Changing the Game: Laura Nelson’s Vision for the Dental Community


Podcast Summary

In a captivating podcast interview, Shawn Zajas sits down with Laura Nelson, a prominent figure in the dental industry, to discuss her journey as an entrepreneur and the impact she has made. Throughout the conversation, Laura’s humility shines through, along with her continuous desire to learn and grow. 

Shawn commends Laura on her humble demeanor, noting her ability to remain grounded despite her success and the challenges she has faced, particularly with EMI (Entrepreneurial Myriad of Issues). Laura’s humility is evident as she acknowledges her ongoing journey and the importance of learning. 

When asked about a book that has inspired her or that she believes would benefit the listeners, Laura recommends “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. She emphasizes the significance of habits in personal and professional development, highlighting that even small changes can make a significant difference over time. Laura shares how the book motivated her to remove distractions by turning off notifications on her phone, acknowledging the impact of little habits on productivity and focus. 

Delving into her aspirations beyond dentistry, Laura expresses her love for the dental industry and the joy she finds in meeting new employees and guiding them in their journey. While she has no plans to leave dentistry, Laura shares her desire to travel more and eventually become a grandmother. Her goal is to strike a balance between speaking engagements, professional growth, and a lifestyle that allows her to explore the world while cherishing time with family. 

Shawn inquires about Front Office Rocks and its upcoming endeavors. Laura reveals two exciting developments. First, they have expanded beyond training videos, introducing a community and conversation aspect to their platform. This addition allows dental professionals to connect with like-minded individuals, enabling them to exchange ideas and seek advice on various topics, such as hiring and implementing new technologies. Second, Front Office Rocks is launching an app, providing users with convenient access to their training content. Laura’s enthusiasm is palpable as she expresses her surprise at the technological advancements that now allow her to offer Front Office Rocks on mobile devices. 

Laura also honors two individuals who have made a significant impact in the dental community. She recognizes Linda Miles as the original dental consultant, someone who broke barriers and paved the way for others in the industry. Additionally, Laura praises Elijah Desmond for his efforts in providing a platform through events like Smiles at Sea Dentistry’s Got Talent, which gives voice to innovative ideas and best practices. 

As the interview draws to a close, Shawn poses a thought-provoking scenario: If Laura were to encounter her 21-year-old self, what advice would she offer? Laura responds with a message of trust and self-belief, encouraging her younger self to listen to her gut instincts and make decisions based on what feels right, even in the face of uncertainty. 

Overall, the podcast provides an intimate look into Laura Nelson’s journey as an entrepreneur and her dedication to making a positive impact in the dental industry. Her humility, commitment to continuous learning, and focus on habits and personal growth serve as inspirations to listeners. With Front Office Rocks evolving to include a community and an app, Laura is poised to enhance her ability to connect, educate, and empower dental professionals worldwide.

Connect With Laura:

Instagram: _lauranelson

Facebook: FrontOfficeRocks

Twitter @dentalrockstars

YouTube: Front Office Rocks


Podcast Transcript

Shawn Zajas  00:02 

Hey guys, so I am, I just feel really honored today to be able to interview Laura Nelson. So before I tee her up and really introduce her, Laura, thank you so much for joining me today. Yeah, I’m so excited. I was all over this when you asked me so I’m so excited to be here. So Laura, I remember not meeting you but hearing about you from some event. I think you told me some Jamie Amos, something that was going on four or five years ago is gonna be like the first ever Facebook broadcast at dental conference. I remember you and Elijah Desmond, competing to see who could get more, you know, viewers coming from your unique links. And I just remember seeing you and being like, wow, she is such a presence, not only the way you communicated, but the following that you had. And when I started doing a little bit of digging, I found out about what you had done with front office rocks, and I was simply blown away. What what is your journey been in dentistry? 


Laura Nelson  01:07 

How long do we have? I feel like it’s like, it’s like every day, it’s like, wow, has it been that long? Um, okay, short version, I married a guy who went to dental school. And so that’s how I got into dentistry. I was the dental spouse, which back in the day, that was not necessarily a positive thing. And that’s the dental spouses were always known in the day of coming in and causing trouble and leaving, but that’s not the case. I was a business partner with him. We started two practices, one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast. I’m in San Diego, California now. And his four years of dental school, he learned nothing about dentists or he learned everything about dentistry and nothing about business, nothing about you, as we all know, right? Running a business, hiring, firing all that. My background is in human resources. And I have a master’s in organizational development. So I was in the business realm. And I he wanted to start a practice in we had two little kids and I’m like, you don’t know how to run a business. So I’m going to do this with you and I got sucked into dentistry. Mostly because we needed it. And I knew nothing about dentistry at the time I there was, you know, there was no internet. This is pre internet, there was no you know, there was magazines, and and you could go to conferences, but there was no real training for dental. So I taught myself everything I know about dental, I just brought the business side of things to our practice. And we grew to successful practices. And after a couple years of doing that, I’ve started getting requests for consulting and come help my practice and how do you do what you do. And I knew I didn’t want to be a consultant. But I knew there was something missing in our industry, which is training, I believe. We go to conferences, we read the books, we do the things but we don’t know how to teach our team to do it, because the team doesn’t get invested in with the training. And so I wanted to help the team members but not go in office. And so instead of a DVD, which was what was big at the time, I got lucky and started a subscription website 10 years ago before subscription was a thing and put all my content online and that’s really kind of how for an office rocks started. I think about it now I’m actually reading a really good book if you haven’t read an expert secrets by Richard Branson said his name No, Russell Brunson. And he talks about like, Well, what was your epiphany story? What’s the thing that you did or how it changed for you? And for me? It was it’s not that I knew all the answers. It’s just that I opened the doors to my practice and said, Here’s what I do in my practice, all my videos were just, here’s how I do it. It was like best practices. It was just And so people really liked that. I think there wasn’t enough people opening the door saying how do you do what you do? You know, show me the way and so that’s how I got into dentistry. And then how I started for an officer. It’s 10 years ago now, which is crazy. 


Shawn Zajas  04:01 

Okay, so I am really fascinated by a few things you said now, if you can remember, you know, I thought you had a clinical background of some sort for some reason. So the fact that you’re the dentist spouse, I think that’s a great way to get into the industry. Now tell me do you remember because you said you had no idea what running a dental practice was like in that first year? What was what was probably the more startling or shocking of like, oh my gosh, this is what running a practice is like, 


Laura Nelson  04:34 

Yeah, I actually I just launched a course called New to dental specifically for people who’ve never worked in a dental office before to watch before we start training them because I put myself back in that nice myself back in the first day in that first week in a dental office. The first thing I remember is I don’t actually like the dentist. So that’s 


Shawn Zajas  04:53 

how I met your husband like you didn’t. 


Laura Nelson  04:57 

Actually it’s funny story. Now it’s my ex husbands so there you go that much. No, I mean, I we’re no longer married, but I still am married to dentistry, which is what I say I’m a recovering dental spouse. But I didn’t. I didn’t like dentistry. I didn’t like getting dentistry. And so that first day of like, the smells and the noise and that the drills and all of that I was like, Oh, my gosh, what did I do? Right? Then people are coming into my business. And the first thing they say to you is, I don’t like being here. Like, I’ve never worked in an industry where like, people are coming in to spend money, and they’re telling you how much they don’t like you, which was, I’m like, What did I do, right? And then the we speak another language? Like I know, people listening to this are like, No, we don’t. But yeah, we do prophy and Mo DB and number two and L and data, we speak a completely different language. So for the brand new person, you know, you’re already insecure when you start a new job, because you don’t know where to put your purse where how to clock in who, who’s who, then you have customers coming in saying you don’t like you don’t like to be there. It just smells and feels weird, right? You don’t know why people are wearing all the stuff that they’re wearing in the back. And then you don’t understand half the language. Like No wonder there’s turnover in our industry, you know, and most of the time in the dental office, the first week, we hire somebody, we don’t give great training. And so I remember those feelings. And I’ve put that into, you know, my course that I have that helps people just kind of learn the basics of dental and then just overall, like what it was like to be brand new and wanting to do well, but not really knowing how to do it in our industry. 


Shawn Zajas  06:41 

I think that’s great that you just brought up that, like dilemma, not another dilemma, but just it’s so odd. There’s willful patrons that choose to come. But they almost act like they’re, they’re getting coerced, right? Because it’s like, why don’t really want to be here. And it’s like what other industry over and over again, experiences, people that are choosing to show up, but like really bitter about it. 


Laura Nelson  07:06 

And half the time, when we’re having one of those days, I joke about this with team members, like they say we don’t want to be here and half the time, we feel like saying we don’t want you here anyway. Like we don’t we don’t like you either. But we have to smile and we have to give them the best we can you know? So it’s just this like dance that we have to do like we understand. And honestly, that’s one of the biggest aha is I think team members need to have is, we have to realize our customers aren’t happy about it being there, they’re never going to be excited about they’re not I mean, very few, you know, people who get a cool, cool new toothbrush, right? Like they get to come in to do something like that. But most people are not excited about coming to the dentist. And so don’t look for that, because it’s probably not going to happen, right. But we have to realize how important we are in helping that. You know, just because we still we do drills and needles and we hurt, you know, hurt them. But we do dentistry that they don’t like we can at least affect the experience they have, we can at least give the best customer service possible for something that they’re not excited about getting. So that’s really where we play a huge part in it. 


Shawn Zajas  08:12 

Yeah, no, I can I can see that. So I’m curious. You ended up meeting this man that you end up marrying with a dentist now? Did you already know him when you were getting your master’s in organizational development? 


Laura Nelson  08:24 

That’s funny actually, no, we met an undergrad. So we went to Eastern Michigan University and I met him when he was you know, pre anything and I said what are you want to be when you get older he said a dentist or a mechanic and like I said I didn’t have the best dental care growing up. So I wasn’t a huge fan of the dentist. So I was hoping for mechanic we were in Detroit, Michigan and that’s you know, reason the car industry then. But he decided to become a dentist. So that’s sort of how we started on the path to dentistry i He went to dental school, I wanted to start a family. He said Not while I’m in dental school, and I was like, well, then I might as well go get my master’s degree because I got all this free time. So I got my master’s degree at the same time he was getting his dental degree. We graduated within a week of each other and then the next month we got pregnant with our first kid. So you know, the timing. And then two years after that, two kids later, we decided to open a dental practice. Hence the reason that we really needed to make it work because we were you know, young and dumb, trying to like you know, start this scratch practice in Baltimore, Maryland. 


Shawn Zajas  09:27 

So in the back of your mind when you were taking classes did you ever think there’s a good chance I’m going to apply this to dentistry 


Laura Nelson  09:33 

never never know if if anything when I was doing it, I was thinking I’m gonna have to support us just because I supported us through dental school like I had a full time job. I was a technical recruiter during dental school. So I figured my career would be the one to help launch us. I never thought I would, you know, stop taking pay and go work in the dental office. It was never my plan or intention which I’m thankful now because I love what we do. I love Being in the dental industry, but at the time, that was that was never my plan. 


Shawn Zajas  10:04 

So Laura, I love innovation. And as I normally talk about here, I’m not as much focused on, like innovation in clinical sense, or even innovation in a technological sense, although technically, like, I care more about the mindset and belief sets that get someone to actually step out and innovate. So the fruit of that mindset or that beliefs that could be a clinical innovation or a technological innovation, but I’m so curious, like, what is it about you? As you’re there in your first year, that you’re like, why don’t I just step up and lead? Why don’t I just create coursework? Why don’t I just start sharing what I’m learning to help other people out, but not just that you’re also thinking in a business sense, monetizing it, you know, in an innovative sense, doing a subscription website, like, right, these things. Don’t just come to people like I’m just curious, like, where did you even get this insight and in the the courage to follow that? 


Laura Nelson  11:08 

Um, well, that’s, that’s like six answers there. I, I feel I actually tease my kids. They’re 23 and 22. And my daughter for a little while, was going to college for entrepreneurism. And I was like, how do you go to college for entrepreneurism, like, I’m sure there’s a there’s a path and all that. But I feel like in order for your business, to be successful, or to be an entrepreneur, you’ve got to be solving a problem, you’ve got to be doing something different, you’ve got to be filling a need, like I can’t just go open a donut shop on the corner with six other donut shops unless I’m filling a need, or I’m doing something differently. And so I think my drive and doing this was to fill a need that was missing, because I kept getting asked for help. And there’s plenty of consultants out there, there’s plenty of articles, there’s there’s plenty of podcasts are just talking about that there’s there’s all of these, you know, resources. Now, back then there wasn’t the internet. But there’s still a need, and what is the need that’s missing? And then for me, I was looking to, who was I speaking to? Who was I serving? Right? Who is my who’s my ideal customer, and it’s not the dentist, it’s not the office manager. It’s not the, you know, the all the great companies that support dentistry, it’s that brand new receptionist, it’s that scheduler, it’s the person who took this job like I did, and then went, Oh, my gosh, what did I do? Right? Is that person and so I think if we understand what our, what our niche is, or what we’re trying to solve, like, what’s the end, then who are we doing this for? Right? I love it. When I go to conferences, and like somebody comes up to me and says, you told me everything I know about dental like I’ve never met them before. But they’ve learned everything. For me. That’s really what I was trying to do. So the draw for me was, you know, that person who’s really trying to do the best they can for the dentist, but the dentist is not great at communicating, not great at onboarding, not great at training. How can I get that person to do better for the dentist so that ultimately we can do better for our patients? And then personally, for me, I’m very competitive, even if it’s with myself, I’m very competitive. So you either tell me, I challenge you to do something, or I bet you can’t. That’s my two things like your fear, like I’ve you know, I bet you can do that. Sure. Let me do it. Or I bet you can’t, right. And I got told early on when I started talking about subscription based websites, that’s not going to work. That’s your it’s not going to work, you’re you need to do DVDs and be a consultant, you’re not going to end up that’s all the energy I needed. I was like, really? Okay, let’s do this, right. And I don’t know who it was. And I think that person if I could ever think about it, who told me that, but honestly, it was the drive to say I’m going to prove them wrong, because I do feel like there’s a need for our industry for training, if we’re really going to help our new employees and our up and coming employees love what they do and be good at it. So that’s kind of the evolution of how I and then I got lucky I got enough people around me that were you know, knew enough about the internet and knew enough about how to set up websites and knew enough about training and video and all of it and I just you get the right people around you, you know where you’re gonna want to go with it, you know, you can make it happen. 


Shawn Zajas  14:21 

So what is this timetable? Like? I’m super curious from from idea to. I mean, because from my perspective, I just hear from the book by the time I heard about it, it was already a raving success. Right? So what was that timeframe to get it from? Wow, I think this could be something viable too. All of a sudden, what it became where it literally just took over like I feel like you’re an OG in dental when it comes to marketing, digital marketing, using social media and, and not again, not marketing as if as a marketing company, but using marketing to actually get your ideas for front office rocks to release bread. 


Laura Nelson  15:00 

That’s so funny that you say that because front office rocks is only about 75% of the way of where I want it to be like I’m working on some stuff right now that it’s not even. It’s not even where it’s supposed to be yet. It’s on its way. So, timeframe, I guess. Let’s see, I got into dentistry. 22 years ago, I started front office rocks 12 years ago, ish, my head and my brain. For an office rocks started as a little nobody knows this, really, it’s not really out there. But it was called Lunch with Laura. That’s what it was. And it was a Patterson rep who was like, You need to film some of this stuff that you do, and I’ll show it when I go in and do CEE or lunch and learns. And so we filmed some videos. Funny story, we filmed it on a film, the first one with a GoPro, and you know, with a GoPro, it’s like, it’s like, so I’m like, in a bubble, you know, like, it’s weird. 


Shawn Zajas  15:54 

The perspective is massively, 


Laura Nelson  15:57 

yeah, like, I should be running a marathon or something, right. But so and it just, it’s just evolved. It’s with any entrepreneur with any anybody who’s doing any sort of innovation, as you know, there’s ups and downs. I mean, you can you can have the best day and the worst day on the exact same day, like the things so just like you said it, you know, successful front office rocks, it’s not even where I want it to be yet. It’s, it’s on the path. But it’s an evolution for sure. So keep stay in touch or keep keep connected. Because while I’m about to launch some stuff that I honestly didn’t even think was possible, it probably wasn’t possible five or six years ago, technology is growing so quickly and so fast. So I don’t know if I answered your question, but that kind of I’m pretty, 


Shawn Zajas  16:47 

I’m pretty sure you did. And I do want, we will circle back because I want our listeners to hear what it is that you’re doing. What do you want to bring attention to? But we’re not we’re not there yet. So I want to know, did you always identify yourself as an entrepreneur? 


Laura Nelson  17:00 

Never know. And I still don’t, which is weird, right? 


Shawn Zajas  17:05 

Really? No, come on. I mean, at some point, you had to realize this is just the way I am. 


Laura Nelson  17:09 

No, it’s funny. Um, I don’t feel that way. As a person, like, I do not consider myself an entrepreneur, however, I mean, if you think about it, I have started two dental offices. I did start for an office rocks, I do have another business and another industry. So I guess I am. But I don’t think of myself that way. It seems risky to say it. I don’t know, like entrepreneur. But I do like having, I do like filling a need. I do like having full control. I do like the challenge of somebody saying you can or can’t do something. And then I say watch me. So I guess that’s I don’t know what the what the true definition of an entrepreneur is. But I must have enough of it that so yeah, I guess in a way. I’m like, I don’t want to commit, right. 


Shawn Zajas  18:03 

I mean, you have not just entrepreneurial wiring in and giftings, but also like visionary type, like to be able to see what you saw before people were using, like you said, websites or social media, and to be able to be that pioneer. I mean, that’s, that’s not just remarkable on being able to see it, but then also having, I gotta think of the word I was gonna say CONUS. But like, whatever, like that actual ability to be like, No, I’m gonna do it. So. So in this journey, though, Laura, I want to know about what happened when you didn’t see the left hook coming. You got knocked down? You didn’t give up? Because you’re here. Yeah. But like, you know, I’ve almost been phrasing almost like the dark night of the soul professionally, like, what? What was that time for you? And what happened? And how did you get through it? 


Laura Nelson  18:58 

There’s probably three or four that I could think of that. The left hook came out of nowhere kind of a thing. I would say for me, it is I’m a very trusting person. I am a very fast, I’m a quick start in one of the personality tests out there, whatever it means I make, you know, I show up to the airport, then I look at my boarding pass to see where I’m supposed to go to the gate instead of the person who looks you know. And so because of that there’s been a person or two in the career in the path that has it’s gone sideways with that relationship. And you know, that hurts because you’re like, wow, I thought we were partners and we could trust in any person who’s been in any sort of relationship can feel that or has had that happen, I’m sure. The second thing would be the technology. I built. You know some of this stuff you have to trust right? You have to trust you have the right website company you have to trust you have the right engineer Are the right marketing company or the right whoever on your team. And you have to trust you, you’re not going to you shouldn’t be doing it yourself, you should only be doing stuff that only you can do. But our website, for example, I mean, I described it before anybody who has been a front office rocks user along the way would know, we’ve had some ups and downs with the website, because I had to custom build it. 10 years ago, there was no plug and play learning management platform, then, you know, so we custom build it? Well, anytime you custom build anything. Every time there’s a, you know, a small issue with it, we’ve gotten an issue. So I call it a three legged stool, and I’ve just been waiting for the one leg to get kicked out. Like, if that one leg gets kicked out. That’s our entire business. We’re all online. It’s gotten much better now. And the technology has gotten better. But those are the kinds of things where, you know, you know that this, it’s broken, you take it to someone, you say, I want to fix it. And they’re like, Yeah, that’ll be you know, 50,000 $100,000. And you’re like, oh, my gosh, right. So there’s those kinds of things that have just, and then I think bringing people on that don’t have the same vision. It’s very hard as an entrepreneur, here I am, right? I’m not an entrepreneur. But here I am saying that it’s your baby, right? But as you grow just like a dentist, as you grow, you need to bring on team members to help you take care of your baby, but they’re not going to do it exactly the way you do. They’re not going to have the same vision and the same drive you do. And it’s hard sometimes, because you’re like, why aren’t you doing it the way I want? Or why aren’t you pushing as hard as I want you to or? And so then you have to step back and say, well, it’s it’s not their baby, but they’re part of the team? And how can I motivate them and excite them or give them the direction they need, because they’re not taking it the same way you would take. And sometimes you have to learn as an entrepreneur how to step away and just say, let him do it. Because if you don’t, you’re gonna be doing it forever, you know, by yourself, and you’ve got to let other people step in, though it may not be perfect, at least it’s getting done. So that you don’t have to do at all. So there’s that balance, I think, too. 


Shawn Zajas  22:06 

Well, that’s incredibly insightful. And I think it’s interesting that most of these areas have to do with like, the messy side of life, which, which is people like it’s amazing, working with great people, great vendors, you know, great contractors, but that’s also where things can go downhill. I know, we’ve been we tried to build, we’ve had to try to build a custom app or portal. And it’s been like, three, four years. And we probably dumped like $120,000 into it. And those custom builds can be so frustrating, because you’re right. It’s like, Well, who do I Who do I trust? And you know, your area of expertise, but you’re having to trust someone representing their area of expertise that you need, right? And that’s where it is? Absolutely. Yeah, it can. It can just be tricky. And but partnerships. I think that’s like the hardest floor because you feel like, you’re you trust that person, that person has your back. And then all of a sudden, there’s some something that changes and there’s some sense of betrayal. And it’s like, I think those are the wounds that I don’t know, that probably hurt the most. Yeah. You know, but that’s where this is, what I’m fascinated by your mindset is that you you just have kept going and you you kind of almost went out without the map. Like, right, I’m gonna go out and it wasn’t like you’d already had that experience. This wasn’t your fourth business. It’s like, No, you just stepped up and did it. And I think a lot of dentists I know, based off their personality profiles, they’re, they’re nervous, or timid or cautious, because there isn’t a guarantee that what they do is going to work, there’s a chance that the risk is a lot higher than then they’re wanting to take. So I’m just saying when it came when it came to you stepping out, there was a ton of risk involved when it came to you possibly failing, right, there was no certainty that it was going to take off if the marketplace was going to like it and that it was going to succeed. Were you aware of those things like hey, Laurie, you might just fail and embarrass yourself? Or in those ways, were you just already really mature in that in that kind of mindset that that didn’t that didn’t even like, bother you. 


Laura Nelson  24:12 

That’s a that’s two good points there. So one or two thoughts on that one is there I guess the reason I don’t like the the word entrepreneur I don’t like that is because there’s this pressure to do something amazing. There’s this pressure, like you’ve started a business, go do it again. Right? Like, go figure out the problem. And I like just to be an entrepreneur. It’s like, yeah, that that there’s there’s a pressure there. So for me, when I started, nobody knew who I was. And I mean worst case, I would have some videos where I could train my employees and if nobody else bought it, at least I would have those videos done right so I kind of went in going well, there’s no harm no foul, like let’s just try this and see what happens and yeah and invest some money. and it could fail. And, and there were times where I was like, this is going nowhere. But I wasn’t. Now the pressure is if you came to me and said, Okay, you have to do something, you have to do something big. Now everyone’s watching, what are you going to do next? That’s the part that makes me nervous, where I’m like, I don’t know. So for a dentist, it’s like, you might have a great idea. And you’ve got your successful dentist, and you have a successful dental office. And now you’re gonna go to this other thing, and everyone’s watching. It might feel like oh, my gosh, what if right? What if it’s not successful? So there’s, there’s a, there’s a security and anonymity, I guess I would say, like, I didn’t know. And honestly, since I’ve started for an office rocks, and, and people are kind of like, what’s next? And I’m like, I don’t know like that. Is there a next? I don’t know, right? So there’s the pressure. The other thing too, is, I’m no longer married to the dentist, but I’m remarried. And when you get remarried, you rehash all of your life, you catch up, right? So my husband, and I’ve been married now for three years. And we’ve caught up all of our childhood and all of our past relationships and all of our life. And you answer a lot of questions that you didn’t have, you haven’t had to answer for 20 some years, because people just know you. And one of the questions he asked me when we first started dating is he said, you don’t seem to get nervous when you make decisions. How do you do that? Like, you just make decisions fast? And I had to put some real thought to it, because I was like, I don’t know how I do it. I’ve just always been this way. Right? So he made me think through it, and I came up with an answer, which now I share a lot in the sense of it’s 7525. For me, 7525, which what I mean by that is 75% of the time, I feel my decisions are right or went in the right direction. If I have to pick a or b 75% of the time, I think I have good judgment skills. I assess the situation, you know, we should turn left not right, you know, we should wait for this reservation at the restaurant not wait, you know, like, I’ve had enough wisdom to pick 75% of the time, it’s probably going to be positive 25% of the time, it’s probably not going to be positive, it’s going to backfire. It’s going to go wrong and might go really bad. Like it’s not a good decision. But the two things about that is I can’t make myself wrong when it goes bad. Because if you beat yourself up over it, you’ll never take risks. And you have to learn from it. Like you have to if you make a bad decision, you have to say okay, that was a bad decision. Like I shouldn’t have decided that. Or we shouldn’t have gone that way. But what can I learn from this for next time. And then that’s how you get more secure in the 75%. Because every mistake that you’ve made, or every decision doesn’t go right, you can put it on the list of well, I learned from it right. And so that’s where I think, you know, if you can start to trust your gut, we all have gut instincts, you know what’s right or wrong, go with your gut, but then don’t beat yourself up. If it doesn’t go the way it’s supposed to. Just learn from it. So next time, maybe you won’t make that same decision. So life lesson, 


Shawn Zajas  27:51 

Laura, that that’s a very advanced mindset. I think it’s fascinating that you kind of didn’t realize, maybe some of the subconscious behind the fact that you just operate in that. Do you think Was that like a gift that your parents, either they modeled that for you? Or I don’t know something in your childhood, where it’s just like, Yeah, I don’t know, you just kind of built and built and didn’t have a reason to be like, Oh, my gosh, I just made a terrible decision. Now that 25% is now 40. And I’m scared to do anything. 


Laura Nelson  28:21 

Yeah, I don’t know. I mean, I had a definitely I was an only child, I moved around my whole life. My dad was Army. So you know, I was raised very, like you just do the right thing and make it happen. And if you make a mistake, my dad would tell me, it used to kill me, whoever remembers hearing this from your parents, like don’t apologize, just don’t do it again. Like my dad would tell me overnight. If I would do something, just don’t apologize. Because you know, it’s nice if you apologize, right? If you’ve done that, but just don’t do it again. Or the worst was when your dad says, you know, I’m not mad, you just disappointed me. You have to earn my trust back. It’s like, oh, gosh, that’s killer. Right? So it’s those things philosophies, I guess in life that that just got me to realize like, okay, don’t apologize, like you made the decision. Just fix it, and then don’t do it again, you know, and so I guess maybe that was I should thank my father for that. Or the army. I’m not sure. 


Shawn Zajas  29:16 

So in this 20 year journey, I guess it’s more than when Didn’t you say you got back into or you got into dentistry? 22 years ago? 


Laura Nelson  29:23 

Yeah. 22 years ago, because my daughter is 23 and she was a baby. Yeah. 


Shawn Zajas  29:28 

So what was a mindset you had to shed in order to keep on growing in order to keep on evolving in order to get to where you’re at today? 


Laura Nelson  29:37 

Um, I speak about this still in the front of the room every single time I speak or any any interviews that I do. I could have easily I call it call it focus too much on dental so dental savvy versus dental smarts like knowing too much about dental and understanding Dental. If you are too much in the dental box If you go down that dent, like I could have learned everything about insurance, I could have known everything about every code. And every granted, I don’t know if I’d be good at that. But I never went the clinical route, I stayed the business side. I know enough Dental, of course, I know the insurance and the codes and all that, but you’ve got it, we’ve got to say, we’ve got to stay dental savvy, but we don’t want to be in the dental box, right, we don’t want to be focused on just dental because if we’re driven by dental, we’re only going to do with the insurance covers, we’re only going to do the basics to get the patients out of out of pain, we’re never going to push the patient out of their comfort zone because they don’t want to do the dental that we’re doing. Right. They they’re not excited about it. So I think my biggest thing was, I chose the path always of, you know, let’s understand insurance. It’s understand that you know how the dental office operates. But let’s always put the patient first, let’s always put the business first. And so many people have been in the industry, as long as I have like, we have somebody in our study club for our office manager, Study Club. Man, this lady has been in dental forever, and she knows everything about every code, and every but she sits there and you bring up a new idea. And she goes, that won’t work. That won’t work in my office, that won’t work, right. And she’s so dental knowledgeable, but she’s in her box where she’s like, that just won’t work. And it’s like, Ah, you’re never gonna get out of that if you just stay to focus there. So luckily, I never got over there. You know, I never got into that. And not saying that insurance, if you know, insurance inside and out, that’s bad thing. It’s just make sure you’re not the person who’s sitting there with their arms crossed going, that’ll never work in our practice, because that’s going to always limit you, you know. 


Shawn Zajas  31:40 

So I’m curious about your perspective, because you have so much experience, what innovations do you feel like? Our right when it comes to, you know, again, putting the patient first or customer service or front office? related areas like what are you seeing could possibly happen in the next 510 years in that area. 


Laura Nelson  32:02 

So there are some things I’ve had to change over the years. One of them let’s see those a couple, one of them was outsourcing. I’m a very much a control person. And I thought nothing is going to happen outside of my four walls. I’m going to control the phones, the schedule, the insurance, everything totally changed my perspective on that for many different reasons. One is what we’re just hanging out. There’s people out there who do it better than we do. Right. So like there are companies out there who can help us with these things. Let them do it. So we can focus on just the things that are we can do within the practice. With hiring, it’s when we have times like right now where it’s hard to find good employees if you can outsource right? The other thing is metrics. I believe in metrics now that I don’t know that I did. Back in the beginning, I thought I could pull everything out of the software we use, I can take this report, add this report to it divided by this, multiply it and I get my case acceptance, when why do we spend the time doing that now when we can use companies who can help us get the percentages in the reports and the things that we need out of our software, customer service, anything that we can do like you guys is why I love working with you guys, just anything we can do to set ourselves apart for our patients. They don’t like coming to the dental office. But if I can give them a toothbrush or I can make them more comfortable or I can play good music or I can give them paraffin wax, whatever you do in your practice to make it the best as possible. I think is is huge. And so we’re not just a dental office anymore. We are you know, we’re asking people to spend money in our practice and they’re only can judge us on the experience really. And so the experience matters. And then last I would say is membership. When I started like I didn’t membership, I didn’t understand what a dental membership was, I was like what is that right. And now I believe every practice should have a membership program in the practice. Like that’s the only way we’re really going to be able to serve our customers that don’t have insurance or you know, lose insurance. And I think it’s super smart for the for the practice. So those are ones where I think if you’re not I think you need to have options for financing more than one dental warranty to warranty your work because we know dentistry breaks things happen life happens you know really looking at the companies out there that are here to support us in the dental industry and not putting up your your you know your wall saying we’ve got it all we can do it ourselves, but like really talking to these companies when you go to these conferences and say What can you do to support us? Because I mean, I’m a big fan of Aidan, the American Association of dental office management and management and you’ve been there. I mean, they sell out the vendors before they sell out the attendees because they understand how these vendors support the practices, you know how they’re going to be there for us. So really looking at what’s out there for us to help us in our practices, which we didn’t have 20 years ago, is huge. So and every day every time I’m I go to any conferences I walk around, say, Okay, tell me what’s new. Tell me what do you have what’s new? Because there’s always you guys, meaning all of us that are doing this are innovating all the time, you know? And so what’s the latest thing that you can bring to help my practice? 


Shawn Zajas  35:13 

Yeah, and the closer practices and vendors get in terms of partnering to make dentistry better, like, the better chance is going to have it, you know, I don’t come up with business ideas in a vacuum either. It’s as I’m talking to dental professionals, as I’m sensing pain, as I’m seeing where there can be value. That’s when all of a sudden my gears start turning. And I’m like, oh, okay, how can I? How can I provide that solution? And that’s what I love about your story, you’re like, well, there was a problem, there’s some massive problems. And I found out where I could bring value. And then other people saw that as value to write, and they just wanted you to share, you know, they it’s like, they were like, giving you a pedestal of like, Laura, like, please, Like, Share what you’ve learned? Yeah, I think that I don’t know, I think I would, 


Laura Nelson  35:58 

I would say for anyone listening, and I don’t know about your, I don’t know specifically about you about us. But I overall, just as an office manager in the past, the one big piece of advice I can give to every office that’s trying to work with any companies out there, no matter what it is membership, toothbrush, you know, paperless, whatever outsourcing insurance, the implementation that first week, two weeks, two months together of like, how do we do this? How do we work in my practice? Like, how do I implement this new technology in my practice, or your services in my practice, or because so many times it happens all the time, it’s been doing forever, it’s been this way in marketing, we’d hire a new marketing company in the dental office, we want more new patients, the we don’t get more new patients, we blame it on the marketing company, we fire them, we go on to another marketing company. And it’s like, well, wait a minute. It’s not the marketing company, the phones make, you know, maybe it is, but more than likely, it’s not. The phone’s ringing. Now, let’s figure out is are the right customers calling? Are we answering the questions, right? Are we even answering our phones? I mean, one of the reasons for an office rocks even exists is because we don’t know how to answer the phones and handle these questions. Well, so marketing’s job is to make the phone ring. So if you can recognize as a dental office, and or, you know, if you’ve got a product you’re bringing into the dental office or a service, it’s that implementation, it’s that integration of those first week, two weeks, months, depending on what you have of working together, just like a new employee, we are now working together for the first time, the better we can communicate on like, how do we do this? And how do we want to make this work? And how do we train my team? How do they know how to use it, because if the team doesn’t use it, it’s never gonna happen. Right. And so that is probably the biggest thing I could say is if you’re if you want it to be successful, which ultimately, if we’re spending money working together, we everybody wants it to be successful, invest in that beginning steps to make sure it works for both, you know, the whatever companies you’re working with in your dental office. 


Shawn Zajas  38:06 

Okay, I’m sorry, I am glad this is recorded, because I was wanting to take notes. Because that honestly, is as you’re saying, and I’m like, Man, the times that it hasn’t worked with the practice, it’s because in that onboarding phase, somehow there’s a disconnect. And either we’re not talking to the right person, or we’re not doing a good job getting full buy in, or really painting the picture and holding their hand and kind of supporting them in that we actually haven’t implemented. Now we’re doing it and it’s getting the results we want. Somewhere along the lines. Either we dropped the support or something happens. And we can’t create a win for that practice and the practices that crush it, we ended up being able to support them. Yeah. 


Laura Nelson  38:48 

And I’m learning that front office rocks like I’ve been doing this 10 years. And I just last week recorded a seven day Quickstart where it’s a video to the doctor that for the first seven days of like, here are the things you need to do for front office rocks to be successful. Because if you don’t do these things, there’s a really high chance that your team is going to say they don’t want to do the training. So realizing that and I’ve been doing this and I know it right. But like yet we haven’t done it. So now I’m like, Okay, let’s do these things to help dental offices, because we’re all here to help offices. And as an office manager, I know, you know, we spend good money with companies. And then if it doesn’t work, we’re frustrated. Well, it’s probably because we didn’t have those expectations set correctly. We didn’t we didn’t really establish what that looked like. 


Shawn Zajas  39:34 

Yeah, and a good industry to look at for that would be like, you know, just software as a service, especially when it comes to like apps, how many times you download an app, you’re excited somehow it’s either not intuitive enough, or you kind of just forget about it, you know, and it just gets lost in the sea of apps you have on your phone. And that company now is like trying to like send you a push notification or reach you somehow like Hey, keep using our thing. Our thing is awesome, isn’t it and you’re kind of like You know, so it’s like if, if adoption doesn’t get driven, then ultimately, change can’t happen. And I remember hearing that story from consultants of how many times as a dentist, go to a trade show, get excited about some transformation or some idea comes back shares with the staff. And the staff kind of just like smiles and nods and knows if they just wait, yeah, three, four weeks later, everything’s going to go back to the way it was. And we don’t need to actually do any change, you know, and it’s that really sad like, well, unfortunately, there’s a history of bad change management. But yeah, that the poor dentist, you know, she’s trying to really drive change in her practice. But, again, she didn’t get an MBA, she didn’t get a master’s in organizational development. Like, she’s focusing on great clinical dentistry. So that’s why I think dentistry is such an interesting industry right now. And that’s why I love what you’re doing. So Laura, if you could wave a wand, when you go to work with a client. And if you could just wave one and say, hey, look, this is the mindset I would love for them to have when I come to work with them. What would that be? 


Laura Nelson  41:10 

Well, I think for me, specifically, it’s investing in your team, understanding the importance of your team, it’s the highest part of you know, overhead, and it’s the biggest barrier or successful thing and helping your practice grow. Your team matters, invest in them, right, regular training, regular, you know, communication, team meetings, and all these things that doctors are like, not necessarily great at, but it really matters, your team wants to support you. But you’ve got to invest in them. On the flip side for the team, it’s realizing that you don’t know it all already. If you think you know it all already, then you’re not going to be able to learn anything. And I would rather I heard Dave Ramsey say this at a at an entre leadership conference I went to a couple years ago, you know, if I had to choose between somebody who’s skilled, and somebody who is willing to learn, I’ll take somebody’s willing to learn all day long over somebody who’s skilled, because I can teach them. So you’ve got to have the attitude of like, things have changed, I mean, in our industry has changed so much in the last five years, let alone 20 years, you know, so we’ve always got to be willing to learn, and grow and invest in learning more and training our team. That’s like the perfect client, you know, somebody who understands who’s listening, whoever’s listening to this podcast probably has that mentality. Now, it’s a matter of making sure that your culture and your team, get that in the practice, you know, it can’t just be one person, it takes a whole team, it definitely takes a whole team. 


Shawn Zajas  42:45 

So throughout this whole interview, like I’m marveling at just how much humility you have, even with the whole struggling with EMI and entrepreneur, you know, and just with the success that you’ve had, and the impact you’ve already been able to make, and to still carry yourself with such humility and stuff, such a desire to learn more in, in that vein of learning more what, what was a book that really either inspired you, or that you think, would be great for our listeners to check out. 


Laura Nelson  43:15 

For me, I guess the most recent one that sticks with me and I use all the time when I’m trying to decide if I’m gonna get up in the morning and keep fighting the fight is atomic habits. I think atomic habits most of the time, I mean, organizational development is change management, I help people change we all think should not be staying the same. Everything should be getting better your relationships, your practice, your everything should be improving. And if it’s not, there’s a good chance, it’s probably something if you look in the mirror, there’s something looking back at you that needs to change, right. But it’s not easy to change. And many times, it’s just changing the way we think about things habits, what we’re doing, for example, you know, when I read it, that very first week, I’ve read it, I took all my little notifications off my phone, I was like, I’m super good at multitasking. But I get distracted when my phone has those little pop ups on them. And it’s not urgent. And so just doing little things, you know, showing up to the gym is better than not going at all, you know, having a meeting with an employee, that might not go perfectly, but at least we’re starting communication, it’s a step in the right direction. So I think habits are a thing that’s good that Where do you want to be a year from now? And then what habits can you start to put in place now, even if it’s just like listening to this podcast regularly to get motivated to make the move of what you want to do next? Whatever it is, atomic habits was a really good book for that. 


Shawn Zajas  44:51 

Okay, so I just have to ask you one awkward question just to throw you off a little bit. Okay. You said it’s, it’s a little odd with the whole like, expectations. have like, you know, Laura has already done something? What’s next for her? Not that there has to be a next. But like, what is a dream? That’s maybe five years, 10 years down the road? That maybe has nothing to do with dentistry? 


Laura Nelson  45:16 

Um, that’s good question. I don’t want to leave dentistry. I love the people. I love that I’m meeting new employees coming in every day who know nothing about dentistry, and I get to meet them. And they say I’ve taught them what everything they’ve known, or at least the beginning of what they needed to know. I want to travel a lot more. And I do hope I have two children and three stepchildren and so I’m hoping at some point, I get grandkids not now I’m not ready. But that’s kind of my hope is that I can set up my life so that I can still continue to speak and be in front of people and help the dental industry where I can continue to grow and sustain this lifestyle where I can travel a lot and and you know, see kids see family see kids, that kind of thing. I don’t think I’m gonna go change the world in another industry. I don’t know. I am, you know, I’ve got a side business where I do crafting. So that’s kind of a side business. And I do have changed a few things in my lifestyle that I talked about on tick tock and I don’t know, I’m just an open book. So I don’t know where it’ll go. But the biggest thing for me is traveling, you know, I really, I really love getting out there and just seeing the world. So. 


Shawn Zajas  46:39 

Okay, so Laura, tell me what front office rocks is doing either now, or is in the process of doing that you want to bring attention to? 


Laura Nelson  46:46 

Okay, so I don’t know when this is gonna come out. So this, I mean, like this is the latest 1700. Okay, so right around the corner. In my mind, it should have happened three years ago. So just everybody knows. So right around the corner between now and the end of June is my crossing my fingers that everybody’s telling me the right thing on my team. We a couple of things we have added to front office rocks. Now, it’s not just training videos. It’s not just videos for your team to watch. But we’ve added a community and a conversation part of it. So we are bringing social to training, meaning all of the practices within front office rocks now can get together with other like minded people in your position. So dentists Get Connected office managers, assistants, and in community so we can we can have conversations around hiring or implementing a new piece of technology or so that way I can help practices a little bit more than I’ve been able to because I haven’t been able to converse with them. I’m not in the office with them. And so our team is really coming together with that. And then the biggest mic drop, nobody knows except for you. And my team right now is we have an app that’s coming out. It’s in beta right now. And that means front office rocks will be on your phone for an office rocks will be with you. You can watch it at home or a soccer game. When you’re watching your kids. You can connect with me on the app, you can show it to other people at dinners or whatever. So for me, that’s huge. Because like I said, five, seven years ago, I don’t even we have apps back then. I mean, we did right? I don’t even remember when did that all come out. But it’s technology I never even expected we could have it for an office rocks. So that is the you guys were the first to hear this. I have not talked about this anywhere else. So fingers crossed, hopefully by mid June. 


Shawn Zajas  48:42 

Well, that is super exciting. So right now if someone wants to find out more, or if they want to get in touch with you, what is the best way for them to do that, 


Laura Nelson  48:49 

just come to the front office rocks. You can email info at front office rocks are just come to the website. The new front end of the website is launching in the next couple of weeks. Like it’s just, if you’ve ever been a customer front office rocks, if you’ve de handled gone through the training with the three legged stool, the three legged stool is getting kicked out and a new stool is getting put in its place. So if you’ve never been at front office rocks, just come check it out. I’m speaking a ton over the next few hopefully years. So you know, follow my social calendar if you want to, you know connect with a in person or just join for an office rocks and get involved in the community and conversations there. 


Shawn Zajas  49:29 

So I have one question for close but before that in the spirit of honor, is there anyone in the dental community that you would like to honor just as an innovator that you either looked up to or learned from? 


Laura Nelson  49:40 

I’m gonna say to I have one from the first 10 years of my life and one from the second my life my my dental life, Linda miles for anybody who’s my age or older. I don’t even know Do you know who Linda Miles is? Most of the time? I I? 


Shawn Zajas  49:56 

She founded Sen. Correct? 


Laura Nelson  49:58 

Yes. Okay. So Linda miles is the original dental consultant. I’m sure there were other ones but she’s the one that we all look up to and so she you know broke the broke as into what we’re all doing now in different ways and so Linda miles she’s she’s like dear to my heart I remember when I was young I want to be her when I get older and I am sort of a little bit percentage of it in a different way but Linda miles and then now I would say especially because of the topic that topics that you talk about on here, it would be Elijah Desmond, when it comes to smiles at see Dentistry has got talent, dental tank, I don’t think he calls it that tickets general pitch now, just giving a platform if you don’t follow already giving a platform to people that have ideas that want to speak on topics that it’s very hard to think about getting on the stage at Chicago, midwinter or Hinman or, or state meetings, you know, and and Elijah has given a platform to people who have something to share, you know who best practice an idea a thought, a technology, innovation, and there’s a platform there. That’s one step up that everybody can get to. So that’s probably the person that I would say who’s made the biggest difference? We’re good friends, and he helped me in my career, but I’ve seen him help so many people. I mean, you know him we’re good friends with him. And so if anybody’s on the edge and you just want one little platform to get in the right direction I’d say Get connected somehow with smiles at see Dennis she’s got talent, you know, any, any one of his many groups over there? 


Shawn Zajas  51:37 

Oh, that was amazing. Because you have the OG and Linda that I’ve just recently heard about, I still haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her. Because I know she’s probably not as active. 


Laura Nelson  51:47 

She’s semi retired. She’s still pops up here and there, I think for friends in the dental community. But yeah, she no longer speaks or travels the way she was. 


Shawn Zajas  51:57 

Okay, so Laura, here it is. You are walking down the street and off in the distance you see the 21 year old version of yourself. And, you know, you only have one sentiment that you can communicate to 21 year old Laura, what do you share with her? Oh, 


Laura Nelson  52:15 

that’s a hard one. 


Shawn Zajas  52:17 



Laura Nelson  52:22 

trust your gut. Just trust your trust your you know what’s right or wrong. Just trust your gut, do their do the right thing based off your own. I think there’s times every one of us where we’re second guessing, questioning, wondering, and you know what your gut says inside, so just trust it, you know? 


Shawn Zajas  52:48 

Well, that is incredibly appropriate for the listeners, because it’s anyone that might want to do something might want to pursue a dream, but it’s a little nervous or wasn’t isn’t sure. And here it is. Laura is telling them trust their gut. Laura, thank you so much. It’s been easy to honor you as an innovator, as as an entrepreneur, as someone that is making such a difference in dentistry. I love what you’re doing with front office rocks, any way I can ever partner or just help get your message out there. Thank you so much for sharing about what you guys are launching and dropping in the upcoming future. Super excited about that. But once again, just thank you so much for joining me today. 


Laura Nelson  53:27 

Thank you so much. I’m excited to be here. Let’s go. Let’s change this industry. 


Shawn Zajas  53:33 

Yes, thank you 

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