Steve Matzkin Featured

8:00pm EDT March 21, 2007
Dr. Steve Matzin attributes much of his success to the layout of his offices at Dental Care Alliance. The president and CEO equates closed doors with a closed culture and says opening things up goes a long way toward creating a more open culture. If an employee looks down a hallway and there are 30 offices with 30 closed doors, that’s not an inviting social situation, he says. What you should do instead, he says, is rip out all those offices and create an open environment, says Matzkin, who led the company to revenue north of $120 million. Smart Business spoke with Matzkin about how to handle an open corporate culture and how to communicate your message.

Have a clear and consistent message. It’s important that everyone understand what you are trying to achieve and that you don’t waver back and forth, so everyone knows what is to be expected.

We have a goal and everyone understands what the goal is, and that stays consistent or can be elevated once that is achieved. Everyone understands the implementation of how to achieve those goals. A lot of it is through delegation. I can’t micromanage this business. There needs to be a good chain of command. People need to know who to report to and what is expected of them.

When it comes to goals, we bring everybody in once a year and we create budgets for the regions of individual offices. Everyone creates the goal together and buys into the goal. Our IT system shows them on a daily basis what the goal is and where they are toward achieving that goal. Everyone knows how to achieve that goal from the bottom up. Then, once a year, we bring in all the regional managers and dental directors and a lot of the key players for a meeting. We go over the yearly goals, how everybody did and we give out awards.

Delegate responsibilities. A CEO or president, if they try to do too much they are probably not going to be successful. There are only so many hours in the day and only so much attention can be put forth on a project before you are burning out or things are let to slip through the cracks. You can’t do it yourself. You have to find the right people and trust them and empower them.

There’s a process where people come in, and they aren’t going to think the way you think or understand everything you have learned through your experiences. But, they are going to have the right elements. They are going to make mistakes, and that’s OK.

They can make their mistakes, and that should be expected. They’ll learn from those mistakes. Over time, they will make decisions that would be very similar to the decisions you would make, right or wrong.

There’s a process, and time and a learning curve to do that. When you get to that point, you need to trust them. There will be times when someone will make a decision, and I’ll say, ‘I wouldn’t have done it that way.’ But, I can’t deal with everything that goes on every day. There’s just not enough time. The closer they get to making similar decisions you would hope they would make, the more you can delegate it to those people.

Create a culture that fits your employees’ personalities. First, you have to decide the types of people who will succeed in your business and what kind of culture they will best survive in.

If you want that kind of open and sociable kind of business, then you have got to have an environment where people feel comfortable. It starts with the CEO, COO and CFO. If they are open and encourage that kind of interaction, then it will be a lot easier than if employees are afraid to knock on a CEO’s door because they are afraid he/she is always in high-level meetings and doesn’t have time to talk. I walk around and say hello to everyone when I come in.

We do bowling tournaments and parties. We do things because if you enjoy coming to work and the people you work with, people will be more productive, stay and not always be looking for another job for 5 cents an hour more.

It’s almost like you’re with your friends or family. There’s an attachment there, and that’s what we strive for. It goes back to the type of people we hire. They want that kind of environment. Some people like the environment where they walk into work, they shut their door and do their job and leave.

Be proactive, not reactive. We are constantly looking around and gathering information. We gather with companies like us, not competitors of ours because one company operates in California, etc. We get together a couple times a year and talk about what is going on in different markets just to help each other. Saying, ‘Hey, this is happening in California, this could be happening in Florida next.’

Don’t look over people’s shoulders. Everybody has their responsibilities and goals they need to work up to. As long as those are being met, there’s no reason for me to be standing over them looking at everybody and what they are doing. If it’s not being met, then it’s time for me to say, ‘Why isn’t this happening?’

Everyone knows what is expected and as long as they accomplish that, then I’m not standing over them saying, ‘You left at five minutes to 5 today.’ It’s a job-orientated company, not a time-orientated company.

If someone gets it done in six hours instead of seven hours and they want to take an hour extra for lunch, that’s fine. As long as their job was done, I’m not going to be all over them.

HOW TO REACH: Dental Care Alliance, (941) 955-3150 or