Quantum leaps, family footsteps and big shoes

I awake to the 6.30am alarm and Becky, my partner, bags the shower first as she commutes 45 minutes to E.On where she’s in SME and retail marketing. For me, it’s a 30-minute walk in the park with our Labrador; we got her from a rescue centre five years ago and, a bilateral THR (total hip replacement) later, she’s turbo charged.
The working day begins around 8am. We live in the centre of Nottingham; the office is in the Lace Market, a 10-minute walk across the market square and I usually get a coffee somewhere on the way in.

We have a warehouse building parts of which date back to the 1800s. My grand-father started the business at 16 in a small room around the corner and we’ve been on this site since 1928. Most days I think how lucky we are with this set up – it’s a blend of the old and the new and we’ve got a great team.

By 8.05am, plans made on the way in are a distant memory and the day starts in earnest. In student years, I was definitely not a morning person. I still think I’m more of a night owl, but it doesn’t make much difference these days.

I have a friend who feels a phone call is just an invitation to talk and can quite easily ignore it all day – a little extreme, but he may have a point. You can spend a disproportionate amount of time dealing with email; it seems better to batch-process emails a couple of times a day – that way you don’t get drawn into incessant online chatter, so you can tell I don’t Twitter.
I keep an electronic appointments book, but carry a handwritten logbook because, when thoughts come, you want to be able to scribble them down not boot up a gadget.
I’ve got a teleconference this morning and two external meetings this afternoon, with the usual day-to-day stuff in between. I usually work through lunch, sometimes I get hungry later on and realise I’ve missed it altogether.

The great thing about the business at the moment is the variety. It’s as clear as it has ever been where we add value and fit into the grand scheme of things. A time of recession is not always a doom-and-gloom story; it’s also a time of opportunity. There are possibilities right now which can deliver in months what would normally take years to achieve, carpe diem.

Simon Gambold, the current BDTA president, has left big shoes to fill; my challenge will not only be to deliver an equally impressive agenda, but to balance this with day-to-day responsibilities at work. Tony and the BDTA executive team at Chesham are very efficient and supportive, and Karen Turner is going to be a great vice president, so I know we’re going to do it and we’re going to have great fun on the way.

“A time of recession is not always a doom-and-gloom story;
it’s also a time of significant opportunity”

Has the role of technicians changed enormously with the dawning of an age of new
technology? No and yes. The digital revolution permeates all walks of life, including dental
technology, but there is still a need to appreciate and understand the core curriculum of clinical and materials science along with manual dexterity and artistic skill to deliver outstanding aesthetics.

It has always been difficult – but not impossible – for the role to achieve it’s true value. Visit a private jeweller with a sketch of a bespoke piece and compare the quote with your last lab bill.
Last time I was asked who inspires me, I gave the names of some people who had made a quantum leap of imagination in their chosen field like computer scientist, Alan Turing. Now I would do the same, but broaden it to all those with independence of thought and strength of character to make the difference. I think we will all remember Obama getting elected in years to come.

You would be better off asking ask the profession how innovative Attenborough Dental has been in changing the profession. I would like to think that, in some small part, we influenced opinion towards how technology can secure a future for the industry. Value added manufacturing can still be done in the UK.

Was it inevitable I’d follow in my father’s and grandfather’s footsteps? Well, yes and no. I did a test at school which was supposed to map out a career path to follow, but it came back with ‘dentistry or electronics’ which wasn’t much help.

I didn’t want to drift into the business so I decided to make the decision on the basis of what I would do if the business wasn’t there, and went up to Leeds to read electrical and electronic engineering.

While at uni, I was sponsored by Marconi Radar and used to work for them most holidays which provided much-needed cash to subsidise the Student’s Union via the Tartan Bar back at Leeds.
On graduation, I returned to Marconi for a further two years before moving to Germany as a consultant specialising real-time embedded systems, concurrent systems, and systems analysis for both civil and military projects. I returned to England and ended up working in the City, writing cryptography software for financial systems. Then mum got ill and I started coming back to Nottingham part time to help with the business, and found I really loved it.

I thought we could bring some of the digital manufacturing technologies I’d seen in my previous life to the business and, 12 years later, I realise I’ve been able to combine both paths and the careers test was right after all.

Do I enjoy the politics of the dental industry? Politics for politics sake I do not relish, politics to achieve progress I do enjoy. The all-party parliamentary group for dentistry is looking promising, and change is on people’s minds so we need to strengthen links across parties in preparation for next year.

For downtime, I love skiing but don’t get the chance much these days. I also have a PPL helicopter and single-engine aeroplane and try to keep current.

Become a Dentistry Online member

Become a member
Add to calendar