There is always time for kindness. Often leaders feel they need to “rule with an iron fist.” While that may work in the short term, it is never a recipe for long-term success. Treat those around you with kindness and respect and it will be reciprocated.
As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Joseph Field.
Dr. Field specializes in dental implants and esthetic restoration, but he’s much more than an implant and cosmetic expert: he’s distinguished for his gentle and caring chairside manner, his expertise in cosmetic and implant dentistry, and his use of advanced dental technology to guarantee the best clinical results.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Happy to. When I started my undergraduate education, my plan was to get a degree in mechanical engineering and then go on to get an MBA from there. I liked the creation side of engineering but also had an interest in business and wanted to be on that side of the profession. After my first year of college, I spent some time in Colombia as a service volunteer. While there, I was introduced to a group of volunteer dentists called “Operation Smile.” I was so impressed with the work they did, and how they changed lives, that upon my return home I switched my focus to dentistry.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I have countless stories beginning with the challenges of getting into dental school, to dental school itself, and then to growing a dental practice. In speaking to a group of young entrepreneurs, Elon Musk said, “If you need inspiring words, don’t do it.” While there is certainly some truth to this, running a business can be a lonely, frustrating, and quite challenging experience. However, as low as the lows can be, the highs are beyond compare. I believe you need to position yourself and your business as such that failure would be so catastrophic you are left with no option but to press on and succeed.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
When I was in dental school my wife broke a back tooth and needed a crown. When doing work in dental school everything takes much longer. This was a new experience for my wife, and I could see her patience and tolerance were fading as time went on. We got through it and 14 years later that tooth is still doing great, but she still talks about that being her worst dental experience ever. Fortunately, I have been able to give her some positive dental experiences in my practice since dental school. Take away — be careful working with family.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Nobody likes going to the dentist, there are so many horror stories I hear from patients and it makes me sad for them and sad for my profession. We pride ourselves on creating the best dental experience for all of our patients. Here is a story that one of our patients shared online:
“There is no way I could adequately articulate how Dr. Field has changed my life. It’s just a smile, right? Let me start by saying how terrified I was of going to the dentist. After years of treatment by an uncle, who I’m sure meant well but should have stopped being a dentist well before I came along, followed by others who I’m sure also had good intentions but who dismissed my fears and never took the time to fully understand my mouth, my teeth, my overall health and more importantly how one impacted the other, I gave up. I was tired of going to a dentist only to be berated about how I didn’t brush or floss enough or any number of other things. I was tired of getting dental procedures from providers who gave little thought to my fear and comfort or why I seemed to have so many issues. It got to the point where I could not even sit in the dentist chair without physically shaking — honestly, it’s a wonder I did not loosen the chair from the floor. However, when you suddenly realize that your daughter’s wedding is 3 months away and research is smacking you in the face with how much the health of your mouth/teeth impacts your overall health — cardiovascular, dementia, cancer….you realize you need to do something.
Covid made everything more complicated of course but I set off to find someone who could help me. I did numerous “virtual” appointments with several providers who all had raving reviews and advertised “painless” dentistry. I knew it would take a lot for me to trust and feel comfortable with anyone. Many of those I spoke with were pleasant, but I still felt like they were passing judgement — I didn’t need anyone to tell me how bad my teeth were or how ghastly they looked — believe me I was more than aware. I had been dealing with my mouth for years and made a point to not smile with an open mouth when I sat in board meetings, interviewed clients, or even socialized. Then I met Dr. Field and that was the start of relationship that has profoundly changed my world.
From day 1, Dr. Field has been thorough, thoughtful, and compassionate. He has listened to me, heard me, and addressed all my concerns and my fears. He has given me a complete smile makeover and at times, it has been scary. However, he has always acknowledged my fears and made sure that any pain I was experiencing was addressed — this is huge for me. I have a fairly high pain tolerance, but we all have our limits and research has shown that you heal faster when pain is addressed, and you are able to sleep. I am so thankful that I found Dr. Field and I still become a bit emotional when I think about how much he has improved my quality of life, how others respond to my new smile, how I no longer shy away from the camera, how much better I feel about myself and the comfort that I get knowing that my overall health is being addressed.”
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
When running a practice and committing yourself to provide the highest level of care to your patients, it becomes very easy to obsess and only think about your work. This is when burn out can sneak in. You get one crack at life, and as dedicated as we are, it is important to stop and smell the roses from time to time. I really believe it’s not about the destination but the journey; you need to take time to reflect, meditate, and enjoy the moment. Also, getting some regular exercise helps keep you sane.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Wow, there are so many. From my wife, parents, siblings, church leaders I had growing up, to several of my faculty members at dental school. If I had to choose just one, it would be my former partner who retired years ago. As a new dentist and new business owner, he modeled the behavior of a caring leader. I would say my nature is to be demanding of myself and those around me. My former partner helped me see that you need to treat people as though they are the people they can be, not necessarily as they are.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
A good company is a profitable company. A great company is a profitable company that understands the needs and wants of its clients and finds the best way to deliver them elegantly and efficiently. It truly is about the experience that is created for people. When the focus is on creating that special experience, it is amazing to see the success and growth that follows.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Never settle. Once you think you have arrived, you are already on your way down. We are constantly evaluating and re-evaluating what we do and how we can make it better.
- Collaboration is king. You must have talented people around you to succeed for the long term. Empower those people to grow and lead. Collaborate with them, do not dictate or micro-manage.
- Be humble. The more success you achieve the more you realize that the success comes from the help of others.
- There is always time for kindness. Often leaders feel they need to “rule with an iron fist.” While that may work in the short term, it is never a recipe for long-term success. Treat those around you with kindness and respect and it will be reciprocated.
- Be Grateful. An attitude of gratitude can change the world around you. Gratitude is a powerful emotion that changes others more than anything else.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
You hear the phrase “people over profits” thrown around, but few companies really understand that or follow it. Balance sheets, profit and loss statements often only drive business decisions. While important, those do not make real change. When a company has a “why” that extends beyond profits and focus on making people’s lives better, they will succeed to an extent far beyond a numbers driven business.
What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes we get caught with a sort of tunnel vision in what we are doing with our business. Getting the perspective from a consultant, coach, or colleague can help open up our thinking to new ideas and innovations to restart the growth engines.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
We first got to experience that during the 2008/2009 downturn. During that time, we expanded the services offered to our patients to have a more diversified practice. The result of that was double-digit growth. Now, with a global pandemic, it is a whole new problem. With less people wanting to come into the office, we have become very creative with our use of tele-medicine, which has helped reduce costs and connect with more people. Challenges create opportunities, and you need to be able to identify and adapt quickly.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Time. Time is your greatest asset, most valuable commodity, and greatest liability. If you aren’t willing to commit to effective and efficient use of time, then stick to a 9–5 punch in and punch out job. When running a company, there will be times when you never “clock out.” Hopefully that isn’t a common occurrence, but it will happen, and you need to be ready and willing for that.
As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
Emotional connections. Most people buy things based on emotion. In my business, I can clinically show people why they need the services I offer, and they couldn’t care less. They need to emotionally feel that what I do will make their life better.
Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
That takes time and raving clients. We always put our clients first and make sure to always do right by them. With this consistent effort and focus, it has created a reputation for our business as being fair, honest, and doing the highest quality work.
Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
Honestly, it’s the little things. For example, when a patient goes through a smile makeover with us, we have flowers, or an edible arrangement delivered to their house so that it is there when they get home. We have created a spa like experience in the office with paraffin hand wax, aromatherapy etc. for our patients. You have to focus on the little things to get people’s attention and show you really care.
What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.
Social media is the new reality for business marketing. I dragged my feet on this for a while, but it has become clear that if your business isn’t willing to put itself out there and engage with clients on social media you will not thrive in today’s economy.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Over-extending themselves. As CEO’s and founders, we think we can do it all. This is not true; you need to focus on your team and creating a great leadership group within your organization. Many hands make for light work. Having the right team members doing the things that they are best at is crucial for early success and exponential growth.
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
One of the programs we launched is called “Smiles for Troops.” Once a year on Veterans Day we offer free dental care for those who have served in the armed forces. It’s a small thing that is one of the highlights of our year. I think all organizations should look for ways to give back to those who have served us or are underserved.
How can our readers further follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!