Dr Nauv Kashyap on playing his cards right

Nauv Kashyap

Whenever Dr Nauv Kashyap gets the opportunity, he travels to poker tournaments interstate and and around the world. Photography: Richard Whitfield

Multi-practice owner and dental business coach Dr Nauv Kashyap is as deft a hand at business as he is at the poker table. By Sally Wilson

Risk is a word that frequently comes up in conversation with Dr Nauv Kashyap. With a career that’s seen him go from university graduate to multi-practice owner, then business mentor and jetsetting poker player in less than 15 years, he’s not afraid to take a few chances.

At every stage, however, the 34-year-old dentist and businessman has carefully calculated the likelihood of success. Dr Kashyap compares his approach to that of his other passion, poker. “It’s basically risk analysis,” he says. “You look at what the potential downsides of a move are, you look at what the potential upsides are, and you see if it makes sense from a probability of numbers perspective. That’s pretty much what I’ve done in business.”

Even from an early age, Dr Kashyap was weighing up the odds. Despite initially being inspired by the forensic scientists he saw on television, he realised that few jobs existed in Australia. Medicine beckoned, but after rejecting interstate offers —“I wasn’t willing to move away”—Dr Kashyap was left with a choice: study science and then try his luck at getting into post-graduate medicine at the University of Queensland (UQ), or pursue dentistry and have a fallback career.

Dentistry won out and Dr Kashyap graduated from UQ in 2006. Landing jobs before he had graduated, Dr Kashyap says he was lucky to find himself with two “really nice” bosses, one of whom became a mentor.

“One of the owners saw a lot of wisdom teeth,” explains Dr Kashyap. “He was happy for me to have a go at every single wisdom tooth that came through the door, because he knew he was right next door and could come in and bail me out if anything went wrong.

“That type of mentoring was excellent for me in the sense that it allowed me really develop a niche surgical skill. Not many dentists will tackle wisdom teeth, so having that skill and developing it early on under the guidance of someone who was hugely experienced really helped me a lot.”

Private practice

At the end of his first year as a dentist, Dr Kashyap was offered a position to study medicine at UQ, starting the following March. But fate intervened: “At that very same time, the lady that I was working for at my second job came to me and said, ‘I’m going to be selling the surgery next year, and any dentist that buys it will probably want to work here themselves, so you’ll probably need to look for a new job,’” he says. “She just assumed because I was only one year out that I wouldn’t be interested in purchasing the practice.”

Despite his youth and relative inexperience, Dr Kashyap could see the opportunities in the Ipswich-based practice. “Because I was working there, I could see that there were things that I’d do differently if I owned it. I knew a lot about our competitors at the time; patients would come in from the competitors. I had a really good vision of what I could make of this surgery.

“Before I decided to buy the practice, I sat down with my accountant and discussed all the pros and cons. The exercise that he did with me was pretty profound for the rest of my career in that he looked at the worst-case scenario of me buying the practice and the potential upsides. That process is what I’ve used in every decision I’ve made.”

Room for improvement

Keen to grow the business, Dr Kashyap focused on finding points of difference. “In the early days, the only thing I did was just looking at what the competitors were doing and try to do things differently,” he says.

“You look at what the potential downsides of a move are, you look at what the potential upsides are, and you see if it makes sense from a probability of numbers perspective.”—Dr Nauv Kashyap, founder, Practice Ownership Consulting

He quickly identified marketing as an area that other local practices weren’t doing well. “Back then, practices’ websites were very poor, or they didn’t have a website. I found out that most patients were finding us via our website, so we really improved it. The other big thing that I did was social media, which again most practices didn’t do at the time.”

Realising that many locals had long commutes to the Brisbane CBD, Dr Kashyap introduced after-hours appointments. “In that particular region, no-one was opening after hours, or if they were, it was one token night a week, and weekend appointments were non-existent. Offering those after-hours appointments got us patients from way outside our normal catchment, because we were one of the only practices that were open at that time.”

Providing wisdom teeth surgery was another point of difference, which saved many clients from a journey into the city to see a specialist. Seeing that no other local practices offered wisdom teeth procedures, Dr Kashyap made these a focus of his own clinical work.

The effect of these initiatives on the business was almost immediate. “Our turnover just went through the roof,” he says. “Competitors also started to imitate our marketing but very poorly, because they had only seen such on the surface.”

The move to private practice wasn’t without its drawbacks, however. Dr Kashyap says he went from working about 45 hours a week to more than 60 hours some weeks.

“I worked some crazy weeks and burnt out quite quickly. Within 18 months of buying that practice, I was burnt out clinically because of the ridiculous hours I was doing. It was a huge challenge.”

Mentoring skills

After buying and selling other practices and gaining a reputation as a savvy businessman, Dr Kashyap began to help other dentist friends and give advice on online dental forums. “It got to a point where a lot of people were asking me to run a seminar, and offering to pay me money for advice,” he explains. “It was not something that I’d ever imagined.”

In 2014, Dr Kashyap created Practice Ownership Consulting to provide courses to dentists about all aspects of owning a private practice. His first seminar was a two-day workshop on the Gold Coast for about 35 people, followed soon after by a seminar in Sydney to 70 people.

The business has gone from strength to strength, and now extends to private consulting for those who can’t come to seminars; Dr Kashyap and his team can examine practices, analyse local markets, advise on a practice’s value, and help create marketing and business plans.

Dr Kashyap also manages a 1300-member Facebook group of practice owners from Australia and New Zealand. “We get access to huge discounts from suppliers because of the size of our group and the purchasing power,” he explains. “It’s a really active group with a ton of discussions every day on issues that practice owners face.”

“Nauv believes in doing the right thing in business as unethical actions will deservedly come around to bite you, and I have definitely seen him live up to this.”—Priyesh Amin, Dr Nauv Kashyap’s business partner

Inspired by the conversations taking place in that group, Dr Kashyap organised the Practice Owners Conference at Crown Casino in Melbourne last year. “We aimed to get 80 people, and ended up having 300 there. We got some great deals from suppliers—there were about 25 dental industry partners that sponsored the event, and the feedback from them was overwhelming.”

Shared approach

Mark Rothnie is a business mentor and close friend who first met Dr Kashyap in 2008. He says Dr Kashyap’s ability to learn from mistakes and willingness to share set him apart. “I have never met someone so open about sharing their learnings and experience. Usually, practice owners are guarded about any knowledge they have. Nauv has always gotten as much enjoyment out of seeing his friends and colleagues doing well in business as himself.”

Priyesh Amin, a staff member turned business partner, says he admires Dr Kashyap’s generosity, intelligence and ethics.

“Nauv believes in doing the right thing in business as unethical actions will deservedly come around to bite you, and I have definitely seen him live up to this.

“He is extremely generous with his time in advising and helping countless people in our industry,” says Amin. “His intelligence allows him to look at things objectively. He takes the time to do thorough research before making a decision, and he has always been willing to take a risk even if the majority are doing the opposite.”

Holding the cards

It hasn’t been all work and no play for Dr Kashyap, who has returned to playing poker in recent years. Whenever he gets the opportunity, he travels to poker tournaments interstate and around the world.

“Poker is going to be big for me in the next two years, travelling around playing at some great casinos around the world, and hopefully having some success,” he says. “Dentistry and business ownership have allowed me to create an income stream that is completely risk-free, and I use that in a venture that is highly risky.”

Never one to rest on his laurels, Dr Kashyap says he wants to continue to improve all his businesses. “I’m always looking for ways to firm up the systems and improve the culture. We are becoming more and more like a work family, which is excellent.”

Also on the agenda is more pro bono work, visiting universities and providing guest lectures on business development and ethics.

For Dr Kashyap, the opportunity to give back to young dentists is especially gratifying. “I’ve gotten to where I am on the shoulders of others’ help, and so to be able to be one of those sets of shoulders now is incredible.”

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