Chris Bernander, CFO of Park Dental

Chris Bernander, CFO of Park Dental

Chris Bernander, CFO of Park Dental, has been applying his background in technology and professional services to the healthcare industry and having great success. Park Dental is the largest Minnesota-based provider of business support to nearly 90 dental practices and is a complex system to navigate – drawing on both Chris’s interpersonal and technical skills. Prior to Park Dental, Chris held CFO and financial leadership roles in fast growing companies including Digital River, Renaissance Learning, and Calabrio. He is known for his level-headed leadership and ability to find ways to optimize processes and teams to drive growth. His diverse experience and history of success made Scouts Talent curious to learn more…

If you could try a different job for a day, what would you choose?

I would love to be a professor or lecturer at a business school. I’m passionate about education and have a great deal of appreciation for what I learned from my professors throughout my college years. Taking my career learnings over two decades in finance and paying-it-forward to younger generations would be extremely rewarding to me. A close runner up would be a professional golfer, although I’d need to greatly improve my golf scores to get there.

What advice would you give someone starting out in your industry?

Success doesn’t need to follow a certain path. Oftentimes people focus intensely on their next step, role, or promotion but do not fully appreciate how that step may affect their career pathways in the long term. Alternative career steps outside the norm can expand your future possibilities, despite the common perspective that it narrows them. Taking roles outside of a typical career progression has propelled me forward numerous times. Knowledge and skills acquired from experiences in different industries or departments provided competencies that have helped me be successful in my role today as a CFO. In summary — be adventurous in your career. Work hard. Have a great attitude. Trust that success will come.

What is your mantra?

My mantra is “Be Curious”. Curiosity is a powerful career skill and, when applied correctly, will set you up to be a lifelong learner. My first professional roles were in audit. In those roles, I learned the power of asking questions. As an auditor, your ability to do the job well was dependent on how well you learned your client’s business as processes. There was so much to learn by formulating the right question to uncover it. As a CFO today, I rely on that skill to be successful in my role and not a day goes by that I’m not pushing myself to learn something new.

What companies or leaders do you admire?

Working in the healthcare industry, I really enjoy having a seat at the table of an organization which helps improve people’s lives each day. I have an appreciation for organizations that have a passion and commitment to creating tangible value for society. I admire companies and leaders that can drive growth and profits while delivering an impactful service to people and society.

What has been the biggest shift you’ve noticed in your industry in the last decade?

As the CFO of Park Dental Partners, we’ve seen a tremendous shift in the availability and interest in third-party capital investment in dentistry (and healthcare in general). Historically, dental practices were generally 100% owned by practicing doctors. Today, ownership is shifting into new structures where other investors (such as private equity firms) can participate in the economic benefits, stability and long-term growth of these businesses. This evolution provides greater access to capital, innovation, and advancements that go beyond what traditional dental practices could historically provide. A management company is typically created in these new equity structures to centralize non-clinical business management services and create efficiencies of scale. However, it’s critical this influx of new capital does not reduce patient care, nor limit clinical autonomy for practicing dentists. At Park Dental Partners, our practicing doctors remain firmly in control of all clinical decisions. It’s an exciting time to be a part of the industry and I look forward to what the future holds.

How do you get yourself out of a slump?

The most important thing to pull yourself out of a slump is having the self-awareness to know that you’re in one. Quickly identifying patterns and behaviors that haven’t been productive or aren’t driving the results you want is critical. It’s okay to be failing at something, but recognize it, fail fast, learn something from it and move on. When I’m in a slump at work, I try to step away and clear my mind by taking a walk or exercising. That usually gives me the mental clarity to identify an alternate approach to the problem I’m facing.

Who has been most instrumental in your career?

My wife, Angie, has been an amazing partner and supporter in both my life and career. She’s been incredibly helpful in several ways as I’ve progressed through my career. Angie’s been a great source of objective advice, holds me accountable to my goals, and is the first person to call me out when I’m off-base on something. I’m greatly appreciative of her support, particularly as I’ve taken career risks and ventured into the unknown of new roles. As a CFO, work demands can be unpredictable. Having a great partner to help balance work, life, family, home dynamics is a tremendous gift. Anyone aspiring for a C-suite role should look to build a solid support system within their personal life as well.

What is your go-to celebration meal, drink or tradition?

If one of my teams completes a big project or goal, I like to celebrate with a happy hour. I’ve been in mostly hybrid work environments since COVID and I really value face-time with the team in an unstructured event like a happy hour. At home I have two kids in school sports, so my favorite celebrations are family trips to Culver’s for ice cream after a game.


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