I had the pleasure of interviewing Krysta Manning, DMD, MBA; Solstice Dental & Aesthetics, Owner & Dentist. Dr. Manning is a dentist, an entrepreneur, a former Captain in the U.S Air Force, the mother of triplets, and a dedicated volunteer to non-profits that serve the community’s most at-risk and vulnerable citizens — poor families, distressed mothers & their children, and the medically fragile. Based in Louisville, KY, Dr. Manning opened Solstice Dental & Aesthetics in November 2017. The unique dental and aesthetics concept combines social responsibility, sustainability and innovation to provide a comfortable dental experience to make guests feel good all over

Chris: What is your “backstory”? Can you tell us about your military background?

I grew up in the small town of Russellville, KY. After studying a pre-med curriculum in college at Transylvania University in Lexington, KY I headed to dental school at the University of Louisville in the fall of 2006.

Shortly after beginning the program, I received my first loan bill for dental school. I was fortunate to be debt-free after undergraduate school, so I was shocked to see not only the size of the first bill, but the amount of interest that had accrued in only a few months time. I started researching options for paying off my debt. Being a young, single woman with a love for travel, the military seemed like the perfect fit. I applied for and received a three-year scholarship through the Air Force’s Health Professions Scholarship Program. This program covered both tuition and living expenses for three out of four years of dental school.

Upon graduation, I completed a one-year fellowship in Developmental Dentistry that focused on the treatment of adults with developmental disabilities. After the fellowship was over, I began my active duty military service. My first assignment was Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. After the first year of service, I was moved across town to the Air Force Academy where I completed my active duty service commitment.

Throughout the duration of my Air Force service, I was offered the opportunity to work with specialists from all areas of dentistry. I also completed more than triple the number of continuing education hours required to maintain my dental license. As an officer, I was also responsible for maintaining programs focusing on patient safety, record maintenance, and deployability of active duty service members.

During the third and final year of my service commitment, I became a mother of triplets. I made the decision to leave the Air Force and return with my husband to Louisville, KY to be near our families.

When I moved back to Kentucky, I began and MBA program at the University of Louisville using the benefit of the GI Bill. Upon completion of my MBA, I had the confidence and knowledge to open my own practice, Solstice Dental and Aesthetics, in January of 2018. The practice reflects my values as well as my experiences.

Chris: What from your time in the military, do you think most prepared you for business?

The single most important thing I learned in the military was how to be a team player. If you think about it, the military is like the largest dental group practice in the world. And making sure that active duty members were able to complete their duties without the risk of distraction from dental problems was critical to the larger mission of the military.

Chris: How would you define your leadership style?

Collaborative. Every single person on my team is smart and capable. It’s why I hired them in the first place. They are also very different from me — I’m the only introvert in the room. That means they are full of experiences and ideas that I could never offer on my own. I do my best to make sure they feel empowered and they are rising to the challenge. My team surprises me every single day.

Chris: What are your “6 Leadership Lessons Businesses can learn from military experience?” Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Time management is critical. During officer training school, we were so heavily scheduled that we had to keep on task every second. Previously, I had always been the kind of person to wait for inspiration and then dig in deeply to get a lot done all at once. At officer training school, I didn’t have the luxury of large blocks of time to dig into tasks, so I had to get them done whenever I had a spare minute. This method of time management persisted throughout my military service. It is still not my preferred way of getting things done, but when I’m pressed for time, I now know how to maximize the free minutes to make progress.
  2. Systems help to get things done. This military runs on clear systems. There were always protocols in place that made sure that each patient received a thorough, consistent experience no matter how many different doctors they saw. My dental office is new, but we are focusing on systems to help us run efficiently. From scheduling systems and accounting systems to systematizing the new patient appointment so that our new clients get a consistent experience every time.
  3. Being a team player is important. During officer training school, we were divided into small groups during our education and training. I was in a group that notoriously came in last place for every event. One of the things that we did was an obstacle course with several different challenges. After each challenge we were unable to complete, we learned the solution. It became pretty obvious that each challenge required us working as a team in a way that we hadn’t thought about during. We actually didn’t successfully complete a single challenge. Before I started my MBA program, they took the whole class to a camp where we were presented with similar challenges. This time, I was able to brainstorm with my teammates to come up with solutions that got us to the finish line every time. Three years of being in the military helped me to understand all of the different ways that teamwork can provide solutions.
  4. Every member of the team has something to offer. When I was first transferred to the Air Force Academy from Peterson Air Force Base, I left behind a dental assistant with over 20 years of experience. Shortly after I arrived at the Air Force Academy, I was assigned an assistant who was brand new to the military and had no experience in dentistry aside from tech school. I was initially disappointed. But over time, he proved to me that I completely misjudged the situation. Not only was he a very hard worker, but also because he wasn’t in dentistry previously, his solutions to problems were often out of the box. I loved watching him grow and teaching him about dentistry. He became one of the best assistants I ever had.
  5. Never lose sight of the bigger picture. One of my tasks in the military was being “Class III” monitor. A Class III patient is one who’s dental needs keep him or her from being deployable. Each week, I had to review the records and follow-up with patients or providers to find out why treatment may not be progressing or how long it would be before they would be deployable again. This was a weekly reminder of the overall mission of our service. Now, my mission is different, but I try to be constantly mindful of the reasons that I go into the office each day.
  6. Education never ends. The Air Force offered me with unmatched opportunities for education and growth. It placed in me a thirst for knowledge that I continue to pursue to this day. Each year since I left the military, I have increased the hours I’ve spent on continuing education. This year, I’m on track to complete over 100 hours. I didn’t realize until it was placed in my lap, how much of an impact learning would have on my ability to go from being a good dentist to becoming a great dentist. The military showed me this. I was surrounded by great dentists day in and day out and it made me aspire to become one.

Chris: The future of many industries rely heavily on millennials and Gen-Z in regards to consumers and talent. Can you tell us something you or your company is doing to stay ahead with attracting both.

I think one of the advantages to working with millennials and gen-z is that they are rapidly adaptable and furiously creative. My dental office embraces technology. From CAD/CAM digital dentistry to Instagram and Facebook marketing, we’re doing the best we can to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. We also value individuality and collaboration. I’m open to brainstorming with anyone who has something to offer. I recognize that I don’t know everything and I’m willing to learn from my team. I think this autonomy creates an intrinsic motivation that goes far beyond the paycheck.

Chris: Can you tell us one person in the world, or in the US whom you would want to sit down and have a drink or cocktail with?

I would love to sit down with Simon Sinek. I first learned about him during my MBA program when we watched his TED Talk for one of my classes. Since then, I’ve read his books and seen him speak live. His thoughts on leadership and finding your “why” have been fundamental in developing my personal business philosophies.

Originally published at medium.com