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An Interview with Dr. Vivek Cheba: Learning To Adapt to COVID

 Like every other entrepreneur in the world, Dr. Vivek Cheba had to adapt to the demands of the pandemic. The Canadian orthodontist also made it a priority to help his staff through the upheaval of a global pandemic. The domino effect of stressors for small businesses should be minimized as best as possible for employees, he explained.

We discuss his staff retention strategy below:

You work in a specialized industry. How important is employee retention?

Dr. Vivek Cheba: Well, there are different types of costs to a company when someone leaves: the human cost and the financial cost. The human cost is that it is difficult for everyone to lose someone who has become part of the work-family, who is familiar with the office, our practices and is friends with colleagues. I feel that office morale is impacted when a valuable member of the team leaves.

As far as the financial cost, I’ve researched that, too. Finding a replacement for an entry-level employee can cost 30-40 percent of their annual salary. For a mid-level employee, replacing them costs 150 percent of their salary. But losing a highly-skilled employee – which is our typical employee – costs the most by far. It can cost 400 percent of their salary to replace them. I took those numbers from Sparkbay, by the way.

My point is: Entrepreneurs need to become more determined to make sure their employees are happy. It saves a lot of money in the long run.

How do you create a good work environment for employees?

Dr. Vivek Cheba: We like to laugh and have a good time at work. It’s a joyful office. We all get along well and this is often seen by patients. A good number of people get nervous about any dental work. It’s important for them to see that employees are comfortable and happy in the office. When I notice something particularly impressive about someone’s work or interaction with a patient, I point it out. Those little acknowledgements build up over time, I think, and make valued employees know that they are indeed valued.


How has COVID-19 changed things for your office and in your business approach?

Dr. Vivek Cheba: While the pandemic did slow things down a bit, we are completely focused on patient and employee safety and comfort. At the end of the day, our industry is necessary. People will always need our expertise, so in the broader sense of our business strategy, I would say that not much will change. We will continue providing the best care possible to as many people as possible, and as safely as possible.

As far as office interactions, the pandemic has made me more appreciative of the good people who work for me. I hope that appreciation goes both ways – I think it does.

What are some practices you’ve considered implementing in order to ensure employee satisfaction is high when the pandemic took such a toll on peoples’ mental health?

Dr. Vivek Cheba: We’ve been exploring that. There are a number of strategies that can be implemented, including round-table discussions, anonymous employee surveys, or a suggestion box. So far, I’ve just been letting employees know they can talk to me about concerns or come to me with suggestions.


What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from this past year?

Dr. Vivek Cheba: I’ve learned to encourage open dialogue with employees. In order for employees to feel valued, they need to feel heard. It is amazing how many good ideas are generated when we have discussions. It not only helps boost morale but also helps the business as a whole. I’m a firm believer that good ideas and good work ethic come from happy employees. I’m lucky to have an amazing team.


What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs? How can entrepreneurs find the right flow for their businesses after COVID-19?

Dr. Vivek Cheba: I will just reiterate what I have already said – value the people who share their time and expertise with your company. I remember reading somewhere that many people would take a significant pay cut in order to work at a place where they feel appreciated and their ideas are valued. I try to remind myself of that every day – my employees don’t have to work for me; they choose to work for me. It is grounding to start each day with that mentality.

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