James Fletcher offers insight into what dentists intending to set up a squat practice need to know for an in-budget, on-time, stress-free outcome.
What does your role as project manager involve?
James: Essentially it’s ensuring the smooth running of the projects that we deliver.
In a nutshell it covers budgets, timeframes, and liaising with lots of different trades.
Squat practices seem to be on the increase. What is it about creating a squat practice that makes it so appealing?
James: I think squat practices are preferred, rather than taking over a pre-existing surgery, because you can put your personal touch on it from the beginning.
When you take on someone else’s equipment, cabinetry, decor, etc, in time you will look to redo all of that. But with a squat set up, you can have it exactly how you want it from day one.
What advice can you offer dentists from the outset when considering a project like this?
James: Ideally, try to get some budget costings together, because it’s got to be financially feasible.
Then you need to find a good dealer, which isn’t all about price. If the cheapest dealer is in the north and your squat practice is in the south, and they only have engineers in your area once every two weeks, that’s potentially a big problem. You need to see past that and think of the support side of things as well.
At Hague, we offer a turnkey solution. It takes all of those potentially challenging elements and puts the project firmly in the hands of experts. So there is nothing for the dentist to worry about.
We will hit budgets, keep to timeframes, oversee builders; the turnkey service takes all the stress out of a squat project for the dentist.
How do you assess site feasibility and what makes for success?
James: We look at a few things. There’s the size of the site, for example. We can assess whether a building is large enough for a dentist’s needs over the phone really easily if people know their square footage. So that’s a simple solve before the dentist commits to a squat practice. On the other hand, people often have access to CAD plans that we can look at and assess.
Location is another important consideration. In terms of the location of the property and what floor the practice is on. For example, we have completed projects in the past where we have had noise restrictions that have prolonged works. Ultimately most locations are possible, the key is managing expectations on time frames/budget.
You also need to be thinking about disabled access and the M&E services. So the plumbing, the electrics, drainage etc; are they up to scratch or do you need a lot of investment?
When it comes to practice design, when do you need an architect?
James: From my perspective, for a squat practice, you would ideally involve architects because most builders like to have full working drawings to work to and it helps with planning approval.
We have trusted architects that we use and we can recommend. So needing an architect is no barrier to the project.
Obviously, value for money is an important consideration. How can you help clients stay within their budget?
James: We talk about budget with our clients right from the start, as well as timeframes. It’s important to be realistic and we often put a contingency figure in the costings just in case. For example, when lifting floors and exposing walls, we have come across some interesting findings!
How can potential customers find out more about the equipment available?
James: Many people begin by visiting websites and talking to their peers, looking for recommendations. That is great to start with. But I think visiting a showroom is incredibly important before anyone buys equipment. You wouldn’t buy a car without sitting in it, trying it out.
With dental equipment we’re talking about similar amounts of money. Seeing it, sitting in it, playing with it is vital.
At Hague we have a showroom with 12 surgery setups, X-ray equipment, cabinetry, reception furniture; you name it, we’ve got it. Plus, we offer evening and weekend appointments to fit in with dentists’ busy lives.
Hague Dental staffs the showroom by people very knowledgeable about everything we offer. So they can answer questions and guide dentists as to what’s going to work best to achieve what they want.
How do you deal with service specifications?
James: Going back to what I said earlier, this is where an architect can help. They will create the initial CAD layouts that we can then overlay our information onto.
If you do not employ an architect, then we can create plans and deliver service specifications as required. And if we offer the full turnkey our builders will receive full working drawings.
If we’re just supplying equipment and cabinetry, we still deliver a full service plan. In these circumstances, it might be a chargeable item. But we’ll never drop the level of service we’re offering. It might be that we drop in two to three times during the build. Or, at the very least, once at a critical time, before builders start back filling trenches and closing up walls.
The aesthetics of a practice have become more important over the years. How do you help clients with the interior design aspects?
James: The aesthetics of a practice, especially the waiting room and reception area, are so important. It’s the patient’s first impression of the practice.
All of Hague’s project managers know what does and doesn’t work, and can offer advice. In addition, Kirsty Hague, the company secretary, has a real eye for interior design. She is incredibly helpful when it comes to creating the look of a practice.
What is the handover and training processes in relation to equipment?
James: We pride ourselves on our handover process. When we finish a project, we will always book in our technical director and our head of customer service to go onsite. They will demo the equipment, talk about future servicing, and discuss how the project went.
For a single surgery, that might take an hour, an hour-and-a-half. For a squat practice, where the handover includes builders coming in and demonstrating air conditioning, alarms, CCTV, etc, then you could be looking at a day. But either way, we will take whatever time we need to do the handover properly. There isn’t a cut off for us.
What sort of aftercare does Hague offer?
James: Aftercare is something that needs considering before you make any decisions about purchases. We know that finances are really important, but going for the cheapest quote is a mistake if the aftercare isn’t there. Imagine if you bought a new chair or kitted out an entire practice, something stops working and you’re told by your supplier they can get to it in a couple of weeks. That seems crazy, but it does happen. Not so with Hague – we offer a same-day/next-day emergency callout service to fulfil our aim that down-times are kept to a minimum.
Hague Dental has been involved in the development of squat practices for more than 20 years. Last year, the team was involved in numerous new sites. Despite the lockdown, we are receiving around three to four enquiries from individuals a week for this service.