Seb Evans speaks to Hammad Beg and Stacey Smith about their amazing transformation, turning Oak Tree Dental in Kirkintilloch from a ‘sinking ship’ into the ‘sailing ship’.

Oak Tree Dental practice in Kirkintilloch was once described as a sinking ship. It was a nickname Hammad Beg, practice principal, only found out after he’d purchased the practice almost a year ago. Practice manager, Stacey Smith, described the practice as ‘dark, dingy, with red walls, green chairs and black floor. It wasn’t a nice place to be.’

Hammad and Stacey faced an uphill battle, but only six months later Oak Tree Dental was listed as a finalist in the Dentistry Scotland Awards 2016. So how did they do it?

Hammad had worked with Stacey for five years before the opportunity to purchase Oak Tree Dental practice came up. In that time, he’d told Stacey that when he purchased a practice, she would be his practice manager. One of the reasons for buying Oak Tree Dental practice was that Hammad could see the potential in the practice and having Stacey managing it and, true to his word, Hammad asked Stacey to become practice manager and start turning things around.

‘There was no atmosphere. It wasn’t a nice place to be, you felt depressed when you walked in the door,’ was the way Stacey described it when they took over. The first step was to brighten the place up and improve the atmosphere. ‘There was a lot of brown already in the practice so the colour scheme came from that,’ Hammad said. ‘We put some orange in to make the practice look and feel fresher. The front desk we wanted to be nice fresh and white. While we were changing everything, we thought we’d throw a big flat widescreen TV in reception too. Our vision was to give the feel of a private practice, but to keep it NHS based.’

Stacey and Hammad got rid of all the old furniture that was cluttering up the practice to give it an open fresh feel. To keep patients on side during the turnaround, the team asked visitors for opinions on what they thought would look good and tried to implement any ideas where they could. The black floor was also replaced, which gave the practice the brighter and fresher feel they were after.

‘The work was mainly done over the weekends and days off,’ Hammad explained. ‘We managed to keep the practice nice and clean so we could keep working. The waiting room was a bit of a mess with us bringing up the floor. Fortunately, there was little downtime, we stayed open and managed to function without having to close the surgeries down.’

The turnaround has been a joint effort, with all the team getting involved. Hammad and Stacey put faith in their team, and it has really paid off. ‘We were struggling with our front desk staff,’ Hammad said. ‘But we explained what we needed and put our faith in the team and they’ve really shone.’

The staff turnaround has been very low since Hammad took over, which shows the team are really getting behind what’s happening at the practice. The only members of staff that have left were two nurses who fell pregnant right at the beginning of the project. ‘We thought we were in a really negative position at the start because two of our nurses fell pregnant at the same time. That was hard work. But we were actually really quite lucky. We inherited two extremely good nurses the next week.’

It’s this positive attitude that has got the team through even the toughest of times. ‘My accountant told me that everybody else was saying I’d just bought a sinking boat. I said “Thanks for that, I’ve spent a lot of money and you’re saying that”,’ Hammad said.

‘But now it’s all turned around we’re the sailing ship.’

Getting new patients through the door is one of the hardest things to do when running a practice. It’s word of mouth that is really helping to sell Oak Tree Dental, but it doesn’t all come through dentistry.

Stacey has made sure some of the space around the practice doesn’t go to waste by launching new projects within the practice. Under one roof a patient can now get Botox, fillers, microblading (semi-permanent make-up), acupuncture as well as get their teeth checked. ‘I’m trying to open a practice where you don’t need to go to lots of different places to get all your treatment,’ Stacey explained. ‘You can come to one place and see one person who you trust to get everything done.’

Dentistry is still the main driver for the practice, but all these new avenues help to bring new patients through the door and ultimately grow the practice.

‘We’ve gone well beyond the expectation of what we were thinking of doing in our first year,’ Hammad explained. ‘My associate felt he was very quiet at the beginning and not getting enough work. We said it might take a while, maybe a year to get going, but he felt the change from day one and a year on we’ve been very lucky and he’s a lot happier. He’s very busy and we’re even thinking of taking on another dentist to do some extra hours. We’re finding our books are so busy we can’t cope with it. We’ve got space for a third surgery but our approach is always to first maximise what we’ve got and then push to the next step, rather than take a big step and it affect everybody else.’

Hammad mentioned luck being a part of the massive turnaround at Oak Tree Dental practice, but really, it’s through hard work from the whole team, Hammad’s trust and guidance and Stacey’s ingenuity, with a lick of paint in the right places, that this practice has moved on from the sinking ship into the sailing ship.

Dr Hammad Javed Beg BDS, MFDS RCS (Eng), PG diploma clinical dental sciences worked as an SHO in oral and maxillofacial surgery for a year and then went onto being an associate for seven years before opening his own practice in 2015. He enjoys smile makeovers and facial aesthetics. Hammad is principal dentist and owner of Oak Tree Dental Kirkintilloch. He aims to provide a fun and friendly environment where his patients can feel comfortable and cared for.

Stacey Smith began her career as a trainee dental nurse in a practice in Kilsyth when she was aged 17. She joined Oak Tree Dental Centre  and qualified as a dental nurse two years later. In 2015 Stacey became assistant manager and then in 2016 practice manager. Away from the practice Stacey enjoys  spending time with family and friends.