Selling Up, AI and Smiling More with Paul Abrahams
Today’s guest is Paul Abrahams – owner of North London’s Smilemore Dental Care.
After 30 years in practice, Paul was made an offer he couldn’t refuse. He gives us the lowdown on whether the move paid off and shares his thoughts on why word-of-mouth marketing still kills it in 2019.
We also pick Paul’s brain on everything from artificial intelligence in dentistry to whether oral health is really better across the pond.
I think it came naturally to me, but learning how to deal with people in the dental situation is key. A lot of people are struggling with them. It’s probably one of the biggest factors; a patient putting trust in you. Sometimes there are loads of dentists out there who may have the same clinical skills as you, if not better. – Paul Abrahams
In this episode:
03:21 – Choosing a dentistry career
12:42 – Taking up dentistry at university
17:09 – The importance of patient communication
18:25 – Paul’s biggest mistake
26:47 – Thoughts on AI
29:18 – The benefits of a relaxed work environment
31:50 – Clinical hierarchies
35:58 – US vs UK teeth
43:49 – Taking time out
52:29 – Staying grounded
About Paul Abrahams
Dr Paul Abrahams qualified at Guy’s Dental Hospital in 1989 and has been the owner of Smilemore Dental Care in St John’s Wood since 1993.
He is vice-president of the Board of Directors of the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentists.
Connect with Paul Abrahams:
Connect with Prav and Payman:
Payman: Hi guys. Welcome to the Dental Leaders podcast. Today’s guest is one of my best friends in dentistry, a lovely guy who it feels like he’s there for everyone, Paul Abrahams. I go back a long way with him. He told us about his early life, his beautiful practise in St. John’s Wood, and then all of that culminating in a sale to a corporate.
Payman: For someone who wants to see, in one succinct sort of interview, what it means to start something from nothing all the way to exit, from someone who’s super open, and going forward, I think we’re going to see a lot more of him in the education field, Prav, and digital.
Prav Solanki: For sure. Definitely leading the way in digital and going and learning from the best in the world. But the one key thing that I took away was the art of graft, turning up as an associate in his first practise and painting the walls. Can you imagine an associate today turning up and saying, “I’ll paint the practise”? just real hard graft from a very early age and what that ended up culminating in. It was a great conversation. Enjoy guys.
Payman: Enjoy guys. How old were you when you thought, “I’m going to be a dentist.” Do you remember the moment? About 35?
Paul Abrahams: About 35.
Automated Voice: 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.
Payman: Paul, really happy that you agreed to do this for us, and I’ve known you a long time. Prav, you haven’t known him-
Prav Solanki: We’ve met. We’ve definitely met.
Paul Abrahams: Yeah, we’ve met.
Prav Solanki: Met at events.
Paul Abrahams: Of course, I don’t really know you.
Prav Solanki: No.
Paul Abrahams: But it’s great to meet you.
Prav Solanki: Likewise. Good to meet you.
Paul Abrahams: Properly.
Prav Solanki: Again, for like maybe the third time. I remember when Payman said we’ve got you on the podcast and he said, “Do you know the guy?” I said, “He’s just a lot taller than me. That’s all I remember, is having a conversation at the IDS looking up at him.”
Payman: IDS, is it?
Prav Solanki: Yeah. I think it was the last time I saw you. Was that four years ago?
Paul Abrahams: About four years ago. At that time, I think very few people were there, so I think very few English guys going out.
Payman: Give us a little backstory Paul, just the one-minute version.
Paul Abrahams: The one-minute version? I qualified in ’89-
Paul Abrahams: No?
Payman: When did your parents meet?
Paul Abrahams: When did my parents meet? That’s a really good question. I think my mom’s from Liverpool, my dad’s from the East End, and my dad was introduced to my mom by his future sister-in-law, I think, if I’m right, when my mom came down to London. But my mom is from a massive family, so she’s one of nine.
Payman: Nine kids?
Paul Abrahams: Nine kids.
Prav Solanki: Wow.
Paul Abrahams: They were a bit like the Liverpool Mafia. Everyone knew them in the community, in the Jewish community, which was quite a strong community in those days.
Payman: Has it stayed that way?
Paul Abrahams: Not as strong as it used to be.
Payman: Not as strong as it used to be.
Paul Abrahams: A lot of people have come back down south and spread around, so yeah.
Payman: And where we you born?
Paul Abrahams: I was born in Essex. I am an Essex boy. I was born in Ilford, and lived my first five, six years in Ilford. And then we moved to North London, to Wembley and that’s where I was brought up.
Payman: How old were you when you thought, “I’m going to be a dentist”? Do you remember the moment? About 35?
Paul Abrahams: About 35. You know what? I was always … It was that classic generational thing. Both my parents were what was considered to be working class. Dad was a jeweller. Mom worked in the pharmacy behind the counter. It’s that typical thing in the Jewish community. You’ve got to be a doctor, dentist, lawyer, whatever it might be professionally. So you’re driven in that direction. I was always good at the sciences and it just went that way.
Payman: Were your parents born in the UK as well?
Paul Abrahams: Yeah.
Payman: And their parents?
Paul Abrahams: Two of my grandparents were born in the UK, which is rare, and two … So I’ve got Russian, Romanian and Polish roots.
Payman: Oh, really?
Prav Solanki: Oh, wow.
Paul Abrahams: Came out of Eastern Europe in the pilgrims.
Payman: Were there any dentists in the family at all?
Paul Abrahams: No. My dad’s dad was a market trader. He used to live right opposite in a flat, it’s opposite the London Hospital, and have his market stool and drag it down the street, fruit and veg, and used to have all these life savings in his little pouch at the front. That’s what my dad told me. He was a farmer during the Blitz. So that’s his-
Payman: Where did dentistry come from then? Was there someone? Was there-
Paul Abrahams: No one.
Payman: A dentist?
Paul Abrahams: None. I don’t know.
Paul Abrahams: I was always good with my hands, and I think at that point … I think it was a different era where you could only do three A levels. I was good at arts. I had to drop art. I think career choice was medicine, dentistry or architecture.
Payman: So you were academically quite good at school?
Paul Abrahams: Yeah.
Prav Solanki: And how would you describe your upbringing compared to, let’s say, the upbringing of your children? What was your life like? What did you go with, go without, those sort of things?
Paul Abrahams: I don’t really have memories of going without anything. I think we had a comfortable upbringing. I suppose we were brought up during the 70s when it was quite tricky. But mom and dad were always at work, so just a normal, everyday, semi-detached house in Wembley. I don’t think anything but happy. There was never any issues. I’ve got one brother.
Paul Abrahams: I think my children are a lot more privileged than we ever were. But does that make a difference? Probably not, in many respects, because it’s what’s around you. I have a big family, obviously. So a big, close family in terms of cousins on both sides.
Prav Solanki: The things I always think about is that I was brought up, and I went without quite a lot certainly compared to my own kids, and it always occurs to me that are you doing the right thing by giving them everything, or are you doing the wrong thing?
Prav Solanki: And me having gone without has shaped me, whatever that is. Have you got a perspective on that in terms of-
Payman: Much with older children you can see what’s happened now with-
Paul Abrahams: So I’m like Prav and I’ve got four children, so my oldest … We had our kids young. So two things, one, my wife isn’t Jewish and I am. So it was a massive issue there, that when we got together, that was something that my parents didn’t want for me.
Paul Abrahams: For three years, that was first with my wife, they didn’t speak to her or know her. That was a very difficult time, so that shaped a lot of things that we do. Got married young and-
Payman: How old were you?
Paul Abrahams: I’m 53, just turned-
Payman: No, how old were you when you got married?
Paul Abrahams: I was 26.
Payman: Kind of straight of dentist school.
Paul Abrahams: Yeah, straight out. Part of that was because we’d been together from my second year of dentist school through to the end. And like I said, at that point, my parents hadn’t met my wife. It was a question of saying, “We’re getting married,” because if we get married, then-
Payman: They’ve got no choice.
Paul Abrahams: They’ve got no choice. And I suppose in some families, it would’ve been, “We’re never speaking to you again,” or … That never happened, fortunately. I had my oldest a year later, so I was 27. I think she’s 26 this year.
Payman: And Sonri is French. What was she doing in London?
Paul Abrahams: That’s a good question. What was she doing in London? She came to London for an experience. She was studying English. We met in halls of residency in Russell Square. So it was a big group of Italians, French from all over Europe. In fact, she still, every year, goes on a reunion with the girls that she met when she first came to London.
Paul Abrahams: They go for a long weekend, and they’re from all over Europe. In fact, one of her friends from the next town married one of my best friends who was in a year below me.
Paul Abrahams: And they’re still together as well. So that shaped perspective, for sure. My oldest probably had … When I had my first child, it was a struggle. I just started, then we bought the practise. In fact, we bought the practise in the same year in St. John’s Wood, weren’t really making a lot from it.
Paul Abrahams: So everything was harder, I think. We had a reasonably difficult start. But she’s got a different perspective. My youngest now who’s 14 has been brought up in great holidays, all that type of thing, so it’s interesting.
Payman: By the way, were her parents cool with you?
Paul Abrahams: Yeah, 100% which made it easier.
Payman: You studied where?
Paul Abrahams: I studied at Guy’s.
Payman: Oh, yeah, of course, Guy’s man. I can always tell-
Paul Abrahams: Is there anywhere else?
Payman: I can always tell a Guy’s man. I can always tell a Guy’s man because they show off so much about this.
Paul Abrahams: Best place in the world. What can I say?
Payman: My brother’s a Guy’s man too.
Prav Solanki: Is he?
Prav Solanki: Just before we go there, something you said really resonated with me, which was the whole parents thing. I’m Hindu, my wife is Sikh. My wife had previously been married, and so introducing that into my family, as you can imagine, brought about some elements of conflict.
Prav Solanki: And it was a tough time, but I think what happened was we made the decision we’re going to get married, and created that family home, and we’ve got an amazing, happy life now. But we had to go through that challenge. I remember asking her father for her hand in marriage, and it was probably the most nerve-wracking thing I’ve ever done.
Prav Solanki: Can you remember the time where you had to approach your parents or have a difficult conversation, and what that was like?
Paul Abrahams: Yeah. I mean having that conversation to say, “We are getting married,” my dad didn’t want to speak to me. At that point, they were saying, “Well, if you decide to do that, we won’t speak to her. We don’t want anything to do with her.” That was what they were saying at the time, and we got some great wedding photos and my mom was wearing black at the wedding.
Prav Solanki: Whoa.
Prav Solanki: Did you believe them?
Paul Abrahams: You know what? You’ve just got to make a decision and hope that people see through, which is exactly what happened. It was a very difficult time, I suppose, much harder for my wife than it ever was for me.
Prav Solanki: Of course.
Paul Abrahams: Because it’s such a barrier. It would be much easier for someone to say, “I’m not getting involved with that.”
Prav Solanki: For sure.
Paul Abrahams: You’ve got this huge, huge thing.
Payman: How did that reflect on … I mean are your kids married, any of them?
Paul Abrahams: No, none of my kids are married, and they don’t look like close to being married. They’ve benefited from both cultures. The interesting thing is when I first went … very nerve-wracking to go and meet my wife’s family for the first time.
Paul Abrahams: But they were like a big family, Mediterranean family. It could have been a big, Jewish family, big Asian family, that same feel.
Prav Solanki: Culture, the closeness.
Paul Abrahams: Yeah. I mean very similar, not very different.
Payman: Where I’m going is if your daughter comes home with an Iranian, Muslim type-
Paul Abrahams: Whatever she wants to do-
Payman: Baring in mind your-
Paul Abrahams: Whatever it is, it is. I don’t think it should be an issue. There’s so many divisive things going on in our society at the moment, and most of that centres around religion. That’s whatever they choose to do.
Payman: I like that.
Prav Solanki: What was the turning point where it all came back together and-
Payman: Was it having kids? Was that the-
Paul Abrahams: I think having kids is a big thing. I don’t think my brother’s ever going to listen to this, so my brother had a big Jewish wedding, the typical whole nine yards and was divorced six months later. And I think that maybe had an effect as well. He went through all that, which was supposed to be the way to do it, and then we-
Prav Solanki: Pleasing everyone.
Paul Abrahams: Pleasing everyone, and it was the wrong thing to do. Well, whether it was the wrong, it didn’t work out. Of course, having children is a game changer.
Payman: Are you older or your brother is?
Paul Abrahams: My brother’s older.
Payman: So you got married before him or?
Paul Abrahams: Got married before him.
Payman: How were your undergrad years?
Paul Abrahams: I don’t know. I can’t remember.
Payman: Good answer.
Paul Abrahams: It was good. And listen, I think you often hear people say that time at uni is the best. I mean certainly, it was, for me, a fantastic five years.
Prav Solanki: Amazing.
Paul Abrahams: Deeply involved in every way really.
Payman: Were you a rugby guy?
Paul Abrahams: I was a football guy, so I was a sports guy. I-
Payman: Guy’s very rugby-oriented.
Paul Abrahams: Hugely rugby-oriented, but we had these guys … I mean things have changed massively. I remember joining the football club and in that first two months, they had a football club dinner. There was guys there who played for Guy’s 30 years before turning up for this. It just is steeped in history.
Paul Abrahams: You go to, I don’t even know if it’s still there, but they had Honour Oak Park, which was their sports grounds, and they had this fantastic pavilion with pictures on the wall of the rugby club, oldest rugby club in the world, steeped in history. It was an incredible place.
Payman: Oldest medical rugby?
Paul Abrahams: Yeah. Oldest rugby club, full stop, in the world, Guy’s.
Paul Abrahams: Yeah, or so they say. But because it’s been there so long, there’s so much history there and you feel part of that. I spent so many good times for hours after the games in the pavilion with the rugby boys, the hockey. It was a fantastic setup.
Payman: Comfortable as a dental student?
Paul Abrahams: I think I was comfortable as a dental student without really … I mean the social side was a big part of it. So that always affects your academic achievements, should we say. But it was always comfortable. It was never-
Payman: You did a five-year course or the four-year?
Paul Abrahams: It was the four-year, isn’t it? Four-year and a term, you graduate in December.
Payman: And there was no VT.
Paul Abrahams: No VT but I chose to do VT.
Payman: Oh, there was VT then.
Prav Solanki: It was optional.
Paul Abrahams: You didn’t have to do it. It was optional, and that was a great start. I mean, again, I was talking to Prav before about the guy that I started work with, and I was very, very fortunate there.
Prav Solanki: Tell us-
Payman: Who was he?
Paul Abrahams: His name is Maurice Weinstein or Maish Weinstein. You wouldn’t know who he is, South African guy in Wimbledon, but fantastic mentor. I was lucky, very, very lucky.
Payman: First boss is such a key-
Paul Abrahams: Key to everything you do and is still is key, the people you get involved with at the beginning.
Payman: I think Prav’s first boss made him leave medicine.
Prav Solanki: Yeah. I mean he really instilled happiness in these students, do you know? And that’s what life was really about. I remember I was actually coming towards the end of my PhD, I’d set up my own business in the last year of my PhD. I went back to him and said, “Tom …” And he offered me a junior research fellowship at Oxford University, a really prestigious position and I said, “Tom, do you know what? I’m really loving this business thing I’m doing.”
Prav Solanki: But I wasn’t successful at it at all. I think I was doing like 300 quid a month in turnover. And he said, “Do you know what, Prav? Just go and do what you love. I’ll keep this job open for you for the next 12 months, and I hope I don’t see you again.” And these people in your life that inspire you or shape your life, your career, the path you go down-
Paul Abrahams: If you’re lucky, that’s the point. Or you make your own luck, but I think that’s so key.
Prav Solanki: But I recently … It was recently, but shortly after that, I watched a film called The Butterfly Effect. Have you ever seen that?
Paul Abrahams: Probably have, can’t remember it. But I’ll-
Prav Solanki: I mean it’s how tiny, little decisions and influences in your life can make your path go so much in a different direction. And there are points in my life, like meeting Tom, being interviewed by Tom, being mentored by him, and other people in life, that it’s the reason why I’m sat here today. And I’m sure this chap who-
Paul Abrahams: I think that’s absolutely right, and I’m still very close to him. Whatever it is, he’d probably be the first person I pick up the phone for advice for.
Payman: Still now.
Paul Abrahams: Still now. We live quite close to each other. I mean I might go a few weeks without speaking to him, but if-
Prav Solanki: That’s amazing.
Paul Abrahams: It’s something, a big decision, he will probably be the first person I picked up the phone to-
Payman: And so what was it about him that … What would you say he’s instilled in you?
Paul Abrahams: I just think it’s that ethic. There’s an ethic, the way he does things, the way he works. It’s just that approach.
Payman: Is he still practising ?
Paul Abrahams: Yeah, absolutely.
Prav Solanki: How did you meet him? Can you remember the first time?
Paul Abrahams: Yeah. I’ll tell you how I met him. One of my best buddies at uni, he’s girlfriend is a hygienist and worked for him. “I’m looking for a job, as you are, and Weinstein in Wimbledon is looking for an Abrahams,” because it fits together.
Paul Abrahams: I went to meet him and we had a cucumber sandwich together. He made me a sandwich and said, “You know what? I think we’ll get along.”
Prav Solanki: Nice.
Paul Abrahams: And it was how the-
Prav Solanki: It was chemistry from-
Paul Abrahams: Yeah, and he had this empty room, I said, “You know what?” his name is Maurice but I call him Maish, I said, “Maish, you know what? This room’s not ready. We need to get it right.” I said, “You know what? I’ll come in and paint it. I’ve got nothing to do,” so the first thing I did was paint my own surgery before starting.
Paul Abrahams: Can you imagine that happening today? I just don’t think that-
Prav Solanki: Just can’t see that happening.
Paul Abrahams: You can’t. You get an associate come in and say, “I’ll come paint your surgery.”
Prav Solanki: Not a chance.
Paul Abrahams: And you know that typical situation where you’re a VT, you’re on a salary … I didn’t have to do VT. I think it worked very well for me, no pressure, would come in and help whenever. That first year was really important.
Prav Solanki: But did you take away from that first year in terms of … Was it more to do with communicating with patients and learning how to … or was it clinical?
Paul Abrahams: He’s a great communicator, and I think that’s a massive thing. That shapes you. I think I was fortunate in stuff I did before I went to uni and the other things where I learned about communication anyway. I think for some people, it comes naturally. It came naturally to him.
Paul Abrahams: I think it came naturally to me, but just learning how to deal with people in the dental situation is key. I think a lot of people are struggling with that.
Prav Solanki: I think it’s probably one of the biggest factors in a patient putting trust in you. Sometimes there’s loads of dentists out there who may have the same clinical skills as you, if not better. But I think the most important thing is the trust that you develop during that initial conversation, and that comes down to those communication skills and rapport.
Paul Abrahams: It’s all about rapport. I think that’s whenever we do. Again, people are all concerned about litigation and all that type of stuff. I think that’s less of an issue if you have the rapport.
Prav Solanki: For sure.
Paul Abrahams: Talk yourself out. Well, if you get along with someone, you’re prepared to look someone in the eye and say, “Look, I’m really sorry, this has gone wrong,” or whatever it is, that’s much less of an issue.
Prav Solanki: What’s the biggest clinical mistake you’ve ever made?
Paul Abrahams: I knew that was coming. Biggest clinical mistake, that’s a really tricky one. I mean it’s hard to think of anything specific that has gone wrong in the past. I think anyone who’s been in dentistry for 30 years and says it hasn’t is lying through their teeth.
Paul Abrahams: I’m just trying to think of a specific situation but I can’t … Possibly, biggest clinical thing I can think of is trying to take off an old crown on someone and it was a bonded crown and I thought it was cemented, cutting the crown in half and putting my flat plastic to flip the two halves off, and hearing the crack as the tooth split in half right down the root.
Paul Abrahams: And then have to say to the patient, “Actually, I was replacing that crown. We’re actually replacing that tooth.” That was probably the biggest.
Payman: What are you supposed to do in that situation?
Paul Abrahams: Run.
Payman: No, before it happens. How are supposed to take off a bonded crown compared to-
Paul Abrahams: You’ve just got to cut it off.
Payman: Just cut it?
Paul Abrahams: Cut it off.
Payman: Drill it off.
Paul Abrahams: You just don’t know how well it’s bonded. And that was possibly the biggest one.
Payman: What about like a direction of career perspective? I’m not going to call it a mistake, but if you could do it again, would you move your career in a different direction?
Paul Abrahams: Yeah. And actually first it comes back to Maish, he’d kill himself if he hears this because I’m not sure he’s ever heard it. But I remember going to an implant course in 1993 or ’92, and him saying to me, “Don’t do that because I’m going to catch you when you’re not working.” That was a big mistake, all right? That was a big mistake. Because at that point, it was early days.
Payman: You’re right.
Paul Abrahams: I did a restorative course and he said, “You’re wasting your time. Don’t bother,” so there’s always things like that. And I’m a generalist and I’ve done … I’m a bit of a course junkie, always have been. I suppose I maybe should have focused on one thing.
Paul Abrahams: So I’ve done all the courses in the world and still do a bit of everything. I might be better just doing one thing. I don’t know. Maybe not.
Payman: Looking from the outside, it looks like you really have delved into the digital thing earlier than the most. Are you good with computers or?
Paul Abrahams: No. I’m crap with computers.
Payman: How did you end up staying with it long enough-
Paul Abrahams: I used to work with Ashley [Byrne 00:20:38], was my technician. His dad as well. That was our technician in the early days, and Ashley called me one day and said, “I’ve got this scanner, or we’re having a demo in the lab. Would you like to come along? Because I think it’s something you will enjoy.”
Paul Abrahams: That was 12 years ago, the first iTero. I think it was one of the first of 10 in the country. I mean it made no financial sense, but here was this fantastic toy that you could can people’s teeth with and send it to the lab without taking an impression. So I bought it, and not because I’m particularly technical.
Paul Abrahams: I mean if you gave a computer, I wouldn’t know what to do with it most of the time apart from push the buttons.
Prav Solanki: That was over a decade ago?
Paul Abrahams: Yeah. Someone’s always got to be … I mean you often get people asking, “Why should I buy it now? Shouldn’t I wait for something …” You’ve got to get involved at some point. Get involved.
Payman: How did it perform that year?
Paul Abrahams: That was a fantastic … don’t even remember it coming in. We did a couple of things with-
Payman: Was it the same one?
Paul Abrahams: It was.
Payman: Oh, really?
Paul Abrahams: It was a great bit of kit and still is. The iTero is a fantastic scanner. And look, I think when I bought iTero, it was Straumann. They were looking at iTero from a restorative perspective not an orthodontic perspective. Then Align bought the company, and Align must have looked at the market and looked for what they thought would be the best scanner corsage, and they decided iTero was the one. So it was a great bit of kit.
Payman: What’s your advice for someone … I mean there must be right now, that must be the key question in dentists’ mind, which scanner to get. I don’t mean which one to get, but what should they do? What should they look at-
Paul Abrahams: Well, it’s what you want to do. Are you-
Payman: From where I’m standing, I’m not an expert, but it feels like if you’re into Invisalign, iTero seems to be the way. If you’re into restorative, the big restorative guys seem to be more-
Prav Solanki: TRIOS.
Paul Abrahams: TRIOS.
Payman: And now, there’s this brand new one.
Paul Abrahams: So it’s what you want to do. You have to decide are you predominantly ortho? So are you doing Invisalign? That’s got to be iTero. Are you implants? Really depending on what you’re going to do with it. For me, I’ve still got my old iTero. I rarely use it.
Paul Abrahams: But for me, in my very small practise, it was about making crowns on-site for people, so I needed to mill. I went to IDS two years ago with a view of buying the new iTero and hooking up a milling machine with it. At the time, Heraeus were talking about a laser milling machine, and they were saying, “Buy this and you’ll be able to hook it up.”
Paul Abrahams: That thing never came to fruition, so you’ve got to be a little bit careful. You know what? Why reinvent the wheel. Sirona have done it really well. It’s been around for a long time, so I bought an Omnicam and it’s worked fantastically well for me.
Paul Abrahams: That’s a big part of that. There’s lots of new technology, new cameras, new scanners. But some of these guys have been doing it for 34 … well, however long they’ve been doing it. It’s a bloody long time. So why go somewhere else?
Payman: Talk me through the CEREC sort of learning curve. How long does it take before you feel proud of CEREC restoration?
Paul Abrahams: I don’t think it takes long, but I think one of the big things that’s been missing, I think, not necessarily from Sirona, but from the suppliers is the teaching. You get this bit of kit which you’ve paid whatever it is, 75 grand for and invariably, a rep will come in and show you how to use it, not a clinician.
Paul Abrahams: I think there’s a big hole there in education, and I think what happens is people get very frustrated with the kit. They try and make a crown and it looks like a lump of chewing gum, and very quickly find it difficult, or something happens when they’re using the software.
Paul Abrahams: They’re not sure how to use it, and then they spent 70 grand and this thing is sitting in the corner of their surgery. Then you see on social media, “CEREC is shit. I’m not …” excuse the expression, “I’m not using it. I spent a lot of money.” There’s a gap there, whereas the learning curve is short but it’s sharp.
Payman: Because as an associate, I used it maybe 25 times and my conclusion by … And then you know, I stopped being a dentist. But my conclusion from that 25 times was I’d taken something that I could do very, very predictably and turned into something slightly unpredictable. Obviously, I didn’t know how to use it.
Paul Abrahams: Well, that’s the thing, isn’t it?
Payman: I get that. I get that because I know you’re not going to do it on your patients if you didn’t know it was good. But is 25 the right number, or how many times do you have to use it before you … I suppose a dentist, who you are-
Paul Abrahams: I don’t think it is who you are, but I don’t think it’s as many as 25, and I think it’s do a couple then go and learn how to do it, go and do a course-
Payman: Did you go on a course?
Paul Abrahams: Yeah. I did a course-
Payman: You’re teaching a course as well.
Paul Abrahams: I’m teaching a few courses. But I’ve just been out to Phoenix to do a course. The Spear Institute, they run some fantastic courses. We just flew out on a six o’clock local time, did the course for two days in Phoenix and came home, and that was an advanced direct course.
Paul Abrahams: They’ve got this incredible facility. The guys know what they’re doing, brilliant setup. There’s nothing like that here in London. I mean you’ve got a few guys who are starting to teach courses.
Payman: And you did anterior with it as well?
Paul Abrahams: Anterior. This course was specifically multiple anterior.
Payman: Oh, really?
Paul Abrahams: That’s the next step. Actually, sometimes I’m still scanning, sending it into the lab because their guys can do it better than I can do it.
Prav Solanki: You’re milling in-house, is that right?
Paul Abrahams: Yeah.
Prav Solanki: When you do that, are you actually finishing off the restorations by hand, staining them, glazing them and all that sort of stuff?
Paul Abrahams: Yeah. You stain, glaze, polish, stick it in the furnace, great fun. Patients love it. If you’ve got a patient coming and you can deliver something on the spot-
Payman: Do you market the fact that you’re that-
Paul Abrahams: We do. It was hard. It was hard at the beginning, when we first had the scanner because people didn’t really understand. I think it’s becoming more … People are beginning to understand. And you get the most sophisticated form of patients coming in and they see their crown being milled in the milling machine, and they whip their phone out and they’re recording it and sending it to everyone. There’s a little bit of organic growth from that as well.
Prav Solanki: Virality.
Paul Abrahams: Because it’s still-
Prav Solanki: It’s still cool.
Paul Abrahams: I think it’s still cool, and it’s still not enough people doing it. And people are wowed, very simple technology but are absolutely wowed by it.
Prav Solanki: Do you know how today, we’re getting companies that allow patients to do their own ortho.
Paul Abrahams: Great, isn’t it?
Prav Solanki: Yeah. Do you think artificial intelligence is ever going to get to a stage where you can cut a dentist out of the loop?
Paul Abrahams: No. I don’t see how that could be. I could see maybe robotic dentistry of some kind, but there’ll still be … Like eye surgery, there’ll still be someone behind that robot. I think AI will make a big difference and we’re seeing it now with the scanners. They’re using AI.
Paul Abrahams: So if you’re, for instance using your scanner and you’re defining your margins on your preps in a software after you’ve done 10, the artificial intelligence will start deciding.
Prav Solanki: Interesting.
Paul Abrahams: I think there’s a lot of changes coming.
Payman: I think it will happen.
Prav Solanki: You do?
Paul Abrahams: You think we’ll disappear?
Payman: When. No. I think there’ll be one dentist doing 10 dentist jobs.
Paul Abrahams: Possibly.
Payman: That sort of thing.
Paul Abrahams: I’ll be long gone when that happens. That’s fine. None of my kids are going to be dentists, so that’s also good.
Payman: Is that right? Would you put them off being dentists?
Paul Abrahams: No, listen, whatever they want to do. But none of them are interested, so it’s not going to happen.
Payman: Would you put them onto it? If they said, “Hey, what’s this dentistry?” would you say, “Yeah, go for it,” or not?
Paul Abrahams: Yeah. I think I still would.
Prav Solanki: If you weren’t a dentist, what would you be?
Paul Abrahams: I think I probably would’ve done architecture, something arty.
Prav Solanki: Your artistic background?
Paul Abrahams: Yeah.
Prav Solanki: Have you seen that helps with the design of the teeth, the staining, the glazing, the passion that you have to-
Paul Abrahams: I think it has to if you … I mean that’s the worst thing when you stand behind someone and they haven’t got the manual dexterity to do what they want to do. Must be so frustrating as well. That’s just got to help.
Payman: So Paul, your practise is on the road that I grew up on, interestingly. And we were talking about it before, it’s an interesting place to work, St. John’s Wood, right?
Paul Abrahams: Yeah.
Payman: And to expect working in a place like that, you have to have a high service element.
Paul Abrahams: Huge. So, what, 26 years in St. John’s wood. It’s like a village in Central London.
Payman: It is.
Paul Abrahams: But a very unique village, very particular people, as you know Pay, just like you really, certainly very demanding, for a real mix. But it took us a good five years to really get that going, and to get the locals coming in.
Payman: 26 years ago, right? So that could be-
Paul Abrahams: Yeah.
Payman: I left there-
Paul Abrahams: ’93.
Payman: Oh, how interesting. Now, I left there in ’88, I left there.
Paul Abrahams: It’s changed. I mean it’s changed a lot as well.
Payman: My parents are still there. But tell me about the service side. Looking at your practise, very boutique, very small, what kind of things do you guys do that maybe is over and above, go beyond-
Paul Abrahams: Sure. Is it what everyone should be doing anyway? Simple stuff. You do a root canal, you give someone a call a couple hours later, “How are you?” It always come down to that basic stuff. I mean we can do all the clever stuff today online and whatever, but that basic touch I think is really important.
Paul Abrahams: If someone sent you someone, thank them for sending you someone. There’s nothing over and beyond, that I think it’s just normal, everyday customer service. I think for years of going on courses, you can hear so many people speak, but they say the same thing ultimately.
Payman: Of course they do.
Paul Abrahams: So I don’t think it changes.
Payman: The way you handle your team’s nice, and when I come to your place, it’s always lovely that everyone … your team seems so relaxed.
Paul Abrahams: Sometimes. We have our moments like everyone else.
Payman: But we’ve been talking about this on another podcast, the question of if you want your team to be lovely to your patients, you’ve got to be lovely to your team. And then not everyone … The reason that not everyone does that-
Paul Abrahams: But isn’t that normal how you look after everyone, how you get on-
Prav Solanki: No.
Paul Abrahams: I mean it should be, shouldn’t it?
Prav Solanki: It should be.
Paul Abrahams: It should be how you-
Prav Solanki: Treat.
Paul Abrahams: It should be treat people how you’d expect to be treated, I suppose.
Payman: It’s not common because we go to a lot of practises. We go to a lot of practises, and it’s interesting. We see a lot of different … You can feel it from the moment you walk into a practise.
Paul Abrahams: Just the tension, and it’s really sad actually.
Prav Solanki: Or the glow, and you want into a practise and sometimes you can feel the tension, and you speak to the boss and you talk about business strategy, and management of team, and leadership and say, “I pay the money, they do the work.” Personally, I feel money should be the last reason that somebody is stepping through your day. I really do.
Payman: I like that.
Paul Abrahams: 100%.
Prav Solanki: Really do.
Paul Abrahams: I think that absolutely comes last. I think from the moment someone walks in … I mean you know my receptionist or my practise-
Paul Abrahams: Sorry, Manoosh, practise manager, she’d kill me for saying receptionist.
Payman: She’s a star.
Paul Abrahams: And she knows she’s got a great persona, great with people. She sat outside the coffee shop, which is now gone, by the way, the red shop-
Payman: Is it?
Paul Abrahams: Outside the front door, and talks to people and they say, “Well, where do you work?” “Well, I work upstairs in the dentist,” and by the end of that conversation, they’re booking in. That’s a unique ability. But we just get on. I just think, honestly, you’ve got treat people in the right way, they treat you in the right way. It’s a mutual respect and-
Payman: It seems obvious to you but it isn’t the case now.
Paul Abrahams: I don’t get it. I-
Payman: I would even in most places. In most places, there’s a them and us between management and the team that’s palpable.
Paul Abrahams: I think sometimes it’s different dynamics. We’re a very small practise, a very small team, and I think that makes that easier. We’ve worked together. I mean Manoosh has been with me 13 years and my nurse, 10, Gina is also for a long time. So it’s a unique dynamic, and I suppose the bigger you get, the easier it is to lose that dynamic.
Prav Solanki: It becomes a lot harder, and so one of the things that just popped into my head, as you mentioned it, do a root canal, give them a call. It’s so simple but they’re not expecting that call.
Paul Abrahams: Correct. It’s a two-second call.
Prav Solanki: I’m working with a practise, eight to 10 surgeries, patients flying in and out, private practise. If I was to suggest that, I’ll be seen as the craziest person.
Paul Abrahams: Why? It only takes one person on the team – doesn’t need to be the dentist.
Prav Solanki: Really? Well, absolutely. No, of course-
Paul Abrahams: Actually, why shouldn’t it be the dentist? If you’re between two patients-
Prav Solanki: I think it should be-
Paul Abrahams: Why can’t you pick up the phone. It takes two seconds. It’s the most powerful phone call in the world really.
Prav Solanki: Just for the listeners out there, could you just describe the impact that that has on, say, referrals, them sticking around as patients long-term?
Paul Abrahams: Well, imagine you phone that patient and they’re sitting in a coffee bar with three of their friends, and they pick up the phone, and they put the phone down and they ask, “Who was that?” “It was my dentist.” “What do you mean? What’s your dentist doing phoning you at …?” “Well, I’ve just had some treatment and he’s phoning to see how I am.” I mean that’s … How powerful was that?
Prav Solanki: Powerful, right?
Paul Abrahams: It’s more powerful than anything. It just makes no sense not to do it.
Payman: We used to do that even 10 years ago when I was a dentist, and the patient would come in the next visit and thank you for the call. It wasn’t even me calling. It was the nurse calling. But-
Paul Abrahams: If it is you doing it, it was even more powerful, wasn’t it?
Payman: Yeah. But do you know the notion of calling new patients before they come in? Have you heard of that?
Paul Abrahams: Yeah. I mean I-
Payman: It’s a lovely one.
Paul Abrahams: Anything to make a connection, anything to make that more personal, anything … I think they’re talking about money, this discounting. We were talking about this yesterday in terms of things like Invisalign. In London, it’s so competitive.
Prav Solanki: Crazy.
Paul Abrahams: “Let’s do a 500-pound off.”
Prav Solanki: A thousand pounds.
Paul Abrahams: “Let’s drive this by …” or whatever it might be. That’s not the connection we want.
Prav Solanki: From a marketing perspective, would you say that quite a lot of yours is handled through internal, or do you do a mix of both? Because it seems to me a lot of practises don’t have what I would consider to be a word of mouth strategy. But it looks like yours is already-
Paul Abrahams: One, [crosstalk 00:34:22]-
Prav Solanki: Yours is already baked in.
Paul Abrahams: That’s how it was right from the start. I suppose that’s coming from the guy that I worked with originally because that’s how it was. Do we have a marketing strategy? No. It’s such a different world today, but our strategy was that. Do we do a huge amount of advertising? No, because in those days, you didn’t really.
Paul Abrahams: I mean I suppose it was people in the mid-90s who started to get into that in a big way and benefited hugely. It’s now a different marketplace, isn’t it? I’m struggling with all this social media stuff. That’s a whole different-
Prav Solanki: But your practise is still successful, right?
Paul Abrahams: Touch wood, yeah, somewhere, yeah.
Prav Solanki: And do you put that down to the way you communicate with patients, treat them?
Paul Abrahams: I think it’s all about communication. It’s all about-
Paul Abrahams: Especially in our very small environment.
Payman: Especially where they are.
Paul Abrahams: Especially in St. John’s Wood. One of our big drivers is we’ve got the biggest American School in London over the road. So about 60% of my patients come through that school.
Payman: Oh, wow.
Paul Abrahams: And I’m just going back. In the early days of the internet, I had one American patient who basically put a testimonial online, I mean the days when there was no Google search engines or whatever. You just went on the internet and dialled up, and you put something about-
Paul Abrahams: I was being the most American-like dentists that she’s seen in London, and it was great, and that was number one in the search engines for years. It was crazy really because today, that would never happen. And then we became listed on the American School website.
Paul Abrahams: So we knew people coming would come to us and it’s a-
Payman: What would you say is the difference between American patients and British patients? What’s more likely to go for the-
Paul Abrahams: Yes and no. You know what. I think we’re in a different world today, so I think our English patients are just as driven to do things and do the cosmetic work. And we see people from all over the world, so actually, everyone’s the same. Everyone wants to look nice and have their teeth done right. We’re in a very, very-
Payman: Cosmetic area.
Paul Abrahams: We are. We’re very lucky.
Payman: I think good news travels fast there but bad news does too. Have you ever been on the edge of that?
Paul Abrahams: Absolutely, so yeah. It’s-
Payman: Have you had a problem like that before?
Paul Abrahams: We haven’t really. I mean have we ever upset anyone? I’m sure we have. Has it caused us loss of patients. I hope not. But you’re absolutely right. It’s the old adage, isn’t it? If you do something badly, then someone’s going to tell a whole lot more people than if you do something well.
Payman: Of course. What about associates, Paul?
Paul Abrahams: What about associates?
Payman: I mean-
Paul Abrahams: It’s tricky in my-
Payman: It’s tricky in your situation, isn’t it?
Paul Abrahams: In my situation, again, with the two surgery practise, over the years, we’ve had people come in. It’s always difficult because you make the practise about yourself, and that’s the USP. So to have someone come in one day a week or two days a week is difficult, and I’ve had some great people.
Paul Abrahams: I’m very lucky to be exposed to good, young dentists through connections who have agreed to come and work, and we’ve struggled to get them busy enough.
Payman: But have you been able to instil your principles into young associates?
Paul Abrahams: I’m not sure I’ve had enough time with people. I hope so. It’s about time, isn’t it?
Payman: So now, you’ve just sold this practise.
Paul Abrahams: Just sold into Dentex.
Payman: How does that feel? I mean does it-
Paul Abrahams: Different.
Payman: I mean maybe one day, a giant company will come by and like … and fingers crossed. But the idea of selling it, it does seem like a child. And I don’t know if you feel that way, but is-
Paul Abrahams: Look, I-
Payman: Did you worry about?
Paul Abrahams: You always worry about it. I mean when’s the right time? It’s really difficult to say. A lot of people hang on into their mid-60s and devalue their practise, and not get quite what they deserve to get for it because they’ve run the practise down. I think-
Payman: Were you strategic about the timing? Is that-
Paul Abrahams: I thought I was. It’s all about opportunity. I think someone else approached me to buy, and it was Dentex were in the marketplace, and I knew a few people involved with Dentex.
Payman: You weren’t thinking of buying if someone came to you?
Paul Abrahams: I wasn’t thinking of selling.
Payman: That’s right, [crosstalk 00:38:32]-
Paul Abrahams: Someone else approached me, and then I started looking, and then you know what? It seemed opportune. It seemed a good time, and Dentex seemed a good group, and it’s almost a year and I can say that it’s been good, I’ve enjoyed it and they-
Payman: They’re such an interesting corporate.
Paul Abrahams: They are, very different.
Payman: Explain for everyone-
Prav Solanki: The model.
Payman: The model.
Paul Abrahams: The Dentex model is none of my patients would know that I’ve sold the business into a corporate. I keep everything exactly the same. I think one of the thought processes for me, being a small practise in Central London, we’ve been talking about marketing and how things have changed, and certainly, that has changed hugely.
Paul Abrahams: For me to get penetration in the market in terms of certain treatments, it’s really hard in Central London because there’s some big marketing powers there. People are spending a lot of money. With a group like Dentex, they’ve come in. I’ve still retained a share in the practise, and it varies in the share.
Paul Abrahams: Then we’ve had the benefit of the group, so we’ve got some crossover within the group, got them, helping with marketing and things like that. And they’ve taken all the CQC, all the compliance stuff away, all the HR stuff away from me. It’s great, which is actually the biggest pain in small practise. And it’s been a good experience thus far, so yeah.
Payman: And now, you have some shares in the big operation.
Paul Abrahams: Again, from my perspective, it was a unique opportunity to be in early with a group like Dentex because of the share value at the beginning. I have a percentage tied up in shares and hopefully, the group grows and the business grows, and I’ve got a part of that.
Payman: Is there somewhere you can go up and say, “Let’s see what the price is right now”?
Paul Abrahams: Yeah. We can … No, but-
Payman: It’s not traded shares.
Paul Abrahams: It’s not traded shares, but as the group grows, the share value would increase.
Payman: As in you can see that happening?
Paul Abrahams: Yeah. I’ve seen that happen already.
Payman: Oh, I see. I like that.
Paul Abrahams: It’s actually unique. I mean it’s a unique opportunity for me to upscale what I have in a very small environment.
Payman: They’re thinking of doubling the number. I was speaking to them-
Paul Abrahams: I think that’s probably where it’s going to go. It’d be interesting to see how it develops in the next two or three years. Everything you do has a risk. I mean that’s what I was saying, it’s probably that. I think I’m a risk taker. It was just opportune.
Paul Abrahams: I suppose in my career, I’ve done things early. In other words, I had kids early and that type of stuff, so I expect to work for another 10 years, however that happens.
Prav Solanki: You’ve got some cash out. You’ve retained shares. Do you still feel like, and do the team still feel like you’re the boss?
Paul Abrahams: I’d have to ask the team. I think that was the hardest part of it, because I’ve worked with these people for a long time, and I think they had an idea something was going on. Initially, we did a little bit of due diligence without telling them. Then we got to a certain point and I had to have that discussion, and they were really upset because they thought things would change dramatically. And actually, maybe they would say it hasn’t changed that dramatically.
Payman: What’s the main thing that has changed?
Paul Abrahams: What’s the main thing that’s changed, is that I don’t go online and spend hours doing iComply. I’m doing payroll at the end of the month, paying the bills. That type of thing, for me, is a physical thing. And there’s been influence from outside. So we’ve had some input from outside which has been interesting.
Payman: Have they ever said that, “Listen, we don’t want you buying that stuff anymore or-
Paul Abrahams: No. We haven’t had that.
Payman: Or that isn’t the thing.
Paul Abrahams: It isn’t the thing.
Payman: I like that.
Paul Abrahams: Which is unique, I think, with corporates.
Paul Abrahams: Whether that change is pay, we’ll see, you know-
Prav Solanki: How about the labs, do you have particular a lab?
Paul Abrahams: No, I use the same lab.
Payman: So nothing has changed today other than you the fact that you don’t have to do payroll.
Paul Abrahams: Nothing, no. Yeah, and all … Yeah.
Payman: I love that.
Prav Solanki: Do you miss anything about not owning the whole business?
Paul Abrahams: No, not at this stage interestingly.
Prav Solanki: Really? Wow.
Paul Abrahams: Maybe that’s not right. I mean sometimes I think something’s gone missing, if that makes sense.
Payman: Do you have to get approval? You can’t now go and buy a [crosstalk 00:42:27]-
Paul Abrahams: No. I mean there has to be approval on things, and I think-
Prav Solanki: Does that happen-
Paul Abrahams: If a material’s over a certain amount, then you can at least get approval for it. If we wanted a particular polishing kit and it’s going to be an excess of X amount, then we would have to ask, it’s not a problem. If it’s reasonable-
Payman: Until they say no.
Paul Abrahams: Well, if they say no, they say no. If they can justify saying no, I’ve got no issue with that actually. It is a business after all, so I suppose in my own mind, if one of my staff came to be before we were Dentex and said, “I want to buy this,” we’d look at it and maybe say no if it wasn’t of value to the practise.
Payman: The benefits of it, I mean are there other benefits other than they take the headaches away from you? Are there conferences-
Paul Abrahams: Yeah. That’s just developing. There’s an educational programme this year. This is a few things we had, so we had a meeting with all the partners, all good people. It’s just that. Having been working on my own for so long, that’s a nice thing to have actually.
Payman: What are some of the other guys, Rahul?
Paul Abrahams: Rahul, so Rahul was a regional partner, regional director.
Payman: Now, Bush.
Paul Abrahams: A guy called Steve Taliz, Mitesh Badiani, he’s got a number of practises. There’s some good people involved, been really interesting.
Prav Solanki: You’re now a associate, is that right? Is that-
Paul Abrahams: I’m working as an associate.
Prav Solanki: You’re working as an associate. Just mentally and just-
Paul Abrahams: It doesn’t affect me mentally. It’s-
Prav Solanki: Does it affect you at all?
Paul Abrahams: Not mentally, no.
Payman: Are you taking more time off?
Paul Abrahams: No, because I was always someone who liked to take time off. Holidays are important to me.
Payman: Did you buy her something nice with the money?
Paul Abrahams: Not particularly.
Payman: Nothing changed.
Paul Abrahams: No.
Payman: I like that.
Paul Abrahams: You know what? Because coming at this … I suppose-
Payman: You don’t take a nice holiday?
Paul Abrahams: We take nice holidays. You know what? For myself and my wife, we like a nice holiday. So even when we were struggling, we were trying … We’ve always taken time off.
Prav Solanki: Nice.
Paul Abrahams: Even if we went … a nice holiday but went somewhere. We like the sunshine, so that’s important to us. And we’ve always tried to do that.
Payman: No brand new Cadillac?
Paul Abrahams: No, no Cadi. But what it does pay is give you a bit of financial security.
Payman: Of course.
Paul Abrahams: I’ve got four kids and it’s been a busy life, and it’s been an expensive life, so to have that at this point in life is good-
Payman: Feels good.
Paul Abrahams: To do. There’s nothing with that. Why should I waste it when I’m 65, 70? I might not be here when I’m 65 or 70. Who knows?
Payman: Tell us about your BACD. Looks like you’re going to be el presidente looking at the way that works.
Paul Abrahams: Who can believe that? Hard to believe really, never thought that would happen.
Payman: When was the first time you got involved with BACD?
Paul Abrahams: This is 10 years ago, I did a … The only time I ever did this, it was a beauty fair, and we had a stand in the booth, we thought we’d try this. Someone suggested to do it, and we ran a competition for Smart Makeover, of this thing. And behind me was Suzie and the BACD was there. If I remember, Sue-
Payman: They were at the beauty fair?
Paul Abrahams: I don’t remember what it was, something, an exhibition and Suzie was behind me and she said, “You know what? We should get involved more.” I’m blaming Suzie now. I’ve been listening to Suzie Rowlands.
Paul Abrahams: And so joined the committee and then at that time, the board was more or less self-elected. There was that core of people that started the BACD and ran the BACD, and then they opened the elections at conference, and I was one of the first to … I was absolutely … I hate standing up and speaking in front of people. At that time particularly, it was one of my words fears, and had to stand for election, and got elected. I don’t know how to this day, but it was one of those things-
Payman: But wait a minute. Who told you to do that? Was it something you wanted to do yourself?
Paul Abrahams: The other person that was great with this was David Bloom. Actually, David said, “I’ll-”
Payman: I’ll put you up.
Paul Abrahams: “Put you up, do it,” so thank you, David. He was-
Payman: But the reason I’m asking is because there’s plenty of people who go to the BACD but never think about going on the board of it, and-
Paul Abrahams: That’s the majority.
Payman: Was it the date that said it’s a good idea? Do you like meetings with committees?
Paul Abrahams: Well, I like that type of thing, actually.
Payman: You do, do you?
Paul Abrahams: Yeah, I suppose I did a bit of that as an undergraduate, so I was always involved with student committees and things like that. So just-
Payman: I find them hard. I’ve been on one or two. I find them hard.
Paul Abrahams: It’s not for everyone.
Payman: I find it hard not talking when I want to talk. Have you been on a committee before?
Paul Abrahams: It’s not for everyone.
Prav Solanki: No, but it’s not my thing. It’s definitely not my thing.
Payman: But it’s interesting because the one or two times I’ve been there, you actually do know what’s going to happen in the future before most people.
Paul Abrahams: But you’re also-
Payman: There’s a nice feeling about that.
Paul Abrahams: There’s a fantastic social element with BACD. I mean I made some great friends through … And that’s actually the best part of it, is there are some really good people involved, and it’s just fantastic socially.
Prav Solanki: That’s true.
Paul Abrahams: Really, you know that better than everyone else, that the Enlighten parties are legendary maybe, and that’s a big part of it. That type of stuff-
Payman: Which one was your first conference that you went to? Where was it?
Paul Abrahams: First conference … I went to the second conference somewhere in Central London. I can’t even remember.
Payman: BACD second conference?
Paul Abrahams: Yeah.
Payman: I remember around that time. That was all London.
Paul Abrahams: It was all London.
Payman: How long does it take? If let’s say, some kid wants to become the president of the BACD-
Paul Abrahams: Crikey, yeah.
Payman: How long would it take from day one?
Paul Abrahams: From day one, I went on board … I mean it could take three years actually, or four years if you were to do a committee-
Paul Abrahams: Go on board. You’ve got to be on board for two years, and that’s quick. I actually came off board for about 18 months because there was other things going on in my life. I think you’ve got to be really committed to do it. That’s the other thing. You-
Prav Solanki: Time consuming.
Paul Abrahams: It is.
Payman: Well, how much work is it? How much work is it?
Paul Abrahams: It’s really time-consuming.
Payman: Is it? This daily-
Paul Abrahams: It’s all emails every day.
Paul Abrahams: When you talk about organising conferences a year in advance and … So there’s certain roles on board, and so I was director of education last year. That’s organising conference, it’s dealing with speakers. It’s time-consuming.
Prav Solanki: This is all voluntary, right?
Paul Abrahams: All voluntary. You know-
Prav Solanki: There’s no financial-
Paul Abrahams: Somehow, people seem to think you get paid for it. It’s totally voluntary.
Payman: You even pay for your ticket for the conference.
Paul Abrahams: Correct.
Payman: That’s interesting.
Paul Abrahams: It is what it is. You do it because you want to do it not because there’s any reward.
Prav Solanki: And so as director of education, do you have to decide who speaks, approach people, right?
Paul Abrahams: Yeah.
Payman: Or is that-
Paul Abrahams: No. That’s pooled resources, but yeah, using the people we know. I mean there’s so many people that have gone through BACD then come out the other end, and I have contacts with speakers. I think of John Coyce this year, and I think of Andy Shandrapal, I think, led that because he’s done it with Coyce and they know it, so through contracts.
Payman: Do you have to get into the nitty-gritty, the fees and all that? Is that your-
Paul Abrahams: Absolutely. There’s a budget. It’s significant.
Payman: And so what’s the difference with one president compared to the next other than the conference?
Paul Abrahams: Personality. People are different.
Payman: But is it real? Does one president really steer it in one direction and another-
Paul Abrahams: I think there has been that, and I think different personalities drive it-
Payman: Where do you plan to steer it then?
Paul Abrahams: Just keep that ship going in the same direction.
Paul Abrahams: Just try and keep it as it is, keep out the controversy, keep it simple.
Payman: It’s hard.
Paul Abrahams: It’s hard. There is politics in dentistry, but I think it’s just trying to keep it real. Let’s have decent education, let’s have a decent social element to it, just keep it the same.
Payman: How do you-
Paul Abrahams: It’s been good the last few years.
Payman: Do you go to the other ones as well, the BARD and all that?
Paul Abrahams: I haven’t been to BARD, but that’s something I need to do.
Payman: Because I think it’s important that you don’t end up being us and them.
Paul Abrahams: It shouldn’t. I don’t see why that should … I don’t feel that at all. Is that what you feel?
Payman: No. I think historically, that’s where BACD came from in a way. We’ll have to-
Paul Abrahams: I think there’s a lot of crossover now. There’s people involved with both, and that has been, and I don’t think that’s really an issue.
Payman: It’s actually a really good thing for people to be involved with both because-
Paul Abrahams: But there’s more organisations than BARD and BACD. There’s other things out there and-
Paul Abrahams: Actually, I think generally, the type of people that get involved with this type of stuff, the people that go to conferences, go to courses, go to all lots of other things.
Payman: What I’m driving at is as a profession, we do seem to be very split, very polarised in many ways. Do you agree with that?
Paul Abrahams: Yeah, I do. I don’t necessarily think that’s going to change because that’s society per se. Well-
Payman: Don’t you think it’s worse now than it was before?
Paul Abrahams: Because I think it’s worse in society than it was before. I think what goes on in dentistry reflects what goes on in society. What goes on in so many professions is the same. So we have that divisiveness that exists, and it reflects through everything. I’m not sure that’s a dental-
Payman: Good point.
Paul Abrahams: I don’t think that’s a dentistry problem. I think that’s an issue per se.
Payman: That’s good point actually. What would you like to be remembered for? I mean I know it’s a bit ahead of time, but as a legacy, what would you like your legacy to be?
Paul Abrahams: Well, a dental legacy or a personal legacy?
Paul Abrahams: If you say, “He was honest and had ethics and integrity,” I mean nothing special, simple stuff, nothing controversial, I would say. Because sometimes people remember for the controversial stuff, “He did this or stirred up that.” I’m not interested in that type of stuff. It’s not for me.”
Prav Solanki: I had one question earlier. Just right at the beginning of the conversation, you mentioned that you were a course junkie and you’ve done loads of courses. Now, I’m just thinking about the younger listeners out there, and I’ve got a really close friend of mine actually, Danny Watson, who’s recently qualified, and you get presented with this mass of courses and-
Paul Abrahams: Particularly today.
Prav Solanki: “Do this implant course, do this sort of stuff, this is the best,” and blah, blah, blah. Could you impart some advice on a newly qualified or a young dentist in terms of how to get your grounding in dentistry and where you should look for it?
Paul Abrahams: Well, I think you’ve got to be honest with yourself, number one, is what are your own weaknesses? What is it you need to improve every day to make you a better dentist? I suppose number one has to be communication. If you feel that you’ve got issues there, then you’ve got get that right and seek out the … There’s plenty of courses there for that type of stuff.
Paul Abrahams: There’s some really good people out there. Then number two, basic skills. What are you going to be doing every day? Probably most of the time when you first start, you’re going to be filling holes. Well, do it well. Do the best you can, so again, seek out the people-
Prav Solanki: What’s a good, all round, general either dental or cosmetic course?
Paul Abrahams: There’s so many. I mean there’s so many good guys out there teaching. I don’t really want to name anyone particularly. I think that’s a little bit harsh. But there’s some good people. I mean just look for people with experience and background.
Paul Abrahams: I mean I think it’s easy to sources these days. I don’t think it’s difficult, but decide what you want to do because it’s so easy to do 100 different courses. But get basics right.
Payman: Paul, would you say that cliché is true about the newer, younger generation not being as prepared for practise as-
Paul Abrahams: I don’t know, possibly.
Payman: As our generation?
Paul Abrahams: Possibly, but there’s some great, young dentists out there. I mean I’ve seen some incredible, young dentists.
Payman: Me too. But I think they’re actually stronger than most of our generation from the communication standpoint.
Paul Abrahams: Well, I’m sure they are.
Payman: Because with our generation, there was a real stuffiness. I mean not everyone’s like you, I assure you of that. But the clinical, the diagnosis and the clinical, you’ve seen a lot of different-
Paul Abrahams: Well, I think you hear that in medicine and dentistry, that they’re not as good clinically. I’m not sure that’s fair. I think maybe they’re not … I mean it must be much harder coming out today. When we came out, you could set up, you could get on with it. There wasn’t a fear. I mean fear is a big issue in dentistry today for, I suppose, young guys about what they can and can’t do.
Paul Abrahams: You know what? Learning to be a dentist is like to learning to drive. Someone teaches you how to do it, then you’ve got to go out and do it for yourself, and acquire the skill.
Payman: I think due to that course question that you’re asking, Prav, because they come out and want to learn so much, and it is bewildering-
Prav Solanki: It’s a confusing-
Payman: Knowing which courses to do.
Prav Solanki: Confusing mass.
Paul Abrahams: It’s so many, isn’t it? Again, I come back to think you’ve got to be honest with yourself. You’ve got to know in yourself what it is that’s holding you back, what your weaknesses are, and then choose a calling that … I think there’s lots of year courses where you can do more.
Paul Abrahams: I mean I know what happens in FD1 today. Is it like vocational training in the old days where you go one day a week and-
Prav Solanki: I think so.
Paul Abrahams: That’s got to be key to it. And it’s the fear. I think the fear thing is a big problem, people not doing things that they should be doing because they’re scared about doing something wrong.
Prav Solanki: And perhaps if somebody presents you with an opportunity like do an implant course, maybe take it by the horns.
Paul Abrahams: But I mean not today. There’s got to be something else out there, isn’t it?
Prav Solanki: Yeah.
Paul Abrahams: Well listen, you’ve got to do what you’re … I mean as it happens, it was probably a good thing for me because surgically, I’m not great, and that’s probably the thing that I least like.
Prav Solanki: Least enjoy.
Paul Abrahams: Maybe I could’ve learned that skill but today, keep up out the way as far as I’m concerned. Keep it clean.
Prav Solanki: Do you have somebody coming into your practise doing that for you or refer out?
Paul Abrahams: I had Zaki Kanaan for a while coming in, which was great, great to work with Zaki. Now, within the group, we’ve got people doing that type of stuff and again, I’m looking at someone else to come in and do some implant work in the practise.
Payman: Did Zaki do the implant work with you to help you with your-
Paul Abrahams: No. He placed-
Payman: He’s a roving implantologist, isn’t he, in a lot of practises.
Paul Abrahams: Yeah, he’s green.
Prav Solanki: He’s a good one.
Paul Abrahams: We miss him, Zaki. We miss you Zaki.
Prav Solanki: He’s a good man.
Paul Abrahams: But we’re looking at that again. Again, being in Central London, this guy is so close that it’s easy to refer out and get that done. I restore all the implants.
Payman: I know it’s hard to project that far ahead, but once you are allowed to leave now, do you know what you’re going to do?
Paul Abrahams: I just want to keep going, and whether I work … At the moment, I’m trying to do four days a week. I don’t see myself finishing as long as I’m healthy for quite some time. Wherever that might be, whether it might be in the practise I’m still in, or whether it be somewhere else, and hopefully doing a bit of teaching and lecturing and that type of stuff.
Payman: But your ideal for now would be to stay in the same place even after you-
Paul Abrahams: Yeah, I think so because I’ve got some-
Payman: Is it just because of the work years-
Paul Abrahams: I’ve got some great patients, and we’ve got great staff, and it’s comfortable. I see people. Sometimes I go 10 years, someone walks in and I haven’t seen them for 10 years, and they walk in, and that’s great.
Payman: Really? Wow.
Paul Abrahams: I have some great patients, great people.
Prav Solanki: You hear so many stories of people selling and then just having a real bad time afterwards. It seems like you’re in a really happy place at the moment?
Paul Abrahams: Well, it’s been good.
Payman: I think for now, Dentex … Every Dentex seller I’ve spoken to seems happy, but it is early days.
Paul Abrahams: Look, it can change.
Payman: It does happen with corporates early on.
Paul Abrahams: There’s always a risk with it, again like I said with everything. But I think the key thing is I’m still in the same practise, doing the same things.
Payman: So nothing-
Paul Abrahams: Ultimately, on a daily basis, it’s not really changed. It’s not the dentistry, it’s the people, and we had this conversation. It’s the people. I see some really nice people. I’ve been seeing them for a long time. That hasn’t changed. None of them know that I’ve gone this route.
Payman: Tell us about your spare time. What do you like doing?
Paul Abrahams: Apart from teaching, apart from BACD which takes up most of my spare time?
Payman: Yeah. I see you running even after big Enlighten parties, I see you, bit to the 8 a.m. running.
Paul Abrahams: I like to. Probably that’s the story, got to stay strong. I still play football.
Payman: Oh, do you?
Paul Abrahams: I play Veterans Football now which is in a league, so that’s competitive football, which I’ll keep doing until my knees or hips or something else gives out. I use the gym and I love watching football. That’s a big thing, so got to stay strong.
Payman: What’s your favourite place in the world?
Paul Abrahams: Place in the world? Find me a beach anywhere, nice beach. It doesn’t have to be anywhere particularly.
Payman: Do you tend to go back to the same places on holiday?
Paul Abrahams: We’ve done quite a bit. Well, my son moved to Australia about four and a half years ago, so we’ve been to Australia a couple of times now.
Payman: How is it? Is it good, Australia?
Paul Abrahams: Oh, it’s amazing.
Payman: Is it? Have you been to South Africa?
Paul Abrahams: Not been to South Africa.
Payman: I went to South-
Paul Abrahams: We do go back. We do go back to the same places, if I think about it. But we’re-
Payman: I really feel I’ve got this Australia bug. Have you been to Australia?
Prav Solanki: Never been, but you know what? I know a few people have moved and life is so much-
Paul Abrahams: Do you know what, Prav? I think if I took myself back to when my kids were young, if we would’ve had a taste of that, I think we would’ve gone.
Prav Solanki: Oh, really? Why?
Paul Abrahams: I’m absolutely certain we would’ve gone. Because we love that type of … Given the choice between going to a beach or going skiing, like a lot of people are doing this week, I’d been on a beach.
Prav Solanki: Of course.
Paul Abrahams: Every single time.
Payman: Not everyone says that though. Not everyone says that. Adam Thorne was skiing every time.
Prav Solanki: I’ve never been seeing so I can’t really comment.
Paul Abrahams: I’ve been once.
Payman: When I went to South Africa, I got that feeling of, “I want to live here,” but then, you’ve got all the crime and all that people talk about.
Paul Abrahams: But South Africa is a different issue.
Payman: But I know it’s a unique one, but that’s actually one thing. I’ve got the bug for Australia because it feels like I haven’t been there-
Paul Abrahams: It’s like going back. It’s like going back-
Payman: It’s like South Africa without the crime worry.
Paul Abrahams: It’s an interesting place. It’s a bit quirky. I mean my son lives in Bondi. I mean who’d want-
Payman: Does he?
Paul Abrahams: But you walk down in Bondi and if you’re in your 50s, you feel like, “Whoa, I’m the oldest person on the street,” because everyone is in their 20s, 30s and young families, and it’s got a great vibe. It’s old-fashioned in many respects. It’s like going back, a throwback, but it’s a long way from everything. Geez. It’s a long way to go.
Payman: Did you stop off somewhere on the way?
Paul Abrahams: Yeah. We went via Singapore.
Payman: Stayed a couple of days there?
Paul Abrahams: No, just went through via Dubai.
Payman: That’s a shame, isn’t it? You should stay.
Paul Abrahams: You know what? Just get there.
Payman: The Singapore crowd, man.
Paul Abrahams: Now, you’ll get me going because my younger son, he keeps saying we’ve got to go to Singapore, so I have to do it.
Payman: Well, it’s been lovely talking to you, Paul.
Prav Solanki: Thank you. Thank you for your time. Thanks.
Paul Abrahams: Pleasure.
Payman: Thanks again for being so open and coming over. It’s been really lovely talking.
Prav Solanki: Thanks for sharing. Yeah.
Paul Abrahams: Thanks, guys.
Automated Voice: 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.