Paul Dutton

Written by Paul Dutton
5th June 2014

The Extraction

I’d been at James Hull Associates (JHA) for approximately 15 months. I’d met some great people and learnt an awful lot about the business of dentistry. I found the dental community very welcoming and eager to support each other. After 15 years working in the legal sector where knowledge was seen as power and not something you ever shared, this new ethos was a very refreshing change and a philosophy I whole heartedly embraced.

Over a beer after work one evening Mark and Alex were discussing setting up their own accountancy company to support the dental sector. Their knowledge having worked in practice is outstanding – 2 qualified accountants with hands on experience of the intricacies of dentistry, who better to set up a business to support dentists!

One afternoon on the way to yet another practice visit with Mark, I shared with him my goal of setting up a dental specific facilities management company as I believed there was an opportunity in dentistry for this type of service.

All three of us met to chat about working as strategic partners and referring clients to each other but very quickly (and after a few more beers!) we thought what the hell, let’s do this together! Let’s set up a support services company replicating the bits we liked about the corporates, changing what we didn’t and offer this to the entire dental community. There was nobody else out there doing this and we would be giving dentists a real choice. We were providing dentists with an option that wasn’t currently available. The option to retain ownership, retain decision making, retain profits whilst having support with accountancy, health & safety, HR and IT from one company.

You will have already spotted the flaw in this plan, we were 2 accountants and a facilities manager, we had no expertise in HR or IT, but that wasn’t to deter us, we would recruit. We were in the game!

The company was formed on 9 October 2009 as ‘Vista Business Solutions’. We had no investors, no wealthy shareholders so had to do this the hard way, £300 and my EGG credit card. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t do something. You can do anything you want you just need to want it badly enough. Always look for solutions to problems, not excuses to stop you. That’s one thing that’s never been missing from OneSG, a desire, passion and commitment to succeed.

By the way, as you may have noticed, we soon changed the name from Vista Business Solutions to OneSG, it was a collective decision and we felt it was more in keeping with what we were trying to achieve.

The time had come for us to make our intentions clear at JHA that the 3 of us would be resigning. Then to hijack our best laid plans on Sunday 15th November 2009 (the day before our intended announcement) The Sunday Times ran a piece on James Hull resigning as Chief Executive after a bust-up with the investors. We decided to hold off on making our announcement while we waited for the dust to settle, which it finally did. The investors brought their own people in to manage the business, but many of these had little if any dental experience.

We met with Robin Pugh who had replaced James as Chief Executive, told him our plans and surprisingly Robin was fantastically supportive. Being a businessman himself he understood why we wanted to make this step but also asked that we work with him to minimise disruption at JHA. The company had always been good to us, there were still people we respected in the business and just as importantly dentistry is a small world so we wanted to do the right thing. It also gave us an opportunity we never thought would present itself in that we phased our exit and balanced our days at JHA with those at OneSG, enabling us to focus on growing our business. This was the best outcome we could have ever hoped for and it allowed us to continue earning a wage whilst increasing our own revenue. We are extremely grateful for the support Robin gave us and still keep in contact with him to this day.

Over the Christmas period of 2009 and early 2010 we had a number of meetings with Sam Waley-Cohen, Chief Executive of Portman Healthcare, and owe a big thank you to Gary Chapman as he made the initial introduction and recommendation. Sam had 2 practices at the time but the ambition to form a group. Sam became our very first client and in April 2010 we started to support Portman Healthcare. I’m pleased to say that 4 years on Portman Healthcare are still a client of ours and we’ve supported their growth to 20 practices.

The Portman Healthcare success was closely followed by being appointed to support to Neil Sikka at Barbican Dental Care and since that day we have not looked back.

I mentioned at the beginning of this blog our goal to also provide HR and IT support. This followed in early 2011, coinciding with the rebranding from Vista Business Solutions to OneSG. I want to take the opportunity to explain our rebranding and also profile the guys behind these departments so you can get to know the people that make OneSG tick, keep an eye out for these posts over the coming weeks….

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