‘If something is bothering you, sleep on it.’ Tips from a trailblazer
‘If something is bothering you, sleep on it.’ Tips from a trailblazer
Five years ago well established private practices were losing people to NHS dentistry because of the financial crisis.

By Luc Wade, Marketing Director at Hive Business.

After a few false starts we’re excited to say we’ve landed the wonderful Irene Kaimakamis, 33, as our next Hive Five guest. Irene’s K Dental Studios is only three years old and has already won Private Dentistry’s London Practice of the Year Award. She does a lot, hosting study clubs, teaching at King’s, Guy’s and Eastman and educating kids in schools around the capital, and she’s just got back from giving emergency aid to refugees in Thessaloniki, Greece. Phew! Here Irene shares what she’s learnt on her journey so far. We hope you enjoy.

In your opinion how has dental business changed over the past five years and what are your predictions for the next five?

Five years ago well established private practices were losing people to NHS dentistry because of the financial crisis. When I began my MSc in conservative dentistry at Eastman I was told every private practice was going to want me, but when I finished no one wanted to know — they couldn’t afford another dentist because they didn’t have enough patients. When I did find work it wasn’t what I expected. That’s when I decided to open up my own squat. The original plan was to wait another five years. The other difference, which has been happening over five to 10 years, is that people have become more educated about what they want from dentistry. They do a lot of reading around now, and so I knew my practice would have to be very open with patients, showing them pictures, explaining their procedures and giving them a lot of options. The MSc helped with the options, and I think that in combination with openness and lots of information it has helped maintain our patient numbers. In future I think people will be willing to pay for private care as long as they get their money’s worth, and they will keep doing their research to make sure they do.

How do you deal with the dichotomy of your clinical and business roles?

With a lot of sleepless nights! In the beginning it used to be 11pm finishes. They are two completely different roles. The problem with dentistry is you have to be in the room with the patient and so to do anything else you have to put in the hours afterwards and on weekends. With time Martina, our receptionist, and Maria, our nurse, relieved me of some duties by doing some back office things like managing the specialist books, managing the referrals, doing the marketing. We were working as a team but as you grow you need someone doing that all the time, so that’s when Hive came in. Hive took on a lot — our design, campaigns, and figuring out ways to campaign, for example they were behind a campaign we did on getting Londoners healthier in 2017; we were out on the streets giving out leaflets promoting oral health. They’ve given us advice on reaching different types of clients in our area and they are helping with our referral bases too, finding new ways to get the word out apart from our study clubs. It’s difficult to come up with ideas of how to show what you do. You have different ideas about what you want to say and want people to know about you but it’s difficult to put it out there on your own. My partner did our branding and website and was initially doing a lot of our marketing, and it worked well, but you can imagine what it’s like working for your partner… He does have a day job too. Nowadays you can’t just rely on word of mouth, you have to have up to date images, videos and a slick website all the time.

What advice would you give to ambitious dentists who wish to acquire or grow a practice?

Get advice. I need advice myself. Also, if something is bothering you or you don’t know what to do about it, sleep on it. I go by that now. You wake up the next day and have an answer, most of the time. It helps not to be reactive, often you just need a few hours or days to reflect and speak to the team. Sometimes not — and that’s where you get outside advice. I’m lucky to have my family, which has supported me from the beginning. In fact just now I was at their office picking their brains. They have a property business and they helped with the financing and conversion of the practice. You need to have your investors. Their support is a big part of why we’re still here. From the beginning I knew there would be times when I wouldn’t make ends meet during the slow months and they helped me see that and reassured me that that’s OK. They normalized the slow month thing. Because they are my investors, I run everything that Hive says to me by them because it’s important for them to know where their money’s going, but it’s also good to get their perspective from a business and patient point of view.

With infinite time and budget, what would you consider implementing to transform your dental practice?

I’m inclined to say I would want more marketing to get more clients coming in. But on the other hand I’m wary of the type of clients that I want to have in. I want people who want to stay with us for a long time and understand the significance of good dental work. You have to be careful how you market and where you market. For me it’s not about filling chairs, it’s getting the right kind of patients. Perhaps I’d invest more in marketing in such a way that I got to know dentists in the area, to help even more with referrals. I also think I would want to set up an education side to the practice. I want to be able to show people and educate them about their dental needs online and offline through school and different campaigns. That wouldn’t benefit K Dental Studios but crucially it’s authentic and about values. We do some of this stuff already, with four weeks of free check-ups for children each year. I also do talks in schools all over London. Last time Martina sent me an hour and a half away which I thought was a bit far given my schedule but as I was walking out of the school I saw kids showing their parents what they had learnt. It felt good, and I thought: “I have 30 more educated kids. They’re not going to touch a fizzy drink or cigarettes.” That’s what we’re here for.

If you could give your 21-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?

Go travelling and go nuts. When I was studying we were told “finish this, then you need to get your first job, then you need a few years under your belt, then don’t leave it too long before you get your Master’s or specialise…” I felt that if you left the profession you’d come back and feel you’d lost your skills. And of course with dentistry you can’t work in many countries abroad, especially if you don’t know that language. So I suppose I focused on getting all of this stuff ‘out of the way’ and I didn’t do what I wanted. Opening a practice isn’t a one year or five year thing, it’s a lengthy process. I would have done more of what I wanted, there was really no rush. There’s really no rush now to succeed. I would advise myself to take it easy. Whether I would listen I’m not sure…

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The information contained in this article is based on the opinion of Hive Business and does not constitute formal tax advice. Any tax outcomes will be based on individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation, which are subject to change in the future. You should seek specific advice before embarking on any course of action. Hive Business does not provide regulated Financial Advice, including advice on investment, insurance or lending products or their suitability for you. This article is provided for information only and does not constitute, and should not be interpreted as, investment advice or a recommendation to buy, sell or otherwise transact, or not transact, in any investment including Bitcoin and other crypto. Any use you wish to make of any information contained within this article is, therefore, entirely at your own risk.

By Luc Wade Management Consultant
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