Rodeo Lassos Private Equity and Saddles Up for National Expansion

In June 2008, Dr. Saam Zarrabi graduated from dental school and took a job as an associate in a small practice in an underserved area of Fort Worth. Growing up around dentistry in So Cal, he was excited about his first job as a dentist.

For the next three weeks, Dr. Zarrabi’s experiences working in that dental practice left him disgusted and disgruntled. The building was rundown, the equipment didn’t work, the patients weren’t happy, and the staff wasn’t happy.  They didn’t seem to care about the culture or the patients. One day it was raining, and tar was falling from the ceiling, hitting him and his patients during treatment. That was the tipping point. He quit.

He left that bad experience resigned to wanting to find a way to provide a better experience to patients, irrespective of their socioeconomic status. He envisioned building a beautiful practice with high-end equipment, which offered patients the convenience of having all specialties under one roof, regardless of their income. He enlisted the help of some of his dental school buddies to help make it happen.

In 2009, and in that exact same underserved neighborhood as his first associateship, Dr. Zarrabi, Dr. Yahya Mansour, Dr. William Dunklin, Dr. Brian Dugoni, and Dr. Raffy Kouyoumdjian, founded Rodeo Dental & Orthodontics.

Many of the founders shared a rich family tradition in dentistry. One partner, Dr. Brian Dugoni, has a particularly poignant dental history. The orthodontist’s grandfather, Art, is a legend in the field and has a dental school, University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, named after him.

“We believed that the underserved deserved a great high-end experience, just like anybody else would across the country, from Beverly Hills, to nice parts of Dallas, and anywhere else. We wanted to bring that high-end experience that we had grown up around to that part of the community.” -Dr. Saam Zarrabi, Executive Chairman, Rodeo Dental & Orthodontics

Armed with a mutual respect and love for dentistry, knowing they could provide a better experience if they just focused on the patient, the team set out to build something beautiful. They knew that patient experience and state-of-the-art technology and equipment were key, so the group invested a lot in the front end. Having an outstanding lobby experience was important to them (see video and photos below).

Inspired by the old stockyards in Fort Worth, which is where the famous rodeo is, the first practice opened. The patients loved it and word spread. The Rodeo practice became so successful that they proudly put that other, rundown practice out of business.

Next, they started organically growing in Fort Worth, and then down into south Texas, where they have a large footprint. This new type of practice was revolutionary in the area. The culture and the energy of the patients and team members were pivotal in the group’s growth.

All of their locations are denovos, typically anywhere from 15 to 25 operatories depending with a footprint ranging from about 5 to 7,000 square feet. They are located in large retail centers.
In addition to being colorful and engaging, all of the lobbies offer a full movie theatre experience with complimentary xylitol lollipops and gum. Specialists rotate among the practices and the group has an in-house audiovisual team that designs themes which become an interactive experience for the patient.

As the group has grown, so has its patient base, which now includes all socioeconomic levels. They don’t post insurance signs in the windows or talk about it in any of their marketing efforts, because they want to invite everybody in, the entire family, and they don’t want to label anybody at all.

“I think at some point healthcare should be defined by the person and what we’re treating, which is the disease, in this case, caries, and not by what insurance they have or their socioeconomic background. That reflects our mission statement. We want to give every family, no matter the means of what their demographic is, where they come from, the ability to get high-end dentistry.” -Dr. Saam Zarrabi, Executive Chairman, Rodeo Dental & Orthodontics

Despite their exceptional growth, they never forgot their mission statement: “Giving Every Family the Key to Access High-End Dental Care.” There have been thousands of instances over the years where Rodeo provided patients dentistry that they required but could not afford.

As the dental group grew, they also had typical growing pains, for example, with infrastructure like IT. When they reached 10 locations servers would go down, and they couldn’t access data centrally. It was just a real struggle because they would wake up every day wondering which server was going to go down that day.

The IT situation was so difficult to manage, that they hired a CEO, Ben Rouse, who had an extensive background in software and technology. With Dr. Zarrabi’s vision, Rouse’s skillset, and the team, they were able to build in a whole IT infrastructure dedicated to technology, and software, data analytics, and improving the patient experience by customizing applications that applied to their systems and flow.

That massive struggle with IT actually turned into a significant win for them because it helped them to scale to where they are today, and has prepared them for where they want to go.
After reaching 21 locations across Texas, the dental group wanted to find a financial partner that could help them become better and expand across the Southwest and then nationally.

Another reason they wanted a partner was for assistance improving functions, especially on the banking side of the business, because each individual practice had taken out individual loans which can become cumbersome and hinder growth to some extent as the group was trying to grow multiple locations at the same time.

In late May 2019, Bain Capital Double Impact, the impact investing business of Bain Capital, made an investment in Rodeo Dental & Orthodontics. The partnership and investment by Bain Capital Double Impact will enable Rodeo Dental to rapidly expand patient access — regardless of means — to high-end, oral health care services in Texas and beyond. It is Bain Capital Double Impact’s first foray into dental.

They aligned with Double Impact because their vision is the same and both organizations support access to care, and specifically the access to care they bring around specialties in some of the underserved areas.

“Historically, Rodeo has always been dedicated to giving back. Bain Capital Double Impact was aligned with Rodeo’s dedication to making a social impact and doing good. One of Rodeo’s core values is ‘Do the Right Thing,’ which is shared by Double Impact. What they bring in terms of making the business side of the companies scale better, was strong for us. Having that similar vision made it a good partnership for us.” -Dr. Saam Zarrabi, Executive Chairman, Rodeo Dental & Orthodontics

Rodeo’s advice to other dental groups and DSOs is to stay dedicated to investing in the team, the organization, the architecture, and the culture. That is what helped Rodeo sustain and grow along the way.

Watch their WOW video below which showcases their focus on patient experience, marketing creativity, and, authentic cultural vibe: 

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