Posted on 6th October 2020
It’s all in the family at Warwick Family Dental Care, with practice principal Dr Peter Brooke working alongside his practice manager wife Sharon, associate dentist son Hayden and receptionist daughter Rosalie.
After purchasing the practice in 2003, Peter says Sharon was happy to take a break from her secondary science teaching career to relieve him of the administration so he could concentrate on the dentistry side of the business.
“It involved a very different skill set from teaching and she had to master book-keeping and human resource practice management from day one by being thrown in the deep end,” Peter says.
“I was keen for Hayden to get a broad exposure to different practice styles after he graduated and, luckily, I was always able to dovetail his work at Warwick Family Dental Care, in with positions he held at other practices. This has been a good approach because he has had the benefit of my mentorship and I have also learnt new dental techniques from him.
“Similarly, we have been able to dovetail Rosalie’s reception work in with her tertiary study timetable. She is learning communication and patient management skills that she will find useful in her future life.”
When it comes to the challenge of leaving work at work, Peter says he tries to avoid work conversation at home. “When I unintentionally start talking about work to my wife, I jokingly ask myself: ‘Am I being paid to think about this now?’, and this quickly puts a stop to it.
“Sometimes Hayden and I will discuss cases just to unwind a bit and let off steam. I think this is normal.”
When asked for his advice to other families considering working together, Peter says to enjoy it.
“Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to see and work with members of their family on a daily basis – ask any FIFO worker,” he says. “Enjoy the chance to see and interact with them on a daily basis and keep in touch with what is happening in their lives.”
He says the same principles of mutual respect and tolerance that makes for a successful family life can be translated into a successful working relationship with family members.
“Finally, don’t take it to seriously,” he adds. “You work to live, not live to work.”
Deepali says she and Jordan have been working together for the last six years. “We co-owned our practice before the pressures of parenthood helped us to decide to sell the practice,” she recalls. “We still both work at the practice as contracted dentists.
“We’ve watched families grow and patients have seen our family grow,” she says. “We recognise and are recognised by many of our patients out in the community, and a shopping trip can be a nice social outing! It is nice to know we have each other in the practice, that we can bounce off each other and have somebody else that we implicitly trust.”
Although many try not to “talk shop” at home, Deepali says she and Jordan do talk about work after hours.
“I guess it is a good counsel for us being able to discuss the issues without having to explain them,” she explains. “Conversely, when one of us is having a day off, we have to be prepared to talk about work still, so it can be hard to switch off when one of us is at home.
“The other issue is that if we wish to book a holiday, we are leaving the practice with two dentists down,” she adds. “As former owners, we understand the implications of this from a business sense and from an access to care sense for our patients.”
Siblings and partner
Sven and Marc were living together in 2015 and decided if they could live together, they could work together. Later that year, they started up WA Dental in Ellenbrook and say that five years later, they are still best friends.
Lesley says a great advantage of working together is that they all have their areas of special interest (with Sven their implant dentist, Marc their orthodontic dentist and Lesley their children’s dentist). “This allows for internal referrals to create a one-stop clinic for our Ellenbrook patients,” she explains.
“Working together has strengthened our bond as a family as we now spend a lot more time together, both while at work and home,” Lesley adds. “We are able share the stresses of running a dental practice while also benefiting from the flexibility of having each other to rely on.”
Lesley says one of the main challenges of working together is balancing their work and personal lives. “Sven and Marc find it very difficult to talk about anything other than teeth and the business when we are away from work,” she says. “Sven has a two-year-old and is expecting a baby in a few months, and Marc and I have newborn twins. Sharing time with our young families while also managing the demands of a dental practice can be difficult, but we make it happen!”
“When we both became dentists, it was always going to be the natural thing to do, to work together,” Misagh says. “It’s just a natural fit.”
“On reflection, I think we spoke about the idea of working together as children!” Sahba adds.
Misagh says he and Sahba share a similar experience and outlook, and perspective based on similar values, which translates in the workplace into how they look after patients, how they communicate with staff and how they view a profession of service. “It is much easier to create a culture in your practice when you have a critical mass of key people who subscribe to a similar vision of what is important,” he says.
“For example, Sahba and I were both raised to not speak negatively about other people – and this is something I try my best to cultivate in my workplace. As far as leadership, it’s comforting to know if I’m away lecturing or travelling, Sahba is still there with the team. At any point in time I might have particular management needs which Sahba will kindly step in and look after, and I know that staff can turn to her for advice. I often look for Sahba’s input in staff meetings, or in interpersonal matters in the workplace, as she has excellent skills in these areas.”
“Misagh has also always been so accommodating of my family’s circumstances and my picking work hours around these circumstances,” Sahba adds. “I have always been able to be there to pick up my kids at the end of their school day.”
“I would think it should be the most natural fit for siblings to work together, but maybe I’ve just been blessed with the right sibling,” Misagh says. “The only word of advice would be that although Sahba and I can take a lot for our common understanding and approach to things for granted, we are still always conscious to communicate expectations around any work-related issue. As long as we communicate and consult on a matter, we tend to come to a quick solution or agreement, and this helps avoid misunderstandings.”
The full version of this article first appeared in the October 2020 edition of the Western Articulator magazine.