By Grace Stark
Through a career that has spanned accounting, insurance and marketing, Donna Krum has most valued the parts of her jobs involving interaction. Now the president of Friends First Marketing Inc., which is the plan administrator for her husband’s dental practice, Paradise Dental Center, she gets to share information with people from all walks of life.
“That’s what I get most excited about,” she says.
In the midst of “1980s Corporate America,” she worked her way up from an underwriting assistant to vice president for one of the top 10 insurance brokerage firms in the world, Aon Insurance — “not because I was the smartest insurance person, but because I was good with people,” she says. “I learned then that people will do business with you if they trust you. I might not have had all the answers as soon as people called, but they’d trust I’d find the answers and call them back.”
Her lifelong motto has been to “show up and play nice,” and pretty much everywhere Krum has “shown up,” she’s made valuable personal connections that have been a major factor in her success as a business woman.
Krum thrives on forging personal relationships with others — whether they are clients, members of Saipan’s Chamber of Commerce, of which she is a very active member, or patients at the dental clinic.
Along with her willingness to “show up,” Krum credits most of her success to her upbringing. “I give all the credit to being raised right,” she says. “My parents taught us that getting an education was very important, and they also instilled a very strong work ethic in me.”
She also credits her grandparents with providing her and her sister with a strong sense of self-esteem. Perhaps it was this sense of self-esteem that helped Krum understand the value of having a tough mentor.
She remembers one mentor from her days in the accounting profession, Mary Ridle, who “was so tough, that if I had one number on my accounting sheet that wasn’t in the right column, I’d have to retype the whole thing.” Eventually, Krum says she came to appreciate Ridle’s style and learned that “the value of a mentor is not someone who tells you that you’re doing everything right — it’s someone who’s willing to tell you what you’re doing wrong.”
Upon meeting her husband, dentist Nelson Krum, she made a career switch. In doing so, she took all of the valuable lessons she learned from the insurance brokerage world and applied them to managing and marketing a dental practice. “People skills are transferable skills. You can’t really teach people skills to someone, and you can’t really teach a hard work ethic, so if you have those qualities, you can apply them to other fields.”
With this passion for dentistry and helping others, Krum has helped bring more affordable dental care plans to Saipan, a place she and her husband ended up by answering a Craigslist advertisement. Krum and her husband were previously living in Colorado Springs, Colo., and looking for a change when they found the ad looking for a dentist interested in “practicing dentistry in paradise.” They answered the ad, her husband got the job, and shortly thereafter the two were living on Saipan. Krum and her husband eventually opened their own dental practice on the island — the first new dental practice to open on Saipan in 10 years.
Recently, Krum and her husband have taken their desire to help others stay healthy through dentistry one step further by opening Saipan’s first medical spa, called Thrive. Just upstairs from the dental practice, Thrive is in its soft opening, with plans to offer a wide range of services including “hangover cures,” kelation therapy, cool sculpting, thermography and botox, among other services.
In the four years since Krum and her husband have been on Saipan, they’ve done a lot to “show up and play nice.” From being an active member in the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, to operating multiple business ventures, Krum and her husband have enjoyed being energetic members of Saipan’s economic community — and Krum says the locals have even taught her to smile more.
“We named the dental [plan] Island Smiles because Pacific Islanders have the best smiles, and they do it so naturally. It’s something I’ve learned to do from them.”