The price of counting the pennies

We are a nation of great knockers. We love to knock success and celebrity. We also love to hate profitable businesses – they are money-grabbing capitalists!

A few weeks ago, Tesco announced record profits of £2 billion. However, I am somewhat mystified; if ASDA is the cheapest, why are we not all shopping there? Maybe it’s because Tesco stores have fewer people wandering around shouting at their children? The chief executive of Tesco puts their success down to three ingredients – ADA. What they have Available, supplying what the shopping masses see as Desirable and making all of that Affordable.

Now, I am sure we could argue for hours about what they should do with all that profit, but what they do use some of it for is to provide us with pleasant shopping experiences – nice clean stores, well-trained staff and a range of goods that keep most of our needs satisfied.

Apparently, we are all spending more on organic food too, searching out locally grown produce. Why? Well, one, it generally tastes better, two, it’s likely to have more goodness in it, and three, it makes us feel better about what we feed ourselves and our families. It’s definitely not cheaper and generally takes more effort to find, but it’s a significantly growing sector.

So if Tesco is profitable and organic is increasingly being sought after, we can assume the general population is willing to pay good money for the food they eat. Why then, does the dental industry continue to seek cheap own-brand products? I believe the public are willing to pay for good dentistry, so don’t understand why dentists look to try and save a few pennies on the products they use.

It is a well-known fact that you cannot save your way to a bigger business. A successful business provides an excellent product, great customer care and good value for money. Dentistry can be a successful business, as long as it follows those same values.

To provide an excellent product, a dentist must select and use excellent materials. Dental manufacturers invest huge sums of money every year to research and develop safe, easy to use, high-quality products backed up with technical expertise. So why is there a continual search for cheap, own-label products?

Does it really make a difference to your income? If a branded composite costs £30 a tube, what do you really gain by paying £19.75 a tube for own brand? Over a year, if you save 10% on everything you buy, you likely put no more than £1,000 in the bank – less than £550 after the Chancellor takes his slice. Perhaps, more importantly, you should be asking: ‘Would I use own-brand materials on myself or my family?’

On average, a member of staff costs you around £14 per hour. If they spend an hour ringing around to save a few quid on your consumables, have you really saved anything? Dental dealers represent value for money. They have trained and knowledgeable field-based representatives visiting you at the practice to offer advice and help. They keep huge stocks to enable them to deliver what you want, when you need it. They also offer online and telephone ordering and next-day delivery.

Stop trying to save your way to a bigger business and charge a fair price for the work that you do. You’ll enjoy a good standard of living if you pay your staff a decent wage and invest in your practice to provide a patient experience that they deserve and demand. Surely, running a great practice with happy staff and delighted patients that return again and again is a pleasure? Look up at what you can provide, not down at the cost of everything and, in my view, you’ll enjoy it a lot more.

Simon Tucker works for Medenta Finance Ltd. He can be reached on 01294 316 559 or simon.tucker@medenta.com.

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