Practice Plan’s Head of Sales, Zoe Close, talks about her varied 36-year career in dentistry and looks at some of the lessons she has learned along the way….
Dentistry is an industry that I have loved working in for the last 36 years and one that I continue to enjoy being involved in every day. Along the way I have worked in a number of different sectors, including dental nursing, management, dental exports and now sales.
What I would say is that my career shows how much opportunity there is in our industry to try new things, experience different roles and grow your skillset. I’ve learned so many new things throughout my time in dentistry, and I’ve spent a little bit of time looking back on my journey and the path I’ve taken that has brought me to my present role at Practice Plan.
How it all began
So, it has been 36 years since I got into dentistry, and it is strange really because it wasn’t something I had thought about when I was 16 and leaving school. I didn’t know what I was going to do or where I was going to go, and at the time I was working as a waitress at Pizza Land, and I wanted to stay there but my Mum was having none of it as she wanted me to stay on at sixth form, but I was having none of that!
She told me I had two weeks to find a job or I’d have to go back to sixth form, so I went to see the Chamber of Commerce in Nottingham where they were holding a lot of job fairs where businesses had stalls and were looking for trainees and applicants.
A number of industries were there; hairdressers, beauty therapists, travel agents, but for whatever reason dental nursing really caught my eye. I went back to have a look at it a few times, and I thought ‘I’ve got nice teeth’ and ‘I might look good in a white dress’, and as silly as it sounds it was as simple as that!
I was thinking that I’d quite like the caring aspect of the job, so I explored it a bit more and then got into the industry and secured a job with a big practice, which was a great first step.
After my first taste of dental nursing, I moved on to another practice, and then another, and I stayed there for a considerable length of time, and I loved it. It was here where I expanded my skill set and ended up training on reception. I really enjoyed that because I always enjoyed learning new things.
My next steps and move to practice management
After my time as a dental nurse, I had a brief spell working for a dental export business. A former colleague of mine wanted me to be an office manager for the company that worked in exporting dental goods to Poland and Russia, and it was another interesting look at a different side of the industry.
I really enjoyed that part of my career, but it was never a forever job because I missed practice life. I was at a point where I was good at managing people and understood how to motivate people and drive a business forward.
So, when I was around 28, I decided to move into practice management and went back to college to do an NVQ in business management, where I was able to learn more new skills about how to run a business and manage a team.
I was lucky that I then started working for a business that had faith in me and had ambitions to grow the practice. We managed to do that by expanding, buying up multiple practices and becoming a large group with practice managers, supervisors, and head nurses.
I think in this part of my career I was pushed in at the deep end and found my feet simply by asking lots of questions, and I think sometimes this can be a really beneficial way to learn.
I stayed there for around 14 years and then in 2015 we were bought out by a large corporate dental group, and that is when my path led me to Practice Plan.
Practice Plan and helping practices achieve their potential
I had always liked a challenge and this new role with Practice Plan was a challenge for me; it was a chance to delve into a different side of dentistry. I’d developed great management skills in my previous roles and was able to bring these with me to Practice Plan. Previous knowledge of the industry meant I was able to learn the business quickly and identify areas where I could really make a difference helping to grow the business. That’s something I’ve always done wherever I’ve worked.
What I really enjoy about the role is that myself, and the field team of Regional Support Managers, have the ability to not only add value to the business we work for, but also add value to the clients, their careers and their practice. Our jobs are geared to helping others and that is something I really enjoy; it gives me a lot of satisfaction.
So that’s my journey over the last 36 years. I think if there is something to learn from the path I have taken, it is that you can always try new things no matter how far into your career you are. The more years and experience you get under your belt, the more options you will have to make a change and try something new, and as my journey shows, in our industry there is no end to the options available out there.