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Episode 21
An interview with Stephenie Goddard, Chief Experience Officer with Glidewell Dental.
Hosted by Chuck Cohen

Chuck Cohen interviews Lucy Hobbs Award winner Stephenie Goddard, Chief Experience Officer with Glidewell Dental.

Fourteen years ago, when she started at Glidewell Dental, Stephenie Goddard was not exactly an industry lifer. Indeed, she’s no dentist at all—instead, she’s the resident organizational psychologist at Glidewell, with influence that extends well beyond supply-chain management and corporate strategy into leadership and mentoring.

Under Goddard’s guidance over the last decade and a half, the Southern California manufacturing giant launched Glidewell University, a 10-month leadership development program—an internal mini-MBA, in essence—for midlevel managers, as well as a six-month version for senior management. “I get personal joy and satisfaction watching people and their careers grow,” she says. “When I came to Glidewell, we didn’t have a learning program at all. We had 1,100 employees, and we kept hiring leaders from outside, while we had this amazing talent inside that just needed to be developed.” (Glidewell today has some 5,000 employees.)


Chuck Cohen: So, welcome to another edition of Benco’s Driving Dentistry Forward podcast, where we interview some of the leading folks in the dental world today.

Today, I am proud and excited to interview Stephanie Goddard of the Glidewell Corporation, a recipient of the Lucy Hobbs Project Mentoring Award last year. We’ve been doing the Lucy Hobbs Awards at Benco for many years, and it is our pleasure to welcome Stephanie as a podcast interviewee and award recipient.

I just want to give full disclosure: I consider Stephanie a friend and a business colleague. We’ve known each other for several years, and I couldn’t be more excited to interview her today. So welcome, Stephanie. We’re glad you’re here. And congratulations on your award.

Stephanie Goddard: Thank you, Chuck. I appreciate it. That’s a kind introduction, and I appreciate it. I was so honored to be in the Lucy Hobbs just in that category or even considered, but then to win something was overwhelming.

Chuck Cohen: Well, thank you. For those new to this podcast, the Lucy Hobbs Project honors the women who drive dentistry forward. Our profession is very much centered on women, and we want to honor those women leaders who make a difference in dentistry. And certainly Stephanie, you’re high on that list. So welcome, and thank you for being here today.

So, Stephanie, if you could take a minute, could you walk a little bit through your history, especially on the dental side of your career, and talk to us a little bit about where you’ve come from and how you got to where you are today.

Stephanie Goddard: So my career started a little bit differently. Before dental, I was a consultant. So I worked at PriceWaterhouse. I was a strategy consultant. I worked at the World Bank in D.C. and did internal leadership development. And then I sort of landed in Glidewell Dental.

I remember the CFO at the time, Rob Grice, interviewing me. And I told him I don’t know anything about crowns and bridges. I would have thought that the tooth fairy takes your teeth and gives them back when you need anything. I never knew there was such a thing as a dental lab.

I was moving from the East Coast to the West Coast and looking for a new opportunity. And I landed at Glidewell, and they took a chance on me, even though I knew nothing about the industry other than having regular teeth cleaning and being deathly afraid of the dentist.

When I started my career there, I started almost 15 years ago in September, and I became the VP of Human Resources. So, I had a strategy background, a leadership development background, management background. And they were looking for not somebody who was an HR expert, but somebody who could manage change and growth.

At the time, we were just about 1,100 employees and now, almost 15 years later, almost 5,000 employees. So we’ve had significant growth. And they knew that we were going to be on this growth trajectory, so they were looking for somebody who could help with change management and help build the leadership potential that we had in the organization.

Chuck Cohen: Fabulous.

Stephanie Goddard: So, I became the VP of HR, then I started just taking on more things. I was crazy. One day, we didn’t have a Head of Regulatory. And I was like, “I learned HR laws and rules and regulations. I could certainly learn all about FDA.” So, I took on regulatory affairs, and I became the VP of Business Operations. And then, I became the EVP of Business Operations. And now today, I’m the CXO.

Chuck Cohen: Wow. CXO is Customer Experience?

Stephanie Goddard: Yes, Chief Experience Officer.

Chuck Cohen: That’s awesome. And one of the things that have always impressed me, Stephanie, about working with you and watching your career is how you consistently grow your portfolio. And so that’s been very impressive. It’s terrific.

You have grown with the organization, and you’ve helped drive that growth, as you mentioned before, in many different disciplines within the organization. What’s that been like? What have been the biggest challenges in that?

Stephanie Goddard: It’s a huge challenge. So today, I still oversee HR, but I have an EVP running it, and I oversee sales and business development. I oversee customer experience and all of our call centers. And I do a lot of business development work. And then, I have a leadership development team.

Then on top of that, I just took on IT for the organization about eight weeks ago. And, you know, it’s interesting with every new sort of division and department… I’m not a software developer, so for me to learn how to speak the language and for that team to trust my leadership and me, it’s a huge challenge.

But I love it because it’s the thing that gets me excited. It’s the fact that I get something new to learn. And looking back at my career, I’ve been with multiple companies, and obviously, I’ve left.

I’ve been with Glidewell the longest, and it’s because of that ability just always to try something new, learn something new and continue to grow, you know, in the realm of the organization and to grow with the organization. It’s exciting for me to see how far we’ve come in the time frame that I’ve been here.

Chuck Cohen: It’s amazing. And getting back to where we started the conversation about mentorship and mentoring, learning is just such an important part. So maybe you can talk a little bit about that. Who has been an important mentor in your career? And, on the other side, where do you think you have been successful as a mentor with others?

Stephanie Goddard: Yeah, it’s a really interesting question. You know, for me, I’ve had these phenomenal mentors my whole life and my whole career, and I’ve been really lucky. And it’s never been something that’s been formalized.

I never went to somebody and said, “He would be my mentor”; I’ve never had that. I just have these leaders that took me under their wing throughout my career, and I credit them for helping me grow along my path.

I think it all started with my very first boss when I was in graduate school. He was a Ph.D. industrial psychologist. I was a full-time intern working there. It was at Allstate Insurance Company, and they had a research division. They did all of the research for all states at this one location in Menlo Park. And I had worked with this Ph.D. psychologist, an industrial psychologist.

So, I was working with him, and I loved my job. I was going to school at night and getting my Master’s Degree, and he pulled me into his office one day, and he said, “I have this job opening.” And it was with Bank of America. Their corporate offices were doing a similar role like human development research for Bank of America worldwide.

I remember being so shocked and thinking, “Oh, my God, you want to get rid of me? Like, where have I failed?” And he could see the shock on my face. I was just a young kid at the time.

He said, “Stephanie, they can offer you something that I can’t. This is a permanent position. It’s got benefits. It’s got all these things, and it’s got growth potential. You’re an intern here, and this internship is meant for interns; it won’t convert into a full-time position.”

To this day, I’m still really good friends with this gentleman, and I still consider him a mentor. And I was like, “That is the most selfless thing that an employer can do for somebody, which is to consider the future of their employee.”

And it just was so impactful for me that I’ve always wanted to give back, and I always think about paying it forward. Somebody did something for me, and so I need to continue to pay it forward and not just one time, but multiple times.

Throughout my life, I’ve done similar things like, “Hey, somebody, a recruiter called me, and they told me about a position. I’m not interested, but I think it’s a phenomenal position for you.” And I get the same look of fear from the people I tell it to.

Then for me, when I got into the dental industry, you know, working at places like PriceWaterhouse and the World Bank, you see men and women in similar leadership positions. You know, I had female partners I worked with.

I got to a point where I worked with another colleague, a female colleague, and we developed our own sort of practice division on human capital development and growth. We never had anybody who pulled us back because we were women. Or they just they saw us bringing in money, and they’re like, “Hey, go build this practice.”

When I got into dental–and I started this from the time that I met you, Chuck–I was going to the dental conventions, and I didn’t see many women in leadership positions, whether it was on the manufacturing side or at the speaker level. There weren’t many key opinion leaders that are female, yet the female population in dentistry was growing significantly in the schools.

Even in our own business, you know, [00:09:41]we had a lot of male care wells, but not a lot of female cables. [2.3s] And, so I just thought, here’s something that maybe I could have some impact in and go and try to do something.

A lot of it was women maybe not having the tools necessary to have that confidence in becoming a key opinion leader. Some of it is maybe, you know, they felt like “I put my career on hold for a little bit to have children, and now how do I get into this?” And some of it was just around networks; they didn’t know how to get into it.

And so I went to Jim Glidewell and said, “I want to put together a ‘Women in Dentistry’ program that’s focused on leadership, not on dental CEs.” So, you know, we at Glidewell don’t get a lot out of that. They’re not taking CEs from us and then buying our Implants system or buying anything from us.

It’s about doing the greater good for the broader population. It’s about elevating women and giving them some tools to be confident and get to that next level.

So, we invested heavily in a 12-month program. In the first cohort, we had 13 women participate. And it was, like I said, 12 months long, nine or eight of the sessions were in person, and the rest were online.

But one course was, of course, a weekend. And they were all kinds of different things. One was public speaking; one was managing and dealing with conflict and how to have those conversations. We did a financial awareness course. So how to manage your books? What is a PNO? What do these numbers tell you about whether this is healthy or not? And then, each of the ladies got an executive coach for a year to use that coach in whatever business realm they wanted.

The wonderful thing is I just got together with all of the ladies last weekend. We all flew in. Two of the ladies got their fellowship just last weekend. The rest of us flew in to celebrate with them. And it’s this tribe or sisterhood. They’re all so supportive of one another. And during the pandemic, when they were all shut down, you know, we had a Friday Happy Hour to kind of keep everybody going.

You know, we’ve got ages from the late 20’s up to, I’m going to say, the late 50s in the group. And so people who have seen different things, the downturn in the economy, which can be there to support the younger ones or the ones who have newer practices. They help give them confidence like “You’re going to get through this” and give financial advice like PPP loans because some didn’t know how to access them. That sort of thing.

So it’s been an amazing journey. Every time I see these women, I’m just so honored to be a part of their group because they’re just fun and they’re brilliant, and they’re doing great things.

Chuck Cohen: It’s great. Now, how many classes have you had? That’s the first one. Have you done it since then?

Stephanie Goddard: That was the first class. We were going to do this big summit at the end of it and their formal graduation. And that was in April when all the world shut down.

Then, we were going to announce the application process for the second cohort, but, as you know, the world collapsed. So, we haven’t had a chance to start it back up again, but we will formally launch it.

We’re going to change it a little bit. We learned a lot the first time and, you know, got feedback from the ladies–what worked, what didn’t work, what do you need more of and less of? And that was one of the things, too. It’s like, “Just know that this is a pilot, and we need feedback. Be willing to take this ride with us and know that we’re not going to have it perfect the first time.” So, yeah.

Well, we’re going to launch it again next year finally. So I’ll have a second cohort. And the way that it’s structured is the ladies in the first with the second group, they’ll get an executive coach, but now they’re also going to get a mentor. So they’ll get a mentor assigned to them from the first group. And then, we’ll continue to build this group of support networks.

Chuck Cohen: That’s fabulous. Congratulations. That’s great. I’m a little jealous that I’m not part of that. I know I don’t exactly fit the suit, as we say, but that sounds hugely exciting.

So, what did you learn in that process about mentoring that improved your ability to be a leader? I mean, were there any learnings you took away from that experience with that first cohort of women dental leaders?

Stephanie Goddard: Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot that I learned. I think there’s still so much more that we can do. You know, I think people are afraid to ask for a mentor. What I learned is that if you’re willing to be a mentor, you have to take somebody under your wing.

Another thing that I realized is you don’t need to have it so formalized. I think that people are afraid of mentorship because they think, “Oh, it’s a three-hour commitment X number of days a month, and I just can’t commit to that.” And what I realize is it’s just about having somebody to text or call or ask for that random advice.

Sometimes, we put too much of a spotlight on it and make it too big of a deal. I realize it’s just creating connections, and then they grow on their own organically.

Chuck Cohen: Networking and mentoring sometimes have an overlap. And I think that’s really what you’re saying is you’ve got to have both. I agree with you. Sometimes we all let ‘perfect’ be the enemy of ‘good enough.’ You know, sometimes it’s that straight conversation when someone needs some advice that makes all the difference, even if it only takes five or eight minutes or so.

So, transitioning over to you: you are a key female executive in a business that was certainly founded by a gentleman, Jim Glidewell. And I would say for many years, most of us would say it was a male-driven business. I would suspect you were the first key leader in the organization who was not a male. That’s my guess. Is that correct?

Stephanie Goddard: Yes.

Chuck Cohen: And so in that way, you were a trailblazer and still are. Talk to us a little bit about the challenges you faced in your career as the first female executive in a very growing, male-dominated industry and business.

Stephanie Goddard: Yeah, it’s interesting. I’m the first C-level executive in the history of this company. And so, for me, I now feel this sense of duty to raise other women as well in the organization. So obviously, there are only so many C suite positions in any organization, but there are many leadership positions.

I feel a sense of duty in helping people understand leadership is not just about a title, but it can be anything, right.? It can be a role that you play on a team. You can take a leadership role.

Leadership is also mentoring. You don’t have to be a senior person to mentor somebody. I feel like I have many mentors in my life who are very junior to me, but I learned so much more from their perspective than I sometimes do from people who are more experienced and senior than I am.

I look at people like Laura Kelly, who is somebody I admire. Rita Acquafredda at Henry Schein. I’ve admired her for many, many years. Sarah Anders, [00:18:06]who’s now Hugh Frady. [0.9s] You know, she’s been somebody that I look up to. I know all these amazing and strong women in dentistry, but they’re few and far between.

So, you know, what I am interested in doing is just “How do we continue to support one another across an industry much as you have with several male colleagues?” You know, you’ve got great relationships with Jim Glidewell and with Greg Minzenmayer and with others in other industries.

Sometimes we’re competitors in spaces. You know, all of our companies are competitors, but we also have ways to support, align, and partner with each other. And so, for me, that’s the next step: how do we continue to build some of these women across, not just in Iowa, but across the community?

Chuck Cohen: That’s awesome. And I love a lot of the names that you mentioned. I know them, and they’re terrific leaders. What’s it like, or what are the challenges of being the only woman voice in a room sometimes?

Stephanie Goddard: You know me, I’m not one to be shy.

Chuck Cohen: That’s true. But are there times when you feel that there’s a certain amount of pressure there that wouldn’t be there if you were in a room with more women? Or did you feel like that doesn’t impact things?

Stephanie Goddard: No, I guess I don’t feel like it impacts me. Sometimes, I think it’s more of an advantage for me than a disadvantage, which is interesting because I am the only woman. It’s almost easier for me to speak up or have a different opinion because I think, sometimes, there’s an expectation that if it’s a woman, maybe she has a different opinion. Right?

Chuck Cohen: I got it. OK, that’s super cool.

Stephanie Goddard: And, you know, I’m lucky. I work with an amazing team of guys. You’ve been to our offices, Chuck, you know, [00:20:16]a six and a bullpen. [0.8s] Right. And you’ll see it when you’re here in a couple of weeks, but I moved into the office with Jim.

So it’s Jim Glidewell, Greg Minzenmayer, our COO, Dzevad Ceranic, he’s our EVP, and he runs all of our lab operations. And then Darryl Withrow, who’s our VP of Ops, and then myself. So it’s four guys and me all day, every day. So, you know, like you have to get pretty much used to it.

Chuck Cohen: You have to lean in, and don’t be afraid. Right? That’s what you got to do.

Stephanie Goddard: The biggest challenge for me… You know, I didn’t grow up with a bunch of brothers. I have two older brothers, but they were basically out of the house by the time I was little.

And so it’s just, you know, guys are different than girls, right? They cut their fingernails at the desk, or they’re just louder. You know, we got different habits. And then I’m sure, you know, they look at me, and I’m putting my lipstick on. You know, it’s like, “What are you doing?”

Chuck Cohen: It’s so funny. You learn a lot about a person when you’re at the desk next door to them.

So, to segue over… You have an interesting perspective, at least from my view, on the laboratory side of the business, which traditionally, I think, has been way more male-dominated at the technician level than female. Is that correct?

And really, what are you doing about that, at Glidewell, to try to accelerate the progress of women, especially at the front lines of the technician level?

Stephanie Goddard: That’s a great question. When I came here to Glidewell, we had two women who ran divisions, but other than that, all men ran the lab floor. And those two women stood out. But I would say they were tough ladies. Really, really tough ladies.

One of the reasons why Rob Grice hired me back then was because he wanted to develop the next generation of leaders. And so, you’re familiar with the lab environment. They’ll learn from whoever they worked for in the past. It’s a very blue-collar environment. You know, most people maybe have some college degrees, but not a lot of leadership development, not a lot of skill around “How do you motivate employees?”

You have to know how to motivate people intrinsically and get them to follow you because you can have the title of leader or manager, but you’re just a manager if nobody wants to follow you.

So, what we did way back then was when I came here, we had no leadership development. And so that was my primary focus in the first couple of years: to create an entire leadership development program. And that was really how my guiding leadership program was born.

My team created a 12-month leadership development program. It’s kind of a little mini MBA program. And we started taking our line managers and putting them through that.

Then our top managers started saying, “Hey, my manager is talking to me about concepts I don’t understand, and can I have this? I want a program like this.” And so then we created an Executive Leadership Program to give them some of the same tools so that they can understand what their leadership was learning.

And then, we created a High Potentials Program, which is anybody in the organization can apply to be in it. You can be high potential at anything. You don’t have to be in a leadership position.

Through those venues, we’ve now accelerated many more women in our organization who are running departments. In fact, one of our biggest departments is run by a woman who used to run a small group. So she’s running our digital department, where all of our internal scans come through our division. And it’s probably the second-largest department in the organization. It’s just massive and growing like this every day. And she’s phenomenal. So she went through that program; it’s phenomenal to watch.

We have women all across the organization growing up—the woman who is our EVP of Human Resources. When I started here, she was working in the payroll department, which was part of HR at the time, and I’ve kind of gotten to grow her and then watch her. She went off and got her MBA and then really took it on herself. And she’s become this brilliant HR leader that I could have only had hoped to have been.

Chuck Cohen: Well, you’re what you’re talking about is not just exciting and not just satisfying, but it makes the business so much better. Because when you think about it for years, a business like yours, a business like ours, at Benco, we weren’t allowing half of our population to truly reach their potential because we didn’t have the right systems in place. We didn’t have the right support in place. And now we are much better off because we have people who have a lot of upward potentials, are making bigger contributions to the organization.

Stephanie Goddard: And it’s amazing when you sort of consider a whole another portion of your organization, you start to report, “Hey, we’ve got a lot more talent than we recognized.”

Chuck Cohen: A hugely exciting question: talk for a minute, if you would, about a personal challenge that maybe you overcame in your career or on the personal side. Something that may be where you had to overcome something that was an obstacle or get around something where you had to sort of figure it out.

Stephanie Goddard: That’s a good question. There have been so many.

Chuck Cohen: I didn’t mean to bring up a bad topic. So, hopefully, it’s something that had a good ending.

Stephanie Goddard: I mean, I’ll just use Glidewell maybe as an example of an obstacle. So, it’s interesting you’re coming into this industry knowing nothing about teeth, right? It was a challenge.

I mean, I knew nothing. I didn’t know what a tooth number was. I didn’t know anterior, posterior, buccal, lingual, you know, mesial. I didn’t understand any of that language. And the one thing I remember, coming from consulting, you want to go in and fix, right? Because your job has a really short time frame. Your time, materials, or your fixed price. We’ve told you we’re going to do this for you for this much money. So my mindset was, “I’m going to go in, I’m going to figure it out and fix it. I’m not going to tell you how to fix it. And then, as a consultant, I’m going to leave. I’m going to help you fix it. Then I’m going to walk out the door.”

For me, coming into Glidewell, I had to… I remember Rob telling me, “Don’t fix it right away. I just want you to observe, and then let’s talk about what we need to fix and then how we fix it. Then, we need to stay here to help us. You’re not a consultant that we’re hiring. You’re not just going to walk out the door and leave us to figure out this whole thing.”

And so, it was such a shift for me to go from this mindset and to slow down and say, “OK, I’m going to take the time to understand the business and the vernacular.” I don’t understand this language. It’s like, you know, Chinese to me. It doesn’t make any sense.

Then, I spent time trying to interview everybody to say, “Hey, what are your challenges?” And, for me, I was not accepted in this organization because everyone in Glidewell had been around for 51 years and they kind of grew up in the organization and then moved up in the organization. They had never hired somebody from the outside at the VP level.

So, they were like, “Who is this girl from D.C. coming in here in her fancy clothes and telling us what to do? And why didn’t we promote from within? Why did this person come in as a VP from the outside? Who was she?”

It was humbling to come in and take a breath and learn from people and try to understand it on their level and their level of expertise. And then try to say, “OK, what I hear you saying is that…” And then you repeat it back. And they were so patient with me.

I will say it took me probably three years to gain people’s trust, but I think I finally did it. Like, knock on wood. I think I’m right.

Chuck Cohen: 100 percent. I would do that. So, what you’re talking about is how to overcome the problem and challenges of being an outsider in an industry and a business that’s very insider-driven.

I mean, I think Glidewell reflects this idea within dentistry that the expert is the person who understands mesial and lingual and understands the vernacular, and people from outside just don’t get it, right? So, how do you overcome that challenge? And, boy, that’s a tough one, it sounds like. And I know you’ve done it very well.

Stephanie Goddard: But I think, you know, even in Benco or in any kind of dental manufacturing, it’s the same people. If they leave one company, they go to somebody else. You kind of know everybody in the industry because you leave one lab, go to another lab, or you leave Henry Schein and go to Benco. So it’s kind of this incestuous industry that I’ve never really been a part of before I came here.

Chuck Cohen: I get it. I grew up in it, so I understand exactly what you’re saying. It’s not an easy place to break into. So it’s interesting to hear that.

Last question: is there a model or some sort of wisdom, brief wisdom, that you want to share with everyone out there that sort of encompasses you, the way you look at life, or the way you look at being a woman executive?

Stephanie Goddard: Oh, I guess, I tell people that my motto is I strive to make a mistake but learn from it every day.

People ask me, “How do you take on departments that you don’t understand anything about?” And I try to look at it as I’m not going to be fearful. I can fail, but I don’t see failure as an option for me.

I don’t think that I have to be the expert in everything, so what I try to tell younger leaders is don’t be afraid to hire people that are smarter than you. If they pass you up, they pass you up, and it’s meant to be, right? Hire smarter people because you’re always going to learn something from them, and that’s only going to elevate you and your career. So I think that’s something that I try to practice.

When I interview people and bring them on the team, I’m always sort of saying to myself, “What am I going to learn from this person?” And those are my two bits of advice.

Chuck Cohen: And how cool is it that we started this program, this conversation, talking about learning, and then we’re going to end on a note of talking about learning.

So, Stephanie, thank you very much for being here. Once again, congratulations on your Lucy Hobbs Project Award for mentorship. And thank you very much for sharing your wisdom, your experience here.

You are truly one of the women driving dentistry forward. We are proud to be associated with you. And thank you for taking the time today.


Chuck Cohen: Managing Director

Chuck Cohen graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1989 with a degree in English, and joined Benco as a territory representative soon after graduation. He’s taken on increasing responsibilities in the sales and marketing areas, becoming Managing Director in 1996. He serves on a variety of industry and community boards, including Wilkes University, the Dental Lifeline Network, and Jewish Community Alliance of Wilkes-Barre.

Rick Cohen: Managing Director

After three years as an IT consultant at Accenture, Rick Cohen joined Benco in 1994 to create Painless, the industry’s first windows-based e-commerce software. Since then, he’s taken on increasing responsibilities within Benco, focusing on Information Technology, Logistics, Clarion Financial, and our private brand. He is Co-Chair of the Benco Family Foundation, a trustee of WVIA public television and public radio, and a Director of the Dental Trade Alliance Foundation.

Chuck Cohen and Rick Cohen