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Starting her own dermatology practice

When Dr Penny Lim wanted to start her own dermatology practice, her husband, Dr Lee-Tam Teo, decided to help.

  5 minutes


Dr Penny Lim and Dr Lee-Tam Teo, a husband-and-wife team, may have followed different paths in their medical careers but they were equally committed when setting up their own practice.

As a consultant dermatologist, Dr Lim could see the potential of running a business in the prosperous Sydney suburb of Pymble. Dr Teo, who works at paediatric intensive care units, decided to take on a different role as a business manager of their practice—a job with which he was totally unfamiliar.

“My role was mainly developing the start-up of the practice,” explains Dr Teo. “I didn’t want Penny to be taking on the stress of establishing the new practice. I just wanted her to concentrate on looking after her patients. The last few weeks prior to the opening of our practice was intense as the multidisciplinary team, mainly the project manager of the medical fit-out, medical marketing team, IT and software project managers, medical suppliers etc worked together to ensure that the practice was ready for the first patient as per schedule.”

Out of the comfort zone

Dr Teo admits that he was definitely out of his comfort zone after working as a specialist since 2003. “You don’t get taught how to run a business in medical school,” says Dr Teo, who completed his degree at the University of Malaya in 1998—the same year as Dr Lim. After dating at high school, they were married during their fourth year at university.

Their medical careers expanded over the following decade. While Dr Lim received her Advanced Master of Dermatology from the National University of Malaysia in 2009, the couple had moved to Australia the year before. For Dr Lim, the move was partly due to the prestigious award she won from the Australian Government’s then Department of Health and Ageing to work at the Skin and Cancer Foundation and Westmead Hospital in Sydney. Following this, she received the Fellowship of the Australasian College of Dermatologists in 2012. Dr Teo pursued his training in Paediatric Intensive Care simultaneously and was awarded Fellowship of the College of Intensive Care Medicine the same year as Dr Lim.

After a few years, she had a vision of opening her own practice in Sydney’s Upper North Shore. The advice from their accountant was to contact BOQ Specialist, who met with the doctors and guided them in their research for a suitable location.

Using your super

Drs Lim and Teo eventually chose a property with easy parking, good visibility and very little competition. The team at BOQ Specialist liaised with their accountant to set up their self-managed super fund (SMSF) structure. Purchasing the practice premises in their SMSF would provide tax benefits along the way, asset protecting and build up a variety of assets.

The other loan that BOQ Specialist provided was the fit-out and equipment loan. This loan started as an overdraft facility and upon completion of the project—with confirmation from the clients’ accountant—it was converted into loans that gave the clients maximum tax advantages. The overdraft facility suited them as the payments to various suppliers could be easily managed. They didn’t need to worry that they would not have the money to complete their project.

The pressure is on

Dr Teo, who was managing the trades, was relieved to have the financial side of things well looked after. “We knew it would be quite challenging but we didn’t know it was actually that tough and complex,” he says. “We are so grateful for the assistance we received from the BOQ Specialist team. They do this every day of the week but this process is new to Penny and myself.” The renovation took three months. “I told everyone involved—the project manager, IT guys, and equipment personnel—that we must be up and running by 28th March, 2017,” says Dr Teo.

The learning curve

Pymble Dermatology opened right on time and the practice expanded rapidly. Within three months of opening, Dr Lim had to increase the consultation from two to four days a week. She’s now planning to hire an associate by the end of the year. 

“When you start a new practice, it’s a real learning curve," says Dr Teo. “Some things are out of our control but we have learnt a lot by undertaking this project. We wouldn’t have it any other way.”


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 160 160.

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