Learning When To Let Go with James Goolnik

What failure he had in marriage he made up in having a successful practice; not one to be so much happy about.

But the amount of courage and determination to remain undeterred in achieving something in one’s professional life is quite a feat, considering the amount of emotional stress involved in here. 

The guest for this episode personifies this scenario.

James is a member of the British Dentistry of Occlusal Studies, British Dental Association and is a Dental Phobia certified dentist.

He has twice been listed in Private Dentistry’s poll of the top 20 Elite Dentists in the UK in 2011 and 2012. James has been voted the most influential person in Dentistry in the UK in 2011 & 2012 by trade magazine Dentistry.

He is thrilled to be a judge for both the Dental Industry Awards and the Dentistry Awards.

James lectures internationally and has delivered over 80 seminars on tooth whitening techniques, minimal invasive dentistry, and dental marketing.

His book Brush is the number one bestseller on Amazon, and all the profits go to Dentaid. The first project was in Malawi, where James installed a two surgery dental practice and lead a dental team to deliver a skills transfer workshop.

His current project is tackling sugar as a reward for children.

Parents, professionals, and anyone who is in the same boat as having a family, a successful career and business at the same time can resonate well with James.

Get to learn more about his struggles in life, the practice he has and how he is managing it.

Discover how he builds lasting relationships with his clients as well as his staff.

Find out the marketing strategies used in his business.

His life’s lessons will give you the right perspective of running your own business and growth as well.


The number one thing you have got to get in a relationship with your patient. Make sure there’s a connection. Make sure there is trust and when things go wrong. Dentistry is not ideal. We are human. Everyone makes mistakes, something happens. But if you have a relationship with the patient, they know, like, and trust you, you can handle it. – James Goolnik

In this episode:

13:12 – How his grit gets him into dental school

19:17 – How James nail down his post-graduation game plan  

21:33 – History of his dentistry career timeline from being a dental associate to becoming the president of BACD 

25:51 – Debunking the myth that dentists are bad business owners

38:48 – The best way to successfully nurture your client relationships

40:30 – Hear James talk about the multi-practice model and why it is not for him

42:50 – Three effective dental patient marketing methods James use

45:36 – How his success as a dentist affected his family life

54:16 – Two simple ways he does to reduce stress at work and family

57:47 – What is the biggest mistake he did on his career 

01:02:46 – Two ways to lead by example and inspire your team

01:09:54 – The recruitment process and thought about firing someone

01:11:59 – The Rewards Project; shifting the rewards culture

01:19:02 – Love, be loved and never stop learning

Connect with James Goolnik:








Prav and Payman:


Prav on Instagram

Payman on Instagram


Payman: Hi guys, welcome to the Dental Leaders Podcast. Today’s guest is James Goolnik, one of the highest profile dentists out there. I think today was quite fun, quite interesting, going through his very beginnings, all the way to the campaign that he started about sugar and children’s teeth.

Prav Solanki: The Rewards Project.

Payman: The Rewards Project, exactly right. I go back a long, long way with James. I was actually in school with him.

Prav Solanki: James, ever since I got into this industry, he’s always been somebody who I looked up to. Was in awe of, really, in terms of looking at what he’s achieved, the team around him, the team of specialists that he works with. I remember once giving a lecture at the BACD and James calmed me down just before I stepped on stage. I wasn’t speaking in front of a large number of people but he gave me a few words of advice. Super, super nice guy.

Prav Solanki: What did I take away from today’s interview? The support from his family, the lesson from parents and family support, how a strong cultural background and strong family unit can set you up for life. That combined with hard work, effort, created what his success is today. You’re really going to enjoy today’s interview.

James Goolnik: Too much paperwork.

Payman: Yeah.

James Goolnik: Too much bureaucracy. Yeah.

Payman: Yeah.

James Goolnik: I like to be fast-paced and change things. If I do something one way and it’s not working, okay, I want to change it. I don’t want to go through six committees and wait a year to change something. I just want to get on and do it.

Payman: But fast forward, you were president at the BACD?

James Goolnik: Yes.

Speaker 4: This is Dental Leaders, the podcast where you get to go one on one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts, Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.

Prav Solanki: So today we have James Goolnik with us, the founder of Bow Lane Dental and many other startups, some businesses, which I’m sure we’re going to hear about. James, thanks so much for joining us today and taking your time out of your busy day to come and spend time with me and Pay. I’d just like to start by getting a bit of background. What’s your backstory James? Just growing up and how you got where you were, if you could give us a run through of that really.

James Goolnik: Yeah, sure. First of all, thanks very much for inviting me. It’s an honour to be here with you two. I remember you a bit from school. Not a lot. Payman and I went to the same school. I won’t tell you all the stories about that. That’ll be the uncut version of the podcast.

Payman: It’s a very good school now.

James Goolnik: Yes.

Payman: But back then it wasn’t so good.

James Goolnik: No, not so good. It was actually just boys when we went.

Payman: Yeah.

James Goolnik: I was like won’t go wrong. As soon as I left all the girls came in. I missed it.

Payman: Did you put your kids in a mixed school?

James Goolnik: They’re mixed with all actually, so I’ve got one in single sex. Actually, two in single sex and one in a mixed school.

Payman: Oh really? I insisted on mixed school.

James Goolnik: Did you? Okay. Don’t want to get them as problematic as what’s happened with you. So yeah, my backstory is I actually always wanted to be a dentist from the age of like 12. I was like okay, what do I want to do? I was thinking about different careers. I’m Jewish, so my family’s like, “You’ve got to be an accountant. A nice, Jewish accountant.” Or a doctor, that’s it. An accountant or a doctor. I thought I didn’t fancy accountancy but I thought I’d keep my mother happy and go spend a day with an accountant, spend a day with a doctor, and spend a day with a dentist. The dentist was having so much more fun, had a much nicer car, and it was just like okay, I want to be a dentist. Actually, Mr. Bay , if you’re listening, from Highgate Group Practise, you’re the guy that inspired me to be in dentistry.

Prav Solanki: Wow.

Payman: Was he your dentist?

James Goolnik: He was my dentist. He had a really nice manner to him. I enjoyed going there. I wasn’t scared or anything. Had some fillings. I know that’s a bit of a shock, dentist having fillings, but I think to be a good dentist you’ve had to have a filling, have an extraction, have a bit of everything. I haven’t had an implant yet or a root canal, but there’s always time. I think it was just I spent a really good time with him and just really enjoyed it, and thought, “Okay, I’m good with my hands. I like people. I like business as well.”

James Goolnik: My father was in publishing, so he published children’s books and games, and he’s always been about, “Work for yourself, don’t work for anyone else. You can be in control of your own boss, your own destiny. You can decide what you want to do.” So I thought, “Okay, I definitely want to have my own business. I want to specialise in something,” and dentistry was the right career that you can actually spend some time and actually become qualified… It’s for five years, but I loved it. So it was like okay, “Work with my hands, that’s what I want to do.”

Prav Solanki: And was that from the age of 12, that influence that you wanted to be your own man, work for yourself, have your own business?

James Goolnik: Yes, right from the beginning because my father was as well. I just saw that he could control… If he wants to finish work at 2:00 in the afternoon and come home, and he can. It was like okay, that’s really cool. I don’t want to do too much paperwork. I want to work for myself and have a bit of control. And I like making things. I was always making Airfix models and lots of different things. I actually filmed my first feature film with a guy that some of you might have heard of called Christopher Nolan. He did the Batman films and the rest of it, and we actually…

Prav Solanki: Wow.

James Goolnik: He was at school as well, in Highgate, you might have known him.

Payman: I didn’t but Tom Hooper was in my class.

James Goolnik: Oh, okay.

Payman: Who did a bunch a films.

James Goolnik: Okay, so I mean it’s… Highgate, it was quite a lot of interesting people. There were a lot of people who did nothing afterwards. So yeah, we filmed a film, it’s actually like a space film. I quite liked pyrotechnics at the time and he was good with Airfix. We made these Airfix models and put these little rockets on the end of them, and then we strung up in the basement some string from one side to the other. We put the Airfix model at the top, lit the pyrotechnics, ran back to the camera and went, “Let go.” It flew across. Okay, great. Now he’s made millions and millions.

Payman: And you’re a dentist.

James Goolnik: Yeah, he didn’t even put me in the credits. But anyway, thanks Chris. Yeah, that was fun.

Payman: What was it like being the kid of someone who wrote books for kids and had games for kids?

James Goolnik: Yeah, I was always the guinea pig.

Payman: Yeah, were you?

James Goolnik: Me and my brother were the guinea pigs. We got lots of free stuff. It was like, “Try this out. Is it any good? Will it sell? How much will it sell for?” We tried lots of different things so it was quite nice to try new things before they came out. My dad went to trade fairs and things like that, and sometimes we got to go along and stand on the stands. God, that was awful. Standing on a stand, I’ve been on dental stands since then, it’s like okay, comfortable shoes you need because it’s hard work.

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman: Yeah, yeah.

James Goolnik: So yeah, it was really good fun.

Prav Solanki: You got integrated into business from a very young age in your father’s business I guess?

James Goolnik: Yeah, yeah.

Prav Solanki: What were you like as a student? Were you a swot or were you gifted?

James Goolnik: Yeah, I wasn’t particularly clever. I wasn’t particularly clever so I realised that actually to get anywhere I just have to work harder than everyone else because otherwise I just wasn’t going to get there. I was always doing work. I started out, I think my first job was at 13. I was delivering milk for the milkman. I wasn’t that business savvy because he used to pay me in yoghourts. It took me about a year to realise that actually I could get cash for this job rather than just yoghurts. My fridge was always full of yoghurts, which was quite handy.

James Goolnik: That was really good fun. I enjoyed that. I worked in the cinema. I did lots of different things, but-

Payman: Did your parents force you to work?

James Goolnik: No.

Payman: Was it one of those, or were you one of those kids that wanted money in your pocket?

James Goolnik: I wanted money to do my stuff. I wanted to buy the latest computers, I wanted to buy things.

Payman: Yeah.

James Goolnik: It’s like okay, they gave me a certain amount of pocket money but I wanted to upgrade it. And also, I was always interested in cars and I thought, “Okay, I want to get a nice car.” In that stage, they were all the Golf GTI’s and the XR2’s, and all that sort of hot hatches-

Payman: Peugeot 205’s-

James Goolnik: GTI and all that stuff. It was like, “I want to get a nice car, the best way to do that is…”

James Goolnik: So it was… Okay, I did that job. I went delivering newspapers, and then cinema. Cinema was quite good, working in the cinema. Anyone from London that worked in Muswell Hill Odeon in North London. That was good fun. Unlimited popcorn and Coca Cola, hence the reason why I’ve got six fillings now. It was like okay, this is not so good, but that was good fun. I was worked on the holidays and on Saturdays as well, so I started saving up.

James Goolnik: And also, being Jewish, when you get 13 you become a man, you do a bar mitzvah and lots of people give you gifts for that. I put all the money aside, saved up, and first car was not that sexy unfortunately. It was a Metro, a mini Metro, if anyone knows a mini Metro.

Prav Solanki: What colour?

James Goolnik: It was white, okay?

Payman: Oh.

James Goolnik: But the best bit about it, it had a big sunroof so you had this sunroof that could slide right the way back. It was an after market thing, and that felt like a convertible to me. It was like okay, wow, this is cool. But yeah, and then on from that I got a Fiesta XR2.

Prav Solanki: Green car.

Payman: Was that in school? 17, you had a Metro.

James Goolnik: Yeah. And then I had… Yeah, the XR2.

Payman: Did you drive to lunch?

James Goolnik: Yes.

Payman: That was the ultimate crime in school, I remember.

James Goolnik: Drive to… Well, the thing about driving to lunch was, which is quite bad, we all drive to lunch. It was only like a 15 minute walk-

Payman: What do you mean only? It was a long walk.

James Goolnik: It was a long walk.

Payman: To get to lunch was a 15 minute walk and all the rebels drove to lunch. It was a big no-no.

James Goolnik: The hardest thing was one of my friends, Guy, he had a VW Beetle and he drove to lunch, and there’s also another one of his friends, John. I was in the back of the Beetle and they were racing down one of the roads in Highgate, Winnington Road. They were racing down it and one of them didn’t judge the speed quite well, and they smashed into each other.

Payman: Oh.

Prav Solanki: Oh dear.

James Goolnik: So we had two smashed cars on the way and we were like working out, “We’ve got 15 minutes to get to lunch, how are we going to do this? Somebody’s got to stay with the cars and we’re going to leg it back to lunch.” So we left Guy with the cars to sort it out with the police. Okay, not so good. In school uniform. Don’t know how he got out of that one, but hey.

Payman: But those you knew working as a kid, Prav was talking about it before… He’s worked in your dad’s shop?

Prav Solanki: Worked in my dad’s shop.

Payman: He puts all his success down to what he learned talking to the public at that age. My parents forced me into a job at 16 or so.

Prav Solanki: What were you doing?

James Goolnik: 16?

Payman: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Before that, I didn’t. It was Oxford Street.

James Goolnik: Were you the one with the placard?

Payman: No, no, no.

James Goolnik: Golf sale this way.

Prav Solanki: Subway, McDonald’s.

Payman: I persuaded some clothes shop guy that that’s the career I wanted for the rest of my life and I worked a summer. I ended up spending more every day than I was earning just because I felt so horrible working that I used to go and eat… I would get steak and stuff.

James Goolnik: So nothing’s changed then?

Payman: Yeah, exactly, exactly. But what I’m saying, I actually hated my parents for making me work at that time, but how valuable that little bit of work was? Now, listening to you saying, “At 13,” and then all the different jobs, just seeing how people run businesses, talking to the public is huge.

Prav Solanki: Huge.

Payman: It’s huge.

James Goolnik: Brings you out, and also having your own money is like okay, I’ve made this money. I can spend it on exactly what I want.

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

James Goolnik: If I want a XR2, I’m going to buy an XR2 rather than having to-

Prav Solanki: So all that wealth that you’d accumulated at that young age, was your first big purchase the mini Metro?

James Goolnik: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: Yeah?

James Goolnik: It’s freedom.

Payman: Where did you study dentistry?

James Goolnik: My story was a little bit different because I didn’t get the grades that I wanted to get into dental school. I passed my A levels but I didn’t get enough right grades so I had to retake two of the A levels. I retook them and that actually gave me a lot more drive. Okay, I’ve studied hard but not enough to go where I want to go. I got a place in one dental school but it wasn’t where I wanted to be. I wanted to be in London. I’m a Londoner. So I went back and restudied them and got into King’s.

Payman: Was it an extra year?

James Goolnik: Yeah, I did actually discover… And also, I’m slightly unusually because I actually went to UCH so I was the first… The last intake at University College Hospital when it was great. I was like, “Okay, I’m going to go there,” and then after the first six months they said, “Actually, you guys are the last intake. We’re not doing dentistry anymore so enjoy it.”

James Goolnik: So yeah, this is great it was like a party, then a lot of the lecturers started leaving. I thought, “That’s not so good.” And then they said, “Actually, you are the last and we’re not going to take you all the way through so you’re going to do one year with us, and then you’re going to have to go somewhere else.” So we then had to split up and choose wherever we wanted to go to, so I went from UCL, I went on to King’s.

Payman: So that was the time when they thought caries was on the down, we don’t need to train anymore dentists?

James Goolnik: They were cutting back on dentists. Okay, how can we save money? We don’t need dentists.

Payman: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

James Goolnik: They got that wrong.

Prav Solanki: What was it like to… You said you worked hard, you were a swot or however you want to put it, and then you got your A level results-

James Goolnik: I didn’t get it.

Prav Solanki: … and they were not what you expected.

James Goolnik: It was a little bit of a kick in the teeth, as it were, but it was like okay, you know what? I knew I wasn’t as clever as the other people in my class, but I was driven and I wanted to do it, and I thought, “Okay, well I passed but I didn’t get what I wanted and I still want to do dentistry, so I’m just going to go back and do it.” So I just put my nose down and did it and got the grades and got into King’s.

Payman: A lot of people say that year of retake was the best year of their lives. They find themselves and that sort of thing. What was that year like?

James Goolnik: Half of it was quite hard because all my friends had got the grade and got into where they wanted to be, so that was hard. I had new group of friends, but I had an amazing girlfriend at the time so that was brilliant.

Payman: Okay.

James Goolnik: That helped me change my focus a little bit. And it was also a stepping stone in between… I was at school and I was at the same school for all those years and everyone knew me, and suddenly I’m going somewhere new and there’s people-

Payman: Where did you go?

James Goolnik: I went to a place called Mander Portman Woodward. It’s in Kensington.

Payman: Uh-huh (affirmative). MPW?

James Goolnik: Yeah.

Payman: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

James Goolnik: That was great because there were loads of different people, and there were people that were like on something the whole time and the reason they didn’t pass was because they were just out their heads the whole time. There were other people that just didn’t do any work and people like me who didn’t quite get to what they wanted to and they were studying. They treated us like adults. It wasn’t like they knew us from being 12 onwards and they knew all the things we’d done wrong. It was like, “Okay, you guys are 17, you know what you’re doing. You want to get these grades, let’s just do it.” It was actually brilliant.

Payman: How about at dental school?

James Goolnik: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Payman: How did you find… I’m we’ll get onto the social side, but the academic side of that, did you find it hard?

James Goolnik: I found it quite hard.

Payman: I did.

James Goolnik: I mean the manual stuff and doing it, I was good with my hands and I was always passing things and everything. I didn’t have to redo things like that, but the actual studying was hard work and it was like, “Okay, why am I learning about mitochondria? Am I ever going to need to know about this? Why am I learning this?” It was tricky to put that into real life.

Payman: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

James Goolnik: That was the hard thing, and there were these people that were teaching us who had never been in practise. I’m thinking, “You’ll teach me all about communication skills but you are communicating people who are not paying anything. It’s a whole different ballgame when they can choose where to go.” So I found that was very different. But King’s was great. There were some really good people that I’m still friends with, quite a lot of them, since then.

Payman: Do we know anyone who was in your year?

James Goolnik: Yeah, Tif. I think Tif.

Payman: Oh, were you in the same year as Tiff and Anoop?

James Goolnik: Yeah, yeah, yeah, Tif and Anoop, all of us.

Payman: Okay.

James Goolnik: We were quite-

Payman: Mamaly.

James Goolnik: Yeah, yeah, yeah, Mamaly and… It was quite a lot of us that have done quite a lot of things in dentistry since then.

Payman: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

James Goolnik: It’s drove us on. But no, I really enjoyed it. We set up different things and I, you’ll find this out later on, but I don’t drink. My first girlfriend was killed in a drink driving accident. I’ve never been a big drinker anyway and my parents aren’t big drinkers, but that just put me off completely. I’ve got this rule that if I’m driving I won’t drink a thing, and then through university actually it was easier just to not drink. Then I became… “Okay, what am I going to do? I want to be involved at the party but I don’t want to be the odd one out,” so I became a DJ. I DJ’d through all of university and that was great fun.

Payman: What kind of music?

James Goolnik: It was all 80s stuff. Some people might not call it music but I loved it. Wham, rap, it was great. Club Tropicana, everything. It was great fun.

Payman: Was your girlfriend, you were with her when this happened?

James Goolnik: Yeah.

Payman: So how old were you?

James Goolnik: That was when I was 18, so that was actually just-

Payman: Wow.

James Goolnik: … yeah, before I got into university.

Prav Solanki: You were in the car?

James Goolnik: No, I wasn’t in the car. It was a weekend and she was away with her friends. I’d just gotten into dental school, and then this happened before she started.

Payman: Wow.

James Goolnik: That was my first proper girlfriend so it was like okay, this is tough.

Payman: How did you handle that?

James Goolnik: I’d not really had loss in my life up to then so that was hard, and also I was really close with her. It was like, okay… My parents didn’t know what to say. It was like okay, how are they going to tell me? Yeah, it was tough.

Prav Solanki: They broke the news to you?

James Goolnik: Yeah, they broke the news to me. It was like okay, this is tough for 18, doing that, but…

Prav Solanki: And it was a drunk driver accident?

James Goolnik: Yeah. She was sober and all the rest of them, then somebody… Because she was coming out of petrol station and somebody came straight in and hit straight into her. He was way over the limit and killed her. Unfortunately it was just her in the car, her friends in the back were all fine. But that was tough.

Payman: Yeah.

James Goolnik: And that’s put me, I mean I was never a big drinker anyway, but as soon as that happened it was like okay, well drinking and driving shouldn’t be in the same thing.

Prav Solanki: I totally agree with you.

James Goolnik: I don’t care what people say, “Oh I can handle it,” whatever.

Prav Solanki: Just have one.

James Goolnik: Have one and then if something happens, you’re always going to think for your life, “If I hadn’t had that one, would that not have happened?” My rule is nothing, and then it was… Actually, in a way, it made me get into DJing that was great fun. Then it got me into meeting other people. You just force yourself to do it because otherwise if you’re sitting in the party and you’re the only one not drinking, everyone thinks they’re hilarious when they’ve had a bit to drink and when you’re sober it’s like, “You’re not that funny actually.”

Payman: So were you DJing at the university parties?

James Goolnik: Yeah, I was DJing at all those student unions stuff, getting paid for it, great fun-

Payman: I bet you were quite a popular guy at that point.

James Goolnik: At that stage it was great. It was a great way to meet people, and also I wasn’t that confident with girls at that stage and it was like okay, I’m in the DJ booth, they have to take to me if they want music. I’ll put rubbish music on until they talk to me. It was like okay, they’ll start being really friendly if… Okay, okay. So that was quite good fun. And the DJ booth has lots of dark corners, so that was also good as well.

Prav Solanki: Is it true that the DJs always pick up the hot chicks?

James Goolnik: Yeah, well my success rate definitely increased once I did DJing.

Prav Solanki: Increased the conversion rate, yeah, yeah.

James Goolnik: That was it, yeah.

Payman: So then in dental school, were you very driven in so much as like… Were you already planning, on your way out, what you were going to be doing? Were you focusing-

James Goolnik: Yeah, I was already planning to have my own practise and I wanted to do something very different, so I was looking at what other people were doing out there. Okay, that’s not that great. People don’t want to go to the dentist, why do they not want to go to the dentist? How can we make it more approachable, more friendly, more of a fun environment? So I was looking at what other people were doing in other industries and saying, “Okay, that’s what I want to do.”

James Goolnik: But also realising that, at dental school, five years is not enough to, one, get your communication skills up. They teach nothing about business. I learned it from my father and just winging and seeing what works, what doesn’t work. But also the skills we have clinically aren’t really enough. They may be enough to get you through for a few years, but they’re not enough to meet the demands of the patients. People want more and more things. Okay, I need to do some more training as well, but I also needed to have a life.

Payman: So you got a job?

James Goolnik: Yeah, so I got a job. I worked part-time, actually, in a dental practise doing nursing while I was going through university.

Payman: Oh really?

James Goolnik: And then when I finished I quite enjoyed the hospital life. There was something about the hospital that was quite good fun, and I was very good at taking teeth out. So I thought okay, what can I do? So I decided to do a bit of Maxfacts, so I spent a year doing Maxfacts.

Payman: House jobs?

James Goolnik: Yeah, house jobs, and that was good fun.

Payman: On call as well?

James Goolnik: On call as well, and that’s when I-

Payman: And casualty and all that?

James Goolnik: Yeah, that’s when I met my first wife, in casualty, who was a doctor.

Payman: Oh, okay.

James Goolnik: It was really good fun and we’re quite lucky because Maxfacts, there wasn’t a lot to do, so we were the ones that could do the facial swelling. People got drunk, again, that was another thing that put me off alcohol, it’s like all these people… Why did you drink so much? Now look at your face, it’s like crazy. The only good thing about them drinking so much is that I didn’t need to use any anaesthetic because they had anaesthetised their whole body, and you can just suture them back up again.

James Goolnik: So that was good fun and I got to take out loads of tricky teeth. And based in Camberwell we had these massive people with huge roots, and it’s like okay, I can get this tooth out. I don’t need to be strong, I just need to change my technique.

Payman: Did you know while you were doing that that you weren’t going to pursue that?

James Goolnik: Yeah.

Payman: So it was like a get a bit of experience thing?

James Goolnik: Too much paperwork, too much bureaucracy. Yeah. I like to be fast-paced and change things. If I do something one way and it’s not working, okay, I want to change it. I don’t want to go through six committees and wait a year to change something. I just want to get on and do it.

Payman: But fast forward, you were president at the BACD?

James Goolnik: Yes.

Payman: But we’ll come to that.

James Goolnik: I was also president of the Dental Society as well.

Payman: Oh, of King’s?

James Goolnik: Yeah, King’s. I started off doing more… When I did the DJing, then we did more fundraising, and then we said, “Actually, you know what? King’s as a dental school is not as inclusive as all the other ones,” so I reached out to Guy’s Hospital and all the other dental schools, and we had this dental sock where we all came together and we did this charity fundraising.

Payman: Oh nice.

James Goolnik: I did the DJing for that as well.

Payman: Nice.

James Goolnik: It was actually quite good fun. And then we got the reps, which they can’t do any more, but they came down and gave us loads of freebies. MPS and stuff, they all want to get us signing up so giving us as much as possible is like okay, this is cool. We were excited by these little planners and stuff weird things. It was fun.

Payman: Then you got an associate job somewhere?

James Goolnik: Yeah. So then I got an associate job, and that was… I worked in different places. I was Googling award-winning practises and there was one in Thamesmead that had an award-winning dental practise. They had done everything and they’d done loads of PR and all the rest of it.

Payman: I don’t think Google existed at that point.

James Goolnik: Maybe not.

Prav Solanki: AltaVista or Yahoo.

James Goolnik: Might have been, yeah. I don’t know. I feel like Google’s been here forever.

Payman: It feels like that, it does feel like-

Prav Solanki: Netscape, Netscape.

Payman: It does.

James Goolnik: I think I just picked up the phone and go, “What’s the best-”

Payman: So it was a nice practise?

James Goolnik: Yeah, it was in Thamesmead and it was mainly an HS practise but it did some private stuff, but he was really good. Principal’s name was Vijay. He was really good at marketing, really good at marketing, and really good communication skills. I learned lots about that and it was like [crosstalk 00:23:17]-

Payman: That was your first associate job?

James Goolnik: Yeah.

Payman: Did you have VT or-

Payman: Your first principal really shapes you I find. Well mine did. So this guy was marketing and was doing-

James Goolnik: Yeah, he was doing a lot more marketing and he was doing a lot more about communications throughout their newsletter, paper, newsletter-

Payman: Which back then was a huge deal.

James Goolnik: It was.

Payman: No one was doing that.

James Goolnik: He was doing a lot more stuff and he was working the community, and he was showcasing what they were doing with the local businesses.

Payman: Shout out, what’s his surname? Vijay…

James Goolnik: I think it’s Vithani. Vijay Vithani. I really enjoyed that. And then also, through that I then did some part-time associate positions on weekends. I was lucky enough to get a place in Beauchamp Place in Knightsbridge. Alan Gold and Roman Franks.

Payman: I know that practise.

James Goolnik: Yeah, so that was really… It was amazing. I was like the youngest person there. They were all going, “Are you qualified? Can you do this?”

Payman: So suddenly you were exposed to that very high-end…

James Goolnik: High-end, but I was basically doing the rubbish shift that no one else wanted to do. So like the Thursday afternoon late shift and the Saturday mornings.

Prav Solanki: Back then, how did you go about getting your jobs? You said you opened a book or Googled or whatever, you rang the place and said, “Give us a job,” or-

James Goolnik: Well no, I wrote letters. It was a big thing, about writing, so I looked at all the best practises around and I wrote letters to them saying, “Okay, this is me, this is what I can offer you and I’d love to work with you.” I sent out about 50 of them and-

Payman: It’s different, isn’t it? I never did that. I went and opened up the BDJ and looked for what jobs there were. That outlook of-

James Goolnik: I went for places that didn’t have jobs because they were where I wanted to go to.

Payman: Yeah, very interesting.

Prav Solanki: You had an idea of 50 practises you’d like to work in.

James Goolnik: And I sent the letters out and I got about 10 replies, but two of them were standout. I thought, “You know what? I want to go to these.” So I went there, met them, and yeah, I loved the practise. I was slightly different at that stage President of the Dental Society. I was more confident about what I could do and I was starting to learn about marketing and they quite liked that. Also, I was more moldable. They were, “Okay, I think I can teach this guy something. He’s not jaded yet.”

Prav Solanki: And all along during this whole period of time, you were going to open your own practise?

James Goolnik: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: That was very, very clear in your mind?

James Goolnik: It always was.

Payman: You were saving up?

James Goolnik: It was getting the skills because it was like okay, I need to know what I need to know because dental school taught me nothing about that. I can do teeth but can I do teeth profitable, and can I run a business and run a team and motivate people? It was more about, “I need to learn some skills,” so apprenticeships, as they were.

Prav Solanki: Stepping stones.

James Goolnik: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: It’s really interesting because a lot of people who know they want to go into business don’t know that they need the skills to influence and manage a team, or learn about marketing. Some people just find themselves and say, “Right, I want to start a practise, I want to go into business,” and then discover that. But it was very clear in your mind that you needed these skills?

James Goolnik: I needed the skills to have it and also I wanted to learn from the best, so who are the best out there that are doing these sort of things? Obviously I’m a Londoner so I know like in Knightsbridge, that is a high-end place. They’re going to have money, they’re going to know what they want. They’re not going to take any rubbish so let’s learn from these guys. Alan and Roman have been doing it for quite a few years.

James Goolnik: It’s also old school. When I started it was like people weren’t wearing gloves. It was like okay, it’s new now, we’ve got to wash our hands and wear gloves. Okay, what’s this rubber dam stuff? What do you do with this?

Payman: There wasn’t rubber dam…

James Goolnik: No.

Prav Solanki: Is that right, no gloves?

James Goolnik: They started off no gloves and they started… People were doing it in dental school, we were wearing gloves, but it was still, out in practise, it was just okay, wash their hands.

Payman: When I was a kid my dentist didn’t wear gloves.

Prav Solanki: Fingers in your mouth?

Payman: Yeah.

James Goolnik: Yeah.

Payman: It was thought to be like tactile sensation or something.

James Goolnik: I’ve got a story about that actually. This was only six years ago. We have an endodontist in our practise and they were moving. They were deciding if they were going travelling. Okay, we need to find somebody else, so I started interviewing people. We hired this guy, CV looked amazing. He had been doing it for like 10 years. Special was endodontist, all the rest of it. After the first day I always get feedback from the nurses, and so, “Were they nice to you? How was he?”

James Goolnik: They said, “Yeah, he was really nice, but there’s a real problem. He wasn’t wearing gloves.” I said, “What?” This is six years ago we’re talking about, okay? He wasn’t wearing gloves. I said, “What’s going on here? Are you sure? Did you miss it?” No, he wasn’t wearing gloves. What, nothing? “No, he puts the gloves on when he starts and when the patient’s lying back he takes them off. I said, “That’s a bit odd,” so I thought well you’re not doing a second day like that.

James Goolnik: I sat down with him and said, “I’ve heard something, that you’re not wearing gloves in treatment.” He said, “Oh yeah, that’s right.” I said, “Why did you not do that?” He said, “I’m an endodontist, I get much better feel with my fingers without gloves.” I said, “Yeah but what about cross infection and CQC and all that?” He goes, “Oh I put the gloves on in the beginning so the patient sees that I’m wearing gloves and then I put a rubber dam on and then it’s all sterile so I don’t have to do anything.”

James Goolnik: I said, “Okay, fine, you won’t be coming back here. Bye bye.” And that was the end of it. I could not believe it. It’s like wow, okay.

Prav Solanki: Wow.

James Goolnik: So there are people out there who don’t wear gloves.

Payman: Do you remember when you decided, “All right, I’m going to go look for a premises,” you started from squat, right?

James Goolnik: Yeah, started from squat.

Payman: That’s a big thing to do. Did you know that’s what you wanted to do? You wanted to set it up?

James Goolnik: I started looking at practises for sale, so I signed to all the selling agents, Frank Taylor and all that stuff, to see what there was out there and the people were selling… It was rubbish. I went to see the practises and they were rundown and they were like, “I want 200,000 for this.” For what? There’s nothing there. I thought I’m not paying for rubbish. I’m going to start myself. I also wanted to do it very differently, so I thought okay, I want to do something different. I’m going to start looking around for premises.

Payman: And the city was… I mean there was maybe… There were dentists but it was single handed…

James Goolnik: Yeah, it was really small.

Payman: That kind of-

James Goolnik: There was no marketing, no PR. There was no multi-specialists.

Payman: What made you think the city, apart from the obvious?

James Goolnik: Yeah, I mean I just love the buzz. The buzz of the city, there’s something special. Basically I then went on to do a master’s degree at the Eastman and the Eastman’s in Gray’s Inn Road, so I was going through the city a lot of the time.

Payman: Right, right, right.

James Goolnik: Some of my friends were working in the city as bankers and lawyers-

Payman: You got the bug?

James Goolnik: There was such a great buzz. When you get on the train and they’re all suited and booted, they look so good. There was money everywhere. I was like okay, this is the plan. I looked around and there was no one doing what I wanted to do in the city. I got this huge map out and I pinned… I got out the Yellow Pages, saw every practise in Central London, and I was pinning them around. I thought there was just not enough in the square mile. There’s not enough, and then the one’s that are there were doing an average job. I thought you know what? This is a no brainer. I’m going to go in here and do it.

James Goolnik: So actually, then two of the practises that stood out, I wrote a letter to them to say, “Look, I’m interested in buying your practise if you’re thinking about retiring in the next few years, we have a conversation.” Never came back to me so I thought you know what? I need to find something, so I then went to some estate agents, commercial estate agents, said, “Okay, I want to set up a dental practise. What do I need to do? I want you to find some premises for me.”

James Goolnik: So I had two guys on retainers looking for a dental practise potential. They were looking for it, and while they were looking there was an advert in the BDJ. I don’t normally read adverts, but there was a guy that was actually an American dentist, wanted to set up a practise in the city. A guy called Greg Bullock, he’s in New York, and he was doing something quite different. He was doing… All his staff was Japanese. So all the dentists were American but all the staff was Japanese, and he was targeting the Japanese market in New York and he wanted to do something in the UK.

James Goolnik: He wanted somebody to help him set it up, so while I was actually doing my MSC and working part-time, I started working for him and I helped set up the practise. It was great because he used to come every couple of months. Get loads of Skype calls and phone calls and emails and stuff, but then he would just come every couple of months so I had free range to set it up for him.

Payman: So this isn’t Bow Lane?

James Goolnik: This is before Bow Lane. It’s called Nihon Shika Group.

Payman: Wow.

James Goolnik: That was before Bow Lane.

Payman: I’ve got some experience, Japanese don’t trust non-Japanese medical… Yeah, that’s for sure.

James Goolnik: They’re great patients because they don’t need any anaesthetic. They just go into a zone and they just let you get on with it.

Payman: And they fully trust what you’re going to do.

James Goolnik: They fully trust with you, it’s fully paid by insurance so all you have to do is fill it out, but you have to speak Japanese. If you don’t speak any Japanese you’ve got no chance.

Payman: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

James Goolnik: So I had Japanese nurse, Japanese receptionist. I learned some Japanese, like, “Which tooth hurts?” Everything was silver plated. It was all precious, semi-precious metals. Inlays, onlay, things like that. It was just… Okay, I’m going to do it, and they were really respectful, easy to treat. I love Japanese food. It was just great.

Payman: What a cool dude this guy was though.

James Goolnik: He helped me.

Payman: Like back then.

James Goolnik: Yeah.

Payman: Was thinking of going from New York to London treating Japanese patients. That’s thinking outside the box.

James Goolnik: He had five practises in the states.

Payman: Did he?

Prav Solanki: Wow.

James Goolnik: He wanted to do one in the UK, so that was great because he was basically my mentor. He was the one who was teaching me about okay, I need to pay associates this amount money, this is how you need to do it. He helped me think about contracts and how to get the right team members, how to motivate them, how to get the best deal for your materials, and things like that. Because before, I just… Okay, I like this rep, I’ll buy all from Henry Shine, but actually there’s other ways of doing it. He helped me with the business skills side of that.

James Goolnik: At that stage, after a year of doing that, I finished my MSC and thought okay, I haven’t found a premises yet. And then suddenly, I got a phone call saying, “We found somewhere for you.”

Payman: And that’s Bow Lane?

James Goolnik: That was Bow Lane. I was just lucky. I wanted something with a self-contained entrance. It had its own entrance. It was above a shopfront so I wasn’t having to pay the fees for a shopfront. It was two and a half thousand square foot. It was the perfect location right in the city near Banks Station.

James Goolnik: The tricky bit was there was another dentist going for it. So there was two of us bidding for this premises and the way I got it, it was because I was doing it all through my agents. He didn’t know who the other bidder was. He knew there was another bidder, didn’t know who it was at all, and I just thought how badly do I want it? It was on… I don’t remember what it was, it was like 80,000 pounds a year. I thought how bad do I want it? I’m just going to over bit for it. So I put in a bid, I think it was 92,555 pounds. I just went straight in way above it.

Payman: Which year was that?

James Goolnik: And I killed it.

Payman: Which year?

James Goolnik: This was 2000. Yeah, 2000.

Payman: A lot of money in 2000. A lot of money for rent in 2000.

James Goolnik: Yeah. But it was a…

Payman: It’s a beautiful spot, it’s a beautiful spot. It is.

James Goolnik: I killed it because I beat the guy. And I don’t know who it is in the end, but it was great and it’s been a brilliant location. Been there 17 years now.

Payman: Did you then do it up a bit at a time?

James Goolnik: Yeah, so basically we planned it. I used Gary Butters from GGPC and they planned it as a six surgery practise, but I didn’t have the funds for a six surgery practise. I didn’t have any patients, so I thought okay, how am I going to do this? I was working part-time in the Japanese clinic. I was also working in another place now also in Knightsbridge as well, and another place in Bayswater for a guy called Ronald Dunn. I was doing that and also going in every day, check in on the builders, check in on all this stuff, so it was all… Juggling everything. We set it up as two surgeries to start with. We planned it for six but we set it up for two. We had myself and a hygienist, Christine, who’s still with me 17 years later.

Prav Solanki: Wow.

James Goolnik: That was brilliant, so it was like okay, I was trying to juggle everything. Pay the bills, make sure I was getting money as a dentist, and then trying to tell the patients in a nice way that I’m going to have my own practise but without any of the principals finding out.

Payman: Did you pull them over?

James Goolnik: I pulled quite a few over. I had an argument with one of my bosses because I actually wrote… I said to them, “I would like to write a letter to the patients saying where I’m going,” and they said, “No, you’re not allowed to do that.”

Payman: Yeah.

James Goolnik: I said, “Well they’re my patients.” They said, “No they’re not, they’re our patients.” At that stage we had no contracts. It was the old days where it was like spit on your hand, shake your hand, that’s it, how you work together. There was no contract. I wrote to about 10 patients and the rest of them we just… They could find us eventually from friends of friends. Google was around then.

Payman: I don’t think it was. What was it like on day one? Did you start doing one day a week? How did you do it?

James Goolnik: Yeah, I did one day a week and I just slowly… I would come in at the end of the day. I had a full-time receptionist and she actually started for a month before we even opened, so she was taking phone calls and bookings and stuff like that.

Payman: How about the business plan, working capital, spending on the build, all of these, did you make errors?

James Goolnik: Yeah, I made errors. It’s normal. I did a business plan but I got the money from HSPC and it was, to be honest, it was… As soon as they saw dentist, they will just give you money.

Payman: Think back then it was a bit more-

Prav Solanki: Easier, right?

James Goolnik: It was quite easy.

Payman: It was easier back then.

James Goolnik: As a dentist you got money, my parents could underscore the loan-

Payman: Guarantee it.

James Goolnik: … to guarantee it, so if there was any issues my dad guaranteed it. So it’s like okay, but I thought I’ve never seen a bankrupt dentist. People have always got teeth. I know what I’m doing. There’s definitely demand here and if the worse comes to worst, I’ll have a two surgery practises and I’ll sublet the rest of the building.

Payman: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

James Goolnik: So I thought let’s just go it. But at that time, I’d worked at the Eastman for so long and I’d made my own crowns, done my own lab work, I thought well there’s no labs in the city. I want to have a lab, so we decided to have the top floor as a lab space and we sublet it to Tony Laurie.

Payman: Who was Mike Wise’s technician?

James Goolnik: Yes. I met him through Mike Wise because I was doing Mike Wise’s course.

Payman: For anyone in the audience who doesn’t know, Mike Wise –

James Goolnik: He’s one of my gurus.

Payman: Do you know Tony Laurie as well?

Prav Solanki: No.

Payman: Tony Laurie was just the top, top, top, top, technician. Does he still practise?

James Goolnik: Yeah, he still practises. He works at the end of our street.

Payman: Oh really? Good guy, I like him.

James Goolnik: Yeah, he was the number one technician in all of UK, working for the number one dentist in all of UK.

Prav Solanki: Wow.

James Goolnik: Mike Wise is like one of my first gurus. He’s like evidence-based everything.

Payman: Were you on his course as well?

James Goolnik: Yeah, I did three years of his course. Met some great people in his course. Made me think about okay… He was Eastman trained so it was okay, this is the way we do it. This is evidence-based, this is what happens, but in private practise people don’t want silver fillings. They may be the best for them, or a gold filling might be the best, but there are other things that they won’t tolerate them. How do you communicate that to a patient? Say, “Okay, if we do it this way, this is what the expectancy is going to be of the tooth and the filling. This is your maintenance. Or we do it your way and this is what you’re going to do.”

James Goolnik: It’s all about informed consent but back in those days there was no written treatment plans, or they were long ones. There was no signing everything away like the young dentists do now. Everything is like signed in triplicate. I keep telling them, it’s like okay, I don’t care how much you’ve got signed. If you haven’t got a relationship with your patient and there’s no great report, I don’t care how great your compliance is, they’re still going to see… So the number one thing I always try and teach the younger dentists is the number one thing you’ve got to get is get a relationship with your patient. Make sure there’s a connection, make sure there’s a trust.

James Goolnik: Things go wrong. Dentistry is not ideal. We’re human. Everyone makes mistakes. Something happens, but if you’ve got a relationship with that patient and they know, like, and trust you, you can handle it and say, “You know what? I tried this, it didn’t work. I’m really sorry, this is what we’re going to do now. There’s this option, this option, this option, what would you like to do?” Give them that, rather than saying, “I did everything right. It’s not my fault. I’m not giving your money back,” which is what a lot of them do. “You signed the paper, you said you liked it, I don’t care now.”

Payman: I think it’s the other way around. You should immediately give the money back. But interesting question James, we just had another one of these, a young gun, Robbie that you just met, Robbie Hughes. Kind of what he was saying was that he wants to be different, he wants to be patient-focused. That’s all well and good now where every single coffee shop is customer-focused. Back then you really were one of the very, very first to be customer-focused. Let’s call it that.

James Goolnik: We really wanted to be different and also think about okay, what do they want? They want pain-free dentistry, they want to have a nice time in there in a nice environment. It’s got to smell nice.

Payman: You were definitely one of the first to do that, but then, talking to this guy, superb brain that he’s got on him as well, he’s talking about scaling, putting one in each town in the world, and all of that.

James Goolnik: That doesn’t turn me on.

Payman: Yeah. You’ve got that one jewel.

James Goolnik: I love it.

Payman: Didn’t ever think about doing a second?

James Goolnik: Yeah I did, I actually… I was a day away from signing a lease in Canary Wharf.

Payman: Oh really?

James Goolnik: I went to premises, got an architect in, did all the plans, did everything. This was about 10 years ago now. Got everything ready to go and I thought would I want to work in Canary Wharf? And the answer was no. Do I then want to commute from one place to the other? And all my friends who’d had more than one business were much more stressed. I thought do I want that? No. I want a work/life balance. I love what I do. I love treating patients, and I hopefully will always treat patients.

James Goolnik: But I didn’t want the extra stress and I didn’t need the money. I thought you know what? I’m going to keep at one, and it was quite hard because then I saw people, like Anoop and all these other people, my peers, who were getting two practises, three practises. I’m going to be a corporate, I’m going to do this. There’s a big ego thing about okay, why aren’t you doing this? Why aren’t you doing this? It’s like no, I don’t want to do that. That’s not where I want to be. Okay, I’m fine with that. That’s okay.

Payman: Yeah.

James Goolnik: You don’t have to have all that thing. For me it’s okay, what’s my lifestyle? I can go anywhere I want to go and have a holiday. Whatever I want to do, I can take… Work one day a week or six days a week if I want to, but I’m loving life at the moment so why would I want-

Payman: But then there’s also the appetite for risk question, right? As a young gun, there is no risk.

James Goolnik: There is no risk. You can do everything. I had the guarantee of my parents. I didn’t have kids at that stage. You can just chuck everything out. When you then have commitments and kids at school, and all the rest of it, it’s like okay, it’s a bit harder now. I’ve got… If this doesn’t work, what happens to this? You get more cautious on it.

James Goolnik: But then I love the excitement of doing something new, a new challenge, especially if somebody says to you in private, “You can’t do this.” Yes you can. It’s not been done like that before. Okay, that’s it. I want to do it.

Prav Solanki: I’m going to do it.

James Goolnik: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

James Goolnik: Somebody tells you no, if somebody tells me no, it’s like you know what?

Payman: That’s the challenge.

James Goolnik: You said no, I’m doing that. I don’t really care what you think.

Prav Solanki: Brilliant.

James Goolnik: I’m doing it.

Prav Solanki: Brilliant. So going back to opening a new practise, no patients, hygienist and… What was your first marketing campaign that drove patients through the practise?

James Goolnik: Okay.

Payman: You’ve done a few.

James Goolnik: Done lots of different marketing campaigns, some of which didn’t work. Actually, a good majority didn’t work but I’ve tried. The best one that’s worked is actually going round to every single local business in the area and just saying hi. I went to every single business in the area. I went to the hairdressers, I went to the beauticians, I went the investment bankers, and said, “Just to let you know, I’m James. I’m a local dentist around the corner. I’d love to take care of you. You get 10% off any treatment if you come to see us. Come and say hi.”

James Goolnik: I got to know the community as close as I could do. At that stage there were less big chains. There was still big chains, like Starbucks and stuff, but there were less big ones so I went in everywhere. They got to know us. We also put… The best investment I ever had in marketing, it sounds a bit crazy, is an A-board. Just plain A-board in the street. We’ve got a really narrow street in Bow Lane. It’s a pedestrianised street and at lunchtime it’s heaving, so we just put an A-board out with… And it was usually stuff to try and stop people, going, “Have you had your mouth checked for mouth cancer?” It’s like whoa, that’s enough to stop them.

Prav Solanki: Yeah, yeah.

James Goolnik: The other thing that worked really well is apples. We used to give out apples with stickers with Bow Lane on. So it was… Our team was just there at lunchtime. We gave out 250/300 apples, all for free, and it was just awareness. Okay, why am I getting an apple? So they stop and they look at the sticker. Oh, it’s a dentist. In my head, there’s a dentist, it’s purple, it’s called Bow Lane, and we’re in Bow Lane. Then six months later they break a tooth, they go, “Oh, isn’t there a dentist somewhere?” And then they remember it all. So it’s just getting to know about the local area.

Prav Solanki: Do you remember patients walking through your practise and saying, “You were the guy that gave me the apple,” or…

James Goolnik: Yes. Yeah, it was brilliant and it was also, at that stage, every patient, I knew all their names because I only had six. I know all about them, but it’s been brilliant. That was one great thing about being somewhere for so long, is that I get to see them when they were new city… Really vibrant, excited, happy about their life. Get to see them, and then I see their partners, and then I see their kids. Then sometimes I see the girlfriends and then I see their second partners.

James Goolnik: There’s one patient that I’ve actually seen all four of his wives now, so slowly… He obviously gets divorced with each one and then the new one comes along, so I get to see them all and make sure they’re healthy.

Payman: Talking of divorce…

James Goolnik: Okay.

Payman: Okay. Go on.

Prav Solanki: You met your wife whilst you were in your hospital job, that’s right?

James Goolnik: Yes, hospital job, yeah.

Prav Solanki: Just talk to us about the struggles of running your own business, work/life balance, and the toll that that can have on your relationship.

James Goolnik: It’s tricky because obviously when you’re setting up a new business you put 110% effort and energy in it. You live, breathe, and sleep it. There was that. Obviously my wife was a doctor as well so she was working quite hard.

Payman: Hospital doctor?

James Goolnik: Yeah. Hospital doctor, NHS. She’s working quite hard but not earning much money, so it’s all those sort of stresses going on. And then also, when you start up a business, financially it’s hard. You have to cut back on different things, which makes it tricky. Just trying to get priorities right, and over the years, as the business has got more and more successful, it’s tricky.

James Goolnik: You go to the business and it’s going really well and it’s really successful, and there’s loads going on, and then you go home and it’s not as engaging, there’s a dichotomy between those two lives. I found that the more successful I got in business, the more strain on the personal relationship was.

Prav Solanki: And at what stage did the kids come?

James Goolnik: The kids came very soon after… I think it was six months after we opened the business. I have twins, Harry and Kate, so that was like okay, we go from zero skills of parenting to suddenly parents of twins so that was a bit-

Prav Solanki: Stress, sleepless nights.

James Goolnik: Yeah. That was extra stress, but it was great fun. The business was going well. Just trying to balance all of that, but as the business got more and more successful it got harder. And then I thought you know what? The person I was when I met her, I’m not the same person anymore. She’s not the same person anymore. 10 years later you think, okay, it’s not working. I thought okay, well I’ve put this much effort into the business, business is running really nicely now, I need to put this same amount of effort into the relationship. We started relationship counselling for a year. Looked at all different things and just thought you know what? This is just not working.

Prav Solanki: Like you mentioned relationship counselling. I think it takes a certain type of person or couple to actually, first of all, except that they need outside help, and then the other thing is actually going to a stranger and talking about the ins and outs of your relationship. What was that like?

James Goolnik: I mean I’m quite an open person. When I meet anyone for the first time there’s… Trust is like at 98%, so I’m quite open then, but as soon as they do something that doesn’t show that they’re at the same level, I drop right down to like -5%. But I’m quite trusting. I knew there was a problem, I knew I wasn’t happy. My wife wasn’t as unhappy as me but I knew this wasn’t working. I thought okay, I need to do something about it. My personality type is I’m a bit of a fixer, so if something is not right I’m going to put 100% effort… I’m going to research the hell out of it. Who is the best counsellor? Who’s this, that?

Prav Solanki: Sure.

James Goolnik: I’ll chuck everything at it, but then if it doesn’t work within a set period of a time I go okay, I’ve done that, no, move on.

Payman: How old were the kids?

James Goolnik: The kids were five. About five.

Payman: Okay. And they’re 16 now?

James Goolnik: Yeah.

Payman: Wow.

James Goolnik: Four, five. It was tricky because do I stay in an unhappy marriage just for the kids and go through until they go through school? What’s the best hurdle? Is it better to go when they get through secondary school at 11? Do I wait until they leave school? I know lots of people in unhappy marriages who say, “I’m just going to stay with it for the kids,” and I just thought no. Life’s too short. I want to model them a happy life and I wasn’t having a happy life at that stage.

Prav Solanki: Can you remember the day you decided it’s over?

James Goolnik: Yeah. It was-

Prav Solanki: And did you decide it was over? Was it a mutual… Just talk me through that process.

James Goolnik: It was me who called the day and said I’d had enough. I think by that stage and the amount of counselling we had, she understood that it wasn’t going anywhere. We were talking at that stage and the counselling helped us talk. The communication was better, but we weren’t happy. I just thought… She wanted to try longer and longer and longer, but I thought I’d given enough. A year was enough. I’m not happy, the kids, at that age, can perceive when we’re not together. We were in separate bedrooms. It was just not right, so I just thought I’m calling it, that’s it. I’m out.

James Goolnik: And we then had to live together. Going through the divorce bit we had to live together for a few months before we could find accommodation, all that stuff. That was tricky. People say no matter how well you get on, soon as divorce lawyers get involved it’s like, “You’ve got to go for this, you’ve got to go for that. Record all conversations, copy the emails, do all this.” It got quite tricky at that stage. I’d just had enough and said, “I want to get out of this,” so I moved out. I hadn’t met anyone else. There was nothing else there. It was just like the possibility of having a happier life was worth moving out for.

Prav Solanki: If you could go back and relive that life before you started your practise and change something, do you think it would have been different?

James Goolnik: No. I just don’t think we were compatible.

Prav Solanki: You were the right people for each other.

James Goolnik: That was it, and when I started I was obviously a hospital dentist, hospital doctor, both worked in NHS. I wanted to do my own business but I’m from a family of people setting up their own business. She wasn’t. She was an only child and they hadn’t set up business before or anything. They worked for other big corporates. I think we had a different background. I was from London, she was from Norwich. There was too much of a difference. I think that was… Now, understanding that, getting older and being 50, you think actually, people’s upbringing is quite important. It doesn’t matter about your ages so much, it’s more about your upbringing. Are your family values? Have you been brought up in a similar way? Because that made a bigger difference.

Prav Solanki: I come from a… My parents are divorced. Wasn’t pleasant. As kids, nor… between them. It created a wedge. It did. Do you think it had an impact on your kids? What was your and your wife’s relationship, or ex wife’s relationship like during that transition period up to now?

James Goolnik: The relationship during the divorce battle was hard. We were communicating but not in a nice way. In the back of my head it was always what’s best for the kids, what’s best for the kids? Okay, let’s do this. My parent’s even said, “What’s best for the kids? I’m going to be there, I’m going to do this.” Every decision I did was what’s best for the kids? It was the first priority, and then what’s good for me? But I wanted to make sure I could cushion them as well as possible.

James Goolnik: My kids then had problems at different ages. My daughter found it really tricky as we were going through the initial divorce but she’s fine now, whereas my son was fine all the way through that and then a few years later he then found it harder. I’ve always put them first, 100% in front of anything, but our relationship then got better and better and better. We were quite friendly. As I said I’m big into cars, so I helped her buy her last car. I’m helping her buy her new car at the moment.

Payman: So super friendly now?

Prav Solanki: Oh wow.

James Goolnik: So we’re friendly but it’s… And obviously I pick the kids up every week so we do drop offs, but there are certain spark moments that happen. Every sort of six to nine months, something triggers it and it’s like, “You can do this.” I don’t know, she’s got to sign up a new house insurance or something and she’s getting really stressed by it all. “It’s all right for you, you’ve got a team of 24. If you want to get a new house insurance quote, you just send them an email and they’ll do it all for you.” They don’t do my house insurance. That’s not how it works.

Payman: Imagine.

James Goolnik: So that was the difference, and there’s always been a difference there. She said, “It’s all right for you, you’re earning all this money because you’ve got an easier life than me.” I’m earning this money because I’ve put a lot of personal education into me and I’m doing my own business. You’re working for the NHS. If you want to earn more money, you need to work smarter. You need to set up your own practise. You need to do something else.

Payman: Obviously your situation is your situation.

James Goolnik: Yes.

Payman: Dentistry’s a stressful job.

James Goolnik: It can be a stressful job.

Payman: Yeah. Dentistry can be a stressful job, particularly nowadays. I’m not going to say more, but nowadays with all the legal crap everyone’s got to take care of as well, there must have been a couple of like dark days where it was stress at home, stress at work. What’s your advice to someone going through that?

James Goolnik: Luckily I didn’t have many days where all the stress was coming in at once. You have days when it’s stressful at home and then you have your respite at home. I think one thing that helped is that I always had some place to go, so if home was really tricky I had my workplace and that was just a sort of a cocoon.

Payman: That’s interesting, isn’t it? You said work was actually… It’s the opposite?

James Goolnik: Yeah, I think if I didn’t have the business I think I would have found it really hard, and I’ve had other times where home is… Business has been really stressful, but then having a calm home, I just had somewhere that I could retreat to. But for me, I’m big into exercise so I found that… I used to run to work and actually that gave me some head space. I didn’t have any music on, I just went for it.

Payman: From where to where?

James Goolnik: I used to run from Putney into the city. So 8 miles-

Payman: Bloody hell. Every day?

James Goolnik: Not every day. Three days a week.

Payman: Wow.

James Goolnik: That was great because, one, I had my exercise over in the morning. I just felt a real buzz with the endorphins. I could think better, and I’ve always been better thinking when I’m moving. I’m not so good at like… I can’t sit at a desk and think, I need to be usually out in fresh air. That was great. For me, I had that crutch. It was the exercise that could help me go through whatever I was thinking. And also, if you have something on your mind from work, by the time you get home you’ve sorted the puzzle out already in your head. You’ve gone through it all, so that worked well for me.

James Goolnik: And also, I don’t like being like everyone else. I don’t like being a commuter. I don’t want to be one of 5000 people on the train. I want to be slightly different. I’m going to do it differently.

Payman: I get it.

Prav Solanki: Did you ever have any moments in your business where you felt like throwing the towel in?

James Goolnik: In the business?

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

James Goolnik: No, no, no. I’ve had some tricky, really tricky bits. I’ve had a member of staff stealing money from us. I’ve had colleagues writing weird things on emails and Facebook and stuff. I’ve had lots of different haters, but never thought… No. I love what I do. I still love what I do. I mean everyone has bad things. You might get CQC inspector come in the next day, “Oh, that’s what’s going to happen here.” There’s always bits and bobs that happen because that’s just life, but for me, hey, you know what? For me, I’ve got this thing. Okay, compare it to my day to what happened yesterday. Am I progressing in my life? Is today better? Have I learned something from it? Rather than compare myself to some other person who’s doing something else at that time.

James Goolnik: That’s the thing I hate about social media. You see the highlights of somebody’s journey that they’ve edited and filtered and whatever, and then actually it’s not real life. You compare yourself to them, it’s like why would you bother? You don’t know what’s happening to them.

Payman: Funny enough we were just speaking to Robbie earlier, and he was talking about filters and how a lot of dentists put their filtered cases up on Facebook and Instagram, but it’s not reality, right? Because if you put all your stuff out there, you get a mean average of what it is and it’s not as sexy as they make it out, right?

James Goolnik: Right. Anyone can make a composite that disappears. It might be a freak one-off, it just happens. Then you just doctorate and put it up. I’m not into that.

Payman: Yeah.

James Goolnik: That’s not my style.

Payman: Have you ever made a serious clinical mistake on a patient? Assuming you have, how did you deal with it?

James Goolnik: Yeah, the biggest mistake I’ve done is I’ve taken out the wrong tooth. It was a patient, it was only about eight years ago, took a look at the radiograph, the rest of it, and for some reason I just wasn’t concentrating enough and I took out the wrong tooth.

Prav Solanki: Was it the left and right, wrong way round on the radiograph?

James Goolnik: No, they were next to each other.

Prav Solanki: Right.

James Goolnik: They were next to each other and I looked at it, and I made the wrong decision. Took the tooth out and realised it straightaway. Okay, what am I going to do for this? I took out the right tooth which was next to it, so they lost two teeth instead of one tooth, and just said, “Look, I’m really sorry, I’ve taken out the wrong tooth. This is what’s happened. We checked the X-ray and the rest of it. This tooth wasn’t the best tooth. Now I’ve taken this one out as well. We can replace it with an implant and we’re going to do this free of charge. Now you’re going to get your tooth back.”

Prav Solanki: Going back to what you said earlier, the relationship with a patient-

James Goolnik: This guy I had been treating for five years. Never had any problems at all. We got on really well. I soon as I realised I just stopped and sat him up and said, “Look, this is what’s happened.” You can’t undo it, once you’ve done it. Once you’ve taken a tooth out and can’t push it back in and hope for the best. Luckily it was next to the other one and it was heavily filled. It wasn’t a great tooth anyway. It was right at the back. I said, “Look, I’m really sorry.” I didn’t charge him for the extractions.

James Goolnik: On the house.

Payman: But there was no recourse?

James Goolnik: No recourse, no.

Payman: He didn’t come for you?

Prav Solanki: At any point did you think there was going to be a recourse?

James Goolnik: When I first did it, when I took the tooth out, then I was like yes, okay, I’ve made a serious error. What am I going to do? I started sweating everywhere. Okay, what am I going to do? But then I just thought you know what? I’m going to be honest. If something happens in life just be honest and say… Stop, rather than trying to cover it up, it’s like-

Prav Solanki: Dig yourself a bigger hole, yeah.

James Goolnik: It’s life. Things happen. You just have to move on for it. I haven’t done it since.

Prav Solanki: Always double check now right?

James Goolnik: Yeah. 25 years of dentistry, 17 in the same practise, and one mistake. The other mistakes that happen probably every six to nine months is saying yes to a patient and then realising that actually, I can’t deal with them. What they want is not what I can achieve.

Prav Solanki: Got you.

James Goolnik: And that happens quite regularly and you just have to say, “You know what?” Half way through you think, “You know what Mrs. Jones? You want to achieve this, I can only achieve it this way but you don’t want me to do it that way. I think the best thing to do is I can give you your money back and you can find somebody that can do it that way because that’s not what I can do.”

Prav Solanki: Got you.

James Goolnik: I think that’s the best way, just to stop and think. Sometimes you can do the dentistry but dealing with a patient is the tricky part.

Prav Solanki: It’s hard, isn’t it? Not just dentistry, any kind of business. When you’re dealing with people you can’t keep everyone happy, right?

James Goolnik: Yeah. It’s impossible. The problem is the higher pedestal we are, being president at the British Academy of Dentistry or whatever, they look up at you and they go, “Okay, this guy has done it a thousand items before. He teaches dentists, he must know what he can do. He can fix me. I’ve been to 10 other dentists and they can’t fix me, but you’re the one.”

James Goolnik: When they come in the room and they tell you that, your ego sort of thinks, “Wow, maybe I am the one. Yes, I can do anything.” Because we’re a healthcare providers and we want to naturally help people. The first instinct for me is like Prav, I can help you. Yes, I can help you. But then when you start to look at it in more detail you think actually, what you want and what I can achieve are not the same things. I’m much better at picking it up now before I’ve started treatment, but we often make mistakes and think actually, I shouldn’t have started treating you. But when we started treating them I want to get them to a stable place.

James Goolnik: That’s one tricky bit about a principal, is when my associates get into trouble, I step in and go, “You know what? We need to get this patient in a comfortable place and happy, whatever it takes. Remake whatever needs to be done. There’s no charge.” And I just take over and fix it. We’ve not, touch wood, in 17 years we haven’t had a single case against us because we just take ownership and say, “Okay, I want to fix this. What do we need to do to fix it?”

Prav Solanki: Wow.

James Goolnik: Whether it’s giving money back, whether it’s sending them to a specialist, whatever we need to do, we’re just going to take ownership and get them in a happy place. At that stage, we may say goodbye to them and they can go somewhere else, or often times, they don’t want to go and they’re like, “I like you now James. I want you to fix everything for me.” Okay.

Payman: Your team, I’ve noticed over the years interacting with them, it feels like you’re talking to sort of a higher level of employee in a way. You must really invest in them heavily. I guess you pick them well in the first place.

James Goolnik: Thank you.

Payman: What kind of leader are you?

James Goolnik: I try and lead by example. I work very hard. I’m very passionate about my patients. I’ll always go the extra mile to try and help them and get them out of something. I don’t care about the money. I’m not interested in the money. Whatever it takes to get them sorted. I want them to grow and move on, and I understand that, say, a hygienist comes with me now, she may want to go off and do something else in five years time. I’m not going to hold her back. I want to try and invest in them. If they want to be an orthodontic therapist and they need the money for the cost, we’ll just lend it to them. Whatever it takes to keep them. I want them happy while they’re at Bow Lane.

James Goolnik: When they’re at Bow Lane, even if it’s only six months or a year, I want them happy. We get people that have… I’ve got three team members that have been with me over 15 years now, and then about six of them have been over 10 years.

Prav Solanki: Wow.

James Goolnik: They come back. We’ve got a nurse now who was with me for six years, went off travelling, got married, and now is coming back tomorrow to work back with us again.

Prav Solanki: Amazing.

James Goolnik: That is lovely, having them back. It’s part of our little family.

Payman: What are the secrets of that? Lead by example.

James Goolnik: Lead by example, be nice to them. Listen to them because often you think they want what you want. It’s different, so you might think actually what they want is a pay raise. What they want is this. Actually, it’s not sometimes. Sometimes, and one of my team said to me about two months ago, he said, “You need to say thank you more.” Okay, you know what? I do.

Prav Solanki: It’s amazing how much just a little pat on the back goes a long way.

James Goolnik: For the next two weeks, I was sending her messages on Instant Messaging about, “Thank you for that, that was really good.” The first day, she says, “You’re taking the Mickey now aren’t you?” But after a week I overheard her talking, “James really changed. He’s thanking me a lot more than normal.” Okay. It’s just a system. I’m putting a system in place that I’m going to remind myself to thank them more. If you just say thanks to somebody, it doesn’t mean anything.

Prav Solanki: No.

James Goolnik: Thanks Payman for doing X, Y, Z, and this is how it meant to me. That’s when it makes a difference. You’ve got to make it personal and make them realise that actually there’s an emotion attached to that. You’re not just saying thanks to everyone, because people just say thanks and it’s like have a nice day. It means nothing.

Payman: I think it’s worked though. Okay, so say thank you.

James Goolnik: Pay them well.

Payman: Pay them well.

James Goolnik: Pay them well is really important to do that, and also give them little wins

Payman: Are you proud of that? You’re paying your staff higher than the average?

James Goolnik: Yeah, yeah. We’ve slowly, every year, we just go up and up and up. It costs a lot more to get somebody new in and then to train them up to that level and to integrate with the team than it is to give somebody a pay rise. Okay, I don’t want this person to leave. At some point they’re going to leave. We had a receptionist and we ended up… We were paying her 30,000 pounds a year and she still wanted more, and one of her friends had gotten into a job that was paying more than that. She came to me and said, “I don’t want to leave but this is what I want to stay.” We did the sums and thought okay, you’re good, but as a business I can’t afford to pay you more than 30,000 pounds a year. If you can tell me how I can afford that, then I’ll do it. And she couldn’t, so that was the end of it. She left.

James Goolnik: Sometimes you have to let people go. I mean if she came up with some constructive ideas and said, “Okay, I can do this in the business or this in the business, or this, and this is how you can afford to pay me,” that’s a different matter. But she couldn’t and I thought we were paying well. I thought you know what? Otherwise I’m going to get everyone coming up and saying, “I want more, more, more.”

Payman: Have you got a performance related pay element?

James Goolnik: Yes. All our managers, we have a business manager and we have a treatment coordinator, and both of them are on KPI’s, key performance indicators, so they get 10% of their salary is also a bonus as well, so they get a certain amount of salary and they get 10% they can get as a bonus. But I found that the one thing that’s really helped recently, and we’re doing it the last two years now, is little surprises.

James Goolnik: For example, cinema tickets. I bought two cinema tickets. I messaged all the team saying, “Where is your local cinema?” And it was like Odeon or whatever. I got them two cinema tickets for them to go to any film they want, any time, and I gave it to everyone. A lot of practises may only give it to the nurses. I gave it to the dentist. Like Zaki was going like “This is really cool”, Zaki afford cinema tickets. Just the fact of getting something free from your boss is cool.

Payman: It’s nice, it’s a nice little-

James Goolnik: It’s different. I didn’t repeat that because I might do something different and you get like Boots vouchers. The other thing that’s worked really nicely is that we do free lunches twice a month. It’s always on a different day.

Prav Solanki: Twice a month?

James Goolnik: What we do is the day before we send the menus around and people choose what they want. They’re always healthy foods, and then we just provide lunch for them so they don’t have to… It’s everyone, the whole team gets lunch.

Prav Solanki: Delivered to the practise?

James Goolnik: Delivered to the practise. Always something healthy and we all eat together. That’s just really nice, to have their lunches.

Payman: Have you interacted with James’s staff?

Prav Solanki: I don’t think… No, I don’t think so.

Payman: There’s a real ownership, the way they talk about the place. You really feel like they’re stakeholders in the modern speak. You feel it, you feel it. It is like that, it is like that. But this combination of… For me, you can’t really be patient-centric, customer-centric, unless your team is happy. It’s one of those, you can’t expect them not to be happy one minute and then happy the next. It doesn’t work. Too many people expect that, yeah? Oh be super nice to our customers but I’m going to treat you like…

James Goolnik: We do surveys twice a year we send out anonymously to them to find out how can we do better? What are we doing? I mean some people would want more money, but there’s always little things that we can easily do. Like somebody said, “Why don’t we just get fresh flowers?” We had fresh flowers at the beginning of the day and then five years ago we were cutting costs. Do we need flowers or not? They go, “No, we should have flowers.” We got flowers in and it just lifts everybody. They love the smell of it.

Payman: It’s something you would never think of yourself.

James Goolnik: Yeah. The problem is when you’re in your business all day, and I’m in there three days a week, but when you’re in the business you do not see these things. You’re don’t see the little things, but actually they go, “Just having the flowers makes me cheery when I see that.”

Prav Solanki: I’m assuming you’ve had to fire somebody before?

James Goolnik: Yes. Lots of people.

Prav Solanki: Lots of people?

James Goolnik: Yes.

Prav Solanki: Ever get any easier?

James Goolnik: No. Sorry.

Prav Solanki: What’s the most difficult conversation you’ve had with somebody you had to fire?

Payman: Before we go any further, you’ve fired lots of people have you?

James Goolnik: I have fired lots of people.

Payman: So what’s the technique? Hire lots and fire lots?

James Goolnik: I think the big thing, and you hear about this all the time, is fire fast.

Payman: Yeah, hire slow.

James Goolnik: Hire slow and fire fast. Basically if you think in your gut they’re not the right person for you, then I always ask another team member just in case there’s some clash of personality, “What do you think of… Do you think they’ll fit in the team?” And some people take longer to warm up into a team, especially if we’ve got quite a big team that have been there a long time. They take a while to bed in. It’s a little bit intimidating initially. But yeah, usually the initial gut feeling is okay, they’re not quite right for us. It took us two months to get this person, I don’t want to then have to work harder and do double the work so let’s just see if they get better.

Payman: Yeah.

James Goolnik: You just have to say it how it is unfortunately. And we always, if somebody goes, the best thing that we’ve found is they go straight away. No mucking around, you get your stuff and you’re out. We pay for the whole month and we give them a lovely reference. It’s just go. You try and keep somebody on there when they’re not happy or when they’ve been fired, it just doesn’t work.

James Goolnik: And the same thing with… The hardest thing is to hire and fire a dentist. That is the hardest thing because they’re your colleagues, they’re your peers. You’re going to see them at conferences and the rest of it. It’s just not working, and that is, most of the time, it’s actually… The two times I’ve fired dentists, it’s always because of clinical skills.

Payman: So we had the endodontist.

James Goolnik: Yes, so the endodontist. Yeah, that didn’t last long. It ended in a day.

Payman: That wasn’t so hard.

James Goolnik: But then yeah, associates, it’s really hard. It’s clinical skills and sometimes… You can’t be there the whole time. You get feedback from your nurses, but when patients come back because things are breaking and coming off all the time, or you’re looking at X-rays and you’re thinking this is before, they’ve done this restoration, but why have they done this restoration? This tooth didn’t need to be touched.

James Goolnik: That is harder. It’s like okay, I think they’re over treating. Sitting them down to say, “Look, I don’t think the value that you put on your dental care and what we put on…” And then is it me? Am I just super conservative or not? I then talk to the other team members, like Ilan and Zaki have been with me for years, and say, “What would you do with this case?” And then they wouldn’t go in as well, it’s like okay, this person shouldn’t be working for us. That’s the hardest.

Prav Solanki: James, there’s a 101 other questions I’ve got for you but I’m conscious we’re running out of time.

James Goolnik: Okay, cool.

Prav Solanki: I’d like to focus on your new project.

James Goolnik: Okay.

Prav Solanki: Charity?

James Goolnik: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: Tell us all about it.

James Goolnik: It’s called the Rewards Project.

Payman: Okay.

James Goolnik: Basically I’m a parent of three kids and it really annoys me when I go and they have a haircut and they’re given a lollipop. There’s a three year old having a haircut, it’s so exciting for her, the first haircut, all the rest of it. Give her a certificate, give her a sticker, give her something that lasts for your business. Giving them a lollipop doesn’t help anyone.

Payman: No.

James Goolnik: That really frustrates-

Prav Solanki: Maybe helps your business.

James Goolnik: Well I’ve got enough… There’s enough dental care, cosmetic stuff, aesthetic work, we don’t need it from caries. And then every day, seeing the damage that is done by sugar to teeth really frustrates me. Children, most of the time, have no control over what they eat. They’re parents have complete control over what they eat and give them.

Prav Solanki: Very true.

James Goolnik: It’s like you do well… My son did well on a math test. He gets a bar of dairy milk. You’re in a school, why are you giving chocolate for that? You don’t need to. There’s much better ways of doing it. What I’m trying to get people to do is think beyond sugar. Think about what rewards you can do for good performance and good behaviour that don’t involve food or sugary snacks. That’s the next project.

Prav Solanki: Just give me a vision of how that project’s going to be executed and what it looks like. So stickers and certificates and hairdressers, or…

James Goolnik: What I need to do first is actually see what is out there at the moment, what people are rewarding people for and look at the good practise. There’s plenty of schools and nurseries that are doing good things for people when they’re doing well. We’re looking at… We’ve got a team of nutritionists, doctors, dentists, psychologists, all together.

Prav Solanki: Wow.

James Goolnik: It’s launching in May. What we’re looking at is how we can… What’s going on at the moment. We’ve got a rewards review that we’re sending out to 20,000 schools in the UK. It’s looking at what they do for sports days, what they do for festivals, how often they have their cake bake sales. So looking at what they do at the moment. There’s a survey going out to all the schools.

James Goolnik: Then we’ve also got two quizzes. We’ve got sugar quizzes, like how addicted to sugar are you? When, Payman, do you reach for that Yorkie bar in the bottom drawer? Is there a certain reason to do it? We’re looking at all of that out there. It’s a fun and educational resource, and then we’re sharing good practise out there. One of the things that’s out there is, I don’t know if you know, but you can actually retrain your pallet to not like sweet things anymore.

Payman: How?

James Goolnik: There’s research out there. It takes six days. What you need to do is cut down added sugar for six days and after the sixth day, when you have something sweet, it tastes so sweet to you, that’s the point when you think actually that’s not good.

Payman: Is that it, just cut it out?

Prav Solanki: I’ve not had sugar for 90 days. I had a strawberry the other day, holy crap it was so sweet. So ridiculously sweet.

Payman: I get it but like my kids, my daughter is completely addicted and I wonder if six days would do it to her. I think you’ve got to want to. It’s like stopping any addiction, right?

James Goolnik: As a parent the first thing is actually look during the prep work beforehand, so it’s like going through the house and seeing what rubbish you’ve got there with added sugar and looking at 100 grammes, trying to get everything under 5 grammes, but a 100 grammes first of all. Replace the sugary cereals and sometimes, okay, I’ve got these Cheerios and they’re too high. They’re 32 grammes of sugar. Let’s go for the lower sugar Cheerios first to get them down slowly, and if that’s too much, maybe do 50/50. Half the normal sugar ones, half the…

James Goolnik: The slow changes, people don’t notice if you reformulate slowly. And then looking at go-to snacks. Okay, what snacks can I make? What lunchbox stuff can I have for my kids that is actually not crammed full of rubbish? You’ll find they’ll behave better, they’ll concentrate better, they’ll have less dental problems.

Payman: I know.

James Goolnik: It’s a win/win for everybody, and the schools are really up for it. I think it’s easier at schools because we have them in a protected environment and they want to learn. It’s a win/win for everybody, and then the kids are going to come home and say, “Dad, why are you having that chocolate bar? You don’t need that chocolate bar,” and changing it.

Payman: Yeah, yeah. A friend of mine runs one of the big water companies and he said they’ve got this big issue with wipes being blocking up… And he said the most successful way of changing this habit is by teaching the kids. It works better than any other marketing…

James Goolnik: We’ve got a massive problem in the UK with the amount of extractions going up to the five to the eight year olds. It’s just up and up and up. The number one reason kids are going to the hospital for GA is having a tooth out. That’s criminal in this age.

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman: Would you… You’re doing this… I know we’re supposed to be in the profession of prevention, but very left field compared to city cosmetic dentists. Would you say it’s something you’d like to be remembered for?

James Goolnik: I just like making a difference. It’s like okay, I want to do things that people say you can’t do. What is a big goal? What do I fight every single day? I fight with sugar in the mouth, with what’s going on, and the damage that’s been done. But with my kids, it’s like okay, you’ve given them a lollipop, now they want a lollipop for everything. I’m fighting this battle. I want to replace this. Sugar is great. You can have sugar at birthdays, it’s fine, celebrations. Have sugar when you know you’re having sugar, not when it’s hidden in a sandwich bar. They’re putting it in their sandwich because it’s cheap, it makes the shelf life go longer, and they’ll sell more sandwiches.

James Goolnik: It’s not because it’s good for us. There’s no nutritional value at all in sugar. They’re just chucking it in and they basically mass poisoning us. I think we can make a difference and I think with all the thousands of dentists out there, we see our patients regularly. We talk about nutrition, we have great communication skills with them. Let’s start talking about it. Let’s do stickers. My kids love stickers. They love sticker charts, they love star charts. There’s so many different ways that you can reward children without using food and without using sugar.

Payman: Is there a website?

Prav Solanki: Where can we learn about this?

James Goolnik: It’s called TheRewardsProject.Org. There’s loads of free resources on there. There’s some quizzes that you can have for kids, quizzes for adults. You’ve got your rewards review you can send out to your schools. We want to go into every single school and get them more and more engaged in what you can do. We’re going to be sharing good practise and teaching people about healthier habits. We’ve got nutritionists to say, “We’re doing this,” and we’re doing our 14 day sugar detox.

James Goolnik: You’re way ahead of us. You’re on the 90 day, but 14 days is all it takes.

Prav Solanki: I’d be happy to share any experiences I’ve had.

Payman: Did you say the TheRewardsProject.Com?

James Goolnik: .Org.

Payman: .Org. TheRewardsProject.Org.

Prav Solanki: James, one last question.

James Goolnik: Yes?

Prav Solanki: Your last day on the planet and you can leave the world giving three pieces of advice.

James Goolnik: Okay.

Prav Solanki: What would those be?

James Goolnik: Love, be loved, and never stop learning.

Prav Solanki: Beautiful. Thank you.

Payman: It’s like someone had already asked that question.

James Goolnik: It’s in my book, it’s in my book.

Payman: Brilliant. All right, well thanks a lot for coming over. It’s been a pleasure. I feel like we still didn’t get to the bottom of why is it that you want to prove everyone wrong when they say, “That can’t be done.” Until next time.

Prav Solanki: Mate, we’ve just… That’s podcast number two. Mate, we’ve just scratched the surface. We haven’t talked about his current relationship, work/life balance.

Payman: BACD.

Prav Solanki: BACD. Shit tonne of-

James Goolnik: The book and sleep. And meditation.

Payman: We’ll bring you back.

James Goolnik: The morning ritual, we’ve got to come back for the next-

Payman: We’ll bring you back, we’ll bring you back.

James Goolnik: Would love to.

Prav Solanki: For sure, for sure.

Payman: Thank you so much.

Prav Solanki: Cheers buddy.

James Goolnik: Pleasure.

Speaker 4: This is Dental Leaders, the podcast where you get to go one on one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts, Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.

Prav Solanki: Thank you for tuning in guys to the Dental Leaders podcast. Just got a little request to make. If you’ve got a suggestion of somebody else who we should be interviewing or somebody who’s got a really strong story, powerful story to share with us, please send us a message and help us connect with that individual so we can bring their stories to the surface.

Payman: Thank you so much for taking the time guys, and if you got some value out of it, think about sharing it with your friends and subscribing to the channel. Thanks.

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