What Is A Fractional COO & How Can It Help Grow Your Dental Practice?

In this episode of The No BS Dental Marketing Podcast, I had the pleasure of talking to Kevin Wheeler, the founder of Simplified COO, about what fractional COO is and how it can help your dental practice. Kevin shares his wealth of knowledge and experience in the fractional COO space and offers great tips for those considering this service.

As dental and orthodontic practices become increasingly competitive, the concept of a Fractional COO may come in handy. The Fractional COO is like a part-time Chief Operating Officer; they help by offering expertise in business operations and strategies to assist practice owners in reaching their goals.

The main focus of a Fractional COO is on increasing efficiency and optimization in business operations, such as team effectiveness, compliance regulations, managing finances, budget planning, and creating effective marketing plans.

Kevin discussed some of the key benefits of hiring a Fractional COO that included freeing up the time of practice owners to focus on dentistry while relying on the skill sets of an experienced dental professional for business operations advice and guidance.

We also touched upon how this type of service could help with problem-solving related to existing issues within the practice that would take costly non-productive time away from staff when handled internally. Overall, utilizing a Fractional COO can be an excellent way for dental practices to become more efficient and maximize any opportunities for growth or improvement within their business.

Other subjects we covered on the show:

  • Kevin gives advice to those coming out of the dental industry post-covid and shares his thoughts on the state of the industry as a whole.
  • He also shares how he enjoys working with practices and helping them grow, but sees a lot of turnover between generations in terms of dentists retiring and new ones taking their place.
  • Lastly, Kevin offers marketing tips for bringing in new patients to dental practices.

If you want to know more about Kevin Wheeler, you may reach out to him at:


[00:00:00] Narrator: Welcome to the Dental Marketing Podcast, a podcast that helps dentists win in the online world of modern day marketing. Each week, we cover the most cutting edge marketing tactics and strategies that are working right now across our client base to drive leads, phone calls, and more new patients for dentists.

[00:00:21] Now here’s your host and founder of Kickstart Dental Marketing, Chris Pistorius.

[00:00:25] Chris Pistorius: Hi everybody. This is Chris Pistorius again with you with the Dental and Orthodontic Marketing Podcast. Thanks for joining us today, and Kevin Wheeler, who is the president of Simplified. Did I do that right? Simplified COO. Did I get that right Kevin?

[00:00:42] Kevin Wheeler: You did.

[00:00:43] Chris Pistorius: Gee, I just kind of baed right there. So Kevin is the president of Simplified COO, and this is a really cool concept.

[00:00:50] And by the way, Kevin is our guest today. And this is something I we haven’t really talked about here on the podcast, is being able to bring in a COO when you don’t really need a COO. If that makes sense. So you bring somebody in at that can help you out as a COO role, but you don’t have to have them full-time and you don’t have to pay them full-time money.

[00:01:13] But Kevin, you know way more about this about than me. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you do and, and why you do it?

[00:01:19] Kevin Wheeler: Yeah. Chris, so, you know, I saw a need, I have many years background in large dental service organizations and what I saw was a real need from the smaller that wanted to grow, whether it’s organic growth or whether it’s locations that they want to add.

[00:01:35] And that’s kind of where my mindset is to help in any way I can. And so I was like, let me get involved with that. Now the cost is kind of the prohibitive part of a lot of the smaller group practices. So I started a business as a fractional Chief operating Officer, and my goal was to be able to offer my services at really a fraction of the price of what a full fledged COO would be.

[00:02:02] And then my goal is to help in any way that I can because there’s a lot that wraps into that. I do a lot of coaching. I do a lot of project work. Sometimes they just need a SOP manual created for their group. Sometimes they need everything, and so I have clients that kinda range from three offices, two offices to, you know, really the sweet spot seems to be the 10 to 20.

[00:02:26] Is where people are trying to get to and what that dynamic difference is. And then my goal is to get them so financially secure that they can then find a chief operating officer that can be boots on the ground moving forward.

[00:02:41] Chris Pistorius: Wow. So you’re kind of working your way out of a job. Right?

[00:02:44] Kevin Wheeler: That’s true. That’s true. But onward and upward to the next opportunity. And so that’s how I want to create more of a footprint on helping many groups. In dentistry, since it’s moving towards the group practice anyway my goal is, you know, we all do better in the dental field if we’re all doing well.

[00:03:03] There’s not really a competition. It’s more of an opportunity for patients to get good care wherever they go.

[00:03:10] Chris Pistorius: Right. So what made you think of this? You’ve been doing this for six or so years now, right?

[00:03:15] Kevin Wheeler: Yes, yes. Yeah. Again, you know, having that background working with a lot of different larger DSOs I had a lot of success, and it was really fun and I was honored to be able to work for them.

[00:03:29] But in the end I was just, you know, part of a larger wheel and I just wanted to break off and be able to have a bigger impact than just making one region or one company successful. I wanted to make multiple providers successful. So that was really where my heart was.

[00:03:47] Chris Pistorius: Yeah. Well, that’s awesome. I think it’s a great concept. How many practices do you typically work with at one time?

[00:03:54] Kevin Wheeler: Usually, depending on the size of the groups, I can do about six, where I have the bandwidth to make sure that I give them the time. But I’m always working with groups on what can they financially afford, what do they need?

[00:04:08] And so sometimes I’ll move around where I’ll just have one group and then other times you know, four or five, and six seems to be about as far as I would want to go. Again, depending on the size of those groups. Cause I want them to get the attention they deserve.

[00:04:22] Chris Pistorius: Right, right, right. Now do you work with individual practices at all too? Or is it mostly just groups?

[00:04:27] Kevin Wheeler: Yeah. Yes. I work with individual and a lot of those requests come with coaching on case acceptance. And so all in all, that’s a big passion of mine because that’s an immediate impact in revenue. So there’s a lot of systems that I can create.

[00:04:44] But really when you see immediate impact on revenue, you know, then everyone gets excited. And they’re more open to listening to other ideas that you have. So I dive right into the case acceptance cuz it’s fun. It really starts on that patient experience journey all the way to them saying yes to the dentistry that’s needed.

[00:05:04] Chris Pistorius: Right. Right, right. So it’s almost kind of like hiring a coach or a consultant, but with kind of packaged as a fractional COO. Would that be a way to put that?

[00:05:14] Kevin Wheeler: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, there’s so many great consultants out there, and business coaches. I try to view myself a little bit different because I’m gonna get much more involved.

[00:05:24] I’m not just sharing good ideas and then following back up of how those ideas worked. I make a lot of visits. I’m on the road a lot, and so I get into the office and make sure that I can see the systems working you know, as much as possible. And I’m there. You know, with them, you know, holding their hand through the process of, again, whatever they need.

[00:05:45] So, it’s much more detailed than some consultants would get.

[00:05:50] Chris Pistorius: I see. Gotcha. So what kind of what kind of tips or advice would you give somebody? You know, we’re all kind of coming outta this covid fog, if you will. What do you see going on in the industry now? Do you see the industry as a whole rebounding or some things that, you know, you’re telling the practices that you work with on how to come outta covid?

[00:06:09] Kevin Wheeler: Yeah, so one thing I noticed right away that with the slowdown initially in the pandemic, it gave an opportunity to go back to the basics, and go back to some systems. That maybe were in place and just got lost. And we’re still at that point where this is a great opportunity to reset. You know, a lot of people know what to do.

[00:06:33] They just don’t know how to implement it and how to follow through, and that’s where they need some help. And coming out of the pandemic. That’s a big focus on mine is, okay, let’s reset. Let’s get back to the basics. Let’s make sure the patients are having an amazing experience. And so one thing that I tell a lot of my clients is dentistry now where it stands is first a behavioral art and second, a clinical science. And the groups that understand that embrace that are really successful. And the ones that aren’t, are having a little bit more of a struggle coming up.

[00:07:07] Chris Pistorius: Right. Yeah, that totally, makes sense, for sure. So how long do you work with, when you’re doing these fractional COO services?

[00:07:15] What’s a typical length that you’re with them until you’ve kind of have worked your way out of a job?

[00:07:19] Kevin Wheeler: For the ones that I am doing the full COO service. It seems to be about two years. Maybe just a little bit under that where they’re okay again, you know my goal is to get them there as quickly as they’d like, right?

[00:07:33] But normally I stay engaged because there’s a lot of things I can do as far as helping them find new practices. What I really thrive on is creating a relationship so it never truly goes away. And I help them actually recruit, and you know, train new COO if they want. So I wanna make sure that they feel really good moving forward.

[00:07:54] And then I still, you know, get lots of phone calls on, you know, let’s talk about, you know, some stuff that we had done before. And so, yeah. So it’s ongoing, but for the most part it’s right in that, you know, just under two years.

[00:08:07] Chris Pistorius: Yeah. Awesome.What do you like most about the dental industry?

[00:08:12] Kevin Wheeler: Oh, the relationship building. You know, I mean, it’s a relationship business. You know, some people don’t like to talk about it as a sales job, but in the end, yeah, it is, right? So you’re selling yourself. You’re building that trust. And so I actually like that. And I like how it trickles down then to the patient experience.

[00:08:33] So, you know, it’s from the moment you pick up that phone, you know, the information that you get that’s different from any other dental office, that’s what I always coach. We need nuggets on how we’re going to apply the value of the dentistry, not the cost to the patient. And the only way to do that is to find a way to connect with a patient.

[00:08:52] So it’s really the connection from the doctor to the team, to the patient that I really enjoy.

[00:08:59] Chris Pistorius: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:09:00] Narrator: Are you looking to grow your practice but are a little unclear on what the best way is? Let us help you out. We have over 13 years of experience in helping practices just like yours, increase new patient growth. Just go to KickStartDental.com and sign up for a free strategy session where we will give you some great insights on how to take your practice to the next level.

[00:09:27] Chris Pistorius: What do you least like about the dental industry? What would you like to change about it if you could?

[00:09:32] Kevin Wheeler: You know, I’m a very optimistic person, so I haven’t really gave a lot of thought in that.

[00:09:37] Again, like I say, I don’t view that we’re in competition with each other, you know, different offices. You know what? I guess what I would like the least are just that those groups that still are in that clinical science minded, the degree on the wall and the white coat mean you should move forward with dentistry because those days are just done.

[00:10:01] And so, but it also, those opportunities when I’m given, I’m able to show those people. So really what I dislike ends up being a great opportunity to help them get to the goals that they have.

[00:10:14] Chris Pistorius: Yeah. Are you seeing a churn at all? In terms of kinda what you talked about, the more traditional dentists that are, you know, maybe call them like the baby boomer dentist, the guys that are retiring now and then the new folks are kind of coming in, are you seeing a big churn going on between those two generations?

[00:10:31] Kevin Wheeler: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, for the seasoned dentist there’s more emphasis on what will my legacy be. And there’s so many opportunities now for exit strategies, whereas before they didn’t really think about it till the end, you know? And then they were like, gosh, what am I gonna do. Now, there’s many groups that approach these dentists and say, you know, hey, you know, when are you gonna retire?

[00:10:55] You know, we’re here for you. You know, a lot of the dentists received letters from group practices saying, Hey, do you want to sell? So that opportunity and then from the new, there’s really an openness you know, that excitement, a buzz for the new graduate. That’s an all-time high because they know they have the opportunity for private, they know they have the group practice.

[00:11:17] It’s just created more opportunities and so there’s a lot more buzz around their success.

[00:11:22] Chris Pistorius: Right. And do you ever see a situation where you go in and help a new person, whether they’re starting from scratch or they’re buying an existing practice? Do you get into that business at all?

[00:11:32] Kevin Wheeler: Yes. Yeah. Quite a bit. You know, so whether they’re looking for an acquisition or starting up at de novo you know, that was actually in the larger DSO world.

[00:11:41] That part of my life, that was my biggest focus, was to help those doctors get ramped up quickly. And taking some of the older mindset of that, when you get your new practice, you work a couple days a week, you do all the hygiene. You plan a strategy of month eight, then you’re gonna add specialty if you’re gonna do that.

[00:12:03] And you know, what I found is if you put in the marketing efforts and you’re gonna get patients on the books, let’s say, you know, 80 patients, you know, are gonna be on your books. As you’re opening your office, you need to get going right out the gate and assuming that those patients are gonna say yes to dentistry.

[00:12:21] So, I do a lot of coaching on let’s get started quicker. You can get outta cash burn in month three if you’re diligent about it. It doesn’t take the old mind of, you know, month nine. Right. You know, and sometimes I’ve seen it as well as, you know, month two. So, that’s a focus that Iike to get involved with.

[00:12:43] Chris Pistorius: Gotcha. What would you say to somebody coming outta school, or maybe they’ve been an associate for a year or two, they’re ready to do their own practice, start from scratch, or take over an existing practice?

[00:12:52] Kevin Wheeler: Ooh. You know, some of that has to deal with their finances. Right? So we have to be realistic, and they’re gonna have probably a lot of bills, you know, coming up, a lot of school fees and whatnot.

[00:13:04] So I would say you. My advice would be not to jump right into their own practice right out the gate, to get, there’s so many opportunities to join groups or to join other doctors. That will give a little bit of mentorship and they can start planning immediately on what that looks like on their own exit to their own private office.

[00:13:26] But it’s a big hurdle, because you’ve got so much knowledge in your head as a new dentist, right? You’re not even thinking about what the patient experience is gonna be like, you’re just thinking about how am I gonna do this crown? How am I gonna do this filling, you know, how many patients will I see?

[00:13:41] What is the flow gonna be? So, you really gotta get some practice. And so I have talked to a lot of new grads that are like, you know, my dad’s gonna, my mom’s gonna help me get an office rolling right away. You know, I don’t wanna bash their goals, but I’m like, okay, but just think about, you don’t have to rush into this.

[00:14:00] You know, you can get a lot of experience by jumping in with a group.

[00:14:05] Chris Pistorius: Yeah. And not only that, but you know, what I find is, and I’ve said this several times on this podcast, but we find new dentists coming outta school. They know a lot about dentistry certainly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they know a lot about business.

[00:14:17] Right, and you know, there’s a book out there called METH Revisited, I think it is, where they talk about, you know, being good or being at the technical work of business or something like being a skilled technical worker is great, but if you don’t know how to do the books, how to do sales, how to do marketing, you know, anything else.

[00:14:36] You’re probably not gonna have a success successful business, so, I think you’re right. I think, you know, new people can learn, not only, you know, and refine their skills, but also learn about business as well.

[00:14:47] Kevin Wheeler: Yeah. I mean, gosh, I wouldn’t want to take those two on right out the gate. My clinical aptitude and then my business acumen. That’s a tall mountain to climb right out the gate.

[00:14:58] Chris Pistorius: Yeah. Yeah, for sure.

[00:14:59] Kevin Wheeler: But those that really want to do it, they just need to reach out and look for help. Cause there’s a lot of help out there. They don’t have to do it alone. Right.

[00:15:08] They’ll have to work that into their finances. But there’s people out there such as myself that that’s there to support them.

[00:15:14] Chris Pistorius: Yeah. Yeah. Well, great. Now, when you work with practices, newer, existing, I’m sure you get into some of the marketing aspects of things too. What have you seen work great for dental practices in terms of marketing and bringing in new patients?

[00:15:27] Kevin Wheeler: Yeah, I mean, for me, the internal referral is huge, right? So if you’re gonna have to spend money to get people on the books. Once they are, it’s gonna be the buzz around the community. So I’m really big on keeping things in line. Marketing can get expensive, but it’s very necessary. So while you’re pouring in those dollars into that, make sure that everyone is a raving fan of you, right? That you’re thinking about.

[00:15:56] And I talk about this a lot with teams. Why would somebody drive past three dental offices to get to yours. And if you’re not thinking about that every day and pretty much in front of every patient, then you’re missing an opportunity.

[00:16:11] So, there’s a lot of competition out there. And so we have to be thinking, how are we gonna be different? So internal referrals, having a great experience. I love having new patient gifts. You know, they come in making sure, again, if you apply what they need done clinically to the value of what’s important to them.

[00:16:32] Then you’re gonna be good with the internal referrals, and then, you know, have your team get out there and do some business to, you know, shake hands, kiss babies, you know, all that stuff. You need your community to know that you’re there. And I have a big passion. For many years I’ve got involved with outreach.

[00:16:51] And so anytime I get into an office, I ask them to consider partnering with a homeless shelter or toys for Tots or whatever they feel passionate about and bring that into the dental office cuz that gives a unique experience to the patient. They can actually give back to the community and they see that you care about something other than dentistry as well.

[00:17:13] And that helps build the relationship. So that goes really wide as an overview, but that’s basically it.

[00:17:21] Chris Pistorius: Awesome. Awesome. Well, thanks Kevin. I really appreciate your time. This has been really good information. I know that our base is gonna get a lot of great info out of this.

[00:17:32] If somebody’s watching this and they’re like, yes, I need some help like this, what’s the best way to reach out to you and work with you?

[00:17:38] Kevin Wheeler: Yeah, so I have a website, a Simplified Coo. so they can definitely reach out to that. I’m on, you know, LinkedIn, they can look up for Kevin Wheeler specifically.

[00:17:48] And you know, my email is SimplifiedCoo@yahoo.com.

[00:17:54] Chris Pistorius: What’s the process when somebody reaches out? Do you do like a free consultation or something like that? Just kind of see where you are.

[00:18:01] Kevin Wheeler: Yeah. So free consultation. I’m not really big on the contracts because again, I build my business around relationships.

[00:18:07] And at any time, if they don’t see the value of the services, I’m not gonna hold them to anything specifically. So I’m more about, I’m here to serve and I hope to be a good fit for them.

[00:18:19] Chris Pistorius: Awesome. Kevin, thanks again so much for taking the time. I know that this is gonna be hugely valuable for a lot of people.

[00:18:26] Kevin Wheeler: Thank you, Chris. I appreciate you.

[00:18:28] Chris Pistorius: Great, and thanks everybody for tuning in for another episode of the Dental and Orthodontic Marketing Podcast. Be sure to check back with us next week for another great guest.

[00:18:37] Narrator: Thanks for joining us this week on the Dental Marketing Podcast. Make sure to visit our website, www.KickStartDental.com/podcast, where you can subscribe to the show in iTunes, Spotify, or via RSS so you’ll never miss a show. While you’re at it, if you found value in the show, we’d appreciate a rating on iTunes or if you’d simply tell a friend about the show.

[00:19:01] That would help us out too. If you are ready to grow your practice, then you might want to schedule a free strategy session with us. Just go to KickStartDental.com and click the free strategy session button and give us 15 minutes of your time to change your practice forever. Be sure to tune in next week for our next episode.

[00:19:19] And thanks for listening to The Dental Marketing Podcast by Kickstart Dental Marketing, where dentists go to win online.