Julie Harrelson, CEO of the Harrelson Group, Fund Manager of Cascade Angels, has a beloved penchant for taking selfies with entrepreneurs, investors and people of Oregon who support building a strong Oregon through entrepreneurialism. This blog continues a series of selfies + blogs about the amazing people she’s met in the last couple of years. #julieselfie

I first met Dr. Peter Yonan at a Boys and Girls Clubs of Bend event.  His civic engagement is a great benefit to Bend. Professional services providers such as dentists and other health care providers, attorneys, CPAs and other small business providers are a key part of what makes our community a great place to live, work and invest. We recently caught up for a conversation about moving, being seasick and how being driven by a vision for a better world creates success.

Julie Harrelson and Dr. Peter Yonan

Awbrey Dental recently moved to a new location. What’s it like to move and grow?

Our decision to move and grow can be best characterized as a combination of excitement, uncertainty, and perseverance for us. Our business was growing in its previous location.  However, its growth was constrained by the limits of the physical space it was in. We, as a team, had to make a decision to move or stay.  After much deliberation, we decided to move. We are now in a location that is 30% larger than our previous office. Not only is the physical space larger, but it is much more efficient. Ergonomics and flow of team members and patients are much improved. In addition, the environment of the new office creates an even warmer and calming atmosphere than we were able to offer previously.

No doubt through this daunting process we encountered a bit of stress. There are so many component parts to a dental office that the planning for a smooth and efficient transition is critical. There were some bumps along the way, but we are so thrilled at how our new space worked out. Our expectations were exceeded!

You are very involved in the community. Can you give some examples of this and what motivates you to be civically engaged? 

It is part of my personal philosophy as a parent, healthcare provider and active community member that I help foster the environment in which I live to help make it the vibrant, healthy space that makes me want to call it my home. When I first moved to town in 1993, one of my first priorities was to get involved with the community. Initially, drawing upon my own unique experience with Polynesian canoe paddling, I began coaching a women’s outrigger canoe team with a friend Dave Chun (who fabricates paddling and paddling gear right here in Bend).

I also joined the Greater Bend Rotary. I’ve always admired the Rotarians’ civic calling to “bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian services, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and advance goodwill and peace around the world.” I am proud that our office team donates their time once a quarter to provide dental care at no cost by opening our office to underprivileged children. We provide the full range of dental services from preventative hygiene cleanings to crowns and extractions. Children with healthy smiles do better in school and have deeper social interactions.

Over the years I have been involved with many different organizations that make Bend such a unique place to live. Most recently I serve on the board of the Bend Boys and Girls Club.  The Club is an invaluable asset to our community. It has truly been amazing to see the evolution of some of the programs the Club offers, such as the after school program, Family Plus, and Girls on the Run, to name a few. Adding clinical social workers to support individual members and programs has allowed us to solidify our relationship with Bend LaPine Schools. Now, for the kids who need the assistance, free counseling services are offered.  The club has also opened a food bank for Club families. The Club also provides school supplies and clothes to kids.  We are so proud and gratified of our academic success program,  which has maintained a perfect 100% high school graduation rate over the past five years.

My parents were great motivators of mine to be civically engaged.  Also, I look up to local business leaders like Jeff Robberson and Jim Schell.  I see their enduring contribution to the community, and it inspires me to carry the same torch of community involvement.

What are three key aspects of being a successful business and community leader? How do you sustain your effort?

First, I believe that is important to understand and live a life that recognizes that we are all part of the same community. Above all, the corollary to this philosophy is that we need to take care of each other. In my case from a business perspective, I feel I need to take care of my patients and my team.  From a community perspective as a business, I feel I need to continue to find ways to be proactive in making Bend a better place to live.

Second, I believe that it is key to be driven by values and a mission, and to let those principles guide your decision making process. To surround oneself with like-minded team members who support these principles leads to abundance that in turn can be shared with the community.

Third, to sustain these efforts I strive to stay physically and mentally fit, which means I try to get outside as often as I can while relying on family and friends to help energize me. In this regard, I am also a strong advocate of continual learning and formal continuing education, which requires staying in the forefront of improvements in dental medicine and technology.

Finally, I endeavor to keep an open mind about events that shape our civic lives and to always be amenable to new opinions, views, and innovative ways of doing things.

Favorite sport and where you like to go? Any lessons learned or funny stories?

My favorite sport is outrigger canoe paddling. My favorite venue for paddling is a down-wind run on a one or two man outrigger canoe from Hawaii Kai to San Souci Beach on Oahu, where I grew up. A close second would be paddling in the Columbia Gorge during the summer.

My lessons learned: A person is only able to work hard for just so long. Work/life balance can be a myth. You can’t do it all. You simply need to choose how you are going to prioritize your life and then let go or say no to the things that you must.

As for funny stories, here’s a good one: When Dave Chun and I were coaching the women’s outrigger paddling team, we took the crew to the World Championship outrigger canoe race in Hawaii called the Na Wahine O Ke Kai. It’s a race between the islands of Molokai and Oahu—a 42-mile channel crossing.  The logistics and planning of this race are rigorous. There are nine crew members for a boat that holds six paddlers.  A motorized escort boat runs along side the outrigger canoe during the race holding the coaches while dropping and picking up paddlers in the water as the race progresses. Crew changes happen every 15 minutes or so.  Dave and I had developed a “change chart” that indicated which paddler(s) would change out of the boat at what time during the race.  It was a very strategic pinpoint plan  by which we carefully optimized the skill sets and abilities of the different paddler combinations throughout the five to six hour race.

Like planning a day in business or life, challenges or other unexpected developments may arise that can alter plans. Such was the case in the outrigger race. The ocean was a lot rougher than expected. Keep in mind that this was a crew that had been practicing on placid Mirror Pond to prepare for the race. Smooth as a mirror. There on the interisland offshore stretch of water, however, the crew would be thrust into 6- to 10-foot open ocean swells, a novelty for inland paddlers.

Shortly into the very first leg of the race at the time the first water change came around, two of our fittest endurance athletes had become sea sick! Needless to say, the vision of the race immediately changed from being competitive to surviving. It was a painful experience for everyone involved, yet one we can now all look back upon and chuckle about. I believe we paddled that race in 1995. I am still close with most of the people from that crew.  The memory of the race always brings smiles to our faces when we get together.

Kelly Kearsley

Kelly Kearsley, the co-founder of StartupBend.com, is passionate about startups, entrepreneurship and Bend. In addition to writing this blog, she creates content and manages content projects for global financial companies, tech firms and startups. She began her career as a newspaper journalist and later worked as a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in WSJ.com, Money Magazine, CNNMoney, MSNBC and Runner's World. See her work at kellykearsley.contently.com or kellykearsley.com.

You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].
Kelly Kearsley