Chris Barrowman from Infinityblu talks about business growth and finance.
Posted on 13th March 2023 at 10:26
Chris Barrowman discusses the invaluable financial support he received from Performance Finance while setting up his practices.
Please introduce yourself
My name’s Chris Barrowman. I’m a dentist based in Scotland. Just a wee slight bit of history is I grew up in Glasgow, studied at Dundee.
In 2001 I graduated, so 20 years ago. I started working as a dentist. I absolutely loved dentistry and still do love dentistry, but I kind of saw there was an opportunity and something missing.
This is way back in 2007 when I started up my first practice.
I realised at that time people didn’t really focus on the patient experience, the patient journey and the culture within practices and building the relationships. Obviously it’s the big thing now, but that’s what got me into kind of practice ownership really. I got interested in the business side of things, which is then why I started looking into buying other practises and growing Infinityblu.
Can you give us a bit of background on Infinityblu? Talk us through the the journey, how you’ve built a group of successful practises and any particular hurdles that you’ve had to overcome on that journey.
It started as a squat and, as I said before, it was about starting from scratch and knowing that if I started from scratch, I could do things the way I wanted to do it, create this culture from the start. I wanted something that could grow into other sites if that was the way that we would hopefully go.
So in 2007 I bought a premises, refurbished it, started up as a squat practice and gradually people trickled in through the door. We massively overspent as these things happen, underestimated how much it was going to be, back to the bank to get more lending.
And, you know, thankfully at that time they invested in me. We grew the practice over time. Once we got to the stage where we were comfortably busy there, and to be honest it was pretty well bang on 10 years, we then started the next squat. The second practice came in 2017.
It was ten years later when we opened the doors to the NHS to get patients in through the door. It’s from that that we’ve acquired more practices.
We got two practices in 2018, both relatively local to where we were. You can almost throw a blanket over the area, which was great. Patients were starting to know a wee bit about us, their friends went to Infinityblu practices.
And then in 2021 we bought three practices and in 2022 we bought another two practices and, for my son, set another squat up in the middle of it. It’s been good. But what you tend to find is that it’s always quite slow at the start and as you start to build numbers.
You mentioned there the financial side of it, purchasing difficulties, purchasing other practices. What support did you receive on that side?
So very early stage, back in day one, we went down the traditional banking route. That was the thing that you did. You went to your High Street bank and you borrowed money. It’s a good way a lot of people go at the start, or certainly used to go at the start.
But what I find with the High Street banks is that it’s always a hoop jumping exercise. They don’t look at everything in an individual side of things. It can be very difficult because, even though you’re jumping around saying, ‘look what I’ve done, look what I’ve achieved, I’ve tripled the turnover in 18 months’, they actually don’t like someone that’s very entrepreneurial.
And with bank lending, the more you grow, the harder and harder it becomes to actually borrow from the bank because they start to see it as a wee bit more of a risk profile.
They just like really safe lending.
So that’s where the relationship with Performance Finance started – around about 2018.
I think it was an autoclave at the start.
We went to do an autoclave on a lease maintenance package, and then it was chairs, and then it was purchase of practice, purchase of property, refurb this property.
As this built, we got a really good relationship.
It’s a stage now where I know they’re comfortable lending to me. There’s a number of different things that you can borrow or get lending for.
What kind of things would you approach Performance Finance for? And what’s available through Performance Finance?
It’s broken down into different things. You’ve got your obvious ones – equipment, whether it’s a dental chair, whether it’s an autoclave, whether it’s doing it on a five year service and maintenance package, digital scanners, CBCTs.
The next things is purchasing of practices. So when you’re buying a practice you’re buying your goodwill and your assets.
We’ve taken lending for refurbishments. So practices might say, ‘we’re going to add another surgery to this practice’, or ‘we’re going to improve the patient journey’. We’ve probably got six or seven refurbs going on at the moment in our different practices.
The final thing we’ve had lending for is property purchases as well.
How easy have you found it to work with Performance Finance?
It’s been great. They have been absolutely fantastic with me. Once you start to get that relationship built with them, they become very comfortable with you.
They almost invest in the person. The more they get to know you, the more they start to invest in you. They are very knowledgable about your business. It feels like a small family.
You’ve got a really professional, friendly service. And it’s really easy lending from them. There’s lots of opportunities and they’ve got a good panel of lenders.
This video was first published by FMC on dentistry.co.uk
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