From Dentistry to Diocese

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Patrick Kelleher's journey from Sales Manager at GC UK Ltd to ordination training within the C of E

“One tambourine and I’m off,” I said as I walked down the village high street towards the vicarage. Why, you ask, had I developed a sudden allergy to tambourines? Alongside me was my wife Emma-Jane; we had been married just a few months before.

I remember talking to Michael the vicar just after the wedding ceremony. We were just outside the church and I told him: “For some reason, today, I wanted to dwell in the church instead of leaving for the party”. Those who knew me well at the time would have found that a very strange comment indeed.

Anyway, back to the walk down to the vicarage. Emma-Jane and I had been invited to an Alpha course. Emma-Jane was going with an open mind, but it's fair to say that I was not. I’m pleased to report there were no tambourines in evidence; and this event marked the start of an ongoing, loving and enduring relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

“What on earth has all this to do with dentistry?” I hear you ask. Well, dentistry had been a major part of my life for the best part of thirty years, I even married a dental nurse along the way. First, I was a technician in the late 80’s, then entered dental retail working for the Baxter group (Procare Dental). Then, in 1997, I joined GC UK Ltd.

The lion's share of my time in dentistry was spent with the company, and it’s to this period of my life that I’d like to dedicate the next part of my story. I first met Chris Brown in 1992/93 when GC UK consisted of just one person – yes, it was Chris Brown.

At the time he was travelling the length and breadth of the country promoting a new light-cured, resin modified, glass ionomer called Fuji II LC. Chris co-called with me in North London and the East Midlands, and we made a sale in virtually every call.

GC has continued to develop new products across the dental market. The continued development of Fuji IX GP in all its variants has made it the best-selling tooth-coloured restorative in the UK dental market. The most recent development in this field has been the Equia Forte, a high viscosity, glass ionomer with a filled resin coating, which I believe has the potential to revolutionise direct posterior restorations.

However, as I’ve already hinted, the success of GC UK has not just been about its products. The people had a major part to play. Led by Chris, the company has gone from employing one person to over twenty, with a sales team of 15. GC UK has never seen a year without growth and is widely respected by dental professionals and the whole dental industry.

Why is this the case? Well, the GC Corporate motto when translated reads “Do unto others what you would have done to yourself”. This has parallels with the Bible (Matthew's Gospel) and provides a platform for the team to practice what they preach – irrespective of any formalised faith.

My 20 years at GC UK were a complete joy

I believe the team under Chris’s leadership care passionately about what they do, having respect and regard for all the people they engage with. Sales are, of course, important, but they are not pursued at all costs, and faith in the products by the sales team and market make for honest engagement with customers.

My 20 years at GC UK were a complete joy, and I rejoice that I was part of such a dynamic team and able to forge long lasting relationships with all manner of people both in and out of dentistry. I’m certain this would not have been possible in many other companies, where so often that spirit of fellowship is lacking.

“Fellowship”, yes, that’s the best way of describing the underlying spirit at GC UK where relationships between employees are on the whole always positive. Even during sales campaigns, the overriding spirit is one of mutual respect among the sales team – underpinned by a genuine spirit of “well done” from the management.

I hear that once again the team has delivered year of growth, despite all the challenges faced by the UK dental market, and to this I say well done, keep up the good work and continue to be you.

So, why did I leave? The truthful answer to this question is clear cut – I left to follow my calling into parish ministry within the Church of England. I write this as an ordinand (one training for ordination) studying at Ridley Hall Cambridge, and I thank God that my journey has led me to this amazing place.

However, I’d be very economical with the truth if I was to say that the journey has not been fraught with difficult decisions, including leaving my job after two decades for full-time study. I guess it boils down to one thing, it was God versus Chris Brown and GC UK – there could only ever be one winner.

The only thing that could have changed my “GC pathway” is the calling into ordained ministry in order to follow God's plan for me. I’m very pleased to report that there’s been no sign of any tambourines so far, but one thing’s for sure, my time at GC UK has been a major part of my life, and so, in turn, my formation.

I give thanks that I was able to play a part in establishing the company alongside Chris and the rest of the team. I’ll never forget them, and I wish them every success in the coming years.

Patrick Kelleher is studying Theology, Ministry and Mission at Ridley Hall Cambridge.

Picture captions: (Top) Patrick moving into Ridley Hall. (Middle) The beautiful buildings and grounds of Ridley Hall, a place for contemplation and peace.