Creating a business built for success is no mean feat, but it’s fair to say that behind the scenes at Visage Lifestyle Clinic in Glasgow things have been progressing at an impressive rate of knots.
From opening its doors in November 2005 with six staff members and no patients, Attiq Rahman has led Visage to inspirational growth.
The clinic now has 20 staff and approximately 8,000 clients, offering the latest in cosmetic surgery, skin rejuvenation and fitness for the body and mind. The addition of its own in-house dental laboratory has also strengthened its position as being at the forefront of cosmetic dentistry in Scotland.
So much so that at the Athena in Leicester on Friday 10 December 2010, Visage were named Best Team and Best Practice for Scotland at the annual Dentistry Awards. But the celebrations weren’t over. Later in the evening, they also won the overall Best Practice UK award.
‘It would be true to say that winning three awards, including Best Practice for the whole of the UK, has been the highlight not only of my career but also of my practice,’ Attiq told us. ‘It has been an affirmation of all the hard work that my team and I have put into Visage and we are absolutely elated at the fact that we have been recognised by our peers for it.’
The only down side for Attiq personally was that, due to illness, he couldn’t be there in Leicester on the night. In fact, the rest of his team nearly missed the ceremony too.
‘As the week of the Dentistry Awards approached we were hit by Arctic weather and Glasgow ground to a halt with the temperature at -14 degrees centigrade for days on end,’ he said. ‘It didn’t look like we were even going to be able to make it to Leicester but thankfully just a couple of days before the event the trains came back online. However, with a piece of genius timing from my immune system, I came down with the flu and had to stay at home with my mobile phone welded to my ear.
‘We were up against a very strong field of Scottish practices and although I was confident in my team and in what they had achieved, I found myself trying to manage their expectations. However no amount of realism from me seemed to dent the enthusiasm of family, friends and colleagues and I must admit they even had me thinking that we might actually do it.
‘The very first region to be announced was Scotland and in no time at all we were crowned Best Team and Best Practice. I remember having to hold the phone away from my ear as my team screamed the news to me. It was then that it dawned on me that we were actually in with a shout of bagging the big one. I waited for my practice manager Avril Mclintock to get her breath back and then I told her that she had to go back inside because there was still one award remaining.
There was a pause before she said: “Dr R, are you still not happy?” This time it was me who had to convince the team that it really might happen, and happen it did.
‘When the phone rang I held it away from my ear again, hoping for a cacophony and incredibly there it was! We had achieved what I had never dared to imagine and still cannot believe to this day.’
He added: ‘The reaction from those around me was just amazing and not one of them was shy about telling me that “I told you so!” Messages of congratulations started arriving on my phone almost immediately and it was nice to see so many people who were genuinely happy about our success.
‘I also received congratulatory cards from several of our rival Scottish practices who were there that night, and this I think was a touch of class.
‘My friend Krishan from Dental Focus was good enough to send me some video footage of the team going up to receive the awards and I invited the whole family round for a viewing on the big screen. My three-year-old son was mesmerised and demanded to watch it over and over again. My one-year-old jumped up and shouted “Dada!” every time she saw my picture on the screen.’
Such success doesn’t come without hard work, of course, and not to mention meticulous planning and attention to detail. Attiq’s forward-thinking approach has seen the practice take giant strides forward in recent years. ‘One area of which I am particularly proud is the addition of my own in-house dental laboratory,’ he says. ‘And my dream team of specialist technicians has allowed me to take my aesthetic dentistry to a whole new level. I have always been a perfectionist and had found it extremely frustrating to have to send work out to technicians that neither I, nor the patient, had ever met. I was rarely happy with the aesthetic outcome and so decided that I was going to take complete control of the technical side from start to finish.
‘I secured premises across the road from the practice, fitted state-of-the-art equipment and established Visage Dental Laboratory. I recruited an amazing ceramist in Ian Smith, and an equally talented specialist implant technician in Andrew Conboy. The fact that they meet every patient and are at chairside whenever needed, together with the fact that we plan and execute every case as a team, means that we are achieving results that I had never been able to achieve before.
‘The lab also now receives work from some of the best-known aesthetic dentists in the UK, which has led Ian to start the search for two more technicians to cope with demand.
‘It may sound like a cliché but the practice is nothing without a great team and I believe that getting the right people around me was instrumental in achieving our success. I can honestly say that there isn’t a single weak player in my practice and we are all driven towards the same goal.
There is a genuine respect for one another, which means that there are no egos to massage, nor bruise. We all have a role to play and we do it to the best of our ability, always striving to do it better next time.’
When practices enter the Dentistry Awards, a major part of their application is the portfolio they have to produce in order to impress the judging panel. ‘The entire team was involved in the process and all enthusiastically contributed their thoughts and ideas,’ Attiq said. ‘It took about two weeks to compile the portfolio but it was a lot of fun to do.’ And, if successful, a winning trophy in the cabinet can do wonders for the business. ‘There is no doubt that patients take it into consideration when assessing which practice they would like to attend. We certainly experienced greater numbers of patients being referred by colleagues, which is always a good sign.’
Attiq, who graduated in 1994 from the University of Glasgow, found himself drawn into the area of aesthetic dentistry very quickly. ‘While I was in my final year at university a seemingly trivial event shaped my whole career,’ he says.
‘One of the senior clinicians in the Department of Conservative Dentistry approached me and asked if I would like to treat his mother who required veneers on her upper anteriors. I was honoured to have been asked to do this by a clinician who was known for his meticulous approach and this sparked my interest in aesthetic dentistry.
‘I attended a multitude of courses both here and overseas focusing on smile design and occlusion.
At that time the buzzwords were “instant orthodontics” which did not sit well with me. I found the American gung-ho attitude to tooth preparation unpalatable and so began a search for minimally invasive aesthetic dentistry. I found the course I was looking for in Istanbul at the practice of Galip Gurel, who in my opinion is one of the best aesthetic dentists today. I would recommend anyone who is serious about aesthetic dentistry to attend his course or to get a hold of his book.
‘As my skills improved I began to attract patients from further afield, however my practice at that time was located in a fairly deprived part of the world.
‘I was also aware that the patients who were seeking me out were interested in improving more than just their smile and I found myself referring them for things like Botox, fillers and cosmetic surgery. It was obvious that there was a real need for a multi-disciplinary centre of excellence which could cater for all these needs, and so the idea for Visage Lifestyle Clinic was born. That was in 2003 but it wasn’t until 2005 that the clinic finally opened in a Grade A listed building right in the heart of Glasgow city centre.
‘The Grade A listing meant that not only did I need planning approval for all the refurbishments but I also needed the approval of Historic Scotland (affectionately called Hysteric Scotland), all of which meant that nearly two years went by before the clinic was ready to open. It was essentially a squat practice and by any standards a huge gamble, but a gamble which I am happy to say has paid off. We now have a team including two full-time aesthetic dentists, two full time specialist dental technicians, two consultant maxillofacial surgeons, a consultant plastic surgeon, a consultant opthalmic surgeon, an aesthetic nurse practitioner, a laser aesthetician as well as a full complement of dental nurses and support staff.’
Having established such an expansive set up, Attiq must now be well placed to consider what parts of dentistry he enjoys the most. Perhaps unsurprisingly, his focus there is on his patients. ‘The most rewarding part of my job as a full-time aesthetic dentist is not the physical result of what I do, but the emotional effect of it on my patients. It is truly amazing to chart the change in their demeanour from being embarrassed and shy at their first visit to becoming confident, vibrant and happy by their last review.
‘My practice is filled with thank you cards and very few of them mention their new veneers or implants. They all talk about how what we have done has made them feel, and when all is said and done that’s what it is all about.’
So what’s his secret to good teamwork? There must be many principals reading this thinking about entering the Awards and emulating Visage’s success. ‘I feel it is vital that all members of the team have genuine respect for one another,’ Attiq says. ‘Otherwise it is all too easy for divisions to occur and that just kills a team. There really is no room for ego, however it must be recognised that some people are just not team players and will always be more interested in themselves. I have never yet found the magic pill which can transform such a character, and I accept the fact that such people would generally be happier if they worked elsewhere. Finally, a good practice manager is worth their weight in gold and I have to say mine is one of the best.
‘I am not sure I am qualified to give anyone tips for success. All I can say is that I never accept second best from myself or from anyone else around me. If I had to give a tip… be a perfectionist.’
If you would like to follow Attiq’s lead, then entries for the 2011 Dentistry Awards are now open. Now in its sixth year, the awards ceremony is the most celebrated event in the dental calendar, honouring regional and national excellence in UK dentistry. The ceremony will be held on Friday 2 December 2011 at the stunning Athena in Leicester. An ‘early bird’ offer of £35+VAT per category is available until 1 July, thereafter £50+VAT per category. Full details can be found at www.dentistry.co.uk/awards.
For more information, please call Kirsty on 01923 851739 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you fancy entering the website awards, visit www.dentistry.co.uk/webawards. All entries close on Friday 9 September.