Dr Sarah Varma on where smiles reign
After eight years honing her skills at a range of boutique clinics across Western Australia, dentist Sarah Varma made the leap to set up her own dental surgery.Learn More
It makes sense that Dr Sathie Naidoo is a family dental practitioner—he’s a family man after all. When he talks to us, his baby son gurgles in the background and partner and practice manager Kate is on hand to clarify odds and sods. Not that it was always Dr Naidoo’s intention to end up practising family dentistry in regional Victoria—he started out studying engineering in South Africa and later moved into dentistry.
“It was actually only towards the end of dental school, I realised that dentistry was for me,” Dr Naidoo says. “It was a tough course, but I loved the patient interaction. As a student, we did a lot of work with older folks and dentures and I don’t know if it was because I loved the sound of my own voice, but I loved speaking with them”.
After graduating, Dr Naidoo worked for a multinational practice and then bought into a practice with a university friend, which they ran for five years. Subsequently, Dr Naidoo taught paediatric dentistry at a university in South Africa for six years.
Dr Naidoo had applied in 2007 to immigrate to Australia after a recruiter contacted him looking for dentists to relocate down under. “I didn’t think much of it again, but in 2008 they called me up with an ideal situation,” Dr Naidoo recalls.
“I wanted somewhere where there was a university and at that time Bendigo Health and LaTrobe University had just started working together. My initial idea was to move to Bendigo for a year and then move to Melbourne or Sydney.”
However, fate intervened—about six months after Dr Naidoo moved to Bendigo, he met Kate in a pub and fell in love with her.
Just as surprising for him, he fell in love with Bendigo too. “Kate was here, obviously, but I also loved Bendigo,” he elaborates. “It’s lovely. People all over the world dream about living this kind of life. Short of a beach, we have it perfect”.
Dr Naidoo hasn’t found it a culture shock. “I worked in Pretoria in South Africa—the people there are very similar in terms of their outlook on life. Even though both Pretoria and Bendigo are big cities, the people in them don’t have big city mentalities. I just love practising in Bendigo—you get all types of cases, but overall the people are happy and not downtrodden.”
Dr Naidoo worked in another private practice for two and a half years after he arrived in Bendigo, but there came a time when he and Kate wanted to plan for a family and he wanted to purchase a practice of his own.
Luckily, a mutual friend introduced Dr Naidoo to Dr John Kosta. Dr Kosta had founded Kennington Dental 29 years ago and was looking for someone to start working with him with a view to purchasing the practice as he moved towards retirement.”
“I wanted to buy into a practice that had the same standards and ethics when it came to dentistry that I had and it was a good match,” Dr Naidoo explains of his attraction to Kennington Dental. “The idea for the 12-month hand over period was mutual. John had been there since the very start and he wanted to make sure that his patients were taken care of and were left in good hands. As it turned out, our dental thinking was very similar in terms of treatment and so John became comfortable with the idea.”
Kate was also on hand to provide a unique skill set that would help the practice. “Kate had the human resources skills, which I lacked,” Dr Naidoo explains. “How to deal with staff— that’s where Kate came in. She’s our practice manager on tap.”
Around the same time, Dr Naidoo contacted BOQ Specialist for some assistance.
“I knew that they dealt with doctors and dentists differently,” he explains.
“They understood that although you may be spending half a million dollars on equipment, they understand the industry and know why it is important. Other commercial financiers will look at you funny if you ask for that sort of money for equipment, because they haven’t had the same sort of dealing with dental and medical practices.”
When it comes to the question of how BOQ Specialist has been able to help, Kate doesn’t hesitate. “They’ve helped a lot,” she says firmly. “Trevor [Knowles] has been fantastic the whole way through. The way it turned out was that our son was born and two days later we took over Kennington Dental. So especially in those initial days Sathie was on the phone to Trevor a lot—including the day I was in labour.”
Dr Naidoo has more to add. “We work well as a team,” he reflects. “There’s continuity. It’s more than just a bank—we have real conversations. BOQ Specialist are actually relationship bankers. So, everything we’ve done except for our house which we did five years prior, has been financed through BOQ Specialist—the goodwill, the equipment, our vehicle and later the new chairs. We did all of this with no real collateral behind us—it was based on the practice. BOQ Specialist really understands the business of dentistry.”
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