All smiles at 3SL

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An expanding dental group, which aims to make visits to the dentist a pleasurable experience, could be heading for further growth after being named winner of the Sheffield Newspapers Local Business Accelerators initiative.

Norfolk Row-based 3SL has won a package of support, combining business mentoring and free advertising, and a place in the national contest, which is supported by regional and local newspapers across the country.

3SL was founded 13 years ago by David Ward, who combines a dental degree with a Masters in Business Administration, and his wife Jennie, a specialist in restorative dentistry and former hospital consultant.

Starting out from a single practice in Dronfield, the couple now run a business with a private and an NHS practice, operating from two locations in Dronfield and the Sheffield practice, which opened in 2010 and is pioneering a new approach to dentistry.

“We want to make dentistry a calm, caring and enjoyable experience for our patients,” says David Ward. “We want our patients to look forward to coming to see us, not dread it.”

Market research carried out by 3SL before it opened the Norfolk Street surgery, showed what patients hated most about visiting a dentist was having to wait – often with the sound of drills emanating from the surgeries.

That was followed closely by the clinical smell.

So, when 3SL opened its Sheffield surgery, David and Jennie resolved to eliminate waiting time, surgical smells and noises, while also creating more time to understand the priorities of their clients and using combinations of techniques to ensure even an anaesthetic injection was pain free.

Now, the husband and wife team want to take their recipe for turning a dentist’s surgery into a stress free environment, with aromatic smells, relaxing sounds, attractive images and comfort to other sites while also developing a retail and online dental and facial products business.

“There is room to grow the business on Norfolk Row and we would like open similar practices elsewhere in the area, but having three sites takes more managing.

“We are also looking for help convert our strategic plan into a step by step development programme. We need support with expanding the management team, raising finance and marketing to deliver our vision,” says David Ward.

Providing that expertise will be Richard Wright, who ran hi-tech steel maker ATI Allvac for five years and is now the chief executive of a technology start up, in addition to being executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce.

“Someone who has started a business has lived with the idea and will be wanting it to work, so they may be looking through rose tinted glasses and they may not have tested all the assumptions they have made. That is where mentoring brings advantages,” says Mr Wright.

“A mentor can ask what the customer demand is likely to be, whether there is a real market and what it will take to develop that market.”

3SL will also be vying for a top national prize in the competition, which has been backed by Prime Minister David Cameron in addition to the 500 regional and local newspapers offering £15 million-worth of free advertising.

The winner of the national competition will receive mentoring support from Local Business Accelerators national ambassador and Dragons’ Den judge, Deborah Meaden.