DSO Culture: How important is it REALLY?

You hear a lot about company culture now and wonder if it is really all that important. The answer is no… it is imperative!  Here’s why.

Your company culture will drive all other systems, positively or negatively.  Additionally, if your company culture is neutral, or non-existent, then your team will bring their own personal cultures to work, resulting in the “culture-du-jour” – the “culture-of-the-day”; a medley of cultures that are both random and unreliable.  As your team/employees come and go, everyone will bring along their own values, perceptions, work ethics (or lack there-of), whether they are aligned with yours or not. At the extreme, the culture of others could be down-right dangerously contrary to how you want your brand projected.  This mixture of various personal cultures will reflect your company brand, and thus its reputation.

“Culture is critical because it defines who you want to become as a company and as a team not just what you are doing. Culture tells us how to behave when the policies and procedures don’t apply or when a global pandemic hits. Culture tells the team how to take care of customers when it goes “off script” and how to navigate team issues in a way that brings everyone to a higher level of trust. No matter how good your strategy or business acumen, if you forget that the entire business is built on human interactions you will fail, and the way you define the human interactions is with your clear culture.” – Emmet Scott, CEO of National Dental Partners and President of ADSO

Clearly, it is imperative to articulate a defined vision and culture for your company that aligns with your vision for your company.  Your company culture, defined, will determine how you want your brand projected and protected.

Here are 5 steps to help you with this process.

1. Your WHY
By now we are all familiar with Simon Sinek’s famous viral YouTube and book about digging deep to discover your WHY. (https://simonsinek.com/) Why do you do what you do?  Yes, it’s all dentistry, but what interests, intrigues, fascinates you about the dental work you do? This is what will help to distinguish you from the crowd and to stand out for something more than the dentistry which can be found on every street corner. Determining WHY your company exists, why it is important, and why it makes a difference in the lives of its customers (your patients) is the real sweet spot of company culture. Ponder thoughtfully and declare your WHY.

2. Founder Story
The founder story is a concept created by Kindra Hall, story-teller marketing genius. (https://kindrahall.com/)  According to Hall, “companies whose cultures wither instead of thrive because their leaders can’t articulate the stories of why they do what they do.” Founder stories are incredibly powerful.  Most dental company founders have a story (although it may take a little digging) about how and why they wanted to start their company. What made them decide to go into dentistry, or grow a DSO rather than grow one dental practice, or a specialty? What personally inspired this company?  Hall says, “.. a story can make a profound impact on business. It turns customers into converts…employees into evangelists…executives into leaders.”  Discovering your founder story will go a long way to creating the basis for a compelling culture that will attract the exact talent, team and patients who will align with your mission. After that, loyalty is a given. Uncover your founder story.

3. Vision/Mission Statement
Creating a compelling vision and culture expressed in a mission statement, motto or tagline can seem like a daunting task.  The results are often bland, insipid, sounds like everyone else, so long no one can ever remember it, is not lived up to, just lip service but no supporting action.

  • Your vision reflects your WHY, your true noble purpose, to be used as a guide to gauge every decision (whether clinical or business) by any team member.

Here’s an example:

  • Your mission statement/motto/tagline reflects this vision clearly and simply stated, succinctly expressed in a nutshell that can be easily remembered and stated by all employees.

Here are two great examples:

4. Incorporating your Culture
Once you have determined your culture, your vision/mission for your corporate brand, now is the time to put it into action. Your culture will be incorporated into every system you develop. For example, if one of your core values is continuous and on-going learning, this should be embedded in every clinical protocol and business system. Culture-based systems examples:

  • Recruiting materials – “At DSO XYZ, we believe in continuous on-going learning. In addition to strong mentorship programs, we provide continual courses to support our doctors/ hygienists/assistants/ front desk personnel with the latest strategies for success in the areas of clinical, communication, business, leadership, and more.  Join our family of superstars where you always have our support to help you be your best.” 
  • Job descriptions – “At DSO XYZ, we believe in continuous on-going learning. A requirement for any XYZ employee is a shared commitment to continuing education. We’ll bring the courses.  You’ll need to bring an eager positive attitude to new learning. XYZ employees have a mindset of coachability to the new ideas, techniques, and technologies we offer them”
  • Onboarding – “Welcome to DSO XYZ.  We’re  excited to onboard you to our team and introduce you to our company culture and the folks who make it all happen. As you probably now know, one of our strongest core values is on-going and continuous learning. So from the start, we’ll begin by sharing information with you about each department in our company, and how they can help you. Then we’ll repeat the process in your new office with your new team. We will also be showing you how to access our on-line portal to our library of courses and future event dates. We’re excited to welcome you to our team of life-long learners.”

Creating systems that embrace your company culture can be fun. Importantly, having culture-based systems in place, that can be easily duplicated, will assure your growth (mergers and acquisitions) in a smooth and reliable manner.

5. Leadership – Living your Culture
One important way a company culture is reflected is the implementation of that vision.  Are you actually living your vision, or is it just lip service? Are your core values carried out by all employees in a reliable scalable manner?  If you believe in high-quality patient care, what protocols do you have in place across the company for best clinical standards of care? If you believe in the oral-systemic connection, what clinical protocols support this?  If your culture supports nurturing great teams, what ongoing training do you have in place to support growing leadership and communication for everyone?

Creating a comprehensive and compelling vision, mission and culture takes time, thought, some soul searching, and work. I suggest guidance in the process. Once you have yours proudly in place, it will become the bedrock of your company. Also, remember that your company culture and brand can always be updated, revised, and improved as needed.

“Culture is the foundation of everything we do… a culture requires constant care and maintenance and begins to wither the moment it is taken for granted.” – Steve Bilt, CEO of Smile Brands & Smiles for Everyone Foundation

With your foundation firmly prepared and your culture defined and maintained, this will enable the creation and delivery of the systems that enable and enhance reliable scalability for your DSO, and projects and protects your precious brand.

Written by Janet Hagerman of DSOs Done Right℠ (www.janethagerman.com). An an international consultant, speaker and author, Janet is a DSO development expert helping DSOs and dental groups establish a foundation for scalability with profitable, consistent clinical and business systems. For speaking, coaching, training or a free copy of Janet’s Culture Clarity Process℠, contact janet@janethagerman.com


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