Avoiding C-Suite Mistakes: Chapter 2: The “Oh Shit” Moment

This is the fourth installment of the “Avoiding C-Suite Mistakes” series. Read the previous parts here.

As a dentist-entrepreneur growing a managed group practice, you always encounter that sudden and dreadful moment when you realize you are just not enough — and at the very same time, you realize you are fully responsible. This is what’s known as the “Oh shit,” moment. You come to the realization you just don’t have enough horsepower — and you can’t do it alone.

The development and performance of senior staff members has gone as far as it can go: your employees are at capacity. They have no more bandwidth to give. And you don’t have much gas left in your tank, either. But you’ve come too far to throw in the towel. There is no turning back.

You know at a visceral level that you need seasoned senior-executive assistance. You realize it is time to start building your C-Suite. The decision has been delayed for months, but now there’s a growing sense of urgency to get things resolved, and soon. You feel like you’re standing in a burning building, and the flames are only going to gain in intensity.

Realizing You Need a C-Suite Executive

You feel desperate for someone else to take on some major responsibilities: someone who can lead, manage, and get things done. Someone to rely on. Someone to count on. Someone you can trust. It’s clear that a C-Suite executive will bring the background, the experience, the knowledge, and the drive to accomplish what you know is not getting done. But many times, actions made in a frenzied state result in outcomes that are just as bad. Desperation often leads to exasperation.

You know you should have been working on this for months, but there was always a reason for not doing your due diligence: saying it would get done later, you didn’t have the time, and more important, your concern about the money. Executives in the C-Suite demand six figures, as well as other incentives, and some want equity in the company. You realize you are on the precipice; bringing on a C-Suite executive is a one-way street. Concerns about staff response, senior managers’ reactions, changes in culture, and the effect an outsider will have on the company are now at the forefront.

You hunker down. There are a flurry of phone calls, texts, and emails to colleagues, peers, and advisers. You have a multitude of questions: “I need to hire a professional senior executive to help me right the ship. Who should I hire? When should I hire them? Where do I find them? How much do I pay them? What kind of deal should I make regarding incentives, profit sharing, ownership? How do I work out their accountability, reporting structures, and measures of performance?”

Address Your Own Weaknesses

After speaking to lots of people, what you discover is there are many different scenarios for putting together a C-Suite. You find out that what works for your peers regarding how to build a C-Suite is unique to their enterprise: their needs, culture, values, and vision. A COO in one organization has very different accountabilities, job responsibilities, and reporting structures than their counterpart in another DSO. And their on boarding process was different for each DSO.

So now what?

Although the basic functions of a C-Suite executive are the same, how their job is expressed, the focus of their department, and how the strategy and culture are established all shape the C-Suite executive’s job description, accountabilities, and their fit at the DSO.

The first step in hiring your C-Suite executive is to address your own weaknesses and strengths honestly. People often have difficulty addressing weaknesses and are naturally pulled toward looking at strong points. Most often, but not always, weak points are staff management and staff relationships, along with staff recruiting and monitoring. Establishing a human resources point person is often the first foray into C-Suite hiring. Although you may have used a part-time HR company previously, there are still too many staff issues landing on your plate. You need full-time HR person — that’s obvious.

The problem might be with the numbers: you could be in need of a seasoned CFO — someone who loves P&Ls, balance sheets, budgets, and forecasting. Someone who keeps her nose to the ground about the numbers. Or maybe it’s operations: although you’ve got regional managers and office managers, you’re not able to stay on top of their performance as needed. Maybe you just don’t have the kind of allegiance and commitment from your associates, and you need a charismatic dental director. Your weakness is your indicator of who to hire.

There is a paucity of information on C-Suite executives, titles, accountabilities, and job descriptions. For DEO members, we sketch out the basic “skeleton” for each C-Suite executive, knowing that each position will be individualized to fit the needs, values, and vision of the enterprise.

Below are a few articles that will help you better understand how to generate a C-Suite.

The New Path to the C-Suite”

“We Break Down the C-Suite of Executive Job Titles”

“How to Prepare for the C-Suite Executive Interview”

“Avoiding C-Suite Mistakes: Chapter One”