By Danny Chan
When it’s time to bow out of your practice, there are many paths to consider. Some choose to simply sell and leave. Others bank on creating rapid growth and hiring associate dentists to spread the workload, then gradually cutting back on hours until they are ready to sell. Then there are those who would hire a young dentist to groom as the heir apparent to satisfy a buyer-in-waiting.
Yet another option is to stay on as an associate and continue to work for the organisation that buys your practice. If you truly enjoy doing dentistry, the latter option may provide the ideal transition from active practice to full retirement.
That is certainly the position of Dr Nabil Ishak. After handing the keys over to practice acquisition firm Ekera Dental in October, the experienced dentist chose to stay on.
“Yes, because I love what I do, I love my practice, and I love my patients. I’ve been seeing them and their families for generations,” says Dr Ishak.
“I have been working in this practice for 30 years so I wouldn’t just leave my patients and the community.”
Through the years
Dr Ishak established the Melton Dental Group (MDG) back when Melton was only a satellite town. Rapid suburban growth has turned it into a commuter town in the Melbourne-Ballarat growth corridor, now poised for merging into Melbourne’s future conurbation.
From the outset, Dr Ishak’s goal was to provide family-oriented dentistry using cutting edge tools and techniques. Always pushing the envelope, he would engage specialist dentists to deliver hands-on training workshops to his team on site.
MDG eventually became the first in the area to deliver treatments such as dental implants, all-on-4 implants and dentistry under intravenous sedation and full general anaesthesia.
Besides offering forward-looking dentistry, MDG is also known for enhancing the “stress-free” and “pain-free” patient experience.
Lounging with a cuppa, plugging into your choice of in-chair entertainment or immersing in the iPad Play Centre, the clinic offers an array of modern comforts and convenience. In addition, their use of light-handed dentistry, and availing of Nitrous Oxide and local anaesthesia help to promote a welcoming atmosphere for nervous patients and those requiring more complex treatments.
Over the years, these patient-centred qualities have endeared MDG to Melton locals and patients from neighbouring suburbs, extending from Gisborne, Macedon, Bacchus Marsh, to Ballan and beyond.
As part of his exit strategy, Dr Ishak wanted to preserve the foundational principles behind MDG’s hard-earned reputation.
“I put my heart and soul into my practice and I wanted to hand it over to a group that would respect my ideas and ethos and continue to run it according to my vision and goals so that the practice would remain as a source of high quality, honest and trusted dentistry in the region,” he enthuses.
“I still had many years of dentistry in me and wanted to plan a smooth transition for the future. A corporation was the best option, as I was happy to continue working, but I needed to find the right corporation for me.”
Introduced to Ekera Dental by a friend familiar with his selling motivations, Dr Ishak found their corporate model appealing after doing his own research. His first meeting with Ekera Chairman, Dr Anthony Coulepis, reinforced that notion.
“We felt that we were like-minded in the level of honesty, ethics and professionalism,” he recalls.
Dr Ishak reveals that a major factor deciding the sale was Ekera’s hands-off management approach.
“They respected how we operated and trusted us to continue to run the practice as we see fit. They did not force and impose corporate ideologies and processes on us or our staff,” he says.
“They did not dictate how we are to run the practice or how we deal with our staff. The transition was so smooth, our staff did not at any point feel uneasy or threatened,” he says.
Staying on as the principal dentist, Dr Ishak appreciates the fact that Ekera’s hands-off approach does not equate to a lack of support – rather, it’s there when you need it.
“A stand out feature of this experience is that Tony’s door is always open and he is truly only a phone call or email away,” says the impressed clinician.
“His finger is on the pulse and he is always aware of everything taking place within his operations and management team.”
The MDG operations enjoy Ekera’s backbone support in many areas: Marketing; IT; online presence; management; human resources; bulk buying of stock; legal; as well as corporate representation in insurance matters, industry bodies and associations.
In addition, Ekera facilitated the purchase of a new intraoral scanner with smile design; an OPG/ Lat Ceph and CBCT machine; and a new compressor.
“No questions were asked,” Dr Ishak attests. “They simply trusted our judgement and case presentation.”
Secure in the knowledge
Overall, the passionate dentist would describe his post-sale experience as being “very positive and encouraging”. Having heard cautionary tales from colleagues with negative experiences selling to corporates, Dr Ishak is glad to offer a counter perspective:
“Ekera Dental has lived up to all of the promises that were made prior to the sale. They honoured every deal and promise and this is something that I value very much.”
“As a dentist, my experience has also been positive,” he adds. “They respect and value my professional judgement and experience.
“On a personal level my experience has been one of reassurance and liberation in the knowledge that I am now on my way to reducing my stress and responsibility for the practice that was my heart and soul for so long.
“I am comforted by the knowledge that the practice will continue to operate according to the ethos and culture that I had established.”