How I did it (Private Dentistry) - 01-05-2011

Dr Koray Feran explains why he decided to take on the task of relocating his busy private practice just down the road to new premises on London’s prestigious Wimpole Street

My aim for the London Centre for Implant and Aesthetic Dentistry (LCIAD), located on Wimpole Street – the heart of London’s dental and medical community, was to offer patients an exceptionally high standard of treatment and dentists a modern, well-equipped training facility.

Since I launched the centre, alongside specialist colleagues in 2005, business had grown and our courses for clinicians were frequently oversubscribed. We were in the fortunate position of finding ourselves riding out the recession pretty well.

However, five years after founding the practice, it seemed that we were starting to become victims of our own success.

A successful business needs one strong person to steer the ship on a clear course. With multiple practices working under the same roof and just one (stretched) team of receptionists, it became evident that too many cooks really do spoil the broth.

From treatment techniques to staff training, differences of opinion will inevitably arise when several professionals of equal standing are working closely in the same building. It was a task in itself getting everyone in the same place at the same time, let alone agreeing on changes to the running of the practice. We were quickly outgrowing the premises, but we were too busy to co-ordinate growing the business together as a single unit.

Decision time
In April 2010 an increasing lack of space and control finally led me to the decision to relocate. Fortunately, my friend and previous laboratory technician Tony Spencer knew of a building that was up for a long lease renewal diagonally across the road on Wimpole Street. I quickly arranged to view the property, well aware that I was not the only clinician in the area with an interest.

The stunning, almost palatial façade of the premises is a stark contrast to the more reserved Georgian architecture that can be found on Wimpole Street and neighbouring Harley Street.

I knew as soon as I viewed the property that its large size would be perfect for a group of specialists wanting to practise together under one roof. It would also be ideal for a lone clinician like me looking to take a huge gamble with their money! Seeing as I’d already tried the former option, the latter was my only remaining choice, so I put in an offer for the property, which was quickly accepted.

Finding funding
Next came the rather more daunting prospect of sourcing the funds for the move. After speaking to my accountant and bank manager I decided to work out exactly how much I was paying to rent the single room and shared facilities in my existing practice and compare this with how much extra it would cost me in the larger, nine-room property with several hand-picked associates on board to help me out.

As long as my calculations were correct, after the relocation the two figures should not be too dissimilar. Thankfully, Simon Tucker, my business advisor at Medenta, put me in touch with Brendan Heath at Braemar Finance. Brendan is a real gentleman and it was mainly thanks to him that I secured suitable finances for the £200,000 worth of extra equipment I would need to kit out the new practice. I also secured extra funds through Lombard, a member of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Inside, the building had already been beautifully renovated. All (all?!) that was left to do was install the specific infrastructure required in a dental practice, such as airlines, a special electricity supply, water, drainage, and audiovisual equipment. Finding the right person to help with the job was easy. Hugh Boswell, who had already guided me through my last two surgery installations and currently works for Intrafit, and Paul Shawyer and Chris Bryans from Bryshaw, fit the description of the kind of team that could carry out this task.

Hugh’s knowledge, skill and work ethic are astonishing. Bryshaw’s team of professionals worked with military organisation and I simply left them to control the entire project.

Qualident Ltd installed the new dental equipment and helped transfer my existing equipment over to the new premises, while Derek Wright and his team from Design Integration installed the audiovisual equipment as in my previous surgery. Henry Schein, Optident and Prestige Dental supplied the remaining items I needed.

Everest did a very rapid job of secondary glazing the vast windows very reasonably and this has already paid dividends in the cold weather.

Thanks to the help of all the external suppliers and skilled workmen, I was able to continue treating patients at my former practice while most of the work was being completed. The only period in which I did not treat patients was the three-week window we scheduled in to shift all the equipment from one practice to another.

Fortunately for us there were no major set backs along the way. Of course, we experienced the customary minor flood, burst pipe works, computer glitches, delays by utility companies providing services and errors of communication that are all inherent to practice relocations, but these were corrected quickly and, on the whole, efficiently thanks to my staff, especially Anai and Hayley who worked 30 hours a day, eight days a week. My main stumbling block was cash flow.

Nowadays, it is no secret that very few people are willing to lend unsecured for projects such as this. I tried – and failed – to secure a business loan to cover the actual building costs of the project (even though I was offered almost double what I needed for the equipment!), so I had to resort to drawing the funds from my personal account.

My bank manager, Carl Valencia at NatWest, has been very supportive, as has my family – Banu and Aleyna – who are at risk of not recognising me due to my recent long hours at work!

Perhaps the biggest frustration of all has been the speed at which it has taken stock to arrive and in small batches. When we ordered our large size ultrasonic baths to take DIN trays for example, we were told we should expect them to arrive within two weeks. However, it soon became clear that they wouldn’t arrive until many weeks after the estimated time.

On target
Despite this, just six months after I decided to relocate, in October 2010 most of the work was complete.

The working practice now consists of three state-of-the-art surgeries, a sterilisation room (in line with HTM 01-05 and CQC guidelines) (practice training provided by Seema Sharma of Dentabyte), a light, airy waiting room, a staff room, an office, and a kitchen. The practice will soon also house two on-site laboratories.

The entire practice has been designed to look clean, uncluttered and welcoming with a touch of West End elegance. Rooms are spacious and the windows are large enough to let in plenty of natural light.

My staff numbers have also grown to match the size of the practice. I have been joined by five new part-time associates hand- picked for their enthusiasm and love of what they do, three additional nurses and am still recruiting new hygienists to keep up with demand. We also have an established specialist prosthodontist working alongside us.

There are a few niggles yet to sort out – the kind of issues that have a habit of slowing you down. We need to install professional signage outside the practice, for example. Hiring new staff and dealing with the glut of CVs that land on my doorstep every morning has also been a great test of my nerves!

Is there anything I would have done differently? Of course, if I had had enough time! There are several things I would have liked to have been able to begin earlier on, such as hiring new staff and designing the website, which went live by mid December, but there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get these things done as quickly as you’d like. I thought three months in advance was enough, but I was wrong. Weeks shoot by very rapidly! My advice to other dentists would be to expect the project to take three times as long and cost twice as much as you’d expect.

Relocating a practice is certainly never as easy as it may look from the outside, but if you have confidence in your abilities, a clear vision and a good team, you can always achieve your goals.


Private Dentistry  May 2011


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