Care Without Worry

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Jatin Desai explains how selling to Dentex removed the pressures of running a practice but left him free to concentrate on the details

I started Gipsy Lane 35 years ago now. These days, we’re a six- surgery restorative referral practice, but it was tiny when we first opened: a squat in a small bungalow, which I gradually expanded and extended until eventually we took it all down and constructed a purpose-built practice on the site.

In that time, we’ve grown to have eight dentists working out of the practice along with a much larger support team. It’s become a nice big practice over the years! I sold to Dentex early in 2018.We’ve been part of the group for a good year and a half, and at this point I’m really pleased with my decision.I can go away on holiday now; I can do things without always worrying about the practice.

Reducing The Pressure

Why did I sell? There were a few reasons. When you turn 60 you suddenly realise that you need to start making plans, so that played a part. I wanted time to plan my transition. My practice is limited to implants these days. The cases have become more and more complex and I know I can’t do it forever – yet I didn’t want to just work flat out until the bitter end and then sell.

Furthermore, the practice has grown. We’d worked really hard over the four years before the sale to grow the brand and build referrals. The practice was doing as well as it ever had done, and to continue at that pace felt like a lot of pressure. The time had come when I wanted to reduce that pressure, and selling it while retaining clinical control for a number of years seemed like the right idea. I looked at lots of options for the sale, but I didn’t want to become a faceless number in whatever organisation I joined.

Dentex felt different. When they first approached me, I was really attracted to the idea of running other practices in the area and building something bigger – my natural impulse was to take that on. I wish Dentex had come along ten years ago, because I would have done that straight away.

I know Dentex help some dentists build a group of practices. That would have given me a buzz, brought me more referrals, and I’m sure, given me a tidy sum at the end.

A Winning Formula

I realised that the time wasn’t right for me to be building a new network, so I became a partner instead. My practice would join Dentex, but my brand wouldn’t change, the name wouldn’t change – nobody would know I’d sold, in a sense. I would carry on running it, essentially. I like that. I’ve worked here for 35 years. My biggest fear was selling to someone and a junior manager telling me what to do in my own practice.

Dentex felt like the answer: totally giving up wasn’t right for me. I felt like I had a winning formula, and that Dentex wouldn’t try to fix something that wasn’t broken. The fact that nothing would change in the practice was a big attraction, and I’m glad to say that promise has been kept.

They’re supporting my manager very well, and I’m still looking after the practice. I care for the little things; and I like doing that. The team responded really well. You hear stories about how corporates can behave but it became apparent that Dentex didn’t operate like that, so to be honest, the team didn’t bat an eyelid.

We introduced the idea early on in the process: I was quite upfront with the team once we’d decided to sell. Dentex actually came into the practice to meet with the team two 

or three times, and the team knew I wasn’t going to sell and disappear. Plus, as things went on, they could see that nothing was changing – the brand stayed the same, the uniforms stayed the same – and that was very reassuring.

Care and Attention

The practice belongs to Dentex, though I still have equity in it. That’s not the only reason for my vested interest – I simply still care about the practice very much. I think that’s the big thing for me. The care is still there but the worry is not. If I’d sold it to someone else I might have ended up feeling differently. If I’d stopped caring, that would have been bad for everyone concerned. This way I still care about the practice – I’m just freed from that anxiety.

If the biggest worry for most dentists these days is things like the CQC, I can safely say that Dentex has taken all that away, which is fantastic. They’re doing it very well, which is very reassuring.

We’re still marketing in much the same way that we used to, but Dentex have added to and fine-tuned it, which has been really useful.

While the big things haven’t changed, you have a safety net, and a feeling that someone is there, looking after things behind the scenes. If something goes wrong, the practice manager doesn’t call me: she calls Dentex, and they’re very quick at fixing everything. Our numbers have actually been good since we partnered. I actually thought we’d peaked, but things have gone up by about 15%.

One thing we’ve always done in this practice is try to bring in new ideas and push ourselves forward.

Things have been going so well recently that we’ve not felt the need to do that over the last year or so. That said, there are always new things to investigate. Dentistry is transforming all the time and I think it might be time for us to start pushing things again… just for fun!

The pleasure is still there, but I’m changing the way I look at my work. I’m beginning to take more time off and I’m enjoying that. I’ve realised that there’s more to life than working really hard fixing peoples’ teeth.