South’s Greatest Bosses 2021: Dr. Karen Cooper ~ Smile Designs
Smile Designs by Dr. Karen Cooper offers the highest quality care rooted in long-term relationships and a passion for success.
Smile Designs by Dr. Karen Cooper offers the highest quality care rooted in long-term relationships and a passion for success. Dr. Cooper leads by example in her practice with the understanding that her attitude is going to reflect on the attitudes and behaviors of the team. In regards to one important lesson Dr. Cooper has learned since becoming a boss, she says that relationships must be symbiotic in order for everyone to feel like they’re receiving something in the relationship. Dr. Cooper says that she currently has one of the best teams in the 15 years she has been in Savannah. She wants only the best for her team inside and outside of the business setting.
South Magazine: What is your “boss philosophy?” Or leadership philosophy?
Dr. Karen Cooper: It starts with me as the leader; I can’t ask them to do something I wouldn’t do. I have to lead by example. My attitude is going to reflect on their attitude, and I believe in giving them a little grace. It’s not always black and white.
SM: What is one key skill that makes a great boss that you wish you’d learned or mastered sooner?
KC: As a boss, it’s okay to have fun with your team! You can still have a level of understanding and respect and still have fun each and every day. People have advised me, “If you laugh and joke with your team too much, they’re going to disrespect you.” And that’s not always the case. If we all respect our boundaries, we can all have a really good time and laugh and joke and eat together. I don’t believe in that separation.
SM: What is one important lesson you’ve learned since becoming a boss?
KC: If you put all the work on your team, it’s just not going to work. I’m a workaholic. I do a lot and I make a lot of sacrifices. We talk about making things work for both sides. If you want long term relationships, whether it’s business or personal, everyone has to feel like they’re receiving something. It has to be symbiotic. If your team sees you putting in that 110%, then they see the passion you have for what you do, and they pick that up. That ethic is contagious. The team can see the value.
SM: How would you describe your team?
KC: I have an awesome team—I have one of the best teams I’ve had in the 15 years I’ve been here. I don’t just mean business-wise; I want my team to be well all around. If they’re well all around, they’re going to be well inside the business. We pray together—I try to support them; I honestly want the best for them. This job may not be forever and I’m not trying to hold them back. We’re a family.
SM: How does somebody become a “better boss?” What is your advice for a new boss?
KC: To listen. I’m slow to act. I’m very methodical. My team will tell me something and I’ll say, “Uh huh.” It doesn’t mean the actions are going to happen then—I have to really think about it. I want my team to have a say and I want them to feel like I’m really listening to what they need.
Smile Designs by Dr. Karen Cooper