A profile of George Cheetham and his practice ethos
Young Dentist talks to George Cheetham about his practice ethos, the challenges that he has faced as a practice owner and the best aspects of his job.
Name: George Cheetham @georgethedentist
Practice name: Ridgway Dental
Location: Wimbledon Village
Patient demographic: General and specialised dental care to a varied patient demographic
Practice type: Private
Number of surgeries: Four
What made you want to own a practice?
GC: As a clinician it’s easy to become ‘tied to the chair’ – by the fact that the only ‘work’ you can do is clinical treatment. Time away like holidays for example means you are not working.
I feel I am limited to how many life-altering smiles I can give to patients. This is because of the number of patients I can physically see in a given time period. This is frustrating.
Being a dentist means that the day-to-day decisions I make are also more clinical and science based than other decisions.
By owning a practice you own a business and can forge the environment you and others work in. You can influence a whole community’s dental health, provide employment, and maybe even make a tiny dent into shaping an industry.
The decisions you make can become a lot less clinical, for example marketing, design and so on.
How do you run it differently?
GC: I think this comes down to the values of the practice. My aim is to provide an exceptional quality of care and provide a work environment where my staff can grow, be happy, and reach their full potential.
The quality of dentistry coming from a surgery isn’t solely based on the dentist’s clinical skill, but a combination of factors including the environment they are put in, the team they work alongside, the equipment they are provided with, the general enthusiasm, and the flexibility of the practice.
What’s the focus for growth in the practice?
GC: I believe the main drive of this is the quality of service provision. The best marketing in my experience is a happy patient. If a patient can come to your practice and receive all the care they need under one roof, in a relaxing, modern, and efficient environment – then they are going to tell their friends. This equates to growth.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
GC: It takes time to grow the team that you want, who breath the same values you believe in. Recruitment is definitely one of the biggest challenges.
The other challenge is money!
I bought an unprofitable, poorly equipped practice when I was 28 years old with a colleague of mine, Aaron Yusuf. We have reinvested the vast majority of money we have earned back into the business to expand it. This also takes time.
Also, time management – trying to run a practice, teach, and continue studying is also an art I am yet to master.
What have been the best bits?
GC: It’s a wonderful feeling when I close the practice at the end of a working week and look around the surgery in which we have created smiles. Patients have left having received complex care from a truly exceptional team.
It’s an even better feeling when this happens when I’m not there.
I want to make a point of thanking Aaron for his support through all this experience – he is not just a business partner but a great friend with my best interests at heart.
This article first appeared in Young Dentist magazine.