Haissam Dahan, dentist/owner, Ottawa TMJ & Sleep Apnea Clinic, Dow's Lake Dental, Kemptville Smiles Dentistry

2017 Forty Under 40 recipient
Haissam Dahan

Age: 38

Birthplace: Beirut, Lebanon

Company: We provide dental services with emphasis on facial pain and sleep apnea management.

Education: PhD in dental sciences, McGill University (2016)

Charitable involvement: National Council of Canadian Muslims

Biggest biz achievement: Starting my first clinic on my own and with very little cash. It is a specialty clinic that relies predominantly on referrals from local dentists and doctors, so I had to go out and knock on a lot of doors to get my name out there. In my first week, I had only one patient. That clinic has since taken off, and its success has given me the confidence to open my second and third clinics.

Biggest obstacle: My staff will tell you that I am a perfectionist. This means that I am always wanting to get better and better. I want better from me, but I also want better from my staff and from my clinics. I've realized that attitude can be defeating to my staff, who at times feel that I am never satisfied with our achievements. I think I've become better at acknowledging all the great things that they do while still motivating them to be better.

Biggest influence: My father. I grew up watching him start one business after another. Some would succeed but most would fail, so it taught me that failure is part of being an entrepreneur and that it is nothing to fear. My dad is a typical Lebanese father, which means he doesn’t share his feelings very well, and I think a lot of what I have done in the past has been about trying to get his approval.

Biggest lesson learned: Always look for a win-win situation when dealing with your patients, business partners, contractors and suppliers. It is always easier and better to work together and find common ground. Every once in a while, I get a patient who is unsatisfied with a treatment I did. I always offer to redo the treatment for free, and if they are still unhappy, then I give them a full refund. Usually the patient is so surprised by my generosity that they become lifelong clients. So it’s a win for them and a win for me.  

First job: Pennysaver delivery boy

Advice I’d give the younger me: I’d tell myself to stop trying to be like everyone else and embrace my uniqueness. Success happens when you act, think and behave differently than everyone else. The world doesn’t always like people who are very different, so you have to be brave, but it’s worth it in the end.

What’s left to do: My primary goal is to “be” more and “do” less. I want to enjoy my hard work with my family, business partner, friends and community. My secondary goal is to continue to improve and evolve my clinics and to take them to the next level in quality and impact.

Favourite pastime: Running near the Ottawa River.

I’m currently reading: Losing my Virginity by Sir Richard Branson

Favourite movie: The Pursuit of Happyness

Favourite song: Anything by Coldplay

Favourite local pro sports team: Ottawa Senators

Favourite local summer event: Canada Day

Preferred social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook

Twitter handle: @haissamdahan