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On the Job with Anna Veilands

Anna Veilands is the owner of Orthodontics Practice in Albany and Leesburg.

Anna Veilands is the owner of Orthodontics Practice in Albany and Leesburg.

After joining a big-city orthodontic practice in Atlanta years ago, Anna Veilands became a mother and started looking for a place where she could still practice but at a slightly slower pace.

That’s how she came to Albany to join the practice of Terry Trojan. When Trojan retired in 2004, Veilands assumed ownership of the practice. She still maintains a busy pace, but the move has been a good one, she says.

After years of fitting braces on teeth, Veilands says she still delights in watching faces brighten when the end results are viewed.

She shared a question-and-answer session recently with reporter Jim West.

Q. What was your first job?

A. Working at a bank where my dad worked, as a teller.

Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first paycheck?

A. I used the money to get ready for college, to buy bedding and things like that I wanted in my dorm room.

Q. What’s the single most effective technique you’ve found during the past two years for keeping employees motivated?

A. My employees are very motivated. They love seeing the patients and working with the patients. (It’s) a very hands-on type of environment, so it’s easy to motivate them when they feel a part of the process of braces and treating patients. There’s a lot of positive reinforcement. I like to point out the things they’re doing well.

Q. What led you to your current position? Why did you want to operate your own business?

A. I was working for an orthodontist in Atlanta when I first got out of school, and he had a very busy practice. I was a mom and decided that I needed a smaller environment. There was an opportunity here, so I came here to be a mom and an orthodontist.

Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?

A. Not anyone specific. I used to baby-sit for dentists and was interested in what they did. I baby-sat for my orthodontist and just got interested in what they were doing every day, and when I went to work with the doctor in Atlanta many of the techniques and things I do now are based on the things I did with him that year. His name was Dr. Barry Cohen.

Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?

A. The recession has definitely hit the Albany area. One of the lessons I’ve learned and tried to stick with is keeping my name out there and to advertise, continuing to support the local schools and businesses with donations for charities. Whatever we can do. When it does get turned around, then they’ll remember we were there. We haven’t gone anywhere.

Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology – examples email, automated phone systems, cellphones, PDAs, etc. – what would you most like to see go away?

A. I don’t know about anything going away. We communicate with our parents and our patients and the other dentists by all of those things — by cellphone, by texting, email reminders. Everything is digital now, so in my career I can’t let any of that go. I wish I could, but I need it all.

Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?

A. Definitely the laser. It’s amazing to me how a beam of light can trim tissue bloodlessly and painlessly and allow me to get my braces on earlier, quicker. The patients think it’s neater, too.

Q. What is your favorite tradition?

A. Right now it is decorating for Christmas. The light in kids’ eyes and all the magic that creates.

Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?

A. Certainly daily we read the American Association Journal of Orthodontics and different publications that are now submitted online. The last book I read would probably be “Eat, Pray, Love,” which they made a movie of. I read it twice. Any beach read that gets left at the beach for me, I’ll pick that up and finish it in a day.

Q. I’m up and going by? And what is your morning routine?

A. Typically on a school morning, about 6 o’clock or 6:30, getting myself ready, my girls rounded up. A single cup of coffee and out the door with bags — lots of bags.

Q. What famous person would you like to meet and why?

A. There’s a lot of them I’d like to meet, one who’s no longer here. Grace Kelly has been my idol since childhood. Just a beautiful woman, actress, and lived in Monaco on the Mediterranean, so who wouldn’t want to meet her? I also want to meet Toby Keith, big country music star, to see if he’s really all that big and bad like he pretends to be or seems to be.

Q. If you could take back one business decision you have made in your career, what would it be?

A. I’ve been doing this 13 years. Maybe I haven’t made that decision yet. Fast forward another 13 years, and maybe I’ll have an answer for you. I wouldn’t take anything back at this point.

Q. Best thing about your job?

A. Seeing the delight in the parents’ eyes when they finally get the results that they came here for, with their kids and the confidence that braces build. The kids come in maybe shy and quiet and self-conscious and leave here with a lot more confidence. The parents certainly feel the reward, and I get to be a part of that.

Q. Worst thing about your job?

A. That I actually have to run a business. I got into orthodontics to create pretty smiles and put braces on, then found out I have run a business. It’s not terrible. We have all the systems in place and running smoothly.

Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?

A. That would have to be dental anatomy, head and neck anatomy, those kinds of things, because you have to really understand what supports the teeth, what supports the tooth movement, what the biology is behind all that to make treatment decisions.

Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?

A. I don’t know if I’d get paid for it, but I love to take furniture and turn it upside down and sand it down and distress it and paint it and make it unique. Just create. I’d probably show my artsy side if I could.

Q. Finish this thought: On the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself …

A. Hopefully during that year I’d have spent some time traveling and doing some things I’ve wanted to do. In orthodontics you can take a week off — maybe a week and a half — but I’d really like a two-week or one-month trip, just be gone for a while and hopefully I’d have done that and hopefully at that one year mark I’d be able to stand there and say, “All right, you did what you said you wanted to do.”

Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?

A. A strong business leader should be absolutely committed to the patients, the parents and the staff. Sort of like you’re a parent in the business. You are a leader, but you have to show your commitment. Honesty, integrity, all of those things that go with that. All of those three things: honesty, integrity and commitment to the people.

Q. Crystal ball time: What’s your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?

A. If I knew that and had a real crystal ball, I probably wouldn’t need to be here. I’d probably be an extremely wealthy billionaire if I had the answer to that. But if I could put a time on that, I’d say everything cycles in 10 years, and surely we’d come out of it in the next five years. It might cycle back in the next 10 years or so. I think it’s a life cycle. It comes and goes.

Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?

A. My children put everything on my iPod so it’s probably Justin Bieber or whatever they’re listening to right now, and pop music.

Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?

A. Hopefully continued growth, economically. Maybe we can bring some businesses to Albany, and then that would increase the need for health care and the need for orthodontics. Anything that would promote business, hopefully that will be on the horizon.

Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken?

A. My best vacation was when I went to San Francisco and toured the wine country and rode my bicycle over the Golden Gate Bridge. Now, with my children, we went to the Bahamas to Atlantis, and that was a great vacation. We enjoyed that. They had a lot of freedom, and we all got to do what we all wanted to do.

Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business over the past few years?

A. Technology has hit us, and it’s a great thing. Instead of taking impressions on teeth, we can do digital modeling. We make a 3D scan and get all the information we need from that, so technology has been really great. The images that would take weeks or days to get to the other doctors, we now have communication instantly.