Leaders must align employees to the mission so that they feel like owners in the company. A compelling mission is not a nice to have in business. It has become mandatory. When you align employees to something bigger than themselves, you get real loyalty. My guest today is Weston Lunsford, CEO of Dental Intelligence. His company was ranked #381 in the 2019 Inc 5000 list. Weston shares his journey of leadership and how the mission the company is referenced daily. He gives a straightforward tactic to align employees that you can adopt for your business and reap the rewards. Discover how to align employees in today’s interview.
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Weston Lunsford: The Transcript
Target Audience: Weston Lunsford is the CEO of Dental Intelligence. Company’s technology helps to streamline office functions and decision processes, giving dentists and their staff the gift of time to focus on additional rewarding pursuits. The experts at Dental Intel deliver easy BI technology solutions that make an immediate impact in helping dental practices reach their full potential.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
Give me a 110% effort. And no one really ever knows what that means. But they’ll give their entire heart to that purpose. And you can’t by heart, it doesn’t matter what you offer someone you cannot pay for their heart. They care when they’re focused around the purpose, not just about their performance and their outcome that’s given. That’s an obvious but they care about their experience along that journey. They care about their customers that they serve their experience, and they care about the team members around them and their experience. And when that starts to happen, they start seeing things differently.
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs of the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I help leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett [0:51]
We want to talk about mission-driven companies today. What does it take for your people to feel completely aligned with the mission altogether? If you have hundreds of employees, you probably think that’s impossible. If you have a few employees, you probably think, oh, maybe we could get that done. My guess is your company has a lot more than a few employees. And you understand that if we could have more alignment around mission and the purpose of what we deliver our services that we would have a higher benefit of growth and impact in our markets. Well, that’s what we’re going to talk about today, creating a mission-driven company and what that means to the organization. I’m going to share with you some specific tips. Our guest today is Weston Lunsford. He’s the founder of dental intelligence. They were number 381. On the Inc list in 2019, they were over 9 million in revenue, they have over 150 employees. Now, when I talk to you about the mission-driven company, hopefully you haven’t tuned me out already. But what really is the key here is that people feel connected to meaningful work and they know that what they’re doing really adds That so each individual is completely aligned with moving together, everyone moving towards the same vision.
Thanks for tuning in here to Growth Think Tank. Really excited about sharing this with you. And before you run, I have done so many interviews in the last few weeks, I have such a exciting time to share with you that those interviews have been organized into the 12 core principles of fast-growth companies. So all you have to do to get that is go to genehammett.com/worksheet. So you can get the 12 principles and have been able to go in there and find which episodes will align to each individual episode. When you subscribe to Growth Think Tank, you will find exactly what you need so that you can move forward and many of them haven’t been published yet depending on when you’re hearing this. But you can tune in to the date that means the most to you. Here is the interview with Weston.
Gene Hammett [2:51]
Hi Weston, how are you?
Weston Lunsford [2:53]
Good. How are you Gene?
Gene Hammett [2:54]
I am fantastic. I’m excited to talk to you today is we’re going to talk about mission-driven companies and what that means. Let’s give our audience some context. Tell us about Dental Intelligence.
Weston Lunsford [3:07]
Yeah. Well, Dental Intelligence is a software analytics organization. Obviously, in the name, you can see that we focus in dental. But we provide the number one software solution to the industry to help practices truly enable growth. And there’s different ways that they do that growth. But some of it is focused heavily just on patient care, doing more and better dentistry. And then there’s a lot wrapped around employee performance and helping team members and dental practices grow. And we do that all through AI and intelligence and analytics, grabbing a lot of data from a bunch of different sources, normalizing that data and then sending it back to those team members into the practice owners specific action items that need to happen in order for this growth to really start to take place. We love it. We’ve been doing this now for almost five years come April. This year will be our fifth year into the market. And we’re growing really fast. We have just under 8000 dental practices across the country utilizing our software today.
Gene Hammett [4:11]
Well, I shared with the audience that you were 381 on the Inc list in 2019. You’ve grown since then. We don’t know what your number will be. But you’ve reached up 156 employees, which is a pretty good number, right? That’s…
Weston Lunsford [4:25]
Yeah, we’re fast. That’s hard. That’s been a challenge for us growing that fast with the team members that a year ago, we were just under 84 team members. So it’s significant growth on that side, as well. And as, as most CEOs and founders know, that brings on a lot of various challenges that we have to navigate through.
Gene Hammett [4:46]
Well, Weston one of the things I want to talk about today, and a lot of companies don’t understand the importance of it, but you are what you would call a mission-driven company. Tell us about what your perspective of being mission-driven means.
Weston Lunsford [5:00]
Yeah, awesome. Well, you know, when a team member, myself included can come into an office or to workplace every single day and truly believe that he or she is contributing to the company vision, and or the purpose or mission, whatever you call that, which by the way, hope is more than just simply making money. The me, the revenue that comes from a purpose-driven organization is a byproduct of how good you are at fulfilling that purpose. But if every team member can feel part of this, they’ll give more than 100 or 110% effort, which we sometimes hear, give me 110% effort, and no one really ever knows what that means. But they’ll give their entire heart to that purpose. And you can’t buy heart doesn’t matter what you offer someone you cannot pay for their heart.
Weston Lunsford [5:52]
They care when they’re focused around the purpose, not just about their performance and their outcome that’s given. That’s an obvious but they can about their experience along that journey, they care about their customers that they serve their experience. And they care about the team members around them and their experience. And when that starts to happen, they start seeing things differently. And so ultimately, when you weave in genuine purpose into every part of your work, you can create a movement and a mission that your employees can securely get behind. And that makes work fun. It makes them more productive, and ultimately makes it more fulfilling each day when you come in.
Gene Hammett [6:31]
Now, you use the word movement, and I love that concept, but I want to make sure I’m not making assumptions. What do you mean by movement?
Weston Lunsford [6:39]
Well, I mean, the entire team pushing towards one common vision, and people will do things for a cause that they otherwise just simply would not do. And so when you ask someone to go and fulfill on a responsibility or a task, and it might be something that may seem a little bit cruel, crazy, but ultimately, it helps you fulfill the company vision and purpose. So long as that purpose and vision are true and good, then people will do that they’ll all move in that same direction. And that’s the biggest key that we have here at dental Intel is that everyone is on the same cadence. Everyone is pointed in the same direction. We’re one team or one goal, and we have one vision, and we’re all aligned to that vision. And, and that’s the movement I’m referring to that everyone’s behind that cause.
Gene Hammett [7:32]
I love this. I talked to a lot of companies that are not quite aligned with mission, you know, because it has been a we’re just going to create the software to make money and we’re going to serve the market. And I think there’s missing that opportunity because I don’t know maybe there’s a specific reason why you’re in the dental industry, but you really are helping these dental people better serve the people they’re serving, but also the employees on the other side.
Weston Lunsford [8:01]
Yeah, you know this. It’s interesting that you mentioned or even asked, Why are you in the dental industry, a lot of people that serve in this industry either have family members that that were a dentist or some connection to dentistry, I honestly don’t have this personal connection to dentistry. I had a CPA firm. And I’ll share the story with you really briefly, but and the only reason I’m going to share it is that I actually recognized that even though there was this purpose of what we’re trying to do, which our purpose By the way, here at dental, Intel is really simple. It’s to help people grow.
Weston Lunsford [8:36]
We want true growth out of all those customers that we serve. If we’re not helping them grow, then we really don’t want to be working with them, because then we’re just taking away revenue from their organization, and we’re not helping them reach new milestones. So it’s pretty simple. We want to enable growth and that growth both for the practice and that growth for the team members, and then we’ve transferred that same purpose to our team members. Truly helping our customers grow in this industry grow, do more and better dentistry, then we ourselves are going to be able to grow and individuals in our organization are going to grow. And so it’s really a simple purpose. It’s not that complex.
Weston Lunsford [9:13]
We have a vision there, that within the next five years, we’re going to empower 50 million more Americans who are not currently receiving oral health care today, get into a care provider and receive that care that they need to get or stay healthy. But years ago, this was probably in 2013 or 2014. I had a doctor call me I had a CPA practice. And in that practice, we did a lot of after the fact accounting, right, we weren’t really proactive. We tried to take a proper approach put our customers in the most profitable position that they could be in, but this doctor called me up and you heard something different in his tone and his voice. He was actually really depressed. And he said I need some help getting a practice valuation so that I can sell my practice?
Weston Lunsford [10:03]
Well, during that conversation, we’ve learned that Dr. Lebrock was pretty young. He had been paying himself less than $80,000 a year for the past eight years, and working four to five days a week, but only chairside, two to three days a week because he couldn’t keep his chairs full. He literally said these words, Jean people here in my community, don’t think I’m a good dentist. So that’s not a good position to be in. We asked him, Well, what do you want to do? And he says, Well, I love dentistry. I want to keep doing it. But I can’t run the business side of it. I just want to sell my practice, move and start working as an associate for another group. Well, long story short, we started looking at what was going on in this practice. And I could see some really key clear indicators that were driving this poor performance in this practice. And my colleague and I Rob Bay, started looking at it and saying, let’s just ask him if he’ll hold off on selling for four months. And we can turn the ship around.
Weston Lunsford [11:02]
And so we did. And within four months, he was on track to take home over $212,000. Within that first 12 months of working with us, this doctor took home $413,000 out of his practice $330,000 increase. Today, he works one less day a week, and he has an additional associated work for him. You couldn’t buy his practice for more or less than $2 million, or before we could have sold it, or someone could have bought it for less than $600,000. So just insane change occurred, and I really loved it. It was insanely fulfilling for me. And so I saw after that, instead of just doing accounting attacks, I started looking for the next I’m going to call it a project or mission of someone that I could really change and impact their life. And we did it again with another doctor and eventually I started saying I just need this data in the software and I shipped it heavily from a service base. organization to building a technology that just truly enabled this type of growth so that I could get it in the hands of thousands of practices out there.
Weston Lunsford [12:08]
Now, something I learned along the way, while this was very impactful for me, I would share this story with people. But I didn’t constantly with every new team member that came on. help them understand that this was our true purpose from the very beginning, and still is today and it doesn’t change. And I tell my team members every single day, if we can be the best, absolute best at helping our customers grow, if we help them truly succeed, then we will succeed regardless whether they pay us or not.
Weston Lunsford [12:42]
Ultimately, that will all come around in a circle. But every time we pick up a phone and answer that phone or dial out and try to teach someone how to utilize our software or get on our software, we need to remember that the people we’re talking to want to grow, they want to do better, they want to do more. It’s an It’s built inside of us. And so as long as my team members remember that every single time they get on the phone with someone that we’re going to change their lives. And I know that might sound cliche gene, but that’s our true belief here that we literally are changing people’s lives. Then that phone call, regardless what the outcome is, the journey during that dialogue during that training during that demo, whatever our role is here at the company, is going to be far more impactful to both my team member and to the receiver. And so we try to follow that cadence every single time we interact with the people that we speak with.
Hold on for a second, Western just talked about the purpose, and his was to help people grow. Now Yours maybe something different. And in fact, I suggest it being something different because you don’t borrow from someone else’s business plan. You wouldn’t borrow from their mission-driven purpose. But what you could you do with yours, you want to understand the difference between mission and vision. And I wrote about this in my book, the trap of success, but I want to share it with you Mission is the right in the world that you’re trying to address or fix. Vision is what it would look like when you get there. Those are two distinctly different things. They’re not interchangeable. But when you have the ability to describe those and your people or describe them very clearly, you really have something powerful. Back to the interview with Weston.
Gene Hammett [14:20]
I appreciate you sharing the story with us because it gives us that context. We need, maybe for us to see how a dental intelligence software platform with artificial intelligence and all the support you have can actually create growth in people. I am kind of curious, what are some of the other parks that you use on a day to day basis that allow you to have alignment across the mission?
Weston Lunsford [14:45]
Yeah, this is really good. So I you know that as I mentioned a little earlier, I had to learn this principle to It’s not like I started this right at the beginning. And as our team members started to grow, I recognize the one thing that we’re missing across the entire organization is Everyone fully understanding and not just understanding but making it an internal part of who they are, that this purpose has to align with what they’re doing on a daily basis.
Weston Lunsford [15:10]
So we started to integrate our vision and this purpose language into our routine company communications and meetings. We defined what everyone is working towards, and how it ties back to that purpose. And once we’ve done that, we just made sure that every employee knew their part in it. You wouldn’t hire an employee if their role wasn’t necessary for their offer for your operations. And so you have to take time to remind each individual what their part is in this bigger picture. Every engaged employee should know and understand how necessary their work is. And many people like to fill both you and I like to feel like we’re part of something bigger than ourselves, rather than just working at a job for a paycheck. And it’s our job to provide that and to provide that vision for those team members.
Weston Lunsford [15:58]
So from day one when a new team member comes here at dental, Intel, they go through a three to four day and I say three to four day because it depends on how fast we can get through with QA, but an onboarding session, and we talk very heavily about our vision and our purpose and why we’re here. And it’s not just me, every leader that goes in and talks to these new team members states the same purpose and vision and has personal examples with it. So when we say our number one purpose here at dental Intel is to help team members grow, we have a rule, we have to end this is our team members or our customer’s team members. But we have a rule and it has to be followed up by a proof statement, meaning they have to give a very specific example of how growth was enabled in this last week with either a team member or one of our customers. And so it sounds like here at dental, Intel we have one purpose to help all of our team members to help those that we serve truly Row, we want them doing more and even better dentistry.
Weston Lunsford [17:03]
In fact, after talking with Dr. Craig spot ax t mountain Florida, and helping them implement this solution and providing them their first initial training, they reported back in the first week that they saw an increase in treatment acceptance percentage by 10%. This is over $1.2 million of more production than their practice. But more importantly, this is $1.2 million of treatment that’s getting done that patients needed in order to get healthy. So that’s an example and we all go through that and every time we interact with someone and tell them what our purposes we followed by proof, we do this in our team meetings, our company meetings and our one on ones. In every case open.
Weston Lunsford [17:46]
We call that our first talk with a prospect when we say who we are, we started out with that case open with our purpose all by approved and also every time we get on the phone with one of our customers. We remind them what our number one purpose is here. And then we usually tie that back into approving with what we’ve been able to do for their organization. So those are a handful of key things that we really try to tie in our purpose in our daily interactions.
Hold on for a second Weston just talked about this internal making and connecting to the internal drive of the employees. And a lot of people misunderstand the difference between inspiration and motivation. And so I thought I would just, you know, put a spotlight on those two things. Motivation is an external benefit or driver to this, their paycheck may be a motivation to get more work done. But what you really want to do as a leader is inspire them from the inside, which is, that’s an inspiration, that internal drive, they’re connected at an intellectual level and then a soul level to the work that they’re doing. And they have that then you have the ability to create the kind of alignment that westerns talking about. I just want to share with you the difference between motivation and inspiration, so that you know How to lead people, to the internal feeling the inspiration. Now back to the interview.
Gene Hammett [19:06]
This is one reason why I do this because I have talked to hundreds of leaders, many of them driving mission-driven organizations. And it’s a big part of the next book I’m writing. And Western this was a very specific thing that you could learn from the success that your company’s doing, that those listening in right now could literally go, you know, we could just, we could add that. And here’s the beautiful part about it. It costs nothing.
Weston Lunsford [19:32]
Right! there is no cost to it. It makes you think, and you have to process all the time, but I’m telling you, I love coming into my office every single day because I drink this Cool Aid. I love it. I love seeing people grow and that’s the number one thing I’m putting my mind around. And that doesn’t have to be any other CEO’s number one purpose. Everyone has their own vision and purpose and reason why they’re doing what they did. Especially the founders, when they started a company, there was a reason they started that company. And in most cases in me talking to several other CEOs out there, it had nothing to do with making money.
Weston Lunsford [20:11]
I mean, that’s the byproduct, right. And sometimes I think people get lost, and they get tied up into the numbers into the performance metrics into the budgets. And they feel that they feel that frustration and struggle that we all will go through. But if they can always bring it back to the reason why they started, the reason why they’re there, the reason why they hired that first team member, and if you’re a CEO that was just placed into that organization, you’ve got to somehow get back into this. I had an interaction with a team member that just started they just finished their onboarding just this last week, we had a team of 14 members that went through the onboarding. And at the end of it, I just popped in at the end. It’s not normal that I do this at the very end of their onboarding. But I said I went in and I sat in the conference room.
Weston Lunsford [20:56]
And Tenley, my VP of Business Development, who actually takes all of our team members through onboarding, asks the question, what was the thing that you liked most about this week here at dental intelligence. This was their first week as team members. And I listened to team members go around and I listened to Luke, one of the new team members said, you know what I really like how every single leader was aligned with your company purpose and vision. Every single person came in here, and then this is the key thing that he said. They didn’t just say the words, they had examples. And these are the proofs that I was talking about. They had examples of how they were fulfilling this. And so this is the best part about at all he said. So I kind of is starting to feel that this is my purpose here at dental Intel, like, I’ve got to get on this and so I’m really excited to interact. He’s an account development rep with new prospects to help them truly understand that my number one objective is to help their practice grow. And it just warmed my heart as I loved it, you couldn’t, you can’t buy that type of stuff. And so it’s just really ugly.
Weston Lunsford [22:00]
Citing to see when you when you’re really mission-focused and mission-driven as an organization from top-down and down, up, meaning you’ve got to have both sides. All the stars just start to seem to align and things start moving. And that’s what truly enables growth in your organization’s Western. We could go on for hours. I want to make sure we clarify this for myself, but hopefully for the audience, too. You had mentioned this purpose proof pairing. They pull a proof statement from the last week. Did you try other timeframes like last month, and just found that last week works better? Yeah, the reason that we’re always looking for the most recent is that I don’t want anyone getting stuck on something they did a year ago. Right? I want or a month ago, I want every interaction like if we really wanted to dial it in, they should be able to come up with something just last hour. But that was a little intense. And so we back that off and so we’re always trying to look for something That we enable growth and either our customers or the team members around us last week, well, it was a meaningful interaction that helped us fulfill our purpose.
Weston Lunsford [23:09]
And so as everyone starts thinking that way, then every single week that they go home before the weekend starts, they’re starting to think about the true meaning and purpose and the impact that they had on those customers that we’re serving every single day. So it’s made a big difference in trying to tie it to weekly new proofs. We have what’s called a proof been here, too. I call them proofs. I don’t know if that’s a good word for it or not, but it works for us. And so we have our chat, that the whole company, some people use Slack, we use ring Central, but as a team chats, and there’s a proof pin in there. And every single day, new proofs are dumped into that, meaning how did we help someone grow? What was that growth, and those things get dumped in there every day and sometimes there’s three to five every single day and sometimes there’s a day with nothing in it, but there’s never over without a proof that goes in there on how we really fulfilled our purpose here at Intel.
Gene Hammett [24:05]
But was Weston, this interview really pays off. Because I do believe that mission-driven companies have the ability to connect meaningful work with the people. And they’re not just trading their time for a paycheck. And your specific example here is perfect. I really appreciate you being here on the show.
Weston Lunsford [24:24]
Yeah, thank you so much, Gene. I appreciate your show. You’re doing great for all of us that listen to your show. So we appreciate everything that you’re doing to contribute to this great success of driving mission purpose organizations.
Gene Hammett [24:36]
Gene Hammett [24:37]
What a great interview really love the detail that we got in there about this purpose and proof pairing. When I say that I really want you to think about how that could be used inside your meetings inside your onboarding inside the conversation to have on one and as a team. If every time someone answered the phone, they talked about the mission of the company and the proof behind it, and they gave something very relevant to just last week, how important would that be to aligning everyone together? I think that’s a very small tactical element that you could add to your day to day interactions with customers and within the teams that could really make a huge benefit to where you’re going as overall as a company.
Gene Hammett [25:20]
Well, this is my take today on this if you have questions about where your culture is going and how to add certain elements that allow you to be a more effective leader, then make sure you reach out to me [email protected]. That’s my email address, and I’d love to talk to you about what’s going on in your business. As always lead with courage. We’ll talk to you next time.
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