20 Years by Ryan Downing

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I was inspired to write this post because of an experience in July when I went to Seattle Central College to surprise a student with a tuition scholarship from Dental Connections. When I arrived in the classroom there was a hygienist there that I helped many years ago. She is now a clinical instructor at the college. She heard I was coming to campus and popped in to say hello. I met her as a new grad from Lake WA in June 2002. She was a fantastic temp that summer and later we found her a job with a practice she stayed with for 14 years. We talked by email or phone throughout the years, but had not seen each other since we met. When I saw her in the classroom she greeted me with a warm hug rather than the standard professional handshake. We talked to each other like barely a day had passed since that interview 17 years ago. It really struck me in that moment how strong the bonds are with the dental professionals we help at DC. When you treat others with honesty, kindness, and respect, they do not forget and it is meaningful.

This is what the company I helped build is all about. We are not just a temp agency. We are not a middleman. We do not take advantage of anyone. We are a service that is supportive of both dental professionals and practices. Temporary and permanent placement, resume critique, interview tips, salary negotiation, dispute resolution, and sometimes just a shoulder to cry on – we do all of this and more. The finesse that goes on behind the scenes to do it well is hard to fathom if you do not work inside our company. The feeling we hope applicants and clients are left with is that DC has their back. We go out of our way to be available for whatever advice and support is needed.

August marks my 20th year with Dental Connections. Applicants sometimes ask me how I got in this business so I feel it is a great time to tell some intimate details of my dental story. My Mom started DC in 1982 and ran it for 20 years. I grew up around the family business and never had any intention of ever working at DC. As funny as that sounds, it was not something we ever talked about as a family. I graduated from the University of Washington and after a few years of working in Hawaii and California my Mom called. I still even remember where I was sitting in my apartment in San Francisco when we had a conversation that literally changed the course of my life. Her intent was just to vent and ask for business advice. She used to say, “I paid for you to go to business school at UW so I get to take advantage of the education too!” This is something she did often. She was lamenting the loss of a key employee and described everything she wanted in a new hire. Who she was describing was me. So I said why not hire me? She said no, I don’t think so Son. Many objections were raised from DC never having a male employee to it ruining our family relationship if my employment turned out poorly. So I flew up to Seattle and pitched myself to her. It was very important we have ground rules about keeping family and business relationships separate. She hired me and I started the first week of August 1999 as a placement consultant interviewing dental assistants and receptionists. DC had record years 1999-2001 and our brand grew tremendously. Maybe I kind of like this business I thought…

I spent three years as an employee before I signed a contract to purchase DC in June 2002. DC is not a huge company by my design. We have grown from one office to three offices the past 10 years, but we still maintain a small team of employees and the personal touch we have always been known for. I never wanted to be a multi-state DSO and have no intention of taking DC that route. There are many accomplishments I am proud of. We started our Seattle office from scratch in 2008 just before the Great Recession and it still flourished. We started giving tuition scholarships to 1st year dental hygiene students in 2015 and this year for the first time we awarded two of them. We bought a colleague’s agency in Bellevue in 2016 and enabled her to retire. What I am most proud of though are my employees. I am so grateful to have longevity and continuity on my staff. We have a strong bond. There are highs and lows. Laughter and tears. Celebrations and drama. Yes there is a boss-employee relationship, but I would be lying if I did not tell you they feel like my sisters. I am an only child and I cannot help getting attached to be people I care about. From longest to shortest tenure: Cyndy Burki, Tammy Smith, Shanan Salado, Alicia Jardine, Vannara Jimenez, Valerie Stewart, and Darla Anderson. Thank you. Almost 80 years of experience at DC between us. Simply amazing.

Many things have changed in 20 years. No doubt I have grown up a lot. I have a young family that is the central focus of my life. I feel so much gratitude and humility for the success I have achieved personally and professionally. Outside of my family and friends, DC is a big reason why I am so fortunate. Here’s to another 20 years!

Ryan, Ryder, and Sara Downing
Dental Connections is a dental employment agency offering temporary and permanent placement services for dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, and business staff. We are more than just a temp agency because all of the dental professionals we represent are screened with a personal interview. Half our business is dedicated to permanent placement. Our service area is all of Western Washington, with most jobs in the following cities: Everett, Lynnwood, Seattle, Bothell, Kirkland, Redmond, Bellevue, Mercer Island, Renton, Kent, Federal Way, Auburn, Puyallup, Tacoma, Gig Harbor, Bremerton, Olympia, and Centralia.