KREATIV DENTAL - Knott Attila- The Star Trainer of Dental Tourism
KREATIV DENTAL AND ATTILA KNOTT - KREATIV DENTAL CLINIC, ATTILA KNOTH, FOUNDER OF KREATIV DENTAL-
Knott Attila/ KNOTH ATTILA The founder of KREATIV DENTAL
From all over the world patients are arriving in luxury surroundings if they choose the Kreativ Dental Clinic in Budapest. Not only the clinic stands out from other similar dental clinics, but its manager stands out too. Attila Knott is indeed different to other dental technicians. Trained on a professional basis he has established a dental clinic though he has never been a dental technician. However he became such a resolute businessman during his exile years that he literally started from scratch from Hungary, across France to America and then back again. He has been everything, worked, tried himself out in many areas of life, adapted, struggled, and later he tried new positions with renewed stamina, then started everything from the beginning again. But he never gave up. He searched for opportunities, searched for the pulse of business, and when he finally found the essence, he took hold of it and did not let it go. He got toothache and thanks to this he got to know the America prices. From this first instant, for him these numbers meant a new life and the beginning of a new opportunity, and he immediately began to count and calculate. If in the US it is so much, then in Hungary it is almost free so the market can only increase. He did the sums and realised that if he can’t work on teeth in practise, he could still work in the dental field. This is exactly how it happened. He built up his theory as a good manager and then turned it into reality. He was the first in Hungary to establish the classic model of dental tourism in an organised way.
What qualification did you start out with?
I studied electro-mechanics and telecommunications because when I was 14 I happened to apply there and was accepted. I finished school but I never worked in this profession. In 1982 I went abroad and lived for a year in France where I could not work but only struggle to survive. Following this I went to America.
What was the goal in fact?
There was no goal. This was a station in my life. I was going to go to the then West Germany but I did not succeed. At 22 finally with refugee status I got stuck in France but I didn’t get the permanent papers. After that came Switzerland which also didn’t work out. Then I was left with Canada, Australia and America which was more or less a sort of forced move. I did not leave Hungary because I did not like it but because I felt that at home I did not have the possibility to earn enough to have a secure life.
I was very homesick but I had to wait 5 years to get permission from the Hungarian consulate in order to come home. I went out in 1982 and was only allowed to come back at the earliest in 1987 with a consulate passport. From then on I was allowed to come home but my permanent return home would not take place for another 11 years.
When did you last work in practice?
I have never worked as a technician. I had nothing to do with that. I learned the dental technical basics but never sat down to work, otherwise I don’t think we would be speaking now like this. In America they asked me, Attila why don’t you go on ceramics courses? I thought that if I went there and sat around then I wouldn’t be able to run a company. My calling is different. I gathered around me the best dentists and dental technicians. I’m just like a good trainer. When I see talent I will encourage that person, give him everything, instruct him, keep him in training, and let him work. At the moment 56 people work at my clinic, of whom 10 are dentists and 18 are technicians. But I can always see from a height of 100 metres whether the work they are carrying out is good or not.
If you were never a dental technician, how did you even get close to the dental technical profession in America?
By chance. I went to a dentist there who was charging astronomical prices. At the time I thought that those prices could only be afforded by a wealthy person. I took advantage of this price difference by being the first to send models back home from America which were then worked on for me here in Hungary. Built on this I first established in America a small laboratory of 5-6 technicians with my wife, and then a modern two-chair dental clinic with an equally modern laboratory of 6 technicians. Already in America I had organised my team of excellent technicians and dentists. Finally homesickness brought me back home, but also with the chance of a business drive. Hungarians living in America thought that I had gone completely mad. I came back not knowing the dental situation in Hungary. One thing I did know: here the prices were 7-8 times cheaper than in America. While a crown in America cost 800-1000 dollars, here it was less than 100 dollars. I admit that the first 4 years were very hard. Many times we were completely on the brink of ruin. We didn’t start here where we are speaking now but in a smaller space. More precisely, above a car garage. When a patient came in he had to get to us through an oily, bad smelling, noisy garage. Many said this would be sure to fail. Who would come into a car garage in order to get their teeth fixed? After 4 years, the BBC came twice to conduct an interview with me and other foreign TV companies also visited. That’s when I invented organised dental tourism. Of course the concept was already known here. It was functioning in Sopron, Szentgotthárd, Győr and other towns close to the Austrian border, yet not in an organised manner. Rather the dentists close to the border made a living as a sort of local presence. I came up with the business plan, built up the sales chain, organised the working principle, and then established agents for each target country, with a website and training. It really was me who invented this and in 2002-2003 I started up the machine. It did not take long before other clinics took notice of how well it was going for me. They jumped on this and copied my idea. In any case, Hungarian and then later foreign competition only grew in this way. In the Czech Republic for example there is a clinic which uses my name and logo. Naturally since then I have sued them. My conception has been adopted by Polish, Latvian, Turkish, Serbian, Croatian Czech, Ukrainian, Slovenian and Greek clinics as well. The icing on the cake is that they are working with exactly the same price margin as I had already calculated. Today it is already a 1 million Euro business. Not only here but in the Eastern Europe as well.
Why did you not want to stay in America?
Partly it was that I was very homesick, and partly that I didn’t like that country’s level of moral, cultural, and mental intelligence. Many times they offended my Europeanness and Hungarianness alike. The formula is very simple, but America is not Europe. I would not have stayed there for any amount of money. I could argue with those who support this part of the world while bad-mouthing Hungary. I grew up on this far-away continent where I learnt the language without any background, help or relatives. That is to say, I got to know the real USA. I admit it wasn’t a great experience. I started from nothing and had innumerable workplaces, but I would rather live „poor” in Hungary than „rich” in America.KREATIV DENTAL AND ATTILA KNOTT
Does the American Dream only happen in American film screenplays?
Many times, yes. After I started working in dentistry in America, I got my own small clinic 6 years later. As a matter of fact I brought it over to Hungary. Maybe I would have had lots of money and a carefree quality of life, but I decided rather to put my shoulder to the wheel of my native country. I spent 15 years there but I don’t think back on it happily. I should also answer the question: those screenplays were not written to suit my way of doing things.
From which country do most patients come from to KREATIV DENTAL?
It is important to know that this did not just change overnight. First of all one single patient came from the UK, after exactly one year. After that an Irish couple arrived, and then Denmark slowly began to take off. When I constructed the English website it was so successful that a Hungarian newspaper found me and conducted an interview with me not from a dental professional point of view, but because they had seen such an effective and exemplary website. The article was about how a Hungarian website should be which would like to create links with and do business with foreign companies. Incidentally most patients come from Norway. But this “trend” is constantly changing. It depends on the distance, that country’s current economic situation, the local agent’s efficiency, and also on how much the given country reimburses from the treatment costs. Denmark for example went well for a very long time, then there was a small dip there, but from our point of view the market recovered rather quickly. Ireland also cracked, which we of course felt as well but it’s getting back on track. France is also starting to catch up, whereas the UK is slowing down. Now we have 13 agents, also in America and Canada too.
I’m starting to feel like I’m in an athletic race, a 400m final.
Not by chance. Indeed this is a constant race.
So you’re able to judge the quality of a work.
Yes. Otherwise we wouldn’t be sitting here. If I had not have listened to all the instructions, and created every possibility for my dentists to continuously take part in training. We have an entire further training centre within our clinic. Last week for example for already the fourth time the German professor Ulrich Wegmann (master and teacher of the Arcus Digma system) was again with us for a whole week together with his master technician Herbert Thiel who was here for already the fifth time. The technician taught in the laboratory while the professor trained my dentists. Courses have also been held here for my dentists by Dr Gerlóczy Pál. Next year I will invite a world famous ceramist, Oliver Brix, to further hone the current knowledge of my ceramists.
Which part of this complex work do you enjoy the most?
Everyday this work is a challenge. Neither the conditions, nor the orders, nor the patients are guaranteed by the state, and we did not win our success on the lottery. Everyday we must fight for the market. The concurrence is only growing, in Hungary and elsewhere as well. The second largest challenge is to receive, treat and manage the patients who are constantly coming and going. If we have attained that patient number which I had planned for that given month then I am already concerning myself with the number of arriving patients for the next month and even the one after that.KREATIV DENTAL AND ATTILA KNOTT
Do Hungarians enjoy some kind of financial difference at KREATIV DENTAL?
The is only a small difference. We only vegetated on the Hungarian market from 1998-2002, or rather it became clear that we could not build upon Hungarian patients alone. We advertised and offered discounts but it didn’t work. Unfortunately. But this is not the patients’ fault. It will take a long time before the situation here develops. That’s why I invented dental tourism. I would add that Hungarian patients get as much discount as we spend on our foreign agents, airport charges and guarantee cases. But I would really like to stress that Hungarians get exactly the same quality as any Irish or American patient. Whoever walks in from the street has exactly the same right to enjoy this environment and luxury quality as those patients who we bring in from the airport.
What and who are you most proud of?
If you are satisfied, you need nothing more to propel you. In fact I am proud of everyone in the clinic.
Are you a maximalist in other parts of your life?
In sport, and with my children.
Do you have any hobbies?
Of course, road cycling. At weekends I cycle 100-130km in the hills. In the past I competed in races. At home in an association as a certified competitor, whereas in America as an amateur. To this day I train 4-5 times a week but during weekdays there is limited time due to my work.
What is your most current task waiting to be resolved?
I mentioned that the German professor was here who saw many things which he was not very pleased with. I am going to correct them. Of course we also make mistakes because no one is perfect. According to last year’s ISO assessment our complaints ranking was approximately 2%.
If you are not happy with something how do you inform your employees?
The telephone rings. Two Italian patients have arrived. The boss is called up. He is needed because only he speaks Italian.
How many languages do you speak?
Good question. On what level? I mean I can speak and babble in 5 languages. I speak Hungarian and English very well. I can speak German at intermediate level only because my wife is a German teacher, and I can speak Italian at lower-intermediate level. I got stuck in France for 1 year and had to learn the language for 6 hours a day. I wrote, read, and spoke, but when it came to it that America would be the next station, I closed off the French in me between Paris and New York and got out the English dictionary. On the plane apart from yes and no I knew nothing else. I had never been to an English language school. I learned English exclusively from the street.
Every corner of the Kreativ Dental Clinic is a well designed, accessible, work-friendly place.
I really thought a lot about it but I was helped in this by the experiences of the past years as well as by an architect who can think the same as me and who turned my ideas into designs. The whole clinic has a geothermal heating and cooling system which is exceptionally economical both inside and outside. We used all sorts of ideas and technology which helped everything run economically.KREATIV DENTAL AND ATTILA KNOTT
KREATIV DENTAL CLINIC is of a high standard, well-constructed and practical. Luxury is not only available to the patients but to the employees who work here too. Gym, sauna, solarium, relaxation area, TV room. It shows that you do everything so that your employees can achieve maximum results every minute of the day.
That’s exactly right. If I want the cream of the profession to work with me then naturally I will provide everything in order for them to love their workplace. That includes a very good salary and appropriate working conditions in a luxury environment. But I can also have expectations. My employees know me well. They know I am a maximalist, that is exactly why it is self evident that the team around me which is sailing in the same boat is also striving to carry out exceptional work. My dentists and technicians are well paid but they have to work hard for it. For example this May I took everyone to Norway for 4 days. Three of my ceramists and one of my dentists have not long come back from Liechtenstein where they took part in a ceramics course. They value the fact that with me they can get to know the best and latest technology. Either I bring it here for them or I send them to where they can learn it. In return they provide the best of their knowledge every hour of the day. I can safely say that real star players are in my team. A few names amongst them: Dr. Patonay Lajos, Rendetzky János, Hári János, Gyurán Zoltán, Kerekes Mária.KREATIV DENTAL AND ATTILA KNOTT