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Dr. Salman Abawi - Building and renovating a practice

When Dr Salman Abawi was given a few months to find a new practice, he decided to go all in.

  4 minutes

Dr Salman Abawi had spent 10 years building a client base in a mall that used to be the centre of Wentworthville, in Sydney’s west. Then he got word that the mall’s owners wanted to knock it down and build apartments on the site. The owners spent less time and money on the upkeep of the mall and gradually, Dr Abawi’s neighbouring tenants started leaving. “But we had more and more patients coming to see us,” he says. “It was based on word-of-mouth, and it was fine because there was more parking available as the other shops left.

“Then last year, just as the coronavirus pandemic hit, we got a letter saying we had two months to leave.”

Dr Abawi was faced with the choice of finding another long-term lease, or going all-in and buying his own commercial property. “I thought that it’s better to buy and make a place that looks different than the rest of the dental clinics in Wentworthville,” he says. “I wanted to have a place that looks inviting and modern. And we didn’t want to have any rent risk.”

Making the move

Dr Abawi first came to western Sydney in 2002, following nearly a decade of practice in his native Jordan. “My wife was from here,” he explains. “She has lived in Australia since she was seven years of age. We met through some relatives who lived in Jordan and I managed to fix their teeth, so they were impressed. “Now, whenever anyone from Jordan comes to Australia and they want to see a dentist, they come to me.” After passing all his local exams he started practising as an employee dentist for nearly six years before settling on his own space. But all of the work building that practice up looked like it would come to nothing with the new development.

“After you spend about 10 years in one place, you start worrying that if I have to start again, it is going to take me a while. Already, I had a good number of loyal clients. I didn’t want to go too far to start again.”

A future proof practice

He engaged a local real estate agent, who showed him a small house that had been used as a physiotherapist’s rooms for many years. “It was a corner block and I liked it,” he says. “So we purchased the land and started the planning and development.”

Part of that process involved renovating and extending the old house. In his previous practice he had two rooms, but in this new space, he decided to plan for the future. “I thought, we are spending all this money, let’s make it double the size. If we’re getting busier, we have enough space for extra dentists.”

Funding through BOQ Specialist was never in question—he had been banking with them for years. “BOQ Specialist is a unique bank that can lend to the super. And I want to take advantage of this. But also, I can finance equipment and cars through them, no problems. Once they know the customer—and they look after their loyal customers—it’s very quick. They are a very good business team.”

“Dr Abawi has been a client of ours for a long time,” says BOQ Specialist’s Ben Glasgow. “And we use our experience and our knowledge of the dental industry to be able to back a client like him taking on something that may seem difficult to achieve.” It’s one thing to buy a commercial property within your SMSF, says Ben, but a much bigger proposition if you’re also going to renovate it into a state-of-the-art dental practice. “We take a viewpoint that this is a big transaction for them. But we can see what they’re doing. And we back the client and their history with us back from 2006. We can see down the track and understand their plan for their business.”

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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