Barber Shop to Dental Office

For many people, the ambition to continually advance and achieve more is present very early on in their lives. They may not know what career path they want to choose or where they want to end up, but they know that hard work, commitment and always having a “student” mentality will be necessary to arrive there. Case in point – Dr. Jacob Berger, practicing dentist at Smiles at Lakewood Ranch in Lakewood Ranch, Florida. Growing up, Dr. Berger had an ambition to continually advance himself, not only for his benefit, but to help his family and others. That trait served him well over the years, eventually leading him to find early success as a dentist.

I feel like the mentality of ‘I arrived’ creates a level of satisfaction that doesn't encourage growth. It can become easy for a previous dental student to go from hours of hard work studying material to be the best student possible to not studying at all after graduation because, ‘I made it, I am a dentist, I arrived’ turns on and ‘I need to prepare and head somewhere and excel’ turns off. There’s nothing wrong with satisfaction, but bigger things happen when we set goals to always surpass.”

Jacob Berger, DMD, practicing dentist at Smiles at Lakewood Ranch in Lakewood Ranch, Florida

“I would like to share a little of my story, as I believe our story helps dictate who we are, what we do and how we perceive things. When I was in 7th Grade, my father left my mom and me. I lived with her from that point on, with some fatherly advice from my older brother. Although my dad was a good dad when he was around, my life and perception greatly changed once he left. I quickly decided I needed to step up for the well-being of my mother. She didn’t need that from me, but that instinct kicked in nonetheless. I found an interest in cutting hair and began working as a barber while I was in the 8th grade. I also started selling hair supplies to guys such as combs, hair gel, etc. – anything to help my mom with finances,” explained Dr. Berger. “That definitely helped drive my motivation. Through the next few years, I balanced sports, friendship and school work while working, but never really felt bogged down or overwhelmed by any of them, so I just kept going with that mentality. Too often I meet those that say, “Must be nice to have this or that” or be brought up in a way that gave you success. But the successes I gained can be attributed to God having my back, prayer, my mother, my brother, hard work, dedication, humility and learning from failure.”

All of those factors have continued to serve Dr. Berger well as he grew up and moved from the barbershop to the dental office. Upon graduating from the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health, Dr. Berger chose to begin his career with Heartland Dental’s support.

“There are many challenges young dentists are facing today as clinicians and leaders. In addition to managing the non-clinical aspects of a dental office and staying up-to-date on the clinical aspects of practicing, it’s also very important to continually coach and teach your teams as a leader. That’s a challenge for myself, because I often don’t work to overcome the fear of delegating without quality/accuracy being sacrificed. In addition, I also practice in a multi-doctor office, which also creates challenges along with benefits. With two or three different personalities, there’s bound to be clashes with commitment, dividing of leadership, communication, etc.” said Dr. Berger. “For many of those reasons, I chose Heartland Dental’s support. They take the necessary steps to ensure supported doctors have the opportunities to become strong leaders, whether it be through Bell Leadership, workshops, CE initiatives or other leadership courses.

Now finding success with Heartland Dental from the beginning, Dr. Berger’s ambition has not ceased one bit. He now looks to the future and what goals he wants to achieve.

“There are many goals I now turn my attention to with Heartland Dental and my career in general. I want to be part of the most successful De Novo office started at the five-year point. I want to achieve financial freedom by paying off my loans and eventually investing in Heartland Dental and other opportunities. I want to advance my education and earn a Fellowship with the Academy of General Dentistry. I want to give back to my community through Free Dentistry Days and other philanthropic initiatives. I want to help other doctors advance themselves and teach in whatever capacity I can. I believe that one of my strengths outside of patient care is motivating others to become better at patient care,” added Dr. Berger. “With those goals, it’s important that I maintain an ‘I have not arrived’ attitude.

“For other doctors looking to find success from the start, I encourage you to be involved in a variety of activities and groups, such as sports groups, church groups and fitness groups. This helps your ability to communicate and relate to a greater amount of people. Participating in as many CE courses as possible has also helped me build upon my clinical and leadership skills. I also encourage you to watch well-known speakers such as Tony Robbins, Gary Vaynerchuk and others. Books such as The Power of Habit by Chuck Duhigg, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni and The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey are all insightful and valuable as well,” added Dr. Berger. “I would also strongly encourage getting a mentor. I have a private practitioner who I chose as a mentor because of his passion for dentistry, desire for continued learning and commitment to mission work. His willingness to share knowledge and mistakes makes for a great contact as I try to become the doctor he is. Lastly, the best bit of advice I have ever been given was not directly to me and it was from Patrick Bauer at Heartland Dental’s Dr. LEADS, ‘Do the right thing for the right reason.”

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