Alistair Graham – Founder of Mona Vale Dental

Plan, plan and plan. Write it down and make yourself accountable to it.

Alistair Graham founded Mona Vale Dental with a simple goal in mind: to offer the kind of dental services he felt his community deserved.

Many health funds and medical practices in Australia have become dominated by profit margins over people. Mona Vale Dental aims to offer a welcoming place to be treated, providing quality dental care for all patients. Only the best practices based on evidence and ethics are on offer. It’s the kind of dental practice dentists aspire to.

Alistair is an avid cyclist and active in his local community in more ways than one. Perhaps you have seen him at a local community fundraiser or sports event. Or perhaps you have seen him zipping by the beautiful beaches or cycling around the green surrounds on offer here in Mona Vale.

This commitment to community is reflected in the way Mona Vale Dental is run. Alistair understands that the service people receive at Mona Vale Dental is only as good as the team who deliver it. This people-centric approach ensures ideas have been considered by everyone in the team. This back-and-forth by the group lets everyone think about how to deliver the best possible outcome and implementation.

Every morning at Mona Vale Dental starts with a team huddle to discuss how the day will go, and even the dental procedures are scheduled with the team of staff in mind, as well as the patients. This ensures smooth workflow and stress-free performance.

Many of Alistair’s customers and clients continue to come back to Mona Vale Dental because of the amicable atmosphere. Many dental clinics and doctors surgeries are so top-down that the patient often feels overlooked, but this is not the case at Mona Vale Dental. Alistair always takes the time to explain all procedures to his patients, and why they might need them.

The aim of a welcome feel at this practice doesn’t refer to the decor and smiles at reception. Instead, it’s about interaction and the assurance that the patient will be talked to and included in the process. Many patients of Mona Vale Dental remark that these explanations of their health are unique to the practice, and the reason why they return.

It’s not all about talking to the patients, it’s about listening, too. Alistair aims to have Mona Vale Dental be at the forefront of what patients want, and the latest emerging trends in dentistry. Digital planning and production of treatment are just some of the ways Alistair keeps his practice at the forefront of the industry.

Where did the idea for Mona Vale Dental come from?

I had always wanted to open my own Dental Practice and provide the type of treatment that I thought that patients deserved, and delivered to them in a fresh, new and welcoming atmosphere. The health sector is becoming more and more dominated by profit-driven health funds and I found that incompatible with the way I wanted to deliver the highest quality, ethical, evidenced based dentistry.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

After a short staff huddle, normally I see 8-14 patients with a mix of procedures and treatments. One way I try to make the day productive is to keep a mix of treatments through the day, so that it maintains both my attention and keeps things mixed and interesting for the staff. It also means that we are less likely to run out of supplies of one particular stock, so production is maintained.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I always look at fresh ideas from the point of view of the consumer – how would I like that to happen to me? how would I like to be treated? Once I have done this, we discuss ideas as a team and work out the best way to implement the idea. Getting buy in from all the team means that the idea is more likely to become implemented rather than remain a thought bubble.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The rapid development of digital dentistry, both in treatment planning and production of treatment outcomes. We really are standing on the edge of a whole new way of doing things in the dental world, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Empower the team, so that ultimately they can have the knowledge and confidence to become a self-managed and self-motivated team. This then frees me up to do my job to the best of my ability but also to allow me the space for future planning.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Find a mentor. I have been fortunate to find a number of excellent mentors to speak to and help me develop. Dentistry can be a lone position, and it’s vital to have someone help you develop.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?

I’m not sure that nobody agrees with me, but I certainly believe that patient communication is the most important skill a dentist should learn. I spend a great deal of my new patient exam simply talking with my patients away from the dental chair, explaining what is happening in their mouth and building a plan together, rather than simply telling them they need x,y,z treatments. Most patients tell me that it’s the first time anyone has ever really explained the situation to them.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Plan, plan and plan. Write it down and make yourself accountable to it.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Reviewing of my annual plan, and working out what succeeded, what didn’t and how the following year I am going to make sure that it works.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

When I first started, I tried to grow the business too fast. I pushed harder than I had the capacity to, and so my bottom line suffered. I’ve learned from that that growth happens organically, it should be planned but it can’t be forced. If you try to grow when there isn’t the capacity to grow the business as a whole suffers.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Marketing isn’t a dirty word! A very successful marketing strategy we have employed is to sponsor a local sports club. It works because I am an active member of the club. If it was just simply putting money into the club, it wouldn’t work. People make the link between the person and the sponsorship and respond better for it.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

The $100 I spent taking my wife out on our first date!

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

I couldn’t function as efficiently as I do without Dental Practice software. There are many options on the market, but I use Dental 4 Windows, and find it very intuitive.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I don’t tend to read books on the subject of Entrepreneurs or business, as I prefer to read as an escape from work. So any suggestions would probably not be very useful!

What is your favorite quote?

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change ”
– Charles Darwin


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