Paul Adams talks about the importance of DD, its innovation and how the company strives to add value
How did you get into dentistry?
A couple of reasons. Our previous investors were Carlyle and I have previously led a Carlyle company. Secondly, I worked for Smith and Nephew for a number of years. It provides healthcare products and services to the NHS and others with medical devices and pharmaceutical creams and gels and orthopaedics, for example. There was both the attraction of getting back into healthcare and I knew the investors from previous roles.
What was the journey like once you worked in the industry?
The first thing is that, when you move in to any new industry, you need to learn the specific language that goes with the sector. For example, the names of products, or picking up acronyms. Trying to explain to somebody UDAs in relation to an NHS dental contract is not going to create loads of excitement. As well, I think dentistry is a networked sector. Personal relationships matter and are part of how the sector functions, that is quite refreshing for an extrovert to be involved in. I found it very helpful because you can call people and get help and there is no problem.
DD is celebrating 50 years this September. How does this feel?
It is a big number. Longevity is not as common these days. The history of the company is a really interesting story. It began with an entrepreneur who worked out that the Argos catalogue concept could actually be modelled to sell dentistry products to dentists. Hence the name was originally Dental Directory, although now it is DD Group. Dental Directory was effectively built on this directory of goods that were supplied to independent dentists and is the foundation of the company today. It was very much an Argos catalogue equivalent, and throughout the years the DD team(s) did a great job in building the business. The sector continues to move on and DD actually helps by introducing up to date solutions for dentists. For example, new digital services including products, engineering and aesthetics, faster supply chains etc to get dentists what they need, when they need it.
Do you think this background is what sets DD apart?
It helped to build a brand that is unique within dentistry. I think now we’ve evolved off the back of that work. Today, so much is provided via our web services. We’re the only company that can offer dental and aesthetic products and services for the dental and beauty sectors. Our uniqueness is now starting to provide value in a different way. On the back of that premise, as dentists start to adapt and grow, including moving into cosmetics that is a high growth area, we are helping them to make this transition. Around 3,000 dentists are now working with facial aesthetics. So, DD is now able to offer a range of services. For example, we have by far the largest engineering fleet providing planned and reactive services to keep dental practices operational and compliant throughout the UK and Ireland. We also offer a membership plan whereby dentists benefit from support for compliance and their training needs, right the way through to aesthetics and treatment programmes, and product discounts. All of these additional services are provided to both corporate and independent dentists. In summary, if you work with us, our range of services will secure you the best prices and also provide support services that help reduce operational headaches.
How has the last 18 months been for DD? What did you think of its impact?
We went through stops and starts. As dentistry opened up from the pandemic lockdowns everything started to pick up really quickly. However, dentists have had so many challenges to cope with, such as new standard operating procedures for example. Patient safety led to dentists having to source products (PPE) that they never thought they would ever need. In addition, practice cleaning down between patients, the fallow time, and using masks that look like Darth Vader. When you think about these challenges, it’s been tough. For dentists, the impact of COVID has still not lifted.
Do you think dentistry will ever face a challenge bigger than COVID-19?
Clearly COVID was a huge change for everybody, so we can’t really benchmark whether a future situation can ever be replicated to be as big as COVID has been. Dentistry is facing some real challenges at the moment that COVID has brought to the surface. People cite COVID, but Brexit has also caused recent issues for dentistry. Maintaining the number of practising dentists in the UK is challenged. I am led to believe that there are thousands of vacancies for dental nurses. However, teeth are still out there and the population is not reducing. I would say that the post-COVID challenges for dentistry are really significant. The DD team will do everything it can to support dentists through this particular period, because I really feel for them.
You mentioned earlier that you focus on both dentistry and aesthetics. How has DD made sure it keeps up with the demands of the modern day?
The key is to invest in the company infrastructure to help you stay ahead. We now have the largest B2B aesthetic pharmacy in the UK. To supply aesthetics is different to how you would supply dental products. Most of these products are cold chain. We also have to consider the environment. We make sure all of the cardboard can be recycled, shipping cartons are packed with minimal free space, our cold chain packaging can be recycled. Our pharmacy systems include escripts so prescriptions can be received online. Our operational capability now includes 1.5km of automated conveyor systems with product and packaging tracking systems all elevating our ability to provide good quality customer service and rapid delivery. Our contact centre team has reached call answering in 10 seconds or less. Product efficacy is very important. We have always strived for the highest product quality possible. Both branded and Unodent.
How do you and the team at DD stay motivated?
I feel proud that dentists give people back their lives. Patients could be in pain or want to change their smile or the way they look. All leading to help improve self-esteem and wellbeing. That’s one thing that I really love about the support DD provides. Ultimately, it is helping others add value to patients. There are also many opportunities for dentistry with new products and solutions arriving all the time. It's quite a refreshing environment to work within.