Guardian Dentistry Partners on track to 140+ practices in 2022: Q&A with Dr. Hisham Barakat

Guardian Dentistry Partners has made several moves this year to expand its network, including entering three new states this year.

The Miami-based DSO was established in 2018 and has since grown to include a network of more than 100 practices in 11 states. By the end of this year, the DSO plans to reach 146 practices.

Chief Clinical Officer Hisham Barakat, DDS, recently spoke with Becker's about the DSO's growth and its goals for the future. 

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length. 

Question: How does Guardian Dentistry Partners stand out from other DSOs in the field?

Dr. Hisham Barakat: Guardian is basically a bottom-up organization. It was never designed to be a top-down organization. In other words, we partner with doctors and partners who have built their own success across their region or their space, built it in a very successful way, but they've done it so differently from each other. So Guardian partners with these amazing partners and not to change the way they do things, but basically to build upon their success and help them grow in whatever way they want. So some of our partners started growing by a de nova model. So Guardian support is to help them grow in that aspect. Some other partners have grown by mergers and acquisitions and Guardian support is to help them grow their footprint in the region by doing M&As. 

We're not into changing the way they do things. We're there to support and accomplish what they've been successful doing already. The best part about Guardian is that we basically share best practices. So if the partner has something that they've built that could benefit the other partners, we share it across and say, "Hey, our other partner in this region is doing it this way. Would you like to talk to them? Would you like to meet with them? Would you like to visit them and see how they've accomplished it?" And so on and so forth.

Q: How would you describe Guardian Dentistry Partners' growth since its launch and how does the company plan to expand in 2022?

HB: We already have practices under [letters of intent], but when we sat down by the end of 2021, we saw our growth go in a magical way. We asked ourselves, "How did we grow so fast and so efficiently in 2021?" and mainly it was all referrals, word of mouth from our partners telling their friends, colleagues, study club members about us, how happy they are and how Guardian has supported them. More than 55 percent of our growth is mainly by word of mouth. That's basically how we've grown over the past year and a half.

Our model is to partner with doctors who want to grow. So we want to be with partners, not sellers. We would like to be the group that supports doctors in their mid-career or down the path of their career that say, "I want to grow and I want to get all the resources to help me grow. Guardian would be the best fit." Doctors who want a full exit and basically just are at the later part of their career, maybe some other DSOs would be a better fit. Having said that, we have doctors who are ready to retire, but they have associates or partners in their own practices that will continue their journey still. That's a great fit. 

Q: What other goals are in place in addition to practice growth?

HB: [There are] three things that we're doing, not just acquiring practices and helping them grow. We want to grow our team members too. We have something called the GROW model, where we customize a plan for each doctor in our organization. They tell us how they want to grow and get better in their career and we tailor that educational program for them. We also want our existing associate doctors to grow. So we created a program called the Pathway To Partnership where we offer our associate doctors who have shown leadership and strong skills partnership in their individual locations. This way, when you join Guardian out of school [or] residency, you're not going in for a job. You're going in for a career. You join in as an associate, Guardian helps you improve your skills through the GROW model and then when you hit the levels of expertise, we offer these doctors partnership at their own locations. [It] has been a very successful program for our associate doctors who want to become partners at their location. That's one differentiator from the other DSOs. 

We [also] train our doctors in the U.S. and we take them on trips outside the U.S. to do more extensive training. We took 10 doctors to Brazil in March to do advanced implanting training. We're taking another 10 next month to the Dominican Republic to train them on more advanced implant procedures, but also we have a mission trip planned to give back to the community and those in need. We also train our team members. We have a lot of educational programs for front desk and hygienists to implement advanced procedures, like laser hygiene and artificial intelligence. We're starting a dental assisting school to help train and mentor those assistants who want to be part of the organization. We're starting it in one region [next year] and [will] see how it's going to go and hopefully we can scale that to other regions.

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