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The Importance of Culture for Your DSO and Acquisition Process

By Planet DDS
November 17, 2021

Culture is a hot topic. And for good reason. Your DSO’s growth relies on a positive culture and your ability to identify and acquire practices that are culturally aligned with your organization.  

Culture impacts your organization’s people, systems, and strategies. So, it’s surprising to sometimes see a lack of appreciation for culture across many businesses and organizations—including dentistry. Let’s talk about culture and why it matters to your DSO.  

What is “culture” and why is it essential to your DSO’s success? 

Think of culture” as: 

It’s a combination of your organization’s first impressions, your systems, and your team’s patient engagement. 

The culture of your group dental practice or DSO is the personality of your organization.

Culture can reveal itself in several ways and impede or support your DSO’s success and growth. Here are some questions to ask to evaluate the current culture.  

  • How is your staff and patient retention? 
  • How are the team dynamics? 
  • How is recruiting and hiring going?  
  • How is new patient acquisition going?  

With a definition of culture in mind and a quick evaluation of your current culture, check out the following tips.  

How to rebuild culture in your DSO 

Get buy-in from your team 

Organizational leadership is tasked with rallying your team around your DSO’s vision. The cultural expression of that vision relies on how your team owns their role within it.  

You should seek input to ensure individual team member’s buy in to the DSOs vision and their individual role. It’s important to ensure that individual team members understand their unique contribution to representing the culture of the DSO among other team members and with patients.  

Here are a few ways to rebuild culture in your DSO: 

  • Build team camaraderie around supporting each other and serving your patients 
  • Invest time to create cohesive, supportive team relationships through team meetings, offsite gatherings, and learning environments 
  • Make it safe to have team conversations about strengths and weaknesses relative to practice culture throughout your organization 

Celebrate success – leverage failure 

Some days you win and some days you lose. Winning or losing isn’t the issue – it’s what you do with each situation. 

  • Look for daily successes you have with patients. Celebrate them during morning huddles and team meetings. 
  • Create safe opportunities to reflect on where team members, including yourself, could have done better. Ask team members what can be learned from the mistakes to improve practice/organizational culture. 
  • Compare your cultural growth each quarter according to your celebrated successes and your leveraged failures. 

How to sustain culture in your DSO 

Keep your culture story top-of-mind 

It’s vital that your DSO’s leadership stays connected to their vision. Losing sight of your goals and aspirations can lead to lack of direction and purpose. It can also lead to dissatisfied employees and higher turnover rates.  

Remember that culture resonates through all levels of your organization. Leaders, managers, and team members must be aligned with the unique vision of your DSO. 

  • Create a vision that is clear and compelling 
  • On a regular basis, communicate those statements to keep them top of mind for all team members 
  • Inspire your team to personalize their role as they work within your culture 
  • Develop new stories from your DSO’s successes (and failures) 

Kristi Casey, CEO and COO of Rock Dental Brands joined the Dental Economist Show to share her insights on maintaining a positive culture for DSOs. Check out the full episode here.

Set standards that help keep your culture on mission 

Your purpose taps into the core why” that drives what you do. This is more granular than a stated mission/vision statement. 

Setting culture standards helps you measure progress, develop new ideas, and align your next steps with your reason for existence. 

Action is key! 

  • Build your team around their ability to make a positive contribution to your culture 
  • Define team goals and roles around ongoing improvement and provide coaching through quarterly and annual reviews.  
  • Train around your culture standards in addition to team member roles and tasks 

The goal: create a culture-centric organization. Not only will this improve team morale, but your patients will see the difference, too.   

Evaluate your culture around measurable results 

Culture reveals how well you’re living your vision. It’s easy to talk a good game but the proof is in the outcomes. 

Routinely ask these questions of your DSO leadership and during team encounters. 

  • Do your teams embody your DSO’s “why?” 
  • Does your care standard and patient experience reflect your culture’s values? 
  • Is your culture fertile for growing and developing new leadership? 
  • Periodically evaluate how staff and patient retention 
  • Check in with recruiting and human resources to ask how hiring efforts are going 

How to navigate and merge culture during a DSO acquisition 

Culture is unique to each organization. It identifies what’s unique about an organization—yours and those you seek to acquire.  

It’s vital that you do the work necessary to define, understand, and evaluate culture, especially when pursuing an acquisition. 

Have a well-defined culture “map”  

Your acquisition conversations will naturally revolve around the unique, appealing, and potentially unappealing qualities of a practice. 

  • Compare your DSOs culture with that of the practice you’re seeking to acquire 
  • Determine the level of challenge or difficulty for the post-acquisition journey based on cultural similarities or differences 
  • Proceed based on assessment of the practice’s cultural fit with your DSO 

Get acquainted before opening the door to the acquisition  

Share about your DSO and take time to learn about the practice you’re looking to acquire:  

  • Patient care standards 
  • Leadership philosophy 
  • Business goals 
  • Team dynamics  
  • Company values 

Investing time to get acquired with the practice and letting them get to know your DSO helps identify any potential red flags or can help both parties feel confident in moving forward with the acquisition 

Design a practice onboarding process 

Team dynamics have high potential for friction in the early days of an acquisition. It could be reluctance from some, a general sense of loss” felt by leaving the practice they’ve known, and the common attrition that can occur during an acquisition. 

Other merger dynamics come into play as well. You’re merging care and business philosophies, patient databases, and technology preferences.  

  • Invest time in initial team building conversations and encounters to get started on the right foot 
  • Maintain an open-door policy on all team or business-related questions, adjustments, and post-acquisition challenges 
  • Communicate your onboarding process and revisit as needed to allow for team and dentist buy-in 

The health of your DSO culture reflects on the patient experience, your team dynamics, your systems and workflows. 

Look to these resources for cultural inspiration in your DSO:  

What’s Driving the Accelerated Growth of DSOs? 

How to Onboard New Dental Practice Employees 

How Digitally Mature DSOs Achieve a Competitive Advantage 

Invest in software that is backed by your team members, makes their lives easier, their jobs more enjoyable, and helps create a positive culture. 

Book a demo and discover how Planet DDS solutions can support your DSO’s culture.