Business Small Business

Saturday 21 July 2018

Dental firm's service for a smile

Sean Gallagher meets owners of small and medium-sized businesses and shares the lessons they've learnt in building their companies

Sean Gallagher with Bevin Mahon Photo: Gerry Mooney
Sean Gallagher with Bevin Mahon Photo: Gerry Mooney
Sean Gallagher

Sean Gallagher

Dental Tech was set up by Brian Mahon and his wife Mary in 1993 and today is run by their daughter Bevin Mahon. Headquartered in Terenure, Dublin and with clinics in Waterford, Wexford, Kildare, Cork, Galway and Carlow, the company employs 24 staff and six contractors and this year turnover will reach €2m.

"Dental Tech operates as two complementary businesses, Dental Tech Group and Dental Tech Laboratory," says Bevin.

"The Dental Tech Group is our group of clinics located around the country. These include corporate dental clinics where our dentists go to a company's premises and provide dental care on site for employees so they no longer have to take time off work.

"Our private denture clinics work directly with patients to make bespoke high-quality dentures while our nursing home clinics offer a fully portable service where we now look after the dental and denture needs of more 3,000 residents in 120 nursing homes around the country.

"The Dental Tech Laboratory side of our business, which is based here in Terenure, is where our highly-skilled laboratory technicians manufacture both removable dentures and orthodontic appliances for more than 250 dentists and dental practices."

After leaving school, Bevin's father, Brian, worked two jobs while studying at night to become a dental technician. For the next 25 years he worked as a senior dental technician at the Dublin Dental Clinic at Trinity College before setting up the business with his wife Mary.

She had left school aged 13 but in her 40s and with her family a little older, she took the courageous step of returning to full-time education to complete her Leaving Certificate before progressing to Trinity College where she successfully completed a degree in business and economics.

"Having spotted a gap in the market for a new dental laboratory to service dental practices, my parents set up the business in a converted garage at our family's home," says Bevin.

Throughout her teenage years, Bevin helped out in the family business, doing everything from washing trays and preparing moulds to helping with administration.

Although she went on to complete a degree in social science in UCD, she found herself attracted to the world of business and spent the next few years working in the accounts and credit control departments of a number of local firms.

"In 2001, my parents asked if I would help them set up a computerised accounting system - and I never left," she says.

With just two technicians employed at the time, Bevin recognised the potential for growth in the business and immediately began hiring more qualified technicians.

The extra wages meant that she also needed to generate extra sales so she picked up a copy of the Golden Pages and proceeded to ring every dentist she could find.

Orders began to flood in. Her efforts not only brought in extra revenue but also helped alleviate the pressure on her parents who, up to that point, had been working seven days a week.

Importantly too, it gave her father the time he needed to travel to the UK to train as a clinical dental technician.

"It was a big undertaking but after two-and-half years of travelling over and back to the UK, my father was qualified to provide high-quality bespoke dentures directly to the public without the need for them to visit a dentist first. This was the start of our denture clinics," she adds.

In 2010, the company set up a division offering general dentistry where it catered for the general public as well as those patients who wore a partial dentures but who also had retained some of their own teeth.

The following year, they launched their dental and denture service to nursing homes.

"We had gotten a call from a nursing home to enquire if we could see some of their residents in our practice.

"Then a bus rocks up and out comes about 10 nuns. From chatting to them we realised that there were many other residents who weren't able to come to us so we set up a new division where we would go out to them. This became the start of our now rapidly expanding nursing home business.

"We find it so rewarding to work with patients who can sometimes be among the most vulnerable in our society," adds Bevin.

In 2016, the company was invited to partner with a corporate wellness company which were looking to provide dental services to their clients, something which has grown to become a significant growth area for the business.

"As the business grew and my parents, who are now in their retirement years, deservedly started to enjoy their time off and began only popping into work for a few hours a week, I found it increasingly lonely being a business owner. Working with business coach Richard Cullen was instrumental in helping me steer the business," says Bevin.

"So too was joining the Going for Growth women's entrepreneur network where I was able to surround myself with a host of inspiring female entrepreneurs, advisers and mentors.

"Our team too has also been central to our success. They are more like a family than staff."

Family is also important to her but as most entrepreneurs can testify, juggling work and home life is never easy.

However, Bevin is one of the lucky ones. She loves what she does. Her job now is to continue to find new and exciting opportunities for the business and for her team.

She sees growth potential across all areas of the business and with advances in such technologies as 3D imaging, has even set her sights on manufacturing and exporting the company's lab products to the UK and US.

dentaltech.ie

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