From east to west: How I did it – Dr Baljinder Singh

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  Posted by: The Probe      4th October 2019

Dr Baljinder Singh Grewal explains how the success of running several of his own dental practices in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, motivated him to emigrate to the UK and set up another clinic in Guildford, Surrey.

I used to own private practices in a very affluent area of Kuala Lumpur. My family and I moved to the UK under an entrepreneur visa in May of 2016, before I passed my statutory examinations with the GDC and became a registered dentist in 2018. I thought this would be the best time to set up another practice in the UK. My wife and I were very confident that this one would be as successful as Grewal Dental Surgery was in Kuala Lumpur, provided it was in the right place.

Planning

We had originally put together a business plan for London, but this changed quickly when we realised how many dentists were already based in the city. We decided to look elsewhere and eventually found a property that had “good vibes” and was excellently located in Guildford. Eastgate Dental Clinic was established as a practice that patients could feel comfortable to attend and receive high quality treatment from an experienced and caring dentist.

Many dentists advised me that it would be very difficult and costly to set up a squat practice in the UK. Of course, my wife and I had some reservations with regard to embarking on such a project – one that was not only challenging and frustrating for us, but also for our 11-year-old daughter. There were so many guidelines we had to adhere to, especially in relation to registering with the CQC. The project was also expensive but luckily, we could rely on our savings and also had a finance scheme approved for the dental equipment we purchased. Overall, preparing for this project was quite an arduous affair, but my wife and I were determined to ensure its success by working through any issues methodically.  

Renovation

The project went ahead once we received the property lease, which took about 4 months. As the building had already been refurbished and listed as a D1 commercial property, designing the practice was quite straightforward with the help of Clark Dental. We only had to renovate two surgeries, a radiograph room for the OPG system, and a decontamination room. Sales Director for Clark Dental, Matt Rowlingson, was brilliant. He designed all four areas, before sending the plans over for us to look at, which we were very pleased with.  

Matt’s service didn’t stop there, as he went on to put together all the electrical and plumbing designs for the contractors to follow. The support we received from Clark Dental was fantastic – Matt planned exactly what dental equipment would go where. I was surprised but so very thankful for all the hard work that he and his team put into designing Eastgate Dental Clinic.

Once we approved the surgery designs, we chose an excellent contractor who was recommended to us by Clark Dental. Dentabuild began renovating the practice in early July 2018 and all the work was completed within roughly 3 weeks. Managing Director of Dentabuild, Gareth Davies, and his team were very professional and did an excellent job with the renovations. CQC consultant, Saba Ariff, was also on hand to ensure we were complying with regulatory guidelines.  

The other rooms in the practice – including the reception and restrooms – only required very minor renovation work. Mark Owen from E. Owen & Son, a local company from Guildford, did a superb job changing the carpets in the reception area and in the hallways leading to the surgeries. My wife chose the colour scheme for the surgery floorings and countertops, as well as the practice décor and furnishings, with a little help from my daughter and I.

Installation

The dental chairs and equipment we purchased were partly financed by Braemar Finance and installed by Clark Dental, who were easy to work with and provided excellent support and training. Again, Matt was always there to lend a helping hand. We had many productive conversations with him regarding the equipment that would complement the dental chairs, what products were necessary for the practice, and which we could do without.

Selecting the equipment – especially the dental chairs – was a no-brainer. For 24 years, I had used Anthos packages in Malaysia and experienced no problems with them. Of course, so long as you regularly service them, dental chairs and equipment will last a long time. I did look at other dental chair models, but some of these were above my budget, so Anthos was always going to be my first choice – and the right one.

Clark Dental not only supplied us with intraoral sensors and an OPG system, but also installed ultra modern Apex dental cabinetry with integrated LED lights, which we were very impressed with.

Marketing

Upon completion of the renovation work, we hired Digimax to set up a practice website and help us design flyers that we distributed around Guildford to market the practice to prospective patients. At the time, we offered free check-ups until the end of February 2019 with 15% off any dental procedures performed. In order to help patients spread the cost of treatment, we offer bespoke payment plans through Denplan. Our aim now is to advertise the practice in Guildford’s local magazines, so we have contacted a company that helps promote new, small businesses within the community, as well as other existing businesses around Guildford town centre. We hope to attract even more patients by offering promotions on treatment from time to time. 

Reflection

I was very proud to pass my statutory examinations with the GDC in 2018, enabling me to work in the UK as a dentist. Setting up my own practice in Guildford is also a huge personal achievement. With practice renovations complete, we embark on another journey. For me, the real work begins now, to attract new patients to the practice and start earning a return on our investment. In order to be competitive, we must keep up with the times and make relevant changes within the business so as not to get left behind.

Although it was difficult locating a suitable property for the practice and refurbishing it, the support provided by my family has been great. Successfully launching the practice is a big relief for all of us and I have had many congratulatory messages from friends. The best part of the entire process was seeing the great sense of pride on my wife’s face upon project completion. My only regret is that I didn’t come to the UK 20 years ago to practise dentistry. If I had, I would be an established clinician by now thinking about retiring and taking my lovely wife on some nice holidays!

Advice

If you are considering setting up a squat practice, I advise you to ensure you have the finances to do so. I also recommend that you find the most appropriate location for your practice, but – more importantly – seek out a reliable dental equipment supplier who can assist you in renovating the property to the highest possible standard.

 

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For more information call Clark Dental on 01268 733 146, email info@clarkdental.co.ukor visit www.clarkdental.co.uk

 

 

Author bio:

Dr Baljinder Singh Grewal is a cosmetic dentist and dental surgeon from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He was awarded his Bachelor of Dental Surgery from the University of Malaya in 1986. Dr Grewal has gained over 30 years’ experience practising dentistry in Malaysian state-run hospitals and private dental clinics. He moved to the UK in 2016, before becoming a GDC qualified dentist in 2018. He practises general dentistry, but has a keen interest in cosmetic and restorative dentistry, endodontics, minor oral and maxillofacial surgery, and prosthodontics.

 


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