Meet Joe

An interview with the man
behind the smile.

It’s no secret Dspa is one of the country’s most successful dental practices.

Part of the business’ success is due to positive team morale. Another part is due to the employee’s human connection; the honest, transparent and authentic service they deliver to patients. Most importantly, Dspa’s success can be attributed to owner and founder, Dr Joseph Badr and his brilliant work principles.

Anyone who has met Joe will agree he’s immensely likeable, warm, generous, professional yet humble — with, of course, a stellar smile! The journey that led him to run one of the country’s most successful dental practices is as extraordinary as it is emotional. His refreshingly honest, thought-provoking answers help explain what motivates and drives him.

Tell us about your fascinating childhood.

I was one of seven siblings. My late mother, a devout Christian, would encourage us to reflect on the day and pray just before we went to sleep every night; pray to trust in God and the universe; to trust that everything works out in the end.

This tradition instilled a practice which I teach my own three sons today and it’s a practice I believe encourages imagination, mindfulness and deep self-reflection.

I grew up in an idyllic small town in Lebanon perched high on the hills, 1400m above sea level and with a population of 4000 made up of farming families. Then the civil war broke out in Lebanon. It was both frightening and challenging as a five-year-old having to deal with missing school and relocating many times within the country over the following eight years.

The horrors of war, however, taught me many things.

War, with all its evil manifestations was a great equaliser. People shared the same experiences of fear, anxiety and scarcity. There was no desire to compete with one another for prestige or power. It sharpens your focus to live every minute and every day as best as you can. It also teaches you that while you may have lost possessions, family or friends, you are still okay.

During war, small acts of kindness from families and communities helping one another with food shelter and safety would bring me a sense of safety and joy.

Living through war and facing death ultimately teaches you to either choose a life that is full of suffering and decay, and to give into fear, hate and aggression; or it teaches you to become fearless, knowing that your limited life is but a journey and adventure filled with uncertainties and experiences good and uncomfortable, where magic truly happens.

As the war intensified over the years, we all felt trapped. My parents committed to seek a better future for us and decided to flee, like many other Lebanese, to the island of Cyprus. There, by sheer coincidence, we met with Australian missionaries who knew my parents and had lived and taught in Lebanon. They helped our family migrate to Australia.

I recently reconnected with these missionaries whose one act of kindness changed our lives; it gave us the feeling of safety, security and respect for our human rights. The opportunity to go to Melbourne University and Queens College shaped my personality further. Queens was my Australian family, I was curious and fascinated with the Australian culture and values. While my friends were oblivious to their great fortune I was indeed happy to work hard and pay my way through college.

How did this amazing story shape your belief system?

With all of life's tragedies I have a deep sense of gratitude of abundance and knowledge that by striving to be our best, committing to a higher purpose and showing kindness to others we can change lives and the world for a kinder one.

I truly believe that the Australian values are noble and our way of life needs to be protected and enhanced. I have a sense of responsibility and duty to play my part and give back in any way I can, for all that I have experienced and achieved and the opportunities that I have been given. I also want to do something positive for the sake of my children.

What advice do you give your leadership team and management?

Always ask: “What can I do to help our juniors, the most vulnerable, to flourish and become true leaders?” I encourage those with knowledge and experience to be a mentor and a coach. I always say give people the benefit of the doubt. And, most importantly, to have compassion for our parents and for one another.

What advice do you give your dentists and hygienists?

Number 1: Know your patients.
Number 2: Treat people and manage their dental health the same way you would those whom you love.
Number 3: If you’re passionate, you make decisions from a place of love and you will succeed.
These principles keep morale high, problems low and patients happy.

Why create the not-for-profit Dsmile Care?

My desire to reach as many people as possible with the not-for-profit initiative is possibly self-serving; I believe there is a better way to deliver improved dental health outcomes with the minimum cost to the individual and the community.

It’s a value-based model to dental health with focus on prevention, education and early intervention.

Under this scheme dentists and practices are rewarded for better health outcomes to the individual and the community and not driven entirely by fee for service. Patients and dentists are true partners in the decision-making process and the ultimate outcome.

Did your upbringing and life experiences impact on how you run your business and your decision to ‘give back’?

Well there’s no denying, I love creating businesses and I love finding solutions to problems! However, the manner with which I go about achieving it, by sticking with my team no matter what, is perplexing. It is my biggest strength and yet my weakness.

Over the years, I spent a great deal of time counselling and providing emotional and financial support to team members. Sometimes to the detriment of the business. But that is who I am.

I spent most of my quarantine time sending emails to my team every 4-5 days, not only to keep them updated, but to keep their spirits and hopes high. I also assumed the role of counsellor to many team members. I did feel responsible towards our dentists and team members not receiving JobKeeper. I did have a deep-seated desire to reach out to as many people and offer my support in my field of dentistry.

We supported World Vision back in 2007 where patients of Dspa raised more than $20,000 for their Smile Campaign in Third World countries. We have also raised awareness in making sure that materials we source do not originate from countries or companies that participate in child exploitation practices.

Dsmile Care is an extension of the altruism. It is my way of giving back.

We should choose to build on the higher principles, values and accomplishments of great women and men that delivered us a better world, regardless of society’s current prejudices, fears and intolerance.

It’s all up to each one of us in the end as to how we go about building a better world.