Culture & Unique Value Proposition For DSOs

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How the combination can help your organization grow

At the recent Dental Entrepreneur Organization DEO Virtual Summit, many speakers addressed how important it is to have a clearly defined mission statement and corporate culture before scaling your group dental business.

When designed correctly, your mission statement will provide the foundation for future growth, guide decision-making, and provide purpose to remind not only you, but all team members, of the “why.” It will also help to refine your search criteria when making the decision to grow.

But how does your company’s mission and culture differ from the unique value proposition of the practices you merge with?

Many dentists with whom I speak originally got into dentistry to satisfy their scientific and artistic passions. It requires a unique skill set to balance the scientific aspects of dentistry with the artistry required to truly make an impact on a patient’s well-being. Where dentistry becomes frustrating for some dentists is in the business aspects of running a dental practice. Many did not consider the added burden of running a small business – HR, AR, marketing, supplies, equipment, leasing, etc. – when they first entered the profession. As the dental market became more competitive, DSOs have become an attractive option, promising to remove the headaches of having to run the day-to-day business and allowing the dentist to do what they do best – practice dentistry.

As these two archetypes come together through a potential merger or acquisition – one looking to satisfy their entrepreneurial passion to grow and another looking to scale back on the business aspects and focus on their passion for dentistry – it is important for the buyer to communicate a culture that the seller can trust.

“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 & President of ADSO.

So, if a well-defined mission and culture is the unifying force that allows dental entrepreneurs to scale from two, to six, to twenty affiliates and beyond, how does having a unique value proposition (UVP) differ and why is it important to the success of your growing organization?

Your UVP is what helps an individual dental practice stand out from other practices in your neighborhood. Within a group or DSO, the UVP of each practice can potentially vary greatly from other affiliates inside the umbrella group – one practice may have several specialties under one roof, while another may have extended hours that provide convenience to a working family. As your leadership team continues to grow, it is imperative that the UVP of each practice is clearly defined and yet still adheres to the overall culture and values as stated in your mission statement.

As a marketing agency experienced in working with groups, our first job is to help identify the UVP of each location within the group. This process helps to define the specific attributes that will attract the type of patient that the practice wants more of.

Here is a brief description of how you can help to define the UVP for each location:

  • Understand The Existing Patient-Base.

Start by taking a good look at the socio-economic makeup of the existing patients. What is their age range and how are they likely to pay for their services? Are they busy and prefer conveniences like extended hours, or do they appreciate the time the dentist spends with them? This will help you identify top practice draw areas and target markets including where current high-value patients reside.

  • Complete A Detailed Market Analysis.

It’s likely that the existing patients are a reflection of the community the office serves. By taking a deeper look into the socio-economic realities of the neighborhood, and uncovering the differences between certain areas, you can start to identify the key services and messaging that will attract the preferred segment within the overall community.

  • Match The Buying Preferences Of The Ideal Patient With The Locations Service Offering.

When you know who you are trying to attract to the practice, you can match the services the practice provides to match buyer preferences. These attributes become your Unique Value Proposition. Start by listing everything that would be of value to these ideal target patients (ultimately you’ll want to narrow it down to top 3-5).

The goal will be to marry the mission and defined culture of the DSO or group with the practice philosophies of the affiliate. Integrating cultures should be considered part of the acquisition process because it truly is critical to success and will allow both parties to build an organization in alignment providing a stronger likelihood for success for all involved.

To avoid uncomfortable work environments, vision clashes, or worse … acquisition failure, work to have these concepts – overall mission, corporate culture, brand voice, and unique value propositions – well defined before considering buying or selling a practice. These business “core values” will lay the groundwork so that the dentist and group business owner can work collaboratively using mutually understood commitment.

This is all about the one thing that helps any relationship. Good communication. Having the mission, culture, and UVP established allows both the DSO and affiliate locations to build and capitalize on each other’s strengths.

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