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Laura Watkins

Laura Watkins: A Trailblazer in Operational Leadership

In the modern corporate world, women are increasingly taking the role of operational experts, leading organizations towards success. Their strategic acumen, resilience, and dedication are reshaping industries worldwide. Among these trailblazers stands Laura Watkins, a visionary leader whose remarkable journey exemplifies excellence in every step of her career.

Laura is a results-driven Regional Sales Manager with a distinguished track record in the dental industry. With adept management skills and a profound understanding of market dynamics, Laura has overseen regions spanning up to 19 states, managing 37 sales representatives. Her portfolio encompasses a diverse range of products, from periodontal disease prevention and treatment to oral health solutions, cancer screening tools, dental implants, and specialized equipment. Her clientele includes maxillofacial surgeons, specialty/general dentists, dental labs, as well as prestigious university and government accounts.

Currently serving as the Chief Operating Officer at J&F Dental Labs, Laura brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the table. Her journey in the dental field began as a certified dental assistant, working alongside luminaries such as Dr. Carl Misch at the Misch International Implant Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This firsthand experience instilled in her a deep-rooted passion for dental care and a commitment to innovation-driven solutions.

What sets Laura apart is her exceptional ability to transform underperforming territories into thriving markets. She has a proven knack for assembling and nurturing high-performing sales teams, cultivating individual representatives who consistently achieve national recognition and awards. With an unwavering commitment to excellence, Laura has carved a niche for herself as a leader who delivers tangible results and drives sustainable growth.

Early Beginnings

Laura’s journey in the dental industry began during high school when she attended a vocational tech school to become a certified dental assistant. Since graduating, she has remained dedicated to the dental field. Laura started as a dental assistant in private practice and steadily progressed in her career.

In 1998, Laura transitioned into sales for a dental supply company, where she deepened her understanding of dentists’ needs. She worked for Astra Tech as a sales representative, always focusing on serving the dental community. Her dedication and expertise led her to roles with increasing responsibility, including Regional Sales Manager, overseeing all government and VA facilities east of the Mississippi.

Laura’s commitment and growth in her career naturally led to her current role as COO, where she continues to contribute to the dental industry with her wealth of experience and dedication to serving dental professionals.

Addressing Underperforming Territories

As a COO, Laura believes that successful businesses rely on three main pillars: production management, employee management, and client management. By ensuring that clients’ needs are heard and met, employees are supported and nurtured, and production remains efficient, the company can continue to grow and strengthen its brand.

When addressing underperforming territories, Laura’s approach starts with understanding their specific needs and challenges. This allows her to provide the necessary support and guidance. Instead of adopting an adversarial “us vs. them” mindset, Laura prefers to collaborate with the team, working together to solve problems and achieve mutual growth.

Laura also highlights the importance of understanding what motivates each employee. This insight helps in understanding their perspectives and aspirations, enabling better support and fostering a positive working environment. Ultimately, Laura believes that the company can achieve sustained success by prioritizing effective communication and collaboration, and mutual growth.

Focus on Developing Top-Performing Employees

Laura believes in the importance of developing top performing individuals within her organization. She stresses the significance of feeling appreciated and valued, stating that respect is a two-way street. When employees go above and beyond, Laura ensures they are recognized for their efforts. As part of her commitment to employee appreciation, she sent hand-written notes to everyone in the organization on Employee Appreciation Day. Laura understands that when employees don’t feel valued, they may become disengaged. Therefore, she advocates for treating each employee as an individual, fostering a culture of appreciation and respect within the organization.

Importance of Strong Client Relationships

Laura recognizes the crucial role effective leadership plays in driving success within the dental industry, and she embodies this in her role as COO by prioritizing relationship-building. She understands that customer service is paramount, especially in an industry where personal connections are highly valued. Laura shares the importance of maintaining strong relationships with clients, as word of mouth travels quickly in the tight-knit dental community.

Throughout her career, Laura has created a reputation for being responsive and reliable. She strives to provide quick solutions to clients’ inquiries and concerns, even if she doesn’t have all the answers immediately. Laura is committed to leveraging her extensive network to find the necessary support for her clients. As a result, she has built long-lasting friendships with dentists over decades, demonstrating her dedication to fostering enduring relationships within the dental industry.

Keeping Balance in Sales Leadership

Laura believes that, achieving balance in her role involves constant effort in various areas, including sales strategy development, team training programs, and performance improvement initiatives. She emphasizes the importance of providing the team with the necessary tools for success before approaching clients. According to Laura, salespeople need a strong foundation, which includes quality products, comprehensive training, and the ability to deliver quality results.

Additionally, she mentions the significance of continual education, which should be based on feedback received from both the team and clients. This approach ensures that the team remains equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to excel in their roles and meet the needs of clients effectively.

Empowering Women Leaders in Dentistry

In the dental industry, Laura believes in keeping an eye out for talent within this relatively small community. She values transparency and support when setting expectations for team members. Laura recognizes that without the right tools, team members can’t perform at their best. Motivation, she believes, is tried to personal goals. Therefore, understanding each team member’s personal goals and providing opportunities to achieve them is essential for everyone’s success.

For aspiring women leaders in the dental industry, Laura offers valuable advice. She believes that by earning respect and knowledge, anyone can achieve gaining what they set their minds to. Laura emphasizes the importance of dedicating time to learning and mastering one’s craft, which earns the respect needed for success. Despite potential dismissals based on stereotypes, Laura asserts that industry knowledge can help break through such barriers.

Vision for Continuous Growth

For the future, Laura’s goal is continuous growth, both for the business as one of the country’s premier dental labs and for her team as individuals. She believes that these two aspects are interconnected. Rather than seeing herself as just “the boss,” Laura strives to be a mentor and leader, aiding everyone in reaching their full potential in the industry. She is committed to sharing her knowledge and experience with anyone who seeks to learn and grow, believing that collective success is achieved when everyone on the team thrives.