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People before profits: The winning culture of Dental Boutique Group

In a highly corporatised, numbers-driven practice arena, the success of Dental Boutique Group emerges as a vibrant anomaly. Fuelled by the tenacity of its founding leaders, the Group takes an encompassing approach to dentistry, marked by positive energy, a commitment to life-changing patient experiences, and a high-performing team culture.

By Danny Chan

Stepping into the brand new headquarters of the Dental Boutique Group is like entering a realm of paradoxes. A maze where the conventional script of dental offices is discarded like last week’s minty floss.

Five minutes beyond the reception desk and you notice something different: There are no dental chairs in sight, no patients nervously pacing around, and certainly no surgery rooms peeking out from the corners. Instead, you’re greeted with what you’d expect from a high-rise suited-up institution.

Walking past a labyrinth of desks, buzzing with office chatter, the epiphany hits you: This entire 500 square-metre prime office space, teeming with support staff, serve not some faceless insurance behemoth, but a family-owned dental group! This is an Aussie dental powerhouse operating on an unprecedented scale.

However, if judging by appearances alone, you figure that the Dental Boutique Group is about to flex its corporate muscle, you’d be missing the point. In fact, the Group’s co-owners (and life partners) Dr Reuben Sim and Dr May Chan, are quick to distance themselves from that cold, calculated image of a corporate monolith.

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Dr May Chan & Dr Reuban Sim

“Traditional corporate offices, as we understand them – although neither Reuben or myself have ever worked in one – tend to provide autonomy to their principal dentists until financial concerns arise, after which you can expect increased scrutiny and involvement as they have an outsized focus on meeting the bottom line,” May avers.

“The challenge lies in their limited understanding of dentistry and the difficulties faced by practicing dentists.”

The proof is in the performance

As practicing clinicians who have worked their way from a single-chair surgery in Balwyn (Melbourne), to overseeing a full-fledged practice group with existing locations in Geelong, Mornington, Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney – not to mention their first international clinic in New Zealand with new additions this year in Perth, and second locations in NSW, SA and Queensland – the Sims have earned the right to defy the norms of corporate culture.

Despite having experienced unbridled growth over the last 10 years with 120 clinicians in the team now, the dental group is propelled not by profit-driven algorithms but by a profound understanding of its own essence. The beating heart of the Dental Boutique Group, Reuben insists, is a vibrant, high-performing team culture – that starts from the top.

“We firmly believe that positive energy begets positive outcomes, just as negativity can attract unfavourable vibes,” Reuben emphasises.

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Dr May Chan & Dr Reuban Sim

“Personally, I approach each workday with enthusiasm, positivity, and proactivity, setting a tone for the entire team. Demonstrating kindness, speaking well of others, and maintaining a positive outlook contribute to creating a work atmosphere that the team finds commendable. By embodying these qualities, team members are inspired to emulate them.”

In their communication, whether through speeches, group huddles, or daily interactions, the Sims prioritise simplicity, using expressions that resonate with their perspectives. The belief is that with the right individuals on the team this language is easily adopted, fostering a cohesive team dynamic.

“The role of leaders is to identify and place individuals where they can thrive and contribute effectively,” Reuben shares, stressing the importance of aligning people with roles that match their strengths.

“This isn’t a dictatorial approach found in corporate structures; it’s a collaborative effort to ensure every member of the dental team operates in an environment where they can excel.”

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Team culture par excellence

Reuben and May champion an open-door, consultative policy that allows high-performing individuals the autonomous space to cross-pollinate ideas and deploy them seamlessly. The new Box Hill location was conceived with that overarching goal in mind.

“This setup allows for teamwork across different locations. By centralising expertise in this head office, specialists from various areas can collaborate more effectively,” says Troy Eadie, the Group’s Managing Director.

“The proximity of the team members facilitates better communication, ideation, goal-setting, and faster execution of concepts.”

Speaking to the department heads and observing team dynamics during work and rest, the office camaraderie is palpable. Equally evident is a highly driven and motivated team culture.

“Right from the top management, our focus has always been on creating a culture of success,” Troy enthuses.

“We often draw parallels to two types of basketball teams — one that plays for fun on weekends and another aiming to win championships. Here, it’s not just a family culture; it’s a culture of individuals driven to be the best they can be.”

Supporting Troy’s assertions, Paris Tritton, Head of Content & Socials, adds: “We aim to highlight the continuous amazing work our team does from both a cultural and clinical perspective.”

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We’re talking about life-affirming smile transformations

Behind that professional ethos lies an existential paradigm – what Reuben refers to as “the why” as in “Why we do what we do”. For good reason, team members wax lyrical about Dental Boutique’s central philosophy surrounding the life-affirming attributes of a transformed smile.

“As we delved deeper into DB’s core mission, it became evident that the focus extended beyond dental treatments to facilitating lifestyle changes for individuals,” Nick Montagu, Chief Marketing Officer, expounds.

Sharing from her two-plus years at the company, Paris adds: “Hearing stories of patients who felt too ashamed to smile in public or at their weddings, and knowing that we contribute to changing their lives, has been a truly special aspect of working at Dental Boutique.”

“The emotional impact of their transformations often goes beyond what can be captured in videos. Witnessing patients moved to tears upon seeing their transformations is a poignant moment,” Nick recounts.

“To me it symbolises a release from self-esteem issues and internalised grief. The real beauty, however, unfolds in the post-treatment phase, where individuals experience newfound confidence and joy, reshaping the course of their memories and interactions.”

Reinventing the patient experience

These uplifting stories did not come together by mere happenstance. They stem from the years that Reuben and May have spent refining their processes in a bid to address what they view as a gap in the industry.

“We observed that many skilled dentists, renowned in their field, typically operated within small teams, often comprising of a one to three clinicians,” May says.

“This size and scale limited their patient reach, akin to a skilled surgeon in a hospital. When we first contemplated this, we believed there could be a more effective approach.”

The founders also noticed a significant gap in delivering a seamless patient experience, which May qualifies is not necessarily the fault of the dental professionals but rather a lack of understanding of how to provide excellent customer service.

“This gap manifests in various ways, such as unfriendly receptionists, long waiting times, and a general absence of customer-centric service,” she adds.

Eschewing your regular dental office environment, where patients often experience fear and uncertainty about pain, costs, and the unknown, the Sims set out to reinvent the entire experience – and have since done so on a massive scale, transforming more than 30,000 smiles to date. Dental Boutique is the largest Invisalign Provider in Australia and the largest implant user in the Straumann portfolio of clinics.

Having to create and adapt their own procedures, they drew inspiration from other industries. Attendance at various courses, including dental, business, and coaching, enabled them to observe and integrate successful practices into their business model.

“From the outset, we envisioned a unique patient experience that would set us apart,” May says.

“While we never anticipated the scale it would reach, we were committed to doing things differently and providing value to our patients, clinicians and the team.”

Walking the talk

Summarising their approach, Reuben interjects: “The most crucial aspect is walking the talk. Our culture revolves around positivity, going above and beyond and doing everything with passion and care”.

“We have a clear vision for the ideal patient outcome and experience. Any deviation is addressed promptly and respectfully.”

Ten years since arriving on the scene, Reuben and May are still on a mission, pioneering a new model far removed from the corporate dictum.

They are part of an uprising, a rebellion against the mundane, a movement that screams, “We can do it differently, and we’ll do it better.”

Dental Boutique Group isn’t just updating the dental rulebook; they are rewriting it – through each and every life-transforming smile they deliver.

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