YOU wouldn't think the business and practice manager of Fresh Dental Care Grafton would have any reservations about sitting in the dentists' chair, but Carol Pachos is just as afraid of the metal utensils going inside her mouth as you are.

But, she said, it's the personal touches, just like her phobia, that helped this business take out the top gong in The Daily Examiner Clarence Valley Business Excellence Awards on Saturday night.

"Because I am phobic myself I can really identify with the patients who come in," Mrs Pachos said.

"And that's what we are all about - the patients - and providing professional, gentle care.

"We want to give people a good story to tell."

Being crowned Business of the Year came as a shock to Mrs Pachos, who almost didn't enter the awards.

"I didn't have time to pull together a nomination, but when I saw there was an extension, I thought I couldn't not enter," she said.

"So it really was totally last minute - at the eleventh hour."

Mrs Pachos has been with the Grafton clinic for six years, and is also the business manager for three other practices - Coffs Harbour, Urunga and Macksville.

And with a busy schedule she said running such a successful business would not be possible without the backing and support of her team.

"It's not just the dentists; it's the dental assistants, the receptionists, the whole team," she said.

"Sharon (practice principal) is a constant flow of innovative ideas to improve this business; I just put them into practice."

Having entered three years in a row, Mrs Pachos said the awards process gave her a chance to reflect and assess her business.

"After the first year of entering I said, 'right, next year I want 65% of our referrals to be through word-of-mouth'," she said.

"We ended up going far above that, but I wouldn't have known to set that goal without having gone through the Business Excellence Awards process and analysing the business in that way.

"So not only is it beneficial, it's great to be a part of these awards."

Fresh Dental Care was among the 16 award winners announced at the awards night at the Yamba Golf and Country Club, where 190 business owners, employees and community members celebrated business excellence.

For a full breakdown of winners, finalists and sponsors of The Daily Examiner Clarence Valley Business Excellence Awards, get your free 48-page booklet inside today's paper.

And the winners are...

 Business of the Year: Fresh Dental Care

 Trainee or Apprentice of the Year: Ruth Finlay

 Better Access Award: Spar Maclean

 Work Health and Safety Award: Harwood Marine

 Retail - up to 5 Employees: Bridgestone Select

 Retail - 6 or more Employees: Spar Maclean

 Professional Services - up to 5 Employees: Summerland Credit Union

 Professional Services - 6 or more Employees: Fresh Dental Care

 Tourism, Accommodation, Events and Entertainment: Grafton 2 Yamba Houseboat Hire

 Trade, Industry and Manufacturing: Benny's Grafton Smash Repairs

 New Business 1st year: CSR Gyprock Trade and Timber Supplies

 New Business 2nd year: Irons & Craig

 Health, Fitness and Wellbeing: Optimum Health Solutions

 Food and Beverage: Irons & Craig

 People's Choice Favourite Employee: Julie Kendell, Smiles Cafe

 People's Choice Favourite Business: Farmer Lou's

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