Dr Laura MacNeil - Starting up on her own
Her decision to have a break from dentistry turned out to be a pivotal point in Dr Laura MacNeil’s dental career.Learn More
When Dr Omid Salar started on his journey to practice ownership, he didn’t have big ambitions. He had already gone through the mental leap of immigrating from his native Iran and living in a strange new country. He had adjusted to practising in a smaller regional area of the Gold Coast, after growing up in bustling Tehran, and was ready to lease a small space in a shopping centre to set up his own practice. “Even though I proposed a crazy offer, like a 10-year lease, they didn’t accept it,” he recalls. “I’m so lucky that they didn’t, because it would have been a huge mistake. The amount of money I would have had to pay over 20 years was going to be something ridiculous.
“I’m a strong believer that sometimes in life things happen to you for a reason,” he says. “It might not seem so at the time, but later on you understand why it happened.”
Late one night Dr Salar went online to surf through real estate websites, when suddenly he saw a nice block of land with an old house on it that had never been available before. It was on one of the biggest main roads on the Gold Coast. “I couldn’t sleep after that. I thought, ‘This is the place’. I woke up the next morning, and kept calling the real estate agent, but didn’t get through. Later that day, I got some cancellations in my book and I called again, and I said, ‘Look, I really want to come and see this place’. I still remember, I just made an offer then and there, and said, ‘Can we make this happen today?’”
The house itself, however, was very small—about a hundred square metres—and very old. His plan was to turn it into a dental surgery, but it was very dark and cramped. He could touch the ceiling just by raising his hand. Then he thought, ‘I don’t know if this is really the place I want to work’.
Dr Salar’s mother is a dentist, and growing up in Tehran, he would watch her in her practice. “I used to go to her practice as a child and see how she operated,” he recalls. “I admired the relationship she had with her patients, and just how satisfying it was to help people with their teeth, especially when someone was in pain. I thought that was very rewarding.” After graduating from dental school in 2005 he went back to the family practice. But he had also been learning English for many years and craved a bit of adventure. He saw his three choices as Canada, the United States or Australia. Canada was too cold. The US didn’t look very family-friendly—by that stage he was married with a toddler. But in Australia, he could see how he would be able to practice dentistry.
Once he finished his exams in Australia he returned to Iran, then started applying for jobs. He got some offers, including one from a corporate practice in a small town called Tweed Heads that he had never heard of before. “But I had a look and thought, ‘Looks like a good starting point’, so I had an interview over the phone. She asked me if I could come in for an interview, and I said, ‘Sorry, I can’t travel 13,000 kilometres for an interview, but these are my skills. This is what I can do. If you’re happy to offer me the job, we will move to Australia’. And she offered me the job over the phone.”
Immigration is challenging at the best of times. But his plan was to stick it out in Tweed Heads until he could get to one of the larger cities. After a few months he was offered a role in Brisbane, but by then he had been seduced by the coastal lifestyle. “I soon realised corporate is not the type of dentistry I want to do, because I was more used to that personal, family type of dentistry that I was used to in my mother’s practice. The business orientation of a corporate practice is very different to that of a family one.”
But now he had found this perfect location, he was in two minds. The land was terrific, but the expense of converting this old house to a modern dental surgery was daunting. “Then I got a little bit of a push from my mum,” he says. “She told me, ‘Omid, you get one chance in your life to do it the way you want, so if you’re not happy with it, just knock it down and build the practice you want’. It’s true. You don’t hope to find yourself five years later when the practice has grown, suddenly thinking, ‘I have this beautiful spot, but I’m stuck in this small, old house’.”
So the plans changed from there, and he decided to knock down and rebuild. “I put a lot of love into it,” he says. “I spent four months planning and designing how it would look, and then engaged a commercial builder who took about eight months to complete the build. We had lots of ups and downs getting the council to approve the change of use from residential to commercial. It was a really busy time, seeing patients, going to the council, going to the builder, seeing patients again.”
With any building project, it feels like nothing happens for a long time, then everything happens at once. On 1 July last year he opened the doors to Trusted Dental, and in the nine months to the start of the pandemic, it grew at a rate of knots.
Finance for the property, the development and fit-out came from BOQ Specialist. He had met Colin Taylor from BOQ Specialist “a few times at different seminars,” he says. “I approached him and he was really easy to deal with. He helped me a lot. It was easy and comfortable to be honest, and he’s a really nice person to deal with.”
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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