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Expanding a practice during COVID

Dr Nirej Rewal got a golden opportunity to expand his dental practice. Problem was, he got it at the worst possible time.

  5 minutes
 


The crunch time for Dr Nirej Rewal and his team at Quality Dental Care in Adelaide was really about four years ago. They had been practising out of rooms and had grown to the point where they were bursting at the seams. “We were at a crossroads,” says Dr Rewal. “Do we just stay at this size, or do we expand? If we expand, where do we expand to? Because we don't want to move too far away.” Plenty of practices have faced this insoluble problem. Then, at the worst possible time, a solution presented itself.

“It was last year when the tenancy next to me, a computer shop, moved,” he says. “And then we realised we could just knock down the adjacent wall and move into their space.
"But at that point COVID was in full swing. I remember saying to my wife, ‘Do I need to get my head checked here? Because everyone’s saying that the world’s going to end and I’m thinking about expanding?’”

Growth factors

Dr Rewal wasn’t really working to a growth plan. He was never driven through dentistry by a desire to create a business. In fact, it wasn’t until he was partly through his dentistry degree that he was even sure he wanted to be a dentist at all. “To be honest, I got into dentistry very naively,” he says. “I did my first couple of years of training, still not quite sure if this was really for me. But it was in my third year when we started to treat patients that I got excited about it. The whole patient interaction and meeting them and being able to solve problems, and using your hands as well as your mind, appealed to me.”

Great mentors

When he graduated from the University of Adelaide in 1998, there were very few jobs available in town. So he moved a couple of hundred kilometres away to Berri, where he found a position with two experienced dentists in private practice. “They were kind enough to take me under their wing and basically teach me a lot about it,” he recalls. “I felt very fortunate to have great mentors along the way, and then I think the thing about mentors is you start modelling yourself after them. So private practice became the norm for me.”

Even when he moved on from that job, he was always looking for a place of his own. When an opportunity came up near where he was working, he jumped on it. “The sellers had taken all of their patients to their other practices, so I just purchased their infrastructure,” he explains. “I spent about six months doing it up and started from scratch, so there were a few nervous moments there. I remember my practice manager and myself high-fiving each other when the phone would ring and a patient would actually book an appointment.”

Grabbing the chance

When the opportunity to expand to the property next door came up, he decided to grab it. “I kept thinking, ‘Am I going to be able to do this? Will there be a demand?’”

One thing he found helpful was knowing that Darren Tomlinson and BOQ Specialist had his back. “BOQ Specialist helped me along in that whole process. Darren has been a breath of fresh air. Back then it was a very uncertain time and just to have his reassurance that, ‘It's going to be okay. You're a long-term customer of ours, we'll make it happen’, was great.”

And happen it did. Within six months they’ve hit all the two-year projections on his spreadsheets. “I've been surprised how well it's been growing,” says Dr Rewal. “I think sometimes there is something to be said for the 'build it and they will come' sort of philosophy. It almost makes me wish I'd done it sooner.”

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