I am at the ADA annual session, which has just begun, music blaring, energizing the crowd.
The meeting director hands me a microphone. “You’re up,” she says. I glance at her roster. It says Dr. Wendy D. Phillips.
“That’s not me,” I tell her.
Yet she insists, “You’re up.”
I take the microphone and head towards the stage. No keynote prepared, yet suddenly I am the opening act in front of thousands of dentists.
I take my spot behind the podium. The requisite feedback sounds in all of our ears.
“I’m not your keynote speaker.” I glance down at my feet, then quickly back up again.
“This woman right back here,” I hold out an open hand, “mistakenly put me on the stage. It was an error. I am not supposed to be here. I am not Dr. Wendy D. Phillips…
“I am Wendy O’Donovan Phillips, ideapreneur. And I know dentists who are just like me.
“There are the dentists who excel at the clinical side of the profession. There are a many who are excellent at the business side.
“And there are a select few who are ideapreneurs. The ones who are aggravated by how the world of dentistry is now, and are determined to do something to change it. The ones who seem to invest too much time or money into grand plans – until the extraordinary fruits of their labor appear. The ones who wake up at three in the morning and dictate their dreams and hopes into their phones, to later share as blogs or articles with their peers. The dentists who are changing the industry.
“And maybe this is not you. Maybe not quite yet. But you have it in you. There is some area of your profession that causes you so much angst it keeps you up at night. What if you were the one who solves that problem? Solves that problem for your practice… And for the industry on the whole.
“This profession needs more dentists who have the courage to be ideapreneurs. Mark Twain wrote, ‘Courage is not the absence of fear. It is acting in spite of fear.’
“Ideapreneurship is not always the obvious choice. I am 39 years old and I have started four businesses. Two of them serve the dental industry. I am not clear on why my higher power wants me to improve dentistry, but there is no doubt that that is what I am supposed to be doing. I have dedicated my life to dentists. Most of the ideas that I have had in the last 10 years center around dentists. Every middle-of-the-night waking moment has me thinking about dentists.
“Ideapreneurship is not a bed of roses. For the past two years, I have been focused on the bottom line at my firm. I have invested tens of thousands of dollars asking various consultants the same question: How does my agency serve dentists and still be profitable?” I laugh.
“Ideapreneurship is not a cash cow right out of the gate. My firm has, for the last eight months, run in the red. That irksome slow leak that some of you may have experienced from time to time. But it’s not about the money.
“Here’s the thing… when I’m focused on what ideapreneurship is not, I am dancing while looking at my feet,” I say, looking again down at my toes.
“In fact,” I say, drawing a finger to the bottom of my chin and slowly tilting my head up, “I can lift up and look around the ballroom and dance.” I open my arms as though beginning a waltz…
“I can see that we work with some of the best dentists in the world. I see that I have an amazing team and a beautiful place to work. I see that I have an incredible passion for ideas that will impact the dental industry for years to come.
“I see that the dance is worth it.
“There are many ways to value a good idea. And it’s not all about immediate gratification or return. The most important thing is that we let ideas flow. And that we act upon them. That we get messy, that we make mistakes, let the revolutionary happen by accident.
“So get up, take the microphone, and let your voice be heard. Get out there and start your idea. Be the wrong keynote speaker. Get vulnerable so that other people can learn from you.
“You are an ideapreneur. And you are the future of dentistry.”
Two doors down, my young daughter coughs. And coughs again.
I open my eyes, and I realize that I’ve been dreaming. I’ve been dreaming, and now I must get it down on paper. And so, after a full hour of lying there thinking how much I don’t want to get out of my warm bed, how much I just want to go back to sleep, here I am at 3:30 in the morning in the car in the garage where my sleeping family cannot hear me dictating my idea into my phone.
Because I am a dreamer. Because I am an idea maker. Because I am an ideapreneur.
And you are too. Won’t you join me?