As Dental Depot’s executive leadership team moved into our new office, located at 30th and NW May Ave. in Oklahoma City, it was easy to see why Brian Ward was unanimously decided as our May 2020 Employee of the Month. For the last 18 or so months, Brian has served as the Project Manager for the new ELO building, as well as several of the upcoming office builds in Oklahoma and beyond. And it was all that hard work (and nearly a decade of service) that led us to honor him with this award.
Brian is quickly approaching his ten-year anniversary with Dental Depot, having served as both an office manager and now as our project manager, but his ties to the Ashmore founding family goes back much further. How far back, exactly? Kindergarten.
Brian became fast friends with Casey Ashmore, Dr. Glenn’s son and a successful dentist in the San Diego area. The pair went all through high school with each other and spent many of their afternoons at the Central OKC office throughout the 90s.
“Both of my parents worked, so a lot of times I would go with Casey [to the office]. We were both in athletics, but if Arlene [Ashmore] had something going on, she’d just drop us off at the office and we’d go terrorize Pam [Foster] and Janice,” Brian recalled with a laugh. “We’d go into the operatories and make a mess, it was all pretty funny. We’d go in there and take those little blue plastic cups and a high-speed handpiece and carve our names into the sides of them.”
“This was all back when Pearl – Dr. Glenn’s mom – was still there. She and Pam ran the show. If Pam spoke softly, then Pearl was the big stick. Glenn was her baby and you don’t get in the way of Glenn cause ‘That’s my baby,’” Brian said. “She used to make the staff go out and polish the furniture in the waiting room with Glenn’s old socks. It was hysterical. She’d make us pick up snail shells in the parking lot. Casey and I would get recruited to go do yard work – picking up leaves and mowing. We’d have to pick up cigarette butts in the parking lot.”
And then there was the fire.
In February 2001, a late-night fire started inside the original Central OKC office and reduced the building to rubble by the time fire crews responded. While the building – a renovated set of duplexes – was lost, luckily, 90% of the patient charts were salvageable.
“One of my most memorable experiences pre-dates me working here. The fire at 23rd was a big deal,” recalled Brian. “I was there the next day helping dig through the rubble. I got a call from Glenn saying, ‘Hey what are you doing? Get down here, we got all kinds of crap to do.’”
“[The fire] was something that should have been a very demoralizing, almost negative experience. But the people here took the positive out of it,” Brian said. “You got to see the community side of it. Lots of people reached out within the community to recognize how big of a deal it was. Not every building winds up on the news if they have a fire. And we were so close to having the second office open. It was a landmark.”
Helping out around the office didn’t just stop when school was out, either. Many summers were spent working with Dental Depot Facilities and Construction Director Nick Richardson. Brian and a few other boys helped maintain many of the other real estate properties Dr. Glenn owned at the time. However, when Brian graduated high school, he was on the fence about what he wanted to do with his life.
“My plan was to do a political science degree and I thought I would go to law school, but I decided against it. I always had a passion for cooking and so I left school – thought I was gonna get killed by my parents – and went and did a traditional two-and-a-half-year French-style apprenticeship,” Brian explained. “I actually have two younger brothers who did the same thing and both of them are still chefs.”
Brian and his brothers’ love for cooking comes from their dad. As the oldest of 15 siblings, their dad learned early on that being clever in a kitchen was a necessity. And with both their parents working, Brian and his brothers grew into self-sufficient young men.
Brian’s culinary career spanned nearly a decade. In that time he helped manage and even open a few restaurants and commissary kitchen. However, the restaurant industry is notoriously difficult and while the challenge was something Brian could and did meet, his needs shifted.
“I really enjoyed that industry but it was tough to raise a family and work all of those hours. It’s pretty relentless, especially when you have bakers who need to be there super early and they call in at 5:00 AM,” Brian said. “We were starting to raise our family and it was at a point when Dental Depot was growing and Casey reached out to me.”
Coming aboard Dental Depot was a more than smart move, it offered the stability and consistency Brian needed, while still keeping him on his toes. He’s worked out of a number of offices over the years – training at Midwest City, assistant managing at Moore, and then managing Moore. He got his first taste of what it takes to open an office with the Southwest OKC office, located at 62nd and Western Ave. just off I-240, where he was the office manager for a year. Most of us here at Dental Depot knew Brian as the office manager of the Central OKC office, a position he held up until he became the project manager.
“One of my favorite things is the incredibly diverse group of people we work with here [at ELO]. It’s an equitable distribution of males and females, especially among our directors,” Brian said. “We have people from all walks of life. There’s also a lot of ethnic diversity in the offices as well.”
“The other thing I like is that there’s never a dull moment. There’s always something going on, we’re constantly moving forward,” Brian said. “Whether its expanding practices, building new practices, acquiring new land to ultimately build a practice – it’s not a stagnant environment by any stretch of the imagination. There’s constantly a new potential for growth.”
As Dental Depot’s project manager, Brian Ward has overseen the opening of both the Northwest Expressway and Tulsa Hills locations, as well as the Surprise, AZ location, opening June 16th. He also helped purchase several properties in both Oklahoma and out of state for future builds.
“Any of the construction stuff; expansions, remodels, land acquisitions, banking, and transactions that happen with that and refinancing existing projects. To some degree, I handle some of the upkeep on properties – our facilities team does the absolute vast majority of that, but if we need a contractor I’ll handle that,” Brian said. “But Brian Wilson does an absolutely amazing job with that. He takes it and runs with it. I’m a big fan, I like working with him a lot.”
Dental Depot certainly doesn’t have any plans for slowing down in the coming years, keeping Brian plenty busy. But his closest coworkers – Dental Depot COO Jack Waldo and Director of Office Management Tara Hill – are ones he knows he can count on. Together, the three of them are “extraordinarily lucky” in how well they get on.
“There’s so much mutual respect for each other and appreciation for each other and the work we all do. Certainly, the leadership they both bring is beneficial for Depot,” said Brian.
And as Dental Depot continues to grow, it’s on these leaders that much of that growth relies upon. Having someone like Brian, who has lived in our company culture for decades, ensures that the future will continue to carry with it the values and vision Dr. Glenn began with. So, here’s to you, Brian. Congrats!
When Brian isn’t at work, he enjoys spending time with his wife (and high school sweetheart) Blythe, and their three children: daughters Banton and Beatrice, and son Benjamin. They love family time and getting outside for walks with their yellow labs, Gabe and Ruthie. He also enjoys duck hunting, a hobby that Jack Waldo got him into, and one that they enjoy together.
Dental Depot is a locally owned and operated family company. As such, we believe that the incredible group of doctors, hygienists, assistants and staff that make up Dental Depot are more than their job titles; they’re members of our extended family. In our family, we like to recognize when someone goes above and beyond, living the Dental Depot values. This May, we are proud to shine a spotlight on Employee of the Month Brian Ward.