October 13, 2022

The ‘small’ business doing big numbers

The smart plays that are seeing a cosmetic medicine operator deliver to 20,000 customers a year.

Australia’s medical cosmetic industry was in its infancy when recently graduated medical doctor Lee Lua began his training in the mid-1990s. Treatments like dermal filling, skin peels and laser skin rejuvenation were uncommon and expensive.

Fast-forward almost three decades and that’s all changed. Australians now spend a combined $1 billion a year on cosmetic treatments, according to the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery and Medicine. Centres offering a host of non-surgical interventions are common in cities and suburbs across the country.

Providing high-quality service and treatments at affordable prices has allowed Dr Lua to ride the demand wave and build a thriving injectables and laser treatment business employing a seven-strong medical team.

Located across Brisbane and on the Gold Coast, his seven b clinic treatment centres service around 20,000 customers a year. The average customer makes three visits each year, spending $520 a session.

Small is beautiful

Clever design and innovative use of technology allow Dr Lua to keep overheads low while maximising the patient experience. Bookings are handled by a long-hours call centre, and digital technology is used to register customers upon arrival at five of the sites, thereby eliminating the need for receptionists and reception areas.

It’s a business model Dr Lua hit upon in 2010 when looking to consolidate a handful of clinics he was operating at that time under the banner Renew You. The decision to re-engineer and rebrand coincided with the appointment of CEO Glenn Lawlor, who’s managed b clinic’s commercial affairs since then.

“When we came up with the concept of b clinic back in 2010, we decided to pare everything back and leave only what was absolutely needed,” Dr Lua explains.

“Doing so meant we were able to open new premises in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, in a 32m2 site. It was a way to contain costs without compromising service levels. Scaling down meant our clinics needed to see fewer customers to break even and could offer treatments at prices more people could afford.”

It also makes for a more relaxing patient experience, Lawlor adds. “Because the calls all go to one place, the phones aren’t ringing in the other centres. It’s calm and peaceful – there’s no receptionist so there’s no hustle and bustle – and everything from the first point of contact through the procedure to billing and aftercare happens seamlessly.

“Customers find that reassuring and they come back to us time and again because we’ve got that flow right.”

Founder & Creative Director Dr Lee Lua , b clinic Founder & Creative Director, says paring back to the essentials helped b clinic grow.

Building beneficial relationships

 It typically takes around two years to get a new doctor up to speed with the range of treatments offered by b clinic, and for the doctor to build a customer base. At the end of a doctor’s training, they’re offered the opportunity to enter a joint venture with the company, and a number have done so. Others have elected to continue working for b clinic on a contract basis.

Creating attractive career pathways has benefits for both parties, Dr Lua explains. “The doctor who wants to be their own boss, enjoy more of the rewards and feel a sense of ownership can do so, and be more successful from day one, under the b clinic umbrella than they would be if they opened their own standalone clinic.”

“And it’s a way for b clinic to grow organically and in a very controlled way – having doctors who are highly trained and part of our system working in partnership with us to build a stable, successful business.”

NAB there when it matters

b clinic has partnered with NAB since 2005. Over the years, the bank and its Medfin subsidiary have funded the fit-out of new premises and provided in equipment finance for the acquisition of laser technology.

Working with a bank that understands the complexities and nuances of the healthcare sector has been invaluable, Lawlor says.

“One of the things that attracted us in the early days was having access to a specialist NAB Health banker who knew what they were talking about. Being able to sit down with someone, one on one, who knew the industry and understood what doctors required from a financial institution was a big thing.

“That understanding has continued as the business has expanded and, over the years, we’ve developed a trusted, long-term relationship. You might go a few months without talking to someone, but pick up the phone and straightaway they know what’s going on because they’ve been keeping an eye on us. It’s a comfort to know that they’ve got our back as we continue to grow the business.”

b clinic CEO Glenn Lawlor says access to specialist NAB Health bankers has been invaluable.
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