Introduction

Hi, I’m Tom Raffio, CEO of Northeast Delta Dental; I will be sharing my thoughts and ideas about how companies can be good corporate citizens, can give back to the community, can practice great corporate governance, and be very successful from financial and customer focused perspectives.  I would very much enjoy hearing your insights on these topics.  Thank you.

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11 Responses to Introduction

  1. Hi Tom,

    I enjoyed your talk at last month’s Granite State Quality Council meeting (http://www.gsqc.com) and am looking forward to following your blog. You made a few observations at the talk, including one that I find particularly intriguing:

    “Take care of the internal customers [employees], external customers, and stakeholders and the numbers will take care of themselves.”

    This makes obvious sense (I think) for the CEO, but how would you apply it at other levels? (e.g., executives, managers, workers, etc.)

    Another topic I wouldn’t mind reading about would be how companies deal with change.

    For instance, many established organizations don’t seem to handle controlled change at all, responding almost entirely to outside pressures.

    A few established companies manage evolutionary change–the Baldrige approach–steadily improving themselves in small manageable steps.

    The real challenge is for the established company that attempts *revolutionary* change, typically the domain of the startup. Is it really possible for a company to reinvent itself once it’s already been invented? What would it take? Are there examples? As a leader, how would one go about it?

    Looking forward to your (and anyone else in the blogosphere’s) thoughts.

    RichTL

    • tomraffio says:

      Hi Richard,

      Thanks and thanks for the book recommendation and the newspaper article. Do you need the article back?

  2. You can keep the article. It just made me pause and think a bit.

    • tomraffio says:

      Hi Richard,

      Taking care of people (internal and external customers) and let the numbers take care of themselves has worked like a charm for me since I’ve gotten into business, starting in June 1978. Whether at my first job (at a large insurance company in Boston), or at DD of Mass, or now at Northeast Delta Dental, the formula works. In answer to your question (does this philosophy also work at levels of an organization outside of the
      CEO/Executive Office?), remember, I was not the CEO at my first job or at DD of Mass, and the philosphy still worked. All of us need to understand how to run numbers (I have my MBA), but the philosophy of being passionate about external customers and respecting employee colleagues is still paramount, and will result in excellent balanced scorecard and financial metrics. An employee, who is not the CEO, will need to stick to this philosophy for the long run, while demonstrating that s/he still can run numbers as needed or requested.

      As for change, the most difficult time to change and to reinvent the organization is when things are going well, because folks get complacent and “why change things if the current formula is working?” However, the time to look at diversification, new markets and new products is when one’s back is not against the wall, when the management team and employees can look at opportunities withoug being financially stressed. Hence, Northeast Delta Dental’s expansion into the group vision product is a proactive recognition that we have saturated the dental market in northern New England. Reinventing can happen, without outside pressure, but it requires the leadership team of the organization to look out 3 – 5 years, and then to get all employee colleagues engaged in the diversification effort, so there is total buy-in.

      Looking forward to feedback.

  3. James Hendrix says:

    Hi Tom,

    I remember a few years back when The Newcomen Society of the United States* honored Northeast Delta Dental with its prestigious annual award. Philip B. Ryan, National Trustee of The Newcomen Society and Chief Executive Officer of Merchants Automotive Group, presided. Phil quoted Peter Drucker in his remarks about your management style as it relates to what Northeast Delta Dental has become in your tenure. It went something like this: “Running a business is really very simple; all you need to do is keep your existing customers while getting new ones and taking great care of your people.” Clearly Drucker and Ryan were being a “bit” tongue in cheek. But that is what it appears to an outsider that Northeast Delta Dental has done over the last few decades. I know it’s a very vast subject but can you talk briefly about basic rules for a business to abide by in order to achieve this type of perennial results?

    James

    *The Newcomen Society of the United States was a non-profit educational foundation for “the study and recognition of achievement in American business and the society it serves.

  4. tomraffio says:

    Hi Jim,

    Nice to hear from you. Northeast Delta Dental retains close to 99% of its existing group clients vs the group insurance industry average of 80% and the dental industry average of 88%. We try to treat each customer, small or large, with respect and provide impeccable service, a fair (not necessarily the lowest) price), and when we do make a mistake, to make a quick and comprehensive service recovery. All of this embodies our nationally acclaimed Guarantee of Service Excellence. In addition to this keen focus on the external customer, we try to make the Northeast Delta Dental corporate culture one in which people look forward to coming to work, are respected, valued, and go the extra mile to service their external customers. Then, because we are crafting these outstanding account retention numbers through excellent corporate culture, great employees and systems, Northeast Delta Dental then can make an impact in the community. When Northeast Delta makes a positive impact in the community (the fun part of my job), this in turn leads to new customers (sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly), and so, we can grow the business, keep current customers delighted, and retain passionate employee colleagues who want to be the best they can be, so they deliver great service and so on. A beautiful business model.

    Hope this helps Jim. Thanks for writing in.

    Sincerely,

    Tom

    • James Hendrix says:

      Hi Tom,

      Thanks, that does help.

      Those numbers are very impressive, quantum leaps ahead of industry standards. It’s interesting that executive managers often proudly rate their company’s performance as being within industry standards which to me says “we aspire to being average…” clearly not a philosophy at Northeast Delta Dental. I have been covered by your company for 12+ years and can honestly say I have never spoken to anyone in your customer service group; never had reason to call! It’s completely seamless to me and that’s exactly what I am looking for in an insurance company that provides coverage to me and my company. Conversely in the 12+ years I have been with you folks, I have been with 5 different health insurance companies and am currently looking for number 6! Sadly, I have spoken to plenty of their “service” people. Have you ever considered expanding your offerings to include health insurance? Seriously though, why can’t some health insurance company who wants to differentiate itself [in a positive manner!] use your proven brand building model to deliver excellence to all of its constituencies?

      Have you considered writing a book?

      Regards,
      Jim

  5. tomraffio says:

    Hi Jim,

    We always try to benchmark our service metrics against leading service companies (generally not insurance); we want to be world class, the best in the world as opposed to just being the best in insurance.

    We are expanding, effective in July of this year, into Vision Care. On Medical, we will be partnering with Harvard Pilgrim in NH and ME.

    The book is in my head. I’m a big believer in Servant Leadership, so “Leadership is an Art”, by Max DePree is the book I would have written!

    Thanks for staying in touch Jim.

    Tom R.

  6. tomraffio says:

    Hi Jim,

    I keep extras of this book in my office and like to give them out to folks who are interested in exploring the concept of servant leadership, so if you’re in Concord, please stop by and I’ll give you a copy. You’ll find the themes in this book consistent with what you know works from a social marketing perspective.

    Have a nice Holiday. Tom R.

    • James Hendrix says:

      Tom,

      I will surely take you up on your kind offer next time I am in Concord.

      You have a nice holiday as well.

      Thanks,
      Jim

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