Almost everyone would agree that a visit to the dentist’s office is not the most exciting thing out there. Anyone who could make others think otherwise must have been doing something extraordinary, and today’s guest is someone who is doing precisely that! In this episode, Steve Farber interviews Justin Joffe, the CEO and co-founder of HENRY The Dentist, about what it is that makes them unique in the world of dentistry. At the very core, Justin is helping change people’s perceptions about these dreaded trips by delivering a culture of kindness. It is difficult to deny how easily we could forget about finding the time to take care of preventative health, such as our dental needs. On top of the fear and anxiety, it also does not afford us the convenient dental experience, enough to make those emotional frustrations melt away. Find out how HENRY The Dentist’s approach to dentistry is helping address this problem by creating a fantastic culture that reaches even to their corporate office. He imparts with you some very helpful tips and tricks that could also help your business succeed, no matter what industry you are in; because if Justin can do it in something that is widely-viewed to be frightening, then there is no reason you can’t too.
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Henry The Dentist: Delivering A Culture Of Kindness With Justin Joffe
My guest is Justin Joffe, who is the CEO and Cofounder of a company called HENRY The Dentist. He is going to tell us the HENRY The Dentist story, and what is it that makes them unique and different in the world of dentistry. To give you a little context for who Justin is and what the company is about. The idea for HENRY The Dentist started in 2016, and it was derived from the personal frustration of the founders who are Justin, his wife, Alex, and their experience in the difficulty in trying to find a doctor or an optometrist or a dentist who took their health insurance and who also worked hours that would fit in their busy working person’s schedule. They saw an opportunity to improve the way healthcare, particularly dentistry, was being delivered.
They joined forces with their longtime friend, Dr. Jeffrey Rappaport and they founded HENRY The Dentist. One year later, HENRY saw its first patient, which was on September 12, 2017 in New Jersey, and they haven’t looked back. This is a very interesting and unusual not only approach to dentistry, but a fantastic culture. To the point wherein their corporate office, the words, “Be kind” are written for everybody to see and as a standard for everybody to live up to. I’m sure you’ll enjoy my conversation with Justin Joffe.
Justin, thank you so much for being here with me. I look forward to hearing the HENRY The Dentist story, as well as the Justin Joffe story. Let’s hear both.
In the words of your welcome, they’re one and the same. It’s an extension of me. I’m happy to tell you the story of me and HENRY, a little bit of both of us.
Let’s start with the concept of HENRY The Dentist. I want to hear a little bit about the story. There’s got to be a story behind the name of the company. Let’s start with the concept. Tell us about the company.
HENRY The Dentist, we provide onsite dental care for employees at large corporate offices. The idea came out of my own needs as a typical consumer. I’m a healthy young guy. I take care of myself. I go to the gym but I can’t tell you when the last time was that I went for a dental cleaning. Like many others, I haven’t found the time to take care of preventative health. It’s something that we push off. Most people have teeth and most of them have most teeth. We all have dental needs. It’s something that you need multiple times a year and your needs go up over time. Your time availability goes down as we get older and more mature.
We’re more likely to have senior careers that are more difficult to take time off. We’re more likely to commute for work. We’re more likely to change cities or jobs at different plans. Our dentists may have retired. We have kids at home that we don’t have the time to go and take care of ourselves, and we’re taking care of our kids. The idea for this became out of the movement that healthcare will start to become something that gets delivered when, where, and how people want. We’ve seen the consumerization of many different industries. The dental industry has remained stagnant, fragmented, and unbranded. I’ll tell you more about my story and my wife’s story, with whom I started the company. We come from a brand and retail experience background. We wanted to make the dental experience more consumer-centric and more convenient.
From your own experience, you said something like, “I’m not going to tell you the last time I went.” I may be an exception to the rule, but I look forward to going to the dentist. No, I’m kidding. What you’re saying is you saw this gap. There’s the need for easy dental care. There’s this demographic of folks. What I’m inferring from this, if your clients are primarily large corporations, these are people that working hard. They know they have to go to the dentist. They don’t have time. You’re bringing the dentist to them, right?
That’s exactly right. We don’t charge employers. We go to the likes of Unilever, Walmart eCommerce, Audible, Merck & Co., Allergan, and Novartis. Major employers that have 1,000, 2,000, 3,000, 4,000 people per site location, their campuses, or New York City, if maybe 200-300 people in a particular office building. We are in a network with all the major insurance carriers. The big issue is about 50% of people have dental insurance, and the majority of those people get it through their employer. It’s wrapped in benefit. You get your Cigna, Aetna, MetLife, United, and Delta dental plan. Your company provides you with healthcare and maybe they tack in dental. Most people sign up. They don’t know what they have. We fit into the existing ecosystem for a company. It’s a great way for an employer to have a no-cost employee benefit. It helps to utilize their existing plans.
To your point earlier in that statement that you enjoy going to the dentist, the CDC put out a report that said about 40% of people have not gone to the dentist in over a year. We call that the undented population. In the world of DIY healthcare where a company says, “Here is your Cigna, your Delta Dental or your Aetna plan. Now go out and figure out how to use it.” Go find an in-network dentist, go figure out how to navigate these portals, and figure out what you’re covered for. We want to evolve that into a way where consumers have choice and different people engage with healthcare differently. There are many people that don’t know how to do a DIY. By providing an onsite solution is increasing the available options for an employee or a patient to get access to the healthcare that they want to use.
To be clear, for somebody who’s never heard of this concept before, which I was in that category, tell me if I have this right. If I work for a company that you’re serving, I can potentially walk down to a floor in my building and you guys will be there?
We have mobile vehicles. It is a fully outfitted state of the art, high-tech mobile dental practice. We’ve fully custom-built a 38-foot Winnebago shell into a three-chair operatory dental practice. It is the equivalent of a brick and mortar dental practice but delivered on four wheels into the parking lot of a large employer group. We would come on-site about once a quarter. We’d maybe stay there for a week at a time. We have an associate dentist, a dental assistant, two hygienists, and an office manager. We can do everything that you would get in a regular dental practice. We can do cleanings exams, fillings, crowns, night guards, Invisalign, and whitening. Everything that you would have and it’s a state-of-the-art high-tech practice.
Picture this in your head. You’ve got massage feature dental chairs with Bose noise-canceling headphones. You get to watch Netflix and HBO while getting your teeth cleaned by an awesome hygienist with the top 40 music playing. It’s all covered by your insurance like you would if you had to spend four hours going and commuting to an old-style practice with carpeted floors and paper offices. There’s nothing more convenient and nothing from a better brand experience than experiencing HENRY The Dentist in your parking lot if you work at a large employer group.
I’m thinking of massage chair, Bose noise-canceling headphones, great service, all covered by insurance. If we can take the dentist part out of that and have it all be covered by insurance, that would be cool. You’re not a dentist by background or trade or schooling, are you?
No. I started this business with my wife, both of us have a lot of consumer retail backgrounds. We also partnered with a third member of the team, our dental director, Dr. Jeffrey Rappaport, who’s a close friend and a dentist. We brought dental on Dr. Rappaport’s side. My wife, Alex, who started with me together, she had a long career building, Drybar, which is a hair blowout brand, and wore many hats there as director of marketing partnerships and training, and opening up new locations. I was running a retail beauty company. Before that, I worked with my father in an educational company doing online eLearning.
I had a history of family relationship businesses. History of retail, having raised some funding from venture capital and private equity investors. I focus more on longer-term strategy projects, capital raising, operations, and finance. Alex works more on the consumer brand, retail, and frontend experience. Then we have our clinical director that oversees the medical side of the business. The impetus for this came out of a pain point as a consumer, being the target customer of HENRY and then building a team around me to fill in those gaps, that knowledge that I didn’t have.
Where does the name come from?
While we’re the topic of my wife, it’s her favorite name for a child. We both said this is our first baby. As a startup company, you know that you live, breathe, and sleep your business. It’s expensive. It keeps us up at night, it has teething pains. It is like our first child. In all seriousness, from a brand perspective, we wanted to build a brand that was approachable yet still professional, that was fun and playful. Much of dentistry is American Dental, New Jersey Practice of Dr. Joe, and we wanted to redefine the dental experience for patients. We are B2B brands, so we have to be professional and elevated to large employer groups. As a patient is trusting their healthcare with us so we have to make sure that from healthcare and clinical perspective, we are top-notch. We have experienced providers. We have top of the line technology.
We spare no expense, but it’s the brand experience from the first time the patient interacts with us on our website to the emotional feeling when they walk up to the practice with music playing on the outside, to the smells and scents inside. It doesn’t smell like a dental practice. We have a lot of fun at the word HENRY. Our logo is an upside-down crown molar in the shape of the crown. We have a lot of puns around dental crowns and royalty. We use a lot of that language throughout our branding. We’ve taken what used to be a stale and stodgy industry and made it fun and approachable. It’s still professional and HENRY for us stands for that.
Let’s use the name of the company as a doorway into the company itself. I would love to hear a little bit about the culture that you guys have created already and where you see it going. Let’s start with the nuts and bolts. How many employees do you have right now?
We’re at 75.
Is there a difficulty in recruiting dentists for this? It would seem to me that if I come out of dental school, for example, the traditional path is I’m going to start my practice or I’m going to take over a practice or I’m going to buy a practice. What are the advantages that you’re offering to a dentist to come work with you guys versus hanging out their shingle, as it were?
There are a couple of buckets of things you hit on. One, culture and two, recruiting and retention and attraction. Part of the mission of starting this business 0 to 1, I’ve worked in many businesses over the last fifteen years. This is the first where I started from scratch on a piece of paper where I said, “I want to build in the right industry, with the right business model, right investors, and team culture.” Everyone in the company that I certainly believed in something that I want to spend the next 10, 15 years building. Part of the objective of building this was not to change the dental experience for patients but to change a dental experience for providers and dentists. Can we build a culture and a company that on its own can be part of the reason they’re able to attract, keep, retain, and grow our talent inside the company?
There are two schools of thought. Like the Richard Branson approach I think is much more in your camp of focus on your people then they will deliver a great customer experience versus the Steve Jobs of build a great product, work people to death and the customers will be there because you have a great product. I’m more on the, “If you take care of your people, they will take care of your customers. Those customers will come back and you’ll have a wonderful business.” Start with your people through how you recruit, how you train, how you develop, how you promote, how you incentivize, and how you take care of them emotionally and financially. That was a very important part of the overall structure of how we approach to culture. We have three core values at HENRY. These values are not just words that we stick up on a wall. These are from the fifteen years of experience in living, breathing, dreaming, sleeping the good, the bad, the ugly of business.
The first core value is to be kind. Be a good human being. That means having good energy, positivity, positive attitude, and working well with others. That’s your soft skills in how you do what you do. The second part is to be exceptional in what you do. It’s all good and well if you’re a nice person, but you also have to be good at your job. You have to do accurate work. You have to be attentive to detail. You have to have strong communication skills. If you have great communication skills and you’re good at a job but you’re horrible to work with, that isn’t going to work either. You have to have a combination of the two.
When you say it’s that combination of kindness and competence, the first place I went to when I was thinking about that was for your dentist team. It’s obvious there because if your dentist is nice and they hurt you and screw up your teeth in the process, that’s a deal-breaker. What you’re saying is, if I’m hearing you correctly, if that’s true for whatever you do in the company.
If you’re an office manager and you don’t bill accurately in the ledger. If you’re in a marketing person and you have a spelling error in an email that goes out to 3,000 people. If you’re in operations and you didn’t fix the piece of machinery properly and the vehicle is down as a result. If you’re in customer service and you don’t know to turn on your Zendesk or turn off your Zendesk, so no one can get through to you on the phone. Every single role in the company, you have a job definition, a job description to be effective at what you do. The cultural pieces are do you have positive energy? Do you care? Are you nice? Do you have empathy? Do you have the emotional intelligence on how to communicate and use of chameleon skills and how you handle a situation, your EQ? Your confidence is vital in every single role. Otherwise, you can’t build an effective high scaling, fast-growing company.
The third value, which I haven’t talked about yet, is to act like an owner. The first two will get you to get a job and keep a job. The act like an owner is how you grow within the company. Acting like an owner is thinking outside the four walls of your role and thinking broader to say, “How can I improve the business? How can I improve my role today?” I wake up every single morning and I say, “What is the thing that I can do that will most affect the value of the company today? How do I want to use my time to be the most productive and most impactful?” Sometimes that’s a very minutiae detail in the business. The most effective thing I can do is physically be in the field. The most effective thing I can do is to solve one specific problem at a very granular level.
The best thing I can do is get out of the way, let the organization function without me getting in the middle of it and go figure out the next moonshot of where we should be as an organization in the next 3-5 years. The same way with every single person in their role. If you’re a director of marketing, operations, or finance, a customer service representative, a manager of an event team, a hygienist or a dental assistant, an office manager, or a doctor, how do you take the best practices of what you’ve learned and all of the other practices that you’ve worked at? Bring them into HENRY and also be open to the idea that we could be doing things a little bit different to the industry that are good for the overall way that we should be going about running this business. If you combine being a good human, kind person with being good at what you do from a tactical perspective and you think outside the box and you act like an owner, that to me is a winning combination of an A-player on the team.
Do you look for those characteristics in people starting with the interview process, the hiring process?
We’ve taken those core values and we’ve flown them through in every cycle from recruiting filtering to the interview questions, to the onboarding process, and the 90-day reviews. We further involve those in promotions and integrated them with rituals. I’m a big believer in rituals in building and sustaining culture. Every Tuesday morning, we have a Town Hall Call. Communication structure is important for everyone. It’s not having meeting fatigue, but also making sure that you don’t have a siloed organization. What is the right frequency, duration, cadence, and attendance for those different meetings, and what format, whether it’s in person or virtual by video or by phone? A mix of those appropriate for different people, different departments, and different seniority.
We have a diverse workforce over four different states. We’re based in New Jersey. We have operations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and Georgia. These little teams are five and every individual mobile practice can feel very isolated and not connected with the thread or the culture that we’re building centrally in our corporate office. For one, I use the word corporate there intentionally, but we don’t use the word corporate as a company. We use the support center. Our support center supports the field. They don’t work for us. We’re not directing them on what to do. Our job is to make them as effective as humanly possible.
We call our central functions a support center. On that Tuesday Town Hall Call, which everyone dials at 8:00 AM. We start with shout-outs, celebrations, birthdays, anniversaries, and promotions. We go to our KPI drivers, where are we out on a performance basis. We go through major announcements, but the shout-out section highlights someone that has demonstrated one of those three core values at an exceptional level over the course of the last week. I’ll get into the doctor recruiting and retention piece in a second. We want them to be leaders of their practice.Acting like an owner is thinking outside of the four walls of your role and thinking broader. Click To Tweet
Every week they submit nominations for shoutouts and they’ll say, “This hygienist, last week we had a patient in the door who was fearful of the dentist. The hygienist held their hand, they took their time. They walked into the experience. They demonstrate kindness at an exceptional level. We want to call out the value of be kind with this hygienist and this patient.” “Someone else did a great job marketing at an event table to bring patients in the door and they exceeded their number and set a new record. That person’s exceptional in what they do.” That is an example of that. We thread those values through promotions, rituals, the shout outs, and Town Halls. Everything from recruiting all the way through determinations and promotions, we embed that and we don’t just stick it on words on a wall.
One of the things that caught my attention about HENRY The Dentist was what my bias is. Given that the name of this show and the name of my book is Love is Just Damn Good Business. There’s a great picture on your website that the words on the wall are, “We are what we do,” with the words, “Be kind,” written over it. I looked at that and I said, “That’s my kind of company right there.”
That’s in our customer service center pasted on the wall. You are 100% right.
My point is that what you guys have done taken these three values of kindness, being good at what you do, and acting like an owner. Instead of what a lot of companies do, which is laminate them on wallet-sized cards, hand them out to everybody, and then write them on the wall. You’re asking the question, if we believe in these things, if they are values, then they should also be operating principles. That means they should apply at every level of the employee experience and the customer experience. What does it look like? What does kindness, competence and ownership look like at every level of the process?
When you’re translating that into action, you’re reinforcing it through those rituals and you’re putting it on the wall. When you put it on the wall like that, which is again to reiterate, as far as a lot of companies will take it, but once you put it on the wall, you’re writing it on the wall and you’re putting a stake in the ground. You’re saying, “We’re publicly declaring that this is what we’re all about. Therefore, your employees, your customers have permission to hold us accountable to this.” How do you deal with the back to the gaps? How do you deal with the gap between the intention and the behavior? Let’s say, we’re not living up to it in some way or we’re getting feedback that suggests that we’re not. What happens then?
We have a lot of trainings and team meetings. At one of the most recent all hands, we brought the book, Radical Candor by Kim Scott for everyone in the company. I’m not sure if you’ve read that wonderful book about how to have difficult conversations. A lot of people confuse the word kind with soft. I am not soft. I’m a very nice person. I’m a kind person, but I am not soft. I have a high bar for output and expectation and quality. I will have no qualms with having that conversation with you. I’m not going to scream about it. I’m not going to throw shit at you. I’m not going to act at the turn of the bad person when I’m in an honest conversation. I don’t use the parenting, “I’m disappointed in you,” because I think that’s condescending.
I’ll have a real conversation and say, “This is the work output. This is what it should be. This is what it is. Do you see the gap or how would you ever improve that? How can we make this better next time? I talk to people like human beings. Don’t talk to them like you’re their boss or their manager. Talk to them with respect but have an honest conversation to hold them accountable for the standard that you’re setting. When someone’s not self-aware enough to either understand the feedback if they’re defensive, they’re arrogant in their ability to hear and act on that feedback, or if someone doesn’t know how to deliver the feedback, that’s where you have a problem.
Sometimes when someone’s defensive of our feedback, it’s not the person who’s defensive. It’s the person who’s delivering the feedback that doesn’t know how to effectively deliver the feedback. Everyone’s default is that person’s defensive. Maybe it’s because you had the wrong time, the wrong message, the wrong medium. Your intent was good, but the problem was the person giving the feedback, not the person receiving the feedback. Sometimes it’s the person receiving the feedback, they’re not self-aware and arrogant.
The art of building and sustaining this culture is having that EQ to know the difference between the two. Don’t be soft, hold your team accountable, have an honest conversation, but don’t be condescending. Don’t overly formalize. You don’t have to create a 90-day PIP. For every action, take quick, regular constant feedback. The more feedback you give and the more real it is, the easier it is. It’s no longer a big deal. It’s not a big deal for me to tell you this could be better. If I have to do it only every 90 days or six months, then yes, it’s a big deal.
It’s an important point that I want to shine the spotlight on here. We have this tendency, I mean the broad we, the cultural business we have this tendency to equate kindness with softness. Even more so with the word love in the context, it makes people squirmy because they’re afraid that that means, “I love you, so do whatever you want.” Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s interesting, one of the ways that I’ve tried to help people understand what love looks like in a business context is almost verbatim to what you described. It’s kindness combined with high expectations. These kinds of qualities, characteristics, and attributes of a positive human relationship, words like kindness, love, compassion, and empathy, all these important words. As far as our human experience goes, when put in a business context, it raises expectations and raises the bar. It doesn’t lower it because if I love this place, if we’re being kind to each other, if we’re acting as owners, that means that our standards go up, not down.
People respond well to it. You’d be shocked at how well people respond to good feedback delivered well. A lot of managers, especially new managers, avoid conflict. They want everyone to love them. It’s more about people loving them, then the demonstration of love to the company. People want to be liked, especially they’re promoted from a lateral position, into a new manager position, or they’re a new person in the organization brought from the outside. They want to be loved themselves. That is selfish. I don’t use the word emotionally weak, but it’s more like self-preservation. I want to make sure that if my job depends on other people like me, I will be therefore more successful and they avoid conflict. It’s super interesting. We rolled out performance reviews and all of the first effort performance reviews of people to give them any of their direct reports were all at five out of five.
We set the bar on quality expectations. I understand that having a difficult conversation is not being kind. It’s the opposite. By not telling someone honestly what you expect and not helping to coach them to be better, you’re not being kind at all. In the back of your mind, you’re, “I’m probably going to look to replace this person because they’re underperforming.” That’s not kindness. Kindness is having a difficult conversation with someone to get them to a place where they are performing to your level so that they have more job security and maybe promoted later down the line.
When you and Alex first started thinking about this company, there’s something you said that I believe there’s critical. That is my experience, most entrepreneurs overlook. That is from the very beginning, not only did you have the concept for the service and the product and you’re developing the brand. You had very clear expectations from the beginning that culture was something that you had to build right from the start. A lot of entrepreneurs don’t even think about it. They’re enthusiastic about the product or service that they’re offering, which they should be. They get the ball rolling and they have employees and they have a customer base. They look around and they’re like, “What our culture?” The fact of the matter is that culture exists everywhere. It’s not like you’re creating a culture that wouldn’t have existed. Without putting attention on it, you won’t have a culture. You always have a culture. The question is, is it the kind of culture that’s going to serve what you’re trying to do as a business? Is that going to attract the right kind of people, the right kind of customers, and give you a basis from which to grow? You guys did that right from the outset if I’m hearing you right.
Part of it is from the experience you’ve had is both Alex and I have seen companies with turnover. Turnover is very costly. You not only lose institutional knowledge, you have the cost of rehiring, but the cultural, emotional, and performance impact of the remainder of the team after that person’s left has a significant impact short-term and medium-term. We were thoughtful about saying, “If this person is going to join our team, the first few hires impact culture more than anything. Every employee at every time at every stage affects culture.” You want to make sure that everyone you’re bringing in is consistent with those values and you don’t have a hodgepodge of people with a hodgepodge of values that you’re hoping that luckily luck would be in your favor. That they’ll all kind of form into a culture that you hope. You want to be prescriptive about who you’re hiring, who you’re bringing on the team, and how you’re holding them accountable from day one.
It’s hard to reset expectations later. We were trying to think about the next stage of the company’s growth before we hit it. I’d rather have a lot of early-stage companies and entrepreneurs tend to hire cheaper labor in the beginning, be more penny-wise, pound-foolish to be perfectly honest, and hire utility players across different roles. I would much rather suck it up, be the person that covers three functions, and only hire the one rock star in the one function that I need right now. I’ll hire the second rock star in the second function, and then the third rock star in the third function. Rather than hiring a generalist that can half take off 2 to 3 of the functions from my plate, I’d much rather get to the breaking point where I got to bring on someone in ops and got to make someone else with finance. Day one, I got someone in marketing. I’m going to hire someone in marketing. They’re going to be a rock star marketer and they can grow with me for the next 3 to 5 years. Slowly one by one, you pick your department. You bring that person on, you grow and mentor. Don’t hire utility players that I’m not going to grow through the next 3 to 5 years because the turnover will suck and it’ll be expensive.Sometimes when it comes to feedback, it's not the person who's defensive. It's the person who's delivering the feedback. Click To Tweet
Let’s take a look at where we are now, I’d love to get an idea of where you’re headed in the future with the company and what’s your aspirations are with that. The time that you and I are having this conversation, we’re right in the midst of this Coronavirus, quarantining, and the whole thing. I’m curious how you are navigating this and what role does the HENRY The Dentist value serving in this challenge?
We had a very difficult decision to make when this all hit. The CDC and ADA shut down our business. We were viewed as nonessential. We can see emergency patients here and there, but that’s not anything at the scale of 75 people. We had a difficult decision. How much do you look out for your employees, and do more of the Starbucks ultra-benefits versus being a responsible stakeholder, custodian, the bank account, and making sure that we don’t run out of money, and don’t have a job for people? There was a fine line. We did have to furlough a significant portion of the team. We furloughed effectively the entire company, which sucked, but I think we did it in a very responsible way.
We gave very healthy severances. We helped them with unemployment insurance. We had Town Halls Zoom meetings. We received thank you cards and thank-you notes from people on the team. Handwritten thank you cards for having given a severance the way we did it, the kindness that we exercised. We act as swiftly and boldly to protect the company because otherwise we’d run out of money and we wouldn’t have a job for people when they come back. If we want to truly be in the same way, kindness is sometimes doing the difficult thing. Protecting the company for their job security is the right thing to do. We gave as much as we could while still being reasonably responsible. We spoke at our investors and our board about how much severance, how much payout, what roles to keep in what levels. We have to make a very tough call.
It honestly forced us though to rethink the business on a re-launch and how to be leaner, more efficient, and launched some new innovations. As they say, “Pressure makes diamonds.” We’re hopeful that during these times of uncertainty, we can take this moment of pause to rethink the business and how we re-launched to make sure that we’re leaner with the right people, the right retraining, the right JVs, and the right definitions of roles that everyone comes back with clear understanding. This is the business, we’re back in action. HENRY engines turned back on and we’re going to keep moving forward.
Are you doing any ongoing communication with the folks that have been furloughed?
Legally, we’re not supposed to do much other than a return to work updates. We still keep our rituals. Whether people are checking emails or not is up to them. I still send out a happy birthday email if it’s anyone’s birthdays and happy anniversary if it’s anyone’s anniversary. We still got a lot of reply-alls. We do at another ritual in the company. We do an end of day closing report as every practice at the end of every day. We have huge reply alls from everyone about shout-outs, birthdays celebrations, and anniversaries is called out on the Town Hall. We’re not stopping the rituals. All we’re doing is updating people on the return to work dates, any changes between what they left, and what they’re coming back to. Other than that, we have to respect the furlough.
Looking ahead to the future, we don’t know what the new normal is going to be. We can guess that it’s going to be some combination of the way things were pre-virus with some changes. Let’s assume for a moment because I think this is right and not because I’m a perpetual optimist. We’ll be back in business. Let’s assume we’re back in business and you’re back to doing the great work that you do. What is your vision for the future of HENRY The Dentist? Where do you want to take this? Is there a grand design, a bold vision or is it a day-to-day thing?
I put out this theory that a company should plan as far into the future of the age of the company. If you’re in your first year of building a company, you should be focused on the next twelve months, like a laser execution on a week by week, month by month basis. If you’re Amazon and you’re ten years in, you should be thinking about how to get to Mars. The more mature a company is, the further out it’s responsible to start to plan. In our third year of operation, my mind’s in the three-year plan of where do we grow. We had good operation day-to-day. We’re a well-oiled machine. I can literally not be there in the business functions on the day-to-day and the core business. I’m focused on leadership, boundaries, and senses, communication structure to make sure the core business is as efficient and lean and pushing us forward as fast and as best as possible.
What is a three-year expansion? Which markets, products, and services? The dental market is a $130 billion category. There is a tendency when you get the momentum to start to get distracted. Most of our investors and most successful businesses I’ve seen have been vigilant with focus and making sure that what works and repeat that thing. The test very quickly can cut your losses quickly on things that do not work. Once you find that one thing that does work, that’s what you go double down, triple down, quadruple down because starting a business from scratch is hard.
Finding a product-market fit is hard, finding an economic model that scales is hard. The probabilities of you finding that is infinitesimally small. Once you found that, that’s it. Know when to fold them and know when to hold them. When you’re older, you double down on your winners. We are, for the next foreseeable period of time, are going to be thinking about state expansions. Our brick and mortars, HENRY in the boardrooms, carrier partner relationships, expanding our dental services, dental products, and dental insurance. Everything that is in this world of delivering onsite healthcare services to large employer groups. We are at the forefront of elevating that brand and distribution model, and we’ve got a long way to go. What we figured out to build a sizable company that can stand on its own two legs and think about the next innovation thereafter.
There’s a lot of bits of advice in the story that you just shared with us. Advice for entrepreneurs. For people who are entrepreneurs of early-stage companies or in the conception phase even, and some great things to anticipate. If you look at your role from a leadership perspective, both as being the Cofounder of the company and also in the role that you’re playing right now, is there any little capsule of leadership advice that you would give to any of us? Whether we’re entrepreneurs or working in a Fortune 500 company.
I follow the CEO of Walmart on LinkedIn. You know the size of Walmart and its scale. He often regularly posts about him in certain stores or certain employees or certain customers. I’ve had many coaches in my day from my father, who’s been an incredible coach and mentor to me since I was born. In my professional business days, being a wonderful coach and mentor. I have a professional coach that I speak to every single week for an hour as the CEO of a healthcare company. I’ve had some investors over time. One of them was a CEO of a major retail business. He told me the piece of advice that I’m going to give now.
My single piece of advice, which comes out of all these things from watching Doug McMillon, the CEO of Walmart, through to see a retail business, “Never lose sight of your customer.” At the end of the day, whether you are a one-person company with $1 of revenue, or with 1,000 employees or 10,000 employees, your business is an accumulation of individual customer transactions and experiences one by one. The moment you lose touch with the ultimate customer and your product experience at that customer level, you’re done. You can never be too big, too bold, too senior, too your boots and sitting on your own pedestal to be very in touch with your customer. Once you lose touch with that, your business is done.
When you say you should never lose sight of your customer, you mean you collectively and individually. You, a Fortune 500 company, should never lose sight of your customer. It’s not just the role of the person on the frontline and that’s so-called customer service role, but all of us need to keep the customer squarely in front.
If you’re the head of operations, the head of marketing, the head of finance, and you have no idea what the customer experience looks like and how it’s evolved, how can you effectively market the brands, run the financials, make the system work like a well-oiled machine? You have to rotate through. That’s the way you’re going to be in touch with your team, be in touch with the customer, be in touch with their relationship and interaction. Those individual customer and employee interactions with the frontline are the business. Everything else has done behind the scene. The leadership, operation, systems, the financing, it all supports making sure that single one interaction one by one of the accumulations of tens or hundreds of thousands or millions, that is a perfect example of the brand that you’re trying to build. Everything else should only support that. If you lose touch with that and how your people are treating customers, the systems, the operations, the experience of that individual, one patient, that’s when you’ve lost touch with your business.When hiring, be more penny-wise and pound foolish. Hire utility players across different roles. Click To Tweet
This was a great conversation. I’m happy to hear the story. I can’t wait to see how it unfolds. I assume that people reading this would have the same level of curiosity. What’s the best way for people to keep track of HENRY The Dentist and hear your ongoing story?
You can find us on LinkedIn at HENRY The Dentist. You can find us on our URL, HENRYTheDentist.com. You can follow us on social media, @HENRYTheDentist on Instagram, or any social pages. You’re welcome to find me on LinkedIn as well. My name is Justin Joffe, Founder, and CEO of HENRY The Dentist. It’s been an absolute pleasure being on your show. Thank you, Steve, for the wonderful, insightful interview.
- Justin Joffe
- HENRY The Dentist
- Dr. Jeffrey Rappaport
- Love is Just Damn Good Business
- Radical Candor
- HENRY The Dentist – LinkedIn
- @HENRYTheDentist – Instagram
- Justin Joffe – LinkedIn
About Justin Joffe
Founder & CEO, HENRY The Dentist
Justin Joffe is the CEO and visionary behind HENRY The Dentist (“HENRY”). HENRY provides onsite dental care for large employer groups, including SAP, ADP, Pfizer, Merck, Unilever, Novartis, and UPS. HENRY has raised over $15m and scaled to operations across 4 states, servicing companies in NJ, PA, GA, and NY. Since graduating from Harvard Business School, Justin spent the last 10 years prior to HENRY building reputable companies in the US and Canada, most recently serving as CEO of Hudson Blvd Group building a national portfolio of retail brands. Justin brings his passion for providing unmatched client experience to HENRY and has thought through every patient element in HENRY practices. Justin was formerly a Management Consultant at The Boston Consulting Group, and Private Equity investor at Pegasus Capital. He has raised over $35m and overseen a team of 300 employees; Justin is passionate about entrepreneurship and regularly seeks new opportunities to mentor other business builders.
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