Financial Growth in Dental Organizations: Secrets to Success with Author Ken Kaufman


Podcast Summary

In this podcast episode, Shawn Zajas engages in a dynamic and insightful conversation with Ken Kaufman, a pioneer in the world of dental practice finance and author of “DSOs: Financial Secrets to Grow Dental Organizations.” Ken’s expertise and journey as a thought leader in the dental industry are explored, shedding light on his path from a corporate career to a transformative role within dentistry. 

The discussion commences with Ken’s shift from a comfortable corporate job to embracing the dental industry’s challenges. He highlights his motivation to contribute meaningfully to an evolving field and speaks passionately about helping dental practitioners build successful practices. Through his consulting firm, he assists dental organizations in navigating the complexities of finance, strategy, and growth. 

Shawn delves into Ken’s book, “DSOs: Financial Secrets to Grow Dental Organizations,” inquiring about the driving force behind its creation. Ken shares that the book emerged from a desire to provide dental practitioners with essential financial tools, offering clarity and strategic guidance. He outlines how the book serves as a comprehensive playbook for individuals looking to improve their financial operations and decision-making within the realm of dentistry. 

The conversation deepens as Ken elaborates on various concepts covered in the book. He discusses the value of a finance leader within dental practices and offers insights into accrual accounting, historical financial reporting, associate compensation, and equity models. Ken emphasizes the importance of these financial tools and strategies in achieving long-term success in the dental industry. 

An engaging aspect of the interview is Ken’s collaboration with his daughter on the book. He recounts how he involved her in creating relatable scenarios and characters within the dental industry to simplify complex financial concepts. The father-daughter partnership not only yielded an accessible resource but also strengthened their bond through a shared creative endeavor. 

The podcast touches on Ken’s growth-oriented mindset and his aspirations for the future. He envisions the next decade as a phase of dedicated leadership refinement. He aims to empower individuals to become effective leaders by mastering the art of understanding and guiding people, a skill that transcends automation and AI. 

Shawn and Ken conclude their conversation on a reflective note. Shawn playfully suggests the possibility of Ken authoring another book, given his ongoing journey of growth and insight. Ken humorously conveys that this endeavor might come to fruition in the next decade after accumulating more experiences to share. The interview wraps up with Shawn expressing appreciation for Ken’s commitment to personal and professional growth, his contributions to the dental field, and his inspiring willingness to share his knowledge. 

The podcast episode exemplifies the transformative power of personal growth, leveraging challenges as opportunities, and the significance of sharing expertise to drive positive change within industries. Through Ken Kaufman’s story, listeners gain valuable insights into financial strategies, leadership development, and the resilience required to navigate uncharted territories. 

Connect with Ken Kaufman:
FB: @Ken Kaufman

Podcast Transcript

Ken Kaufman 00:00 

Having a few people out here that were haters that said, hey, what you’re doing is dumb should never do anything like that. I don’t know, that just gave me enough firepower to say, No, I will. And I’m going to prove you wrong if I have to in the process. 


Shawn Zajas  00:16 

The future of dentistry belongs to be innovators. Welcome to innovation in dentistry. I’m your host, Shawn Zajas. And I believe that the future of dentistry is going to be unbelievably great over the next decade in two decades. But the question isn’t that the question is, are you going to be part of what makes dentistry Great? Hate so today, I have the honor to be able to interview Ken Kaufman. So Ken, before I set you up, just let me say thank you for being with me today. 


Ken Kaufman 00:58 

Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be with you, Shawn on the show. 


Shawn Zajas  01:02 

Okay, so innovation man, that really it’s so broad in so many ways, because, you know, there’s so many innovative technologies that change industries, in dentistry, there’s innovations when it comes to clinical dentistry. And thankfully, me you and I, both were not dentists. So we’re not going to talk about anything clinical. But I feel like behind every single clinical or technological innovation, it starts with somebody that has some sort of mindset or belief set that allows them to say, you know, what, why not me? Why can’t I step up? Why can’t I pioneer the change that I want to see in an industry? And I see you can I see what you’re doing. I see, even just with a book that you launched just last November, and you are pioneering positive change in dentistry. Tell me a little bit about how you ended up getting into dentistry in the first place. 


Ken Kaufman 01:57 

Sure. So I started in dentistry in 2006. And at the time, I was doing financial consulting, for kind of small startup businesses. And in the process of like meeting different people and helping different businesses. One of them was a mobile dentistry Group in Las Vegas, Nevada, where I was living at the time. And they had retrofitted a 53 foot trailer with four operatories figured out how to get the X rays in there, everything it was, it was very impressive. And they were serving the employers that are you know, all in downtown Las Vegas pulling the van up by the employee parking garage, that kind of a thing. So that was my first exposure to dentistry. And I’ve had some other consulting things here and there and some other things, but I basically been in dentistry ever since then. 


Shawn Zajas  02:52 

Now dentistry, I feel it’s kind of a, it’s a strange field. I feel like, if you’re one of them, they let you in. But if not, it’s like, how do you how do you broker that sort of trust? Did you find that that after that initial arrangement, that it was easy to continue? You know, to build trust or not not necessary to build trust, but to have that trust or credibility instantly? Or do you feel like you really had to? I don’t know, keep bringing reassurance. Now, what you do on the finance side is incredibly important. So maybe it’s just that the need was so big that people were like, Hey, you can solve my problem. Let’s go with Ken 


Ken Kaufman 03:36 

Well, so the need is big, but to some degree, the, to just try to take and say, Here’s finance, I’m gonna put this in, in this box over here. And okay, you just give me some financial statements regularly and do my taxes or whatever. I it took a lot of work for me to build and gain trust and rapport with doctors so that they would trust me as a business advisor, so to speak, or you know, somebody that could really help them strategically think about their business and figure out how to grow the business. There’s a there’s a big difference between hiring a bookkeeper to keep keep the books and maybe get you some information versus somebody who can look at the entire capital stack and figure out based on the growth plans and the desires of the organization, how do we actually execute a plan that will drive the result that everybody wants? So there’s still you don’t need to help the dental community understand the value that can come from the finance function. 


Shawn Zajas  04:39 

You know, I run into having to educate dentists because, you know, like, if they’re going to spend time getting an education, it’s not going to be getting an MBA, we’re all of a sudden they realize, Hey, I’ve run an organization. And these are the, you know, the critical factors that I need to understand in order to really scale if I want to do that or Just run it more successfully. So I imagine like you said, with finance, it’s like, well, tell me what the ROI is going to be on why I’m investing in this and why? And it’s like, I don’t know. So it seems like a no brainer. Now tell me was it surprising to you at all at first going from more just the corporate world, non dental too, all of a sudden being in the dental space. When it comes to finance, where there’s some, some nuances that you had to kind of learn or study a little bit extra to figure out exactly how dentistry works? Were there any surprises? As far as like, just on the financial side of oh, man, I didn’t expect dentistry to be like this. 


Ken Kaufman 05:39 

Yeah, Shawn, that question, you’re opening up Pandora’s box here. For me. Dentistry is highly complicated, especially when you start to move into the building a DSO, multiple practices or putting a formal DSO structure in place. The level of complexity is crazy, in some instances, and takes a lot of time and a lot of effort to get set up and organized correctly. And then to actually get everything to flow through and work properly. And it’s a lot of back end stuff. And you know, the interesting thing, Shawn, that I found is is dentists are super smart people, I have not met one that isn’t really smart. And the way that I tried to explain how you know, my role, or how I can possibly help them is, is I tell them, Look, if you chose to study the things that I’ve studied, and to do the things that I’ve done, you’d probably be better at me than I am at doing what I do. But the reality is you didn’t. And so I come to the table with a specialty, right? In a mindset of how to drive growth inside of an organization that I’ve earned. Some of it maybe comes a little bit naturally, but I’ve had to learn and grow. And you know, plenty of times getting my own teeth kicked in, because I messed up, or I forgot something, or I just didn’t know what I was doing or that couldn’t see around the corner, because I didn’t have the right experience. And so, you know, the reality is, is that once once they understand that the finance function, if it’s staffed properly, and you’ve got the right person leading through the process, they start to trust it the same way that they realize, hey, my patients trust me, because I’m an expert, I probably need to trust somebody over here, that’s an expert just because they’ve been doing it longer. And the cool thing is, is I have seen some dentists that get like, really, really good at business, they study and they go to classes, and they join mastermind groups, and they actually get really good at business, and they even start to get really good at understanding finance. And so it’s not that it’s off limits. It’s just a matter of wherever you put your focus, right. 


Shawn Zajas  07:47 

No, I love that, Ken. And exactly like you said, like when it comes down to it. I don’t think I could be an amazing dentist like personally like the the excellence you need to be clinically great. And also just the depth of the knowledge they have to have, like being a great dentist requires a very intelligent person. And yet, what I know about entrepreneurship is just my area of expertise. You know, it’s my experience that I have. So I right, I can bring that to the table now. So I’m curious before you got into dentistry, you were the business guy, the CFO, how did you end up falling into that role? Like, was that something early on? You knew Hey, I love numbers. I love the financial side of things. Like why why that? That specialty, I guess, 


Ken Kaufman 08:39 

yeah, here, here’s how it all got started. I’ll try to summarize this as best as I can. When I was in high school, I took a class on finance. And I learned all about the stock market. And I was just as fascinated by it, how it worked and why things went up and down. And, you know, we had the whole mock portfolio where you’d pick things and watch them go up and down and with no idea what we were doing. But it’s just such a great learning experience. Right? So ground level. And so I I saw that happening and and how that worked. And I was interested in it. I knew that I was interested in it. Well, I went on a mission for my church for a couple of years, I came back and I was starting my second year of college. And the opportunity came up to for me to take a job at Fidelity Investments as a brokerage trader. And Shawn, this is like, I know this will blow all the millennials away. But back then if you wanted to trade stocks, you had to pick up the phone and call somebody and say I want to buy 100 shares of Microsoft, I want to sell 100 shares of Oracle. And in fact, while I was there, they were just coming out with a telephonic system where you could put in based on you know the stock symbol and whether you wanted to buy or sell or whatever you they were just figuring out how to try to automate so that you didn’t have to call and talk to somebody live. But I was a brokerage trader. I was licensed and did like it worried about the markets, I was in it every day watching and work and doing things in it. And it was just so fascinating to me. And I really enjoyed it. So I basically worked about three quarters time, all the way through my last three years of college for this amazing experience, and then tried to, you know, do as as good as I could at school, knowing that I was more interested in the stuff I was learning at work. And then it got to the point where I graduated from college, and I said, you know, what, I’m gonna start my own firm, I’m gonna advise people I’m going to, I’m going to help the world really tackle this, this financial side, and how to grow and invest in all those kind of things. And Shawn, it completely flopped. My idea was great, I didn’t know how to execute I six months into this venture, I’d taken a $5,000 loan from my dad. And I literally had nothing to show for it. I met lots of people, I just I didn’t, I didn’t understand there’s so much that I didn’t know and I didn’t understand. And it’s fortuitous, right, everything ends up happening for the right reason. So you have this person who knows a lot about finance, and all these different things. And then I needed to go find a job. And so I started looking, and I found an organization that was young, had just barely started, I got in very early. And we grew that company to 100 million in sales within a few years. And I was hooked. I’m like, Whoa, this is a medium run and build these businesses and all the challenges and problems and people issues and, you know, processing system issues and optimizing growth, what you know, when you’re trying to grow so fast. I was I was enamored. And I literally said to myself, how do I, like grow in all of this, and that that ultimately molded me motivated me to go and get an MBA. And I did it in finance and entrepreneurship. So those are my two passions, I had found this. And I was so excited to you know, just learn more and grow in this area. That coming out of MBA school, I worked at a fortune 500 company for a year. And then right after that, I landed into my first CFO role. I’ve never been a CFO before, I’ve never even been sort of a high ranking anything in finance. And it was just an amazing opportunity that fell in my lap. And then I just, I was in this process of I have no idea what I’m doing. Who cares if you’ve got the title could actually add value or, you know, not completely mess up the business. Right. So I was just learning as fast as I could drinking from the firehose, every day. Learning the working capital cycle, and how how to drive you know, your your debt and equity discussion with growth. And there’s just so much that I was able to learn, it was just it was amazing. And it was a great training ground for me that I think prepared me to tackle some of the things that I I’ve been able to do in Dental. So sorry, hopefully, I didn’t go too long. But there’s a lot though. No, 


Shawn Zajas  12:56 

no, no, that was that was absolutely perfect. Because can I’m like, I need to know like the story because that helps me understand the mindset, like the fact that you went to school, got super excited about what you’re learning, and then you’re like, Oh, my God, let me just go for it. Like, I’m just gonna go for it. There’s no guarantees, but really like, what what could happen? And then it flops, like the fact that it flopped in you kept on going, I think, is so so big, because then all of a sudden this like, ambiguous, what if worst case scenario no longer became ambiguous, the worst case scenario happened and you’re like, oh, like, I can just keep going. Like, I can just get up, you know? And just try again. And you didn’t try as a completely independent, entrepreneurial like on your own venture. You went more into the let me learn the expertise. Let me get experience, then get more education. Now. When did you end up stepping out on your own? After being a CFO? 


Ken Kaufman 14:02 

Yeah, so I had been there for a couple of years. And the entrepreneurial bug was was still in there. And there was a lot of, you know, rapid growth going on everywhere. So this was I think about, it’s about 2005 2006. So it’s before the 2008 crash. Yeah. And I just I ultimately came to a point where I wanted to keep growing and developing and learning but the business that I was in wasn’t really going to be the platform for me that that started to become more and more evident. And so I said, You know what, maybe I’m just gonna go figure out how to go do my own thing again. And, and at this point, Shawn, right, the relationship that we have with our spouse, it’s the most important relationship we have. And my wife was not used to being married to somebody who was entrepreneurial, willing to, like work all hours of the day to to try to, you know, see their vision through and, and all those things. And it was sort of a monumental point in our marriage, where my wife If said, Okay, I trust you, like you’ve done this enough, we’ve done this enough that I know, you’ll figure out how to make something work. And it usually won’t be what you initially start with, because it takes, you know, there’s the iterations, she’s like, I’m good. Whereas before, sometimes it’d be like, Well, wait a minute, because she came from an environment of a father who had the same job for 40 years. And, you know, it was stable, it was, you know, everything that as entrepreneurs drive us insane. And, but that, so there was a turning point that said, and then it was like, the world was my oyster, what am I going to do, and I found really quickly that what I had done, what I had learned, and the way I had helped this company, the company I was at, really get on top of its finances and grow as a result of that, and, and get a competitive advantage. As a result of that. I realized that I had something. So I started talking to some business owners, and they’re like, Yeah, I’d love somebody to come in and help with our finances, I’d have no idea what’s going on. And all I I talk to my tax CPA once a year, and I have no idea what he’s even saying. And all he does is tell me stuff I should have done, rather than tell me, you know, future in the future, what I should do to optimize or maximize things. And so it just, it just kind of fell into it and started and all of a sudden, I’m like, Oh, I gotta hustle. Now, I want to start talking to different business owners and trying to get referrals and, and build up a consulting practice. So that’s what happened. 


Shawn Zajas  16:30 

So tell me, what was the shift? Like, when you went from, you know, it’s a successful position as a CFO? You know, again, prior to that, like when you first dove into that you’re drinking from the firehose you’re learning. And then you’re realizing, wow, I’m good at this. So then there’s a little bit of stability and some comfort. do you why do you think that like, it came? Like, was it because I don’t know you? You craved more autonomy? Like, what? What was that desire in you? Where you’re like, you know, what? I was it just the realization, I can do this on my own. The way that I want to do it, like, what what was it that you were really looking for? 


Ken Kaufman 17:08 

Yeah, so the, probably the easiest way for me to describe this, Shawn is I’m a growth junkie. I love growth, I love the opportunity to learn more and to grow. And so when things start to sort of stabilize, and my opportunity to learn and grow, starts to minimize it, there’s just something that starts to get 


Shawn Zajas  17:30 

a little restless, restless, 


Ken Kaufman 17:33 

restless, that’s a great word for it. Thank you. And that that’s what led me to ultimately, you know, saying, Hey, I just, I need to do something different. I don’t. I love business, and I love going to work every day. But I don’t want to be the guy that just goes to work and puts in the hours and comes home, I want to be doing stuff that pushes me. And that gives me an opportunity to learn and grow. And in this instance, the business I was in, there was a business unit of the company that was struggling. And I’m like, I know how to fix that. And I went and I said, Hey, can I just kind of do that? And they said, no, no, no, you’re too important where you’re at, we don’t want to distract you in any way. And a little light bulb went off. Like I want to be able to grow, I don’t want to be in the pigeonhole, if that makes sense. And I’m not trying to sound like I’m just this big land grab and always trying to, to, you know, try to take over things that’s not at all, where it was, it was more of, okay, if they’re going to do that, then that means that’s going to limit my opportunity for growth. And so over time, that just starts to grate a little bit. And okay, what else is out there that I can I can say she had this desire to grow. And every career change I’ve made is it revolves around the growth 


Shawn Zajas  18:47 

So did you have that specter from that failed, failed experience that ever either whispered to you or was knocking on the door being like, can you know, if you step out, it’s gonna be like that all over again? You know, like, did you have to battle that when you stepped out again, your second time? 


Ken Kaufman 19:07 

Absolutely. And the interesting thing is in this instance, so when I stepped out the first time or when I did my own thing, I didn’t really have anybody that cared much whether I did or didn’t, I was, I was a nobody in the world. When I stepped out this time, I had some people who were very adamantly angry, and, and didn’t want that to happen and felt like the investment they had made in me was, you know, that I was just sort of spitting in their face and those kinds of things. And so what what ultimately resulted was somehow through the years because, you know, I experienced a lot of rejection and those things in life just like everyone, but I, instead of listening to that and saying that’s forecasting my future, what I did is I said, What if I put that all right here, and just let it become the motivation to crush it. And that’s, that’s ultimately what happened. I just felt so motivated, because it’s like, having a few people out here that were haters that said, hey, what you’re doing is dumb should never do anything like that. I don’t know, that just gave me enough firepower to say, I’m, no, I will, and I’m going to prove you wrong if I have to in the process. 


Shawn Zajas  20:24 

I mean, it sounds a lot like Tom Brady. Like, you know, he had so many doubters, when he was in college, you know, battling for a starting position, and then all of a sudden going into the draft he doesn’t get picked will pick 199. And what that translated to him was, there’s so many, so many teams that didn’t believe that he had what it took. There were so many owners and management that was willing to bet against him saying, Oh, he’s not going to be anybody. So it’s like, what do you do with that? Do you take that as like, I’m gonna let this define who I am. I’m not I my values based off what they’ve given me. Or the exact opposite, like what you did, I’m going to let this be a fire in my belly, that I’m going to prove them wrong, because I know I can do this. That is, that is amazing. So tell me that timing from first venture you graduated step into the first venture, then you get a lot of corporate experience, and then all of a sudden, you step out into your own consulting? What is that timeframe? 


Ken Kaufman 21:29 

So this was basically 2004 to 2006 range. And I ended up that consulting business, I ran until about 2010. 


Shawn Zajas  21:40 

Whoa, so you’re saying you only got like, two, two or three years, the corporate experience, like it was really, wow, I thought maybe it was like a period of eight or 10 years. So So you had that bug was there? Like really quickly, you knew, Okay, like, take the training wheels off, I got a lot of experience. But I’m not meant for this. And see this, this whole podcast Ken, it’s for dental professionals that have some other dream or some other passion. And I’m not saying it’s other than dentistry, maybe they’re an associate right now. And they crave that growth potential or that autonomy, or that freedom to be like, I think I can do it. Or maybe they’re already a solo doc. But they want to scale and maybe start some sort of a DSO, or come together with another friend of theirs and form a DSO. And it’s that whole jump of like, but But what if, like, what if it doesn’t work out. And my whole thing is, I’m convinced people are going to be so much more. It’s a, it’s a heavy word, but more tormented by the risks. They don’t take the whole idea of the power regret, I think people are going to regret what they didn’t step into. Even if they ended up failing, it’s like it makes for life. That’s adventure. That’s the unknown. That’s, that’s the risk that we all get to be part of that makes life amazing that we don’t know. And we get to strive and try without a guarantee. And that’s where when the success comes, or when there is some sort of, on the marketplace rewards what we’re doing, that’s when that reward really can be felt, because it’s like, yeah, I did that. And I love that you mentioned that your wife was there, and she was supportive. And I can imagine how hard that must have been for her. Like you said, seeing her dad in this stable, fix fixed type of employment, and then all of a sudden to be married to someone that’s, you know, willing to take on that risk. Was there a mindset I know you did share something about the whole, almost the way that you you viewed the doubters, so to speak? But was there there another mindset that you are grappling with during this season? That, that either you you learned or mindset that you had to let go of in order for you to enter in like to that that next season? 


Ken Kaufman 24:08 

Yeah. So I’d say the mindset that I started to just adhere to and love is the thought process that and then somebody called quote said this before I did. So don’t think I’m I innovated this, I just can’t remember who it was. But they said, there’s only two potential outcomes, you succeed, or you learn. So failure is a tool to learn. And it’s, it’s on the opposite side of success, usually in the short term, but often it lays the groundwork. And so when I started to understand that principle, and that framework, I started to realize, well, okay, so I actually did learn a lot and I shouldn’t beat myself up because maybe this didn’t work out or that didn’t work out and you know, all your listeners, I’d encourage them to try to keep this frame as active as possible because it’s like You know what you might call and see success or failure, the failure may end up becoming your greatest success because of what it teaches you and what it gives you. And we’re just, we’re these human, imperfect human beings having this imperfect human experience. And I think we’re here to just like get every opportunity and every rep to just learn and experience what, what’s there and not be afraid of it, not be not shy away from it, but be willing to like just go and the failures end up turning into successes over time. But going along with with your point there, which is you with the regrets of never having tried, like, I would be so frustrated and just feel like I’ve got something inside that’s got to explode here at some moment. Because I I regret not having tried when I had the opportunity to. 


Shawn Zajas  25:55 

And I was talking the other day with some family member. And you know, I was just telling them a little bit about the podcast, because they were asking how I was doing, and I was sharing about the type of things that I talked about, and the type of you know, individuals that I talked to, and the mindsets. And it was really sweet. They just looked at me with like all, like honesty and sincerity. And they’re like, they’re a little older, they’re like, I never did the things I wanted to do, because I was too scared to pursue them. And it was just this, like, sad acknowledgment, but yet at the same time, I applaud them to have the courage to actually just share it and connect of like, I wish someone could have inspired me or, or busted that illusion of safety. I think this is one of those things that people think that staying on the sideline is safe. And it’s like, well, how are we defining safety, because it’s like, there’s still no guarantees even on the sideline, that you’re going to experience fulfillment, or be able to express what you’re meant to express. Or like, I like to say, like shine the light that only you can shine. Like there’s no guarantees that just doing following the same path that everyone else follows is gonna make you happy. You know, so that that framework that you said, is so powerful, you either succeed, or you learn. And and obviously, that’s ultimately 


Ken Kaufman 27:24 

your success. Right? 


Shawn Zajas  27:26 

Right, right. And when you realize, well, then where does failure? Which one does it fit underneath? Well, yeah, it fits underneath the learning, then that means the person that so called fails 12 times this year, maybe once a month, when they’re trying something, they just learned 12 things that are helpful, that they can, you know, now now be more intelligent with the next time they start something. And that’s why it’s like, Man, if I can iterate and I can launch something in the marketplace, 30 times is here versus five times this year, I’m gonna learn 25 More things. If so that’s why even more speed comes into it. And I know a lot of dental professionals that make sense. The idea of a failure is very clear. When it comes to something clinical, you know, like, Oh, bad outcome, the crown, I didn’t place it well, kind of, I really can’t say too many clinical things here. People are gonna be like, Oh, my God, he’s not a dentist. Yes, I’m not. But it’s such a different mindset. The second you’re thinking about business, and entrepreneur, just stepping up and leading and pioneering in the way that just brings that sense of fulfillment. I love that. And I think it’s just so liberating to be like, Oh, it’s not a failure. It’s not a failure. It’s only a failure if I stop. And if I don’t, if I don’t actually learn from 


Ken Kaufman 28:50 

  1. Yep. And I think to Sean, just to add, you know, as you’re talking about the family members, it’s also never too late to change the frame. There’s nothing stopping us from waking up tomorrow and saying, You know what, I’m going to take that thing that I’ve regretted, and I’m going to do something about it today. And maybe it’s not, you know, starting a business or going and doing anything grand, but just changing the frame to say, I’m not going to regret that anymore. Because maybe I ended up I actually didn’t make all the right decisions. Because I’ve ended up here and I’m really happy where I’m at or if I’m not happy where I’m at. It’s never too late. It’s all it is, is just turning the switch and saying and reframing and then you’re empowered to go do whatever you want to do.


Shawn Zajas  29:41 

So Ken, it sounds like it wasn’t something that was just innate, that this is just who you are. In the sense of that mindset. That was something you actually had to work towards you. Someone shared it with you and you latched on to it. And I think that’s a really key thing because a lot of people read a lot go to seminar ours learn a ton in the sense of they’re getting exposed in their mind to lots of information that could set them free, or that can liberate them. But it doesn’t actually mean they take hold of it and an implement in their life where it’s like, well, no, this is something that I need. I need this paradigm, I need this framework. I need to reframe how failures because it sounds like you’re a lot like me, the idea of failing is terrifying. I don’t like that. So if what I’m doing seems insecure, and I think it’s going to lead to something that’s viewed as a failure. And it’s like, my psychology, even like changes, it’s like, or sorry, not psychology, my physiology. I mean, like, I am nervous, maybe I start getting a little like, my palms get sweaty, like, my body is already starting to feel negatively, because of the way that I’m viewing something as potential for failure. Where if I think of it as potential for forward movement, and potential to learn, and grow, that changes everything. So sorry, I just I just love that. Like, thank you so much. That was just gold. So I’m curious. Oh, I’m sorry. Is it? Is it a little laggy? Right now? 


Ken Kaufman 31:23 

We’re good. We’re good. Go ahead. 


Shawn Zajas  31:26 

Okay. So I’m curious. When did you all of a sudden, when you come into dentistry right away, were you pretty much aware of the the DSO space? 


Ken Kaufman 31:36 

No, I didn’t know anything. This is in 2006 DSOs, were still not really that common to be honest, and consolidation or building group, you know, groups of practices and those things wasn’t, wasn’t very common at all. But there was the person I was helping was definitely wrestling with the fact that he had this mobile clinic, he had to brick and mortar clinics. And he was trying to just figure out how to how to run and manage all of these all the pieces and parts of that. 


Shawn Zajas  32:07 

So all of a sudden, I’m guessing because I feel like it’s been what maybe maybe 12 years since the emergence and really the the momentum with DSOs. And I feel like that’s probably your sweet spot, not to say that a solo practitioner, it’s just that they’re probably less risk, they’re more resistant, I mean, to invest in finance, because, you know, their operations probably can’t offset, offset it as much. But is your sweet spot like the, I don’t know, probably even even if it’s just three to five locations, all the way up to? I’m guessing you can even help organizations with 50 Plus, is that correct? 


Ken Kaufman 32:46 

Yeah. So in the consulting days, the way I would have put it is, you probably would need somewhere between three to five locations, you probably need a very fractional type of a finance leader who can be there, you know, maybe a few hours a month, or maybe a day, a week or whatever is needed to help just give some leadership and guidance. And then as you move up the food chain, I mean, once once an organization. And this isn’t just dentistry, but once an organization is hitting 15 20,000,020 5 million a year, that’s when full time finance leadership starts to become necessary, if you want to stay compliant, and if you really want to try to optimize the business and really understand the business model, and how to how to drive cash flow into the future. So in dentistry, it’s sometimes a little bit earlier, because a DSO structure creates some more complexity, that gets really messy as you scale. Because sometimes you’ll have dentists, well intentioned as I’ll get out, and great business ideas and great business models. But if they don’t have a lot of the operational pieces figured out, they end up proliferating kind of a mess. And then and then you there’s quite a bit of cleanup that has to happen. And so it’s finding that place where it’s not too big of a mess yet and it can get cleaned up. And then in the right structure, financial structure can be put in place so that then it levers, it becomes leverage and it grows. 


Shawn Zajas  34:14 

So right now you’re full time with a company, do you do anything on the side? So if the listeners are like, Oh my gosh, like I want to get a hold of Ken, what what services do you offer? Like, is it mainly just the thought leadership with with the book and hey, people can get a hold of that? Or is there something that you’re also doing on the side? 


Ken Kaufman 34:33 

So it’s primarily the book and the only other thing and I just, I don’t have time to be involved in consulting or those things, but I’m happy if people want to reach out to me, and they want a reference to somebody who could be a finance leader. So I’d ask them a few questions. How many practices do you have? What’s your goal? Where do you want to go? Do you have a DSO structure some things like that and then I can point them just because I’ve been in the industry so long and I know a lot of the you know the finance companies and accounting firms and things. And I can point them to somebody who can get them going. And these are folks who have read the book who understand what the nine required required clarity tools are, they know how to implement those. So that that’s really the only other place and I can just point them where to go. 


Shawn Zajas  35:20 

So tell me the vision for the book, when did that become something that you were like, there’s a book in me. And I want to be known for this. And let me just step up and do this. Like, what when, when did that first even come into your awareness? 


Ken Kaufman 35:36 

So it came into my awareness probably four or five years ago. And it was once I’d been in the DSL world long enough. And I was I started to understand what was going on, I started to have people asking me questions about how do I do this? Or how do I do that? Or I would hear them on stage talking, and say, Oh, that’s a really bad idea, please don’t do that. There’s a better there’s a better way, there’s a better way to structure some some of these different things. And so I started to feel compelled to say, Okay, I’ve somehow amassed all of this information and knowledge not that I started out intentionally to become a dental finance expert. But that being in essence, what had happened, I started to just feel compelled more and more compelled to, to write it down. And so so I don’t become a bottleneck to people to say, well, if I could consult a few companies, and then I’m gone, and then there’s no access to this information, I just felt more and more compelled to give back to the industry, which is given to me so much. And get it get it all down in writing. And the hope, Shawn actually in putting in writing as I want to dentists, that just entrepreneurs to read the book, but the more important thing is, once they read it, is to hand it to whoever their lead finance person is, because it is the playbook that needs to be executed on in order to get this part of the business shored up and becoming a strategic part and a huge asset to the ability of the organization to grow. 


Shawn Zajas  37:02 

Okay, so I want to circle back to the playbook really soon. But first, in, you know, you have the idea. I could I can you know, I’m capable of writing this book. What what resistance or obstacle or wall Did you was probably the hardest to overcome from idea to actually, like, it’s written as of November, you just launched it, it got published, what was probably the biggest obstacle you had to overcome? 


Ken Kaufman 37:33 

How do I carve off enough mental mindshare, from what my professional commitments already are 


Shawn Zajas  37:39 

that you know, I want to and you have a family, 


Ken Kaufman 37:43 

right, right work and yeah, and all these things. So how, how can I get that bandwidth? And so there are a couple of starts and stops in the process where I would get going a little bit and say, Ah, I just don’t know if I can do this. I’ve got so many commitments here and here and here, knowing that those needed to be my my biggest priority, of course. And so it was it was a number of those. And then a shared friend that we have that you mentioned when we were connecting earlier. Darren Akpan is the one who said to me, You know what, Ken, like, it would be amazing if you would write a book. And it was almost like when he said it. He did like this weird thing of, I felt like I now had permission to do it. And, and hearing it from Darren, who’s such a well respected industry leader, who kind of knows everybody in the marketplace. He was basically saying that he can, nobody knows what you know, in its in totality, and nobody is going to attempt to ever try to do this, I need you to do this, because I need somewhere to refer people when they’re running in to these kinds of challenges. That was in essence, the the underlying message, and I just felt empowered at that moment. Like, whoa, okay, you know what, I do need to do this, if a guy like Darren is saying, Ken, this needs to get out there to the world. And so that’s when I started to figure it out. And Shawn, I don’t you and I didn’t talk about this, but I actually got my daughter involved. And it was mostly because when, when I told my family that I wanted to do this, my she looked at me and she said, a finance book. That’s like the most boring thing in the world. And so I said, Alright, here’s what we’re gonna do. You, I’ll teach you everything I know about dentistry. I took her to a couple of conferences even and she interviewed dentists, entrepreneurs who are trying to grow and I said, you’re going to create a fictional dentist, who all of these dentists can relate to. And what what you’re going to do is you’re going to write this amazing storyline that Giulia the dentist is going to be running into these problems. And I’m going to show up with the technical content and show how if they do these things that will help them overcome these challenges and problems, but I need you to make it very relatable so that a dentist can pick up the book and think, Well, I I’ve had similar problems. I’ve had similar mindset, challenges like what you We had in the book and so on and so forth. And so once she started to get involved, and we just, we said, Alright, we’re going for it. And, and we just said, we’re going to dedicate X amount of hours a week. And here’s how we’re going to do it. And we just then stuck stuck to the plan. 


Shawn Zajas  40:18 

Okay, so I love that for two reasons. One, I love the story about Darren, because it’s crazy sometimes that all we need is some sense of permission. It’s like you’re already wanting to do it, but just another person coming along. And that’s why even our listeners, and right now I always tell people, what they get to hear between the lines of what we’re saying, is more important than what we’re saying. Because as you’re saying, and talking about your book, who knows what they’re thinking about of like, oh, my, like, that I put on the side, or I never finished that, or that’s a dream in my heart. And it’s like, right now we’re saying, Well, you have permission, you have permission to step forward, and do that thing. And I love also can that you are so resourceful. And you used an amazing resource you had in your daughter, like, not only because that’s like wisdom, but the idea of just even the daughter, daddy, like bonding, to be able to come up with something together. You know, I have three daughters. My oldest is wow, it’s funny that I had just got 13. Command. Awesome. Thank Thank you. And, yes, and just that idea of together at some point with my daughter or my my son’s getting to collaborate or partner on something, and CO create. That’s just beautiful. Like that is absolutely beautiful. And I’m sure there’s challenges that come with it. But by and large, that is just wonderful like that. I love that that’s actually your story. I love that. That’s what you you did to write this book. Now going back to the book. It’s about financial secrets. And you said it’s the playbook? Can you can you share a play? Or can you share one of the one of the secrets that you think would would encourage or help people out? 


Ken Kaufman 42:14 

Sure. So I can I can list off a couple of the first one is is I go into the value of a finance leader, how to find one, and how to plug them in to the organization, we get into accrual accounting, and its level of importance historical financial reporting, and why that’s so important, we get into associate compensation and equity models, and the pros and cons of each. And it ultimately comes to the final clarity tool in the book is what’s referred what’s referred to as like success and prioritization, where once you start to hit the certain momentum in the organization, and now it’s your you have way more ideas than you’ll ever be able to implement. Because things are getting complicated and rolling out some new thing. In one dental practice is easy when you’ve got 20 practices. It’s a disaster if you don’t really invest and figure out how to get something like that rolled out if you’re making a change through the organization. And so at the very end, it gives a gives really solid tools for how to prioritize all the great ideas and projects you have, and how to continue to grow and build the business at that stage of success, where sometimes success gets a little bit too quiet for some of us, and it gets a little bit overwhelming, because it’s like, wait a minute, I don’t need to jump in and solve a million problems anymore. And that’s how I would that’s what I did in the early days of getting this started. And hopefully it helps dental leaders step into that next role of being the CEO of their business, if they want to be that sometimes they’ll hire somebody to do that too. But if they want to be it, it’ll give them the mindset and the tools to be able to say, Okay, this is how you run an organization. And this is how you build a culture. And this is how you develop something that can continue to grow beyond just the crazy entrepreneurial throwing things together days. Gosh, 


Shawn Zajas  44:11 

I love that. Okay, so tell our listeners where they could buy that book and the title of it. Yeah, sure. 


Ken Kaufman 44:16 

So it’s called DEOs Financial Secrets to Grow Dental Organizations. And it’s available on Amazon, Audible, there’s hardcover. There’s softcover. And just about any other outlet, too, but Amazon’s easiest place to go get it. 


Shawn Zajas  44:33 

Okay, so this might be ironic because I asked people this that don’t actually have books, but since I’m asking an author, I wonder if it just might be different. So anyway, looking at the next decade of your life, if that was a chapter of a book, what would that chapter be called? 


Ken Kaufman 44:51 

The next decade? Yeah. Oh, that’s a fantastic question. I love that question. It’s making me think. I think it would be. Because I had, I’ve had these interesting phases, but the next 10 years, and then the next phases, it’s about me becoming the leader that I’ve always needed to be. And like digging in and really refining myself, and realizing that sometimes the grit doesn’t matter. Sometimes the hustle doesn’t matter. But learning to lead at a continued growing level. And not necessarily the company has to be bigger or smaller, the people need to be you know, this or that. It’s more about how can I become the most effective leader that I possibly can. Because in life, I believe there’s really only about three things that cannot be commoditized, even by chat GPT and AI. The main one is leadership, the ability to understand people the ability to know how to help them be successful. And because the better leader you are, the more scalable, you can build an organization because people become the cogs, so to speak in the wheel of making the organization successful. So I’d say it’s me going to the, to the 10x level of being just a way better leader than I’ve ever been. 


Shawn Zajas  46:25 

That almost sounds like there’s another book in you. 


Ken Kaufman 46:30 

Maybe it’ll be in 10 years, though, because I gotta go make all the mistakes and figure it all out. And then and then I can tell you how with 


Shawn Zajas  46:38 

Okay, so Ken. So here’s the question. Here’s the here’s the closing question. You’re walking down the street, and you see Ken, maybe, let’s say, at 18 years old, and you’re gonna pass him and you just have a brief moment to communicate one sentiment to the 18 year old version of yourself. What do you share to him? 


Ken Kaufman 47:05 

Go for it. Don’t hesitate, go for it. Don’t doubt yourself. Just go for it. 


Shawn Zajas  47:14 

Okay, so can I, I have loved this because a I’ve gotten incredibly inspired, it is so clear that you are all about growth, that you you won’t just let yourself get restless. You have to step up and keep going. And that’s why even that, like you said about the next chapter of your life. I am so on board with that you becoming the most aligned, intentional, purposeful leader that you were meant to be. Is is is beautiful. And I even think for the listeners. It’s like, Man, when you were talking about the wall of just carving up time trying to figure out how to actually get this book to completion. I wonder how many books I wonder how many initiatives and I wonder how many dreams are on pause right now. That I just want to encourage people to hit resume on hit to hit play, to keep going. And I love that you kept going I love that you stepped out of that corporate jobs so that dentistry could receive the gift of who you are. And that you were able to even just write that book like what what a gift. So thank you so much for being a pioneer for being an innovator and for letting me interview you today. 


Ken Kaufman 48:33 

Thank you, Shawn. It’s been a pleasure to be with you. Thank you for your powerful insights. 


Shawn Zajas  48:38 

Thank you. Thanks for listening, and be sure to follow so you never miss an episode. To learn more about what’s going on in dentistry. Check out innovation in 

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