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Catching Up with onDiem CEO: JOE FOGG

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Joe Fogg is the CEO of onDiem, a national on-demand staffing platform that connects dental practices with verified dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, and front-office professionals. They combine the flexibility of the gig economy with the benefits of traditional staffing, creating an on-demand professional labor force.

Joe’s always prioritized “caring for the people who care” in his business. It’s no wonder onDiem is the first in its class to be W-2 compliant nationwide—which means the company can provide a unique suite of benefits for all dental professionals who find work through their platform. That includes Care Benefits, a monthly stipend that dental workers can use for costs related to childcare, fitness, wellness, and more; think everything from copays to yoga classes.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Joe about the story behind onDiem, and how they’re reimagining what it means to run a business “for good.”

Dr. Glenn Vo: Thank you so much for sitting down to talk with me. Readers will surely recognize you as the founder and CEO of onDiem. Tell us a little bit about how you ended up starting onDiem.

Joe Fogg: Before onDiem, I was part of startups that had nothing to do with healthcare or staffing, some of which we scaled and sold to publicly traded companies. I helped run those businesses post-acquisition. While running those businesses, I operated on a key principle: If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers—and your customers will take care of your business. We offered great benefits to our employees, including dental insurance.

At one point, I noticed a slow adoption rate of employees actually utilizing their dental insurance, particularly among hourly workers. They wanted to but, for various reasons, couldn’t take time off to go to the dentist or even find dentists with available appointments. Others didn’t have transportation. This lack of access to critical care was unacceptable to me, so I decided to create a mobile dental clinic business to literally bring the dental office to the patient. That led me to learn the business side of dentistry, such as operatory revenue yields, hygiene production, hard costs, and more. After completing my initial projections, I connected with dentists who were willing to share their information with me. I was shocked to see how different their actual numbers
were from my projection, particularly with respect to production. I assumed practices were productive five full days per week—but I discovered that production fluctuated greatly. Operatories sat empty, often for days at a time.

When I asked why, I learned that demand wasn’t the problem—staffing was the problem. Practices couldn’t get hygienist or assistant coverage to stay productive for more than a couple of days a week. That’s when I just knew I needed to help practices, professionals, and patients by creating a staffing solution—not a mobile clinic solution.

Dr. Glenn Vo: So, the genesis of onDiem was when you stumbled upon a different problem from the one you were trying to solve originally?

Joe Fogg: Yes, exactly. I knew
mobile dentistry was already a thing. There were other companies doing it and doing it well. I was going to make more mobile clinics available, which was important. But I felt like I could help even more people by solving the staffing problem that kept clinics empty and patients without many appointment options for critical treatment or preventative care.

As I started onDiem, I realized most practices were just like the ones I analyzed while researching mobile clinics.  Keeping operatories staffed with talented, hardworking clinicians was a much bigger problem than marketing for the vast majority of practices. So, they were forced to schedule people out months into the future. If they could get those operatories staffed, they wouldn’t have to schedule people out. They could schedule them sooner and drive more revenue with full operatories.

I also learned that many hygienists work part-time and didn’t have healthcare benefits. Imagine that: These healthcare providers didn’t have health insurance. That was another light bulb moment. My mom was a nurse for 40 years, and it pained me to think that healthcare providers couldn’t care for themselves. I wanted to do everything I could to make sure that we could take care of our healthcare providers—and do it well.

I decided to build a platform that could allow hygienists to get the pay, flexibility, and benefits they want and deserve. But I committed myself to doing it in a way that helped practices maximize their productivity in a way they could afford—which wasn’t possible with existing staffing models.

Dr. Glenn Vo: How did you come up with the name, onDiem?

Joe Fogg: We wanted the name to not just embody our beliefs and intentions, but also how the reality of how the world works these days. So, we combined our beliefs with the on-demand nature of our lives to create onDiem: A combination of on-demand, per diem, and carpe diem.

On-demand reflects the Uber/Netflix nature of consumer behavior, which our app facilitates. Per diem represents how we refer to placing professionals by the shift in healthcare. And carpe diem means “seize the day,” which not only reflects our attitude toward making a positive impact but also onDiem’s vision of building a community of practices and professionals that can truly seize every day. Practices can get the staff needed to fill their operatories every day—and professionals can get work on their terms and their schedules.

Finally, we designed our company logo to represent our core value of helping practice owners and dental professionals achieve balance. By “balance,” we don’t just mean work-life balance; we also mean balance in relationships, balance in problem-solving with intuition and logic, and balance in caring for others while also caring for yourself. We believe everyone needs to find balance in their life, so we designed our logo accordingly.

Dr. Glenn Vo: Tell me a little more about that principle of balance and how you integrate it into onDiem?

Joe Fogg: The short answer: Practices use onDiem to achieve balance—such as worklife balance or more balanced, consistent revenue. I believe a person has to live a balanced, well-rounded life to deliver the maximum value and the maximum output for what they want to achieve. You have to be healthy physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually.

If you suffer in any one of these aspects—I like to call them “spokes” of your life—you’re going to eventually suffer in all of them. Entrepreneurs find balance a challenging art because they want to grow quickly, which can sometimes come at the expense of the people and things that bring them joy.  You can move fast in business, but you can’t do it at the sacrifice of your family. When you work so much that you’re not close to your family, you’re not healthy—you compromise your health. You do all of this great work for your business but, if you end up sacrificing your own health or hurting the people you love, then it’s not even worth it.

I’m very proud that one of the greatest benefits people get when they use our platform is balance. Some practices use onDiem regularly to fill their operatories with trained and hardworking clinical staff. Some dentists use it to be able to take vacations. Some use it to allow staff to take time off more easily. Some take it to fill their operatories with talented workers all day, every day. Clinical staff use it to achieve more customized and flexible schedules as well. Our platform lets practices and professionals grow their businesses and livelihoods while enjoying the gift of life and leisure.

Dr. Glenn Vo: Personally, I love onDiem. Your company helped me when I needed hygienists— my operatory didn’t sit empty, costing me money. But talk with readers about how onDiem differs from other staffing models.

Joe Fogg: It differs in so many ways. For example, temp staffing is expensive. Temp agencies add high fees to cover taxes and other costs associated with their traditional business model. Moreover, if a practice wants to hire one of the temps full-time, they have to pay a big fee.

We built our platform to achieve efficiencies and economies of scale. We created technology that allows us to serve thousands of dental practices and tens of thousands of dental professionals with a corporate staff of about thirty people—most of whom came from actual experience on the clinical side. They know the pain points and struggles.  They know the balancing act of trying to make sure you’re really strong clinically and doing everything to make the practice and the doctor happy. They also know what it’s like to raise a family and juggle their careers. They know how hard of a grind it is. But they’re also so passionate about it and work hard to help each other solve this big need in dentistry.

In the end, we have very low overhead and can keep costs much lower while providing a higher level of service to both practices and professionals. We automate everything we can through our platform and built in all the protections you would expect with staffing. We onboard every professional just like a regular employee and take care of all the administrative and regulatory sides of things.

I want to emphasize that many companies—even those outside of dentistry—have landed in hot water by misclassifying employees as 1099 independent contractors. They’ve been forced to pay significant fines, fees, taxes, and worse. Most practices don’t have human resources in-house to help them stay compliant, no employment lawyer to help guide them with labor and payroll laws, and no internal payroll processing. So, they end up making a lot of costly mistakes.

Our costs are significantly lower than direct hiring, too. To the average practice, a person who makes $50 an hour will cost another 45% on top of that for taxes, workers’ comp insurance, and other labor costs. So, a $50-an-hour employee costs around $72.50 an hour to the practice. On the other hand, onDiem’s average markup is only 22%, so we are able to lower the fully-adjusted cost by around 20% in addition to providing all the other benefits. Practices can utilize us with their existing staff or part-time staff to save costs and add benefits—and do it legally, in a compliant manner, almost like a professional employer organization or PEO.

Finally, from a user-experience perspective, clinical workers set up their accounts just like they would if they were renting out an Airbnb, knowing that anyone they hire has already been fully onboarded with compliance taken care of. They select the days they want to work, and then office managers log in and book them when they need them. It’s really that simple.

Dr. Glenn Vo: What’s next for onDiem?

Joe Fogg: There are a few things I’m excited about. On top of our already-extensive suite of benefits, we’re looking to provide a full health insurance benefits plan for all of our dental workers—in the very, very near future. This is so important because many dental workers who only work one or two days a week have no insurance. We want to change that— and we will. On top of PTO, Care Benefits, unemployment pay-in, discounted American Dental Hygienists’ Association membership, workers’ comp insurance, and so much more—this full health insurance benefits plan would allow more dental care providers everywhere to enjoy the care and protections they’ve deserved all along.

Dr. Glenn Vo: Before we wrap up, do you feel optimistic or pessimistic about the future of dentistry?

Joe Fogg: I am 100% optimistic. Having seen the inside of dentistry and worked with thousands of dental practices and professionals, I know the future is bright in dentistry for practice owners, staff, and people who so urgently and immediately need more and better access to care. I’m especially proud that onDiem was one of the first platforms to actively address the issue, and unapologetically put the care of our fellow humans first.

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