Linda and I moved up to the highlands nearly 4 years ago and what a busy few years we have had. We ran a successful dental practice in Morningside in Edinburgh for 7 years, but then I started to get itchy feet! We had young family by this point and with our son approaching school age we decided that now would be a good time to make a move. Having grown up in Elgin, and with family still there, settling in the highlands made sense.
The move was not without some degree of trepidation as we were making the decision to engage the sale of a successful business and bring about change to a happy family life in Edinburgh. Why upset the balance? After a lot of thought we finally decided that the lifestyle the highlands offered would be worth it. Once the wheels were set in motion our move developed a momentum and we have not looked back since.
I secured an associate position at Eden Dental Clinic and I am grateful to Ken Proven for the opportunity to have worked there for 3 years. Linda worked at Inchvannie Dental practice in Dingwall. Dentistry is dentistry wherever you go, but I soon came to realise that it’s important in the highlands to check where your patients live before asking them to “pop back in tomorrow” for a small occlusal restoration, especially when they live in Kinlochbervie! Patients are quite accustomed to travel over 200miles, round trip for a dental appointment.
Life based on the Black Isle has been great…there’s so much to do, from the world class golf courses, amazing mountains and scenery, fun places to eat and drink and Linda has even taking to “wild swimming” in Loch Achilty. The fishing’s not too bad either! The highland life is rich indeed and to quote a chap I met on the golf course last week…” It’s a millionaires’ lifestyle on a tradesman’s wage”!
So our hearts are very much set and we look forward to our future in this lovely part of the world.
Once you have run your own business and have become used to the responsibility of making your own decisions it is difficult to go back to being an associate and it was probably inevitable that Linda and I would look to set up our own practice once again. After some discussion we decided to set up a “squat” practice.
We discussed with our architect who designed our house extension, the facilities required within a new building, to create a modern dental practice that conforms to all the current regulations. With regards to a brand new purpose built surger; it soon became apparent that after securing the site, building and other set up fees, the cost for us was prohibitive…. So it was back to the traditional dental practice route of looking for a building to convert.
A few weeks later the same architect phoned me to point us in the direction of the Old Church of Scotland Mission Hall on the seafront in North Kessock. We arranged a viewing and immediately fell in love with the location and the building. There are lots of practices within the Inverness area, several in Dingwall but none within the Black Isle. North Kessock is an ideal location for those commuting to and from Inverness, has a bus route which stops directly outside the practice, ample parking, as well as being an expanding village with new homes being built all the time. This was a key selling point of our business plan, as well as a comfort to us personally taking on the risk of setting up something new.
Architects drawings were made and we then looked into the feasibility. As already mentioned we were happy with the location, but the financial aspect was equally important. Having used figures from our previous business in Edinburgh, as well as knowledge from our current employment, estimates from our builders and other suppliers, we assembled a suitable business plan with audited financial projections. With help from our accountants we were able to see that if we secured sufficient patients and kept costs to a realistic budget we could create a great practice.
Times have changed since we bought the last practice in Edinburgh when it comes to obtaining lending from the banks. It was hard work, with plenty of hoops to jump through and a lot of security! Be prepared to sign your life away!
We got there in the end and were able to engage the builders (Simpsons of Beauly) who were excellent. They replaced the rotting trusses, the old asbestos roof with slate, put in central heating, rewired the whole building and constructed the studs to define all the surgeries, LDU, staff rooms etc. Four months later with our practice inspection looming we were nearly ready to open.
I am so, so thankful to my wife who did the vast majority of the work required for the inspection which we subsequently passed!
Since we opened, the practice has exceeded our expectations and the support of the local community of North Kessock has been simply fantastic. In fact, the whole project has been incredibly well supported by a network of great companies and teams including Highland Dental Plan(with special thanks to Gary Moore), NHS Highland , Wrights Cottrell (particularly Neil Worrall who designed the surgeries and Fiona Anderson who assisted with surgery set up), Simpsons of Beauly, Johnston and Carmichael and Carestream Dental. We are lucky in this profession to have such professional and capable support companies- after all our expertise is… teeth!
So, we are now 6 months in and thriving. We are looking to expand and take on a new full time associate and a hygienist in the near future.
Finally, I must say that there is a wealth of great dental nurses in the highlands and creating a happy positive team is perhaps the most essential part of our business. Our staff has been so important in establishing the mood of the practice and we are delighted with them and their help in setting up. Patients can sense the “vibe” in a dental practice and good vibes cannot be underestimated as a selling point.
As I write this we’ve just seen the bottle nosed dolphins return to the Beauly firth opposite North Kessock and would thoroughly recommend a visit to see them. They are usually found right opposite the dental surgery!.... so if you’re down why not pop your head round the door and say hi….
Peter and Linda Murray