Dr Sham Jamal's journey from practice partner to practice owner
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It’s the business adage that has stood the test of time—location, location, location. But what do you do when the place you’ve successfully set up as your practice has a ‘demolition clause’ on the building, and the suburb has become red-hot real estate with developers, making the possibility to relocate near impossible?
That’s the scenario that faced Sydney dentists Drs Thuy and Tracy Le over the past decade as they attempted to move from renting to owning their own practice. The couple, who met while studying at the University of Sydney, bought the Rawson Dental practice in Epping in 2009, only to discover a year later their building was up for sale and faced future demolition, and so the hope for a long lease was in doubt.
When Thuy and Tracy began looking at other properties to buy, they discovered booming Epping was in red hot demand with property developers. A change in local planning laws, with a slew of high-rise developments announced across the area, had property prices at a sky-high premium.
“We had worked so hard to build up our business in this area, and we really like our local patients and didn’t want to leave them,” Tracy explains. “But no matter where we looked, we were priced out of the market.
“We got close a number of times (to finding a new place), only to discover those places also had demolition clauses on them and were about to be developed. We were determined not to move out of an area where we really like being part of the community.”
The prospect of continuing with a new lease on a new place instead of buying was also considered, but when the investment of paying off a mortgage compared to high commercial rental fees was explored in a growth area, it just didn’t make business sense.
“We crunched the numbers and knew that with rents set to increase, in 10 years’ time we wouldn’t own anything and would still be at the whim of landlords,” Thuy says. The couple own another leased practice in the northern suburb of Hornsby but were determined to make Epping their main base. “We wanted to buy so we could have an asset that would grow in value with us as we continued to grow the business.”
Early last year, light finally appeared at the end of the tunnel when an old fish and chip shop came up for sale in a prime position on Beecroft Road, directly opposite busy Epping railway station. It was ideal for client retention, as it was also only metres away from their existing practice, where they were operating on a month-to-month lease basis. The street front property also offered easy access for a number of their senior clientele.
The price of the new two-storey property was very high, but Drs Thuy and Tracy managed to secure an offer with the vendor. When they presented their business plan to BOQ Specialist consultant Luke Truscott, he recognised the deal had strong potential.
“With property prices as high as they were, this was our one chance into the market we could afford, and there was no negotiating on the price,” says Tracy. “It was then all about finding someone who would back us, which is where BOQ Specialist stepped in.”
Having previously arranged financing through BOQ Specialist for their home and car loans, as well as practice equipment, Tracy and Thuy placed their hope in Luke that he could manage the aspects of the complex loan-to-value-ratio factor, so the deal would be approved.
“It looked tricky at a few points, but Luke was able to steer everything through the checks and balances we had to go through first in order to get approval,” Thuy adds. “He understood what we wanted to do and has been part of our journey all the way.”
“We got there!”
In December 2017, the purchase deal was finally approved, with a delayed settlement to May 2018, to assist with the affordability of the purchase.
“We worked like crazy and we saved like crazy, but we got there,” Tracy laughs. “To know this was going to be our place that no landlord could move us out of was such a relief after having that demolition clause hanging over our heads in the other building.”
Once they took possession in May, an intensive 12-week building program began to turn the old takeaway food shop into a slick dental practice, with two new offices on the floor above as rental spaces. The new clinic contains five operating rooms, complete with state-of-the-art chairs and dental technology equipment.
“We knew if we were setting this business up in 2018, we wanted our practice to have the latest dentistry has to offer, so we’re ready to grow as our patients’ needs grow,” Thuy explains.
This came at a significant cost, however, it had already been factored into the loan. “We actually didn’t look at the property price and the fit-out as two separate costs; we knew they had to go hand in hand if we wanted to do this properly,” Tracy adds. “We explained that approach to Luke and he agreed. This was a big investment, and we needed to open the new practice with a clinic that showed our customers we were settling in here for the long term.”
Rawson Dental opened the doors of its new location on 1 August, and the Les have been enjoying their patients’ reaction ever since.
“We have such pride in our new place,” Thuy says. “There have been some comments that our old rooms were a bit of a rabbit warren, whereas now patients are walking in and saying, ‘Wow, this looks great!’
“It was at the end of those first few days that I looked around and said to Tracy, ‘I think we’re okay now—we’ve achieved something good here’. It’s a sense of ownership and a new confidence that we can now go on and grow from strength to strength.”
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. 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 131 141.
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