Learning comes easy to Smile Solutions Managing Director Kia Pajouhesh. So easy, in fact, that he was able to skip three years of high school, finishing before he turned 16. And when he attended the University of Melbourne, it came as no surprise when he graduated with honours in science and dentistry at the unheard of age of 23.
It’s something he credits to a “near-photographic memory” and “innate left-brain dominance”, which basically gave him a “free ride” through his schooling years. “In my seven years at university, I sat for more than 140 formal examinations. However, I was fortunate to never need to study more than a few hours per subject,” Kia shares.
“That blessing allowed me the luxury of time to nurture my right brain – my people skills, my sales skills and my general emotional intelligence through ‘street smarts’ and spiritual growth. I believe these right-brain aptitudes combined with a natural understanding of finance are my strongest qualifications to be in this business.”
The business of dentistry first piqued Kia’s interest when he was nine years old. Like many, he had a bad experience in the dentist’s chair and carried that trauma with him into his teenage years.
“I was dentist-phobic,” he admits. “But I resolved right then and there to make a difference to how things were done by becoming a dentist myself.” Upon graduating, Kia began working as a graduate dentist in one of the highest-profile dental practices in Melbourne. In those two years, he developed both a practical understanding of real-world dentistry as well as a burning ambition to open his own practice.
I’ve made smile solutions what it is today by making staff happiness the optimal goal – in the health industry, your people are everything.
“I was ready to build my own business in a prime Collins Street location,” he smiles. “Working at that early-1990s dental practice and observing the industry’s offerings at the time had confirmed my determination to ‘reinvent the wheel’ by starting my own practice, albeit on a shoestring budget.”
And that meant getting creative. However, that didn’t stop Kia; the opportunities were too grand. “I saw a new brand of health care based on my own practice philosophy of listening to my patients and understanding their needs and expectations through their eyes, not my own or those that tend to dominate the stuffy dental profession,” he says.
“I also saw the provision of multidisciplinary care with specialists, dentists and hygienists all under one roof – a model that is still unmatched anywhere in Australia.”
The award-winning practice began in 1993 in a heritage-listed architectural icon, the Manchester Unity Building, with just eight patients. Today, that number has skyrocketed to more than 300,000 across the entire group.
“I built what I call the ‘practice of dreams’ – the best people, using the best technology in the best environment,” Kia explains. “I’ve made Smile Solutions what it is today by making staff happiness the optimal goal – in the health industry, your people are everything.”
Smile Solutions is Australia’s largest single-location practice, comprising 40 dental suites spread across five floors. A multidisciplinary practice, Melbourne’s “Home of Dentistry” consists of a team of general practitioners as well as a diverse group of boardregistered specialists in fields of oral and maxillofacial surgery, endodontics, orthodontics, periodontics, prosthodontics and paediatric dentists.
Smile Solutions is also equipped with cuttingedge technology to help Kia provide an array of options for patients. While impressive, Kia still isn’t done growing the practice. He soon plans to expand Smile Solutions into major shopping centres for a more retail-based cosmetic dentistry offering that appeals to gen Z and millennials.
“One of my all-time favourite sayings is, ‘Opportunity behaves a lot like Santa Claus. He only visits very occasionally, stays just for a little while and avoids non-believers altogether,’” he shares.
“As shopping centres turn their focus from retail to lifestyle experiences with the explosion of online buying, we will capitalise on one of the post-COVID opportunities: traditional bricks-and-mortar shopping precincts becoming more affordable for mixed retail and service-based tenants.”
While the practice’s success has certainly put a smile on Kia’s face, it’s the flexibility it provides him that has proven most priceless. “Career and business achievements are only part of what makes a person successful and, ultimately, happy in life,” he reflects.
“That’s why my greatest achievement is the fact that I have reached my business milestones in a life of balance. A life where I’m equally engaged in the raising of my kids and my personal health and fitness. And a life where I have more than enough time and energy to devote to my spiritual journey, social life, travel aspirations and philanthropy.”
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