Sometimes career success is simply about finding the right fit.
Victoria Harvey spent ten years serving as outside counsel, working on employment and business litigation, but eventually she realized that contracted firms tended toward binary, black-and-white answers. Craving more strategic engagement with her clients, she started working in-house in 2007, and her experience wound up carrying her to her current role as senior vice president and chief legal officer for Smile Brands Inc. (SBI). She’s happier there not only because her work is more complex and nuanced but because the company culture is, true to its name, incredibly positive.
Smile Brands is one of the largest dental-support organizations in the US. It provides dental practices with business support services such as marketing, recruiting, and accounting, simplifying the strategic and daily aspects of running a dental practice. It’s also known as an exceptional workplace and was number twenty-five on Glassdoor’s 2019 Best Places to Work list.
Harvey joined the company in 2014 on an interim basis. The people she worked with across the enterprise helped her decide to stay on as associate general counsel. “I truly enjoyed the people I was working with—my peers, other department heads, teammates, and associates,” she says.
In 2015, she was promoted to the CLO role. Reorganizations and layoffs had been wearing on the organization at that point, and in 2016, SBI went up for sale. The sale culminated with previous CEO Steven Bilt and CFO Bradley Schmidt returning to their leadership roles. They’ve since cultivated a renewal, and Harvey marvels at the transformation, noting that the office today is cheerful and familial beyond compare. “We tend to spend so much time with our work family, and it’s genuine,” she says.
Today, everyone in the office wears a rubber wristband featuring the company mission: “Smiles for Everyone.” “It’s not just about presenting a friendly face,” Harvey says. The saying actually inspires and informs decisions throughout the organization. It invites associates to reflect on how a choice serves the team, the community, and the organization. “It can look very simple; it’s concise and to the point,” Harvey says. “But, whenever we have a decision to make, that’s the thought process: how is this benefiting me, the patients, and the communities we serve and partner with? We’re looking at everything holistically.”
It’s one of Bilt’s many three-word maxims, which capture and drive the company’s culture: “Smiles for Everyone.” “Celebrate. Everyday. Miracles.” And, Harvey’s own, “Culture Drives Compliance.” Regarding the latter, Harvey says the clarity and visibility of the smiles-for-everyone approach makes compliance simpler. Her team has its own wristbands, and on the back of each is the phrase “In the Light of Day.” They serve as prizes for team members who point out issues or make an exemplary effort toward the company’s compliance goals. “We have people who want to do the right thing, and these things go hand in hand: whatever you do, do it in the light of day,” Harvey says.
Her legal department is a true partner to the business in other ways, too. Its eight legal professionals don’t say no and instead aim to build consensus while covering everything from compliance to risk management to government affairs and more. When she arrived, their eight desks were spread around the building, so one of her first acts was to bring the team together physically. Now, they’re closer than ever. Doors stay open, and ego rarely interferes with decision-making and growth.
“Our goal is to always find a solution,” Harvey says. “We have to look at common-sense solutions and get to yes. We have to understand the business and where everyone wants to go with it. How can we help the organization achieve that goal?”
Looking ahead, Smile is in a growth pattern, so Harvey’s looking to add to her team while continuing to hone the workplace culture that’s driven her business’s success in recent years. “I think other companies can learn a lot from our culture,” she says. “Everyone leaves their ego at the door. Everyone is approachable. There is so much genuine care for each other here.”
Active with the ACC
Victoria Harvey joined the Association for Corporate Counsel’s (ACC) SoCal chapter the week she took her first in-house position. It’s an “amazing collection of individuals” that has helped her broaden her knowledge base and develop new skills. In her time she has . . .
- Served on the ACC SoCal board of directors, and she’s the current cochair of the CLO Roundtables and Golf Tournament.
- Chaired the In-House Counsel Conference, held at Angel Stadium, in Anaheim, California, where she has pushed its approach toward interaction and away from talking-head presentations. “My goal is to stay away from reading case law,” she says. “As in-house attorneys, we’re very busy. We’re looking for intelligence that’s concrete and concise.” Presenters have covered best practices regarding sexual harassment investigations, government inspections, and more.
Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP:
“Victoria is great to work with because she is not only a talented lawyer but a strategic business partner.”
—Christine Reilly, Partner