Member Focus #1: Tom Feeney, Blackrock Dental
Hi, tell us a bit about you. My name is Tom Feeney. I’m a dentist practising on Main Street, Blackrock since the 1990s. Prior to that, I practised in the Navan Road, Dublin 7 and in Manchester, England. I was born in Galway and did my undergraduate training in UCG and UCD, and later received a post-graduate qualification from TCD. Apart from my clinical career, I have been involved in the politics of my profession from the outset, both nationally as Irish Dental Association President and internationally as a board member of the Council of European Dentists interacting with the Commission in Brussels.
Tell me about your business. I run a family dental practice in Main Street, Blackrock, also known as Blackrock Dental. The building has been used as a dental practice since the 1960’s. I took over in the 1990’s and set about refocusing the business so that it would appeal to both office and business workers in Blackrock and also families in the wider community. We have recently taken on a partner Dr Morgan O’Gara to share the workload and we also have three hygienists who keep everybody spick and span. As with many businesses after the crash, the lack of spending power in the community meant that attending the dentist became a far less common event and was often for emergency treatments only. However, we saw the recession as an opportunity to improve our business and focus more on customer service and satisfaction. Now that the economy has recovered, this ethos and focus has left us well positioned.
What services do you offer? We offer a range of items from general routine examinations, to all sorts of restoration of damaged teeth, including crowns, veneers, bridges, implants. We also do pure cosmetic work such as tooth whitening and orthodontics. We do from time to time remove teeth although that is a far less common practice these days! We have used IT to our advantage in many areas including recalls and reminders and, in more recent years, booking online.
What important lessons have you learned, since starting your business? You never get a second chance to make a good first impression, so have a key person on the front desk. People buy from people they like so a crucial attribute to have in business is friendliness. People mostly take competence and quality as a given, but competence without friendliness will only get you so far! Complaints are part of any business so don’t run away from them – face them head on and go the extra mile to find a solution. Mistakes happen – how they are dealt with distinguishes the good business from the not so good!
Which businessperson (at home or abroad) do you admire most and why? For me Michael O’Leary stands out. He has brought travel and exploration to the masses, not just in Ireland but throughout Europe. Before he came on the scene, extensive and weekend break travel was the domain of the few with an air of privilege attached to it. That has changed completely, with Ryanair set to carry 119m passengers over 1,800 routes in 33 countries this year. O’Leary is both charismatic and abrasive, traits which often apply to great generals. He also lives in Ireland and presumably pays a considerable tax bill to the exchequer, which is to all our benefit.
Why did you join the Blackrock Business Network (BBN)? It was clear to me that Blackrock had suffered more that most in the recession, with a huge haemorrhage of more than 2,000 office jobs. This fed right through the economy of Blackrock, both the daytime and night-time economies. Blackrock has so many things going for it, good transport links, an urban seafront, a fabulous park, artisan shops and much more, but still it lacks vibrancy and atmosphere, especially at night time. I felt it was important that people with vision and energy should get together to build on Blackrock’s potential and promise. With hard work, together with business and local authority support, we can get the village back to how it used to be some years ago.
How to get in touch.