Successfully building a business empire of multiple clinics has inspired Dr Padma Gadiyar to help others on the journey to practice ownership. By Frank Leggett
In February 2018, Dr Padma Gadiyar was on death’s door. The surgeons called her husband from the hospital theatre and told him to prepare himself for the worst. Dr Gadiyar was suffering from a severe gall bladder infection that had spread to her lungs and collapsed them. Unfortunately, prior to emergency surgery, her condition had been misdiagnosed as a urinary tract infection and the treatment she had been given was useless.
Her husband, Dr Sanay Gadiyar, insisted the doctors keep trying and somehow Dr Gadiyar survived. Her lungs were so badly affected that for the next three months, she couldn’t breathe normally and was confined to bed. This gave her time to ponder her life, her achievements and her desires.
“Those three months gave me time to think about how precious is every breath,” says Dr Gadiyar. “I wrote down everything I wanted to do in life.”
What surprised her, and the people who know her, was what she had placed at the number one position on her bucket list.
India to Australia
Dr Gadiyar is from a small town in southern India called Udupi. She first visited Australia at age 22, travelling for three months with her husband to Sydney, Melbourne and the Great Barrier Reef. She then returned to India where she finished her dental internship before moving back to Australia
Dr Gadiyar and her husband then decided to move to Australia for a couple of years before returning to England. “Within a year, we both agreed we love it here, and decided to stay,” says Dr Gadiyar. “I completed my exams and my husband completed his GP training. We spent 10 years in Mackay, Queensland.”
During that time, Mackay was expanding thanks to the mining boom and both Dr Gadiyar and her husband began their journey into practice ownership. Dr Gadiyar obtained her qualifications in 2011 and started her own practice from scratch.
“Mackay was booming and there was a shortage of dentists so I decided to jump straight into practice ownership,” says Dr Gadiyar. “Thankfully, I had a business partner who was an experienced clinician. At the same time, my husband and I were trying for a baby and it just wasn’t happening. My obstetrician told me she didn’t think we would have a child without assistance.”
Dr Gadiyar decided to concentrate on planning the new practice, Sarina Dental Care, and organising the build. Then, once it was established, she could consider IVF. Of course, life has a way of upsetting the most carefully laid plans. No sooner had Dr Gadiyar signed the contract for building construction than she realised she was pregnant. The brand new practice opened its doors when she was five months pregnant.
“I consider myself very blessed that my business partner was so understanding,” says Dr Gadiyar. “We decided to rewrite our duties. I took care of the administration, reception training, hiring and things like that. He took over all the clinical work and we quickly hired an associate. When I took maternity leave, we hired another associate.”
Dr Gadiyar worked in the practice until 2017 and still owns it today. She also began expanding her reach, purchasing medical centres and other dental practices. She is always on the lookout for a viable dental practice and is hoping to add to her portfolio within the next few months.
“When I discovered there was no book available on the business of dentistry and medicine in Australia, I decided to write it.”
Dr Padma Gadiyar, founder, Professional
When purchasing an existing practice, Dr Gadiyar will invariably rebrand and refurbish everything to give it a new feel and to stamp it with her personality. She has recently spent a week getting all the compliance work finished on a newly purchased practice, Everton Park Dental in Brisbane.
“It’s very important to get all the systems and processes in place, as well as training the staff to be able to operate efficiently,” says Dr Gadiyar. “I’ve had all the instruments in the new practice completely re-sterilised so everything meets the highest levels of infection control. I want the practice operating to my standards, not those of the previous owner.”
When starting a dental practice from scratch, Dr Gadiyar looks for specific parameters before committing. “In my experience, if you can place the practice where there is high visibility and foot traffic, it will definitely work.”
Running multiple practices should be a logistical and administrative nightmare but Dr Gadiyar only spends about eight hours a week on admin thanks to her team and the managers who report directly to her.
“They know what sort of results I am expecting,” says Dr Gadiyar. “We fully discuss phone conversion rates and new patients, as well as recall, rebooking and referral rates. It’s essential to have the right people in the right positions. My practice managers are my superstars.”
Dr Gadiyar’s success in buying and running practices inspired her to help others achieve the dream of practice ownership. She started Professional Practice Sales, a business aimed at transaction advisory, brokerage and maximising the profitability of dental and medical practices. The website offers information about everything from market appraisals to selling tips to exit strategies. She also wrote a book, Buy, Build, Sell, to assist those wishing to embark on practice ownership.
Dr Michael Sernik is a dentist and CEO of Channel D, a company that creates personalised videos to be played in dental waiting rooms. He was a partner in Prime Practice until 2015, creating the extremely popular presentation, Prime Speak. It was at one of his talks that he first met Dr Gadiyar.
“It’s obvious when you talk to Padma that she’s very passionate and has a deep emotional connection to everything she’s doing,” says Dr Sernik. “She is extremely altruistic and wants to help other people. Padma also has a strong passion for success for herself—she’s very driven.
“She recognises the challenges in dentistry are not so much the clinical but the communication and the business challenges. Like the cliche says, when dentists graduate, they know how to do dentistry but that’s about it.”
It’s a common desire of most dentists to run their own practice at some stage of their career. However, business skills and practice ownership are not a part of a dental degree. It can be a challenging moment when a new practice owner realises they have to deal with administration, HR, marketing, training and dozens of other issues.
Effective business model
“When I discovered there was no book available on the business of dentistry and medicine in Australia, I decided to write it,” says Dr Gadiyar. “The best advice I give owners is to take a step back. Look at your business as if it belongs to a friend and you need to give them three suggestions on improvement.”
“She is extremely altruistic and wants to help other people. Padma also has a strong passion for success for herself—she’s very driven.”
Dr Michael Sernik, CEO, Channel D
Dr Harry Marget, principal dentist and director of East Bentleigh Dental Group in Melbourne, was also impressed by Dr Gadiyar’s commitment to expanding dental practice ownership.
“Having been a dental consultant myself for over 30 years, I noticed there was a sharing of joy, and a wealth of information in everything she has to say,” says Dr Marget. “Everything has method, design and has been tested. The information is clearly and accurately presented.”
“Her book, Buy, Build, Sell, is incredibly well-researched. I like that instead of talking about fillings, crowns and implants, it’s all about the business of dentistry. Some critics may believe you shouldn’t concern yourself with business over dentistry but, let me say this, to perform effective dentistry you need an effective business model.”
Dr Gadiyar is also passionate about inspiring women to embrace practice ownership. Her goal is to see 300 women purchase their own practices in the next three years. Not only is she releasing educational videos on her website and helping broker deals, she also contributes to the Women in Dentistry forum and the Women’s Dental Group on Facebook. In the next couple of months, Dr Gadiyar is starting a leadership program for women.
“In Australia in 2017, 53 per cent of dentists were women,” says Dr Gadiyar. “The sad fact is that less than 10 per cent of those women own their own practice. So, while the number of women dentists is growing, we’re not giving them the tools to balance their life the way they want. Women face a unique set of challenges that need to be overcome.”
With speaking engagements lined up at the Women In Industry Forum in Australia, followed by the Action To Win-Dentistry Leaders 2019 seminar in San Diego, Dr Gadiyar is busier than ever. Over the next few months she will also be talking at events in Abu Dhabi and India. Additionally, she is running workshops for Henry Schein Halas in October.
There is still the issue of her bucket list to be addressed—and the item at the number one position.
“One of my childhood dreams was to be a model,” says Dr Gadiyar with a smile. “When I was approached by a local pageant to instruct the girls on obtaining the right mindset, I jumped at the chance. It was all so exciting that I ended up competing in the pageant—and won. I’m now going to Mexico to compete in the Mrs Universal pageant there.
“Competing in these pageants has given me immense self-confidence. It has improved my health and appearance, and changed the way I carry myself. There are 22 other candidates in Mexico and we will be participating against each other and cheering for each other, too.
“It’s a fascinating journey to be undertaking. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot of interesting things.”