The UK dental-care market has seen significant change over the last 30 or so years, with corporate investors becoming an ever more visible force in the sector.
While independents still dominate ownership, more and more expansion-driven practitioners have engaged corporates to support their next steps. As the market grows, driven by a shift in consumer perception – from needs-based to preventative and cosmetic – corporate support seems ever more attractive as the industry works to achieve economies of scale.
There are now several corporates in the UK market, from specialist service-focussed investors through to big brands and large scale, traditional private equity investors.
So what should practitioners look for in a corporate investor?
Enter Dentex. Separating its business from other corporates is its unique co-ownership model. Rather than taking over practices – changing the name, materials, procedures and staff – Dentex works alongside its ‘partners’ to maintain and enhance their individuality.
Unlike other dental corporates, Dentex offer partners equity in the group. The ‘partners as shareholders’ model is a deliberate and successful move, rooted in the belief that shared-ownership encourages partners to stay invested in the growth of the business as a whole. As the practice grows, their share grows too – while they ultimately maintain control of the business they have nurtured.
Understanding the Challenges
A trained dentist himself, Barry knows first-hand the expense associated with establishing and building a private practice. Not only that, he understands the nature of running a practice means that many practitioners can become bogged down in admin which, important as it is, means for many spending less time on what they love – clinical work.
Barry’s previous entrepreneurial experience saw him successfully develop two specialist finance and banking businesses in Australia. In 2016, realising there was a gap in the market for something similar in dentistry, he established Dentex.
In just three years the business has grown rapidly and now has more than 64 dental practices in its portfolio, with plans to expand to 150 by 2022. The business has been bolstered by attracting some of the most high-profile dentists in the industry, who in turn inspire others to follow their lead.
Maintaining the independence of individual practices is essential for the success of the business. As Barry asserts: “We’d rather get growth out of the practice through the dentists practising independently than controlling what the dentist does.”
The Expert Network
Being part of the wider Dentex network offers the benefit of shared learning from other partners, plus introductions to new technologies, treatment options and state-of-the-art equipment that a traditional practitioner, concerned with the day-to-day running of the business, may struggle to access.
Rahul Doshi, clinical director at Dentex, said: “Dentex allows partners to strategically grow their practice while letting them retain their clinical freedom. Unlike other corporates, Dentex won’t dictate what techniques and materials need to be used by its dentists, which enables them to continue practising in the way they like and enjoy.”
“There is also a large team of extremely experienced and highly qualified specialists within the group who offer training events for partners to further develop their skills. This in turn builds and develops a network of highly respected colleagues which partners can call upon for help and advice, which is essential in what can sometimes be a stressful and isolating industry.”
Dentex provides partners with a variety of optional services to take advantage of. Each allows dentists to focus on their patients and develop their clinical expertise, confident that the essentials of running a successful business are well taken care of.
Dentex’s experienced HR team support managers and all practice employees throughout the employment lifecycle. This includes specialist advice and payroll management.
Training and Development
It is important to never stop learning, especially as the industry continues to evolve and develop. The Dentex network offers training programmes and regular meet ups with other dentists who are part of the group, who can share their specialist insights and knowledge.
Legal and Compliance
In an ever-changing regulatory and compliance environment for medical practices, Dentex ensures that its dental practices’ legal and regulatory requirements are taken care of. Legal can help with drawing up contracts and managing challenging legalities such as GDPR.
With its wealth of experience and expertise, Dentex is best suited to advise practitioners on new ways of working, including advice on what works best and why. This can save partners valuable time in thinking about how they can revamp their services to become more efficient and effective for not only themselves but their patients too. Being part of the group also means dentists are kept up to date on the latest equipment and technology to ensure they stay at the top of their game.
Marketing and PR
While retaining their own marketing strategies, the clinical partners at Dentex are offered enhanced support from Dentex’s dedicated marketing team to help them reach more patients.
Dentex also renders IT solutions and support to its dental practice partners through its experts to help with any specific needs or help resolve any technical problems.
Through sourcing ethically and even more profitability, the supply chain will enhance value throughout. Ultimately to the end user.
Supporting practice teams, by developing innovative sourcing strategies will also allow the practice team to focus on the patients.
Business Planning and Budgeting
Dentex help create planning and budgeting strategies to increase profitability, which in turn leaves dentists with more time for themselves, helping to achieve a much better work-life balance.
Tidu Mankoo, from Windsor Centre for Advanced Dentistry, said, “When I was approached by Dentex, I had been considering my succession plan. As I learnt more about their model and how it allowed me to work alongside other dentists, I decided the time was right.
I liked that they didn’t want to fix what wasn’t broken, as can often by the case with more traditional corporates – they were more focussed on developing what I’d created.
Selling your practice is always a scary time; it’s your baby, and I had spent many years building something that was very special. It also carries with it the strength of my reputation as a dentist. And so, it was always a fear of mine whether I was doing the right thing or not.”
Noushin Attari, from Weymouth Street Paediatric Dentistry, and Mahmoud Pourghadiri, form Elite Orthodontics, added, “Having worked hard to grow our practices over 17 years, with a unique offering of specialist paediatric dentistry and orthodontics – which are disciplines that complement each other – we were looking to sell our businesses to a corporate body because we felt only a corporate could take on both practices as one entity and allow us to stay on to continue to run in the same successful manner.
Dentex had the best offer and their team were much more approachable than the others. We liked that it was a relatively new entity and that it was expanding – plus, we liked the people we met.
We also liked the fact that Dentex is not as inflexible as some of the very large dental corporate bodies, so we can discuss things and their approach was not set in stone. They took the time to get to know and understand what we do and what makes our practice unique and successful; so we work with them to tweak and enhance where necessary.”
Dentex has seen its innovative business model recognised by the industry, with award nominations for several business awards, most recently for Innovation of the Year and Product of the Year at the Dental Industry Awards.