Success story: Dr Marc Miller and Dr John Burgess

When plans were announced to revitalise their suburb, the dentists at Nundah Village Dental decided to get in on the ground floor—literally.

 6 minutes


Nundah, a small suburb less than 10 kilometres from Brisbane’s CBD, all but died a long time ago. That small-town atmosphere that had developed since the late 1930s was literally cleaved by Sandgate Road, the main street, turning into a highway. When Dr John Burgess took over Nundah Village Dental in 1980, there wasn’t a lot of ‘village’ left about the place. Then 12 years ago, the infrastructure gods smiled on the village when it was bypassed by a tunnel to the airport. A local association appeared with the aim of bringing back the village atmosphere.

“We’ve been involved with the development association in Nundah for a long time,” says Dr Marc Miller, who became a partner in Nundah Village Dental in 2008. It was around that time that a series of opportunities appeared for the group that would let them have the best of both worlds—a growing practice in a small village.

“We were coming up to the end of our lease and a new development was being built in the heart of Nundah,” says Dr Miller. The partners had looked around at freestanding options in the area, but everything they saw was either the wrong size or too far out from the Nundah village itself—not an appealing option if you had spent 30 years marketing yourself as ‘Nundah Village Dental’.

By contrast, the new development was going to be a group of towers in the centre of the village, right beside the train station, promising an influx of new residents and the resulting ‘buzz’ that comes with them. “We realised that this was the path to revitalising Nundah—that if you build it they will come,” explain Dr Miller. “Previously we were upstairs in a very old building, which was very frustrating for patients, especially those who had trouble getting up the stairs. In the new development, we would be on the ground floor with lift access from undercover parking.

"I had an idea of how much space we wanted. We wanted a little more space than we got in the end, but we had to make do. We needed the fifth surgery because we wanted the business to grow. We’ve always been busy and we wanted to keep treating patients.”

But even though it seemed a pretty straightforward path, nothing is ever easy. “It was a huge trial getting in here,” says Dr Miller. “We had two main issues. The first one involved the lease itself. Just to get the lease signed took over 12 months, as our lawyers tried to figure out exactly what it was we were leasing. So by the time it finally happened, we really had no choice anyway—our other lease was up and we had to move.”

Delays are not unheard of in the world of developments. The awkward reality for Nundah Village Dental was the site of their new office was still a hole in the ground, as their current lease was about to expire. The current landlord was not interested in looking at a month-by-month agreement. Everything kept getting delayed.

“In the end, the timing was such that we moved in the day after they concreted up to the front door,” Dr Miller recalls. “So just being the first tenants in a building has its own issues. We were trying to operate a business while there was effectively still a building site all around us.”

That wasn’t the end of the problems. “The other issue was the phone lines ended up not being hooked up to the development,” says Dr Miller. “That left us without phones for eight weeks. We had one diversion for a mobile, one EFTPOS machine and no HICAPS. Telstra took eight weeks and that’s been a mental stress. Even now, the emails aren’t fully sorted.”

The upside, however, is a beautiful glass-fronted reception area with space for three receptionists, five surgeries, an internal steri room and a lab, a staff room, an admin office and a practice manager’s office. Priority is given to the surgeries and public areas in terms of space. Most importantly, the practice is in the perfect spot for potential growth.

“So we are now on the ground floor of an eight-storey complex,” says Dr Miller. “There are offices above us, and another eight-storey complex is going to open next month, and two more towers are planned.”

When dealing with the finances for such an undertaking, BOQ Specialist was the obvious choice, says Dr Miller. “Michael Foley (from BOQ Specialist) was originally a patient of one of the other dentists here. I was using BOQ Specialist for a car loan and for the overdraft I needed to become a partner. We did shop around for finance.”

But when talking to Michael Foley, he says, they were impressed by the amount of background work he did with the finance, and they enjoyed the certainty they got from both the people they dealt with and the products BOQ Specialist offered.

“It was just that the product was good,” Dr Miller says. “We got the option of the escrow account which gave us peace of mind, and Michael was very personable, and was able to keep explaining options so that was the way to go, and we didn’t look back from there.”

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