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Women in Dentistry: The Sky's the Limit Arselia Gales, Assistant Editor

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Long-time entrepreneur Vicki McManus may make success look natural, but there were certainly challenges along the way and her path wasn’t always clear. McManus started as a hygienist and is now the co-founder and CEO of dental consulting firm Productive Dentist Academy. She also co-owns five dental practices and in 2013 won the silver medal at the Stevie Awards in New York for female entrepreneur of the year. And as if all that’s not enough, she’s publishing her second book this year.

Rewind to the start of her career: McManus started as an assistant and graduated hygiene school in 1982. She practiced until 1995. After some deep thought and battling with societal norms, McManus made the transition to consulting and left her full-time job.

“I needed to find a career with flexibility,” she said.

McManus describes herself as a serial entrepreneur, but added that she still found it somewhat difficult to make the transition from hygienist to consultant. She said there were many barriers to entry in the field; however, at times her biggest challenge wasn’t the industry—it was herself.

“I was young and entering a male-dominated field. Sometimes I felt like I couldn’t do it,” she said.

She also acknowledged the huge risks accompanied with leaving a stable full-time job and changing career paths. However, McManus found the confidence she needed and began studying marketing, finance and business management. She discovered that part of being courageous was feeling and understanding her fears while still taking the plunge. McManus says that after the fact she “became hungry” for information and read anywhere from 85 to 100 books a year. She believes her willingness to never stop learning was crucial to her success in business.

McManus uses the words of late entrepreneur Jim Rohn for inspiration, “Formal education will make you a living; self- education will make you a fortune,”.

It didn’t take long for McManus to begin carving her niche in consulting, and just a year later, in 1996, she joined a consulting firm co-founded by well-known motivational speaker Anthony Robbins.

McManus says her passion to have an impact on a higher level was always there, even when she was practicing hygiene. In fact, she jokes that initially she was a business major in college and somehow became a hygienist. She felt right at home in the consulting industry while still maintaining her passion for dentistry.

“As an entrepreneur you’ve got a strong internal drive to do more,” McManus said. “How can I add value and increase impact?”

Through Productive Dentist Academy, which launched in 2004, McManus and her partner Dr. Bruce Baird hope to impart that same wisdom on their clients. By hosting a variety of annual seminars and workshops, the company aims to help dentists raise their production, increase take-home salary, work fewer hours and raise the standard of patient care. The overall goal is simple: help private practices prosper.

Looking back nearly three decades, McManus attributes most of her success to waiting until the time was right.

“The secret is patience. Some things come quickly and some things take years to build,” she said. “I waited 27 years to own my first practice!”

McManus now co-owns five dental practices in Wisconsin, one of few states where those who aren’t dentists are allowed to own practices. She began purchasing in 2011.

McManus said that the people hired are a key ingredient and as a result the most enjoyable part of her job is building relationships with clients and others in the industry. Although she isn’t quite sure what the future holds, right now McManus is excited for her new book “Frustration: Breakfast of Champions” which will be released later this year. The book focuses on how to take powerful emotions and use them to advance your career.

“I will never run out of new things to do. I love strategic thinking. I’m always thinking about what is going to happen five years (or more) down the road,” she said.

While McManus’ particular story may be unique to her experiences, she believes that success for anyone in the dental industry is never too far away.

“My advice to anyone who wants to achieve their goals is simple,” she said. “Be fearless, have grit, and most importantly don’t be afraid to take a non-traditional path.”


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