Published: Saturday, 17 December 2011 20:08
Written by Tony Jacobs
GDPUK has an exclusive interview with Martin Mills, celebrating the 40th anniversary of Dental Directory.
The Dental Directory started life in 1971 as the Billericay Dental Supply Company. Founded by Gordon Mills who remains the company chairman, the fledgling business began by offering a mail order service. Although Gordon, his son Martin and other staff would visit dentists if requested, it wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t until 1988 that the first sales representative was employed by which time the company had been renamed The Dental Directory.
Martin Mills takes up the story; “I felt we needed to reflect the fact that we were a national business so in 1983 we became The Dental Directory – because quite simply that was what we were offering – a catalogue of products for dentists.” However, by the early 90s, it was evident that dentists wanted something more, “We used focus group market research and found that what dentist really wanted was independent product advice from professional sales staff who were not employed by just one manufacturing company. They wanted field based experts whose product knowledge would complement the catalogue.”
This responsiveness to customer needs has been the foundation of The Dental Directory and the core of its business approach; “ At the end of the day, The Dental Directory works like a family, every member of staff will pitch-in and do what has to be done, to service our customers.”
The Dental Directory has had a front seat view of the significant changes in dentistry over the last forty years; increase in private practices, expansion of treatments and services, major technological development and new regulatory responsibilities The Dental Directory remains a family run company which Martin Mills believes has helped them keep pace with the evolving profession, “Because we have no outside shareholders nor dividends to pay, we can react quickly to changes in dental market and we’ve been able to consistently re-invest in the business. In the last four years, we’ve spent over £4.5m on a totally automated warehouse, stock holding capacity has been increased to around £17m at any one point which means back orders have been virtually eliminated and we can meet the demands of dentists for free overnight delivery of orders.”
Not only is The Dental Directory is still owned by the founding Mills family, many of the staff have clocked up years of loyal service and that retention of people has played a major role in the company’s reputation for superb customer service; 11 staff have been with the company for over 25 years, 65 for over 15 years and a further 34 who have been with the company for over ten years.
Martin Mills believes the secret is; “ A shared vision of customer service. The company is run as a hands-on, team effort.”
That view is echoed by Martin’s father Gordon Mills, fellow directors and staff, one of whom said, “Continuous improvement is a fact of life for us.”
The company is firmly committed to “putting something back” into dentistry and to celebrate 40 years in the business is funding the The Dental Directory Chair in Primary Dental Care at Warwick University Medical School, believed to be the first new dental Chair in over four decades. The idea, as Martin Mills explains is to “…develop research projects aimed at improving the lot of the primary dental care provider who after all, is our main market so this is a way of putting something back into dentistry.”
The Dental Directory also supports the work of the AOG Charitable Trust and a number of other charities, funding newsletters, meetings and individuals engaged in research or charitable projects.
For any family business to survive the economic ups and downs of the past 40 years would be a milestone. In an industry dominated by corporate giants and a focus on profits, not people, The Dental Directory’s enduring commitment to personal customer service stands out.