Liza Benting took ownership of her first practice after arriving in the UK from Cape Town, South Africa, in 2000—but life had other plans.
In this week’s episode, Liza describes her path from practice owner to associate and how feeling confined by the clinic’s four walls led to an exciting new career as a negotiator for one of the country’s leading dental clinic sales and acquisition specialists.
In This Episode
02.01 – Coming to the UK
05.00 – From owner to associate
16.02 – Rapport building and treatment longevity
23.15 – Joining Pluto Partners
44.27 – Values and value
49.42 – Dentistry Vs business
53.53 – A week in the life
56.44 – Last days and legacy
59.47 – Fantasy dinner party
About Liza Benting
Liza graduated from the University of Stellenbosch in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2000. She now divides her time between clinical practice in the Midlands and acting as a negotiator for the dental M&A specialist, Pluto Partners.
And I see a wide range of different types of clinicians who have different philosophies is the one you’re coming from is about actually giving the patient longevity in terms of their dentistry that you’re offering them, right? Something that’s going to last, not something that, okay, I’m going to change your smile in whatever, 60 minutes, 90 minutes, whatever the latest craze is today. And it’ll look great. But but the habits that you’ve developed to get your teeth to where you were when you stepped in my door have not changed. Right. So you’re going to you’re going to continue to grind. You’re going to continue to, you know, bite bottle tops off of bottles and things like that and screw your teeth up and you’ll be back here in in six months sort of thing.
So and if you can identify and make the patient see where it’s going wrong, some people might look at this and go, Oh, financially this patient will end up spending less in the long run. But if you look at it from the point of view, this is more likely to become a patient that will come back every six months so that we can check for mouth cancers so that we can check their general the health of the gum and the bone. What’s going to happen is if we feel looked after, guess what? If our friend down the pub have a problem with it and every most people are scared of going to the dentist. Most people.
Yeah. And if we if this patient can go. Do you know what? Trust me, you need to go to whoever. I don’t even have to say. Just go. You’ll see what I mean. Guess what? You’ll be building your practice long term and you’ll create an environment where patients want to be there. Staff clinicians want to be there, and everything moves in the right direction.
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.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Dental Leaders podcast. Today on Dental Leaders we have Liza Benting, who’s been a dentist for over two decades, has been a practice owner and associate in numerous practices and currently is a team member at Pluto Partners, where she leads essentially negotiations for selling dental practices. What a colourful career she’s had, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you, Lisa, and and just filling in all the bits in in that story of yours. Welcome to the podcast, Lisa.
Thank you. Thank you very much.
Lisa, tell me about your backstory. Let’s start right at the beginning where you grew up and your backstory and just your upbringing. Tell me tell me a little bit about that.
I’m originally from sunny Cape Town, South Africa, and the year I qualified was a time when things were changing in South Africa and things were very uncertain in the world of dentistry as far as new rules that were implemented by the government and I qualified in 2000 and in that year about 36. We were 48 at Stellenbosch University and 36 of us decided to come to the UK until such time that they decide what they will do. As far as newly qualified dentists in South Africa is concerned. The plan initially was never to stay. The plan was to go back at some point, but after 2 or 3 years, I had a little girl to Mia, and after 2 or 3 years she settled into the system and schooling. And you look at start looking at things differently. When you start thinking of the family and stability and everything else. And myself and my now ex-husband came over and the plan was always for us to have a family practice together. But with being qualifying in South Africa, we had to do four years within working as assistants. They could call us at the time so that we can apply for a visa number. And in 2006 we applied for visa numbers and set up a family practice together, our own practice. But things didn’t work out. And in 2009 I decided to leave the family practice. And that is actually when, if I can say that my journey within different elements of private and NHS dentistry began. At the time I thought things were falling apart. But actually looking back, I can now see how the dots connect and actually finding myself as an associate versus a principal in different environments. I always used to work full time, but I used to divide my time with three days in one practice, two days in another, and maybe a Saturday.
I’m going to stop you right there. I’m going to take I’m going to take you right back to the time when you thought your whole world was falling apart. Right? So so what were the circumstances that led you to leave the family practice where you said, Right, I’ve had enough. I’ve got my own clinic, I’m my own boss, I’m running this. And doing that is no easy job. Right? So. So you’ve been a practice owner? Yeah. What was it that what were the circumstances around that made you say, Right, this this isn’t for me anymore?
Unfortunately, I found myself in a situation where my marriage broke down. Okay? And with being in that situation, like you’ve mentioned, it’s extremely difficult. But because I don’t think any of us would like a family unit to be broken. But sometimes these difficult decisions, we just know it’s the right decision for everyone. Sure. What was difficult, not only did my personal life, did my personal life feel as if it was falling apart, but my professional life as well, because I was building this, my career and this business and everything else, and stepping away was one of the most difficult things I had to do, both in my personal and professional life. And to a degree it felt like I was starting again. And this is why I would say it felt like everything was falling apart. Having to move from, like you say, being your own boss and then having to work as an associate is quite difficult. And finding a practice where you feel as if you belong, which I think a lot of clinicians can associate with, is quite difficult because there are so many boxes, there are so many variables within dentistry that is very difficult to sometimes get that balance right. You can never tick all your boxes, but I think. We all know we are all different as clinicians, but we all know which boxes we can compromise on and which boxes are non-negotiables. Yeah. And at the time when I say it felt as if was falling apart, I’ve always used to work three days in one, two days in another, maybe even a Saturday emergency clinic and things.
And I used to think after three, four years finding out because it takes a bit of time to settle in a practice, to really know whether it is something where you feel as if you belong. And I found myself certain practices, this one that I stayed for for like 11, 12 years. But some of them after three, four years, I find that it was time to move on. And sometimes that can be seen as somebody that is maybe not never happy, but it could also be somebody that just wouldn’t just settle for something for the sake of settling for it. And when I say looking back, I realise things were actually falling in place. What that gave me is the opportunity over the last. It was 2009. So I would say over the last 13, 14 years, to be able to be exposed to different clinical environments, different dynamics, staff locations, NHS fully, NHS, fully private, mixed everything. And when you are in it, you don’t see the bigger picture. But now, looking back, I’ve accumulated this wealth of experience and knowledge of having an understanding which I feel is actually quite priceless because a lot of times, for all the right reasons, we don’t always find ourselves being able to see the inside of different clinics.
I think that Lisa, I think that’s really interesting. And we’re going to we go into tap into where you are today, right? A little a little bit shorter. But I think your experience brings a lot of a lot of benefits to that role, which you find yourself in at Pluto Partners now sort of advising both, you know, practice owners and potential buyers on, on, on, on, you know, what the future might be or potential exits or a deal that’s ahead of them. And you having been a practice owner, having been through the adversities that you’ve been through. Right. So having been through a divorce, dealing with whatever situations that brings to you mentally and personally and and being at that bottom of that dark hole and bringing yourself back up, having worked in several practices as an associate. But what is it that you wanted? Because every associate is different, right? So what is it that you wanted as an associate that boxes were ticked in, one that weren’t in another? And how was that? How did that align with you as a boss previously when you had associates under you? Right. So I’m really interested to hear that because were you looking for a job where you were looking for Lisa as your boss, or were you looking for a job where you weren’t looking for Lisa as your boss because you’d hate to be your own boss? Right. I’m just curious to explore that part of the conversation and just learn about really what your thought on that. Hope. Hope. My question made sense.
It makes 100% sense and I hope my answer will make sense as well. I think with dentistry, it’s a very unique profession and there’s this balance between the profession and the business. Maybe what I found in certain environments and once again, to no fault, anybody’s fault, it’s just we all have different things that maybe we strive for and wanting to achieve. And sometimes I felt that that balance where the business starts taking over the profession, is such a sense of false economy, because when we invest in our patients and our patients care, what happens is as far as word of mouth and patients feel before they see and when they feel that they’re being looked after, I find that it’s a no brainer. They would they want to come and see you. They’ll tell their family and their friends about that. And sometimes that’s very difficult to try and demonstrate when when you try and get the balance with the business right as well. Because in the short term, it might appear as if it’s just a waste of time. And the more bums on seats we have, the more money we’ll make. But actually what we create is an environment that is potentially unnecessarily stressful in a profession that is already so stressful and demanding with nothing happening. And I think the difficulty as an associate sometimes is everything stops with you. You take 100% responsibility for what you do, yet you have no control over the factors that contribute to what you have, to the environment that you find yourself in in order to deliver. So as far as principal and associate go and the different wearing the different hats, I would say the biggest discrepancy for me was being in a situation where people expected you to deliver a predictable outcome, but giving you conditions that’s impossible to deliver.
Well, give me some examples, Lisa.
So examples of that would be, for instance, time surgery time with patients. Not enough.
Not enough time, not enough.
Time, not enough time. And I totally appreciate that. Time is money. Yeah. Like I say, sometimes it’s a false economy because if you take a shortcut, which you wouldn’t want to do in any case, but if you do because it’s totally out of your control, what happens is you just setting something up for the future where you’ll end up spending more time. Such a lose lose. Lose situation. And as well as putting yourself at risk of litigation. And when it comes to that, you are the only one that will have to stand there and answer and take responsibility for your actions. And another thing would also be staff, the the quality of the staff, the efficiency of the staff. But I appreciate this can also be difficult. And this is where the false economy comes in, because when you stress your staff, no wonder they won’t feel motivated or as clear as in the moment as they should be in order for us to deliver what we have to do. So time staff, sometimes it can even be materials, limited materials and things, because as an associate you don’t have that freedom to get what you would like to use unless you get it yourself. And so this could just be a few things. And then also the staff, the members of the team team is so important because if the team is not performing as a unit, it reflects on everything. And my best way of putting it all together is that as an associate, you can find yourself in the position where if you aren’t there to deliver, nobody else makes sense. The receptionist doesn’t make sense, the nurse can’t do anything. Yet the person that is so important, the clinician, is the one that ends up pulling the short straw at the end of the day. So you have to settle for this or you go, okay, this is how things are. I get it. It’s all fine. This is how we, the principal, maybe would like to run the practice, and that’s absolutely fine. But maybe this is not my environment that I would like to be part of.
Please tell me this. Having said all of that, were you the boss that gave your associates all the time, all the materials they wanted and the conditions that you expect? Was that was that the type of boss that you were?
And yes, I would say and this even stems from this even stems from and I appreciate there’s a balance between the business side of things. But this I feel, even stems from the way that we were brought up. Yeah. If it’s not good enough for you, why is it good enough for someone else? Sure. If it is that you treat people the way that you would like to be treated, then for me that is something that you invest in that will pay dividends moving forward and it has a knock on effect. Your associate feeling valued will make your your associate, your staff feeling valued will make your patients feel as if they are valued and the whole unit just works. But when there’s a weak link, it has a knock on effect for all the wrong reasons and long term you start seeing that it starts to crumble and crumble and it creates an environment sometimes where staff don’t want to be there, they don’t want to be there. Patients don’t want to be there.
Understood. Understood. So, so, so from your point of view and I know you’re sort of saying that time is money and all the rest of it, right? But, you know, you can also waste a lot of very hurried time not delivering optimal treatments to patients, not delivering optimal care. And let’s look at the money side, not delivering the sales that you otherwise would have done had you given those patients more time. Right. And the trust that they have in you will result in let’s not put to put too fine a point on it. You know, larger treatment plans, bigger amounts of money exchanged. Right. And I come across a lot of practice owners, Lisa, that have both sides of that mentality. Some of them who are working on the clock and they’re looking at hourly rates all the time and they’re saying, right, 15 minute appointments for that, 20 minute appointments for this and so on and so forth. So so for you, just just tell me in terms of your appointments with with patients, a typical check-up or a consultation, how much time would you take and what would be your process with that patient in terms of educating them on on maybe what they would need? Just just talk me through that, Lisa.
So if I talk from a from a basic private point of view, I would say I think in general as a new patient, that initial consultation with a patient is so important because this is the point where you start building up your rapport. You get to know your patient a little bit and your patient gets to know you. Sometimes we can even find that. Sometimes the two just don’t go together for whatever reason. And if you can pick that up at that initial consultation, you can save yourself and the patient. A lot of problems moving forward. But that initial consultation is so important. And the thing that I why it’s so important so time wise, I would say new patients, 45 minutes, 45 minutes so that you can gather your information, get to understand your patient, get to understand what they are looking to achieve from their Dental journey, building up a rapport so that when you can actually start helping them or try and explain to them what you can do to help them, that they’ve already built up a little bit of trust and connection with you. In order for you to deliver what you need to deliver to help them. So it works both ways. And sometimes I feel that if that initial connection rapport is not being built, then the patient would end up maybe not feeling comfortable taking on board a treatment plan. And we interpret it as the patient being difficult, as the patient not wanting the treatment. But actually it’s a normal human response to something that if we don’t feel comfortable or we don’t trust, why would we invest in something so first? But I would say is that initial connection is so important for both parties to know whether it’s going to work moving forward, working together.
Also, that initial one is important to understand where is the patient? And the thing I feel passionate about is, is the patient to take responsibility for their Dental health. I did a postgraduate certificate at Eastman and something that stuck with me. One of the lecturers mentioned, he said that we have all these advanced treatments, implants, advanced fillings, materials, crowns, everything. This is brilliant, but if the patient doesn’t maintain it, it’s worth nothing. Yet as far as maintenance goes, I feel that’s an area that is innocently being overlooked because of the lack of time that people have to spend on it. And what he said is he said, if we go ahead and we do all these beautiful, beautiful fillings and crowns and implants and smile makeovers, but the patient doesn’t maintain it. It’s like putting carpets in the house whilst the roof is on fire. What is the point? At some point it’s all going to collapse. But what happens is when we see patients and they keep needing further treatments and or things go wrong ten years down the line, we blame the patient because they didn’t look after it. But did we actually educate them enough to take that responsibility? And when we take the time, we don’t have to do all of it at that initial visit. But when that trust and build up that rapport and just get them to have an understanding, we can build on that moving forward. Because in order for us to help them, they need to come through the door. If they don’t come through the door, you can have the best practice with the best intentions, with the best equipment. If they don’t come through the door, we cannot help them.
Absolutely. Absolutely. And and it’s a slightly different philosophy to what, you know, you get you get some dentists who want to get them in. They want to do the cosmetic dentistry, sell it and away it goes. And I guess from what I’m hearing from you, it’s more about long term care of the patient. Right. And, you know, whether that treatment has to be staged over six, 12, 18, 24 months or whatever that is, you’ll get them there in the end. But that patient has got to commit to looking after what you’re going to put into their mouth, right? Yes. Yes. And so I guess it’s a slightly different philosophy from from a from a clinician’s point of view, as I see. And I see a wide range of different types of clinicians who have different philosophies is the one you’re coming from is about actually giving the patient longevity in terms of their dentistry that you’re offering them, right? Something that’s going to last, not something that, okay, I’m going to change your smile in whatever, 60 minutes, 90 minutes, whatever the latest craze is today. And it’ll look great. But but the habits that you’ve developed to get your teeth to where you were when you stepped in my door have not changed. Right. So you’re going to you’re going to continue to grind. You’re going to continue to, you know, bite bottle tops off of bottles and things like that. And. Screw your teeth up and you’ll be back here in six months sort of thing. So, um.
And if you can identify and make the patient see where it’s going wrong, some people might look at this and go, Oh, financially this patient will end up spending less in the long run. But if you look at it from the point of view, this is more likely to become a patient that will come back every six months so that we can check for both cancers so that we can check their general the health of the gum and the bone. What’s going to happen is if we feel looked after, guess what? If our friend down the pub have a problem with it and every most people are scared of going to the dentist. Most people without.
And if we if this patient can go. Do you know what? Trust me. You need to go to whoever. I don’t even have to say. Just go. You’ll see what I mean. Guess what? You’ll be building your practice long term, and you’ll create an environment where patients want to be there. Staff, clinicians want to be there, and everything moves in the right direction.
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Totally agree with you there, Lisa. So sort of moving on with your career. So you’ve how long have you been an associate? Was it when did you leave the practice?
The 2009, 2009?
She had the practice for, what was it, about nine years, is that right?
Three It was because we had to wait to do the number and things only for a short. So it was only three years. Three years.
You built the practice up over three years, left that and then went into your various roles. And, and so fast forward into today. Talk me through what you do now, because I was actually chatting to Max Zucchini or is it zucchini? I think it’s zucchini. Zucchini, Zucchini. It’s definitely zucchini. I used to call him Max Zucchini. And then he then then he reminded me, Prav, if you want to remember my name, just think of a zucchini. Yeah. And just think back on it. So it’s a zucchini. Anyway, so speaking to Max, and he told me that you join Pluto Partners, and, you know, Pluto is a company who helped helped me exit from from my dental practice and many of my clients as well. I’ve got a lot of love and time for Max. But how did that come about? Just just talk to me about that journey. How did you first meet? I’ll tell you about the story of when I met Max. It’s really interesting. Tell me yours.
Honestly, life is amazing. Like I say, we look at it in the in the moment and we don’t realise how it’s actually setting things up to come together further down the line. So I always felt that there was so much more to me than just being a clinician. I always felt that I enjoyed industry. I love helping patients. I don’t have a problem with that, but I always felt there was more, but for different reasons. As far as timing goes, it was just I feel that 22 years full time in dentistry, that is how it had to be. But leading up to that, two years before the pandemic, I thought that maybe the reason I feel there was more to me was to expand my Dental knowledge, like maybe I should specialise in something. But if I’m honest with you, there’s not one thing that jumps out at me. I can’t say, Oh, implants or perio or ortho, nothing. So I decided to do a postgraduate degree at Eastman. That’s where Eastman comes in. And.
And when? When was this? At what point in your career was it just before the pandemic? This was.
Just 2018. Was my first year. 2018, just before just before. And I decided to do a master’s in restorative because of the fact that it was quite wide. It would just enhance your skill as far as restorative dentistry is concerned. So it wasn’t just focusing on one thing. It was for me quite a wide just enhancing skills because I couldn’t pinpoint what in dentistry I wanted to focus on. Then I did the certificate. I then did the first year of the diploma, and then the second year of the diploma was when the when the pandemic hit. And for many people, I think the pandemic was quite an eye opener. And what it taught me or what I took from that is I realised that it wasn’t my skill in dentistry that I was that was the problem. The missing piece, not it wasn’t that what was actually missing for me was the fact that those four walls of the surgery was limiting me, was restricting me, was acting almost like a hindrance. Because even if and I admire the advance that how advanced dentistry is and what clinicians can deliver, but you still end up within those four walls with a patient, with a nurse. And for me, I realised that was actually the problem. It was time for me to get away from those four walls and get out. But where do I go? What do I do? I just knew clinical dentistry full time was not for me anymore and this is where I started looking at where do I go from here? The thing with property and I know dental sales is not property, but the thing with property for me and this was in the pandemic is something that is so different to clinical. And it almost to a degree, it’s like a part of my brain that was not tapped into because of.
But where does property come into the mix right now? Have you have you have you, though, before.
Before the pandemic? If when I started thinking, okay, side hustle, what else do okay. The only thing that I thought of was property and why property I think became attractive is the fact that it’s just so different to dentistry. Totally different. It’s a totally different field. It is just it’s just and it gives you that freedom of anything, any time versus dentistry being restricted. So that at first I was just thinking very wide. So I started reading up a little bit more. I actually signed up to find out more out about deal packaging, things like that. And then when the pandemic hit, it also reminded us that when we don’t go into a surgery as a dentist, then we are stuffed in a way because if we don’t see a patient and if we don’t have a nurse and that physically, clinically that doesn’t happen, then we we’re no different to anybody else out there that’s at home. And obviously unless you have courses and things that you can offer. But as far as the clinical side, unless we’re in the surgery, we can’t deliver. And this is also when I started thinking, oh my goodness, maybe something like property is something that is a little bit less restrictive. You can do it from anywhere in the world. You can in your own time and something you can do parallel whilst you’re still busy doing your dentistry. And it’s in 2021 that I realised that I had to close one door or, or or slightly close one door in order to create space mentally and to create time to start working on what is my next chapter, what is the next door?
Why, why, why at this? What happened at that point? Was that was there a moment where you said, okay, this this has happened now or there must have been. Yeah, like some something that happened or a moment to say, right. In 2021, I have to close the door. What was that? What was that moment?
What happened there is, as you can probably pick up from what I’ve already said, I was I was gravitating towards that decision, but actually didn’t take it because I was still quite comfortable doing, you know, when you’re in a comfort zone, you just end up staying in your comfort zone because it’s. Isn’t it? It’s safe. Yeah. And why would we want to create uncertainty if we’re in a nice little safe place and it’s working? But when I had the first vaccine, the COVID vaccine, I was quite unwell and I it created symptoms like chronic fatigue. And my my brain just was just so slow I could still work as a dentist. I could still perform. But I was very much aware of how the strain it was taking on my brain and the intensity. Whereas before we none the wiser how hard this muscle actually works. And this also made me realise that now is the time for me. Whilst I still have the ability to make a change, I need to make a change because if not even health wise, I’m starting to run out of options if I don’t start putting something in place. Because for dentistry, mentally you have to be in the zone and on top form in order to deliver. And so my turning point was the wake up call, I would have to say, is when my health was affected. And it reminded me of how also how fragile life is. And sometimes we plan on doing things, but we put it off and then things can just change in a blink of an eye. So not only was it the health, health wise being able to think the effects it had on me and how much it took from me to deliver as a clinician, but also the wake up call as in life is precious and it can change so quickly. If you don’t do things, you put it off. But if you don’t do things, you could end up finding yourself in a position where you never actually achieve what you wanted to do.
Okay, so what happened next?
So the next, which was okay, it’s a no brainer. I know exactly which door to open next, but I knew which door to start closing and I need to start taking action. I handed my notice in and actually worked at.
So so let me just. So you handed your notice in before you had any options on the table, Right? It’s not as though you said, hold on a minute. I’ve got this great opportunity here. I’m going to hand my notice it. Now, you actually decided, you know what, I’m going to make some head space. And in order to do that, I’m going to I’m going to take a risk. And that risk is to kiss goodbye to this income and this job and whatever. Yes. And then figure it out because I know I need to do something else, but I don’t know what that is. Right. Exactly. Very brave. Very brave.
And Prav, it was a case of if you look at it on paper, I was in a very safe space being my pandemic and everything, because of course, I had a job at Jacob being the dentist there. Jacob the Digger company. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So it was a very safe, like I said earlier, safe comfort zone, certainty, everything. Yeah. Good work environment as well. But I knew.
Got whatever materials you wanted.
Yes, yes, yes, yes.
Spend the time with the patients that you wanted. Yeah, Yeah. Beautiful. Couldn’t ask for anything more.
And this one? I still knew it wasn’t where I was supposed to be.
So by taking that risk, you can see there was it was it took a lot to take that step. But I couldn’t deny the fact that it was still holding me back from what I felt I had to give and what I felt where I could be. And when I say could be, this is not me chasing money because it was just chasing money. Where would I stay in dentistry, isn’t it?
Yeah, of course.
So this is an opportunity and there’s nothing wrong with having a lot of money, but this is an opportunity that if I stepped away from it, I give myself a chance of achieving what I feel I have the potential to achieve. And that being getting out there, being able to make a difference still in dentistry, but from a different angle. And how it came about is I handed my notice in, didn’t know which door to open, but I knew I had to close this one in order to have some hope of some direction as to where to go.
And just just to pick up on what you just said there, you said selling dentistry, but from a different angle. Was that in your head at that moment when you were closing the door? Definitely.
It definitely revolved around sales. Is that is that was that something that was clear in your mind and something that you were passionate about at the time?
I feel what I used to think that sales was very I want to use the word dirty is not the use.
It most people do. Right? It’s a dirty.
Word. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
But what I’ve learned is that everything is sales. And if we have something that can add value to someone’s life, then we have a duty to, to, to help them. And in order and I don’t necessarily talk monetary, but in order to make that difference, we need people to buy into us. And you know what was very evident Prav and what was very for me was very almost reassuring, is I’ve been doing this for the last 22 years without even realising it, having the ability to help a patient making a difference, whether it’s their oral hygiene, whether it’s a filling, whether it’s an extraction, whether it’s getting rid of infection, whether it’s whatever, in order to help that patient, that patient needs to buy into you. And if they don’t buy into you, that is when the relationship starts going in the wrong direction. But if we don’t go out there and make people aware of what we have that can help them, then we actually not serving them correctly. And this is where the sales side comes in. And it is correct because if I then try and use my experience in clinical dentistry, not the clinical side, but the sales side, where we have something that we can offer to a patient, you will not believe how similar this is with the role that I have right now. There are so many similarities between us seeing a patient as a clinician, gathering information, getting the patient to understand exactly what’s happening, explaining to the patient in a language that they get where we are, where we need to get there, and how we need that patient on board.
Because it’s a team effort. It’s very similar with this type of job. So leaving the clinical side, I knew I wanted to go into making a difference, helping serving, if I could call it that. And that is where the sales side of things came in. So there’s a friend of mine that studied with me in Stellenbosch, Irvin Vanderveldt. He’s a clinician as well, and we have been in contact. And because he is part of a bigger group and more on the business side of dentistry, when I left clinical dentistry, I sent him a message. I said, Eben, do you could you give me some guidance, some advice? I don’t need a job. I just want to if now that you are on the other side, on the business side, as a clinician, what is my what would my options be? And most of the options were from a clinical point of view, which I knew. Nope, not interested. Not interested. Not interested because I was going back into those four walls. And then this was in May and then in July he said that, you know, Lisa, I’m going to put you in touch with Tracy. She’s a from South Africa. She’s a recruitment agent. And maybe you can have a little word with her because she might know a little bit more about these different options that’s available for clinicians out there.
And I contacted Tracy and I explained to her what I where I was and I did a cover letter so she could pick up that I wanted to go into the sales side of things. I spoke to her on the Monday and she had three options that she was thinking of. Bear in mind, I’ve not verbally spoken to her. The one was some like a supervisor know. Another one was maybe helping clinicians. That’s coming from other countries and getting the exact no. And the third one was Dental practice sales negotiator. I didn’t even know that was what the name was. I just knew it was the person buying and selling Dental That’s helping with buyers and sellers. Yeah. And then she said, But I’ve got no roles available that you could step into or that’s available that I can put your CV forward. But I helped the dentist six months ago with recruiting an associate, and I know that he is part of a company. He’s a director in one of a company that deals with this type of thing, buying and selling of dental practices. Let me speak to him. So if he knows of anyone that is looking for somebody like that. And this dentist was actually Peter Classen, who’s from South Africa. Okay. He is a director of Pluto.
Partners Pluto Partners.
So by the time Tracy contacted them, they were actually looking for somebody that has got the experience on the clinical side, because the business side is something that you can learn, like I did the valuation certificate and things, but.
Already a business owner, right? You your experience and this is where I think your story is so interesting, Lisa, because you’ve as somebody who I may choose to and I’m sorry for interrupting you there, but we’ll come we’ll come back to it. But as somebody that may choose to sort of represent me, if I was thinking of selling my practice, who better than somebody, first of all, who’s taken all the formal qualifications, understands negotiation, valuation and that but has also been in my shoes, being a practice owner, being an associate understands the business of dentistry. She is a practising dentist. I think it’s really I think it’s a really interesting story. So so whilst you’ve been telling me this story, I’ve known what the end of the story is because, you know, we were introduced as, you know, as you, you know, being a part of the Pluto team. But it’s just interesting piecing that together with that narrative that’s sitting over my head. So you obviously got introduced to Peter. Yeah, you’ve done the qualifications and then carry on, Sorry.
Problem. And that is how my paths crossed with Max Zucchini. Okay. And the timing, like I say, what they were looking for and what I was looking for just came together at a time when we weren’t even looking for each other. And this is why I say, you look back and you think, Wow, what happened? Times when I thought doors were closing, it was actually opening towards the one where I have to be at this point in time. And you know, what I’m so grateful for is the the is I don’t even know if the word is ethos of Pluto partners and how they go about things because it’s so aligned with what I said to you earlier about taking care of this patient, taking care of this client. And every single patient, every single client is treated as if that is the only client that we have, because that is what. Everybody deserves. Because without the client, we are nothing without the patient. We as clinicians are nothing. And what I feel grateful for is having this understanding that whether a buyer is a new first time buyer or whether a seller is at the end of their dentistry and they’re looking to retire two totally separate ends of the spectrum.
But for both, what a massive step there is. And then we have us in the middle that can be make or break because the clinician that’s retiring has been growing this baby for the last 35, 40, however many years. Yeah. Stress, heart, everything, blood, sweat and tears that’s gone into it. And what you can’t afford for is for it to go wrong when you finally looking to let go of this baby. Yeah. And then you have the ones starting out who’s now going to have the baby for the first time. What happens if you buy into something and it’s not and you take take on increased risk when it goes wrong, it could be the end of you. It’s not just you, your family, your wife, your everything. But then you have us in the middle. That is such a fortunate position that can help to make sure that when we step into this agreement or in this equation, that we can make sure that all parties involved can step away from this, having it have the desired outcome for all the right reasons.
And so tell me about you touched upon the values of Pluto partners being very much aligned with with your own values. And you mentioned it was a bit like having, you know, one customer and that’s your only customer or having that one patient in the room, and that’s the only patient that you’re seeing at that time. And you give them a 100% of the attention. Is there anything else you can tell me about about values and what that what that really means to you and how that reflects in sort of your conversations with potential sort of practice owners who are looking to maybe move on to the next stage of their career.
So as far as the opportunity so if I was to look at try and compare to from a clinician’s point of view, remember earlier I said how important it is for an associate to have the right environment. And this is exactly the same thing working me being at Pluto Partners and having the right environment actually puts me in a much stronger position that when I speak to that clinician, having the understanding of what goes hand in hand with a day of stress and so many factors that we cannot control within dentistry, the last thing you want is that when somebody like a agency comes on board to help you either buy or sell a practice is for them to become an added stress. But in order for me to help the clinician, Pluto Partners is helping me to be in a stronger position to do so. And in doing so, it becomes win, win win. Yeah, but imagine I was in a position where I feel I am not as I don’t feel looked after, I don’t feel I have the right. I’m not aligned with what I’m trying to do. Yeah, no doubt that that will will overflow to when I speak to that clinician. And what then ends up happening is we have a typical lose lose lose situation. So something that could have ended up being beneficial for everyone could end up being something where we’ve wasted the opportunity or because from the from the off, we didn’t have the foundations in place.
Now I’m going to ask you some questions that probably devil’s advocate type questions when it comes to brokerage, right. Which is, you know, I could, if I owned a practice, go directly to the buyer and just strike the deal. Okay. I cut you out. I don’t have to pay you a fee now. Yeah, just just give me your take on that. That why should somebody come to a broker to say, like yourself or anyone else versus just handle the deal by themselves?
If we talk, if we’re talking clinical, it’s almost like cutting the dentist out and going to boots and buying yourself a little temporary kit and fixing your filling yourself. Okay, you filling, you can fix it, but you don’t have a clue what you’re doing and you’ll probably end up causing more problems than actually making it better. Yeah, but why would you have to use an agency is because there are so many different elements to buying and selling a dental practice. I try and use the analogy of an orchestra. There are so many different instruments and it’s very important to make sure that all these different instruments play at the right time, at the right tune, so that when it comes together that it makes the right music. So, for instance, when we look at valuing a practice, we need to gather the right information, because if we don’t gather the right information, then we will not be able to put it together in a certain way in order to get to the right valuation or the EBITDA as we call it, for that practice. Yeah. Now, if you don’t know what to gather, what hope do you have in order to get to the right outcome or if you don’t, if you know what to gather but you don’t know how to put it together, what hope do you have in getting to the right calculation which then affects. Evaluation. And if you don’t know how you got to the evaluation or whether it’s the right valuation or not, how can you even start to negotiate? And this is where you increase your risk. You increase your risk as a seller where you could end up finding yourself in a situation where you don’t get the value for your practice. And as far as a buyer, you will increase your risk as far as buying something that you’ve overpaid for. But it will under-deliver. And this is what we go from. We want our sellers to get the maximum value.
And you want your buyers to get the best deal. Minimum risk.
Exactly. And when you do that. But in order to do that, you need to know. You need to sing off the same hymn sheet. And we are there to orchestrate all of this and put together the hymn sheet.
And so if we look at. Dentistry and we look at selling dental practices. Where’s your Which one do you prefer?
Selling Dental practices? Definitely. Definitely.
Oh, wow. Wow.
However, however, I have found because I have it part time, both of them because I’ve got them part time, I actually enjoy the clinical side More now. More now. Yes. Yes. Definitely. Definitely.
Almost reignited your passion for for dentistry because you’ve got this other role as well, right?
Because it’s not I didn’t feel trapped. And when I said those four walls, I think prior to this, I felt as if it was starting to suffocate me. But because I now have this that I’m doing, it actually has made me look at the clinical side and appreciate it instead of seeing it as a a trauma or a hindrance.
And so moving forward, what what what do you think? Do you think your balance is going to change now or do you think you’ve got the perfect balance in terms of dentistry versus brokerage? Or because you love brokerage more, you want to move more towards that side full time? What’s what’s your heart telling you?
Do you know this is this is just the beginning. This is just the beginning. I would love to be able to share what I’ve had, what I’ve experienced, because as clinicians Prav, I think there’s so much expected of us to know from a business point of view. And it’s but yet nobody actually informs us of it or tells us or says some clinicians are more, I believe, naturally gifted to have more of the general knowledge or interest in the business side. And some of us maybe don’t have all of that information. And what it does, it creates this grey area for clinicians where we have all these different hats that we’re supposed to wear, but we don’t actually have clarity on some of them. But everybody else seems to we think everybody else have clarity. So we should be having the clarity. And what I would love to do moving forward is making that grey area less grey when it comes to buying and selling a dental practice. And just like I’ve experienced, it’s not as complicated. Just like a patient might think, Oh, I don’t understand root canals or what’s involved with this or another. If you have the ability to be able to put it across to somebody in a way where they can, in a language that they understand, then it actually makes things so much clearer. And as we do with patients, when patients have the information and they understand the information, they can make informed decisions. And this is what I would love to do as part of my role is as we help people and we deal with buyers and sellers and even the ones who’s not buying and selling, if it is that we can make that grey area less grey, we end up with clinicians or practice owners or potential practice owners. That’s more informed. And when they then make a decision, they instantly reduce their risk, whether it’s buying or selling, because they’ve had the information, they can make an informed decision.
So you think that actually moving forward, business education as a whole is something that dentists need to know a lot more about prior to even considering selling the practice, right?
Yes, prior to even selling.
Because if it is that there are certain things that you can start putting in place or even just start thinking in a certain way, you don’t physically have to do things. You can find yourself that when you are ready, whether it’s buying or selling, you are in a much stronger position versus going into something almost a bit more blindfolded. And when you go into something blindfolded, we could end up yes, we make the decisions ourselves. But those decisions was either made in the heat of the moment or they were made not having the right information.
Got you. Understood? Yeah. Okay. I think, you know, I thought this was going to be a much shorter conversation than it was Lisa, but I think we just both got carried away. I was really interested in learning about your story. Yeah. What I’d actually what I’ve got I’ve got another question before we go on to a few more questions, which is what’s a typical week in the life of Lisa? Like how does that get broken up? Tell me about like what you do day to day. What do you do outside of work? Give me give me a give me a breakdown of what a week of being Lisa venting is all about.
I can tell you it’s very, very busy, but enjoyable. So I would find, especially with this position that I have within Pluto partners, they are different dynamics involved, whether it be meeting practice owners in person and going to view practices. It could also be a case of where I deal with buyers that’s just approaching us from maybe projects that we’ve launched. So there could be lots of telephone calls that could happen. There’s also a lot of administration side, the emails and things going out, because once you’ve contacted somebody, you obviously have to follow it up. So it’s a combination of in-person slash telephone calls, slash admin side of things, and then at the same time touching base with Max because very important, we all have to sing from the same hymn sheet and we all have to know exactly what’s happening where with all the different things that we do. So I would say combination of in-person emails, phone calls, but a lot of it is work from home, which I absolutely love. Absolutely love, absolutely love that flexibility that it gives me to do also work in practice. So on a Saturday I work in practice and I find that when I do that, it is just so enjoyable because of the fact that it’s so totally different and outside work. I maybe I should be going to the gym more often. I put my hands up. I don’t go to it as frequently as I should, but I do enjoy, enjoy just being outdoors, especially now that the weather is getting better and things like that. So, yes, you know, maybe I can do more as far as work life balance is concerned, but when you enjoy your work, it doesn’t feel like work. And maybe people can have different opinions on that. But I thoroughly enjoy the fact that you can connect with somebody and make things a little bit easier and better for them moving forward.
I can definitely look, Lisa, you know, a lot of people will be listening to this, maybe only in the audio format. Some people will see it on the video format, but you’re absolutely beaming and glowing when you talk about Pluto and the opportunity there and your work there. Right. And it’s very clear to me that you’re you’re super passionate about that. Right? And just just because of that, it will it will bring you tons of success, I’m sure, right? I’m absolutely sure. And I’ve got some I’ve got some final questions for you that are totally unrelated to what we’ve been discussing and it’s something that we cover on the Dental Leaders podcast. Okay. So I’ve got I’ve got one set of questions, which is perhaps final questions. And my final question is this, that if it was your last day on the planet, Lisa. And you were surrounded by your loved ones. What pieces of advice would you leave them with?
First thing would be to be true to who you are inside. I feel that with its society, with the way the world goes. How? How difficult is it for people just to accept us for who we are? It’s it’s not asking a lot, is it? It’s something that is so almost frowned upon where if you just true to who you are for yourself. So the first thing would be be true to who you are. Be yourself. Be yourself. And the other thing that I also would say is that. Life was never meant to be easy. Although as human beings, it’s natural for us to want to gravitate towards an easier. But it’s only when you go through the challenges and it takes you to the next, but that you appreciate it for what it is. Because otherwise we’ll just be stuck and we wouldn’t grow. And I know it’s so I would say the next would be that life is not easy, but when it’s easy, we should get concerned because then we should ask ourselves, Is it actually worth it? I would say just be true. Just be true to who you are.
It’s it’s a it’s a really difficult question, Right? Nothing else at all?
The biggest one for me is be true to who you are.
To who you are and.
Yourself. Because at the end of the day, at the end of the day, if you have if you are content and comfortable with who you are, that is what’s important because I think it’s so easy to strive to get the approval of people and it’s just something that keeps going and going. So to be true to who you are. But it’s difficult. It’s difficult because this world will make us believe the opposite, that we are that we are. Odd one out.
And then payments. Final question, which is imagine fantasy dinner party. Three guests, dead or alive, who would they be?
Alive. This could be anyone.
Dead or alive. Anyone. Doesn’t matter.
Anyone in the world?
Definitely. My mom, she’s in South Africa. And so terribly So. She’ll definitely be. She’ll definitely be at the party. Um. Oh, goodness me. It’s a tricky one. Definitely not my ex-husband. That one I know of.
We know who we’re excluding. Excluding?
Yeah. We can go on and on and on. Okay. Um. The tricky one. You had to give me a bit more time to think about this.
Anyone famous? Not famous. Past. Present.
I love to. I love it. I wouldn’t be able to I can’t think of anyone else.
Any anyone who you’ve looked up to who’s inspired you, be it a celebrity or. Anyone you’d love to meet at a dinner party.
Political or not famous or not. Past or present. Mum, we’ve got mum. Two more.
People leaving. I’ve got dream.
Party. Right. Imagine the most amazing party. Right. And you got your mum there. Who else would you. Two more people to make it the most awesome party ever.
Oh, I would love to. Do you know who I’d love to have there? Trevor. Noah.
I love his humour. I love the fact that to me, he’s just that. What you see is what you get through to is and how far he’s come as well. So Trevor Noah And the last one would have to be. My daughter. The reason I say that is because I don’t know where this will go. This will go. But the reason I say that is the last 23 years was a very tough 23 years. And just like I thought I was being there for her, she’s actually the one that kept me going. So for us to have this conversation, if it wasn’t for her, I don’t think we would be having this conversation.
So lovely. Yeah.
See a daughter, your mom and then Trevor Noah to basically entertain you and make you laugh, right?
Exactly. Exactly. Have some comedy there. Exactly.
Exactly. Brilliant. Yeah. Happy days.
Well, Lisa, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you for your time.
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.
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