Growing up in Melbourne (Australia) and moving to Adelaide to study dentistry, I spent most of my time in dental school starting side businesses. I sold everything online from playstation's to TV's and dental equipment.
When I got to 3rd year I knew I needed to stop playing around and start figuring out practice management and practice ownership. I knew I was always going to have my own practice one day. So I spent the last 2 years of dental school reading and learning everything I could about practice ownership. By 5th year, I spent most of my nights awake till 6am reading blogs and forums about management, going to sleep, then waking up 2 hours later to do a root canal on my 9am patients at the hospital.
Want to learn about practice growth and development?
Find out about my Practice Development Program (PDP) - an intensive seminar series covering everything you need to jumpstart your dental practice
In the summer break between 4th and 5th year, I lined up a room inside a medical practice that I was going to build out as a surgery and run while I was in dental school (the naivety!). I had the fitout company lined up, electrician inspected and quoted, plumber quoted and the lease ready.
The idea was to setup the practice, get it started and running during my last year of dental school then have it ready for me to step into for work once I graduated (simple right?). Then the landlord must have thought here's a kid that doesn't know what he's doing and she decided to change half the terms in the lease at the last minute without telling me (I always thought the real estate agent had something to do with that...). The whole thing fell through, no practice was built and I went back to finish 5th year of dental school.
In retrospect, the landlord was right, I had no idea what I was doing and this was a blessing in disguise ... but it was the closest thing you could get to building a dental practice without actually building one.
In 5th year, while visiting Melbourne between semesters, I ran into a husband and wife (dentist + manager) couple that ran a small practice inside another medical center. They somehow got notice of termination of their lease and were given 2 weeks to vacate and clear out the room. The couple were towards the end of their career, seemed to have built their business over the years and achieved a lot of what they wanted, so they took this as an opportunity to retire and go back to Poland to spend time with family.
And they of course couldn't take all their dental equipment with them ... so after some friendly banter, a lot of convincing, and the bottle of vodka at their request, they agreed to sell me all their equipment, handpieces and instruments ... for $2,500
I picked up a used Lisa autoclave for another ~$2,000 (which at the time I thought I overpaid for, and now completely appreciate) a second hand dental chair for $200 and remaining bits and pieces for a few more thousand dollars. I now had everything I needed to open my practice ... I just needed to graduate ...
I graduated at the end of the year and 2 days later I opened my first practice. I've opened 6 more practices and bought 3 more since then.
The first was a very basic general practice where I made every mistake under the sun in practice ownership. After 1-1.5 years of having the first practice (and working 70-80 hours clinically per week) I noticed teeth whitening was standing out. I had more requests for it from patients and it was a different style of dentistry (low stress, simple, straight forward). So I opened my first whitening practice (Smiles of Melbourne) as a side project 2 days/week.
Within 3 months we were booked up with whitening for 3-4 weeks in advance running out of 4 chairs. 1 whitening practice turned to 3 and created the foundation for Belleview Dental across 2 locations as the general dentistry arm of the business. I bought 3 other practices in the middle, where I had the main dentist who generated 50% of revenue disappear within 6 days after settlement without any reason or communication. Being forced into this very suddenly and unexpectedly, it forced me to very quickly learn how to turn around a dental practice. Within 30 days the 3 practices had returned to their normal revenue figures before that dentist left, and I hadn't seen him since (probably a good thing ...).
I now spend my time between Smiles of Melbourne and Belleview Dental working on the operational, clinical and marketing parts of the business. Between the 4 practices I run at the time of writing this, we bring in 400 new patients per month, have a core management team that help me look after the different parts of the clinics, we track 174 different KPI's across all practices twice per week, and lead an extended team of 26 members across all locations.
My passions in practice ownership lie in operations and marketing. Meaning, I enjoy systems, processes and organisational structures along with a deep curiosity about what makes our clients and patients choose our practices over another dentist - and working tirelessly to position ourselves as leaders in our area and our niche.
Essentially, I've worked out, if you can bring in a flood of new clients every month and build the systems and processes on the backend to allow your team to deliver the best service they can, then you have the freedom to go back to loving dentistry and working as a dentist doing what you really love.