When considering all the opportunities that stood out to Sinead Ryan when she became CEO of Abano Healthcare Group in early 2021, there was one that seemed particularly pertinent to the field she had just entered. “Corporate dentistry and dental support organisations are embryonic in Australia,” she says.
“There are more than 7,000 dental practices and well under 10% are actually corporatised, which means there are a lot of mum-and-dad operators still out there.” The largest trans-Tasman dental group, Abano Healthcare Group provides its practices with the kind of corporate infrastructure that frees up dentists to do what they do best.
“I don’t think back-end processes, systems and technologies are the best use of a dentist’s time,” Sinead shares. “We offer a service in the background, so they can actually do what they’ve trained to do. And I feel that there’s a lot we can do to really make a difference to the industry in that way.”
The Group’s dental brands, Lumino The Dentists in New Zealand and Maven Dental Group in Australia, operate at different levels of saturation. Across the ditch, Lumino is a household name that enjoys a high market share, while even with more than 100 practices, Maven is still on the way up. But, Sinead believes it’ll be a dramatic elevation.
“As part of our Fit for Growth strategy, we plan to double in size over the next three to five years and have already entered into a scheme of arrangement with 1300SMILES, which if successful, will become Abano Healthcare Group’s third brand,” she says.
Give me good people who love what they do all day every day, and that’s how we’ll grow the business.
“It is also really important to be efficient and to make sure that we improve our process and systems to ensure that we can support our rapid growth strategy. That way, when we add new practices, we are doing it in a way that makes sense.”
A newcomer to health care, Sinead found applying her significant experience in the corporate retail sector and child care easier than expected – and crucial in terms of future growth. “I come from a world of distributed networks, and even here, you need the right distribution network structure in place to thrive,” she says.
Sinead likens the structure to an inverted triangle, with herself at the very bottom. “It’s my job to support the next level, and it’s their job to support the level above,” she explains. “What we need to do every day is make sure everything we do supports the people who count, and that’s the people at each and every one of our practices. If we turn the triangle the other way around, then I am the least important person in the organisation.”
Originally from Ireland, Sinead found childhood trips to the dentist traumatic. “I didn’t enjoy going to the dentist one bit until adulthood, when I found myself a really good dentist in London,” she recalls.
“It opened my eyes to the importance of oral health care and the difference it makes to a person’s overall wellbeing.” The experience underlined the reality that every dentist is different.
“Some are very much about the industry, some are about the technology, others want to mentor and support young dentists coming through,” Sinead says. “So it’s important at Maven and Lumino that we put the frameworks in place to support our clinicians to go through whatever career path they choose.”
To cover all bases, the Group plans to invest heavily in education and innovation in addition to clinical excellence. “We have to keep an eye on where digital advances are going, what role artificial intelligence plays in the future of dentistry,” Sinead insists.
“At the same time, we are putting in new rostering systems, IT solutions and strong governance. We need to make sure we provide safe work environments where everybody feels they can be heard.” But putting the right people in the right roles is vital to the Group’s goal of peak operational excellence and something Sinead believes makes her job easier.
“Give me good people who love what they do all day every day, and that’s how we’ll grow the business,” she says. “We’re about patient outcomes and the patient experience. You make it the best it can be through clinical and operational excellence, and you can only do that with great people.”
Since she joined the Group, Sinead says her greatest joy has come from the feeling of having made a real difference. “I’ve had a number of opportunities throughout my career to make a difference to organisations and help them grow,” she reflects.
As Abano Healthcare Group’s growth continues with expansions and acquisitions, Sinead believes it will continue to deliver on its purpose. “That’s happy, healthy patients for life, and if we support the people at the coalface, they’ll be happy and healthy as well.”
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