Conor O’Leary has just one question: why hasn’t anyone done this before? O’Leary is the vice president of construction at Tend, a buzzworthy company that’s currently disrupting the dental industry with its bespoke studios, advanced technologies, and transparent pricing. Tend launched in 2019 and its revenue has grown over 400 percent each year since then. Its leaders are targeting aggressive growth in major metro areas, and O’Leary now has Tend on track to expand at a rate of up to 30 new studio openings per year.
O’Leary and Tend’s cofounders are optimistic because they’re operating in a $140 billion market that’s outdated and ripe for innovation. We all know the old model: patients reluctantly make a phone call, get placed on a long hold, and eventually make an appointment they’d rather not keep. They drive to a dilapidated strip mall and enter a crowded lobby space where a receptionist greets them without making eye contact. A dentist finally treats them with loud equipment as they sit in an uncomfortable, oversized chair and stare up at a stain on a cracked ceiling tile.
Tend is revolutionizing the industry, and O’Leary is thrilled to be a part of it. The native Irishman started his career in County Cork and moved to New York City, where he managed large projects for a Manhattan contracting group that quickly ballooned from 1 to 100 employees. He joined Tend in 2019 to replicate this success. “It’s exciting when you can collaborate to build something from the ground up in a start-up environment, and we have the chance to do something special here at Tend,” he says.
O’Leary has coordinated Tend’s efforts to effectively scale and bring the company to New York City; Washington, DC; Boston; and Atlanta. He’s also worked with his counterparts across the organization to reimagine the entire patient experience from start to finish. Gone are the days of painful, boring appointments. Instead of showing up early to complete stacks of paperwork, Tend’s customers log onto an app to make their appointment. During the digital session, they’ll not only enter insurance information but also provide their favorite television show, toothpaste flavor, and aromatherapy scent.
Once they arrive at Tend, patients discover contactless check-ins and an average wait time of three minutes. They’ll even receive a prepacked welcome bag filled with curated products. With the check-in process complete, guests are invited to freshen up in the “brushery” before continuing on to a private, sanitized suite where a personalized message waits on the monitor. Hygienists and dentists armed with single-use products, enhanced PPE, and low-noise equipment treat patients who use noise-canceling headphones to watch streaming content on overhead screens. When the appointment is complete, a Tend patient can always access and manage his or her data in the Tend app.
While traditional dental offices are busy, stressful, functional, and unfashionable, Tend studios are modern, elegant, thoughtful, and inviting. The design team diffuses exterior light in concert with a muted color palette and natural finishes to create a soothing effect.
O’Leary was once very “hands on” and remembers personally sweeping floors and cleaning surfaces hours before a grand opening. Now, he’s built a repeatable process the company will roll out in metro areas nationwide. “If you can get the process right and you put the right people in place, good things will happen,” the construction VP says. O’Leary delegates and trusts project managers to handle each new opening while he tracks every deliverable, enabling each new studio to open on time and on budget.
Tend isn’t franchising locations or buying existing dental practices. Instead, it has total control because it’s also staffing each and every company-owned location. While many other dentists are paid a commission (which can lead to overbilling), Tend pays dentists competitive salaries with bonuses for patient satisfaction.
It’s all about building a brand, O’Leary says. Tend is creating and selling its own line of oral health and wellness products. Visit a studio or log on to the company website, and you can purchase everything from toothbrushes and tongue scrapers to counter cups and travel kits. The company’s founders and leaders envision a future in which Tend is the household name in oral hygiene.
The Tend revolution is ongoing. In January 2022, O’Leary and his team will celebrate their 20th grand opening. Next year, they’ll also open 25 to 30 new studios in existing markets while expanding to San Francisco, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Nashville. Each time a Tend studio opens, demand quickly outpaces supply as patients rush to book appointments. For O’Leary, it’s a nice problem to have as he looks to continue an aggressive expansion and make dental service delivery different.