By Lori Noga, DMD, Founder and CEO of Tranquility Dental Wellness
Editor’s Note: Dr. Lori Noga is the founder and CEO of Tranquility Dental Wellness in western Washington state.
The concept of “Experience Affordable Luxury” began with a vision to take the fear out of dentistry by removing barriers patients see and feel.
My vision has always been to live to my highest potential and to help other people live to be the best version of themselves. The more we grow our dental group, the opportunity for developing our people to their fullest grows exponentially and compounds our impact on our team, our patients, and the industry.
As I began to build my executive team in recent years, my biggest challenge was not knowing what I didn’t know. (Spoiler alert, this seems to remain my biggest challenge, no matter what size we grow to!) I was trying to off load much of the tactical operations I was responsible for daily and move toward a visionary role, but I often found myself trying to figure out ‘how,’ rather than WHO could help me grow and who could successfully and expeditiously offload various pieces of the business from my plate and make room for me to continue moving toward being a better leader and CEO.
But to better understand the roles I was hiring for, I needed to ask some basic questions:
- What’s the greatest need for the business?
- What is my biggest weakness and/or the thing that gives me the most anxiety?
- What is the skillset required for this next hire? (Ideally, it’s someone who LOVES those things that I am not good at or bring me anxiety.)
- Where is this hire going to have the most impact?
- Will this hire help increase revenue or decrease expenses?
Today, I am seeking hires who already innately possess the skills I need for the role I’m hiring for. I used to hire from emotion and gut-feeling, but that model doesn’t work.
You must assess your business and tackle the greatest need. For most dental organizations, that starts with having an operations person in place. I’m fortunate to have one who is very dedicated, but finding that person who is as passionate as I am is only one component. That person must also challenge me as a leader, so I can grow and that has helped change my mindset. Being open to their feedback, being able to sit back and really be OK with not being the smartest person in the room, letting others speak their ideas while just listening intently was a difficult and large leap, but it’s a game changer for any leader.
In our organization, we don’t have ‘office managers,’ we have Chief Experience Officers (CXOs) who are responsible for the experience received by our customers at the practice level. Part of their role is tactical through scheduling and answering phones, but their main responsibility is to support our customers and protect their experience. Our customers are, in priority order: the doctors, the team and the patients.
The CXOs own and measure the outcomes in their locations through data. They lead team meetings and review metrics. Each person on their team owns two to three key performance indicators (KPIs) and they are responsible for reporting on their KPIs in their location meetings.
In our next evolution, we’re working on training them to understand the drivers of each of their KPIs. Understanding if they are on or off track is step one, but really understanding the questions to ask and digging in with their team to move the needle on each KPI is how they can really drive results and empower their team to win.
Accountability is built in the transparency that is created in these team meetings by having the team members own their own KPIs and report on them collectively. It motivates those that want a clear scoreboard and like to have control over their own success and drives out the people who don’t want to be held accountable.
Company culture and alignment
Alignment is so much easier when your company is smaller. It’s harder to achieve and maintain as you scale. As we’ve scaled, I’m in each office less and less and have to delegate much more to the leadership team. I’ve found the biggest challenge is maintaining that alignment and culture at every level when I’m not in direct contact. Moving from a place where I had control and was involved in most conversations to one where I’ve delegated and let go took a lot of courage, but it’s critical to scale.
I’m at the point in my leadership journey where I’m letting go more and more and encouraging the team to make and own decisions and results. We have a lot of missteps. Sometimes it feels like I could have done something faster or it would have been easier for me to do it myself, but supporting them through their missteps (and their successes!) is how they grow. Valuable lessons are learned by everyone with each attempt. Ironically, it improves alignment because we have to come back together as a team and understand what worked and what didn’t and find a new way forward. With each of these conversations, we see that we can no longer grow or be success in our silos alone. As we grow and scale, it becomes clearer that individual successful doesn’t drive the team’s success. Success happens when we are fully aligned and act as one true team.
Dr. Lori Noga is the founder and CEO of Tranquility Dental Wellness Center, a dentist-owned dental group located in western Washington state. Her concept of “Experience Affordable Luxury” began as a single, de novo dental practice with two employees. With her business prowess and a passion for empowering her team, she quickly grew it to a multi-location, multi-million-dollar enterprise in five years, earning a spot on the INC 5000 Fastest Growing Companies list in 2019. Other accolades include being recognized as “An Icon Of Dentistry” by Ultradent in 2020 and on the Group Dentistry Now’s “Top 10 DSOs to Watch” list in 2019.