July 22, 2021
by Dezarae Aldridge-Earl, RDH
Knowing what I know now, if I could travel back in time and talk to my former professional self—oh, the things I would tell her.
With 16 years of experience as an RDH, it’s now been 5 years since I made the decision to become an independent dental hygienist and open my own stand-alone, storefront dental hygiene clinic in Huntsville, Ontario, named “Dental Hygiene with Dezarae.”
These past 5 years really have flown by faster than I could have ever imagined, even when the days sometimes feel tremendously long. The last 5 years have brought enormous growth both personally and professionally. Growth that I will always be grateful for and that will create continued future potential and opportunities.
For those hygienists just starting out or thinking about practicing independently, these are my words of wisdom I wish I could have told myself 5 years ago.
I BELIEVE IN YOU. You are on the right path. Trust yourself and your decisions. You are strong enough for this. You’ve been drawn to this for a reason. Always believe in yourself. You have everything you need inside yourself.
There WILL be days that are extremely lonely and hard. Times when you want to quit and wonder why you are doing all this. Then, just around the corner when you need it the most, you will be lifted. Absorb all that those days have to offer. Remember those days and carry that feeling with you. These days will carry you through the dark ones. Remember you are on this path for a reason, a greater purpose beyond yourself. The entrepreneur journey is a wild ride of extreme highs and lows. You will need to find your people, your support system to lean on when needed. Get to know a few other independent hygienists that you can count on for support. You will need them. As much as you love your family and friends, they just don’t get what you’re going through.
The journey will be vast. You will love it and hate it at times. It will be the hardest you will ever work, but the most rewarding. You will have the power to change lives, leaving an impact on the lives of those you serve. Do not take this for granted; seek to learn all that you can and become the best version of yourself to serve your clients’ needs. Don’t be afraid to fail—these are the moments when we learn and grow the most, the greatest gifts that life can teach us. Fail forward often. The times when we are pushed into discomfort are also the times when we grow. Don’t be afraid of who you are meant to become.
As you continue to grow, your path may shift to include new ideas—welcome those changes with open arms. It’s okay to shift or make a pivot.
As you work more hours and wear more hats—including parent, spouse, dental hygienist, receptionist, marketer, cleaner, bookkeeper, small business owner, and the list goes on—DO NOT forget about YOU!
Your health matters. You matter. To become successful, it will likely require an imbalance of priorities. For now, you can’t choose balance. Your business will likely take centre stage for a while, but I urge you not to neglect your own personal health and relationships for too long. Know and understand your own personal values; knowing them will better guide you to making tough decisions.
Know your worth and do not undervalue your time and skill. I know it’s easy to reduce your fees in the hopes of attracting more clients, but are these the types of clients you really long for? Or would you prefer those that value the importance of their health and your unique ability to help them achieve improved overall health?
Learn new skills. Make marketing a top priority. Without leads, there is no sale. Without sales, your business is nonexistent. Utilize social media for your business. “Energy flows, where attention goes.” As Tony Robbins says, “To get what you really want in life, you need a clear goal that has purpose and meaning behind it. Once this is in place, you can focus your energy on the goal and become obsessive about it. When you learn how to focus your energy, amazing things happen.”
Be kind to your body. Make a habit to move your body often. Create a routine to stretch and exercise regularly. If you stay fit, strong and mobile, your body will thank you. Without a regular fitness routine, in time your body will pay the ultimate consequence with pain, stiffness and reduced mobility.
Practice patience. Building a dental practice from the ground up takes time. Sometimes more than you can anticipate. It will take time for clients to find you. Treat every single client like a family member and they will rave about you, spreading the word and helping you to grow your business.
Continue to be innovative. Aim to be different than the other local dental practices. Do something that makes you stand out from the rest. Figure out why your practice is different and then shout it from the rooftop. You can’t attract everyone, so go after those you seek to serve most.
Volunteer and give back to your community often. Not only will you be helping someone else out in greater need than yourself, but it is good for the soul. You’ll feel good knowing you’re helping your community. Your community will see you doing good as well, and some will support you and your business because of your giving heart.
Ask for help when needed. You can’t do it all. Know and understand your strengths and seek help in the areas you are not strong.
Know when you need to take a break and step away from it all. Seek clarity when needed whether that be exercise, meditation, going for a walk, spending time in nature or talking to someone. I’ve found the time spent alone in nature has given me my greatest clarity needed to move forward with tough decisions.
Above all, I want you to enjoy the journey. I’ve learned that it’s not about seeking the final destination but rather the journey of how we continue to grow and evolve both personally and professionally. Five years from now you will look back and not even believe all that you have accomplished. All the lives you have touched, the personal growth, the wins and losses will teach you what you are truly capable of. Your journey to the best version of yourself has arrived. What are you waiting for? I’m here if you need help.
About the Author
Dezarae Aldridge-Earl, RDH is a practice owner of “Dental Hygiene with Dezarae”, located in Huntsville, Ontario. You can follow Dezarae on Instagram @dezaraerdh.