Dr Christine Farrelly all at once

Queensland dentist Dr Christine Farrelly is realising her dream of creating the perfect space to put anxious patients at ease.

  10 minutes

 


Some of life’s milestones, like having children, buying or selling property, or starting your own practice, require all your attention. So when Queensland dentist Dr Christine Farrelly did them all at once, she was taking on a significant challenge. “It was a whole whirlwind of things that all happened at the most inconvenient of times,” she says.

She had been working at a practice in Nambour since 2015, and knew the partners were pondering setting up another practice in Maroochydore. She had floated the idea of one day owning her own practice back in her original job interview, and when she was coming back from maternity leave she thought, ‘What a wonderful way to ease my way into it, by going in with partners who know what they’re doing’.

“At the same time, we had a little farm with some alpacas on it, and the upkeep was just all getting a bit much, and we had been meaning to downsize,” she says. “And especially if we were looking into buying a business, we thought, why not? We’ll sell the farm and get a bit closer to the practice as well. But even my accountant said, ‘You know that it’s not a great time to be doing all this at the same time’…” 

My way

But Dr Farrelly has a history of defying expectations. Despite doing well at high school and completing a science degree at the University of Queensland, she had fallen into part-time work as a dental assistant while she pondered her career choices. She soon found she enjoyed the work and decided to pursue it. “I remember telling the orthodontist I was working with—who I'm still very good friends with now—that I had decided to study dentistry. And he laughed. He thought I was a twit. He thought I was joking because I was an early 20-something party person.”

Her early experience at those other dental clinics—where the staff were nice people, and the patients left smiling—fuelled a vision she had of the kind of practice she wanted to own one day. “I had a little bit of a dream that I wanted to make it like a dental spa experience, where you could go and get your nails done or get your hair done… Just make it more of a nice experience. Because I guess I've found a little bit of a niche with anxious patients.”

She puts her success with anxious patients down to not being “too dentist-y. I'm a very empathetic person, and I take on a lot of people's anxiety,” she says. “I just try to talk it out, and I do love a good chat, but I also get the job done. It was a natural progression, ending up working at a practice called Gentle Dental. We have a lot of people who come for the name.”

In safe hands

One of the reasons Dr Farrelly didn’t move into her own practice sooner was because she is, in her own words, “the opposite of a risk taker. I definitely like to play it safe, and being a business owner is a risk,” she says. “So what better way to wet my feet than to do it with the owners of Gentle Dental, who have been doing it for years and who I consider friends? They gave me a safety net. They know the structure, they know what works, and we thought, let's set up this new practice with you guys, because you know what you're doing.”

At the same time, things weren’t always going smoothly with the process of selling the farm and buying a new place. “We got led down a few garden paths by a few brokers, obviously looking to capitalise from having us refinance,” she says. The whole process was dragging on a little longer than was comfortable—that’s when she and her husband approached Liam Pahl from BOQ Specialist. “Thank God for Liam,” she laughs. “He just said, ‘We'll make it work’.”

“She ended up selling her farm, and at the same time went into business in Maroochydore,” Liam recalls. “And then they found a property not too long after that. It was quite difficult to get the whole thing approved because she had just purchased a brand new practice. Normally we need six months. We had two months, and she had just come back from maternity leave six months earlier.”

According to Dr Farrelly, this was a considerable source of stress. “I just remember thinking, ‘Oh God, the bank will say they need a year of payslips’. With a traditional bank, it's quite a liability to be trying to have a new business while also trying to buy a new house. But BOQ Specialist made it work with what we had. They're pretty amazing in that regard. They have faith that you'll be a good dentist, and I know a lot of traditional lenders wouldn't touch you. So it's really nice to have that, especially because I had come off of maternity leave just prior to us getting the new practice. It was a lot of good faith on their behalf.

“We've been banking with them for a long time. We have a good track record with them, so that's good too. It pays to be loyal, because then BOQ Specialist will be loyal for you.”

The house they eventually settled on was, for a brief period, Dr Farrelly’s childhood home—which was, conveniently, 10 minutes from the new practice. “I was raised here on the Sunshine Coast, so I always wanted to come back here because it's beautiful. And I think we're in a beautiful spot where the practice is. Everyone who comes in sits down and just says, ‘Oh, that is beautiful,’ because you look out and there's park, grass, water, beach—it's just all right in front of you.”

While her uni dream of creating a dental spa experience hasn’t come to fruition yet, it may not be far away. “I guess I need to look at what would be accepted and what would work,” she says. “There is so much scope in being a general dentist. So at the moment, I guess I'll forge a name for myself of just being a good, anxiety-free place to go. I want to do what's right for the patients.” 



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