In 2004 Dr. Charles (Chip) Mok founded Allure Medical in the metropolitan Detroit area, and quickly established a very successful practice. When he decided to expand into a national company with multiple practices in major cities, Chip made the decision to implement a unique management structure – one that would eventually lead his employees to fire their boss!
From Doctor To Entrepreneur
When Chip first expanded Allure Medical by opening up two more offices, a personal medical problem made him realize that he was growing his company in a manner that would ensure his growth would come to a standstill.
“I figured out that I had made a huge mistake on scaling. I just basically was running faster. So I started learning about how to run a business.”
That’s how I met Chip. He attended a Birthing of Giants Fellowship week at MIT in September 2018 with the goal of learning how to grow a company to last.
He quickly took action to learn how businesses scale, and implemented what he learned with great success. His secret was to run each practice as a business, not a traditional doctor’s office, which tends to have a top down structure. Chip’s method empowers his employees to work as a team with shared goals and accountability.
“We’ve created a very effective business model. We’ve taught our staff how to run a business and we can generally increase the sales of a location that we acquire about 500% within about three or four months. We’ve done that very consistently over and over again.”
With over 20 locations as of this January and plans to open or acquire 14 more, Allure Medical is well on its way to stratospheric growth. With that kind of fast tracked growth, you’d think that a solid leadership hierarchy would be an absolute necessity. But Allure Medical takes a different approach to management – one that raises eyebrows even as it proves successful.
A Company With No Bosses
Allure Medical utilizes what Chip calls a flat leadership – no C suite, no managers, no bosses. It’s a management structure that you don’t see often in business, but that Chip and his employees are enthusiastic about.
“I was really kind of dedicated towards not having a big hierarchy where the person that’s actually performing the work is 15 layers removed from my vision for the future. So we had a very flat leadership.”
Instead Chip lays out a clearly communicated mission, goals, and a purpose for the whole company. From there employees break up into teams that largely function meritocratically. Everyone knows what must be done. Everyone works to achieve the clearly stated goals. Chip has even employed a profit sharing system to encourage employees to focus on what they do best for the good of the company. But he was having a conflict between what got Allure Medical to the point they were at, and what he was learning he would need to do to get his company to where he wanted it to go.
Traditional business methods and best practices for growth encouraged Chip to implement Management 2.0, which generally means hiring on a higher level of experience. With so many sources insisting that this was the way to go, Chip hired on someone with experience at scaling a business. It coincided with Chip’s desire to fully transfer his active role in operations to someone else, leaving him free to concentrate on growth. With that hire, his management adventure began.
An Empowered Team Uses Its Voice
The new hire, who wanted to start as the designated COO, insisted that the only way to scale Allure Medical was to employ a more traditional management structure with regional managers in place and a better defined accountability system. There’s no question that this is what works for most companies, but Chip was hesitant to make such sweeping changes to how he ran his company. For their part his employees expressed the worry that their new COO was trying to change the culture that they had worked so hard to build.
Chip attempted to broker a compromise between the two conflicting methods, reassuring his employees that their culture wouldn’t change, and explaining to his COO that “we really want to focus on [..] team building, and the teams make the decisions, not the manager. Our staff wants to be empowered. They do not want bosses.”
But the traditional methods just weren’t a good fit for Allure Medical, and Chip’s employees finally took a stand while Chip was away on a business trip. After his team reported to him that they were continuing to have a communication problem with their new COO, Chip suggested that they just talk to him and reiterate the company’s culture, which he describes as non-negotiable. Shortly afterward, he received word from his COO that – completely unbeknownst to him – his team had fired the COO! Chip made the unusual choice to uphold his team’s decision.
More Than One Way To Build A Company
When his team fired the COO, Chip realized that he wasn’t going to be able to use traditional management methods to grow his company, and that he was okay with that. Compromising their culture was simply not an option.
“I didn’t really want to fire him, but I felt like I had some peace with it, because I realized that what happened was supposed to happen. We’ve got a culture that’s non-negotiable. We do not want bosses. We work in teams, and the meritocracy says the team should make the decision. And they chose to fire the person.”
Now Chip’s challenge is to find a leader who’s able to manage a company that doesn’t want a typical manager. In the meantime Allure Medical is continuing to grow at a very fast pace, and there’s no shortage of employees who are willing to step up and grow with it.
“As I freed my mind up of finding [..] how to do this, I just look at my own team, and I find who it is that can do it for us. And they’re abundant. There’s tons of ladies and gentlemen raising their hand, wanting to participate and grow and learn.”
With their tightly knit culture and fully engaged workforce, there’s no doubt in my mind that Chip and his staff can continue Allure Medical’s fast tracked growth by forging new ground in management techniques. Each successful practice they build – as a team – proves that the path they’re on is the right one for them.