Benco Dental Case Study
The Tangible Impact of an A Player Culture
Benco Dental is the largest privately owned full-service distributor of dental supplies, dental equipment, dental consulting and dental equipment services. During the company’s 90-year history, Benco Dental has grown from a single storefront location in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, into the nation’s fastest-growing dental distributor, with multiple showroom locations and five distribution centers servicing over 30,000 dental customers.
In the year before implementing Topgrading, mis-hires had cost Benco one third of their profits. After a Topgrading beta-test in the sales department brought on higher-performing sales representatives and increased sales, Chuck Cohen (Managing Director) and George Rable (Chief Culture & People Officer) made the decision to roll out Topgrading throughout the rest of the organization.
It was initially difficult to get hiring managers on board with the new process, which they complained was time-consuming. But through training, consistency, and experience, managers have found the methodology to be worthwhile, and are eager to work with the talent team to help them hire and coach.
"You figure out the person’s story in a way that they often don’t understand themselves."
- Chuck Cohen, Managing Director
The Topgrading process at Benco consists of a Phone Screen Interview, a Tandem Topgrading Interview (led by a team member from the People & Culture department), and reference calls, which candidates are informed of early in the process.
On the uniquely effective Topgrading Interview style, Cohen says, "You can learn a ton from an interview that goes from early to current rather than working backwards. You figure out the person’s story in a way that they often don’t understand themselves. When a candidate tells you they fought with their high school football coach and they are still fighting with bosses today, you know what they will be like if you hire them."
Impact on Candidates & Culture
"The best candidates appreciate a thorough process," says Rable. "They're comfortable providing specifics about their background." Talent Director Becky Clouse-Mickey adds, "We get to know people so well because we make the interview conversational and build rapport."
The interview is also a time for candidates to assess the company and get to know Benco's culture. "When we interviewed for leadership positions recently," Rable reflects, "we were confident the candidates were going to accept the offer because they knew us as well as we knew them."
Through Topgrading, Benco has slowed their hiring process, focusing on quality rather than speed. They are thorough when checking references and ensure they get the right people in the right seats.
The methodology has impacted not just hiring, as leaders have gotten better at moving people around the organization to fill open roles. Leaders do not work in silos, and will offer to move their people to different areas if it will be a beneficial move for the associate and Benco.
Benco's senior leadership team is made up of 100% A Players, and the next level down has reached 80% A Players. "The talent we have on the senior team is noticeably higher than it was 5-6 years ago,” says Cohen. The results of the process are tangible, and even before the most recent talent review, Cohen "intuitively knew the percent A Players was high."
Across the company, success hiring A Players for roles working out of the company's home office was 79% in 2019. Hiring success that year for positions working in the field, where hiring methods are less rigorous, was 62%.
When Topgrading was fully implemented at Benco, the company had about 1300 people. In 2019, revenue was up 23% with the same number of associates. In 2020, a tumultuous year for most companies, Benco’s business was down 80% for a few months, but recovered much faster than their competitors and the company ended the year just 3% off 2020 revenue targets set at the end of 2019.
Benco's A Player turnover rate was only 6% in 2019 and under 5% in 2020.
"Topgrading has been integral to Benco Dental’s growth and success. As leaders, we often say that people are our most important asset. Topgrading provides an invaluable template for managing that asset."
- Chuck Cohen, Managing Director
Advice to Future Topgraders
"Absolutely do it," says Cohen. "There are certain processes that are deceptively simple but effective. When implemented properly, it has a huge impact. Read the book, even though it's long. The Topgrading system is one of the best things we’ve implemented over the past 10 years.”