Ian Eslick shares practice owner Charlie Fox’s experience of how building a strong practice brand and having a supportive relationship with his plan provider helped to grow his business

Charlie: ‘When I bought the practice it was branded to the plan provider that was already in place. There were several other practices affiliated to this provider in the area, so it didn’t feel as if we were standing out among the local market. I also felt that the fees we were being charged per patient were too high and that the plans were unrealistically priced.

‘There was a communication breakdown between us and them, and I knew that for the practice to really thrive I needed to make a change and work with a plan provider that would help me to grow my business, rather than being concerned about their own.

‘I knew Ian Eslick, business development consultant (BDC) at DPAS, through his presence in dentistry locally and I knew that DPAS would allow me to offer plans branded to my own practice, so he was my first port of call.

‘Good interpersonal relationships are very important to me; a business runs much more effectively if you like and trust the people you are working with, and Ian and I really hit it off. I knew from the start that I could phone him for anything and he would be there to help, and over the years our relationship has become more than professional as we often meet up socially now as well, and that is fundamentally important to me.’

Practice-branded plans

‘The second thing I was very keen to do was to gain independence from a third-party brand – I wanted Hartley Dental to be the brand I was promoting, rather than feeling as if I was advertising for someone else. By choosing DPAS as our plan provider we could instantly do that through our practice-branded plans.

‘My vision was to build a truly prevention-led upmarket practice that stood out as something special, and they were also able to support that by helping us through an initial rebrand, which we have built on over the years as we’ve continued to grow.

‘As part of that growth and focus on prevention, we have added an additional type of plan into our offering and actively promoted the plans to our patients. This just makes sense to me, as when it comes to prevention, plans rule the roost. Patients are committed to us as they know they are covered by their plan and they aren’t remiss about coming back for their six-monthly appointments.’

Evolving our plans

‘Initially we continued to offer a plan that was like-for-like what we had under the previous provider. However, once I felt in a position to begin focusing on growth, I recruited an associate and we introduced a second plan, so we then had a more basic offering and another level for people who required more treatment.

‘We began actively marketing the plans, and it was great to have a local BDC from DPAS to bounce ideas off, let us know what other practices do and to pass on their advice about what more we could do to promote the plans. Having the choice of plans has been really beneficial, and with our active promotion it really took off straight away, with new patients joining the basic model and anyone requiring a little more joining our higher-level plan.

‘The flexibility we have to adjust the prices of the plans to a more realistic fee, whilst also benefitting from lower fees per patient ourselves, has also made a difference financially. We were able to add £20,000 to our profit line instantly, which was a huge help when I was just starting out in practice ownership.

‘Working with DPAS means we have been able to benefit from a “golden triangle” of a strong personal relationship with our provider, a high level of service, and support to build and promote our own brand. All of this helped us to create the strong business we now have and paved the way for continued future growth.’

DPAS is a specialist provider of practice-branded dental plans for your practice and patients, offering everything the team needs to implement and promote plans effectively. For further information, visit www.dpas.co.uk, email [email protected] or call 01747 870 910.