As 2021 drew to a close, Jim Glidewell, CDT, founder and owner of America’s largest, most innovative dental laboratory, came to a landmark decision. For the first time in the 52-year history of his company, he was going to relinquish the role of CEO, bestowing it upon 15-year enterprise veteran Stephenie Goddard.
“This is not a matter of me stepping down,” Mr. Glidewell stressed at the time. “But with all that we’re doing in an effort to improve the lives of dentists and their patients, I could use another hand at the helm.”
Ms. Goddard left the World Bank Group in 2006 to join Glidewell as vice president of human resources. In subsequent years, her escalating responsibilities spanned various executive-level positions governing business operations, product development, regulatory affairs, sales, customer experience, software development, analytics and more. On the innovation side, she was a key proponent of the glidewell.io In-Office Solution, an artificial-intelligence-powered CAD/CAM system that enables clinicians to easily fabricate their own lab-quality, fully sintered BruxZir Zirconia restorations in less than an hour.
“We’re asked why Glidewell would produce a machine that competes with its principal business of providing indirect lab services,” she said. “But our real business is to provide clinical ease and flexibility. Single-appointment services are often better for both the provider and patient. And anything that’s better for provider and patient is better for Glidewell.”
A staunch advocate of personal development, Ms. Goddard’s impressive track record also includes the implementation of employee learning programs and advanced leadership initiatives within the Glidewell organization. Her annual “Guiding Leaders” program, which launched in 2019, was designed to empower women dentists in all facets of business and leadership, and contributed to her 2020 Mentor Award from Benco Dental’s The Lucy Hobbs Project.
Today, she strives to reinforce Glidewell’s core principles while positioning the company to better achieve them. She describes Glidewell as a highly diverse, highly dynamic enterprise, working toward many initiatives at the same time. This makes strategic prioritization and cross-functional collaboration essential to long-term success. Her teams are structured in a way that maximizes engagement and accountability, while setting a tone for healthy debate.
“While I don’t expect us to always agree,” she said, “I do ask that we work together to find a way forward.”
Another point of emphasis is balancing Glidewell’s vision of the future with the needs of today.
“This means asking questions and exploring the needs of our customers, our employees, and our industry peers,” she said. “It means being willing to explore new workflows and technologies that stand to benefit patients and their providers—even when those innovations may appear to compete with our legacy business. We strive to be our own disruptor, as it’s the only way to stay ahead of the curve.”
Nowhere is this more evident than in the areas of digital transformation and customer communication—2 areas Ms. Goddard is most passionate about. She also notes that dentistry is becoming more inclusive every year, with women now the majority of new graduates.
“We view this as a welcome industry development, and are actively engaged in supporting it,” she said.
When asked to describe her contributions to Glidewell’s resilience and growth in a challenging economic environment, Ms. Goddard is quick to defer.
“Thankfully, I’m surrounded by an amazing team of executives, who are, in turn, bolstered by legions of seasoned experts in their various areas of specialty,” she said. “We’re constantly exploring new verticals while improving or transforming our core businesses to better meet or exceed customer expectations. That focus on customer experience, coupled with an earnest investment in celebrating our employees, is the best way I know to empower this or any organization.”
She suggests the same holds true for dentists.
“The majority of clinicians are still independent business owners,” Goddard said. “They wear so many hats, and must resist the temptation to do everything themselves. Educate your team members as to your values, standards, and objectives, and trust them to listen and serve the needs of your patients. Investing in your team’s personal and professional growth will pay far greater dividends than ceaselessly burning the midnight oil.”
Mr. Glidewell seems to echo this sentiment when remarking upon Ms. Goddard’s achievements.
“Stephenie’s strategic focus and ability to bring people together to orchestrate successful change has been critical to our success,” he said. “I know of no one better suited to serve the needs of our customers and our industry.”
As for Mr. Glidewell’s ongoing influence, Ms. Goddard said: “I’m obviously humbled by Jim’s faith in me. His professional achievements have already had an indelible impact, but it’s his relentless drive for continuous improvement that I find most inspiring. It’s an unspeakable honor to be entrusted with the ongoing expansion of technology, services, and communications that aim to increase patient acceptance and further grow dental practices everywhere.”