A family affair

Brothers Colm and Kieran Davitt set up Dental Care Ireland in 2014 with a vision to provide a network of quality dental practices nationwide. The group has grown quickly to now include 12 general and specialist centres around Ireland, a growth that the brothers say is a vindication of their belief and
hard work.

Why did you set up Dental Care Ireland?
Colm Davitt (CD): “I was previously CEO of a leading diagnostic imaging group, where I gained particular expertise in acquisition through a ‘buy and build’ strategy. This background also gave me a good understanding of the sensitivities involved in running a healthcare organisation and working with
healthcare professionals.

“Kieran and I came up with the Dental Care Ireland concept together, with a view to combining Kieran’s clinical expertise and my track record in business development and healthcare management. The balance of both these skillsets has been a key factor in determining our success.”

Kieran Davitt (KD): “I worked as a general dentist in Galway for 20 years. Since the majority of practices in Ireland are independently owned, we saw an opportunity for a new model here. The model that we developed is very much focused on high-quality clinical care, based in the local community. My initial role was in an advisory capacity as we looked at practices we could bring on to join the network.

“The context is also important. Big changes had happened in the dental industry when we started in 20ı4. There had been huge cuts to the PRSI scheme and medical cards, and we had the after-effects of the recession and cuts to private dentistry. Things were getting busier for both general and specialist dentists.”

As brothers, did you ever imagine that you would be working together and being so successful?
CD: “Not until recent years. We never really pictured ourselves working together as I was involved in business and Kieran was a dentist. Our careers appeared to be taking very different paths. The connection wasn’t obvious until dentistry and business starting evolving, and we began to explore the possibilities of a new concept.”

KD: “As I live in Galway and Colm lives in Dublin, we would not have envisaged ourselves working together until we formed the idea for Dental Care Ireland.”

What are the advantages of being brothers in business together?
CD: “We had never worked together before, so working with Kieran on Dental Care Ireland has been so interesting. I suppose we always got on well as kids, except when Kieran beat me at sports, which was quite often! He is someone I completely trust and has my best interests at heart, and that is really important. We also have similar personalities which helps, and we don’t row! It is a pleasure to work with him.”

KD: “I agree, there is a serious element of trust with Colm because we are family. There is only two years between us but Colm will always be my older brother, and often lets me know it too!”

What is the Dental Care Ireland strategy?
CD: “Essentially, we acquire long-established, high-quality practices in local communities, with a view to helping them reach their full potential. Our aim is to free principal dentists from administrative burden, allowing them to focus on clinical dentistry. We invest in upgrading the practices with latest
facilities and technology, as well as providing support in areas such as operations, finance, quality and compliance, IT, HR and marketing.

“Our vision is to have a national network right across the country so we are open to considering all locations if the opportunity is right.”

KD: “We look for clinics of a particular size, with three chairs or more. We want to work with the right people as the principal dentist generally stays on for up to five years.

“First and foremost, we look for practices that are well run. We do not want to turn places around ı00 per cent. We work closely with the incumbent dentists to build on the traditions of each individual practice, while ensuring a consistent service for patients across the entire network. We see potential in places that may not have the time to market themselves, for example, and where we can introduce a specialist.”

What does joining the Dental Care Ireland network mean for dentists?
CD: “Dentists can expect to be valued, supported and encouraged to achieve their goals. We significantly reduce the management and administrative side to running a business and give dentists the clinical freedom to focus on their patients.

“Each practice is upgraded, depending on individual practice requirements, to include new state-of-the-art facilities and latest technology. We also support the development of new services and treatments, education and training for staff, as well as more convenient opening hours for patients. We are very sensitive to clinical freedom and to the individuality of each practice and location.”

KD: “Dentists in our practices do not have to worry about administrative concerns. They can focus on clinical work, and they love that. There is more and more red tape coming up all the time, so they appreciate the ability to hand things over to us. We want to provide the highest quality dentistry, so we upgrade practices, and also offer training and seminars. Better trained staff are happier, as are customers. Everyone reaps the benefits.”

What does the future hold for Dental Care Ireland?
CD: “We have a goal of adding five or six new practices a year over the next three to five years. We are definitely a couple of years ahead of where we thought we would be at this stage.

“We would like to become the largest dental group in Ireland, with at least one or two practices in each county. We want to be the best in each area and for our patients to completely trust us.”

KD: “We exceeded expectations in the first 12 months. It was about adapting quickly. There was no real breakthrough moment. It has been slow, steady growth, and we hope to continue growing at a similar rate.”

So, is there a next generation of Davitts being groomed to take over down the line?
CD and KD: “Our kids are probably too young at this stage to contemplate what future career paths they might take, and whether or not dentistry and business might be top of the list. When the time comes, we will be happy for each of them to choose whatever is right for them
as individuals.”

About Dental Care Ireland
Dental Care Ireland is a new Irish-owned network of established dental practices nationwide. To date, the group employs more than 150 staff across 12 general and specialist dental practices
in Dublin, Meath, Carlow, Mayo, Offaly, Wicklow and Kilkenny.
For further information, visit www.dentalcareireland.ie

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Published: 16 October, 2017 at 15:39
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