me the card, “Wednesday, first appointment after lunch, right?”

Do you schedule your personal appointments in advance?

If you do this, you won’t scurry around trying to fit your time into someone else’s schedule. It puts you in better control of your time.

This has been such a valuable tool in using my time to my best advantage. Other than the dentist, I schedule my haircuts a year in advance, plus some of my other doctor visits.

Circling back to my comments on building relationships, it was clear that Julie knows her patients.

Dental humor

And, since we are on the subject of my dentist, I will share my dental joke. I live in a town with less than 400 people, and we have two dentists. One is named Dr. Brush (yes, Dr. Brush). I always say I prefer my dentist with a sense of humor, so I go to Dr. Witt.

It’s your turn!

What did you last learn from a non-art setting that you put to use in your business?

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2 Responses to “Biz lessons from the dentist”

  1. Barbara said:

    For 21 years I was owner of my own insurance agency and a ‘wannabe’ artist. To try and make a little extra time for doing what I really love, I used a daily planner religiously. It was never out of sight and reach. I scheduled ‘wannabe’ time to be certain I was able to do something I loved at least several days a week. I would use a Sharpie pen and draw a rectangle around an appointment time slot. This way I knew what that rectangle meant, even though anyone glimpsing a page from my planner did not. It kept me going and no one ever knew when I was playing a little ‘hookey’ from my day job. I am now retired, but much of my time is spent teaching others to ruler template quilt on domestic sewing machines and I LOVE it!

  2. Morna said:

    Barbara, I love the idea of your “wannabe” time. And even better that it’s just blocked without an indication of what it’s for. Guilt-free time! The idea is that you set it aside. And, I’m also a former insurance person.

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