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Leading a DSO through the COVID Pandemic

It took 10 years for Rodeo Dental in Texas to grow to 30 practices. It had established itself as one of the premier dental support organizations in the country, with 50,000 five-star reviews on Google, multiple awards, and a proven model for general dentistry and multi-specialty services in each practice.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

“It felt like we went from 30 to zero practices because of the lockdown,” said Saam Zarrabi, DDS, the CEO and co-founder of Rodeo Dental. “We were doing emergency only, so we had to quickly mobilize.”

How do you lead a DSO through a pandemic? You need a combination of solid leadership, innovation, and incredible team culture.

Rodeo Dental Core Value: Patient Safety is Paramount

Rodeo Dental’s first core value is patient safety, and the team quickly mobilized around that. “We created a theme that we call team health and family safety, and it was integrated into five areas,” Dr. Zarrabi explained. The scope included:

  • Elite-level COVID-19 Education
  • Enhanced Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Patient Screening Process
  • Advanced Cleaning and Sterilization Protocol
  • Comprehensive COVID-19 Testing for all Staff

“Everybody’s doing the temperature checks and screening questions, but part of Rodeo’s culture is to make things fun and engaging,” said Dr. Zarrabi. In a video with Patient Prism CEO Amol Nirgudkar, Dr. Zarrabi shares the patient safety videos they made, the fun wristbands they created for kids, the pins they made for team members, and how they kept their pop spirit going strong.

Addressing Team Members Fears About COVID-19

Like many practices, Rodeo Dental had employees who were nervous about returning to work. Dr. Zarrabi and his team started holding weekly town halls on Zoom to address concerns, share company updates, and bring in special guests including infection control specialists, the directors of local hospitals, and state legislators.

Rodeo Dental also partnered with a lab to provide COVID-19 testing for all Rodeo Dental team members. That went a long way toward making team members feel safe.

“I saw so many stories of team members volunteering during the lockdown to see emergency patients,” said Dr. Zarrabi. “And when we reopened, everything came right back down to our mission. Our goal is to give every family the key to high-end dentistry, and that commitment never wavered. Employees stepped up and collaborated between operations, human resources, finance, everyone came together to figure out how we’re going to build this up and ultimately deliver the best patient experience. It brings tears to your eyes with what you see daily.”

Reimagining a Great Workplace Culture

Rodeo Dental has won multiple awards for being one of best companies to work for in Fort Worth. Last year, it also received a GIIRS Gold Award and was named as a Certified B-Corp, which the New York Times called “a scorecard for companies with a conscience.”

Team members would get together for onboardings, trainings and celebrations. They liked to have fun and collaborate. They enjoyed hanging out with each other. They also gave back to the community, paying the way for 30 teenagers to attend the Leap Foundation leadership conference at UCLA each year.

COVID disrupted all of that.

“This virus just rips through, not just our company culture, but organizations around the world, and it did it instantly,” said Dr. Zarrabi. “It creates separation. You can’t even touch or hug each other anymore. It instantly challenges the culture of the practices in a way you could never have imagined.”

Dr. Zarrabi and his team started figuring out new ways to communicate. The weekly Zoom town halls were just a start. In April, Rodeo Dental launched Rodeo MIX, an intranet with an activity feed that celebrates team achievements, birthdays, anniversaries, and cool stories. It includes training tools and visibility into key performance indicators. Best of all, it allows people to connect again.

“It’s been an instant hit. The team loves it and we’re having a lot of fun with it,” laughed Dr. Zarrabi.

The team also found a way to still help local kids participate in the Leap Foundation leadership conference. They arranged for over 1,000 students to attend conference, held virtually, this year.

In the midst of adversity, the team rose to the challenge.

Creating a DSO Situation Room to Monitor KPIs

One of the keys to Rodeo Dental’s success has been its attention to detail. In 2014, it developed a “Situation Room” where data experts review metrics and look for opportunities to enhance patient care. Developers have built more than 400 proprietary dashboards to monitor key performance indicators and patient cases. It includes more than 30 applications that integrate with different systems and software.

Best of all, it enables different systems to talk to each other, breaking down the traditional siloes between the practice management systems used by different specialists and general dentists.

That improves the patient experience. Having data at their fingertips enables team members to know if a patient recently had a birthday or is celebrating any kind of milestone. It lets them know if the patient might be a candidate for an additional service, such as an ortho check, or may be overdue for a service, such as a cleaning.

It provides real-time insights into patient care, all easily accessible to the team members at corporate headquarters and in the practices.

Since the practices reopened in June, there have been some interesting insights. One of these is an improved show rate. Rodeo Dental’s loyalty team makes calls to confirm appointments one week prior, three days prior, and the day before. Those conversations allow Rodeo Dental to ask all the necessary screening questions as well as talk through the patient experience so the patient knows what to expect. The conversation around awareness and education has eased patients’ concerns and reduced the no-show rate.

It all goes back to culture. By making the extra effort, Rodeo Dental’s team is building relationships with their patients. And that supports their main goal: to make high-end dentistry available to every family.

For more insights with Dr. Zarraba, enjoy the video.

Dental Practice Resources

Is your hygiene schedule looking light? Patient Prism also asked Rachel Wall, RDH, founder of Inspired Hygiene for her tips to fill the hygiene schedule this Fall. Click here to download “5 Ways to Avoid a Hygiene Schedule Nightmare.”

For our guide to Converting More Calls During COVID-19, click here

For Patient Prism’s guide called Comeback Strategies for Dentists, click here.

For Patient Prism’s guide for Marketing Strategies During COVID-19, click here.

For Patient Prism's guide on Teledentistry Options, click here.

For Patient Prism's guide on Staying Safe in the Dental Practice, click here.

About this Industry Leader:

Rachel Wall, RDH, BS - Profile Pic

Saam Zarrabi, DDS

CEO & Co-Founder, Rodeo Dental & Orthodontics

Dr. Saam Zarrabi co-founded Rodeo Dental in 2009 with a simple mission:  make high-end dentistry available and convenient for every family.  In the past decade, the multi-disciplinary group grew to 30 locations in Texas, has more than 5,000 five-star reviews on Google, and earned a reputation as one of the best places to work in Fort Worth.

Dr. Zarrabi has received multiple awards for his leadership and vision. Fort Worth INC magazine named him an Entrepreneur of Excellence Winner in 2019 and Fort Worth Magazine named Rodeo Dental one of its "Top Dentists" for five years and counting.  Dr. Zarrabi is involved in multiple professional organizations including the CAMBRA Coalition, Young Presidents Organization, and the Crown Council. He sits on the Board of the Pacific Dugoni Foundation Executive Committee and the Board of the National CAMBRA Coalition.

Dr. Zarrabi is committed to making a difference in the community. In 2020, Rodeo Dental sent over 1,000 high school students to the virtual LEAP Foundation leadership summit. Dr. Zarrabi is also active with the Dentists Who Care organization. 

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