Deborah Thame is no ordinary woman.
Even before I juggle a wonky internet connection, exploding power stations, emergency hospital visits and a bitter dose of flu to connect with her office in Perth from my remote post in the Ecuadorian Andes, it is clear that this will be no ordinary interview.
Mrs Thame, Sole Director, pioneer and matriarch of Mocom Australia, a longstanding family business serving the dental and wider medical specialties has been gracious through my endless cancellations. Her voice is radiant when we finally connect on Skype, despite my endless sniffling and the howling dogs that bombard her from my side of line.
She says, "Oh, it's a pleasure to finally connect: how is everything there? Are you ok? I was beginning to worry." And I think to myself – now this is a business woman who has not lost heart! Which turns out – as we talk for more than an hour – to be not only true, but the clear foundation of Mocom Australia's success.
Deborah has steered, shaped and cultivated her family business into a highly respected, ethically-driven leader in its field for more than 13 years, and, I discover, through some very tough times in her personal journey as well. We are scheduled to discuss Mocom's newest range of top quality Italian-made sterilisation units, the B Classic, an entrylevel streamlined model, and the premium, fully-optioned B Futura, which is described by the team who created and tested it as 'brilliant' at everything it was made to do – even in the most demanding conditions.
Both units offer intuitive programming, simplicity of use, time-saving features including faster cycles, easier fill and drain design, programmable starts, versatile data management options and brilliant new technology in traceability and records management.
"Before your team even gets to work your Mocom units can have run their Helix and Vacuum tests and be ready for their first load of instruments," says Mocom Australia's Relationship Manager, Jim Owen.
The B Futura provides an advanced paperless data management system that creates unique personal ID codes for traceability, has internal memory for record-keeping and secure traceability, and wireless capability for remote file management and offsite technical support.
Deborah gives me a well-informed breakdown of exactly how and why the features and advantages of both new models make a difference "in real-life practice, for real-life people", but is eager to avoid too much marketing-talk, she says.
"All I think we really need to explain is that everything we offer to the market, and every individual unit we sell, was designed and chosen for outstanding performance and unmatched reliability. We offer the best products to the market and whenever the equipment isn't working properly, we turn up, we fix it, fast and guaranteed!"
What makes this interview extraordinary is not the sales highlights of the new products, or even this insight to the work and dedication of a unique small Australian family business, but Deborah's ability to apply the lessons of her personal life to her leadership and ethics in business and some of them have been tough lessons indeed. The early death of her husband, Ed, in 2000, was a personal tragedy and a blow for the fledgling business which lost, temporarily, its technical powerhouse and visionary figurehead.
"Ed had a passion for finding a better way, for doing business in the best way," says Deborah, a skilled pharmacist herself.
"After his death I had to find out at a very deep level what "something better" really means – as mother of my family and also as the new head of this business."
It was a tough journey through further family illness and her own serious health crises – a series of powerful challenges that Deborah says forced her, again and again, to make very clear choices about why she was in business and how she wanted it to be.
"Life and business constantly force you to make choices," she says.
"With the perspective I have about the importance of life, about care for people, for families, for working people, and for those who come to our customers for care, I am totally clear that the only right choice for us is to do the right thing: the thing that creates the most trust, that makes our customer's job easier and hopefully happier as well."
"We're talking about sterilisation, it’s not really very glamorous," she laughs, "but it is fundamental in everyday healthcare, in good patient care and risk control. We've tried to take a big role, to do a lot to make sure the people who work with our products get the best out of them, to deserve their trust and back them up. We see it as our responsibility that our equipment always does the job it was meant to do so that the nurses and dentists who use it can do theirs."
Mocom Australia has made the clear choice to take deep family values into the job.
"We tell the truth, we turn up, we do everything in our power to make sure the real person at the end of the experience gets the best experience," says Deborah.
"It's what I learnt from life, and what keeps us all motivated and committed here at the office. The truth as I've found it is that the same things that make a good life – no matter what may come – make a good business."
First published in Australasian Dentist, September/October 2013. Published with permission of Australasian Dentist.