Strategic Executive Search for DSOs

Jon Fidler on when to start hiring an executive team, what to look for in candidates, where to find talent, and how DSOs can attract and retain exceptional executives who will drive sustainable growth and innovation.

In the dynamic and ever-changing landscape of the DSO industry, the decision to hire an executive team can significantly impact the trajectory of your organization. As the owner of an executive search firm specializing in dental executive recruitment, I frequently encounter questions from group owners regarding the timing and strategy behind building their executive team. In this article, we’ll delve into key considerations, including when to hire, challenging roles to fill, potential talent pools, and what executive candidates seek in a new career.

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When is the right time to hire an executive team and what position is typically the first hire?

Determining the optimal time to assemble an executive team is a critical decision for any owner. While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, several indicators suggest that it may be time to invest in executive talent:

  1. Growth Initiatives: If your group is experiencing rapid expansion or planning to enter new markets, hiring executives with strategic expertise can facilitate smooth growth transitions.

  2. Complexity of Operations: As groups evolve and become more complex, the need for executive leadership to oversee various facets of the business, such as operations, finance, and marketing, becomes apparent.

  3. When Gaps Appear: As your group grows you will inevitably become proficient in certain areas and lacking in others. We advise taking a true assessment of your overall operations and addressing the largest gaps first.

  4. Considering ROIs: A major decision in the timing of hiring executives should be both fiscally and culturally driven. For the financial aspects, we recommend analyzing a “hard” return on investment (ROI). This can be done by knowing where there is lost revenue and calculating the expense of hiring a candidate vs the revenue growth that will be recovered. The cultural aspects should be looked at as a “soft” ROI. Does this hire/role help morale (reduce workload or stress on others, encouraging a more productive and positive work environment, etc.) and increase the reputation of the group (do others have a favorable view of working within your group, etc.).

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What are the most difficult roles to fill?

While every position has its unique challenges, certain executive roles often present greater recruitment hurdles within the dental industry. While we are always confident that the right candidate is out there for each position, the difficulty of each search typically relates back to the specifics required for the role. The tighter the restrictions are on background, experience, cultural fit, etc., the harder the search. Here are a few examples of roles that can create a challenge:

  1. Chief Operating Officer (COO): Finding a COO with a deep understanding of dental operations and clinical workflows can be challenging due to the specialized nature of the role. This role will typically be forward-facing in strategy and communications but, depending upon the size of the group, may require a hybrid-type approach requiring the candidate to be familiar with the day-to-day operations of the offices.

  2. Director of Marketing: Securing a marketing leader who understands the nuances of dental marketing and patient acquisition strategies while staying abreast of digital trends can be daunting. Typically, we will find candidates who are experienced in one or two facets of marketing compared to a more holistic understanding of the department.

  3. Chief Financial Officer (CFO): Identifying a CFO with expertise in dental finance, including revenue cycle management and insurance billing, can be a formidable task. Like the COO role, the level of experience and background can pose a hurdle in combining the forward, strategic aspects of this role while balancing out the day-to-day performance within the locations.
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What’s at stake should your DSO experience a data breach?

Reducing cyber risk has become paramount for every DSO. Entrusted with vast amounts of sensitive patient data, DSOs are particularly vulnerable to cyberthreats due to this sheer number of records. Black Talon’s latest guide for DSO leaders provides insights into the cyberthreat landscape and what is at stake for your organization should you experience an attack.

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What other industries can you pull talent from?

While sourcing talent within the dental industry is often preferred, looking beyond traditional boundaries can yield exceptional candidates. Industries such as healthcare, hospitality, and retail offer professionals with transferable skills and valuable perspectives. For example:

  1. Healthcare: Professionals from other multi-site healthcare organizations bring knowledge of operations, compliance, patient care, and regulatory standards that are applicable in the dental setting.

  2. Hospitality: Executives from the hospitality industry excel in customer service, patient experience enhancement, and creating inviting group environments for their teams.

  3. Retail: Retail executives possess expertise in multi-site operational management, inventory management, sales optimization, and customer engagement, which are relevant to dental groups with retail components.

What are executive candidates looking for in a new career?

Attracting top-tier executive talent requires understanding their motivations and aspirations. Executive candidates are often seeking:

  1. Mission Alignment: A clear and compelling vision for the group’s mission and values that resonates with their professional ethos.

  2. Opportunities for Growth: A commitment to professional development, advancement opportunities (can be title, financial, or responsibility driven), and the chance to make a tangible impact on the organization’s success.

  3. Work-Life Balance: A supportive work culture that promotes work-life balance, flexibility, and employee well-being.

In conclusion, building an executive team is a strategic investment that can propel your dental group to new heights of success if done right. By carefully considering the timing, roles, potential talent pools, and candidate motivations, you can attract and retain exceptional executive talent that drives sustainable growth and innovation within your group.

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About Jon Fidler


As the founder/CEO of Fidler and Associates, Jon Fidler has a history of building teams by connecting talent with opportunity. Jon began honing his talent-recognition skills as he worked for the Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB) in the scouting and player development departments. In his role, Jon was responsible for not only recognizing the physical talent of potential prospects, but also developing that talent into a championship caliber team.

For the last 17 years, Jon has focused his skills specifically within the dental industry. During this time, Jon has placed successful executives throughout the country for multi-location groups (both large and small), manufacturers, distributors, and many other dental-related organizations. Throughout his career, Jon has been responsible for hiring, training, and developing numerous performance award-winning employees and executives.

Jon is a graduate of the University of Iowa and resides in Austin, Texas.

Fidler and Associates

Fidler and Associates is a nationwide dental-specific advisory and recruiting firm that offers cutting-edge solutions addressing the most pressing issues of its clients. Focused solely within the dental industry and sourcing positions from regional manager to CEO, the company is strategically situated to customize advisory and executive search services based on the individual needs of the organizations it serves.

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