Tom Williams is the COO of Real Life Dental, which offers patients a full range of services and provides quality care in a warm, relaxing environment, using the latest technologies to ensure precise, comfortable treatments.
They are committed to every patient’s smile and comfort and work hard to help them achieve and maintain a healthy smile for life with comprehensive dentistry in Blacksburg, Virginia, and surrounding areas, including Christiansburg, Dublin, Pulaski, Radford, and New River Valley, Virginia.
As the COO of a dental practice with three locations – while expanding to a fourth location – the practices Tom oversees encompass several disciplines with a general dentist, orthodontist and endodontist.
The growth? Every business owner’s dream. The growing pains? Less so.
So Tom decided to give up his permanent office so he could be more mobile, providing an on-site presence at each of their offices as needed.
But growth also provided another obstacle: With each patient coordinator that was promoted to being his assistant, there would be one more person with access to confidential information.
“Confidentiality was not taken seriously,” Tom shares. “I was needing someone that could manage meetings and my email – without the fear of an email being read and shared.”
“There are a lot of things – as a leader – that you talk about. And it’s important for that type of information to not get out because people get fearful about what the company is doing or not doing. So I really needed someone to be able to help manage all that I’m trying to juggle and keep that layer of confidentiality.”
And, once again, a chance mention of BELAY at a Michael Hyatt event would answer that very call.
Tom was paired with BELAY Virtual Assistant, Kristin – but he wasn’t quite ready to jump in with both feet. At least not right away.
He was most hesitant around two things: Virtual work and connectivity with his teams.
“I had a hard time wrapping my brain around how someone remote [would] be able to manage things beyond email and calendar. I’m also a big proponent of teams being connected and working well together.”
So Tom started slowly, handing over his “mess of an inbox” to Kristin – who quickly restored order.
“Email and calendar – that’s what we focused on for 30 days,” he shares. “[But] she was able to work through that relatively quickly – probably two to three weeks into it.”
The result beyond an organized inbox? Trust.
“I think the best way to build trust is to be completely realistic and transparent,” he explains. “So I just said from the beginning that we would have to be transparent with one another. And so I need to tell her what’s really going on and she needs to tell me what’s really going on.”
And trust is what made what happened next, possible.
“She busted me the other day,” he shares with a laugh. “She goes, ‘Tom, there’s something I need to talk to you about.’ I said, ‘Alright. Go ahead. Give it to me.’
“She’s like, ‘Have you been checking your inbox?’
“I have an ‘attention’ folder – and that’s the only folder I’m supposed to look at. And she busted me. I said, ‘You know what? You’re right. Absolutely.’
“It was a great conversation,” he says. “So I had to walk with a layer of humility to get feedback from my VA because it’s a relationship – she wants it to be successful so then feedback is a blessing.”
“At the end of each day, [Kristin] gives me an update,” he says. “[Otherwise], things just eat up bandwidth in my mind if I have to think through things throughout the remainder of the day.”
As for advice Tom would give other hesitant leaders?
“I would encourage every VA to keep asking and pulling [things] out of people that they’re serving. For me, it’s really hard to let things go. And not because I don’t want to,” he shares.
“But the one that I did [let go of] was redoing our organizational chart. I had stickies all over a four-by-eight table,” he says. “And I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Oh my gosh. This is going to take me forever.’”
But then Tom handed it over to Kristin.
“Once that was all handed over, it felt like 15-20 pounds of stress and burden were just relieved,” he says. “And that’s not the first time; there have been many times like that. It feels so good to just be able to let go.”
The bottom line?
“Having a VA has been incredibly impactful and helpful. It’s gotten me to a place of working more out of my zone genius, as Kristin works out of hers.”