Revolutionising dentistry through Joint Venture Partnerships
Dr Zuber Bagasi, CEO of Synergy Dental Group on channelling the inspiration of Dr Anil Shrestha, Dr
Amrik Bhandal, Dame Mary Perkins and Sir Richard Branson to forge a new path through the dental
or clarity, I need to go back to the beginning. During my
undergraduate study, I was taught by some of the best clinicians in
the country. One of whom was Dr Anil Shrestha. His philosophy of dentistry was very simple; ‘Aspire
to be the best so that patient outcomes are incredible’. He
moulded the way I felt about dentistry and his teaching influences Synergy even today.
Shortly after graduating from the University of Birmingham, I commenced my vocational training
under Dr Amrik
Bhandal. Transitioning from a single-surgery practice to the fortress-like practice and hub of the
Bhandal dental empire, I couldn’t help but admire his work ethic, passion, and the success the
Bhandal family had achieved.
Growing as a clinician under Amrik, I set my eyes on the North West. Being a Bolton lad at heart, I
to return home and I made plans for my relocation. I began contacting the Primary Care Trust in the
hope of obtaining a new practice contract, working during the day and corresponding with the PCTs
in the evenings. Most ignored me, some declined politely and with those that responded positively,
I opened a dialogue. Dr Bhandal was incredibly supportive of my plans, readily offering advice and
After several correspondences, I secured invitations to present my proposal.
Congratulated on my ambition but ultimately guided to rethink and return once my proposal was more
concrete, I came away with a new-found determination and within months, a second invitation came my
way. One of the PCTs had approached about possibly setting up a squat practice in Blackpool.
Advised to set out a formal business plan, I got to work.
The presentation went flawlessly, shaking my hand, they had been blown away. It was then the
Synergy journey had begun, and I haven’t looked back since.
When setting up that practice, I would often reminisce about attending dentistry shows as an
undergraduate. Overhearing clinicians discuss growth within dentistry and a theory resonated again
and again, the bigger you are, the worse you become.
My own theories as an outsider were that the issue was a lack of management structure, internal
motivation, training, and investment in staff and equipment, I surmised that there must be a better
Amongst my friends, most have gone on to work in healthcare, Optometry, Pharmacy, Audiology. Often
speaking about how we could bring healthcare to the pinnacle of its offering to patients. One
friend in particular and I had
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been examining how we could model a healthcare business that supported growth without compromising
on patient care.
How could we empower and motivate staff members? How could we nurture a balanced environment of
successful business practices and total patient
satisfaction? We knew we needed to focus on companies like Google and Virgin, businesses such as
Vision Express and Specsavers. What are their philosophies? What do they do right? By consuming as
many biographies as we could, it became apparent that its remarkably simple. Firstly, have fun in
what you do so that work doesn’t become work. Second, you must
do right by the customer, put them first whatever industry you’re in. And Finally, enjoy the fruits
of your endeavours. This is the point where the philosophy of the Joint Venture Partnerships
The Optometrist, Pharmacist and myself were all at a similar level in our careers and all had a
keen interest in applying
the lessons we had learned from these various business models to a Joint Venture framework, putting
at the forefront of service provision. We modelled the first JV model and tested it in Optometry.
To cut a long story short, that friend now has over a hundred optical Joint Venture Partnership
practices throughout the UK. After tackling Optometry, we moved to apply the same structure to the
Audiology model, which is now worth
over nine million a year in that field. The JV model in the pharmacy sector is also becoming more
Dentistry was always going to be difficult to crack, due to all the extra governance, recruitment
issues, lack of simplicity
in training and development and the contractual limitations. Knowing this, I had begun to develop
the JVP model for dentistry, even prior to approaching the
commissioners in 2006, I had to have a clear vision from day one.
By 2010, Synergy had grown from a one surgery practice to four and with each new practice, I gained
insight and I funnelled these lessons in to my ever-expanding
JVP plan. I had proven that the basic tenet of replicating a successful practice could be done, but
in order for the JVP model to work, I needed to know that the right policies and systems were
operating flawlessly, ensuring the governance and
training elements were working and guaranteeing growth could be supported through robust IT
systems. All had to be developed and rigorously tested in my own practices before allowing the
model to be accessible to the right people.
The first partnership came in 2010. That practice is still there in the West-Midlands, going strong
a decade since launch. I planned to replicate the model annually and our KPIs were showing some
serious results. All our systems continued to function as intended, and so in 2011, 2012, through
to 2017, we expanded. Balancing my time between management and the clinical work I love, it was
time to now consolidate our systems in a state-of-the- art headquarters. The dedicated operational
staff at HQ work on all our marketing, accounts, HR, governance, and IT. We have a centralised call
centre, training facilities and office space. All developed over the
last few years and working harmoniously to facilitate all our operational needs and ensuring that
we are ready to allow other practices to come and join the family through the JVP.
Since then, we’ve become Greater Manchester and Lancashire’s largest provider of Invisalign and the
North-West’s top provider of Straumann Implants. Staff turnover is very low and morale is very
high. Through JVP, we have secured many dental contracts through tendering too.
We want to give this opportunity to new aspiring associates, thinking about dental partnerships.
The current pandemic has hit humanity hard, but our attitude is that we recover, audit our work,
look at where things have gone right, where things could have gone better and bounce back. As
counter intuitive as it seems, it’s a brilliant time for associates to gain security in their
careers and invest in a first dental practice. We don’t believe
the JVP is for everyone, just the exceptional few. If you feel that your primary ethos is for your
ideas, enthusiasm and creativity to flow into your practice to the benefit of your patients, then
absolutely, this is for you. To the hard workers that think beyond the role of an associate
dentist, give it all you’ve got and you’ll do well.
The whole ethos of why this model has been so successful in other areas of the healthcare industry
is that the central support and family environment that we build is there to support clinicians
within their own environment. The governance, training, recruitment, financials, business
strategies, support with the CQC and commissioners, everything that you require to operate
efficiently has been trialled and proven to work. Leverage off everything we have achieved and
kickstart your career.
As a practicing dentist myself, I recognise the benefits of investing in a cutting-
edge environment for all associates. Increasing productivity, generating more predictable treatment
outcomes with less administration, providing the ability to embrace the latest techniques and more
importantly, maintain a passion for dentistry. We have strong emphasis on clinical mentoring with
a range of mentors to support you through your clinical journey, free of charge. Nurturing and
developing you not only as a great dentist but a great businessperson too, with the freedom to
manage as you see fit. With Synergy taking care of the nuances of practice ownership, we allow you
to focus on your career and patients. We have developed many dentists into providing mentorship
themselves through our platform for clinical development.
We strive for a diverse workforce to
challenge and bring the best out of each other, providing a family-like atmosphere in all our
workspaces. Giving staff some room to breathe without feeling overwhelmed with their workload. Less
stress, more success. The Joint Venture Partnership is not new within healthcare, but it is a new
framework for dentistry.
In part two Zuber discusses how the JVP can benefit existing practice owners and how this model
offers a feeling of fresh air ◆
through Joint Venture
Partnerships – Part 2
In this second article, Zuber Bagasi shows just how effectively the strategy and ethos behind the
Joint Venture Partnership can be tweaked and pivoted to compliment an existing, more established
practice for associate dentists.
s a practice owner and clinician myself, I know all too well, the struggle of balancing the many
duties of a multi-role dentist.
Whilst we have been developing the JVP model for over a decade, ensuring that each element of the
strategy works in harmony with the rest, allowing our associates to step up and to invest in our
existing practices or procure new brand new facilities, the whole pandemic allowed us to take a
step back, assess the situation and think slightly differently.
As an existing practice owner, you might have built a really strong practice over the years, you
would have obviously put a lot of hard work into what you do, you’ve secured a loyal patient base
and cultivated staff within the practice you have looked after. Now this pandemic hits and there is
a lot of stress and uncertainty. Anxiety within the industry is surely through the roof.
Immediately, a lot of questions came to mind. What is the future of dentistry? Both NHS and
do you do? What are your options? Option one is to ignore everything, imagine nothing has happened,
try to follow the regulations and advice that’s been offered by the CDO as closely as possible and
just carry on as much as you can. Option two is to throw in your towel, enough is enough, and sell
on to an
associate, to other corporates or an incoming buyer. These have been the two main mindsets I have
come across when speaking to colleagues across the industry. I know that a lot of practice owners
are thinking ‘I’ve had enough, I want to sell up, I want to have an easy life, I want to see my
children grow up, I want to spend time with my family’.
But there is a third option, an option that diverged from the Joint Venture Partnership model. In a
situation where an owner doesn’t really want to sell up, and they feel they
have had their hand forced with all the new regulations, difficulties, and uncertainties. The
option we propose is that you, as a practice owner, would keep your brand identity, keep your
practice, you would retain full ownership and you can allow us, with the experience
that we have, to take over the running of your practice and support you whilst you either stay in
the practice and continue with the work you love or even take a back seat.
Within a Joint Venture Management model, we will do just that, exactly like the Joint Venture
Partnership model except for the
fact that we don’t have an equity within your practice. Taking care of the nuances of practice
ownership, allowing you to focus on your career and your patients. We’ll do everything for you,
marketing, HR, recruitment, training,
appraisals, we’ll handle the operational aspects of practice management for you whilst you sit back
and get involved as little or as much as you want. Allow your practice, yourself and your staff the
room that’s required sometimes and when you are ready to step back in, whether that be in a
clinical or managerial capacity, that’s absolutely fine, you can.
The Joint Venture model that we’ve developed has allowed each practice that we handle to increase
its revenues, its turnover, its EBITDA. One possible outcome could be for you to have it valued
two, three years down the line and your EBITDA will have improved, your value will have improved,
then exit at that point. This strategy is
something very new to dentistry, but I believe it is an exciting offering for the professional and
I say to all practice owners looking for options ‘There is another way’.
Our Joint Venture Management model can be tailored and customised to suit the individual and will
be negotiated on a case-by case basis. For example, it might
be that practice owners want to allow us to invest in their practice as a 50/50 partner or even a
20% partner, or even a 70% partner, whatever you feel comfortable with. It might be that practice
owners want to fully sell their practice and remain on as an associate,
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‘It’s exciting times and it’s
refreshing to see the work that we have dove over the last decade has been very successful over the
wider healthcare economy and has finally been brought into dentistry after rigorous trial and
whatever it is, this Joint Venture model that we have created will work for you.
It’s exciting times and it’s refreshing to see the work that we have dove over the last decade has
been very successful over the wider healthcare economy and has finally been brought into dentistry
trial and testing. The central support network that we have developed, human beings, all very well
supported, trained, and nurtured to provide the level of skill and attitude that the centralised
team require. Supported by the system they operate in, with bespoke software developments, whether
that’s through our accredited, IDDA award-winning training platform, as well as our business
management solution, SynPro which allows practice owners access to all the governance, accounts and
marketing at their fingertips. As a partner and practice owner, you will have your stats available
as a live feed at the touch of a button, in real-time. All your accounts data, your marketing, all
your governance and your compliance with the CQC, everything is available instantly.
The systems we have developed are
of course, the backbone of all our Joint Ventures. In the last article I explained that the
genesis of our Joint Venture philosophy was heavily inspired by outside
elements, away from the dental industry, the development and ethos behind our systems has been no
different. Take a brief look at the aviation industry and you will find that a pilot will probably
only physically fly a plane for just a few minutes during take-off and landing, the rest of the
time the plane
is on auto-pilot. But nonetheless, there is still a rigorous checklist involved to make sure safety
is paramount. Look into how the automotive industry is becoming ever more automated, from the
robotic manufacturing process, testing and development,
onboard computers keeping an eye on the functionality of the vehicle, right up to the cars
themselves driving autonomously. It is clear to see that the world is becoming less and less
reliant on human interaction in order to work for us and we believe dentistry, down to the
individual practices and associates, has to pick up that pace and keep up with that innovation if
we are to survive.
The systems of appraisals, of HR, of governance, all these things that normally weigh us down and
take us away from the face-to-face needs of our patients, we as dentists really need to have
systems in place to make that behind-the-scenes process more automated and compliant. We believe
that our JVM model is the perfect gateway to that future. Stress free and enabling the kind of
growth and development practice owners dream of. We at Synergy understand that the bottom line is
always very important but we have shown that each and every practice that we have ran, the
partnerships that we have cultivated, the practices have flourished and it’s something that we feel
you as a practice owner should benefit from too.
As mentioned previously, I am still a busy, practicing clinician even with all the responsibilities
of being the CEO and operational head of the Synergy Dental
Group. I feel it is a testament to the success of these systems and the centralised team that I am
able to maintain the face-to-face interaction with my patients that I love
as well as having a full and rewarding life outside of work, spending time with my family, engaging
with my hobbies and enjoying the fruits of my labour.
Alongside the support behind-the-scenes, as part of a JVM partnership, practice owners will benefit
from all the advancements in technology and procedures a member of
the Joint venture Partnership would. A fully stocked, cutting edge upgrade to your surgeries to
enable a smoother workflow, more predictable outcomes and the ability to embrace the latest
techniques and more importantly, you and your fellow associates
continue to enjoy and maintain your passion for your career.
If you feel that either the JVP or JVM models we offer may be of some benefit to you, we’d love to
hear from you. ◆