Picking the Right Chief Clinical Officer to Start a Dental Group

If you are on the cusp of starting a dental group, the most important decision you can make is choosing the Chief Clinical Officer (CCO) to lead your people and steer your care-driven initiatives. Your CCO will be the bridge that connects your practices under one philosophy, spearheads initiatives, mentors your doctors, and oversees care and practices for continuity.

Quite simply, this person will be the line that connects your dots and transforms a loosely connected group of practices into a unified organization of excellence. There are a lot of experienced dentists out there with success in their blood, but being a CCO for a new dental group is a big job; it takes a big person to fill it!

General Leadership Criteria

Any CCO or CMO job listing can give you the basic framework for general hiring criteria, but you’ll need to look beyond the on-paper criteria to find the person who will be compatible with your unique group. 

  • Leadership: To lead a dental group, you must be more than just a good dentist and a good leader. Find out what leadership and mentoring traits your candidates bring to the table that transcend the discrete duties of their prior roles.
  • Vision: To find compatibility, your own vision must be clear and well communicated. Have a conversation about your vision for the group and notice which goals lead to sparks.
  • A History of Successful Culture Shifts: Dig around outside of professional experiences if need be, but don’t consider any candidate unless you are convinced they have a gift for affecting the atmosphere.
  • Innovation and Enthusiasm: This is one crucial category where the right candidate will wow you with their track record. A good CCO will have many stories to tell about the factors that drove their past innovations.


There’s no litmus test to measure professional courage, but you won’t find a successful CCO who isn’t a balls-to-the-wall, take-the-bull-by-the-horns personality. How can you identify this quality in a candidate? Imagine the professional development equivalent of an adrenaline junky. Rather than parachuting out of planes or climbing mountains, your candidate should be someone who gets excited by professional challenges and positive change. Rather than bringing an exasperated sigh, challenges put a twinkle in their eyes. 


Your CCO must be skilled at 360-degree communication with every site and every side of operations. He or she must be the spider in the center of the web, noting every ripple, every snag, and every success. If you find a candidate who has an almost uncanny ability to keep tabs on far more than their traditional purview, you are headed in the right direction! As the CCO, “purview” truly goes out the window, since he or she will be responsible for all action and outcomes (patient satisfaction, office efficiency, ROI, etc.).

Gaps in communication at this level can lead to creeping disconnect in a dental group. Find out what processes and procedures your candidate will use to ensure no gaps emerge.

Agents of Change-Connection-Commitment

Starting a new dental group will mean significant changes for most of the practices you acquire. Collectively, whether each individual resists or embraces those changes will determine the success of your brand. In order for your venture to work, change has to be positive, welcome, and top-down. Not only must your CCO be a capable agent of change at every level, he or she must also be gifted at connecting with others and inspiring positive changes to happen organically.

In situations like this, either the people change you or you change the people. When choosing a CCO, your ideal person is someone who is committed to connecting with and changing people for the better.

Some Thoughts on Recruitment

In general, you always want to recruit very well established and dedicated providers to mentor. When targeting a practice to acquire, measure the leader of each practice you make an offer on. Create incentives for mentoring in the contracts and build accountability for teaching others their standard of excellence (e.g., real best-practice standards that don’t compromise how to be care driven in an insurance-driven world). They still work together and are very effective in a profitability model with excellence in products and service. From this process, your ideal CCO candidate will rise to the top. 

Stay connected with us for more tips on hiring for your dental group, including how to write job listings that attract the talent you are looking for. Contact us for assistance evaluating your systems, your team, and your vision for your future as a Dentrepreneur®.

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