National podiatry group My FootDr recently celebrated the opening of its 50th podiatry clinic. From humble beginnings in Bulimba Queensland to a recent merger with Balance Podiatry in December 2016, the group has been the standard in podiatry services, innovation and excellence in patient care since 2004.
At the core of businesses success is the fact that it is run by practitioners, with founders Greg Dower and Darren Stewart continuing to treat patients as they have done for the past 13 years.
It is a commitment Mr Stewart says is not only rewarding, but also important in remaining grounded and appreciating the challenges and opportunities the podiatry industry faces.
“As practitioners, we understand our industry and appreciate the needs of podiatrists and patients. Every decision is aimed at enhancing clinical outcomes with more effective treatments and improved patient care,' he said.
Despite podiatry being recognised in Australia for around 45 years, Mr Stewart says the industry was very much in its infancy when they started and that there was still a long way to go in lifting its profile.
“We are assertive and confident practitioners who were the first to adopt new technologies such as video gait analysis, fungal nail laser treatment and computer-generated foot orthotics,” Mr Stewart said.
“However, there still exists a distinct lack of awareness about what podiatry is and how important healthy feet are in ensuring a healthy and active lifestyle.”
The group's unique approach to podiatry saw them expand to 12 clinics in as many years – and in 2015 they attracted the interest of investor Dr Glen Richards, from Channel 10’s Shark Tank, who now chair’s the board.
“Glen saw a lot of elements in us and our journey that reminded him of his early business day with Greencross Vets,” Mr Stewart said.
Last year My FootDr acquired and opened a further eight clinics and announced the merger with Balance Podiatry, founded by podiatrists Glen Evangelista and Dean Hartley, who had a network of 13 podiatry centres that focused on footwear as well as a full range of podiatry services.
In February, the company celebrated its milestone 50th clinic, firming up its position as an industry leader with a presence in every state.
A key focus throughout the company’s growth has been on enhancing the professionalism of the industry.
“Consolidation has been important to us – one organisation with high standards and a loud voice to drive awareness that healthy feet means a better quality of life for all of us. It also gives us the scale to offer a true career pathway for the team, and dedicate real resources to training and educating them on an ongoing basis,” Mr Stewart said.
“Graduate podiatrists can join us with the prospect of diverse career pathways including developing into a mentor, or into education or management roles.
“Across Australia, we have over 300 highly skilled people within the network and that shared experience is reflected in patient outcomes.”
Mr Stewart said the company introduced a Clinical Advisory Board to ensure the group delivers the highest quality of care to patients.
“We have a committee of senior podiatrists who look at how we deliver clinical care, what tools we use, how patients are assessed, and who also partake in research and innovation,” he said.
“We are committed to lifting the profile of the industry through enhancing the provision of services right down to how a clinic looks and feels.”
Mr Stewart said that while he estimated Australia had in excess of 1,200 podiatry centres, he expects this to grow steadily in the near future as demand for services increases and graduate numbers rise.
“The biggest challenge of being an independent podiatrist is the isolation of running a small business with no collaboration – being the jack of all trades rather than focusing on what you do best,” Mr Stewart said.
“Our ideal business targets for acquisition or partnership are well-established clinics with strong cultural synergies and a mutual focus on delivering the best podiatry care.
“We have flexible models ranging from 100% acquisition to 50-50 partnerships, and through our career map podiatrists have the option to partner with us in a clinic and grow their own future, without the stress of having to run a small business all on their own.”