Steve Walsh and Steve Charnley became the joint Managing Directors of Impression Dental Laboratory Limited in 2000 although their partnership initially began on August 13th 1990. They both came from a dental lab background working from the grass roots upwards where by they learned their trade and career as young boys straight out of school. They soon gained promotion to departmental managers and then became inspired to run their own dental lab together and have never looked back. More recently in 2008, they purchased The Old Police Station in Hindley, Wigan, a character Victorian building that dates back to 1847. After an extensive period of major renovation they moved Impression Dental into the attractive purpose built laboratory. It is well worth making a visit to see the modern facilities that include a specialised training room. Steve Charnley and Steve Walsh spoke about their views on leadership now and for the future.
When did you first become a boss and how did it feel?
SC: In August 1990. And because I was no longer answerable to anyone else, I felt amazing and liberated to be able to have control over my own destiny. I had the confidence to succeed without any doubts. And it was so much better than having the previous frustrations with the obvious deficiencies that were happening right in front of my eyes on how the business was being run because I knew that I could do a better job. You see I knew there was massive potential to improve and offer a superior service within the industry and I wanted to grasp the opportunity.
SW: Becoming a boss for the first time carried an awesome sense of duty… Having another person’s life, their mortgage and their family to consider really was a huge responsibility for me and I still feel that way to this every day.
What have you learnt about leadership and how has your style evolved?
SC: I have learnt a great deal and in different ways. My style has developed so I now lead by example and I know I have to be an empathic listener by seeking to understand before being understood in order to get the best out of our staff.
SW: I have learnt that people follow and respond to leaders for different reasons. Leadership does not always come naturally and some leaders can be great motivators while others need to plan and follow through by telling, showing and coaching. I have seen that a leader has to recognise different individual needs and I have worked very hard to organise and influence staff through the right principles and business ethics.
Have you been inspired by anyone person or theory?
SC: Listening to Steven Covey and reading his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ started me on the journey to implement a change in my leadership style.
SW: My personal faith that gives me the ability to deal with different people, circumstances and situations.
What’s the worst part of leading – and the best?
SC: I have noticed that there have been occasions when friendship with staff can get in the way because I may have allowed that situation to affect business relationships and fudge decisions. When that happens you end up being let down from people you expect more from. The best part is when I get inspired when I see staff using their own initiative to progress the business for our dental clients. And we receive great dentist and patient testimonials for a job well done.
SW: The worst part is when poor behavior leads to mistakes happening and this then gets in the way of the great things we really want to achieve for our dental clients. On the positive side, the best part is when you’re leading the business to the specific planned outcomes and these are achieved and everyone gets paid.
What do you look for when hiring staff?
SC: That they have passion, a willingness to learn and a drive to succeed by really making a difference to the lives of our dental patients. We need to know what motivates them to do a good job at work. If we can probe with questions to connect with their motivation, then we will find a way to tap into this motivation and get them inspired to perform a worthwhile job.
SW: Openness, enthusiasm and commitment. Above all, for them to work in the right way for our clients. There has to be a good fit with our Mission Statement whereby ‘Every Smile Matters’.
What’s the best career advice for people wanting to work in your dental lab industry?
SC: To be open to learning on the job and to be like a sponge to all possible dental lab knowledge and technology. We have to always be learning in this business in order to and liberated to be able to have control over my own destiny. I had the confidence to succeed without any doubts. And it was so much better than having the previous
frustrations with the obvious deficiencies that were happening right in front of my eyes on how the business was being run because I knew that I could do a better job. You see I knew there was massive potential to improve and offer a superior service within the industry and I wanted to grasp the opportunity.
SW: Be hungry for knowledge, take time to practice your skills to perfection, never settle for a that will do attitude. Remember that we always have a patient waiting for what we create. Always give 100%.
Are there natural leaders in business or do they have to be trained/qualified?
SC: A combination of both really. You see I genuinely believe I’m a good motivator ofpeople… and yet I still need to be open to new leadership coaching techniques that focus me on building long-term relationships with our clients through mutual trust, value and ongoing support that always delivers what is right for dental surgeries to achieve their goals. Leadership is about people and their success stories.
SW: Yes and Yes… Some people seem to be naturally gifted with leadership, while others have the ability to pick it up through training and coaching. Unfortunately at the other end of the spectrum, some people will never make it as a business leader because they don’t have the correct attitude when dealing with people.
What are your views on business leadership for the future?
SC: I really do want to lead excellence throughout every aspect of the business and each stage of our dental client’s casework. By continually inspiring passion in our team this will make a difference in patient’s lives so that every smile does matter. And we will know when this has been achieved because we will get even more referrals and delighted patients. I’m passionate about exceptional service and continue to strive to see how we can improve on this.
SW: One of my leadership priorities is to improve on the already good levels of service we give to our clients. The evaluation sheets that go out with each piece of work that is scored by our dental clients, gives us a current 96% “excellence” rating on service. I want to continue working with my team to further improve this service level offer…