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An unexpected path to practice ownership

Dr Alex Davies never wanted to own her own practice but then circumstances changed, and so did her heart. 

  3 minutes

Dr Alex Davies had life figured out. She had a steady job in a practice she loved. Her principal dentist was also her mentor and she had been working at the practice long before she started her own dental degree. Her routine involved working for five months of the year, then travelling for a month. “It was a great lifestyle,” she says. “I loved it. If you had asked me in April last year if I was ever going to open my own practice, I would have said, ‘No, I’m very happy living my life this way and this is all I want to do’.”

Then her mentor and principal dentist, Dr Ed Tucker retired, and the plan was for her to step into his shoes. He had previously sold the practice to a corporate group and unfortunately negotiations did not work out. “I think the whole experience really opened my eyes,” she recalls. “I began to think, do I really want to sit here and work for someone else for the rest of my life? What would I have to show for it after 10 years? Or do I want to take this opportunity and go out and do it myself? I was sitting with Ed having dinner one night, and I said to him, ‘I’m going to open my own practice’.”

The problem was she had no savings, a potential exclusion zone, no staff, limited experience as a principal dentist and no premises. She was encouraged by Dr Tucker’s response: “He just smiled and said, ‘Thank God’.”

The dream job

Dr Davies had wanted to be a dentist for as long as she can remember. So while she was studying for her Bachelor of Science she got a job at Dentistry on Main Street in Samford Village, north of Brisbane. She had heard about the job through Nicole, the practice manager there. The principal dentist was Dr Ed Tucker.

“He was amazing,” she says. “I got a job as a dental assistant with him and he completely took me under his wing. He’s great at training his assistants to really understand not only what procedures are done, but why they are done. What I really liked about his style of practicing is that he is very patient-focused. He strives to make sure patients have the highest quality experience and to make sure they are comfortable. He also takes the time to explain what we can do as a team to improve their experience in the practice.”

She completed her Bachelor of Science degree while working as an assistant, and in 2010 she was accepted into dentistry at Griffith University on the Gold Coast. “I graduated on a Tuesday in December 2014,” she recalls, “and by the Friday I was back working as a dentist at the practice in Samford.”

She liked the idea of potentially being able to go into partnership in the practice, or perhaps even buy Dr Tucker out when he retired. But when a corporate group came along with an offer he couldn’t refuse, she was philosophical. “I wanted to stay in Samford,” she says. “It’s where I grew up, it’s where I’ve always lived, and I just loved the community there.” Instead, she adjusted to her new reality—in fact, she “started to enjoy my life outside work a bit more. I enjoyed that I could come to work, focus, and work as hard as I needed to and then go home and focus on other things. I didn’t have responsibilities beyond my dental care to my patients and I was okay with that.”

Making it happen

That all changed when Dr Tucker retired, and she realised she was less a principal dentist and more an employee of a corporation. For his part, Dr Tucker had always seen her running her own business, and in the last year before he had retired, he delegated more and more to her. “I think Ed had been hoping I’d eventually go out on my own, but he didn’t want to push me,” she says.

When she announced her intention to do so, he passed on the number of a dental management consultant who he’d met at a conference.

At the same time, she started to look around at rental properties. “After looking at a few rental properties, and realising the commitment and the price, I couldn’t understand putting all that money into a space you were just renting,” she says. The consultant brought a property consultant on board who quickly found a place for sale in Arana Hills, outside the exclusion zone from Samford, but still close enough to home.

“I then went to Nicole [the practice manager] and Ed, and said, ‘This is what I want to do’. And Nicole said straight away, ‘I’m with you one hundred per cent.’ And Ed said to me, ‘Look I know I said I retired, but I’m still here to help you out a few days a month if you’d have me’.”

The only issue, then, was finance. “Everything lined up perfectly, except the financial side of things.” says Dr Davies. “With all my travelling and my plans suddenly changing, I hadn’t put aside any significant money for a venture like this. Unfortunately, I knew without the benefit of time, I wouldn’t be able to get a deposit. The only way I could take this opportunity was if someone believed in me enough, to offer me a full hundred per cent loan”.

Luckily the consultants she had been dealing with got in touch with John Keys from BOQ Specialist. “BOQ Specialist completely saw my vision and potential and decided to support me and partner with me in this venture. It was pretty incredible.”

They were supposed to open the doors in early April, when COVID struck. “Towards the end of April, I called Nicole and said, ‘I think restrictions are changing quicker than anticipated, we should probably start doing something.’ So we officially opened our doors on the 11th of May, and at 10 o’clock that morning, we got the email from ADAQ saying we are able to operate business as usual.

“And from there it has just grown and grown. I am so grateful to so many of my past patients because they have been so supportive. We are slowly gaining traction in the new community and are looking forward to working on some new projects that will help us increase our involvement. I’m so excited for the future.”


Thinking about starting or growing your practice? Click on the link to find out more about our tailored financial solutions for setting up a practice. Or ready to take the next step? Contact us to find out how we can tailor a practice finance solution for you, or call us on 1300 160 160.

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