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ClearChoice Dental Implant Centers has had the remarkable history of achieving the greatest success in the least amount of time. What was it about that model that achieved so much success so quickly? And, what can DSOs learn from the ClearChoice DSO model? A lot says Margaret McGuckin, who was the COO of ClearChoice Dental Implant Centers and led ClearChoice in using a direct-to-consumer, all-in-one delivery approach. 

Margaret McGuckin was responsible for creating and implementing best practices quickly to successfully replicate sales and operations across centers nationwide, so when she says ClearChoice was not a one-time unicorn (one of those things that can only occur at one point in an industry), dental entrepreneurs take notice.

“So much of what we learned while building and operating ClearChoice is applicable to all the different models that we now have in DSOs,” says McGuckin. “Whether they are direct-to-consumer, a loose affiliation of practices, or one where the practices are run 100% by the DSO, what we learned at ClearChoice can span that spectrum.” 

On the strategic level, ClearChoice founders had to think deeply about what they would deliver. They decided to create and deliver a consistent consumer -to-patient conversion model, and the patient model they created was an end-to-end experience that was consistent and predictable. 

McGuckin recalls, “When the first private equity acquisition occurred, they surveyed every one of our 31 locations in 14 states and said, ‘You have about the most consistent multi-location net promoter score of anybody we've ever seen in the retail world.’ And, that’s how we built a platform that is consistent and repeatable.” 

The ClearChoice model was geared around consistent customer experience and delivery at all points in the process from the patient’s first contact with ClearChoice all the way through discharge. It was a direct-to-consumer model designed to enthrall the customer at every point of the process.

ClearChoice made the process simple but effective. Starting from the first day of a new location, they asked the doctors to rate the DSO, asking, “How effective were we in getting done what needed to be done to support your success?” If the rating was not an A, the ClearChoice team asked follow-up questions such as “What do we need to do tomorrow to make that B an A?” The goal was to get very specific feedback daily and then at a certain point monthly and quarterly.  Everyone working in the location could rate it.

“Initially as we were building ClearChoice and we were opening a new location every eight weeks,” says McGuckin. “Getting a loan was hard and getting harder, because it was at the start of the recession. But a key part of our success was being able to separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of feedback. And so, for the first locations, we hung on every single word of every person in every location, and then, we started to look for the patterns.” 

This quickly led to the development of ClearChoice’s fast-track playbook. Their objective was to “make our locations cashflow positive, or at least cashflow neutral, in four months, and it’s been highly leveraged as a model,” explains McGuckin.

ClearChoice was platform-focused, meaning they focused on doing the same thing at every office. They learned early on that failing to do that did not result in enough predictable growth. “We did a ton of A/B testing,” says McGuckin, “and it's one of the things that enabled us  to create the consistency that we needed to really build a platform. We had our platform done in 18 months and then it was just adding locations to that platform.” 

Margaret McGuckin co-founded the consulting company i3 Ignite to help large group practices stay on the path of profitable growth while navigating the complexity of executing a multi-location, multi-business model organization. Along with co-founder Kathy Lynn-Cullotta, they identify patterns and provide solutions to help DSOs quickly scale up.

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