When a Perth dentist decided to create a boutique practice, the first person he turned to for help was his designer brother. Kerryn Ramsey discovers the brotherly bond.
‘‘I have a lot of respect for people who want to own a string of practices with 15 dentists and a staff of 150,” says Dr Hooman Golestani, owner of Dental 359 in the Perth suburb of Subiaco. “But that’s not for me. All I ever wanted was a small, boutique practice that offers high-quality dentistry and really spoils the patient.”
While Dr Golestani’s ideas seem to fly in the face of traditional business thinking, Dental 359 has gone from strength to strength. It has a large client base that is offered unrushed, high-quality dentistry in a space that looks more like an art gallery than a surgery. And though he has cut back on his working hours, he is booked in advance and his business is more profitable than ever.
It’s possible that his success stems from knowing exactly what he didn’t want. For nine years, Dr Golestani was a partner in a practice that was almost the exact opposite of Dental 359. “My partner and I had a lot of great ideas but our core values were different. My philosophy is very much based on high-quality, low-volume boutique dentistry. In the old practice, every room was designed to be as identical as possible, just like a factory. “There was no personality to the place and we worked a seven-day week. Our home phone numbers were advertised in the Yellow Pages and we used to get lots of emergency calls. It was a torturous experience but it helped me set up my current practice.” The site was purchased back in 1999. Originally a small warehouse, it had been on the market for nearly three years, mainly because it was situated in the ‘nothing’ zone of Rokeby Road, Subiaco. The local council was desperate to revitalise the area revitalised and was willing to offer a few concessions to Dr Golestani. His plans to develop the property into a dental practice of exceedingly high standard saw the relaxing of rules in regard to the number of parking bays required.
In fact, the mayor stood beside Dr Golestani at a council meeting and backed the visionary practitioner 100 per cent. That night he received a vote of confidence from the council and approval for his plans. And what plans they were! Dr Golestani had entrusted the design of his surgery to his brother, Hootan, who at the time was working as a graduate architect. Hootan recalls the design brief given to him by his brother. “He said to me very clearly: ‘I don’t want 20 practices, I don’t want dozens of employees and I don’t want multiple dentists. I want boutique. I want small. I want me, a hygienist and a couple of staff members. We need a bathroom with fresh flowers, bright lights where they need to be, and dim lights where they need to be. I want the highest grade equipment and the highest quality chair. I want to be considered the most innovative dentist in Perth.’ “I looked at him and said, ‘You don’t want to make money, do you?’” says Hootan with a laugh. Nevertheless, the architect went away and designed a practice that would capture the imagination of everybody who saw it.
There were sliding walls, waves in the ceiling, sinuous curves and a spacious boardroom. From the front entrance, it was possible to see all the way to the back of the building. Doors disappeared into curved wall cavities like a sci-fi dream come true. Massive floor-to-ceiling glass exterior walls brought the outside in. “I immediately knew this was it,” recalls Dr Golestani. “I scrounged around, sold a few things including my car, and came up with enough cash to keep as much of his design as I possibly could.” Dental 359 opened its doors in February 2000 and Dr Golestani’s first patient was his father. He was also his only patient. Since then his business has grown exponentially and the cutting-edge design of the practice has remained a major source of joy for both brothers. “Of course, you have to back up the beautiful architecture with good quality dentistry. You can’t just look good—you need to be good,” says Dr Golestani. “So many people have come in and said it feels like Star Trek,” says Dr Golestani. “When I tell people the building was completed in 1999, their jaws drop. The design was so perfect when it opened, we’ve hardly changed a thing.” At that time it was almost impossible to find a dental surgery that wasn’t a combination of plain white walls, straight lines and clinical detachment with magazines from the 1980s in the waiting room. “There is absolutely no need for a dental practice to be so glum,” says Dr Golestani. “It is understandable that doctors’ surgeries are not playful places; sometimes the news can be quite bad. However, even though a visit to the dentist can be a hard process, the end result is that you have a better smile and healthy gums. In my office, when people visit the dentist, the outcome is nearly always positive.” Dr Golestani positioned his boutique practice as a surgery for high-end cosmetic work where a lot of traditional dentistry was not even performed.
However, he soon noticed a void. Every now and then a patient would come in with severe periodontitis, missing teeth or even no teeth. Dr Golestani would have no choice but to refer these patients to a surgeon—and this didn’t sit well with him. “I believe in the concept of giving people a nice smile,” says the practitioner. “If I can’t do it with their own teeth then I have to use something else. That’s where the All-On-4™ Dental Implant system fitted in.” Even though Dr Golestani had been placing implants since the early ’90s, about four years ago he changed to the Malo protocol and last year, Dental 359 became part of the worldwide group of Malo Clinics. Dr Golestani now offers the All-On-4™ Dental Implant technique pioneered by Dr Paulo Malo. His agenda is to provide the highest standard of graftless implant solutions for people who require implants to support their teeth. “I now have a predictable and ethical means to give ‘aesthetic dentistry’ to those who don’t have their own teeth.” While Dental 359 has been an unrivalled success, Dr Golestani’s business plan is obviously unsuitable for all practices. “I believe there’s more to a business than just making bucks,” he says. “You’re working for your patients and you genuinely have to love and care for them. By providing honest quality care, you’re proud of your work, sleep better at night and your patients will keep coming back. They will also happily recommend you to their friends. “At the same time, there has to be practices that cater for people who don’t want a boutique, high-end result,” says Dr Golestani. “And it’s those sorts of practices that allow me to do what I love to do. I think there’s plenty of room in the industry for everyone.”