Business, Feature, Report

When one plan leads to another

What started out as a small project to improve the layout in a regional practice with a large floorplan turned into a major renovation that tripled in budget.

When independent Bairnsdale optometry practice Dyson and Long embarked on its own renovation journey, optometrist and part-business owner Dr Cameron Dyson described it as “like an episode of Grand Designs.”

Cameron Dyson.

The practice has been in business for 30 years. What began in 1990 as a 75sqm practice has now more than quadrupled in size.

“When I started, the practice consisted of a visiting optometrist and dispenser. We moved to our current location – which is a massive space at 350sqm – about 18 years ago and now offer a more upmarket, medically-orientated eyecare service. We also dropped bulk-billing when we moved and adopted a fee-for-service model,” Dyson says.

A few years ago, Dyson and his business partners agreed they needed a new look but mainly wanted to redesign the layout, including the reception desk that lacked functionality.

“It started off as wanting one big reception desk instead of the existing two, but one thing led to another,” he says.

The reception desk and frames cabinets before the renovation.

The practice eventually employed a Melbourne-based duo to completely redesign the practice. The design process took an entire year with the designers ultimately creating detailed 3D models of the new practice, which was then handed to Box Retail, a company specialising in turn-key shop fit-outs for the optical industry, to bring to life.

“We closed the practice for the renovation and put the bulk of the practice’s contents in storage. We leased rooms in a nearby office space and ran a skeleton practice for a month or so. We did this for two reasons; continuity of patient care, and to mitigate cost,” he says.

Although the budget blew out – tripling what they’d initially imagined – the proposed design looked fantastic and they didn’t want to cut corners, Dyson says.

The reception desk post-renovation.

“It looked amazing when Box Retail finished the fit-out. Their workmanship was literally spot-on. When comparing photos of the finished renovation with the 3D plans, they looked virtually identical,” Dyson says.

The project may have gone over budget, but it was delivered on time.

“When we were organising to move into temporary office space, we said to Box Retail that we’ve leased this office space for four weeks, and had booked appointments in the new practice, so they’ve got to be done and out by that day – and they did it, to their credit.”

Dyson says even now, a few years since renovating, people always comment on the practice’s pleasing aesthetic.

“Makeovers give businesses a boost. You’ve got to weigh up the business boost against the cost of doing it. We could afford to do it,” Dyson says.

An example of the practice’s outdated aesthetic.

Although his business partners were nervous about the cost, he reassured them it would be money well spent. “We didn’t scrimp or cut any corners.”

This was, in fact, the second fit out Dyson has done since the practice moved to its current location 18 years ago. He took a different approach this time after realising the importance of having professional input.   

“When we originally moved in, I did the whole exercise myself, and took it all to cabinet makers who made it to my specifications. It was incredibly time-consuming, and I made mistakes, such as bench width and height, so I knew to outsource the job this time.”

New frames cabinetry was a major feature of the re-fit.

He believes the budget to renovate Dyson and Long isn’t representative of most practices, due to the large floorplan; for example, the cost of carpet was high because carpet is sold by the square metre – and they had a lot of floor space to carpet.

His advice to optometrists considering renovation: “Decide what you want to spend; assume quotes and add about 50% more; and decide if the business income can support monthly loan re-payments.”

Dr Cameron Dyson operates Dyson and Long, an independent optometry practice in Bairnsdale, Victoria.

More reading

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