8th May 2017
How Exeter Dental Centre turnover in excess of £2m per annum
At the Exeter Dental Centre, practice principal Michael Hesketh focuses on high-end dentistry with a personal touch
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
MH: Having qualified in 2004 from Leeds University, I joined the Royal Navy and spent eight years travelling the globe carrying out dental and medical care. During this time, I completed the green beret commando course, was deployed to Afghanistan working as a medic, and worked as a dentist and outreach team leader providing aid to families it the conflict zone. Leaving the Navy when our daughter Poppy came along, I worked in the NHS and private practices in London and the South West, before buying The Exeter Dental Centre in 2012. Since then I have grown the business from four surgeries to seven, launched our popular seven-day opening and spent time as a business consultant. I am currently studying for a full-time MBA before growing the business further.
What or who made you choose a career in dentistry?
MH: I would say it was a family friend who was a dentist and having a penchant for the sciences.
Tell us more about the practice – what’s your ethos and your vision?
MH: My ethos focuses very much on the team approach, being very accessible and approachable and, importantly, high-end dentistry. We are a centre of excellence that takes referrals from over sixty practices in the Devon, Dorset and Somerset area. In 2012 we turned over £480,000 per annum and now we turnover in excess of £2 million. We gain consistently over 150 new private patients a month from word of mouth and online advertising.
What makes a good dental team?
MH: Continuous training programs and openness about the direction of the business.
MH: This is something we have worked toward since becoming practice owners. We are thrilled to be recognised in both awards. We applied after completing a £700,000 investment in our business this year. I felt the team deserved some recognition for growing the business so fast and getting such positive online reviews on Google and Facebook.
What have been your best decisions? In hindsight, would you have done anything differently?
MH: For the business, it has to be opening At the Exeter Dental Centre, practice principal Michael Hesketh focuses on high-end dentistry with a personal touch seven days a week, raising fees so we could properly invest and being open to new IT solutions. Marketing heavily in the local area through multiple channels has also benefited us. Having ambitious staff who are willing to sacrifice for the business and be rewarded for it. Personally, it has been taking a step back from dentistry, followed by exiting the business and trusting the team who are led by an excellent general manager. This creates a vacuum where others can thrive and grow into. I never criticise the team for making mistakes. If there was anything I would have done differently – it would have been to have expanded sooner.
What lessons have you learned since you started working in the practice?
MH: To be bold and take huge steps forward with our changes. This breeds confidence and allows us to charge fees commensurate to the work the team do.
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your work?
MH: We get fantastic online reviews – over 25 a month and often film video testimonials from patients. We feed this back to the staff which reinforces the good job they do. In turn the staff enjoy high morale and lots of flexibility with how they work.
What marketing tools do you use and find most effective?
MH: We use Google, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Then sometimes do traditional PR, newspaper ads etc. We have occasionally toyed with going for radio but it’s so expensive and we get such a great return from digital there is no need.
Are there any products that you find invaluable in your practice?
MH: Cavitrons, good practice management software and our Melag sterilisation room is gorgeous! That is my top three.
How important is patient communication to you?
MH: Very, we are an open book and it allows us to quickly put things right if we occasionally get it wrong. We use social media, live chat features on our website, online surveys, clear prices, videos, drop as a note functions. One of the keys for us is not having clinical staff on the phones – it breeds confusion. Our reception team all come from a hospitality background and are proud of this.
How do you stay abreast of modern techniques?
MH: All associates working with us have to have completed a master’s degree or be studying for one. We do annual appraisal with the clinicians and quarterly clinician’s meetings off site.
Professionally, what are you most proud of?
MH: The patient reviews and staff satisfaction surveys.
Where do you get your motivation and drive from?
MH: The need for the business to survive to keep a roof over my family’s head and high standards.
How do you relax in your spare time? How do you balance work and family life?
MH: I play football regularly and enjoy road cycling. My two- and four-year-old children keep me busy.
Do you have any regrets? What has been your biggest mistake?
MH: No regrets. Biggest mistake – we’ve made lots of little ones along the way. Wrong phone suppliers, wrong bits of equipment but we write it off and move forward as its part of the process.
What are your plans for the future?
MH: Upon completion of my MBA in 2017 I plan on creating a network of dental practices linked the main hub here in Exeter.
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