Emma Clayton-Jones explains the special bond and working relationships within her team at 5 Dental Care – which helped make them Best Team (South) winners at the 2017 Private Dentistry Awards.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
Emma Clayton-Jones: I qualified from Kings College London in 1995 and had two house officer posts before continuing with VT at a mixed practice. I was a VT trainer for four years before joining the partnership just after my first son was born. In 2007 I completed the Certificate in Endodontics at the Eastman and launched 5 Dental Care in 2010.
What or who made you choose a career in dentistry?
ECJ: I was initially interested in biochemistry, at age 14, but wisely my mum guided me towards a degree which would involve the subject but lead to a career more suited to my personality. I was not interested in medicine but dentistry appealed. Working as a dental nurse on Saturdays and in the holidays confirmed my decision. I was lucky in working with some passionate dentists who encouraged me and one in particular who recommended Kings.
Tell us more about 5
ECJ: 5 was launched in 2010. It was an existing largely private practice with some specialist services. After a partnership split the practice was rebranded with many of the existing team staying with me and helping me develop the practice. Consequently, some of my team have been with me for 20 years. All of my nurses have trained and qualified at our practice, bringing their friends into the 5 family. We have a very special atmosphere at work which is regularly commented on by patients. Our focus has been on a very high level of care, sourcing new technology to support this and an amazing specialist team. Every team member works hard to provide an exceptional level of customer care – team training and staff wellbeing are paramount in delivering this.
You are PD Award winners – what does winning mean to you and the practice?
ECJ: We are thrilled to have received this award. Of all the awards this is the one that really shows what an amazing team we have here and they thoroughly deserve the accolade. Our patients are delighted for us and we have had lots of congratulatory messages from them. We have been finalists for the last three years in this category and also for Best Practice and Best Patient Care. The awards dinner was quite emotional for us all as it really encapsulated everything the team have been working towards. After the announcement I just wanted to hug everyone and tell them how proud I was of all of them.
What do you think makes a successful dental team?
ECJ: We all actually like each other and enjoy each other’s company – that helps a lot! We are passionate about what we do and enjoy our work. I put a lot of thought into how I wanted the practice to feel and function to ensure a comfortable atmosphere for both patients and staff. When we first launched 5 we had limited funds so we all came in to help redecorate the practice, even staff partners. I’ll never forget that loyalty and belief in me, they were all super supportive. Communication and training is key, we often train together sometimes on site with bespoke training or at practice workshops. Regular practice meetings are essential and sometimes combining these with a long lunch at our local! It’s great for the team to mentor each other. Senior staff are encouraged to develop their careers and train junior team members to take on new responsibilities. One of my nurses started working for me at age 16, she completed her nursing NVQ and her career has evolved to clinical lead and now clinical practice manager.
How is the practice structured?
ECJ: We have a fairly flat structure, although recently I have appointed two team members who report to me as non-clinical and clinical practice managers. I’ve split this role as I believe it will be more effective and they can provide support to one another. It’s all about personalities with this role and both George and Stacey have the perfect temperaments to hold these responsible positions and are hugely respected by the rest of the team. George’s background is purely clinical whereas Stacey has no dental experience but has worked within the beauty industry for many years. I love her fresh approach to patient care and it’s great to get new ideas. All of the team have input into how the practice changes from ideas on new technology to our approach to customer care and our patient journey.
What lessons have you learned since you started working in the practice?
ECJ: If you employ a team member with the wrong personality it will upset everything, only employ people you know will integrate with the team. You ensure this by having other team members interview that potential candidate with you. Let them help you – their instincts are good!
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your work?
ECJ: The most enjoyable are changing a patient’s perceptions of dentistry, and of course developing team members and seeing their career progression. Least enjoyable is completing the NHS online IG Toolkit! The software is impossible!
What have been the major influences and turning points in your career?
ECJ: My mum worked in HR for 30 years and now works at the practice. Her experiences have helped me with managing a team. Being raised by a working mum and being a working mum myself gives me an understanding of the issues facing my team with juggling work and childcare and having a flexible approach. The turning point was becoming a sole principal, giving me the freedom to implement changes that were essential to growth of the business.
Are there any products that you find invaluable in your practice?
ECJ: I couldn’t work without my Global microscope, The Wand STA and our in-house dental technician, Mike.
How important is patient communication to you?
ECJ: The role we have just created in the practice is largely dedicated to this. My two receptionists have 35 years’ experience between them and know most of the patients extremely well. For new patients we have a pre-appointment meeting with our patient care coordinater to discuss their specific needs and concerns and after the appointment a chat with our TCOs to discuss treatments proposed, practice membership and to get feedback and reviews. Recently we have hosted an evening lecture at the practice focusing on Naturopath approach to the menopause which was well attended and positively received. Patients have asked us to host more of these evenings covering topics such as sleep issues and osteoporosis.
How do you stay abreast of modern techniques?
ECJ: Be inquisitive about everything. We have excellent specialists at the practice who keep the team abreast of new treatment concepts. Team members recommend new technology which is then investigated and brought into the practice. I regularly attend conferences and invest in team training.
Professionally, what are you most proud of?
ECJ: Creating such a strong brand and excellent practice reputation. We work in a largely female dominated practice and I like the mentoring aspect. I have just read Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook CEO. In the book she relays many anecdotes of women’s experiences in the professional workplace. Having been subjected to these prejudices myself during my career, I enjoy creating a supportive working environment for staff to thrive. It pays back enormously in terms of dedication and loyalty.
Where do you get your motivation and drive from?
ECJ: My kids and my husband, Adrian. It’s all about family. I’m incredibly lucky to have an amazingly supportive husband who gives me great advice about practice progression. I’m hoping that we will embark on a joint venture next year.
How do you relax in your spare time?
ECJ: I’m cricket mad so if I’m not watching the test match or at the Oval, I’ll be listening to TMS. I love to bake and my family are constantly pushing me to enter Bake Off – I make a mean chocolate brownie.
What are your plans for the future?
ECJ: This is the most exciting bit! I have wanted to explore and expand the practice to include skin therapies for some time. We are launching Skin Therapy at 5 this summer and will be providing non-surgical facials to complement the facial aesthetics that we already provide. The longer term plan would be to add another local practice to bring into the 5 family. After that – watch this space…!