The Group Dentistry Now Show: The Voice Of The DSO Industry – Episode 78

Mark Censoprano, Dr. Hisham Barakat, and Houmam Ali of Guardian Dentistry Partners (GDP) join Bill Neumann on the Group Dentistry Now Show.

The GDP team discusses:
🚀 The key tenets of their business model
🚀 What makes the organization unique
🚀 Snapshot of the organization
🚀 The recent growth of GDP
🚀 The team’s vision for GDP in the next 3 – 5 years
🚀 Organizational initiatives that will be implemented in 2022

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Our podcast series brings you dental support and emerging dental group practice analysis, conversation, trends, news and events. Listen to leaders in the DSO and emerging dental group space talk about their challenges, successes, and the future of group dentistry. The Group Dentistry Now Show: The Voice of the DSO Industry has listeners across North & South America, Australia, Europe, and Asia. If you like our show, tell a friend or a colleague.

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Full Transcript:

Bill Neumann:

Thank you to Sunbit for sponsoring this episode of the Group Dentistry Now Show. Sunbit is the preferred buy now, pay later technology for everyday needs and services. Sunbit eases the stress of getting dental care by offering patients access to fast, fair, and transparent payment options. Sunbit technology approves over 85% of patients to get their dental care needs today, and pay over time with a simple 30 second application process requiring no hard credit check. Sunbit is offered by over 10,000 locations, including one in three auto dealership service centers, dental offices, optical practices, veterinary clinics, and specialty healthcare services.

Bill Neumann:

See why Sunbit is adding over 500 dental practices per month. Visit sunbit.com/dental for more information. That’s sunbit.com/dental. I’d like to welcome everyone to the Group Dentistry Now Show. I’m Bill Neumann, and first off, I’d like to thank our audience, everybody that’s listening in, whether it’s Google, Apple, Spotify, or any one of the number of listening platforms we’re on, we appreciate that. If you happen to be watching us on YouTube or find us on Group Dentistry Now, without an audience, we wouldn’t have a show. And of course, without great guests, we wouldn’t have an audience.

Bill Neumann:

So we’ve got three great guests here today, and maybe some of the faces look familiar because they’ve been around the industry for a while. Maybe not, depends on who you are, but I’ll make some brief introductions. We have not all the executives, but we have most of the executives from Guardian Dentistry Partners here. So thanks for everybody joining today. Really appreciate y’all coming in and talking a little bit about your model. We’re going to dig deep into what Guardian Dentistry Partners is. Find out what the model’s like, find out all about the key players, what the opportunities are.

Bill Neumann:

So brief introductions here. We’ve got Mark Censoprano. He is the president at Guardian Dentistry Partners, I’ll say GDP. Sometimes we’re acronym heavy in the dental industry so we’ll do that. We also have Houmam Ali. He is the COO at GDP. And we have Dr. Hisham Barakat and he is the chief clinical officer. So brief bios, and then I’m going to let you fill in any of the blanks. So does that sound okay?

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

Yeah, absolutely.

Mark Censoprano:

Sounds great.

Bill Neumann:

Sounds good. So we’ll start off with Dr. Barakat. He is chief clinical officer of Guardian Dentistry Partners. Everybody has really cool bios too, by the way, just really, really interesting backgrounds. So hopefully I highlight the interesting parts and again, fill in the blanks. Recognized as one of the top implant dentists in the United States. Originally earned his dental degree in Alexandria, Egypt.

Bill Neumann:

Completed his residency at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, and then joined a group practice in Virginia Beach. So hopefully I got not everything, but maybe a tiny, little snapshot there. Dr. Barakat, do you want to fill in any blanks and then we’ll move on?

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

Absolutely. Yes. Thank you so much, Bill, for the introduction. Yes, after joining the group in Virginia Beach where it was my first job, I was very honored to be there because I learned so much about the group practice setting. I had a great mentor and spent there seven years and I moved to Northern Virginia, which is closer to the Washington, D.C. Area, and started my first practice.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

And within a period of 10 to 12 years, I had started going through all the struggles that we go through, and built one location to nine locations with two partners. And that was the journey after moving from the group practice to starting my own group. This is when we met with Guardian and started the journey with them.

Bill Neumann:

That’s great. And you [crosstalk 00:04:49]-

Mark Censoprano:

Doctor [crosstalk 00:04:49]-

Bill Neumann:

Go ahead, Mark.

Mark Censoprano:

Hey sorry, Bill. I was going to say Dr. Barakat is very humble. And as amazing a dentist as he is, he’s an even more amazing person and I’ll fill that in for you, Hisham, because I know you won’t say that about yourself but it probably makes sense for folks, your audience, Bill.

Mark Censoprano:

Hisham, in terms of your credentials, anybody who’s listening in, I’m sure you’re always willing to talk to them, mentor them, field questions maybe just a little bit, because Bill, you led with leading implant doctors. Maybe just drop a few of those creds, Hisham, so folks, if they need some help out there, they know who to reach out to.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

Thank you, Mark. Of course, since day one being in residency, coming out of residency, I was committed to continuing education, and CEs and personal development. I’m a master of the Academy of General Dentistry. Went through the whole process to get my mastership with the AGD. I’ll be more than happy to help, or support, or guide anybody who has questions about that path. I’m also board certified with the ABOI and a fellow of the American Academy of Implant Dentistry.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

CE has always been a passion for myself, and my partners, and dedicated a lot of years to that. And part of giving back, I would love to help support and mentor anybody who has any questions about how we got there, and the whole pathway through the mastership and the ABOI. Thank you, Mark. Thanks, Bill.

Mark Censoprano:

That’s right. I know you love to do that so I thought that was worth pointing out.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

Absolutely. Yep. Always happy to help.

Bill Neumann:

Yeah. There’s quite a bit of continuing ed hours in that bio so that was amazing.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

Just a couple.

Mark Censoprano:

So many tens of thousands.

Bill Neumann:

It seemed that way. We’ll introduce Houmam Ali, who is the COO of Guardian Dentistry Partners. And you originally started out at Guardian as the VP of operations for North Carolina and Virginia regions it looks like. But you spent quite a bit of time in different roles at ClearChoice Dental Implant Centers.

Bill Neumann:

So I can think when you left there, your VP of operations, area VP, and I guess a regional business director before that. Houmam has an interesting background as well. He was actually trained as a dentist in Baghdad. So you have that dental background, and then you came to the U.S. and you got involved really looks like in the business side of dentistry.

Houmam Ali:

Thank you, Bill. You said it really well. After I came back, my passion for dentistry continued, but I developed a new passion for helping doctors become more successful, which that translated into business development or operations. So decided to branch out into that, as you mentioned.

Houmam Ali:

Served in a couple of roles in that department. A few years ago, decided to go back to business school and say, “I want to be officially credentialed and help our doctors on the business side of things, and help them run their practices.”

Bill Neumann:

And that’s great. And then of course, who probably could host this podcast, Mark Censoprano did a pretty good job when he was doing the introduction to Dr. Barakat.

Mark Censoprano:

I will never host it as well as you, Bill. No chance.

Bill Neumann:

You did pretty well. Mark’s the president of Guardian Dentistry Partners. I met Mark years ago at a ADSO meeting and I cannot remember the year, but it was when the ADSO used to have relatively small turnouts. So it was a while back, and he was the chief marketing officer at the time for Aspen Dental Management. But as I dug into your bio a little bit and we’re based out of the Philadelphia area, you were across the river working at Campbell Soup, who was in Camden New Jersey.

Bill Neumann:

So he’s not just a dental person, he’s got some really, really interesting background. Campbell Soup and then Darden Foods before that. Looks like you’ve had operations experience, you were a brand manager of the marketing experience. So talk a little bit about your background, I guess, maybe a little bit at Aspen, what you’re doing now at Guardian, and then what you did prior to that.

Mark Censoprano:

Yeah. It’s funny, we’ve known each other a long time, Bill, and you know journey. I think just as I think back to maybe too many years that have gone by. Started out getting trained in business, and business management, and marketing, and leadership at some pretty good companies. Had the good fortune of getting introduced to, whether you call it retail or hospitality with a great company, Darden Restaurants, that truly was laser focused on the experience of their guests they called them. The natural progression for me then, got introduced to healthcare.

Mark Censoprano:

And from a life journey and a business journey, that’s where I truly struck gold because I always wanted to try to make a difference in people’s lives. I wanted to try work for some top 100 companies from, from Fortune top 100 companies list. I worked for a couple of them and they’re both so focused. We’re so focused on positively impacting the lives of not only their employees, but also their customers or their guests. And when I got to healthcare with Aspen Dental, it really was like striking gold because you can take the best of everything that you’ve learned and apply it to something that changes people’s lives.

Mark Censoprano:

Like you mentioned, Campbell’s Soup and I loved every moment of my time there. Learned a ton. I guess we were changing lives with really filling people’s bellies up. Good for the heart, good for the soul. But when I saw doctors at Aspen truly changing people’s lives, allowing them to be able to smile confidently and kiss their grandchildren. Be able to show their teeth and not cover it up, that’s where I knew that my journey was heading in the right direction. The great, wonderful years at Aspen, learned a ton there. I spent a lot of time at that organization. To your point back when you and I probably first met, this industry that we’re in now maybe was not quite as well developed.

Mark Censoprano:

It’s been fun to see how it’s developed ever since, and which is how I ended up at Guardian. It was an opportunity to continue that journey in positively impacting this industry by building a new organization with Guardian Dentistry Partners from the ground up. And trying to do it in the right way that’s going to help doctors and help their patients to the best of our ability. That’s kind of a nickel tour of my career.

Bill Neumann:

There you go. So let’s talk about Guardian Dentistry Partners. So Dr. Barakat, we can have you start things out. The platform hasn’t been around that long, right? Talk about the history of the dental group practice space, whatever you’re going to call it, DPO. Let’s talk a little bit about how things got started.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

So Guardian started in 2018. It’s basically a group of like-minded dental entrepreneurs that came together, and a family office that looks after Guardian Dentistry Partners, and helps our dental entrepreneurs achieve the practices of their dreams. So each one of us had a plan to grow our own region and our own practices. And we had a vision of where we want to go, and this is when Guardian Dentistry Partners was created. It’s to cater to these dental entrepreneurs that wanted to grow, were committed to building the group of their dream. And the family office is supporting these dental entrepreneurs.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

We’re very different from other groups, and there was a void basically in the market. We’re not private equity backed. We’re not corporate. It’s a partnership between the family office and the dental entrepreneurs, and hence, our unique ability to attract these like-minded partners. That’s what attracted me personally to become a partner, and attracted my other partners to join us down the road. And it’s really an amazing group of people that share the same thoughts, ideas. Maybe have different plans to grow their regions in their own way, but we all share the great ideas together.

Mark Censoprano:

Hisham, do you mind if I tell a story?

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

Sure, sure. Yeah.

Mark Censoprano:

About when we first sat down. Tell me if you remember this. It was me and you, and your leadership team in Virginia and Michelle Ryan. Do you remember that in the conference room? Bill, the only reason why I bring this up is because, as Hisham talks about how Guardian Dentistry Partners was founded to help dentist entrepreneurs like Hisham realize our missions to help them to achieve the practices of their dreams. We sat down for the first time.

Mark Censoprano:

I got introduced to his leadership team and said, “Well, Mark, can you tell us about Guardian? Tell us a little bit about Guardian.” And I told them, “We’re here to support you, whatever it is that you want to do. Where you want to go, where you want to get to, we are here to help you do that. We have the financial resources, which may have been holding you back. If you say, ‘we want to have 40 practices in Virginia,’ we’ll help you get there. If you say whatever it is.” And I bring that up, do you think Michelle Ryan would mind that I mentioned her name?

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

No, no, no, absolutely not.

Mark Censoprano:

Tell her it’s part of the story.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

Absolutely not. I’ll make sure she watches this podcast.

Mark Censoprano:

Yeah. Make sure she watches. Hisham’s operations leader, a wonderful, wonderful human being, Michelle Ryan, has been with had been with Dr. Barakat for many, many, many, many years building, working tirelessly, trying to build up a group, and going from one practice, to two, to three. And all the effort, and strain, and pressure. And Michelle, when I told her why we were here and what we do, cried in that first meeting and she said, “We have had a dream of what Dr. Barakat, and I, and the others in the leadership team have wanted to do all these years.”

Mark Censoprano:

“We wanted to get there, and we tried to get there. And there was just some things that we just honestly, we didn’t have the resources, the capability to do. And to hear what you’re able to provide for us.” She was in tears and she’s so lovely. And when you were speaking, Hisham, I just thought that’s something that helps maybe to drive home a little bit about who we are, how we got started, and what we do.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

And I’ll follow up on that thought. I don’t want to take too much time, but this is actually a follow-up to what you just mentioned. Mark. About nine months ago, one of our amazing team leads, we have a leadership team in every region. So before Guardian in 2017, when I had my group before I met Guardian, we sat down and planned our 10 year plan. And we said, “Okay. 2017, where are we now? Where do we want to go? What’s the vision?” And we had a very ambitious vision. And nine months ago, that’s two and a half years after we became part of Guardian, and the Virginia partners and Guardian, one of my team leads came back and she showed me that piece of paper that we drafted in 2017.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

And she said, “It’s 2021 and we’ve accomplished the goal that we’ve set for 10 years. And I’m so sorry that when we sat down and we planned out the 10 years, everybody was questioning how are we going to get there. And nobody knew how we were going to get there, but we knew that we had to get there, because we all know that somehow, something’s going to work out and we’re going to get there.” That was an eyeopener to me. I forgot about that day that we planned the 10 year plan and she brought it to my attention. We accomplished it in four years by having the resources, by having the great minds like Houmam, and like Mark, and all the other partners. And everybody sharing their secret sauces to get us there. That’s what Guardian Dentistry Partners is.

Mark Censoprano:

Was that Emily or Marianna?

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

It was Emily.

Mark Censoprano:

Emily.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

They both came in and they showed me the plan [crosstalk 00:17:45]-

Mark Censoprano:

Both of them. Yeah.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

…what we talked about 10 years ago. Here you go, we’ve accomplished in four. So it was very humbling for them, for mem and the leadership team to realize the synergy that we have and the support that we’ve had from Guardian.

Mark Censoprano:

Bill, at the end of the day, everybody that you meet, and if we can help out your audience in any way, shape or form, that’s what warms my heart, Houmam’s heart, now Dr. Barakat in his role, heart is to be able to tell that story that Dr. Barakat just told. That’s what this is all about. It’s not our plan. It’s not our dreams. It’s how do we enable the team members who are out there to achieve their dreams.

Houmam Ali:

Well said, Mark. I was just going to say that is the fuel. That’s what fuels us every day. That’s what many of us at Guardian, that’s what we get up in the morning for is to help make stories like this, and to look back and listen to the impact of these stories.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

Yeah.

Bill Neumann:

It’s really cool. I guess I’ll put my two cents in here and what I know about Guardian Dentistry Partners. So being based in the Philadelphia market, Montage Dental Group, Justin Deutsch, and Ryan Cunningham, and the team there, they got on board, well, probably was it 2020 or early 2021? I don’t know.

Bill Neumann:

But they became part of, I guess, your Pennsylvania and New Jersey partnership. And just talking to them, knowing them really well, how happy they are making the move. And so just personal experience, knowing people that are running a relatively small group in the Northeast, looking to expand and looking for somebody to help them get there.

Mark Censoprano:

Yeah. That’s great, Bill. And if you touch base with those guys recently, they’re crushing it, absolutely crushing it in terms of what their dreams were and what they wanted to do. If they showed you the expansion that’s happened, you’re exactly right.

Mark Censoprano:

I think they closed it almost was December 31st of 2020, if I’m not mistaken into 2021. If they tell you about what they’ve been able to accomplish this past year, it really will blow your mind.

Bill Neumann:

Yeah. Again, and probably, well, absolutely would not have been able to do that on their own. He talked about the fuel, Houmam mentioned the fuel, so makes a lot of sense. So let’s talk about key tenants of the business model.

Bill Neumann:

Let’s get into we’re not really a DSO or a dental DPO. So what does that mean? We’ll start there and maybe it’s a two part question, because that leads into what makes you unique? You talk about was it Michelle Ryan? Is that her name?

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

Yes.

Bill Neumann:

The crying, that’s unique to me. That’s unique. So what is it you’re doing that go, “Oh my goodness, we haven’t heard this before. People, other platforms, other support organizations, partnership organization, aren’t offering this,” so I’ll stop there. Mark, you can take it away.

Mark Censoprano:

Yeah. I’ll give it my best shot, Bill. So from a business model standpoint, from a business standpoint, our model is M&A, straightforward. That said, from a cultural and a structural standpoint, we’re different from the traditional model. In fact, you will not hear the word A in M&A uttered anywhere from anybody in any hallways at Guardian Dentistry Partners. Earlier on, you mentioned all the different acronyms before we got on the podcast, all the different acronyms of the different kinds of organizations that are out there. Regardless of the acronym, the key is that the relationship that we have with the entrepreneurs, their teams, is one of true partnership.

Mark Censoprano:

We share equally in the successes together and in the challenges. That’s the key. We don’t characterize ourselves as a dental support organization in the traditional sense, which is we don’t exist so solely to provide back office support. We do all those things. Yes. But we purposefully gave ourselves a new acronym to complicate the industry even more. And we call ourselves a dental partnership network, because we want to make sure that folks understand that everything we do, and it may not be the model that works for everybody and that’s okay. But everything we do is done in this spirit of partnership.

Mark Censoprano:

Everything from how the original deal is structured, to how we support the dentist entrepreneurs. Partnership is a way of life at Guardian Dentistry Partners. It’s not just a deal structure. It’s not just a way economically of putting things together. It is our way of life. It is our lifeblood and it’s how we operate. Dr. Barakat, as a partner, dentist entrepreneur and our COO, can attest to the fact that how we operate with every decision that’s made is done in partnership together. We absolutely have structure, we have support, we have programs. We have all these different things, but the way they get administered is not a steam roller coming at you.

Mark Censoprano:

And you see it coming and you go, “All right, I’m about to get flattened.” It is what we’re doing right here. Hey, Bill, let’s have a conversation. Here’s what we got. Here’s what we’re looking at. Here’s what we’re working on. Here’s what we’ve built. What do you think? Does this work for you? Does it not work for you? Do you like it? Do you not like it? Partnership, partnership, partnership, and from square one, first meeting, first handshake, all the way that’s the culture. That is the tenants of our business model.

Bill Neumann:

Great. That’s good stuff. So let’s take a snitch because you’ve been growing rapidly. Right. I know sometimes it’s hard to keep up because the industry’s growing really quickly. But in particular, why don’t we, and Houmam, since you’re on the operation side of things, maybe we’ll get it from your perspective because you’re probably seeing it all, having to deal with it all with this growth.

Bill Neumann:

Talk a little bit about where you are right now. I have in early December, well, it was late December, you did a snapshot of 2021 and the growth. But you probably have added since then, so I’m going to let you set the stage. Where are you right now in early 2022?

Houmam Ali:

Yeah. No, thanks, Bill. Great question. Thanks to Group Dentistry Now. You guys have had a nice publication for us. We ended the year with a very healthy growth, about 84 locations, 84 partnerships, and about almost close to 1,000 team members altogether between our partner practices and our support teams. As we look at 2021… One thing I didn’t mention is we’re in about 10 states and every state has multiple regions, depending on the partnership level.

Houmam Ali:

So as we look at where we are for the year, we don’t look at certain KPIs in terms of where we want to go with the growth. And we’re actually looking for these right partnerships that would be a good fit to our partners. I’ll pause right there. That is how 2020 is ending and how we’re looking at 2022.

Bill Neumann:

That’s good. I’ll just add that Guardian Dentistry Partners was our winner of our emerging groups to watch in 2020, so we’ve been following you. I think Hisham mentioned started in 2018, right?

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

Right.

Bill Neumann:

Yeah. Go ahead. I’m going to save this for the end, because you’re going to all get out your crystal balls and give us a little prediction on where you think things are going to end up for the organization and then the industry. Talk a little bit about, and maybe it’s Mark or Hisham can answer this one. How are you able to grow so quickly?

Bill Neumann:

It becomes a challenge for a lot of organizations, right? You get to a point, and maybe the support structure isn’t necessarily in place. So you probably thought that all through ahead. Mark, I’ll let you start and then, Hisham, if you want to touch on that.

Mark Censoprano:

Yeah. You know what? Maybe, Bill, can I pass the torch over to Houmam? It might be interesting.

Bill Neumann:

Answer away.

Mark Censoprano:

So what makes us grow so quickly is what makes us unique. And Houmam being the more recent, fresher eyes in the organization might be interesting for him to comment on what does he believe? So Hisham and I from day one, believe what we think makes us unique, but interesting to hear from Houmam maybe.

Houmam Ali:

Yeah. So Bill, it’s a great question. I’m going to repeat some of the things that have already been mentioned, but I want to underscore a couple of them. First, it starts with what makes us the unique, and I think as Mark and Dr. Barakat mentioned, we’re a partnership network. So by design, our model is designed to benefit our dental entrepreneurs. And what I mean by that is when a new partner joins our organization, they’re not being squeezed into an existing business model of, “Here’s how we want you to operate.” It’s actually the other way around. We want to preserve and build on the success they’ve already created.

Houmam Ali:

So as we grow more, that’s the first thing we like to look at is like, “Partner, tell us what’s made you successful, tell us what you want to continue building on. Now, tell us where do you want us to support?” So that’s what combines, what makes us different as a partnership network. But at the same time, the benefits of a support organization that is adding these benefits through either our scales, or our volume, our relationship with our vendors. Another thing that Dr. Barakat mentioned early on, is we were started by a family office. And a lot of the partners that we’re attracting are actually family partners, family businesses.

Houmam Ali:

And one of the reasons why that makes us unique but also helps us scale, is it’s just a group of people. Probably 60% or 50% of them are on this podcast right now that come together and come up with decisions that help our partners. We don’t have to worry about going to the board, and waiting for a board meeting or taking it up to an investor. It is a handful of people and the family office that are making these decisions. So that gives us the ability to become nimble and change our models, acquisitions, deals as needed to help our partners and to go back to our mission, which is how do we help them?

Houmam Ali:

How do we support them build the practices of their dreams? So in terms of scaling, it really depends on the partner, right? The word scale sounds very standardized, but we actually have a little bit of flexibility in that scale where we make it about the partner. So if a partner wants to just grow their practice organically, we provide tools, and solutions, and ways to support them. If a group of partners are like, “I want to grow my region. I want to add more practices to my group,” we also will help with that. So our scaling is somewhat standardized, but has a lot of flexibility in it because we make it about the partner.

Mark Censoprano:

And Houmam, I think… Oh, sorry. Dr. Barakat, go ahead.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

And if I might add just one very important, we were looking at the end of 2021 about how the year went and the amazing growth that we’ve had. And one big thing came up to our realization is most of our growth, I want to say a good 40%, 45% of it, came by referrals from our existing partners, their friends and colleagues.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

And that says a lot about their trust in us and them spreading the word, talking to their friends and colleagues about their experience, and they reach out to us. So this has been an eye opener to us because we take care of our partners and they advocate for us to basically invite their friends and family.

Mark Censoprano:

And that’s perfect. That’s perfect, Hisham. I was going to bridge right off of that to both of your points and say that why we’ve been able to grow as quickly as we have, and reach the scale that we have in as few months or years as we have, I think is exactly what both of you both just said. We’ve built a world-class support organization. So we’ll put our support organization up against folks who are two times, three times, five times our size, because we’ve attracted incredibly strong talent to join this organization. If you look at some other bios of the other folks in the organization and very, very impressive.

Mark Censoprano:

Been there and done that. But the interesting thing is, most importantly, so there are teams. So Houmam said 60% of the folks making the decisions for the organization’s future might be on this podcast right now. True, because we’re flat in that there’s no bureaucracy, there’s no having to go and get people’s permission. But then we have a full scale, fully built-out support structure of all of the key support components from HR, to marketing, to IT. Those are all built-out with world-class talent. So we started with the very first chips being added to this organization to say, “How do we do this as good, or if not better, than anybody else is able to do that?”

Mark Censoprano:

But the interesting thing is, so that’s great. So the docs and you’ll hear them, our partners will say, “Man, I’m blown away by the people you have who support me.” They truly will say this. I hear this over and over again with them when I do follow-up calls, when they’re integrating to check in. How are things going? They say, “I can’t believe the quality of the people you have. Everything’s been seamless,” over and over again, so that’s great. I think one of the second leg to that, I guess it wouldn’t be a stool. I don’t know what has two legs, or the second wheel to that bicycle maybe is.

Mark Censoprano:

And more importantly, the partnerships that we are making, we evaluate the cultural fit with the organization. The values fit and whether or not we’re really well aligned. Like I said earlier, we may not be for every single person who’s out there. But we spent a lot of our time trying to bring together and we have an expression. I’ll just use the expression, great partners, great people, beget great partners, great people. That’s how we think about and evaluate the cultural fit and the values fit. Bill, you will get to be a fly on the wall. I’ve always wanted you to be able to just see this in action.

Mark Censoprano:

Join one of our partner happy hour Zooms. We just had one last week where we had 70 people on a Zoom. Imagine what that’s like having 70 boxes floating around. It’s as if these folks have known each other for years and have been friends for life when they get together. And that tells you that the chemistry, and the great partners, great, talented dentist entrepreneurs are as equally a great people. And you watch the conversations happening from box, to box, to box. You can’t even follow it. And most of these folks, I’d say 90%, may have never met each other in person, 80%, 75% haven’t met each other in person. So.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

Very soon we will, Mark. [crosstalk 00:33:53]-

Mark Censoprano:

Yeah.

Bill Neumann:

Let’s talk about the partners [crosstalk 00:33:54]-

Mark Censoprano:

We’ll be getting everybody together again.

Bill Neumann:

Let’s talk about the partners retreat. Might as well, it’s perfect timing. Let’s talk about Savannah, Georgia.

Mark Censoprano:

Yeah. Because we had planned early on, and Dr. Barakat remembers, we had planned early on to pull our partners together in person. Then the great pandemic hit and the safety of our partners, of their team members, their families obviously, has to be number one. So we waved it off and we waved it off I think twice, and now we have an opportunity for them to get together. We have a location where we took over the entire location. So if they can get themselves there safely, which I hope they all can, we will have the entire place to ourselves. An amazing, amazing location.

Mark Censoprano:

And we’re going to pull all of our partners and the leaders from Guardian, who they’ve met and they’ve seen now virtually probably dozens if not 100 times, to gather together. And there’s a great expression that a member of our family office uses. He says, “We want to provide an opportunity to learn from the best, to share with the rest.” And that’s where, when we bring folks together for our retreat, this will not be GDP. Again, this is not who we are. It’s not our tone. GDP preaching to you, telling us what we want, what we’re going to do. This is learn from the best, share with the rest.

Mark Censoprano:

That is the way the actual retreat is structured for them because everybody, and I don’t want to steal your word, Dr. Barakat. But if you know which word I’m going to use, everybody has a…

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

Genius.

Mark Censoprano:

Yeah, the genius.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

Yeah. The best is for us to share our geniuses when we get together and we’re not waiting to get together to do that. We’ve been sharing our secret sauces, our geniuses, what made us special. We’ve been sharing these ideas and that’s what makes us very special. Everybody has the passion, the genius that made their group, their office unique. They’re sharing that secret sauce with the rest of the partners.

Bill Neumann:

Yeah.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

And it’s amazing how everybody has a different genius, but the synergy between the geniuses makes us really something bigger beyond anyone of us would’ve ever imagined.

Mark Censoprano:

Yeah. And that was our vision statement from day one. We penned a mission, vision and values, and really thought long and hard about that, before we even had a single conversion about the business goals and objectives. Hisham, you remember this? The very first conversation is who we are as human beings, what we care about, our families. It was about if we build this organization, what should this organization’s values be? And our vision statement is exactly what Hisham, just said, which is we bring together passionate, purpose driven, like-minded dentist entrepreneurs and their teams, who are very, very different from each other.

Mark Censoprano:

It’s those differences when we bring them together, that make us stronger, and make us who we are. So without getting into core values, you can look at it on our website. The very first core value is individuality. It’s there for a reason. It’s the first letter in the acronym that stands for our values and we take that very seriously. We are not trying to make anybody out there something different, trying to shape them, blend them. I think, Hisham, you may have said or Houmam, square peg in a round hole. It’s not what we’re all about. And at this retreat, we’re going to do two things. One is going to be share your genius. Learn from the best, share with the rest.

Mark Censoprano:

And number two is going to be here’s what Guardian Dentistry Partners is thinking about, is building, is working on, different support systems, structures. What do you think? Spirit of partnership. What do you think, like it, feedback? What else do you want? What more do you want? What less do you want? Even the best laid plans and the path that we’re going down, the things that have been built are always open. And we listen to our partners to make sure that it’s going down the right path. So that’s almost the two legs of what this retreat’s going to look like, the partner retreat.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

Yeah.

Bill Neumann:

So besides the partner retreat, what other organizational initiatives are you excited to implement? I’m guessing maybe you’re going to disclose some of those at the partner retreat, but what can you disclose on the podcast?

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

Do you want me to think this one, Mark?

Mark Censoprano:

Yeah, please. Yeah, Dr. Barakat. Hit it.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

So some of the initiatives we have among internally and for our partners, is we focus a lot on continuing education. So we have the DDS module, basically. It’s the dental educational module for our doctors, our partners, and their doctors. We focus on all aspects of dentistry. We like to sit down with each individual doctor in our organization and customize a plan for them. We ask the doctors, “Where do you want to go? What do you want to do on a personal level, on a clinical level?” And the doctors basically write their own goals and we facilitate that.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

And with the goals that they write down, they say, “I want to do more surgery. I would like to do more implants. I would like to do more clear aligners.” So all these customized plans for our doctors, we call it the grow model, is written down. And we support the continuing education, the resources for these doctors, associate doctors, and partner doctors to accomplish what they want to do. So we just finished our implant mini-residency for all our doctors who raised their hand and said, “I want to learn how to do implants. I never placed an implant before, teach me how to do it.”

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

That’s a module that we have for these doctors. We also are taking 10 of our very advanced doctors to Brazil in two months, end of March, to train more live surgeries and do more advanced cases, full arch cases. We have partnerships with clear aligners and we were educating, advancing our doctors to do that. Also, we have partnerships when it comes to sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea to educate and help our doctors develop their skills. What we’re trying to do is there’s no one size fits all when it comes to continuing education.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

And it’s customized per doctor, based on what they tell us and what we think they would love to advance, and we support them and help them in their task. Also, one of our biggest initiatives this year is training our doctors, we’re doing through a mission trip. So we’re planning a mission trip to basically take some of our doctors, advance their skills, help the community in the Dominican Republic, and give back to the community. And while we’re mentoring local doctors in the Dominican Republic, but also advancing our doctors’ skills. That’s one of our very exciting initiatives in 2022. And hopefully with COVID being under control, everything will be safe and we will take care of that.

Mark Censoprano:

Yeah. Dr. Barakat, I’m glad you mentioned that. You have had, from day one, such a passion for giving back and mission trips are not new to you or to your group. But to bring that to the organization, and to be able to now tap into more resources through this whole organization to help more people in the Dominican Republic is amazing.

Mark Censoprano:

And you spearheading that, in addition to the entire Doctor Development Series, hands-on lectures, training courses, over the shoulder, comprehensive, intensive training across. Whatever the skill sets are that the doctors want to build, it’s amazing what your commitment to doctor development and what you’ve built for them.

Houmam Ali:

I just wanted to underscore, Bill, something that Dr. Barakat touched on in part of our initiatives, which is the Doctor Development Series or the DDS. While a lot of our partners in the spirit of individuality have different aspirations and goals, a very common theme is how do I develop my associate doctors? How do I attract more associate doctors? How do I retain my associate doctor, which I know is probably a very big topic in this industry. I could probably label this as back to what makes us unique the M in impact.

Houmam Ali:

One of our values is mentorship. And that has been a big focus of Dr. Barakat, myself and other members in Guardian, where how do we help our doctor partners mentor their doctor associates? A, to help them advance, and achieve their goals, and build the practice of their dreams. But also, sometimes the goal itself is too how do I expand my practice and add more associates? And that has been a great attraction tool and a great retention tool. And as we reflect back on some of the results from 2021, really, really promising.

Houmam Ali:

A lot of our partners are really enjoying using these tools and the amazing opportunities that Dr. Barakat and his team are offering them, in terms of hands-on training, didactic training. And now, as you mentioned, there’s actually a trip coming up. I would definitely underscore that as one of our key differentiators to help our partners achieve that practice of their dreams.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

I’ll follow on [crosstalk 00:43:59]-

Mark Censoprano:

Houmam, do you want to touch on or Dr. Barakat, do you want to touch on maybe P2P as well, because that might be interesting to folks who are out there?

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

Yes, absolutely. So one of the things that we did with our partners that we asked them, “What is it that you would like us to help support you with?” And one of the biggest things that our partners, including myself, is we want doctor retention. How can we make our doctors stay, get excited, get motivated, and stay with us, and grow with us? So we created this based on the feedback that we got from the partners, this P2P model, which is Pathway to Partnership. And basically in a nutshell, it’s a partnership plan for our associate doctors that are driven, motivated to grow, and want to do more, and take on more responsibility in their own individual offices.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

We offer partnership to them in their individual practices. And that basically has a lot of growth potential for them. An amazing financial growth for them that none of these doctors that now we have as part of the P2P model, are not even thinking about going and opening their own practices. Because the financial gain, the growth, the leadership that they learn and they acquire in growing their own offices or multiple offices in the region, outweighs going out, starting from scratch with no resources, doing their own, starting their own practice.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

And this has been one of our geniuses, as an organization. I think we listen to our partners. We listen to these associate doctors that became partners and the feedback has been very good.

Bill Neumann:

Great. You’ve got quite a few 2022 initiatives, so exciting times. So as we close out this podcast, and you’ll make sure we drop the link to contact Mark or Houmam, or Hisham at Guardian Dentistry Partners. So we’ll make sure those email addresses are in the show notes. Also, the website of course, to find out a little bit more. Let’s get your crystal balls out now, as we close things down.

Bill Neumann:

I’d love to find out what you think the future of Guardian Dentistry Partners is short term. And then just overall, where you think the industry’s headed, because everybody’s got speculation on more consolidation, but love to hear from you all. So just as we close things out, Guardian Dentistry Partners future, and then just the industry in general. Mark, do you want to start things off?

Mark Censoprano:

I’ll take a quick shot at that, sure. So more than we believe, we know that the sky is the limit for Guardian Dentistry Partners. And it goes back to great partners, great people beget great partners, great people. It’s just happening. We know what the pipeline already looks like that we have in hand. I don’t want to say that doubling the size of this organization, literally again. We did it last year. Again, in the 12 or more months, it’s not a goal that we’re setting. But it could be a very likely result or an outcome of the fact that we are just trying to build this organization in the right way to support our dental entrepreneurs and their teams.

Mark Censoprano:

If we stay, and that’s all the conversations that we have, we stay laser focused on that, hopefully good things will come. I think that’s the future of Guardian Dentistry Partners. I think that’s where we’re headed, which is everybody we call our partners our family, and they call themselves family. And when they are welcomed, they say, “I’m so happy to be part of this family.” And that’s what it should feel like if we’re doing this right, without the dysfunction that comes with families. Although we have some of that too, but that’s okay. We take the good with the bad.

Mark Censoprano:

Any comments to add to that? Sorry, Dr. Barakat or Houmam, because there was two part question there for Bill, which is the future of the industry too.

Houmam Ali:

I’ll just add, as we embark on this growth and even more growth this year, and I’m going to put my operations hat a little bit on, is the number one goal that I’m focusing on is how to best support our partners, in terms of creating the best regional support structure. The best support services that we can offer internally, because that always comes down to our mission. How do we support our entrepreneurs to build the practices of their dreams?

Houmam Ali:

And as we grow in all these new markets, in all these new states, we are evolving our regional support structure to continue achieving what is really the most important thing for our doctors, right? We’re right now going through strategic planning meetings with all of our partners, and we’re taking all that information, bubbling it up to our GST or Guardian support team. And then saying, “All right, here’s what our partners need from us. Here’s what we need to deliver.” So that would be what I am looking to achieve, as I look through in my crystal ball. Dr. Barakat.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

The industry is changing. Where it is now is very different from where it was 10 years ago. I remember when I was an associate, then a single owner of a practice, to having multiple practices, to becoming a partner. So where we are in 2022, there are so many different DSOs. There are so many different corporate DSOs out there. I think with our culture, with our group of partners, we see why we’re unique. We’re hoping to grow with like-minded people.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

And we’re open arms, open invitation to all our partners and like-minded people to our partners to join us, get to know us. I think this is how dentistry is going to be headed is joining like-minded people. You share the same ideas and we do better things way more efficiently together than doing it alone like I was, like our partners were on their own. So great, great future for dentistry and for organizations in dentistry. And on top of all of this is best services for our patients across.

Mark Censoprano:

Well said, Hisham. Bill, I don’t have a crystal ball by any stretch the imagination, but I’ll throw something out there I think that could potentially happen. Is that you may see a shift from the largest of large DSOs that are out there growing by 100 practices a year or whatever it is. You might even start to be seeing that shift now. I think that the long tail maybe of folks coming in behind those larger organizations, the pioneers, I think you might see very rapid accelerated growth in the long tail, because folks are coming in and have an opportunity like us.

Mark Censoprano:

Honestly, you don’t have to change something that’s been built to modify this big battleship, or try and turn it around if potentially, it wasn’t built to meet the needs of today’s dentist community as well. It’s hard to move those larger organizations, but the long tail now, folks who are of substantial size already, have the ability to now build their organizations to be able to accommodate what the dentist entrepreneur and their teams need. So I think you might see really rapid accelerated growth amongst the folks like GDP. And there are others out there, who we’re all standing shoulder to shoulder. I think that’s where maybe you see a lot of the growth coming.

Mark Censoprano:

And then potentially, the larger organizations just starting to see it already might say, “You know what? That’s a very good thing that so-and-so has done. Maybe they should be part of our larger organization, because they’ve built now up a business, and a culture, and a support model that really would be nice to add to a Heartland, or to a Smile, or to a Pacific or whatnot.” Don’t have a crystal ball, but one thing is for sure, I think that dentists now truly are recognizing honestly, the value added without maybe the former detractors that came with “DSOs.” There were so many detractors that dentists said, “I don’t want to be a part of that because here’s what they’re going to do to me.”

Mark Censoprano:

I think they’re going to see now and they’re experiencing that the long tail may have been overcoming some of those original, potential detractors in the business model. Just a thought that could be what you see in the future. But for sure, it’s going to be continued consolidation or continued partnerships. Maybe that’s a better way to say it.

Bill Neumann:

Right. Well, I think there’re more opportunities and they’re varied. I think it just frees up. If you can get through as a clinician, whether it’s you’re looking for a partnership or maybe just a career opportunity, more opportunities, the more confused you may be about those. I think at least on this podcast, we’ve identified what the partnership opportunity is with Guardian Dentistry Partners. I’m looking forward to personally getting to know everybody, and meeting everybody in person in Savannah.

Bill Neumann:

I appreciate that opportunity. We’ll report back on that event here after we record this podcast and it’s published. I didn’t think about this though. For the audience that’s just listening in, Mark, would you mind just shouting out your email address so somebody can just jot it down. We’ll have it in the show notes, but in case people don’t get that. If they want to contact you, how do they do that?

Mark Censoprano:

Yeah. Mark, M-A-R-K Censoprano, [email protected] Same for each of us. You can look up our names on LinkedIn. Houmam.Ali. Hisham, yours may be different. I can’t remember your Guardian email address.

Dr. Hisham Barakat:

It’s Dr. D-R. Last name, Barakat, [email protected] Guardiandentistry.com.

Bill Neumann:

Excellent. All right, thanks. As we close this out here, I just want to say thanks again to the team at Guardian Dentistry Partners. Mark Censoprano, who is the president, we have Houmam Ali, who is the COO, and we have the chief clinical officer, Hisham Barakat.

Bill Neumann:

Appreciate you guys taking the time out. And also everybody, again, for listening in and watching. Without you as an audience, we would not have great guests like this. Until next time, I’m Bill Neumann and this is the Group Dentistry Now Show.

 

 

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