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Dentology Podcast with Tom Chaston


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Transcript – Dentology Podcast with Tom Chaston

Episode release date – Monday 29 April 2024

Andy & Chris (00:01.669)
Even though it’s rainy and miserable outside it doesn’t dampen a podcast day. Does it? Oh, I like that No, no a podcast day is always bright and shiny. It is it is and ladies and gentlemen Um, you’re very welcome to join us today as is our guest and today We have tom chastain joining us and tom is a co-founder of allmed pro. Welcome tom. How you doing? Hello? Not at all our pleasure Absolutely delightful to see you. Um

Tom Chaston (00:22.562)
Good, thank you for having me.

Andy & Chris (00:30.149)
just to kick off, it’s always good to start with kind of who you are and where you came from and stuff. And I think people always kind of say that the biggest impact on our lives are our parents, our postcode and our education. Those are the things that kind of set us up. So what was your childhood like? Where did young Tom start out?

Tom Chaston (00:47.266)
So pretty much 4.2 children kind of family environment, very, I would say, mom has always been a teacher and dad was also working in the education space as well. So it’s called it fairly low key, fairly normal, didn’t have lots of money. You know, I think our family holidays was, you know, tenting in Cornwall, Devon, and that was about it, really. We had a few trips abroad, but it was very, I’d say understated,

Andy & Chris (00:52.933)
Do you have a dog?

Tom Chaston (01:17.29)
Very loving, you know, got a sister, got a good relationship with her and got quite a big extended family. I think where I have been quite lucky is having grandparents that I was very, very close to. I still have a grandmother, but I had my grandparents, you know, longer than some people do. And they had quite a profound impact on my life. And I think, you know, in terms of the world of business, I learned quite a lot from

my granddad who I had until I was 16 and you know I got a lot of I think a lot of good core personality values from him and some of which I’ve been able to use today in terms of what we do. So yeah so I’d say it’s very stable very humble you know not a massive friendship group but a good tight-knit friendship group you know and I’m still friends with a number of those today which is really pleasing.

Andy & Chris (01:56.194)

Andy & Chris (01:59.607)

Tom Chaston (02:15.786)
to be fair.

Andy & Chris (02:17.056)
What did your granddad do? Was he a business person himself?

Tom Chaston (02:19.386)
Grandad, he left school at 14, which is I think what you did kind of a million years ago, and he went in as an apprentice for an agricultural engineering company and he remained with the same company until he retired, but he worked his way up from apprenticeship right away to being the director of the business, and it was a reasonable sized business. I don’t know turnover details, but I know having seen team photoshoots, they had probably around 40 staff.

Andy & Chris (02:39.397)

Tom Chaston (02:47.854)
So it’s a reasonable size company based in Hampshire. And I took a, I think it’s a lot to be proud of when you see someone working their way right from the bottom to kind of the top. And I think that’s something you don’t see very often nowadays. And you probably haven’t quite some time to be fair.

Andy & Chris (02:49.337)

Andy & Chris (02:57.042)

Andy & Chris (03:05.226)
I think the world’s changed. I think now they say that most people are going to have three distinct careers through their working life. And I think those generations of people that kind of started as a lad and then retired out of the same company. Get your gold watch at 50 years or something. Get your gold watch at five probably if you’re lucky. It’s interesting what you say.

Tom Chaston (03:24.622)
I think he was obviously due to retire at 65 or whatever it was at that time and he didn’t retire for another six years. You know, family kept saying to him, retire, retire and he kind of retired. I think he retired in the end at 71 and unfortunately he passed away not long after. But it also shows, I think about, I don’t know, I think maybe like work like balance and keeping things in perspective. You can take a lot from that. But I think his work ethic was phenomenal.

Andy & Chris (03:28.171)

Andy & Chris (03:32.089)

Andy & Chris (03:40.493)
Bye bye.

Tom Chaston (03:52.374)
I learned quite a lot from him in terms of values and that sort of stuff. I think that’s a really important one. I know there’s been a lot of criticism in the media of the last year also around the new generation of workers coming through and work ethic and everything else. I think, I don’t know, I think certain people have just got it when it comes to work ethic and you can learn a lot from those positive influences and I was lucky to have that.

Andy & Chris (03:54.618)

Andy & Chris (04:20.481)
It’s true. That’s very true. Yeah, absolutely. Just listening to what you’re saying about, you know, it was quite a…

humble upbringing, you know, not a lot of money. But as kids, we don’t care, do we? We never, it’s only when you grow up and you look backwards and you think, oh, actually there were other kids that had more than me or now I do what I do, I’ve got more than perhaps my parents or my grandparents. But when you’re in that moment, it doesn’t matter. You’re just in a loving household, you’re having holidays. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tent and you’re in Cornwall, it’s still a holiday and you’re having fun.

Tom Chaston (04:32.396)

Tom Chaston (04:42.13)
Yeah. It doesn’t.

Tom Chaston (04:50.798)
And I think this is it and I think now you sort of think, well, I want to provide X, Y and Z for my children, I want to be able to take them to this place and holiday or that place, but I think you’re right. I think one of the things I’ve learned through being a father and probably come onto it later on is strip it right back. And that I think if you can focus on the basics of life, generally, kids don’t need or want all that sort of stuff. And so, yeah.

Andy & Chris (05:07.502)

Andy & Chris (05:17.025)
No. What they actually want is you to be around, isn’t it? That’s, I think, you know, we look back on our childhoods. It’s like the time we spent as a family, they were the most valuable days.

Tom Chaston (05:20.935)
Yeah, not exactly that.

Tom Chaston (05:25.218)
Exactly. And I think that’s one of the things I did benefit from, like you said, from having that humble upbringing, it was exactly that, you know, we had a good quality family time, my memories of when I was a child are very, very positive, very happy, very warm, you know, very loving. And, and that’s the most important thing.

Andy & Chris (05:28.453)

Andy & Chris (05:37.901)

Andy & Chris (05:44.761)
Absolutely. Before we get to the dental profession side of things, your…

You’re a massive sports fan, aren’t you? You love all sorts of sports. And recently you invited me, went to an event where Damon Hill was there, and we just had him talk about his former on your career. It was absolutely cracking, fascinating guy. And you’re a leader in your own business. So what have you learned from sport that you’ve taken into business or vice versa? Because I’m always intrigued at how these two things interlink and, you know, James Kerr’s written a book, Legacy on the All Blacks, but that link just really does fascinate me. I’d like to get your insights.

Tom Chaston (05:56.564)

Andy & Chris (06:19.9)
on that.

Tom Chaston (06:20.934)
Yeah, so I think the competitive nature, the competitive edge comes from sport, certainly in me. I think football, yeah, I used to play a lot of cricket when I was younger. I used to be, weirdly, I used to be a lot better at cricket than I was at football. But I went down the football route and then, you know, other distractions come in, don’t they, when you’re a teenager. But I definitely learned a lot around being competitive. Wow, no comment.

Andy & Chris (06:23.873)

Did you play sport Tom?

Andy & Chris (06:41.898)
Girls. Alcohol. Ha ha ha.

Tom Chaston (06:47.99)
But definitely, you know, the competitive nature that you need to succeed in business, I think I definitely got that from being in team sport for sure. And I think also, you know, I did used to do a lot of running years ago as well. And I think perseverance, you know, you can keep going where you’re in a lot of pain. I think, you know, Adam and I both, you know, we did a half marathon back in 2010, I think it was.

Andy & Chris (06:50.669)
Ahem. Hmm.

Andy & Chris (07:05.657)

Tom Chaston (07:16.514)
and when you’re running 13 miles, you’re in a lot of pain. You’re in a lot of pain for a lot of it. And you know, but to keep going without stopping, without walking, to keep pushing yourself and pushing yourself. And I think that is a key ingredient, having a business, being a founder of a business. I think because as you guys will know, it’s never a straight curve and it is a bit cliche. You see it everywhere now, it’s very up and down, but there’s lots of moments that are very, very hard when you have a business.

Andy & Chris (07:28.482)

Andy & Chris (07:33.721)

Andy & Chris (07:43.929)

Tom Chaston (07:45.046)
And I think you have to be able to keep going, believe in what you’re trying to achieve. And you have to just keep going, keep pushing yourself. And I think with sport, particularly with the physicality side of it, it’s always taxing on the body. It’s always difficult. It’s always a strained and mentally it becomes a strain, you know, when you’re when you’re physically tired, your thought process, it can become more difficult. And I think it’s the same in business. You know, we talk about burnout and all these other things that

Andy & Chris (08:00.857)

Tom Chaston (08:14.578)
a more discussed nowadays than ever used to be I think. But if you’re the business owner you kind of to a point you’ve got to keep going you’ve got to keep trying to put one foot in front of the other no matter how you’re feeling and that can be very difficult. That is something that you have to do when you play sport you know if you want to exactly yeah.

Andy & Chris (08:17.787)

Andy & Chris (08:28.281)
Hmm. Yeah and And you have the team dynamic as well don’t you having to identify that there’s some people who are goalkeepers and they’ll be crap strikers So don’t make them be a striker

Tom Chaston (08:41.759)
Well, exactly, exactly that. And I think that’s another, that’s a good point you raise there as well, you know, it’s about having the right people in the right places and positions in the team. And, you know, we’re now a team of I think 22, 23. And for us, a big thing we’ve looked at is getting the right people in the right places. And it’s been an evolutionary process over the last few years. And I think that is definitely something that you can take from team sport, you know, different people have different…

Andy & Chris (08:50.839)

Tom Chaston (09:08.878)
drivers to get the best out of them. You can take that from team support as well. I wouldn’t say all business owners are amazing people management. I put myself into that category. I think there’s certain things I can do well with people. Are there certain things that maybe, you know, there’s another skill set required. When we brought in our operations director, you know, she had managed large sales teams historically. And when she came in,

I realised there was another level to managing people that, you know, I think I wasn’t a natural with some of those things. And that’s helped the best out of the team as well. So I think, I think, yeah, I think from a personal level, I think definitely the perseverance and the competitive edge. But I think when you look at it more broadly, you think, you know, getting those team members motivated and getting the best out of them and getting people in the right places within the business is…

Andy & Chris (09:45.413)

Andy & Chris (09:53.262)

Andy & Chris (10:00.687)

Andy & Chris (10:04.727)
I think.

Tom Chaston (10:05.474)
is really, really key and that’s been a massive part of how we’ve been able to scale the business.

Andy & Chris (10:10.445)
I think also part of it, isn’t it, is when you are a manager, you have to identify that actually whilst you’re part of the team, there are times when you have to just back out and let someone else do that bit because they’re better at that than you.

Tom Chaston (10:21.634)

Tom Chaston (10:25.954)
Oh, I think that’s it. Yeah, I think you have to try and have that self-awareness and it doesn’t come easily, especially in the beginning, you know, of recognizing what you’re not so good at and recognizing what you are good at. You know, and if there’s someone in the business that’s a lot better at something, let them get on and do it. Don’t try to micromanage that and let them go and do what they need to do. You know, and don’t try to interfere too much with something that is not your natural skill set because

Andy & Chris (10:31.79)

Andy & Chris (10:43.882)

Andy & Chris (10:54.53)

Tom Chaston (10:54.75)
Ultimately, you need to bring people into the business that are better at that thing than you are. You know, and I think that’s definitely a key learning. I think that you can take that from sport as well for sure.

Andy & Chris (10:59.233)

Andy & Chris (11:04.633)
Absolutely. So nearly 20 years ago, you and Adam, your business partner, worked for an insurance broker and there was a dental side to that business. Can you pick the story up from there in terms of your meeting, where it took you off in a new direction?

Tom Chaston (11:11.214)

Tom Chaston (11:19.762)
Yeah, sure. So I think I was probably 18 17 18 when we met working like you said, you know for another insurance broker where 50% of their business was Was looking after dentists when It was a company called allied Wessex quite small broker. You may or may not come across You know, I learned a lot there

Andy & Chris (11:35.382)
Which broker was that?

Andy & Chris (11:41.571)
Ah, so I’ve never heard of him, yeah.

Tom Chaston (11:46.334)
I learned a lot there and actually going to work there was a really good decision because where I’ve been previously, I mean I’ve been in insurance since I was 16 years old and for my sons and where I was previously, they were closing the local branch and at the time I was offered a job at Allied Wessex and I was offered another role at, I think it was A plan at the time for a lot more money.

I’m still quite young, so a lot of young people sort of follow the money, don’t they, for the weekend. But I liked the idea of being in a smaller organization where I could get more hands on and learn more. I guess you get more experience from doing different things in a smaller organization is my personal belief and so I took the decision to go for less money to

Andy & Chris (12:17.278)

Andy & Chris (12:31.181)

Andy & Chris (12:42.213)
It’s an amazing, mature attitude, you know, 17 or 18, isn’t it, because as you say, most people are going, give me the money. I was going to say, an extra 50 quid a week as a 17-year-old, that sounds like more fun to be had. Yeah, yeah.

Tom Chaston (12:50.379)
You go for the money.

Tom Chaston (12:55.418)
Yeah, 100%. And exactly. But, you know, I mean, it was it was a good place to be. I learned a lot. I learned a lot in terms of how to do different functions within the business and where it ended was, you know, in the end, I was looking after kind of my own clients, and I was keeping a separate old fashioned

Andy & Chris (13:18.018)

Tom Chaston (13:24.138)
You know, we make each other from working that and it got to the stage where I think like a lot of founders you kind of think well we’re doing quite a lot here and Is there you know, could we do it for ourselves? Ultimately, you know you have this is of you know What you think you can achieve what you’d like to achieve in terms of creating a company Things are

Andy & Chris (13:40.377)

Tom Chaston (13:52.21)
you feel could be done differently or better. And we took the leap, you know, we took the leap in 2011. We were introduced to a couple of older business owners that owned an insurance brokerage locally. And in effect, we used them as angel investors, really, to invest in Adam and myself to set business up. So they had a historic commercial, general commercial broker.

And we set up as an appointed rep. So for those that maybe don’t know the insurance industry that intimately, it’s a subsidiary company, which is a good way of setting up a new insurance broker because of the regulatory considerations that you’ve got. And it worked really, really well. And in a nutshell, we were running two businesses, one office, and it got to the size where, the healthcare bit, AllMed Pro was substantially higher, was bigger.

Andy & Chris (14:35.469)

Tom Chaston (14:50.39)
than the angel investors part and we consolidated them and became one and Ormed became the dominating company within the group. You know, we continue to scale that. It was Adam and myself that started the healthcare bit, just the two of us, we quickly grew, I think, can’t recall when we took our first other employee on, I think it was maybe 18 months later.

Andy & Chris (15:15.545)
Hmm. And how long ago was this, Tom?

Tom Chaston (15:18.878)
Yeah, very quickly a second or a third employee kind of came on. We’ve had to move offices. You know, there’s a bit of a company restructure and, you know, eventually one of those angel investors exited the business in 2019.

Andy & Chris (15:33.209)
So when did you start that process? Sort of how long ago was that then? 10 years by the sounds of things? Or maybe even less than that? Yeah.

Tom Chaston (15:37.906)
that buyout. So that buyout was, I mean, it was pretty quick, to be honest, it got to the point where we could see where the business was going, we could see it, it was taking off. And we were taking on more and more, I guess, hands on roles for the group, not just on the healthcare side, so regulation, legal. And it just became a natural conversation, you know, especially embracing technology.

Andy & Chris (15:46.425)

Tom Chaston (16:01.398)
And we were starting to implement a lot more tech. I mean, at the time, the guys for their bit of the business still had the old paper files and cabinets. And we wanted to try and drive it in a certain direction. And it’s one of those where I think eventually, you know, business is going a certain way. And it was quite an easy conversation. I think we probably picked up the conversation in the winter, November, December of 2018. And probably four months later, we’d done the deal. We completed on that. And…

Andy & Chris (16:14.689)

Andy & Chris (16:27.776)

Tom Chaston (16:29.27)
You know, we still had we still had one of the angel investors still in the business for another couple of years. And for personal, he had another business which was called Totally Separate Insurance and far more interesting. It was a whiskey business. He owned a whiskey distillery and it was importing and exporting whiskey and cognac all over the world. And that side of his business was really taking off. His involvement in the insurance business was reducing. He had some personal.

Traumatic stuff going on as well unfortunately and in the end Him him leaving the business at that point and getting a good return on his money was also a very easy conversation

Andy & Chris (17:08.129)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think there’s two things in there, Tom, that strike me. One, the sliding doors moment of you choosing the job that didn’t pay as much, but that put you on a path to meet Adam.

which then put you on this trajectory to buying a business. And I’m always fascinated by those decisions we make, but also the unknown of not knowing what the other path would have ever looked like, because we only ever go in one direction. And then the second bit is, when you effectively created this business with Adam, you were 24 years old.

Tom Chaston (17:33.246)

Andy & Chris (17:42.469)
When Chris and I bought Franchter & Associates, I was 28. I felt pretty young and inequipped to run a business. I could barely look after myself at 28, let alone own and run a business. How did you feel as a 24-year-old, as a slightly older man now, looking back at yourself as a 24-year-old? How did that play out?

Tom Chaston (18:03.299)
It’s funny because I was asked this question on a live Q&A thing a few years ago at an insurance event and I didn’t even think about it. And it was, looking back now, it was terrible timing on paper. I had a newborn baby. You know, I just bought my first house. I was pretty young. And in insurance, I think people tend to either start…

Andy & Chris (18:12.192)

Tom Chaston (18:27.474)
a lot later in terms of buying in terms of starting an insurance brokerage or they are part of the succession plan. You know, they may have been an account exec for a number of years. It may be in their sort of like late 30s, early 40s and then they buy, you know, they kind of carry out an MBO or something. I didn’t I think maybe this is a good thing about doing it young is you have that naivety and I didn’t really consider I mean,

Andy & Chris (18:43.483)

Andy & Chris (18:50.948)

Tom Chaston (18:54.814)
I’m the sort of person that will take calculated risks anyway. That’s just me. I don’t think, but I just don’t think you can really, no matter what it is, I don’t think you can really get to the levels that you want to get to without, you know, making those calls sometimes. And for me, I knew it’s what I always wanted to do in terms of having, you know, being a founder, being a business owner. I knew, I knew. I’d seen it with my grand, my granddad when I was younger.

Andy & Chris (18:58.677)
Insurance? Yeah.

Andy & Chris (19:11.151)

Andy & Chris (19:19.055)

Andy & Chris (19:23.521)

Tom Chaston (19:23.87)
And I just knew I felt it, you know, that’s what I wanted to do. And I was very invested in that future, you know, goal. So for me, it was I’m not. It’s funny because the previous director for the for the broker, Adam and I used to work for together, tried to talk me out of it.

Andy & Chris (19:33.285)

Andy & Chris (19:44.567)
I’ll be.

Tom Chaston (19:46.578)
And even and even more so, you know, I’ve got a my best friend’s dad is a doctor, a very well respected GP and he tried to also put me off doing things like indemnity and You never succeed. But then you also have, you know, you have And even before that, you know, you go back to different comments that you teach your mates you in school, which I’m sure we’ve all been there. You know you

Mr. Chastain, you won’t ever do X, Y and Z. And you use it as a bit of a chip on the shoulder. That combined with, you know, being in sort of very testosterone driven sporting environments over a number of years, you kind of have an attitude of screw it, let’s do it. Which I know is a Richard Branson kind of saying, but you do, you do. You get to a point where it’s like, I’m just gonna do it.

Andy & Chris (20:21.302)

Andy & Chris (20:28.528)

But also because of how you’re wired, you took it in that way, but it could have gone another way and it could have crushed you. It could have meant that you never take opportunities. You know, it didn’t create the fire in the belly. It kind of dampened all that spirit. It was an A plan. Yeah. But you say as a founder, what are the myths of being a founder? Because at the moment we seem to be…

Tom Chaston (20:37.058)

Tom Chaston (20:46.562)

Andy & Chris (20:53.517)
in a cycle where everybody just wants to be an entrepreneur. They’ve no idea what it means. They just want to be in business. They think it’d be amazing to found a business. It’s easy. Yeah. But you’ve been through this. We’ve been through this. But from your perspective, what are the myths of being a founder of a business?

Tom Chaston (21:03.791)
Easy, everyone’s doing it.

Tom Chaston (21:11.074)
Well I think social media’s got a lot to answer for, firstly. I think they paint this get rich quick, glitzy glamour, cars, houses, lifestyle and you’ve now got these, I mean you ask kids, I mean my kids are, I guess my oldest is 13 and you ask kids of that sort of age what they want to do when they’re older and now there’s so many of them wanting to be social media influencers and YouTubes and YouTube-ers or whatever. I think there’s this vision now that…

Andy & Chris (21:13.399)

Andy & Chris (21:34.672)

Tom Chaston (21:39.666)
Like you say, you can just rock up at 17, 18 years old, learn to cope, start a tech company, become the next Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk or whatever. And it’s absolutely not the case. I mean, obviously, yes, you can get there, but it’s bloody hard. You know, I think, I think there’s, um, a lot of struggle. There’s a lot of internal struggle. There’s a lot of headaches, a lot of firefighting.

Andy & Chris (21:48.877)
Cough cough

Andy & Chris (21:53.454)

Andy & Chris (21:58.117)
It’s rare.

Andy & Chris (22:03.278)

Tom Chaston (22:09.554)
Um, we’re quite fortunate where every single year that we’ve been going we’ve had Growth every single year, but that I am also aware that is very unusual for businesses as well um And I think people just think you’re gonna come up with a great idea and it’s going to take off for me You know being Entrepreneurial being a business owner is more than mindset I mean, there’s so many great ideas that don’t ever make it past first base

Andy & Chris (22:36.045)
Hmm. Yeah.

Tom Chaston (22:38.822)
And as I don’t know, I mean, maybe you guys are more what the statistics for the number of failed businesses within the first 12 24 months Staggering and i’m convinced it’s because You get a year or two down the line. You realize it’s a lot more difficult you realize It’s a lot more pressure. It affects your home life your home work life You don’t have a work life balance when you found a business. I don’t believe it’s very hard When you’re starting from scratch

Andy & Chris (22:48.313)
huge. Yeah.

Andy & Chris (23:02.234)

Tom Chaston (23:07.546)
people it’s too much it’s too intense and people walk away and I think there’s so many good ideas that don’t make it for that reason you know from some believer

Andy & Chris (23:10.384)

Andy & Chris (23:14.133)
Mm-hmm. But I think you’re right. I think the odds, I think the odds can be stacked against you. Many years ago I did some mentoring with the Prince’s Trust.

and their stat was 80% of businesses don’t make it through the first five years. So NatWest was 95%. So the odds as a founder are stacked against you. It’s not the same as acquiring an existing business that has a client base, customers, patients, whatever it might be. You’re literally starting something from scratch, which is an idea. And it’s not easy. And it’s nice to hear you talk about it so honestly. Because I think it’s a message out there for everybody that says that,

Tom Chaston (23:29.394)

Tom Chaston (23:49.559)

Andy & Chris (23:53.199)
look out for another because people you don’t necessarily know how hard it is.

Tom Chaston (23:54.802)
It’s exactly what I also think. I agree with what you’re saying. I also think in some ways, it’s never been easier to start a business. You know, you’ve got access to so much information online. Now, you know, you can set up social media pages, DIY websites, in theory. Now is a great time. But the problem with that is, is a lot more people doing it. So you have to be different.

And also, you know, when you’re a new business, you’ve got no money. So how are you going to try and how are you going to reach your audience? I look back to when we set the business up in 2011 and we had nothing but two laptops and we shared an old dodgy Motorola phone, which we’ve still got here.

Andy & Chris (24:36.653)
And look how far you’ve come. You’ve now got a fancy new microphone for the podcast.

Tom Chaston (24:40.69)
I got a microphone that I’ll use for the first time. But we were doing, what we did was we were targeting initially practice insurance because we did a lot of that previously. And we literally picked up the Yellow Pages or we might have gone or whatever it was at the time. And we were getting lot of dental practice numbers from the equivalent of the Yellow Pages. We were phoning, speaking to practice managers.

Andy & Chris (24:54.393)

Tom Chaston (25:08.53)
and saying that we have some really important information that we want to send through, because it’s difficult to get to speak to the principal dentist when you just phone out the cold. We were getting, just asking for the best contact email address to send some really important information through to the dentists. We were getting that probably 80% of the time because it’s easy for the practice manager or the receptionist to give you an email address, even if it’s a generic one.

Andy & Chris (25:17.017)
Mm. Always.

Andy & Chris (25:27.182)

Tom Chaston (25:36.694)
We were sending emails and making follow-up calls and we actually got some success. But what we also did was we did lots of, again, new business, didn’t have the money for mail shots. So we printed the letters and we went and drove around. So we’re based just outside of Swindon. So, you know, we’re about 10 minutes from the start of the Cotswolds, I suppose. And we were driving as far as Bristol, bar

Oxford Reading and we were doing letter drops around we weren’t even sending them out in the post and I look back now at Some of the things we had to do in the early days. I think I’m not sure how many people Now I want to start a business Go to that. I mean, maybe I’m wrong Good on

Andy & Chris (26:21.11)
I don’t think they would. I think they’re great lessons for people to have, what it takes. Like I say, it’s easy when you see people are successful, but it can take 20 years to become an overnight success. You have to roll your sleeves up. That’s just traditional sales, isn’t it? You just have to get on with it. Would you say, is it the toughest thing you’ve done, setting up a business?

Tom Chaston (26:38.995)
I don’t… yeah.

Tom Chaston (26:44.494)
Um, professionally, yeah, absolutely. 100%. I think, um, I’m glad I did it when I did. I’m glad I did it at the age that I did it. Looking back, I think I, if I had my life again, I think some of us would look back at the past and say, well, I would maybe do this differently or that differently. Setting up the business when we did, I would do a hundred times each, no matter how many lives I have, like I would do it the same, the same way.

Andy & Chris (27:00.9)

Andy & Chris (27:08.09)

Tom Chaston (27:11.67)
I think doing it at that point where you’ve got that naivety of youth is brilliant. And also, a lot of people of 24, they don’t necessarily own a house and have kids and everything else. So it may be easier as well. You’ve got less things at risk, I suppose, in a lot of ways.

Andy & Chris (27:23.673)
Hmm. Yeah.

Andy & Chris (27:28.876)
I think you’ve also got time to bounce back.

I think if you get into doing things earlier and younger, if it didn’t quite work out as you planned, I think it does give you a chance to kind of go again and try again. And I think as life goes on, you know, 30s hit, 40s hit, 50s hit, for some people 60s hit. But you have less chance to bounce back and you build this kind of baggage. So I think you’re right, I think it’s a great lesson, trying to grab opportunities and trying to develop them when you’re younger is a great idea.

So you and Adam have now developed AllMed Pro, it’s a well-known name within dentistry. And then back in 2021, you took on some venture capital backers to help you grow the business. How did that come about and what’s it enabled you to do? What did that whole process look like? Because lots of people hear about getting funding into businesses, but can you talk us through the steps of what happened there?

Tom Chaston (28:23.834)
Yeah, yeah, 100%. So, you know, we knew that Peter, the other, you know, angel investor, probably the right time for him to leave, like I said, his other business interests are doing exceptionally well. Whiskey. Yeah, not Yeah, exactly. And, you know, great guys still speak to him. But, you know, there’s a number of ways in that you can move forward on that you

Andy & Chris (28:29.974)

Andy & Chris (28:36.557)
whiskey and insurance, interesting combo.

Tom Chaston (28:52.946)
or you take on debt. You know, we didn’t want to take on a loan, a debt. We didn’t want to put the business into a debt position. We didn’t feel that was right. We felt that would have hampered growth at that point. You know, if you’re having to pay this big loan each month, we didn’t want that. We didn’t want that, to be honest. We were in a place where we were having a real good success in terms of percentage points on growth year on year. And we didn’t want to do anything that was gonna take us off that course.

Andy & Chris (29:05.86)

Tom Chaston (29:21.674)
So for us, we didn’t want to go down a debt process. I know for some people that is the right option. For us, it wasn’t. That’s not what we wanted to do. We then looked at, we met with private equity companies. And in those discussions, you know, what became clear to us was that the private equity investors would want to double or triple their money in the three-year period and then would exit and other private equity companies would likely come in and take over.

whilst you can be selective at the start in terms of which private equity firms you want to bring in to invest, you then kind of lose a bit of control beyond that in terms of who your future investment partners are. And for us, we didn’t want that churn every three years. And we also wanted more control. You know, I think again, for us, whether age plays a part or not, I don’t know, but for us, private equity didn’t seem like the right route. So

Andy & Chris (30:02.721)

Tom Chaston (30:21.062)
We were then introduced to a company called Global Risk Partners, GRP, who were part of the broker network of independent brokers, which is a few hundred brokers in that network, and they basically owned the network. And that company, such as I think Marsh owned it previously and it blew thin going back even further, but now it was owned by GRP. And you know,

The fit was really good. They would come in and acquire Peter Schaes and pump more cash in to help us grow. And in that show that’s what it was and it’s a minority stake with no, they haven’t put anybody on the board. There’s no non-exec directors. Yeah, it’s so they have a 25% stake in the business and

Andy & Chris (31:11.703)
That’s interesting.

Tom Chaston (31:18.442)
you know, for us, and this is one of the other learnings that I’ve taken from being in business over the last 12 years or so, 13 years, is you hit a number of glass ceilings when you’re in business. You know, each time we’ve grown, we’ve got to a point, we’ve had lots of strong growth and then you hit a point where you maybe stabilise for a little bit. You might have a six month period where you grow a bit, retract a bit and I mean, obviously year on year you’re still getting the growth, but you hit little periods in time where

maybe hit a bit of a ceiling and you do something in the business that then pushes you through it. And for us, it was also having access to expertise, you know, experience that might help us get through those glass ceilings in two months, maybe instead of six. So, you know, we have that at our disposal. If we want somebody to be on the board, we can ask them. We obviously don’t. At the moment, it wouldn’t be the right thing. And we’re in a good place anyway.

Andy & Chris (31:51.333)
black hole.

Andy & Chris (32:00.107)

Tom Chaston (32:15.65)
So yeah, so we went down that route. I knew that GRP has now been more recently acquired by a large American broking giant called Brown and Brown. I’m not sure whether you’ve come across them, but they’re acquiring a lot of UK brokers at the moment. They’re very active. They’re probably one of the biggest consolidators in the UK, but they’ve still got a minority stake in our business. And yeah, so that was why we took that route in the end.

Andy & Chris (32:35.117)

Andy & Chris (32:39.189)
Brilliant and just for those that don’t know and many will can you just kind of summarize what is it that AllMed Pro does by way of services for the dental profession?

Tom Chaston (32:49.118)
Yes, we are for the dental profession, we are what’s called an all encompassing insurance provider. So pretty much anything that a dental dentist or dental practice needs, other than things like life insurance, critical illness, things that your IFA firms would provide, we can provide it. So we’re very, very big on indemnity. That probably accounts for around 50% of what we do. And we’ve been providing dental indemnity

right back since 2011. We were one of the first providers to come in and offer a claims occurrence indemnity policy offering for our clients. Our clients have got access to dental legal advisors, a team of dental lawyers, which all support the indemnity products. Beyond that, we’re doing a lot. We’ve always done a lot for practice insurance. I mean, my and Adam’s experience in practice insurance goes back 18 years.

You know, so that is your content, your liabilities, everything that they need to comply with CQC. You know, another legal requirement we do. And I’ll tell you, a big one that we’re talking to a lot of people about at the moment is cyber insurance. You know, and I think when we’re speaking to a lot of dentists, they kind of recognise the need for it, but it’s still trying to get to the point where it becomes a routine purchase. So there’s lots of dental businesses that are being targeted.

Andy & Chris (34:00.05)

Andy & Chris (34:13.221)
Hmm. I think quite famously Henry Schein, fairly recently I put that, I think that put it onto lots of people’s radar because I think with the Henry Schein situation, I think people realise just how joined up dentistry is and how it affected dental practices in terms of… And the size of Henry Schein and they got caught. Yeah, exactly. But just accessing products and services and managing payments and an ordering system, it kind of, it put lots of people into a very difficult situation.

Tom Chaston (34:13.546)
you know, by the side.

Tom Chaston (34:18.743)

Tom Chaston (34:27.085)

Tom Chaston (34:35.094)

Tom Chaston (34:40.554)
Now put yourself in a dental practice perspective as well and it’s thinking okay, well you’ve got your patient booking systems You also what your patient medical records and you think okay, it’s um Prime target for you know ransomware attack really, you know Which is a cyber criminal comes in and gets access to your booking system any patient medical records and you cannot access that as a dental practice, you know, there’s anxiety

Andy & Chris (34:46.209)

Andy & Chris (35:05.955)
Hmm you say about I was gonna say you said about Cyber and it’s becoming more popular How many dentists as a broad brush would have a policy like that and a dentist good at Making sure they’re covered in the key areas

Tom Chaston (35:13.149)

Tom Chaston (35:21.674)
No, no, terrible. So it’s, it’s one that you speak to dentists about, and they all recognise the importance of it. And our premiums start from something like 180 quid a year. And you can interest free over 12 months. It’s not doesn’t have to be a really expensive premium depends on lots of variables. And we’re talking to lots of people and they all recognise the importance for it. And then the take up rate is very low.

Andy & Chris (35:39.536)
Hmm. Right.

Tom Chaston (35:50.334)
And it’s, you know, it has nothing to do with the policy. It’s nothing to do with the price. And, but it was.

Andy & Chris (35:56.021)
And so what is it Tom? Is it won’t be me? I won’t get caught, it’ll be somebody else? Is that…

Tom Chaston (36:01.094)
I mean, yeah, I think there’s an element of that for sure. I think I’ve got I can think of a case straight off the bat where we have a so we talk about these sorts of things on every single renewal that we have for every client. We have a client that was recommended they take cyber insurance. They then declined it again reasonable premium but they said no, I don’t want to proceed with cyber insurance at this time. Six months later, one of the practices, their four practices, one of them got ransom, where

Andy & Chris (36:12.305)

Tom Chaston (36:29.126)
So ransom attack and they got locked out of their system didn’t have any insurance in place and it cost them about a hundred grand to get the data reinstated And you know what we offered him at the following renewal cyber insurance again didn’t take it And I think sometimes you’re talking about there’s an element of inertia, you know, people have never bought it before so, you know I think that’s always a barrier with stuff. We fit a new purchase for a client. I’m finding

Andy & Chris (36:45.949)

Andy & Chris (36:54.767)

Tom Chaston (36:57.186)
The ones that are more likely to purchase are gonna be more forward thinking entrepreneurial practices, so I’m typically finding those more in the private space. And those that have got multiple sites, multiple practices are the ones that are more likely to buy it. I think they just view commercial risk differently in my experience. So that’s what I’m seeing, but I think, you know.

Andy & Chris (37:03.045)

Andy & Chris (37:12.325)
See you soon.

Andy & Chris (37:18.01)


Tom Chaston (37:22.186)
I think it will honestly get to a stage because of the sensitive nature of the patient medical records. I think it will get to a point where the primary care businesses, for most of the medical businesses, I imagine it will become a mandatory purchase. I think the regulators will get involved. You see, maybe we’ll get involved and I will say that, you know, your patients are exposed here.

Andy & Chris (37:30.457)

Andy & Chris (37:34.893)
Hmm see you see you say

Andy & Chris (37:43.194)
Aside from professional indemnity, which everybody has to have, what would you say are the core policies that a dentist or a practice should have? What are the non-essentials from your point of view, even if they are by choice, like cyber cover?

Tom Chaston (38:00.994)
Well, so practice something is they’ve got to have practice insurance, got to have that law, you know, it includes the employer’s liability cover. They should really have cyber insurance we’ve just touched on. You know, the other, I said maybe one other one that we would recommend would, you know, as a vital policy would be something like a practice expenses insurance,

Andy & Chris (38:24.197)

Tom Chaston (38:26.53)
The associate or the dentist, whilst they’re off and it pays a weekly benefit to the practice to cover their costs or their expenses or cover the cost of hiring a locum. I mean, that can be a vital policy. We’ve got a dentist up in Scotland who suffered an unfortunate motorcycle accident and was off for a year. The policy paid out for a year. It covered the expenses of the practice for a year. You know, and I think that’s vital. A few years ago, lenders were insisting on locum or practice expenses insurance.

Andy & Chris (38:30.237)

Andy & Chris (38:47.503)

Tom Chaston (38:56.622)
a contingent compulsory purchase, a bit like life insurance, when taking on a loan from the bank of decent Sundays. So I think I’d say that is probably another one that they should really be thinking about.

Andy & Chris (39:10.918)
Cool. Tom, you’re a busy fella. You know, you’ve got, you’ve grown a business with Adam, you’ve got a fiance, you’ve got four girls, all born in August. That’s an expensive month, isn’t it? Thrip! That must be a terrible time for the credit card.

all girls, how do you manage it? How do you make sure that you focus and you give your best when you’re in different situations? Because you’ve got a lot going on. So you can kind of put things into compartments. How do you manage your sort of time in life?

Tom Chaston (39:47.086)
So Adam and myself try now to not work a Friday if we can. Or if we do, we use it as maybe more of an admin day or a catcher with one or two calls. Generally, we’re trying to work a four-day week. So we’re compressing our time into four days. I think for the best part of 10 or 11 years, we work 14, 15-hour days. Again, not everybody necessarily sees that.

lots of things, lots of weekends, time away from the family. So we’re at a point now where we’re trying to have a little bit more balance with our time. Obviously, a big help has been getting different people in different roles into the business. So a lot of my role over the last few years has been very compliance and legal heavy. We’ve now got a couple of people in the business that have taken that side of the work away from me. So I think you have to try and be as close to the top of your game as you can.

Andy & Chris (40:22.874)

Andy & Chris (40:40.284)

Tom Chaston (40:45.258)
You know, it still is you still have headaches and things Um, so, you know, I think getting that balance is really is really key So for us one of the things like I say we brought in for us was to try and work a full day week And try and get a bit more time in the evenings with family Um, I found myself the last few probably the last month or so having lots of calls in the evening with clients So unfortunately, i’ve not been able to implement it as well the last month or so as I normally would do but um

Andy & Chris (40:57.985)

Tom Chaston (41:13.59)
But yeah, I guess you get to a point where you, we’re fortunate we’re in a position where we can now take a view on our time a little bit more. You know, five, six, seven, eight years ago, we’ve been working, like I say, 14 hour days, at least five days straight, you know, plus time at weekends, and that’s just what you’ve got to do to get your business off the ground. Yeah, exactly. But you know, as you move through the gears and you’ve got more people in your team, you do have more opportunity to take a bit of a breath.

Andy & Chris (41:21.846)

Andy & Chris (41:33.025)
take every opportunity, don’t you? Mm.

Tom Chaston (41:43.21)
You know, I’m really fortunate with my fiance. Like I said, she helps me talk through things and get things off my chest in a way that really helps me, you know, come in and be the best version of me. And I think having that support at home is a real big advantage as well.

Andy & Chris (42:03.333)
Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Tom, we always have our guests answer two questions for us at the end of each episode, so you’re not going to get away without answering these questions either. So the first question we have for you is if you could be a fly on the wall in a situation, where would that be and who’d be there?

Tom Chaston (42:23.402)
Yeah, this is a difficult one to answer. I think.

Tom Chaston (42:30.166)
You know, not the trying to get too political. I think you look at moments in time and you think, well, what the hell was the conversation at that point? I think the two that come to mind, you know, would be the conversation between Tony Blair and George Bush when they decided to invade Iraq, thinking what the hell are you thinking? What the hell was that conversation? And the second would be, you know, when the Americans went in and got…

Bin Laden and being in that war room, we’ve seen some famous photos of the atmosphere in there. And I kind of think that would have been intense. And the decision, you know what I mean? So something that would be really moment in time is something like that. I thought I thought is here anything a bit lighter, but I’m not big on celebrity and gossip and, and rock bands and all that sort of stuff. But it could have been all sorts of debauchery on world tours. So it’s

Andy & Chris (43:18.643)
Ha ha.

Tom Chaston (43:27.482)
stuck with probably the most boring answer but I think it would have been fascinating at the same time.

Andy & Chris (43:31.557)
Was that Zero Dark Thirty, wasn’t it? A film that was the dramatisation of getting bin laden with…

Jessica that’s good film that you know, that’s just a film isn’t it? That’s quite that That’s cool. And also the weight of these decisions that people have to make, you know It gets reported in the media post the event and you know We only get the kind of the flavor that’s given to us But in real time people are having to make these decisions that kind of have massive consequences for the people that live locally You have overseas countries for the future of those countries as well. So it’s a heavy weight to have on your shoulders

Tom Chaston (44:07.87)
Yeah, exactly. And I think it would be fascinating to see we talk about business and different decisions we have to make. And I think when you’re faced with those kind of decisions, I can’t even begin to imagine what’s going through your head and what the conversations are. So I think that would have been really interesting.

Andy & Chris (44:18.061)

Andy & Chris (44:22.157)
Definitely. No. Cool. And our follow-up question is if you get the opportunity to sit down and meet somebody, you can have a glass of beer or a cup of coffee. Who would you like to meet, given the chance?

Tom Chaston (44:34.434)
So, alive? Well, you know, again, I spent a bit of time thinking about it. Somebody that would have been really good to have met would have been someone like Steve Jobs, because I think what he’s done with Apple and iPhones and everything else has transformed the way that we all communicate in the modern world. I think if I’m looking at something from present day,

Andy & Chris (44:37.313)
Alive or dead? Alive or dead.

Andy & Chris (44:59.247)

Tom Chaston (45:04.886)
then I think, I don’t know, maybe one of the tech entrepreneur founders, some of his Zuckerberg or an Elon Musk and again, the things that they’re trying to do to some of the crazy ideas they’re coming out with and particularly Elon Musk, I think, I think I’d spend an hour and come out more confused than when I went in. But I think that would be really fascinating to be honest, some of the things they’re looking to try and achieve and look at some of that, feel the energy or the kind of weird energy that I think he exudes.

Andy & Chris (45:11.428)

Andy & Chris (45:25.414)

Tom Chaston (45:34.838)
I think it would be quite interesting, so.

Andy & Chris (45:36.864)

and they’re all visionaries. And going back to the very beginning, you and Adam, you were in your own way as well. You saw an opportunity beyond what you were doing to do something that is here all those years later in dentistry. Tom, it’s been an absolute joy. Thank you for your time today. It’s been great. It’s been lovely to catch up. I think it’s a great story. It’s a good lesson for people, isn’t it? Yeah, yeah, exactly. If anybody who kind of thinks this is gonna be a boring episode about insurance is wrong, because it’s not.

Tom Chaston (45:53.49)
Thank you.

Andy & Chris (46:07.387)
I always find it’s the people, it’s the people and their stories. The thing we do is just the thing we do, but it’s the drivers of the people behind it. So you’ve been great in sharing your own story and what your passion is and what drives you. So I’m sure people take an awful lot from it. So we appreciate your time today, Tom. Yeah, thanks Tom. Thanks Tom. Look after yourself, keep well. Cheers. Dada.

Tom Chaston (46:24.226)
Thanks for having me. Thank you. Thanks guys. Cheers. Thanks.


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