By Danny Chan
AEG, which stands for Achieve Excellence Group, is a Queensland-based fitout consultancy firm that provides a complete solution for dental practitioners looking to establish a new practice or renovate their existing one. With over 20 years combined experience in project management and fitouts, the AEG team has helped many doctors — and armchair visionaries — transform their napkin-scrawled ideas into dream surgeries.
About three years ago, fitout specialist consultant Sara Green and Rebecca Woods, then co-owner of a flourishing construction firm, decided to pool their collective talents into setting up their own business.
Sara had just prior to AEG, been working for a large dental/medical fitout company. The former dental assistant and practice manager is accustomed to doling out expert advise on different aspects of starting a dental outfit, including those on premise locations, marketing, equipment, consumables, finance, accounting, business planning and staffing. To date, Sara has been involved in over 75 dental and 25 medical fitouts throughout Australia.
“It seemed that dentists were time poor and really didn’t know where to start when opening their own private practice,” Sara had thought, while gestating a business plan of her own.
“Rather than have doctors going to ten different companies looking for advice, we would offer everything they require under one roof.”
With that simple idea and $15,000 in the bank, Sara and Rebecca left behind successful careers to embark on a somewhat risky venture. Nevertheless, the ladies were convinced they not only possessed vast industry knowledge but also a wide network of contacts with which to jumpstart the company.
Between Sara’s credentials and Rebecca’s extensive experience in the construction sector — servicing fitout contracts for commercial and government projects — it seemed fitting that the two would parlay their talents as a winning combination. Yet, as Sara recounts, the early years were trying: “Those initial days were long. We were putting in 70 to 80-hour work week, flying all over the country, trying to convince an industry that’s very set in its ways.
“Although we were newbies having to prove ourselves, we also had great existing relationships with key people and right from the start, they supported us.”
As if to complicate matters, Rebecca’s pregnancy coincided with the rigorous demands of the fledging operations.
Sara quipped: “She worked until they wouldn’t let her fly and only had two days off following the baby’s arrival. Now that’s commitment!”
As the industry was beginning to discover, the girls’ moxie was equally matched by their strong work ethics and acute business acumen. Indeed, the formula proved irresistible to an expanding healthcare industry. Before long, AEG’s fine reputation for delivering on their “no job too big or small” promise began to garner national attention.
The company was appointed the project management firm for the largest government-funded super clinic in the Southern hemisphere, with over 4,000 sqm of medical, dental, pharmacy and allied health services under the one roof. More national projects materialised as AEG teamed up with corporate clients like Dental Corporation and Westfund, while leveraging on their larger networks and portfolios.
Not forgetting the latter half of their slogan, Sara adds: “We also love working with practice start ups with limited budgets. It’s amazing what you can do on a budget.”
In fact, Sara says the main impetus behind their business model is to help new dental/medical start-ups remain on budget.
“We take a no-nonsense approach to ensuring our costs are transparent throughout each stage of the project.”
Understanding how the perfidy of outset costs can be a subject of intense scrutiny against fitout and building contractors, she assures:
“This is the number one reason we started AEG. Too many times doctors aren’t told all the costs upfront and their fitout budgets were blowing out with numerous variations. We manage the design, based on the client’s budget, making sure the materials specified are within their budget. By tendering out and managing the build, we can make sure there are no unforseen variations.”
As 2013 draws near, the directors are busy planning new interstate offices while visiting overseas healthcare establishments. The latter involves observing up close the medical and dental facilities in such diverse countries as China, Europe, Singapore and the U.S. The main objective behind these study trips, in addition to learning more cost effective methods, is to cull design inspirations in order to inject vibrancy into the local market.
Rebecca opines: “All of the dental designs in Australia are starting to look the same. We need to start looking at other design options to freshen up the industry.”
While the directors consider tokens of customer satisfaction — such as being invited to India to participate in a client’s wedding — a beaming source of pride, there is no questioning what lies at the core of their aspirations.
Exhibiting the same gumption that marked the duo’s foray into business some time ago, Sara impassions: “It’s time to shake up the industry. We’ve sat around and accepted the same designs and colours for too long.
“Let’s do something different in 2013.”