June 4, 2024

Episode #145: Michelle Colbert – Dental Assist LLC

Michelle Colbert is the sole proprietor of Dental Assist LLC, a dental staffing agency that she started from scratch in 2019. She lives in Carmel, Indiana with her husband of 20 years as of June 26, 2024. Michelle was born in Pennsylvania, raised for 15 years in West Virginia, and then spent 20 years in North Carolina before moving to Wisconsin for a year and eventually Indiana.

Michelle is the youngest of five and was taught to have a strong sense of work ethic, be reliable and responsible. She has spent many years in the dental profession beginning as a dental assistant as a senior in high school. Michelle took some time away from the dental profession in order to complete her bachelor’s degree in Small Business and Entrepreneurship and Human Resource Management. She has since then maintained her Indiana Dental Radiology license and kept up with her certification for being a certified dental assistant. She has taught Dental Assisting in higher education as well as being the program director for dental assisting. She has been a financial coordinator and an office manager in a few dental practices before starting her own dental staffing agency.

Michelle’s goal is to Bridge the Gap in Dental staffing. She helps offices in need of assistants and hygienists when an employee is out due to sickness, family emergency, maternity leave, or vacation. She has been able to help offices in need of permanent employees as well. Michelle’s ultimate goal is provide professional staffing services with the cream of the crop employees to offices in need.

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Intro: You’re listening to the Self Made Is A Myth, Make A Difference Together Show with your host coach, Tim Campsall where we talk with successful business owners to hear the stories of their journeys in building their successful businesses. And more importantly, we recognize the folks who helped them excel because we know that achieving business success is not something we can do on our own.

Coach Tim Campsall: Hello everyone. This is coach Tim Campsall, and I’m excited to have a fellow business owner from Indiana with us today. Something unique about my guest is that she has an uncanny ability to be able to see things in different perspectives that helps others as well as the business situation that they see themselves in her downtime.

She is a business owner. So downtime is not as much as we might like it to be, but she enjoys biking and taking walks in the warmer months and reading in the cooler months, and she is most proud of the relationships that she’s built in and through her business. It’s my pleasure to welcome Michelle to the show today.

Hi, Michelle.

Michelle Colbert: Hi.

Coach Tim Campsall: Awesome. Hey, let’s start by having you introduce yourself. Tell us your name and a little bit of your personal story, like where you were born and live and about your family.

Michelle Colbert: My name is Michelle Colbert. I was born in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. My parents moved me to West Virginia when I was just a baby.

So for the first 15 years of my life, I lived in West Virginia. Then I got moved to North Carolina where I spent about 20 years. Met my husband got married, and then we moved again. So we’ve lived in Wisconsin, Northern Indiana, and now we live in the Indianapolis region. When we moved I was a dental assistant in North Carolina.

When we moved, I went back to school for my bachelor’s and finished my bachelor’s at IU South Bend. And then just, my bachelor’s was in small business and entrepreneurship and human resource management but it was 2008 when the economy took a dive. Just went back into the dental field teaching.

Office manager just did it. I’ve done everything except for hygiene and being the dentist in the dental office. I’ve had, I’ve got a lot of experience in, in that world for sure.

Coach Tim Campsall: Fantastic. So having lived in so many places your accent probably gets a little merged with different regions.

Is that fair?

Michelle Colbert: My, accent is actually just stuck with North Carolina. Now when I’m around my family, I am the youngest of five, and when I’m around my family in West Virginia, I tend to I have that sort of East Coast accent that will come in depending on who I’m around. I will take on my brother’s mannerisms if I’m around him or my sister and I come back home and my husband says, can you go back to normal?

Coach Tim Campsall: That’s awesome. Michelle, is there a funny story that your family likes to tell about you that you’d be willing to share with us today?

Michelle Colbert: I think that probably the funniest story that I can remember is when I was younger, I had colic really bad when I was a baby. And my mother I think it was my mother, possibly father’s got a great sense of humor called me Screechy Meachy.

And so the nickname. Meach stuck. So my brother and sisters all call me Meach. When my nephews were first beginning to speak, they couldn’t say Michelle, so they would say Aunt Meach. And when I called my sister’s house one time, my nephew answered and I said, hi, I said, it’s your aunt, Michelle.

He says I don’t have an aunt Michelle. And I said, Aunt Meach. And he said why’d you say Aunt Michelle? That’s probably the funniest story.

Coach Tim Campsall: That’s awesome. Thank you for sharing. Michelle, tell us how the business came about, and at what point did you have the confidence that you could run your own business?

Michelle Colbert: When I was at IU South Bend, Professor Wiley was my small business and entrepreneurship instructor. And we had a project in that class to come up with a business plan come up with something. I worked for a dental staffing agency in North Carolina. And as you said earlier, I do have a unique ability to see how things could possibly run smoother or better.

So I came up with the idea then which was I graduated in 2008 with my bachelor’s. So I’d say it was 2006, 2007 was the idea, the seed kind of went with, Hey, I can do this. I came up with the business name actually at that time. But it didn’t really come into fruition until 2018. I started the business in 2019.

And basically knowing that I could do this. I did some market research, obviously, and had a lot of help along the way.  My CPA, who, that was actually my husband’s CPA a lot of advice, a lot of encouragement. I would hands down not be where I am.

Without my current CPA who has been a godsend. He knows a little bit about everything.

Coach Tim Campsall: So Michelle, tell us a little bit more about the company. What’s the name? What do you guys do? How do you help folks?

Michelle Colbert: The name of it is Dental Assist LLC and helps staff offices, generally speaking with subs or temps if someone’s out on vacation, if someone’s out sick, maternity leaves a lot of times.

That happens. So I work with assistants and I work with hygienists on a smaller note. Sometimes I have front desk people but not always it’s a little more difficult with the front desk. People do not generally need a sub for front desk. They need, they want a full time person. Sometimes I am able to help with permanent staffing, but it generally comes about by them subbing in the office first and then they turn around and they just, Oh my gosh, I love this office. So they go Michelle I want to go work for them. And, they’re like, I’m sorry. And I’m like, don’t be sorry. My goal in this business has always been to help the office meet its staffing needs and to help an individual like I was in North Carolina who wants to make a few extra bucks on their day off to pay for a vacation.

Maybe they need, New tires as simple as that, and and maybe that extra just helps, and that’s always been my goal.

Coach Tim Campsall: That’s wonderful. Michelle, share a story where someone pushed you or inspired you that you could do it, even though maybe you didn’t think that you could, and the impact they had on you.

Michelle Colbert: Two, two people probably really helped me. I would say my brother encouraged me. We used to share war stories, so to speak. He’s in hotel management. He’s higher up now than he was, but he was in hotel management. And I was working for a higher education teaching program director of dental assisting.

And we were just spouting off, my husband was in Mexico and he said sis, we’re never going to be happy working for someone else. And I hung up the phone and I thought, he might be right.

So I called my husband in Mexico and I said Hey, what do you think about this? And he said go for it, hun. He said I’ll give you this, the seed money, the startup money. He said but you are going to be, responsible for doing the market research. Make sure that there is a market out there for it. Make sure that basically what to do how to do it that sort of thing and he said you get that down pat.

He said, I gotcha So I would say both of those are very encouraging. My husband’s always been my strongest supporter. When I got stuck he started his own business in a travel agency. He’s been doing that for 17 years. So when I get into a stuck place, I would say maybe stagnant not new offices or not new personnel or the personnel isn’t the quality maybe, or the attitude that I’m looking for because I am picky. It’s my business. I’m allowed to be and so I’ll bounce ideas off of him. And so he is, has always been the one that, has said, okay.

And to be quite honest with you Tim, he has encouraged me to look for a business coach.

Coach Tim Campsall: Wonderful. What an awesome support network and, family, to come alongside you and can encourage you and motivate you. And it makes a big difference to have that support at home, doesn’t it?

Michelle Colbert: Yes, it does. Yes, it does.

Coach Tim Campsall: So what’s the biggest learning that you’ve had as a business owner?

Michelle Colbert: I think learning to

years ago, I talked with the counselor and I think the biggest learning curve that I’ve had and the biggest challenge has always been to keep my expectations set high. But be okay when I don’t reach the level that I have and be okay when someone, has a flat tire that morning, or, their child is sick, and be okay with that and understand that.

Life happens and we can’t all be 100 percent of the time it’s so not lowering the expectations, but being okay when life happens and I think that has been my biggest challenge. I think I do a lot better at it but I still am in the point, I also golf so I would say.

I want a certain thing for myself and when I can’t do it, I get frustrated. So learning to deal with the frustrations with a smile on my face and, explain articulate enough for offices and personnel to, just, I don’t want anyone to ever feel like I’m not approachable.

And so that’s what I’ve had, that’s been a challenge for sure. But I’m still working towards it. I’d say I’m doing better.

Coach Tim Campsall: Isn’t it frustrating that stupid life gets in the way?

Michelle Colbert: I know your phone died. Flat tire.

Coach Tim Campsall: Yeah, exactly.

Michelle Colbert: I got a lot of flat tires. It is Indiana. And, people actually send me pictures on the roadside, cause I think they think I don’t believe them, which, or they’re just saying, Hey, this is true. I’m not making this up, because you do get people with, you gotta weigh that as well.

With the, are you pulling my leg or are you sure? Because if you get a flat tire every single time I put you in an office, then we’ve got a problem.

Coach Tim Campsall: I like what you said about, not lowering your expectations. So, the idea of this is what the standard is, and I’m going to hold everybody accountable to this standard, because as soon as we lower the standard, then people, they lower what their deliverables are.

So I love what you’re saying about keeping the standard but being flexible to when life happens and accidents happen and unexpected things happen that get in the way.

Michelle Colbert: Correct. Correct.

Coach Tim Campsall: So Michelle, we know that business success doesn’t happen in isolation. So tell us about one of your biggest challenges.

during the years of being a business owner and maybe a fellow colleague or a business owner came alongside you and helped you through that.

Michelle Colbert: I would say that when I started in 2019, was really completely different than what it has morphed into, which is good. It’s a good thing.

But I didn’t have anyone on my payroll. Of course I had liability as a business owner, but I didn’t have anyone on my payroll. The offices would pay me a certain fee and they would pay the sub at the end of the day. I had hygienists coming, sub hygienists coming to me and not working for me, and I found out by one of my subs, I said, why are you, why?

What’s going on? And they said, They’re 1099’ing us which is technically illegal. In the dental world no one is an independent contractor except for the dentist. So they said, you need to get us on the payroll. You get, you start us on payroll and we’ll work for you. And so that was a very big challenge.

I undertook that in the, in, believe it or not, January of 2020, and then Covid hit

Coach Tim Campsall: Oh, Yeah.

Michelle Colbert: So it was it was a pretty interesting time to try to work through those things. But I did have, and I still have very great relationships with some of my hygienists that encouraged me.

To change things a little bit to do things a little bit differently. And the challenge has always been to get the offices to accept those changes. It is an environment where I don’t know if there’s ever going to be enough hygienist I don’t know if there’s ever going to be enough assistance.

People get older, people retire, and people go into something different. They don’t do the same things, the same repetitive motions. But yeah and, and yes, my CPA has been tremendous with that has helped me obtain the payroll company that I use now. And that’s been a lifesaver.

I’ve been through three, three payroll companies. This one’s here to stay.

Coach Tim Campsall: Congratulations. That’s awesome. Hey, Michelle, I’m going to put you on the spot here a little bit and ask you to pick three people in your business owner journey that you’re most grateful for them being there to help with your business’s growth.

So who are those three people and how do they help you?

Michelle Colbert: Mike Jamison, my CPA is one of them for sure. Oh my goodness. He keeps my license up to date. He helped me steer me in the direction of the insurance company that I’m using which is Hartford insurance for my worker’s comp for my general liability.

I did have a National company actually and I apologize. I don’t remember their names, but from LinkedIn that said to me whenever I went to payroll, they said, you’ve got to have your hygienist have their own malpractice professional liability. If they’re not on the doctor’s payroll.

I had no clue about that. That was  a great tidbit. So that, that liability doesn’t lie on me.  I’ve had no problems with hygienists obtaining those because it’s very cheap for them. I was going to cover that and find out how much it was going to cost.

And I said, no, I do not have that as a small business owner. And obviously my husband he is Like I said, my biggest supporter and my biggest critic to be honest so he’s got that ability to speak to me in a way that tells me, hey, what’s working, what’s not working, look at this, look at that that sort of thing.

So I would say, those people have helped me tremendously.

Coach Tim Campsall: Fantastic. It’s great to have all that different variety of support and expertise, to help you in your business. That’s awesome. So let’s shift gears and talk a little bit about the future. So Michelle, as you think about the next one to three years, what’s either your number one priority or a challenge that you see that you’ll need to overcome in order to achieve your goals?

Michelle Colbert: I think the number 1 challenge is going to be to continue to, attract and retain the subs that I need for the demand that I see. It’s again, it’s a little tricky with personalities I am more of, I have a great sense of humor by the way, but I’m more of a cut-and-dry type of person.

Here’s an office. Here are the hours. Can you work it? And I expect an answer. And it’s when I guess what they used to call it was ghosting. I’m not really sure what they call it now. But when that happens I’m done. It’s for me, it’s because it’s my business and it’s my reputation, it’s a one-and-done for me.

So if you’re not responding via text, telephone call, via email then you’re not interested and I’m not interested. So that has always been probably my biggest challenge, and I would say one to three years will be continue to be my biggest challenge. I, generally speaking, do not have any problems with the offices that I have relationships with obtaining new offices.

Sometimes there’s a slight I have, an ability to know what these offices are because I get feedback from my subs. I also get feedback from the offices about the subs that I send. I have had no complaints for my hygiene subs to speak of. Everyone has a little bit of this, a little bit of that.

If someone shows up, sometimes the dentist goes crazy. But to speak of, I really don’t have trouble, but it’s continuing to not just attract and retain the best subs is a challenge also continue to attract and retain good offices. Mixing those, that mix together I see will be a challenge.

It always will be and I’m okay with it. Because that’s the business and that’s what I’ve chosen to do. So obviously I have to be okay with it.

Coach Tim Campsall: Yes. And you’re not alone. A lot of our clients are, have been having challenges finding good people to, to work for them that they’re, you mentioned it earlier, the, as the, As people are aging out of working and there doesn’t seem to be as many people coming into different key areas of the workforce that are needed.

And yeah, it’s, unfortunately, it’s been a challenge for a lot of folks that we help them navigate through that and put some best practices in place to help speed up that process of finding good people.

Michelle Colbert: Yes, absolutely.

Coach Tim Campsall: Michelle, last question. Jim Rohn. Awesome business guru says one of his famous quotes is that we become The average of the five people that we spend the most time with so as you think about that quote What advice would you have for newer business owners who are trying to do it on their own?

Michelle Colbert: Get a good support system. I you know, you really need to and I have actually helped a couple of people start from scratch. Given a little bit of advice, not that I can help them per se, but, telling them, okay, you need to, secure your bank loan in order to secure your bank loan.

Make sure you know how to put forth a business plan. And if you don’t get some advice on that get you a good CPA. And I, and I would say, learn to be, especially in, in, in any business really learn to be flexible. Learn to understand that flexibility is very much needed.

But if you don’t and, I personally don’t have children, so many women are doing it all with being a wife, being a mother, having a career. And in doing that balancing if you have young children, you need to have backup for whenever they are sick. Whether that’s I’m taking off today.

Husband’s got to take off next week when they’re sick or you have your parents come in, that is, really key. Everyone can obviously take off a day when their child’s sick, but if you’re continual if you have a sickly child or more than one child that, you know, and that happens a lot, have that support system to where, when your child gets pink eye and can’t go to the daycare, what are you going to do?

You can’t take off a week of work. You can’t, that sort of stuff. So just, having those sorts of things in place and, oh, my goodness, my, website developer, slightly a little slow, but he was a big, he was a big key as well. Finding someone who gets your business and knows how  you want To portray yourself.

And honestly, he helped me with my get the back end first. Your processes, how are you going to invoice? How are you going to do this? What’s your CRM? That was what my website developer actually helped me with and sent me to different places saying, Hey, why don’t you check this out?

Why don’t you check that out? And I did, and I have incorporated them and honestly, it was a blast. It was a back end. So it was harder for me because that came second my business came first and then all of a sudden I’m like, Oh dear, what do I do now? So my suggestion is do that first.

It’s a lot easier versus going back and, half and back up a little bit, very good resources for having that relationship with him and he’s got bigger fish to fry, so I get that he’s currently working on taking my website to a WordPress so that I can get someone else that is doing a small business to react a little quicker.

Although I will say if there’s anything ever wrong with my website currently. If I send him a text, he’s right on it. So that is something it’s just the changes I’m been wanting to do for about a year. He’s kinda taken a little time. But honestly, he was very instrumental in helping me with my finding my CRM finding my invoicing platform, and that sort of thing.

Coach Tim Campsall: That’s fantastic. You mentioned do it upfront versus waiting. Yeah. A lot of the things you talked about, right? A lot of folks don’t. Take care of the systems and the processes and the procedures and it’s just in their head and they’re doing it on the fly. And unfortunately, we can’t delegate that kind of stuff because it’s all in our head, right?

We hear a lot. Nobody can do the job as well as me. And that’s true because all the information is in the business owner’s head, right? Versus written out in a process developed in a, or a template created or a CRM demo, right? And so the more that we can document it as we go, the way we can train other people to be able to do it as well as us.

Michelle Colbert: Yes.

Coach Tim Campsall: You also mentioned flexibility that the interesting thing about business ownership is the path to success is not linear. And so you mentioned it a couple of times of just embracing that right understanding that it’s, it can be two steps forward one step back and. And the one step back, it’s just a normal part of the journey.

And so we, we have to embrace it, accept it. Usually, the step back is a learning opportunity, right? There’s a reason for that. That the business slowed down or something didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to and a good question to ask is what can I learn from this moment? What’s the teaching that’s available here?

What am I supposed to get out of this? And think of it more As failing forward right as opposed to failing it’s okay, what’s happening here?

Michelle Colbert: Yeah, exactly.

Coach Tim Campsall: Awesome Michelle, it’s it sounds like you’ve had some pretty incredible people in your journey of building your business if they were all here on the show today.

What would you want to say to them?

Michelle Colbert: Thank you. A big thank you. And a continual thank you. And, just I think it’s really odd to say probably that you consider these people your friends, but you do really because they’re more than just an acquaintance.

I would say, I would probably tell them how much I appreciated them and all of their counsel and everything that they have helped me see, and realize when my business needs my license renewed, my CPA just does it. I don’t even, I don’t even know when it’s due.

It’s really nice to be able to just not have that to worry about, to not have to send out an email that says, Hey, what about did you get this? Hey, did you, it’s just taken care of and I just, I, it just makes my life easier. And they have all made my life easier.

And I can’t say how much I appreciate that because that’s just it’s an overwhelming feeling to feel that appreciative towards someone knowing that your business would not have been as a success without the people in place for sure.

Coach Tim Campsall: That is awesome. Michelle, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you today.

Thank you so much for being on the show.

Michelle Colbert: Thank you.

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