How a Great Culture Builds a Fantastic Practice

July 20, 2023

This is a guest article written by Roger P. Levin, DDS, Founder and CEO of Levin Group.

The subject of building a culture in business or dental practice is not new. In the 1980s, it was a revolutionary concept when businesses began to realize that having a culture could galvanize all of their employees toward common behaviors, objectives and goals. Having a strong practice culture also produces the benefit of enhancing the work and personal lives of those working in the business.

Culture step 1: Identify a mission

Building a powerful culture starts with a mission. And while we have all heard about having a mission and mission statements, it seems that many dental practices have not done it well. This is evidenced by dentistry’s (as well as the entire business world’s) prolonged period of a staffing crisis with team members resigning from positions, practices having a shortage of dental staff and the dental industry losing 10% of dental hygienists. This crisis was called the “Great Resignation.”

Why did the Great Resignation happen? Because today’s staff members want a vastly different environment for their future. Certainly, they all want and need their paychecks; however, many are willing to resign their positions. For many years, simply paying team members was enough and the relationship was transactional, which simply means “I pay you. You do the work.”

When we talk to today’s team members, we find that they want more than just a paycheck. They want to feel that there is a purpose in their work, that they belong to a practice that has the right philosophy, that they are making a difference and that they will have an opportunity to learn and grow.

This all starts by identifying your mission and writing it down as a mission statement. Once again, in the 1980s, this was a radical idea. It is commonplace today, but it’s not working as broadly or as well as it should. We encourage you to write a mission statement and keep it less than two sentences, as a real mission should be simple and focused. The Levin Group’s mission, written in 1985, is “Improving the lives of dentists.” Anyone can memorize this in just a few seconds, but then you need to go to the next level.

Keep in mind that just because you currently have a mission statement, it doesn’t mean that the team knows, thinks about or even understands the mission. You need to be talking about it regularly and that starts with the leaders. The doctor and office manager should never let a day go by without having some commentary about the mission. They can talk about the mission, congratulate people on carrying out the mission or send an email to a staff member telling them they did an excellent job and that they lived up to the mission. If the leaders don’t focus on the mission, it will be forgotten and a sense of purpose and belonging to the practice will not materialize.

Although it may sound silly, we suggest you start every monthly staff meeting with the whole group reciting the mission aloud. This is another way to make it front and center. And remember, once you have a real mission, it will never change! It stays the same during good times, bad times or any other scenarios that emerge.

One final note about mission statements: they help you to make decisions. When you’re wondering if you should be doing something, adding something or changing something, you can always go back to your mission and see how that decision advances it or detracts from it.

Culture step 2: Identify real values

Having values is another one of those concepts that very few businesses discuss. We have asked many dentists to list their values. This is often followed by a long pause, and then they begin reciting values as if they are making them up on the spot. They all sound good, but they are not really the practice’s values.

A great exercise is for the entire team to work together to identify 5, 10, or 15 values that are the hallmark of the practice. Then reduce them to no more than a list of six. If you have more than six, no one remembers what they are or can act on them daily.

It is also important not to simply pick values that sound good. Think of values as the DNA of your practice and discussing them as one of the most powerful exercises and ongoing conversations you can have with your team. One excellent method to help identify values is simply to go online and look up a “values list.” We then suggest that you look at these values for a few weeks and review them regularly to determine if any of them are right for your practice.

Your values should be so powerful that once you establish them, they are non-negotiable and permanent. If a team member makes a mistake, consider it a great teaching opportunity. However, if a team member violates a value, it is a serious matter. You must help the team understand that values can never be violated. You can make mistakes and decisions, work independently and try new things, but you cannot violate a value.

Remember, you must include the team in your “values” discussion. If a leader presents values and demands that everyone lives by them, that typically does not go well. Holding one or more meetings with the team to talk about values shows that you are working to establish them with their input and creates more commitment and more conversation around the values.

Culture step 3: Talk about the mission and values a lot

We can’t make it any simpler than the above statement. Dental practices that take time to develop mission statements and a set of values that they believe in often fail to build a culture around them because once the exercise is complete, the mission and values are gradually forgotten. It is essential in building and maintaining a culture that the mission and values be part of daily discussion. Making a statement such as “That’s a great example of us living our values” goes a long way to reminding the team that this is the foundation of the practice culture.

The bottom line

Building a culture is simple. You identify the mission and values, talk about them a lot, help everyone understand how they apply to different situations and use them to continually monitor practice behavior and performance. Having a great culture will make both the doctor and team happier and motivate team members to stay with the practice because they feel that they have purpose, can continue to grow and are making a difference.


Roger P. Levin, DDS is the CEO and Founder of Levin Group, a leading practice management consulting firm that has worked with over 30,000 practices to increase production. A recognized expert on dental practice management and marketing, he has written 67 books and over 4,000 articles and regularly presents seminars in the US and around the world.

To contact Dr. Levin or to join the 40,000 dental professionals who receive his Practice Production Tip of the Day, visit or email

Stay informed with Aprio.

Get industry news and leading insights delivered straight to your inbox.

Stay informed with Aprio. Subscribe now.