The Dental Finance Forum

How one industry leader is on a mission to make dental finance topics more digestible.

Ken Kaufman knows the pressures other financial leaders in the dental space face. “We’re all trying to solve things that are hard to solve because dentistry is a consolidating industry,” said Kaufman, President & CFO of Nuvia Dental Implant Centers. “It’s consolidating, not consolidated. When it’s in consolidation mode, there’s not great off-the-shelf software to help solve and keep solved certain problems that finance leaders are trying to solve. There are a lot of challenges that take heavy thinking and a lot of work.”

Which gave him an idea. What if he could collaborate with other dental finance leaders that are trying to solve the same problems? A couple of years ago, he made the idea reality by creating the Dental Finance Forum. That first Dental Finance Forum meeting had six people. Today, the Forum has over 100 members, with no signs of slowing down. 

In a recent interview with DEO Magazine, Kaufman discussed some of the main topics covered in the Dental Finance Forum, best practices that have been created because of those conversations, and what’s on the horizon for Forum members. 

The DEO: Tell us about the Dental Finance Forum. How did you get the idea and then when did it start?

Ken Kaufman: The thought process started a few years ago. Dental is such a great industry, and even if there is some competitiveness between different dental groups, there is always an over-arching willingness to help each other and collaborate when it makes sense to work together. 

I was looking around and seeing that all these other great companies have finance leaders. And we’re all trying to solve things that are hard to solve because dentistry is a consolidating industry. It’s not consolidated. When it’s in consolidation mode, there’s not great off-the-shelf software to solve and keep solved certain enterprise-level problems that finance leaders are trying to solve. There are a lot of challenges that take heavy thinking and a lot of work.

So I thought to myself, it’d be great if I could collaborate with other finance leaders that are trying to solve the same problems that I’m trying to solve. As I started to think about it further, I realized a lot of people in finance aren’t great at networking and aren’t great at building up relationships and other resources around them. While CEOs are often great at networking within the dental industry, CFOs generally aren’t. We tend to be heads-down, working on our internal business, often failing to build up a network of peers. I decided I wanted to break that mold, or that stereotype. And it turns out finance leaders love to network and help each other – essentially mastermind together.

A couple years ago I convinced myself there was a real need that no one was solving. So I decided to try to, in some small way, fill that need. I created a slide deck with a mantra and basic vision, and I approached a group of dental CFOs I was already connecting with on a monthly basis. They all loved the idea, so I decided to go for it, and the Dental Finance Forum was born.

The whole impetus behind it was to get finance leaders to hang out once a month and help each other. If there were any follow-up or one-off conversations that needed to occur following the meeting, then they could happen. And dozens and dozens of those have occurred and great relationships have formed as a result. We have also connected as Dental Finance Forum members at various conferences, commandeering whatever meeting space we could find and having face-to-face conversations and masterminds.

Since our very first meeting, we’ve held monthly mastermind meetings. Consistency is key! And we’ve started to explore some other opportunities and ways that we can help each other.

The DEO: What are some of the common topics or challenges discussed?

Kaufman: Revenue cycle management is one we talk about a lot; how to build the team, what technology and what software to use and implement, what outsource partners are available to help, etc. And honestly, it’s liquid gold, because everybody’s trying to figure this out. Patient financing is another common topic. We frequently compare notes on vendors, attorneys, and outsource partners of all types, sharing their strengths and weaknesses and helping each other make good decisions in all of those areas, and more. We share software solutions we have successfully and not successfully implemented. We share best practices regarding associate compensation models, practice management software, equity models, lending solutions, and so much more. The world of dental finance is tremendously complex, and dental finance leaders have a lot to accomplish and a lot of responsibility to help their organizations grow, mitigate risk, and serve all the stakeholders in their organizations. It is a fun and exhilarating responsibility but can be overwhelming. Whatever shortcuts we can help each other find brings tremendous value. Without the Dental Finance Forum, finance leaders are left to fumble their way through things, learning from making some mistakes and iterating and pivoting through what can be a painful process. My hope is that the members of the Dental Finance Forum shortcut, or even completely circumvent, as much of that as possible by their interactions with one another. 

Another big topic is how to form and then implement the DSO structure and documents. This is common for those that want to grow up from just supporting a small group of dental practices to putting a more formal infrastructure in place that will allow nonclinical partners to be a part of the organization and possibly even invest. With this topic comes the best way to structure fees and create alignment with everyone in the company. The list of topics and discussion points goes on and on, but hopefully this gives the readers a basic sense of what we focus on.

DEO: Do you have an example of where a finance leader implemented a solution discussed during the Dental Finance Forum?

Kaufman: There are dozens. Many have been able to overcome years of frustration with implementing the DSO structure in just one meeting with the Dental Finance Forum. 

In one example, a CFO was struggling with how to build-out a centralized revenue cycle management team. This CFO was brilliant to ask the group for insights on this. With all the great minds on the call, this finance leader walked away with implementable processes and procedures that they could run with the next day, including how to build the team, how to set up the core accountabilities, and how to drive a very favorable outcome. I would guess we saved that CFO at least an entire year of piecing it together, and probably hundreds of thousands of dollars “learning” the best practices. 

DEO: Do you have any long-term or short-term goals for the Dental Forum you can share? 

Kaufman: In the short-term we are implementing a more in-depth and value-added Dental Finance Forum for members of the DEO. For the larger groups in DEO with experienced finance leaders, we offer an exclusive monthly mastermind. This is a huge value for the dentist entrepreneurs who join the DEO – each of them get to send their finance leader to this monthly meeting and other opportunities to connect. For the smaller groups with less seasoned finance leaders, we have a monthly coaching session where I work with them to address their questions and help them apply the basic dental finance concepts to help their groups professionalize the finance function to lay a foundation for growth. Again, this brings tremendous value to dentist entrepreneurs who don’t have the background or experience to train and coach their finance leaders. This is just one of the reasons why I recommend the DEO to so many dentists trying to build a group of practices.

Along with those DEO groups, we’ve implemented something similar at the ADSO, wherein Taylor Hawes, the CFO at Pacific Dental, and I run a study group that meets once every other month. Again, very much like the mastermind structure of the Dental Finance Forum, but exclusively available for the finance leaders of companies that are members of the ADSO.

DEO: You’ve got a DSO finance book coming out in the end of November. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Kaufman: Sure, this has been a great project I’ve been thinking about and working on for a while. I wanted to create something that would make dental finance concepts accessible to all, even to those who say they aren’t good at math or that claim to struggle with understanding numbers. To accomplish this, I asked my daughter, who is majoring in English and Journalism in college, to help me write the book. We created a fictitious character named Julia, a budding dentist entrepreneur with five dental practices. The story follows Julia and her experiences as a dentist entrepreneur, including the roadblocks and problems that dentist entrepreneurs hit when they don’t have the finance part of their business where it needs to be. In the story, Julia reluctantly finds a finance leader who helps her overcome a myriad of problems by implementing the 9 financial clarity tools outlined in the book. So my daughter created this character named Julia, and I supplied all the technical content on how to implement the clarity tools that Julia so desperately needs. My daughter, Ashley and I, sincerely hope this work will help as many dentist entrepreneurs and their finance leaders as possible. I’ve been a finance leader for almost 20 years, and in dental almost as long. I think this book will resonate with the target audience and provide digestible and actionable insights in a meaningful and impactful way. 

Want to learn more, or sign up for the Dental Finance Forum? 

About Ken Kaufman, President & CFO of Nuvia Dental Implant Centers

Ken Kaufman earned a B.S. in business from Brigham Young University and an MBA in finance and entrepreneurship from the University of Georgia, where his peers selected him as the most outstanding student. Between his excellent academic record and his subsequent years of experience in executive roles for high-growth companies, Ken is a sought-after leader in all things dental finance. 

Prior to Nuvia Dental Implant Centers, Ken was CFO of Community Dental Partners. He first joined CDP in 2016, at a time when the organization needed to upgrade its financial leadership having expanded from 7 supported practices to 20. He was an integral part in helping the organization grow to 80 locations.

Ken has received many accolades throughout his career, such as being awarded Utah Business Magazine’s CFO of the year and making their top 40 under 40. He will shortly be publishing a book on dental finance, and he regularly hosts podcasts on DSO Secrets. Despite his many achievements, he still gets an enormous kick out of his role in supporting clinicians as they build a new practice, welcome their first patients, and start making a real difference to their communities.

Ken has been happily married for almost 25 years and has 8 children. He loves spending time with family, serving in his church, and fitting in cycling, mountain biking, and an occasional triathlon to keep himself humble.