Where were you when Boris cancelled Christmas in 2020? Right here, catching up on dentistry’s finest podcast. 

In this end-of-year special, Prav and Payman take look back on the annus horribilis that was 2020.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, and it isn’t long before our dental royals are round to talking shop, with conversations on management, hiring, firing, working with ninjas and much more. 


“I guess that thing our parents told us about people will always need teeth.” – Payman Langroudi

In This Episode

00.34 – Cancelling Christmas
09.32 – Bust and boom
14.23 – Lockdown lessons
18.48 – Family values
24.41 – Ninjas
31.55 – Hiring
45.05 – Firing
52.29 – The third home
54.38 – Shining examples
59.58 – Wrapping up



Prav Solanki: I truly believe there’s a hybrid future. You ask the question, “Imagine COVID disappear tomorrow. What you going to do? Go back to working full-time in an office?” Not a chance. No way.

Speaker 2: 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 Langroud…: 2020. What a crazy year it’s been. Prav and I decided to have a little conversation about 2020, at the very end … This is probably going to go out in the first couple of weeks of January, Prav, right?

Prav Solanki: Yeah, there or thereabouts, or maybe somewhere in between depending on when our team can get this out. But I think-

Payman Langroud…: Yeah. Today is the first Christmas got cancelled. It’s a bit like one of those 9/11, who shot Kennedy, Princess Diana moments. “Where were you when Christmas got cancelled?” Because it’s a shocker, bit of a shocker, I think. I am in London and we just got promoted up to Tier 4 and you guys brought back down, right Prav?

Prav Solanki: We’re 2. I think we’re 2. To be honest, I’m losing track. But the thing is, when it doesn’t have impact on you, doesn’t affect you in the same way as let’s say when we spoke this morning Pay and you said, “What’s happening?” “Family coming round,” etc. etc. We’re fortunate enough to be going on holiday. But imagine being in Tier 4, having booked a family holiday and being told, “It’s cancelled,” right?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: Imagine the plans you’ve made for your family and getting together. All this time you’ve been waiting in suspense and then all of a sudden it’s cancelled, yeah? Devastating.

Payman Langroud…: It’s one of those moments. We were talking about the silver linings of corona and I’m sure we’ll talk again. But what I was saying to you once was our lives, and our kids lives particularly, very formulaic and very simple, and outside of … If we’re talking about silver linings, outside of getting ill and losing your business, if those two things don’t happen then I was saying to you one of the silver linings of it is to have challenge.

Payman Langroud…: We’ve talked about on the podcast, when you talk to people about, “Why? Why are you the person who achieved this, that and the other?” And people talk about challenge. You always talk about your dad and going off working in the factory and the taxis and the corner shop, “I’m doing this so you guys don’t have to,” and how that stuck with you.

Payman Langroud…: For me, the challenge of COVID … I remember back to the revolution in Iran when we were … I was six years old when it happened. And there were moments in that, there were quickening moments, and for one of them, for instance, was when the lights didn’t go on. A power cut. And it was a proper power cut. The lights just didn’t go on again for a long time. It was a quickening. Up to that moment, we were very much like now, stuck in our houses, there was martial law. They said, “Anyone who leaves the house after 9:00 at night gets shot,” so that was a situation. Yeah?

Prav Solanki: I bet.

Payman Langroud…: Then the quickening of that situation, when suddenly the lights didn’t come on … Now, in corona, what happened today with Boris and Christmas, kind of a quickening moment. But because I’ve lived that revolution I’m okay. What I mean is our kids haven’t had anything like this. And in a way, as long as they’re healthy, in a way it’ll strengthen them. What do you think?

Prav Solanki: I kind of agree. I know you mentioned the challenge, right? But sometimes I look at a challenge as almost like a … In my mind, I look at a challenge as something voluntary, right? Okay.

Payman Langroud…: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Prav Solanki: And I see this more as a survival game.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: Do you see what I mean? You’re kind of forced into that situation, and how you respond or how you react to that situation is really important, right? In any aspects of our life, whether it’s life, business, you’re making decisions, right, you are in total control of the outcome simply based on how you respond to that situation. Yeah?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: And so here, maybe Christmas is cancelled, that’s a survival thing. Maybe being a little bit too dramatic there in that sense. But in the whole situation of what corona’s brought upon us, right, when the initial shock hit us, right? The conversations me and you had about, “Oh my god, business is over. Are we going to diversify? Are we going to do different things? Are we going to look at different business models? What about our team? What about this, what about that?” And we had 101 conversations with each other, right, about the what ifs?

Payman Langroud…: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Prav Solanki: But ultimately, the way we responded with our teams, our families, our loved ones, once we’d absorbed all that information and said, “Right, okay, this is what I’m going to do,” is what’s paved the way for the outcome of where we are today, right now, what’s happened during lockdown and what the future holds.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, but we were lucky, Prav. Yeah?

Prav Solanki: Incredibly.

Payman Langroud…: I mean, what I mean by that is it’s easy to survive and thrive when the key things haven’t broken from under you. We’re lucky enough we paid our mortgage, we’re lucky enough we kept our teams. I didn’t have to lose anyone. You didn’t even stop anyone working, did you?

Prav Solanki: No.

Payman Langroud…: You just carried straight on.

Prav Solanki: No, just carried straight on.

Payman Langroud…: But that might not have happened. What I’m saying is, there’s plenty of people out there, people I know, I know people who own nightclubs that are still suffering like hell.

Payman Langroud…: And as a profession, I think we’ve had some disagreements and we’re having some disagreements right now, but as a profession we got to thank our lucky stars for what’s happened. When we were in lockdown, we were having all these conversations with all these people from BAPD and all these profs and so forth.

Payman Langroud…: And a lot of what I thought was going to happen next did happen next. But one thing I got completely wrong, and thank god I did, was that I was seriously worried patients weren’t going to come into dental practises. If you remember, when people were coming onto TV and all that, I was saying, “Don’t mention the virus in the air story,” if you remember. I was [crosstalk 00:07:01].

Prav Solanki: I remember the whole conversation was, “Just keep aerosol out of the mix,” right?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: Because from my understanding, and having spoken to people like Dominic O’Hooley, who I think educated the entire industry on the science of this whole situation, right? His intellect and his understanding and ability to take complexities and simplify it for the group is phenomenal, and I think as a community we owe Dominic a lot in terms of what he’s given the industry. That in itself I think helped us all just to absorb information at a rate at which we could just make sense of it.

Prav Solanki: But going back to the aerosols, people didn’t know what to say, people didn’t know what to think. And they weren’t making statements based on evidence-based fact, scientific, sound reasoning. So, the moment you mention viral, aerosol, dental practise all in one sentence, patients are like, “That is the last place I want … ” Even though it was probably one of the safest places they could come to, right?

Payman Langroud…: Prav, it didn’t happen. Yeah? It didn’t happen.

Prav Solanki: Yeah, no, it didn’t.

Payman Langroud…: Although some did. If you remember, we did this influencer campaign where we were trying to get the mom influencers into the practises.

Prav Solanki: Yeah, yeah.

Payman Langroud…: And I see those communications coming in on the social media and some of the moms said, “I’m not confident to go to a dental practise yet.” I saw some of those. But overall, I don’t think anyone could complain. Not private practitioners, not NHS practitioners, not mixed practitioners. I mean, some people had a hard time. My wife’s an associate who was earning more than £50,000 and didn’t get a penny over that period, and we were okay.

Payman Langroud…: But I often thought if my wife was a single mom looking after three kids, and she was an associate earning whatever she was earning, 70 grand a year or whatever it was, that family would have been in proper trouble. And there are families like that out there, yeah? In dentistry even, who are in proper trouble. Let alone the country’s on its knees and we’ve done well. We’ve done well. I guess that thing our parents told us about people will always need teeth, yeah?

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: Dentistry definitely is recession-proof to some extent. But one other really lovely thing I’m noticing, Prav, is that we’re getting to have our cake and eat it in so much as when there’s an upturn, cosmetic dentistry flies, when there’s a downturn dentistry doesn’t suffer in the same way as some businesses do. We get the best of the upturn and we’re recession-proof, whereas let’s say a doctor might be recession-proof but he’s not getting the upturn part. Since cosmetic dentistry has become a thing in the last 10 years or so-

Prav Solanki: Just on that note there, I’ve got a couple of theories on that. If we just talk about medicines not getting the upturn, right? I look after a lot of private GPs, and the conversations I’m having with them … Let’s talk business and numbers, right?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: Conversations I’m having with them is their income’s gone through the roof with patients who want private tests, fit-to-fly certificates. Home visits, they’re charging a premium for that. Patients are willing to pay etc. etc. Right?

Payman Langroud…: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Prav Solanki: So, they’ve noticed a massive upturn as well. Dentistry may be slightly different because obviously-

Payman Langroud…: It’s on an upturn now. I’m not talking about that, now. Now’s a downturn.

Prav Solanki: We’re seeing an upturn. We’re seeing an upturn.

Payman Langroud…: I know you are but I’m saying as an economy, the economy’s down, yeah?

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: Medicine and dentistry’s been okay. Now, when the economy flies, yeah? When-

Prav Solanki: Cosmetics flies.

Payman Langroud…: Cosmetics flies. So, it’s a nice thing that we can get both the ups and be protected against the downs.

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: And I think it’s because of cosmetics, because of the wants … It’s almost like we can push the wants when people want, and then we can keep the needs when people need.

Prav Solanki: Yeah. One of the things I fear at the moment is what we’re seeing in private practise at the moment is the furlough money.

Payman Langroud…: That’s true.

Prav Solanki: I know, even if I just look at all my team members in my agency, they’re not driving to work. They’re not buying lunch. They went through months and months where they couldn’t spend any of their earnings. And for the first time in their lives, they started accumulating significant savings, right? And it’s the same for a lot of people who were either furloughed or not furloughed but working during this time-

Payman Langroud…: Your team was a hundred percent this period?

Prav Solanki: My team was on a hundred percent. None of them were furloughed, right? But scratch that to one side.

Payman Langroud…: Even if they were-

Prav Solanki: There was no commute, right? Living expenses went down. There were no holidays. Okay? They couldn’t go anywhere and spend their money.

Payman Langroud…: Mortgage holiday.

Prav Solanki: Mortgage holiday. All of that. So, you accumulate this cash, right? Imagine that across the nation. You’re accumulating this money whether you’re working, whether you’re not. Whatever you’re doing. You’ve got this furlough money, so to speak.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, you’re right, you’re right. There is that.

Prav Solanki: What do they do with that? You’ve got these people who want to feel good about themselves, want to smile, want to be happier. “Invest in your smile. Invest in your teeth.” Then we start seeing dentists’ marketing campaigns rolling out. Okay, this information gets pushed in front of people who’ve got a few extra thousand pounds in their bank account. “Hey, why not spend it on a beautiful smile?” I think we’re seeing a lot of that right now.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah. I mean, Enlighten’s had the best quarter we’ve ever had just now, which I really wouldn’t have predicted, dude, when everything was shut.

Prav Solanki: No.

Payman Langroud…: I would not. I think you’re right, furloughs were part of it. I think the AGP issue helps us because there isn’t AGP during bleaching. Maybe that’s another reason. Who’s to say when that’s going to dry up? I guess they’ve just extended it to end of April.

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: At the end of April, there will be massive job losses if the virus is still around. It feels like it’s still going to be around. The vaccination thing isn’t going to happen properly.

Prav Solanki: Agree. And also, one of the things with the furlough that sometimes we don’t think about, because you just think, “Okay, the government are backing this,” right?

Payman Langroud…: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Prav Solanki: You still need the cashflow to fund it and pay it, claim it back, pay it, claim it back. Whatever, right? Some businesses can’t survive like that. So, there’ll be some that will bottom out way before April. There’s some that have already have, yeah?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: Had to make that decision. Because in addition to wages and things like that, obviously, there’s loads of other overheads and stuff. Even in my own business. Come on, we’ve got an office that we’ve probably done six days in.

Payman Langroud…: In total?

Prav Solanki: In total, since Boris announced the first lockdown. Six days-

Payman Langroud…: What are you going to do, Prav, if … Let’s just imagine we can switch off corona tomorrow.

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: What will be the work situation? What are you going to tell your team? Do they have to come in, don’t they? What are you thinking?

Prav Solanki: Listen, if you’d have floated this idea with me pre-corona, yeah?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: I’d have told you which bus to get off on. Yeah? Seriously, it just would not have happened. Right?

Payman Langroud…: [Sanja’s] the same. My other partner, Sanja.

Prav Solanki: Even if you’d have told me, “Look, let your team work one day, two days a week from home,” yeah?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, Sanja wouldn’t even give them the morning, not a morning even.

Prav Solanki: Uh-huh (negative). Not a chance mate, right? But we were talking about survival earlier, weren’t we? And we were talking about okay, sometimes situations put … You get put into situations that you’ve got no control over and this is one of them. When I was sat in my office that day, team had gone home, packed the computers up, and I just sat in the middle of the room and just cried for a bit, right? Then thought, “Right, okay. We all start working from home as of tomorrow,” right? Or was it Monday? I can’t remember. And every element of let’s call it the lack of trust … Let’s be upfront, right? Let’s call it lack of trust, call it whatever, of working from home, it disappeared into thin air. We came together as a team, right? And actually, the reverse. I was getting messages at 10:00 at night, 8:00 at night, early in the morning from my team, at times when I didn’t think they’d exist in my business.

Payman Langroud…: What do you do when they’re in the building? How closely are you looking at them anyway? I mean, my point on this is just because the guy’s in the building doesn’t mean his brain’s in the building.

Prav Solanki: Yeah. No, no, no, listen. I’m with you now, right?

Payman Langroud…: Yes.

Prav Solanki: Totally, totally with you. Even when they were in the building, call it old-fashioned mentality, whatever you want, but there’s a certain magic that happens when you’re all together. You cannot take that away. When your team is together versus when they’re remote, there’s a different type of magic that happens.

Payman Langroud…: That’s true, that’s true.

Prav Solanki: I truly believe there’s a hybrid future. You asked the question, “Imagine COVID disappeared tomorrow. What you going to do? Go back to working full-time in an office?” Not a chance. No way. [crosstalk 00:16:42].

Payman Langroud…: That’s for yourself? That’s for yourself, right?

Prav Solanki: No, no, the team as well, mate.

Payman Langroud…: The team as well. So how-

Prav Solanki: The team as well, mate.

Payman Langroud…: How many days a week do you reckon you want them in? Because we’re working, right now, we’re working on one day a week.

Prav Solanki: I would say one to two days a week max, yeah? But I’ve got to decide now, we’ve got an office for what, 15 people, right?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, what to do with that, right?

Prav Solanki: At the moment, I’m still paying rent. Full whack. Last week, I stopped paying for my car parking space. What an idiot. I’ve been paying for a car parking space since lockdown one, yeah? And only last week I decided, “Well, I better cancel that because it’s doing me no favours whatsoever.” Tried to cancel my super-expensive broadband and all the rest of it, my direct fibre line. They wouldn’t let me do that. But here’s the thing. Do I downsize my office now? Do I double up on equipment because I’ve had to send the team all home with their hardware, software, everything, whatnot? Do I double up on that? Do we just have get-together meetings in a swanky hotel once a month? Right?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: And treat everyone.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah. That’s what I would do. It’s different for us because we’ve got a lab on site and everything.

Prav Solanki: Yeah, yeah.

Payman Langroud…: But if I were you, I would use a WeWork or something.

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: And you’re right, make it a really funky one, and meet up and eat and-

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: It’s more a culture thing. Now, the question of people knuckling down and helping and all that, I get that completely. Look, I know my people, right? We hired them, we spent all that time together. So, on that trust subject I trust them when they’re at home. What’s your view on a new hire who doesn’t get into the culture?

Prav Solanki: [crosstalk] I’ve hired three people in lockdown.

Payman Langroud…: How have you got them to get into the culture? Is it just like an online culture?

Prav Solanki: Well, prior to lockdown I wouldn’t have said so, right? The culture is the culture, it’s the vibe, it’s the thing you can’t describe, it’s the energy, it’s the camaraderie, it’s the values that you live and breathe. Right?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: One of the things that we did during lockdown is we started focusing on our own brand values as an agency, where we’ve come from, what’s happened, and we used part of that lockdown to sit down and establish essentially what they were as a team.

Payman Langroud…: What does that mean? It sounds good. What does it mean?

Prav Solanki: I think if you think about what we represent, there’s different ways of looking at it. There’s what we represent as an agency to our clients. Okay? And then there’s what we represent to each other as a team. Okay? We sat down and we figured out and we said to ourselves, “Well, what are our values?” Right? And so we communicate on this tool call Slack and we have Zoom calls every day and we figured out, we said … I’ll run through our values for you because I think that’s going to be the easiest way to answer your question. Right?

Prav Solanki: Value number one. Right? We put family first. Okay? That’s always been my ethos right from the beginning, is the work can go wherever it wants to go but family comes first. But what does that mean in my business, right? That if Joanne’s son is ill and a client needs something doing, I’ll give priority to the first thing. And as a client, you must respect that. Does that make sense?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: Yeah. Number one, we put family first. Right? We love where we work but family’s where the heart will always be. Okay?

Prav Solanki: Number two. We love what we do. Yeah? Just watch my developers’ eyes light up when they talk code.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: Watch my designers’ eyes light up when we talk user experience. Yeah? Watch my eyes light up when Bob hands me a strap-line or a piece of copy that is just purely magical flow of words. Right? We really love what we do. Yeah?

Payman Langroud…: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Prav Solanki: And with that comes our next value, which is we give a shit. Yeah? With love comes care. And there’s not a single piece of work we look at and we say, “There’s no pride behind that.” And there’s been numerous times where a piece of work has been subpar. We’ll over-deliver and lose money on that rather than release something that we’re not happy with. Yeah?

Payman Langroud…: But do you not find what that means is you hire based on talent and then talented people sometimes aren’t organised people, for the sake of the argument?

Prav Solanki: That’s where project managers come into the mix, right? That’s something I’ve learned during lockdown, especially when you need to manage people without presence. Yeah? Numerous Zoom calls a day. I figured out in my team very quickly who are the doers, who can manage, who’s organised, right? For example, there’ll be certain members of the team who can put together some really cool marketing copy. Yeah? Could they organise and structure the entire project for a website? Probably but not as efficiently as Joanne could, who can do it 10 times better than me hands down. Right? And we learned that very quickly during this lockdown. So, yeah, talent supersedes anything else, but where other people have talent, maybe in project management, maybe in video editing, maybe in writing words-

Payman Langroud…: Look, what I mean is, because now I’ve gotten involved in hiring creatives-

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: I always used to outsource that but now I’ve got an in-house team of creatives. And you taught me the process with a creative, to give them a task in the interview.

Prav Solanki: Yeah, yeah.

Payman Langroud…: And give them all the same task and see. So, I’ve done that. Let’s say for a videographer, a designer, whatever, I’ve found the most talented person for the job.

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: Now, sometimes with that talent comes ego. Sometimes with that talent comes working slowly, let’s say. Someone might want to be a Tarantino but I’m asking him to produce 12 movies a day. Yeah? So, it’s really important what you’re saying because you’re saying, “Look, our core values are … ” right?

Prav Solanki: The values are this, right? That number one, let’s say we know our stuff, one of our biggest values is to be constantly improving. We love to learn, improve and teach. So, we all need to pass the baton, we all need to carry on teaching each other, but we need to be profitable. Okay? And that is really, really important. Right? We are running a business. Okay? Everyone needs to understand their measure of profitability. That doesn’t mean I’ve got everyone on an hourly, minute rate, measuring productivity. No, no, no, nothing like that.

Prav Solanki: But imagine if that person is editing a video for a client, and let’s say we charge a couple of hundred quid for that video and it takes my editor six days. You and I both know I’ve lost a lot of money on that video edit. Okay? So, there’s a balance to be struck. That comes with time, mate. You can’t expect someone who’s a solo video editor, or a solo whatever, to understand profitability and talent and how those come together and connect and mix. But it’s my job as a leader to teach them that. Yeah? Then-

Payman Langroud…: You’ve got these practises, yeah?

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: And in some of them, they have a social media ninja type.

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: Let’s take it to that. Firstly, do you reckon that? I guess it comes down to the size of the practise. I’m thinking of your guy at Dental Suite.

Prav Solanki: Yeah, Christian. He’s amazing, right? And so-

Payman Langroud…: I like what he does, like what he does a lot. I mean, what is his role? As a dental practise, let’s say I’m a dentist, and I want a … What’s his role? What do you call him?

Prav Solanki: I’ve had this question numerous times with dentists and the one thing is, “Oh, I haven’t got enough to give a full-time team member the ability to create let’s say social content, edit social content, produce social content.”

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: One of the lessons that I’ve learned from this whole process, anyone you take on like that, for them to get where you think they need to be today, is going to take 12 months. Right? They are not going to step into that role today and be that person that you want them to be today, but they will be in 12 months’ time. Now, as long as you can identify the talent, know that that person’s coachable and receptive to coaching, and responds with change, then you’ll have that person in 12 months’ time. And so what’s that person’s job role, right?

Payman Langroud…: Go through the jobs. Go through the jobs. What does that person do?

Prav Solanki: Okay.

Payman Langroud…: [crosstalk] full-time?

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: Full-time social media manager, right? So, what’s that person doing? Number one, coming up with ideas. Storyboards. Creating content. Behind the scenes footage. Photography. Writing posts. Writing blogs. That person will also at some point start answering all your DMs. Okay? Responding to them. Learning how to book them into the practise management system. Following up treatment plans. Okay? So, that entire job of content creation, dealing with the consequences of that content creation, the direct messages, the Facebook adverts, the Instagram adverts and all of that-

Payman Langroud…: Wait a minute. Hold on, hold on, hold on. What are you saying, that person manages the page as well?

Prav Solanki: No. No, no, no, no, no.

Payman Langroud…: No.

Prav Solanki: Definitely not.

Payman Langroud…: But you’re saying manages the response from the page?

Prav Solanki: Manages the response from the page. But how do they do that, right? In my mind, they’ve got to spend time shadowing people in clinic. Yeah? What-

Payman Langroud…: Clinicians?

Prav Solanki: Shadowing clinicians. You may think, “What the hell does a social media manager need to spend time watching an implant surgeon, or watching someone fit brackets on?” Okay? Do you know that micro detail of behind the scenes footage, “What colour are these elastics? How do you tie them round a brace thing? What are the different implant tools?” There’s all these tiny little things, behind the scenes content and these questions they have, when they create this content and understand it, that’s what makes your practise [crosstalk 00:27:48].

Payman Langroud…: Yeah. Me and you both know a couple of ex-nurses who’ve gone this route.

Prav Solanki: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah. And who’ve been very successful at it. I guess that means they’ve got that existing knowledge of what happens in the clinic already and the vocab of dentist-to-patient and patient-to-dentist. But what would you say to someone who thinks … This is what people say to me. They say, “Oh, I’m going to put so-and-so on it. She’s always on Instagram.” My view on it is just because I like watching movies doesn’t mean I know how to make a movie. Yeah?

Prav Solanki: No.

Payman Langroud…: And so-

Prav Solanki: And here’s the thing, right-

Payman Langroud…: A lot of dentists make that mistake, don’t they?

Prav Solanki: A lot of people. Here’s the thing. That person giving that person the role, doesn’t even know the role. Okay?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: Number one, easy to get the wool pulled over your eyes. Number two, you actually don’t know what that person’s doing, whether they’re any good, or how to measure them. Okay? So, unless you’ve got that in place … Listen, I’m not saying that person’s going to be lazy. But if you don’t give someone targets and you don’t give someone goals and they don’t know how they’re being measured, how do they get a value of self-worth, right? [crosstalk 00:28:57].

Payman Langroud…: So, then you’re saying the dentist has to have a knowledge of it themselves, the principle?

Prav Solanki: Listen, someone needs to be able to benchmark this individual or this person, right? Or they need to come to you and say, “Look, for your practise, I will do this, this and this.”

Payman Langroud…: “These are the milestones.”

Prav Solanki: “I will deliver this. I will create this many posts today. I’m going to deal with every DM within this period of time.” Right? “I’m going-”

Payman Langroud…: I mean, look, what you’re saying about following up DMs and following up treatment plans, then suddenly the value of the person becomes very obvious, doesn’t it? I mean, before you said that piece I guess people are thinking, and I was thinking, “Well all right, 20 grand a year just to create some content seems quite high.” But as soon as you bring the other side of that into it, of follow-up, probably we’ve had this discussion a million times, the follow-up is the number one biggest flaw or advantage that a practise has. Do you [crosstalk 00:29:54]-

Prav Solanki: And look, let’s think about this patient journey. Yeah?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: Whatever that person delivers, whatever that person produces, they need to take ownership of it. I’m huge on this, right? I’ll give you a simple example. Let’s imagine you’ve produced a piece of copy for me, right? And that piece of copy is a piece of email marketing. I want you to own that. So, when you write that copy, I want you to know where it’s gone, who it’s gone out to, and how that button was pressed to deliver that, and what was the outcome of that copy that you wrote so you can learn from that, right? What was the result. You take ownership of that.

Prav Solanki: And in the same respect, if you’re a social media content creator, in-house, I truly believe you need to take responsibility for the consequences of that. The DMs, the engagement, the activity that comes off it. Right? But the other thing is if you’re non-dental, someone asks you, “How much is a single-tooth implant? I can go to Turkey.” Yeah? Christian has now got himself in a position where if a patient says, “I can go to Turkey and get that done for five grand,” up his sleeve he’s got a video that he took of the patient who came to us after having their train wreck in Turkey and spending another 20 grand for us to put it right. And this woman is making a plea on this video saying, “Whatever you do, don’t go to Turkey.” Right? And he’s turned patients around just with that piece of [crosstalk 00:31:36].

Payman Langroud…: I bet that works well.

Prav Solanki: Well, mate-

Payman Langroud…: What was he doing before he was doing this job?

Prav Solanki: Social media manager for Derby College.

Payman Langroud…: And where did you find him? Did you put an ad in Indeed or something?

Prav Solanki: Yeah, Indeed. You know very well that I’ve got a pretty slick process when it comes to recruitment.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Go through that process, buddy, because the times I’ve used your process for hiring it’s just transformed the game for me. Especially if we’re talking in this sort of area, but it could work in any area, right dude?

Prav Solanki: I use it whether I’m looking for a lead ninja, so someone who’s just dealing with leads, whether I’m looking for somebody who’s a copywriter, whether I’m looking-

Payman Langroud…: Go through the process. Go through the process, because it’s an interesting one.

Prav Solanki: Okay. The first thing I want to do is identify the role, right? Who is it that I’m looking for? Then the second thing I want to identify is, well, what are these persons’ values and how can I articulate that these are our values so they align? So, basically so that my advert attracts the people with the right values and repels the others. Right?

Prav Solanki: So, if I give you an idea of mine, it’s that, if I say something like, “We don’t clock watch. We don’t do half measures. And we can all use the mop,” that’s really important. Now, listen, if you need to change a word on someone’s website, and that’s something as simple as using a word processor, my senior of my most senior developers will do that and my most junior of junior team members will do that, and they all feel comfortable doing it. And guess what? So will I. Yeah?

Prav Solanki: We don’t clock watch. Let me tell you something. If our clients need us at 9:00 P.M., not that that’s written in any contract, not that that’s enforced by me, James, Josh, Neil, Joanne, whoever it is, will crack their machine open and jump to the task.

Payman Langroud…: Take care of business.

Prav Solanki: Yeah? And so in the ad we really make it clear. I’ll give you a simple example, right? I am not looking for a 9:00 to 5:00 individual. Yeah? Our customers don’t expect 9:00 to 5:00. We don’t expect 9:00 to 5:00. Yeah? And we’ll say we don’t watch the clock. We absolutely love what we do. I’ll use terminology in my job adverts that speak in an informal way. Yeah? I’ve had people respond to my job adverts saying, “This is the most unprofessional job advert I have ever seen. I would never work for you.” I’m like, “Thank god. That job has done its job for me.” Right? It has repelled [inaudible 00:34:34]-

Payman Langroud…: Has that happened?

Prav Solanki: Yeah, loads of times.

Payman Langroud…: Has it?

Prav Solanki: Yeah. Some people have said it’s arrogant. Call it whatever you want, right? I lay out my set of … “These are the rules that we live and breathe by.” Yeah? “This is the type of individual that I want. And if you want to work with us, and if you want a job with us, the first thing you need to do is write me a cover letter with an interesting opening line. If I read past that, maybe we’ll get somewhere.” Some people might see that as bloody downright arrogant, and other people see it as a challenge they want to jump to. Right? Yeah? Look, let’s go through-

Payman Langroud…: All right, all right. That’s the advert.

Prav Solanki: That’s the advert. So, we go through the advert.

Payman Langroud…: Typically, how many responses are you getting let’s say? Just give us an example.

Prav Solanki: 1,800, right?

Payman Langroud…: 1,800?

Prav Solanki: 1,800. 1,500 to 1,800 responses to a typical ad.

Payman Langroud…: Oh my god.

Prav Solanki: Yeah?

Payman Langroud…: And then?

Prav Solanki: But we filter from there, right? From that 1,800, I guarantee you that the application criteria, we’ll be left with about 150.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, but who does that? Joanne?

Prav Solanki: Automated, mate.

Payman Langroud…: What do you mean?

Prav Solanki: Automated. Basically, they will have to either respond with a certain headline, fill out an application form where we expect certain things to be ticked off.

Payman Langroud…: So, 90% fail on that?

Prav Solanki: Yeah, 90% fail on that. The other thing we used to have in our application form how far away … This is something that’s changed, right? “How far away from the office do you live door-to-door?” And we give them our postcode. Anything more than 45 minutes, automated, they get eliminated from the procedure, process. Right? Because [crosstalk 00:36:16]-

Payman Langroud…: You’ve automated even that?

Prav Solanki: Even automated that. But listen-

Payman Langroud…: But you’ve changed your position on that now?

Prav Solanki: Changed my position on that now, right?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Prav Solanki: Changed my opinion on that.

Payman Langroud…: All right, all right, all right. So, you’ve literally automated that if such and such a bit isn’t filled out, or if the value of such and such is more than that, or, “Do you smoke?” “Yes,” or whatever it is-

Prav Solanki: Whatever it is.

Payman Langroud…: … [crosstalk] those values, they’re all-

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: And that itself filters out 90% of the process?

Prav Solanki: Filters that out, right?

Payman Langroud…: All right.

Prav Solanki: Based on the automation, right?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: We then literally send that 100 and 150-odd applications a congratulations message. Yeah?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: And we say, “Congratulations-” first name, ” … you have made it through to the next round.” Yeah? “Out of 1,800 applicants, you’ve made it down to the last few. In order to get through to the next stage, I need you to do the following.” Right? And we give them a task. Now, the beauty of that is 70% of the people won’t even … They’ll just be turned off. It’s too much work for them. Right? The sort of task I’m setting them should take them anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. Yeah?

Payman Langroud…: The task is relevant to the role, obviously?

Prav Solanki: Completely relevant to the role. Tests their creativity. [crosstalk 00:37:37].

Payman Langroud…: If it’s a creative role, right?

Prav Solanki: If it’s a creative role. We give them flexibility. Whatever that is, right? Now, one of the things we find during this process is some people will take some initiative and send me a personal message on LinkedIn to stand out from the crowd. Some have sent me direct mail.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: [crosstalk] pink envelope, which I’ve posted on Facebook before, right?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: That sort of stuff stands out. That doesn’t guarantee them a job, but it gets them right to the front of the pack, it gets them noticed. So, we go through that process.

Payman Langroud…: Okay, so now you’re down to how many?

Prav Solanki: 15 people.

Payman Langroud…: Based on the task, right?

Prav Solanki: Based on the task. We’re down to 15 people.

Payman Langroud…: Now?

Prav Solanki: Now, based on that task, I will have one of my team review that task, whoever it is on my team. And they will do a quick yes, no filter. Right? We’re now down to half a dozen.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: Okay? Based on that yes, no filter, if it’s a yes then I will look at the task. Yeah? I’ll look at the information. I’ll liaise with-

Payman Langroud…: That’s the first time you’ve looked at it?

Prav Solanki: That’s the first time I’ve looked at it, yeah.

Payman Langroud…: Oh my goodness.

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: I love that. I love it. Okay, now we’ve got six now you’ve looked at it.

Prav Solanki: Got six.

Payman Langroud…: And you bring it down to two from that?

Prav Solanki: Yeah. I’ll tell you what will usually happen at stage is Zoom interview now, right? It would normally have been an in-person interview.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: But Zoom interview on that stage. Do you know what it is? I just really want to get to know this person, yeah? Who they are, where they live, what they do outside of work for shits and giggles, right? What makes them flow?

Payman Langroud…: Will they fit in? Will they fit in, right?

Prav Solanki: Will they fit in and will we fit with them? Do our values align? I will ask questions along the lines of, “If I gave you … ” It might be a Thursday the interview, yeah? And I say to them, “Look, on Saturday we’re doing a website launch. It’s at 7:00 P.M. There’s four of us on it. I might need you till 9:00 in the evening. The team are all mucking in. How do you see that fitting in?”

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: Yeah? You can usually, through the whites of their eyes or their response, get a feel for are they clock watchers, are they-

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, but that’s not your only criteria is it though?

Prav Solanki: No, no, no, it’s not my only criteria, but look there’s a-

Payman Langroud…: It’s sounding a bit like that.

Prav Solanki: Well, it’s important. It’s important, right? And the reason for that is this, it’s not that I’m working all the time, but imagine Josh needs a wing man to help him do something, right?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, I get it, I get it.

Prav Solanki: [inaudible] need to ask.

Payman Langroud…: Okay. You’re down to two.

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: Pre-COVID, you were bringing the two into the office for a day or was it a week?

Prav Solanki: A day or two, right? If we were down to two, what we normally do is we invite them both into the office to spend a day with us. We actually just dish out some work to them, throw them right in at the deep-end, and for one day I give them somewhere between two and a half to three days work to do. Okay? What I want to truly understand is number one, how do they prioritise, yeah?

Payman Langroud…: Are they clock watchers? Number one, two, and three, are they clock watchers? Number four … Yeah, go on.

Prav Solanki: Are they clock watchers? And number five … No, no, no, no, not at all mate. Although it’s sounding like that it’s nothing like that. How do they prioritise, right? They’ve been given a load of tasks to do. How do they work with the team? Do they ask the relevant questions? Do they sit there in silence, rabbit in a headlight? Some of them have just walked out at lunchtime and switched their phone off. Yeah? Literally, took their bag, gone to lunch, switched their phone off, end of mission. Yeah?

Payman Langroud…: We’re back to clock watching again, bud.

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: You’ve got a clock watching problem, man.

Prav Solanki: [inaudible 00:41:46]. But that’s it, right? They’ve gone, they’ve not survived it and there was too much stress for them. But by the end of that we get an idea. Can they produce a piece of decent work? Can they communicate with the team? And at the end of that process, I get all of my team to vote. It’s not up to me at this point who gets the job.

Payman Langroud…: Really?

Prav Solanki: No, no, no, no, no, no.

Payman Langroud…: And you still get it wrong sometimes. That’s the crazy thing about it.

Prav Solanki: They’ve cocked it up so many times.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: Yeah, yeah. Because look-

Payman Langroud…: You do a version of that for a dental practise as well?

Prav Solanki: Well, we did that with our social media one. I’ve just been through that process with the lead ninja we’ve just hired, Rebecca, who’s really, really good. So, I think despite whatever, however my process is and whatever values you think that seem to sit strongly with me, that you can use the same process, the automation, the filtering, all of that, to make that person jump through the hoops that you think they need to to work for you, right? But you’ve got to live up to their expectations. You can’t just give them this job. I tell you what one of my values is, is that no matter what job you’re working in with me, I want you to spend 70% of your time doing something that you absolutely fricking love, and 30% of the time doing stuff that you just have to because it’s part of the job. Right? Okay. And do you know what? The stuff that I hate doing is someone else’s 70% out there. Yeah? And the 70% that someone else doesn’t like doing is someone else’s 70%. Yeah? That’s the constant thing that as people evolve and say, “Right, okay, well this is getting a little bit mundane for me. Let’s find a junior who would absolutely love doing this.” Right? And that’s-

Payman Langroud…: We’ve talked about this before, Prav, right? The more you hire, the more you need to hire.

Prav Solanki: So true, mate.

Payman Langroud…: It’s such a weird one.

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: You feel like when you hire someone that’s a job taken care of, but as you said, and to me … Let’s say I hire an ad buyer.

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: That ad buyer’s going to now need content, so now I need a video maker. That ad buyer’s now going to need money to buy ads, so now I need to raise more financing. It’s an interesting thing. We’ve digressed from what we were looking at, talking about, but I like that, Prav, I like that. And your process actually definitely does bring some results. Now, tell me about next after that. Let’s look at it from a dentist’s perspective too. You said one year before you know whether that social media ninja really is any good or not or-

Prav Solanki: No, no, no, no, no.

Payman Langroud…: No, you give them a year to immerse, right?

Prav Solanki: In a year’s time, you’re going to be getting incredible value from this individual, right?

Payman Langroud…: Okay. Don’t expect it straight away you’re saying?

Prav Solanki: Don’t think that, “Listen, I’m hiring this guy or girl or whoever it is, and in three months’ time this person is going to be setting my social media world on fire.”

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: Yeah?

Payman Langroud…: But let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about it because we’ve gone through the hiring process of someone new, for me, there’s a definite … I’d give them three months, four months, before I even think about, “Is this person any good or not?” But what about you? Are you paying closer attention than that? I mean-

Prav Solanki: A hundred percent. And look-

Payman Langroud…: You’ve fired people way before that, haven’t you?

Prav Solanki: Yeah, within the week.

Payman Langroud…: Within the week?

Prav Solanki: Within the week.

Payman Langroud…: Have you?

Prav Solanki: Yeah. And look, this-

Payman Langroud…: Go on, go on, tell me about that. What is it about that person that within a week you know?

Prav Solanki: So, you go through this [crosstalk 00:45:42].

Payman Langroud…: It’s the clock watching, isn’t it?

Prav Solanki: It’s not clock watching. Listen-

Payman Langroud…: Because I’ve never, ever, ever done that, ever.

Prav Solanki: Listen, you go through this intense recruitment process, right? And when you’re involved at the level I’m involved and you’ve invested the time, the energy and the emotion into hiring this person, you think they are someone who you think they are. Yeah?

Payman Langroud…: You’ve built them up.

Prav Solanki: Let’s just leave that statement where it is, right?

Payman Langroud…: You’ve built them up to something.

Prav Solanki: You’ve built them up to where … And you think you’ve hired somebody, right?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: There becomes a moment in time very, very soon after that, when if you’re wrong, yeah, you realise very quickly. Okay? Now, you’ve got a few options. Ride it out for three months, knowing that you’re just going to make the process even more painful for yourself in three months’ time because your gut’s telling you it’s not right. Okay? Or you just grow a pair of balls and get on with it the next day.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah. But, Prav, you’ve had this conversation with numerous dentists, right, including your brother, where some member of staff is wrong for their job and the dentist just can’t bring themselves to get rid of them or to have the conversation or, “What will it do to the team?” or, “Are they following process?” What’s your advice? We’ve all come across that member of staff, right? It’s that grumpy receptionist or whatever it is.

Prav Solanki: It’s really, really easy for me, right? And-

Payman Langroud…: You don’t suffer with this problem [crosstalk 00:47:17].

Prav Solanki: No, I don’t mean it’s easy to get rid of somebody, because no matter how many times you’ve done it, it gives you the sleepless night before, it raises your heart rate. Okay? If you’re a human being, yeah? And if you’re doing it at lunch time, forget about breakfast and forget about any work before then, because your heart’s racing all the way up to there, right? So, it is an awful feeling.

Payman Langroud…: But you get this call all the time, right?

Prav Solanki: I get this call all the time. “How do I break the news?” So to speak. “What do I do?” and all the rest of it. When I said it’s really easy, this is what I mean, is ultimately you’re a leader in your business, you’re responsible for driving that train, steering that ship, call it whatever you want. Okay? And the rest of your crew are singing along at the same pace, doing everything they should be doing in the way they should be doing and not holding back. Right? According to all your values. Let’s say one of them is just totally out of line, yeah? Number one, it’s not fair on the rest of the crew.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But go on, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

Prav Solanki: Yeah. And number two, I like to feel comfortable in my own house. Yeah? Imagine walking around your house, imagining not being able to walk around your kitchen with your boxer shorts on. Yeah?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: Do you understand where I’m coming from? I like to feel comfortable in my own home, right?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, but you are uncomfortable when someone’s watching the clock or whatever, yeah? Some other people, like me, I start making excuses for the person. I blame myself.

Prav Solanki: Listen, I don’t expect everyone to work … I tell my team, “Right, listen, do one. Yeah? Get gone, get home, get some rest.” Yeah? I’m all for that. And I’m actually all for switching off from work, because having that break makes you bounce back stronger, whether it’s over a weekend, whatever.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, but okay, let’s get back to this dentist. Let’s get back to this dentist. There’s a receptionist who’s been there, incumbent receptionist, been there for 20 years.

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: We’ve made new plans. We’re trying to increase our implants and Invisalign and whitening or whatever it is. And we’re trying to become a more customer-centric place and this person’s grumpy but she knows a lot of [crosstalk 00:49:46]-

Prav Solanki: Time to get off the ship, mate. Time to get off the ship.

Payman Langroud…: She knows a lot of patients and she’s part of the community. How do you handle it, dude? You don’t just say, “Go.” What do you do?

Prav Solanki: Well, first of all, I’m not a HR professional, right? Okay?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: The view that I take it from is, “This is the end result that needs to happen, and it needs to happen as quickly as possible.” Now, if it’s a recent hire, it’s far easier. Yeah?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: If it’s someone who’s been there for 20-plus years, take some legal advice. But you know that that individual is not part of the future makeup of where you want this business to go, and you also know that that individual is going to be a constant hindrance into the direction you want that business to go. Right? So, there’s no question, if you want that-

Payman Langroud…: Tell me, Prav. This has come up for you so many times before. When that individual has gone-

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: … is there a sense of weight off people’s shoulders and-

Prav Solanki: Euphoria mate.

Payman Langroud…: But I’m not just talking about being happy. I’m saying from the practise perspective, can one receptionist really break a practise like that? I mean, I think we all know they can, yeah?

Prav Solanki: Mate, one tiny little bit of cancer spreads like wildfire and can impact the rest of the body. In the same sense, in that business you just need one bad egg to drop the mood and it screws with the whole practise, especially if that person has been there a long time, sits in a position of authority, either in terms of age, number of years served, or position. Yeah? And I’ve seen practises completely transform. Yeah?

Payman Langroud…: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Prav Solanki: In terms of the motivation of junior team members. I’ve seen it in my own business. I’ve cut cancer out of my own business a few times, right? And having had it left there and rot for two to three years right in the early days. And when I cut it out, that’s when I finally like I could walk around my own business in my boxer shorts, mate. Yeah? When I think about it as a business owner, I want to feel comfortable amongst my team. Yeah? If I want to swear, I want to know I can swear. If I want to be politically incorrect in the way I speak, I want to know that I can be comfortable speaking the way I speak and they can feel comfortable … Do you understand where I’m coming from?

Payman Langroud…: I do. Be careful with that one though.

Prav Solanki: Oh, I know. I know. And listen, I’m not saying I’m walking around being non-PC all the time, right? But the point I’m trying to make-

Payman Langroud…: Okay. No, I do know.

Prav Solanki: … is I want to be comfortable in my own house, in my own business.

Payman Langroud…: It’s interesting, Kunal Patel, who we both know well-

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: … he’s not like … We all run our businesses differently, yeah? So, some of the stuff that you saw to me, if I stood up and said it I would feel a bit cringey saying it. You know what I mean by that?

Prav Solanki: I get it, mate.

Payman Langroud…: But listen, I’m not saying it’s wrong. It’s actually right. What you’re doing is working, it’s correct.

Prav Solanki: Listen, it’s right for me.

Payman Langroud…: It’s right for you?

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: And Kunal does it in a whole different way in his practise. I think we’ve both seen that, right?

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: The one thing he says to his team, which I found a really interesting idea, I really like the idea, is that, “Out there we’ve all got problems, but in here we don’t have problems.” Something like a really interesting idea, that work is the rest from life.

Prav Solanki: Beautiful, isn’t it?

Payman Langroud…: It’s a beautiful idea. It’s what I’ve always wanted Enlighten to be and try and get, “Oh, let’s get a ping pong table and let’s get food delivery and stuff,” and try and be all like a lovely place. But he really put it into these nice words, that you come to work to get away from the hassles of your life.

Prav Solanki: Do you know what that reminds me of? Starbucks’s values.

Payman Langroud…: Is that what [crosstalk 00:53:52]?

Prav Solanki: Yeah? The third home, right? When they created Starbucks, the whole thing was it was the third home. Yeah? The place between work and home that you go to treat yourself, whatever, flip your laptop open, whatever. And it wasn’t really about the coffee, right?

Payman Langroud…: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Prav Solanki: And I guess the same thing with Kunal is, it’s such a beautiful way of putting it, that, “Here, we’re a family, right? We don’t have problems.” Yeah?

Payman Langroud…: [inaudible 00:54:19].

Prav Solanki: And I know from having numerous conversations with him, and especially Lucy, the way they look after their team with appropriately-named love teeth, it’s with love and care and you see that. It’s very, very much a family-driven ethos and-

Payman Langroud…: What are the best practises that you’ve seen amongst your … Look, we both have a lot of dentist customers. You’re much more intertwined in your clients’ businesses.

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: You visit them all the time. What are some of the other best practises that you’ve seen?

Prav Solanki: Amongst team members, staff and that sort of thing?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah. Culture. Because dentistry has got a real problem, dude. I mean, you’re not a dentist. But one big issue with dentistry is there’s no career pathway for nurses. Like this thing you’re saying about in your business, that if someone … do 70% of the stuff you love and then hand that over to someone else, there-

Prav Solanki: That’s the dream.

Payman Langroud…: I know, but there isn’t that much in nursing or reception. That’s a real problem with the industry, that we can’t get proper career progression for our people in a dental practise. What have you seen out there? Who does it well? I’m thinking of Andy Moore’s practise. That-

Prav Solanki: Listen, Andy Moore-

Payman Langroud…: That vibe. That vibe in that place.

Prav Solanki: Listen, I tell you something mate, if you could bottle up Andy Moore’s magic and ship it round the country, yeah? Whoever’s handling or processing that, yeah, even for 10% commission mate, I could give up everything I’m doing right now. Yeah. Do you know what? Sometimes, I think it truly comes down to leadership, mate. There is no magic formula, right? Forget this career progression and all that sort of stuff. You step into that breakfast and you get that warm Ready Brek feeling. Okay? You get that glow.

Prav Solanki: And it’s so evident, from the person who’s greeting you that she’s absolutely tickled pink that you’ve walked the practise and dead happy, to his associates, to his nursing team, to his implant coordinator, whoever it is. But it’s not just when you step in, mate. You pick up the phone and have a conversation with one of these people, they’re delighted to speak to you, yeah? Mate, even if I’m picking up the phone and speaking to someone who pays the bills they’re delighted to speak to you. Right?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, but you’re saying you don’t know why? You don’t know what they’ve done to make this …

Prav Solanki: [crosstalk 00:56:56].

Payman Langroud…: I’ve noticed Natural Smiles, do you know Natural Smiles?

Prav Solanki: I know of-

Payman Langroud…: Bhavnish?

Prav Solanki: Yeah, I know of Bhavnish, yeah. But even if you ask Andy, right? If we go back to Andy, even if you go back and ask Andy, “What is it?” even he says-

Payman Langroud…: He won’t know.

Prav Solanki: No, he tells you he doesn’t know, right? Then he says, “Maybe it’s the environment.” Yeah? He’s a really nice guy. Do you know what? He’s super-successful, clinically great at what he does. He’s an IRONMAN athlete or whatever. He’s got a pretty cool lifestyle and all the rest of it. Really humble and lovely with it all. Yeah? Really, really humble and lovely with it all. He’s just a really nice human being, mate. Do you know what? If you break it down to the simplicities, if you treat people well and if you’re nice to people you’ll get it back.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah. It sounds simplistic to me but it sounds a bit-

Prav Solanki: Sometimes, the most successful things are simple.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah but-

Prav Solanki: I can’t put more of a formula on it-

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, but really-

Prav Solanki: … than that.

Payman Langroud…: Really nice human being is my grandmother and she’s not running a dental … You know what I mean? Really nice human being is one thing. It’s running an elite business while being a really nice human being that’s amazing. I mean, that’s an elite business isn’t it?

Prav Solanki: Oh-

Payman Langroud…: And you look at the throughput of work that goes … They’re working hard, yeah? They’re not just sitting around-

Prav Solanki: And the quality, mate. And the quality, yeah?

Payman Langroud…: And the quality. They’re not sitting around being nice to each other. You know what I mean? There’s an X-factor.

Prav Solanki: There is mate. Honestly, I think that’s written in Andy’s DNA. Yeah. I couldn’t pluck that out for you.

Payman Langroud…: Well, I think you’re doing it in your business, dude. I think you’re doing it in yours. The amount of work you guys are putting out with 15 of you. Yeah?

Prav Solanki: Yeah, but-

Payman Langroud…: It’s a lot of work.

Prav Solanki: We are. We are, right? I think we’ve become a closer team over lockdown, that’s for sure. There’s numerous projects that we’ve done, the standards that we deliver at, the quality that we’re producing now is on a completely different level. And I truly believe if it wasn’t for this COVID malarkey, we definitely wouldn’t be outputting at the quality we are today.

Payman Langroud…: I mean, we’ve talked to people like Alfonso, yeah?

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: Who we both know, the way Alfonso operates is he sizes you up as a person and at one point he says, “Yes, we’ll … ” You’re either his best buddy or he’s not working with you, kind of thing. Maybe that’s how he operates with all his team as well, yeah? It’s the person. I’m sure he gets on with most people.

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: Then you’ve got so many different ways of doing it. You’re right, I guess it’s a bit unfair to say, “Hey, what’s the magic sauce?” But there are lots of ways of handling practises. Anyway bud, I think we should wrap it up.

Prav Solanki: I think we should wrap it up here mate. Do you know what? It’s been a great year despite the ups and downs, mate. I feel like we’ve got to spend more time together, even though we’ve spent less time together. I’m looking forward to those days where I’m back in London, I can give you a quick call and say, “Hey Pay, I’m in London. What are you doing? Let’s go hang out. Let’s eat some food.”

Payman Langroud…: Yeah. Your IS courses, are they completely back on?

Prav Solanki: IS courses are back on now. Fully booked. We’re noticing we’ve got bookings going through until the middle of next year. Online courses. Dentists have pivoted to online education now and investing in I guess being able to be educated in the comfort of their own homes. Do you know what I mean? What are you guys seeing with MSM? I mean, Dipesh’s courses have always been over-subscribed. I know whenever I’ve recommended any colleagues to get on your course, you’ve got to squeeze me in some special favours to get them in on the course, which obviously you can’t do with current circumstances. But how are things looking for Mini Smile Maker over the next year?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, we’re busy. We are busy. I mean, it’s funny because it’s hands-on isn’t it?

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: So, it’s one of those things that can’t be done online. Should we have an online element? We probably should. We probably should. You guys have both, right? You have a hands-on element and an online element?

Prav Solanki: Do you know one thing that we explored during this … And Tiff has said specifically this has been a game-changer, right? Is a hybrid course, where you’re actually forced, or it’s a prerequisite to do some online training. So, you’re given the online training prior to coming to the hands-on. So, number one, you get more hands-on. Yeah?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Prav Solanki: Number two, you’re armed with more knowledge so you’ve got a minimum standard of informational knowledge when you arrive. Then the other thing that we’re playing with at the moment are these semi-hybrid courses where you have online. We send the models out to their practises, and they do the hands-on element via Zoom, right?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, yeah.

Prav Solanki: And send the models back for assessment.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah. Cosmedent is doing quite a lot of that in the US, our manufacturer. They’re charging a lot for it. They’re charging the same as we do for proper hands-on courses, although the prices are a lot higher in America for education for some reason.

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: All right man. It’s been nice having a little catch-up and talking about the way you handle all of your recruitment and so on. In summary, for me, as a profession I think we should be counting our lucky stars man, that we’ve managed to bounce back the way that we have, albeit with the hassles of fallow time and PPE and all of that. And looking forward to a whole lot more Dental Leader podcasts happening next year. We’ve got some great guests lined up. I just spoke with Basil Mizrahi as well, who’s going to be on, so that’s going to be fun.

Prav Solanki: Amazing. Amazing. Yeah, it’s my favourite non-working workday when we’re interviewing [crosstalk 01:03:22].

Payman Langroud…: Do you mean you prefer being with your family than doing this?

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: Screw you, man. I prefer this, man.

Prav Solanki: I think I even prefer being with your family. I’m kidding man. It just all depends, right? I really, really-

Payman Langroud…: Enjoy Dubai, buddy.

Prav Solanki: I will.

Payman Langroud…: You deserve it and in Tier 2 you cannot do it, whereas we’re about to hunker down to a Christmas on our own. So, have a good time. Pleasure speaking to you, bud.

Prav Solanki: Thank you.

Speaker 2: This is Dental Leaders, the podcast where you get to go one-on-one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.

Prav Solanki: Thanks for listening, guys. If you got this far you must have listened to the whole thing, and just a huge thank-you both from me and Pay for actually sticking through and listening to what we’ve had to say and what our guest has had to say, because I’m assuming you got some value out of it.

Payman Langroud…: If you did get some value out of it, think about subscribing. And if you would, share this with a friend who you think might get some value out of it too. Thank you so, so, so much for listening. Thanks.

Prav Solanki: And don’t forget our six-star rating.



This week’s guest is one of dentistry’s few true household names. Uchenna Okoye has found success as a cosmetic dentist and clinical director of London Smiling dental group.

But she is perhaps best known as the dental consultant on Channel Four’s Ten Years Younger program.

Uchenna tells us how it all started and we get round to discussing race and gender in dentistry, non-nonsense management and much more.


“I don’t understand the jealousy and all that nonsense. There’s enough teeth for everybody.”  – Uchenna Okoye

In This Episode

01.12 – Backstory
05.19 – Race and gender
24.01 – Cosmetic dentistry
26.44 – TV and PR
32.21 – Fitting in
36.21- Patient journey
43.21 – Training
50.31 – Motherhood
55.34 – Day in the life
58.52 – Being strict
01.04.38 – Being a brand
01.14.25 – Last day and legacy

About Dr Uchenna Okoye

Cosmetic dentist Dr Uchenna Okoye graduated from Guy’s Hospital, London.

She is perhaps best known for her role on Channel Four’s Ten Years Younger makeover programme and is a frequent contributor to radio and TV.

Uchenna is the clinical director of London Smiling Dental Group. She is a member of the American and British Academies of Cosmetic Dentistry (BACD) and former BACD board member.


Uchenna Okoye: But I make it very clear that this is what you’re signing up to. And sometimes people say, “Do you actually want me to work here?” And I’m like, “Yeah, but if you’re going to go to Oxford and Cambridge, you know what you’re up against. You don’t have to come to Oxford and Cambridge, you can go somewhere else. But if you want to join us, it’s not easy. And I know that it’s not easy.” So yeah, I don’t know, does that make me an evil witch?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, yeah. It does, yeah.

Intro 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 Langroud…: It’s my great pleasure to welcome my long-time friend Uchenna Okoye on the podcast. Uchenna’s had a brilliant career in dentistry, one of the most high-profile dentists in the country right now, and for a long time now. Welcome to the show, Uchenna.

Uchenna Okoye: Thank you. It’s good to be here. It’s taken you a while, you’ve finally pinned me down haven’t you?

Payman Langroud…: You’re a busy woman, that’s why. Uchenna, let’s just start with where did you grow up, when did you think you want to be a dentist, why?

Uchenna Okoye: Well, I was born in Nigeria, so I’m the oldest of six. And I grew up there, came over to England when I was about seven, and all I remember is how cold it was, and it’s still cold, I hate the cold. And yeah, I went to school here. I went back to Nigeria for a year when I was about 10, 11. And then came back to England after that. So yeah, been here for a long time.

Payman Langroud…: And what brought you back and forth, Uchenna?

Uchenna Okoye: We came because my mom is a pharmacist, so she came to do her master’s. And we were never meant to stay here, so then my dad was like we were becoming too anglicised. He used to moan that my brother started talking through his nose, he had a posh accent, so we went back to boarding school, and I went back for a year. I kind of went thinking… yeah, I grew up on all these St. Trinian’s and Malory Towers, and I thought I was going to a Swiss boarding school. And instead it was like the middle of the jungle and snakes and all that kind of stuff, which now was a great experience, then I thought my father hated me. So, I went for a year. And it was great though because it helped keep me… I have a real love of Nigeria. So, if somebody asks me where I’m from, even though I’ve lived most of my life in England, I’d say Nigeria, that’s where it resonates. And then I got ill, and I came back just after a year, and then never left really.

Payman Langroud…: What made you become a dentist?

Uchenna Okoye: It was a tossup between dentistry and medicine. Traditional African family, you could be a lawyer, dentist, accountant, all that kind of stuff. So, originally it was going to be medicine because my uncle was a doctor. And then I did work experience in the hospital, and realised that the doctors didn’t do anything, it was the nurses that did the caring, didn’t like the hospital environment, which I still don’t. And yeah, dentistry’s just great, and I love it. I love it because I get to be my own boss, I get to be artistic, and it’s just the best job. But at the time, when I’d told my dad I was going to be a dentist, he was very dismissive. He was like, “You’re not.” In Nigeria, we have great teeth, that’s not a proper job. It’s not a proper doctor kind of thing. But yeah, he was very proud in the end.

Payman Langroud…: What does your dad do?

Uchenna Okoye: Oh, I had a wonderful childhood. He’s passed unfortunately, quite a while ago now, but he had a ice cream factory.

Payman Langroud…: Oh, really? Wow.

Uchenna Okoye: The holidays was in the ice cream factory, and it’ll be like one scoop for me and one scoop for… He was way ahead of his time. He was an amazing entrepreneur. And I wish he was alive now because there’s so many questions I’d ask him. And I’d say sorry to him, because as kids we’d be like, “Why can’t you take our holiday? It’s your factory, you can just take time off.” Now I own my own business, I’m like, “Now I understand.”

Payman Langroud…: And where did you study dentistry?

Uchenna Okoye: I went to Guy’s when it was Guy’s. So yeah, so I did primary school, secondary school. Went to Guy’s which wasn’t the best experience. I think Guy’s was fabulous from the perspective of teaching. And even now… well, it used to be that I could tell the difference between the Guy’s graduates, the things that we were taught and how we were taught. But I honestly did not like being at uni. So yeah, it is what it is.

Payman Langroud…: [inaudible 00:05:18].

Uchenna Okoye: There was loads of racism, so I guess we might as well dive straight into that. One, I didn’t know if I wanted to be there, because obviously the parental thing, my dad’s attitude towards dentistry impacted me quite a bit. So, initially my first year was about changing to medicine, because that’s what my parents felt was the right thing to do. But there weren’t many people that looked like me at Guy’s. I made friends and it was a great education, but Guy’s was… I still remember it. The comments like, you know how you’d have demonstrators and stuff? And they’d come and they’d look at my work and they’d be like, “Oh, that’s a really good filling Uchenna for you.” So, there was always that what I call subtle British racism type thing. And a few of us had a rough time there.

Uchenna Okoye: But it’s part of who we were, because in Nigeria we have tribalism, so we have different tribes. So, I’m kind of… that happens. And my parents very much you just be the best that you can be and nobody cares who you are kind of thing. So, it’s just stiff upper lip. So, I found the whole Black Lives Matter thing quite interesting.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, let’s tackle it. Because I mean it was a whole different era as well back then. I mean, we’re a kind of similar age me and you, so I can relate to that idea that what’s acceptable to say back then is different now. But being a Nigerian lady, and we’ll get to the lady part as well. Being a Nigerian lady, take us from experiences that you’ve had that you would class as racist, race-related experiences, getting jobs, has that been an issue? Patients walking in and being shocked or whatever? I know people who wear hijabs sometimes say that. They say a patient comes in and immediately you can tell. And bring it right down to today. Are we saying today it’s all over and there isn’t so much racism, and with all Black Lives Matter and all that? Give us some of your comments about race in your growth from being a teenager to…

Uchenna Okoye: I mean, I guess upbringing has a big role to play in one’s perception of stuff. Because okay, my first memory of school in England when I would have been about seven or eight, I was really proud of my English, because although Nigeria has loads of languages, English is actually our official first language, so I could speak English, [inaudible 00:08:18]. I was being asked in primary school to read a story, and the whole class bursting into laughter because of my thick Nigerian accent. So, it’s kind of like from that beginning things, or kids asking me about worms in my hair or being called rubber lips. Now patients want me to inject filler so that their lips look like… I mean, I just find the whole thing quite bizarre.

Uchenna Okoye: So, it’s kind of always there, you’re aware of it. But for me it’s just you just get on with it. It’s not something that defined me or I spent a lot of time thinking about. And I think for me it was more difficult as well because you’re a black woman in a very male, chauvinistic, white world, or whatever. So, I’d get stuff of the woman bit where it’s, “Oh, are you the nurse?” Type stuff. Or the letter’s addressed to Mr Okoye and all that kind of stuff.

Uchenna Okoye: The blacks thing, I haven’t had a direct spit in your face, “You’re black” type experience. What have always known and was always told from day one, “You’re black so you have to work harder.” But then my family is, and my mother especially, is like classic African, “Well, why are you second? Why are you not the one that was first?” And so, it’s just always been there. [inaudible] that psyche, yeah.

Payman Langroud…: And so, what do you think about Black Lives Matter?

Uchenna Okoye: I found it really interesting on lots of different ways. I mean I’m glad that the conversation is being had and it’s long overdue. I found it irritating that a lot of friends were looking to me to almost absolve them, or to tell them what they should do, or they’re like, “We’re sorry this happened to you.” And all this kind of stuff. I’m just like, “What do you want me to say or what do you want me to do?” And they’re like, “Oh, teach us.” I’m like, “It’s not up to me to teach you. You need to go and find out for yourself kind of thing.” So, that was my bit on the one hand. I mean, I’m glad that they wanted to know and all the rest of it. But it felt again that the burden was on me to make them feel better about themselves, or to give them the information that they needed to know. I’m like, “No, you need to… It’s your turn to live in my world.” So, that was one.

Uchenna Okoye: But then the other thing that it did was it made me think about stuff that maybe you just ignore. And I think that’s probably what I found the most uncomfortable. To just sit back and think, “Oh, right, there was that time and whatever.” But I really didn’t dwell on it. I think I’m glad it’s happened. And I’m one of those people that I’m like, “Absolutely. That whole affirmative action thing.” I know some people feel that it’s a bad thing or whatever. It’s not about putting people that can’t do the thing in the posts, it’s about giving them an opportunity. And as a woman, it’s exactly the same scenario. Whether it’s you’re black or a woman, it’s other people to encourage you and mentor you. And there’s not enough of that in dentistry at all.

Payman Langroud…: We’ve talked about this a few times, me and you I think in the past at some dinner somewhere. But you really think it’s a lot harder being a woman than a man?

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. It’s good that you’re where you are and I’m where I am, because of course it is. I’d be slapping you about the face. Of course it’s

Payman Langroud…: But listen. Is it harder being a black woman or a black man? I’d rather be a black woman.

Uchenna Okoye: Why?

Payman Langroud…: Because I’m not going to get the cops stopping me and thinking I’m a criminal every five minutes.

Uchenna Okoye: That is true. That is true, I definitely agree with you that. But then there comes another baggage you have to carry where-

Payman Langroud…: I’m making an example, yeah? An example of where it is advantageous to be a woman over being a man. I’m not pivoting my whole argument on that. What I’m saying is there are advantages to being a man, there are advantages to being a woman. When you say it’s harder to be a woman than a man, let’s go to dentistry. Let’s go to dentistry, go on, tell me.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. So, why it’s harder to be a woman? I think-

Payman Langroud…: By the way, by the way, outside of childcare, yeah? Because that’s obvious, yeah?

Uchenna Okoye: No, you can’t just take the childcare thing out. That’s-

Payman Langroud…: Oh, oh, oh, okay, okay.

Uchenna Okoye: That’s a huge thing, because the guys should be involved in the childcare as well. Nobody asks the dude, “Oh, who’s looking after the kid here whilst you’re in your work?” And all that nonsense, do they?

Payman Langroud…: But my point is, if we just crop children out of the equation, yeah?

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: Children out of the equation, because obviously to have a child you have to have maternity, you have to look after kids. And kids, a lot of them tend to look to their mother and all of that. But I’m saying let’s just say, let’s leave childcare out of it in terms of career progression. Just as a man dentist, as a woman dentist, where are the problems?

Uchenna Okoye: Number one, you can’t leave children out of it. So, sorry, I don’t agree there at all.

Payman Langroud…: No, but let’s say before you have children. If you’re a 25-year-old who’s never had children, a guy or a girl, there’s no children, so-

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. But still, because I think as a women, generally I think a lot of the things that women are really good at is not… what’s the word? I don’t

Payman Langroud…: [inaudible 00:14:38].

Uchenna Okoye: Huh?

Payman Langroud…: Confrontational stuff.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. Women, we’re into… we’re nurturers, we’re team-builders. If I’m in a room and we’re discussing a problem, my natural thing is to ask everybody and get everybody involved and all that kind of stuff. And that’s not something that is… I don’t know if encouraged is the right word, or admired or whatever. It’s the bloke that doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about, but opens his mouth first and shouts out whatever, is then perceived to be like, “Oh yeah, he’s got something to say and he’s making a contribution.” Whereas women, we tend to sit back, and we tend to be much more inclusive and want to try and involve people. So, I think that can create a problem.

Uchenna Okoye: And I think in dentistry, so how can you have a profession where the majority of… even at my time in dentistry, it’s 50% women. Now it’s probably more. Women are the key elements that’s going to keep things going. But you don’t see women up there on the podium. You’re one of the few people that… Like when I did a couple of things with you and it tends to be more… you tend to have a few women smattered in there. But a lot of times the women aren’t there, but I don’t think it’s necessarily because… It’s just like not being aware. It’s like the Black Lives Matter thing. It’s just not even-

Payman Langroud…: Listen, it’s been levelled at me. I think Berty was the one who said it to me. We had a conference, The Minimalist. I spoke, Prav spoke, and there was nine speakers and there was only one woman amongst them. And I hadn’t really thought about it. I wasn’t really thinking about that question. And Berty said to me, “You should have had half and half.” And I found it a bit difficult, because I wanted to make the best conference I could make, and I was thinking, “I want someone from orthodontics.” It was minimally invasive. “Someone from orthodontics, someone from crown and bridge, someone from whitening, a marketing person.” I’m thinking, “Who are the best people I know for it?” Rather than trying to find a woman. So, there’s that. But the other thing is that, and I’ve discussed this before as well, is that if you really cared about women in dentistry, wouldn’t you look at nurses, hygienists, receptionists? They get a really rough deal in dentistry, yeah? They’re the ones-

Uchenna Okoye: Are you asking me?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah. The fact that you’re not seeing dentists on the podium, that’s not the big issue about women in dentistry. The big issue about women in dentistry is that that group, the ones I said, the DCPs, are overwhelmingly women, yeah? And their career prospects, what happens to them? The way they’re talked down to by their bosses, all of that stuff, yeah? That’s the real problem with women in dentistry.

Uchenna Okoye: No. [inaudible 00:17:57]. I don’t know what you’re talking about, mate.

Payman Langroud…: Really? Go on The Hygienist Forum, see the way some hygienists are treated by their bosses, right?

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, but that’s just… I think it has to start from the top. Because part of the thing of having more women on the podium, one is from an inspiring perspective, but two, to reflect the reality of the profession. Even within dentistry, dental school.

Uchenna Okoye: So, I mean there’s a slightly off the cuff relevance this, but I had this fall out with quite a well-known journalist from a national magazine, where we were talking about… I was flicking through the magazine one day, stick with me, there is relevance to this. And I was just suddenly thought, “There’s nobody in this magazine that looks like me.” I get this magazine all the time, and I love it and I love the articles and all the rest of it. And I just flicked through the whole thing, “Where am I?” And there were like about two adverts or something that had somebody with colour.

Uchenna Okoye: And so, I knew her, and it was like about midnight, I must have been quite grumpy or something. So, I sent her an email, a message, and I’m like, “Dah, dah, dah.” And she replied, and so we got into this altercation. I mean we’re friends, where she was like, “I can’t believe you’re trying to say that I’m racist.” I’m like, “I’m not saying that at all. I’m just saying I’m going through your magazine, I can’t see anybody that looks like me.”

Payman Langroud…: Was it fashion magazine or something?

Uchenna Okoye: It was a Sunday magazine type thing, like Style, Stella, whatever.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Uchenna Okoye: And so, she was so affronted that she went through all the trouble of getting all the magazines, sending me a PowerPoint of all the things that had pictures or articles of people, of black people. And so, I smiled, I’m like, “Yeah, there’s Beyonce here, there’s Will Smith, there’s whatever.” I’m like, “That’s all great. But I’m talking about people like me. I’m talking about doctors, dentists.”

Uchenna Okoye: And then that particular week, it was interesting that there was a feature about lipsticks, and they’d put lipsticks on loads, it was like a whole page of different lips, and there was not a single black, brown lip there. There was just nothing. So, I’m like, “It’s about this. It’s about the fact that nobody has thought about this. That I’m not…” I know that you’re all wonderful or whatever. You’re just going for that which you know and that which you’re around.

Uchenna Okoye: So, you obviously don’t hang around with enough fabulous women, that when you put on your lecture, they didn’t even occur to you. Or maybe if you’d hung around them more, you’d know it was more of an issue and you’d do something.

Payman Langroud…: I do get it. I’m not rejecting it outright. I do get.

Uchenna Okoye: I know you do. I know you. That’s why I love you.

Payman Langroud…: I do get it. But what I’m saying is that I couldn’t find the best people. That was my-

Uchenna Okoye: Oh, that’s a load of rubbish. No, no, sorry.

Payman Langroud…: No, no, I didn’t engage even the best men, yeah?

Uchenna Okoye: No. You didn’t look hard enough.

Payman Langroud…: I looked. I looked.

Uchenna Okoye: No, no. You just went to your buddies that you knew. “Hey, can you…” The guys that you hang out with, all the rest of the… And this happens so many times. And I will… no, I won’t, so.

Payman Langroud…: No, go ahead. Go ahead.

Prav Solanki: Go for it. Go for it.

Payman Langroud…: We’ll cut it out, go on.

Uchenna Okoye: I will go there with for example you did ask me before about VAPD, and that they’re doing a great job and all the rest of it. And I’m not going to go into it. But that’s a classic one of what you’ve just said. So, this group of great guys who I know most of them, nobody… you know that picture? That picture where there was all these men, that they’d had their conference when the organisation first set up. And I’m just like, “There is not one single woman there.” And none of them saw that. And then you ask what the hell happened, and it was like, “Yeah, we’re all buddies. We all hang out together. And some of us just thought, ‘Hey, guys.’ And we just happened to have this conference call.” And nobody there was thinking about it at all.

Uchenna Okoye: So, that’s why the conversation needs to be had, because it’s scientifically proven that an organisation that’s got that diversity is so much better, is so much more effective, it just functions better, than just people that all… Yeah, anyway. So, that’s all I’m going to say about that. So, that’s why. And even when you’re talking about the thing about DCPs or hygienists or whatever, it’s again having the women there that will bring their problems to the front so to speak. So, I don’t know if it’s Facebook. What’s her name? The woman that’s… oh, brain’s gone. Huh?

Payman Langroud…: The woman that what?

Uchenna Okoye: Oh, what’s her name?

Payman Langroud…: The woman that what? What did she do? I’ll tell you.

Uchenna Okoye: No, isn’t it, is she one of the CEOs of Facebook now? It’s not Arianna. Is it Arianna?

Payman Langroud…: Oh, the one that came from Google?

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. Anyway, her.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Uchenna Okoye: We’re talking about the fact of it wasn’t until she got pregnant, so she suddenly realised that there was no parking, she had to park for miles to waddle to wherever she needed to be. And so, it was something that affected her, none of the guys had thought about it, none of them had, it wasn’t there at all. And so, that affected a change because she was there and she had something about it.

Payman Langroud…: Sheryl Sandberg. Sheryl.

Uchenna Okoye: That’s it, Sheryl Sandberg, thank you.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. She’s one of the people that I would love to sit and have a coffee with.

Payman Langroud…: Definitely, definitely. When did you stop becoming just a regular general dentist, and look to cosmetic dentistry? Because that’s definitely what you’re known for.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, I mean I still consider myself a regular dentist. I am a regular dentist that just happens to be on TV. I didn’t go seeking to be doing what I’m doing. I think I got involved with cosmetics because, one, I’m dental phobic, I’m afraid of… I had some really bad experiences. And going to AACD, and I can’t remember how I got to AACD the first time. And it just totally blew my mind. It just opened me up to a whole world that I wasn’t even aware of, and that kind of started my journey.

Uchenna Okoye: And I started with quite a lot of people. It’s why sometimes, it’s the thing that dentists do that I get really cross with people that behave as if they’ve always known what they know now. They forget what it was like to know nothing. There was a time I didn’t know what a Zenith was. And sometimes I’ll see some well-known people putting other people down. And I’m like, “I was on the same course as you when you didn’t know any of this as well. So, you need to be kind to each other.”

Uchenna Okoye: And so, yeah, that kind of started the journey and I’ve just loved it. And I’ve always gone to America because I find it’s more forgiving, more… I’m not a dentist dentist as you have told me many times before. And in fact, I was saying to one of my team that if you had a yearbook of Guy’s, I’d probably be the person that people would say least likely to succeed. But they are quite amazed I’m told apparently with my success, which is a bit irritating, but a part of me is like, “Neh, neh, neh.” But it is.

Uchenna Okoye: I was a nerd at dental school. I was a Mr Bean kind of dental student. If you’re disclosing somebody’s teeth, I would be the person that would drop the disclosing tablet on the patient’s white shirt. That was me. So, I have a lot of affinity and empathy for people that don’t know what they’re doing. That whole imposter syndrome thing, it’s always something that I always struggle with. I’m told it keeps me humble, so that’s good.

Payman Langroud…: You’re definitely humble considering everything you’ve achieved, that’s for sure. But how did the TV thing happen?

Uchenna Okoye: Just busy minding my business doing what I do, and they just approached me. It wasn’t because I was sleeping with the producer, as one very well-known dentist told me.

Payman Langroud…: Is that the kind of thing you mean about women?

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. I mean, who would go and ask a guy that kind of ridiculous question?

Payman Langroud…: [inaudible 00:27:18].

Uchenna Okoye: So, they just came one day and they-

Payman Langroud…: But why you? I mean, did you have a PR working for you at the time? Why you? I mean, they could have gone to anyone.

Uchenna Okoye: No, I think there was stuff in press about me.

Payman Langroud…: Okay.

Uchenna Okoye: So, I had a part-time PR person. Did I have her then? I don’t think she was with me then. I can’t remember.

Payman Langroud…: You were very strong on your own PR weren’t you? Because where the practises are, they’re very near journalistic centres.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: And you’ve always… well, what’s always surprised me is how strong you are at PR yourself, without using professionals. I mean, it’s almost like you treat these people isn’t it? That’s the… The rest of us have to get PR people to bring these journalists in.

Uchenna Okoye: Them in.

Payman Langroud…: You’re just their dentist.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. But the thing is though, it’s the thing that I say to people, especially now in this whole Instagram era where don’t do the work for the picture or for the PR or for the article, do it because it’s the right thing to do. So, the reasons that I have a lot of journalists and people at my practise is because they might come…

Uchenna Okoye: Like I had one, Hannah, who came for a whitening feature for I think it was The Telegraph. And she’d had whitening before, like about three years ago by another dentist who I knew, and she was quite nervous, and she was like, “It was so painful before.” I’m like, “This one had so much recession. It would have been like pouring acid in a wound. I don’t understand how anybody could honestly.” But this person, the remit is, do whitening, one hour of my time or whatever and have articles.

Uchenna Okoye: So instead, I did buccal composites everywhere, sealed everything off, she was like, “Oh, my God, so this is what people that don’t suffer with sensitive… This is how teeth are meant to feel?” Then I did the whitening. It was only the whitening that appeared on the article, but that’s okay. And I didn’t charge her for the bonding because it’s a PR thing. But that’s the right thing to do, so.

Payman Langroud…: use the right whitening system for that.

Uchenna Okoye: You haven’t come along then. And that’s why they’ll stay. And that’s why, even though they might do an article, then they come back. And so, with the 10 Years Younger, they just came, they came, they spoke to patients, they look at pictures I’d done, they did a screen video thing et cetera. And then they just turned round and said, “We really want you to do it.” And I’m like, “Yeah, sure. So, is it going to be both of us?” Because at that time [Serinda] was also doing it. And they were like, “No, no, no, it’s just you.” So, I was a bit… They came to me saying that they were going to change the format for it to be a magazine style, so I thought they were going to… And I know that they were talking to different dentists at the time.

Payman Langroud…: For a while there you were the most famous dentist in the country definitely. And it was kind of before the internet properly took of, right? How famous were you? Did you used to get recognised? I remember once we were having dinner and someone recognised you.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: [inaudible 00:30:40].

Uchenna Okoye: But I’m not a very good famous person, whatever that means. Even with the show, I could have done it smarter, or if I was more millennially, but I would do the dentistry. And so, there’d be somebody, and I’m like, “But she’s a stable hand. I know having bright bleach shades isn’t going to work for her, she’s just going to stick out like a sore thumb.” Making sure that she can manage it afterwards. To me, the people is key.

Uchenna Okoye: So, I was so busy doing all the dentistry, I don’t know, I think I told you. Did I tell you that story about the guy? Me coming out of the station, it was so funny. It was on the Sunday morning, and I looked rough, man. I’m like real Sunday rough stuff on. And he was like, “Aren’t you that dentist from the show from 10 Years Younger?” And he actually goes, “You look rough, man. Can’t you afford a car?” He’s like, “I thought you’d be in a proper… You look like you’d be in a BMW or something.” It was so embarrassing, it was just… But for me that meant that I’d… even now, I don’t consider myself famous. I find the whole

Payman Langroud…: Do you get recognised quite a lot?

Uchenna Okoye: Not now, because the show hasn’t been around.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, but back then, you used to?

Uchenna Okoye: But I do get recognised because it’s easy to recognise me, it’s the black woman, there are not many kind of… So, I’ve learned to just smile at everybody. So, yeah. But I feel very blessed to be doing what I love doing, so yeah. But it’s not easy.

Payman Langroud…: Uchenna, one thing about you that I’ve over the years gathered yeah, is that you’re not interested in fitting in. So, when you say you were the oddball whatever in dental school, just for the sake of the argument, you used to say to me, “I’m never going to use website people that dentists use.” You’d always look outside of dentistry. Your practise, I remember when I came there, everyone’s talking about guests, no one’s talking about patients. And I remember you saying you recruit from outside dentistry. And it’s kind of fashionable now, but you were talking about this 15 years ago. You used to recruit from hotels or wherever it was. Give me a little, first of all, why’d you do that? Does it work well for you? And secondly, why are you that cat that’s trying to be different?

Uchenna Okoye: But I don’t think… I’m not trying to be different. I’m not purposefully trying to be an outlier as they say. I mean I kind of say to people I am incredibly shy, as I told you, and everybody just laughs. But actually I really am. So, to be one of the worst things anyone could ask me to do is [inaudible] into a room that people I don’t… I’ll just find the one person and stick to them like a leech. But then I will notice people that are uncomfortable, and I will force myself to overcome whatever to try and make them feel better, if that makes sense, yeah.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Uchenna Okoye: So, I think that’s part of what drives how I am in practise. And which is why most people assume… I always find it so weird where people who have never met me just have these preconceived ideas. I have people that are friends now, that they were like, “Oh, we just heard or we assume that you’d have an attitude or that you’re really aloof and you don’t hang out with…” And I’m just like, “But why? Why would you say that?” But it is what it is.

Uchenna Okoye: So, I like the non-dental thing because dentistry. Now it is, as you said, but before it never used to be about customer service. So, I had to go outside of dentistry in the UK to get that kind of vibe and customer service.

Payman Langroud…: You were definitely one of the first. You were definitely one of the first that was looking at it directly from the customer perspective. I certainly felt that. Everything about your practise. From the morning huddle, to the decorations, to the way you talked about your patients, was very much patient-focused. Which is, as I say, very fashionable now, but you were ahead of the game on that. Was that partly to do with the phobia? And some people get into dentistry and forget what it was like not to be a dentist. And as others, and people like Rhona now, Shaadi’s another one that I’m very interested in, who completely want to take it the other way and just talk to the public and demystify. But you were definitely one of the first who did that, yeah? And you still do I guess?

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, I mean for me it’s I’m interested in people. So, it’s always been about the people. And I’ll be the first one to be like, “There are so many dentists with much better hands than me.” That I’m like, “I can only aspire to do the kind of work that they do.” Me, I’m kind of like… don’t get me wrong, I do good work, and I invest a lot in courses, I know my limitations. But I’ve always been about the people. So, it’s about making people feel good about themselves, making them be the best that they can be.

Prav Solanki: So, just talk me through your patient journey. I’m a patient walking into your practise for the first time. Just talk me through the entire experience from walking through your door, to actually having a conversation, consultation with you. What’s your consultation process?

Uchenna Okoye: Gosh, I’m still trying to redefine it in the COVID-era. I’m actually struggling with it because I’m a hugger and a kisser, so I-

Prav Solanki: Let’s go pre-COVID. What would happen?

Uchenna Okoye: Pre-COVID would be schedule the appointment, and I guess [inaudible 00:36:56], but most people come in to see my know it’s going to be an investment, and they are looking for me, or they’re asking for me. So, they’d come in, they’d come to reception, we have a bag, all the forms they’ve got, what kind of lip balm they want and all that kind of stuff that I’ve learned from… So, everywhere I go on holiday I always hang out with the HR people, so Ritz-Carlton and all the rest of it. And I pick little bits that will work. I’m always thinking about what will work when I come home. So, we have that, the service menu, then I’m always the one that comes and meets them, brings them in, we sit at a desk in my surgery. I don’t have a big, posh space. My surgery’s from IKEA, that kind of thing. I’m a proper [inaudible] girl. So, we sit on one side, talk about how can I help you, what’s going on? Just that engagement.

Prav Solanki: What do you do to cater towards phobics? Because you mentioned earlier on that obviously you had a bad experience earlier on in your life and you’re a phobic. Do you cater to their needs? Is there anything different that you do to help people who are nervous about dentistry?

Uchenna Okoye: I think just be interested. All that old adage of nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. Is just literally being interested. I am so interested. I have friends that will be like, “I’ve known this person for 10 years, and you’ve found out in five minutes more about them than I have.” Because I genuinely love to find out about people. So, once with the trust.

Uchenna Okoye: I mean, they love the fact that I am a phobic, so that’s always a good thing. And I address that right from the onset. So, I always say when we’ve finished talking and we go to the chair, and I’m like, “I’m going to do this. You’re in control. If I’m wittering on, you want me to stop, you just let me know.” And all that kind of stuff. And then I’m just always, “Are you okay? Let me know.” It’s just it’s a two-way. And so for most of the time, just that in itself is enough.

Uchenna Okoye: I’ve never had… And I had one woman that it took us about six weeks to get her up the stairs. So, each appointment she’d go up two steps til she got to the top. It’s very rare. I’d say that maybe two, three people that we need to have to do sedation or anything like that. But for most patients, just the appointment’s longer, and it’s just time. I mean, we’ve got the DVD glasses and iPhones and all that stuff for them to listen to music, that helps.

Uchenna Okoye: So, finish talking, sit them in the chair, do all the normal stuff that one would do, take pictures. Then we go back to the side table, show them their pictures, talk about what I see, what they see. And then do a treatment plan. And I’ll-

Payman Langroud…: Do you do it there and then? Or do you do it at a different time?

Uchenna Okoye: The treatment plan?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah.

Uchenna Okoye: No, what I always try and do is find something small to bring them back with. So, if it’s so they’re coming back for the hygienist and maybe I’ll do one filling, and then I’ll give them the treatment plan then. If it’s something really straight… if it’s, “Hey, I know that this is going to be a Smile or whatever.” And I will give them the fee for maybe doing the articulated models or something. And then they’ll come back for that, and then I give them the… yeah.

Payman Langroud…: And what kind of treatment plans are you doing? I mean in terms of value, are you hitting the 20, 30 grand numbers?

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: And are some people just completely shocked by that? What I mean by that is there’s a lot of people who don’t know you could spend 30 grand on your teeth.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, I had somebody today actually.

Payman Langroud…: Did you?

Uchenna Okoye: And I was so angry in fact that I was going to do a video about it, where this woman had juvenile periodontitis, she’s been wearing a partial denture since she was 21. She’s head downcast, doesn’t smile, saw me on the show, wants to come and see what can be done. She’s lost her job, she’s an office worker, she hasn’t got a lot of money. And I’m just like, “But has nobody talked to you about implants?” She was like, “No.” But she has tried inquiring with her dentist, but he kind of said that it was really expensive and she shouldn’t bother. And she’s divorced, and she’s just hasn’t had a new relationship because she doesn’t want to have to address that thing.

Uchenna Okoye: So then, she’s like, “How much is it going to be? What do you think?” And I’m like, “Well…” I mean, I used the analogy of a car, because she had no idea. And I said, “If I told you it was going to be like a car.” And she kind of looked at me in shock. And I said, “You should ask me what kind of car.” And we had a laugh about that. And then I said, “If it’s going to be 25, £30,000.” And she was like, “Oh, my God, I don’t have that. How can I?” And then I said to her, “Look, even the so-called celebs. Nobody has money. I don’t have that money. Everybody uses finance.” And she was like, “Oh, I can do finance? Really?” And the conversation just changed. I mean, I guess that comes with confidence. But to me I was angry on her behalf at this person that judged her.

Payman Langroud…: No one had ever told her anything.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, no one told her. So, she’s going to go ahead and have treatment. I mean, I’ll be referring her, so it’s not that I’m keeping the money or anything like that. But I’m just like, “Oh, my God, you’ve been wearing a denture since you were 21.” And I guess that’s part of the thing of the passion. And I’m like, “If you were my sister”, I was like, “You have to have implants. I’m not going to make you a new denture, you have to.” And she’s going to do that because that’s just the best thing for her really, it’ll make such a difference to her life.

Payman Langroud…: You’ve done a lot of the Spear.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, I love Spear.

Payman Langroud…: Tell us about that. I mean, if I’m a young dentist who wants to be like you, is it a good idea?

Uchenna Okoye: 100%.

Payman Langroud…: And how soon and how quick and how much?

Uchenna Okoye: I mean, all the Spear courses like the workshops are about $10,000. And the thing that I will-

Payman Langroud…: Each?

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, yeah. And the thing I will say, because I still remember, because I started with Larry, I’m part of the Larry groupies.

Payman Langroud…: Me too.

Uchenna Okoye: I love Larry.

Payman Langroud…: That’s where the car thing comes from.

Uchenna Okoye: Yes. And so, honestly I remember paying for this with my credit cards, not knowing if the cards would work or not, that kind of thing. So, a lot of people… and I have to say, this is me. I’m not saying this is what other people should do. I admire people that sit there, and they work on a plan, and they save up, and that is seriously the best thing to do. But I didn’t want to wait. I just had this thirst for knowledge. So, I did all my things in America. I didn’t want to be in England because he was there and it was a totally different experience. So, I did that. I did all of Pete Dawson’s stuff.

Payman Langroud…: Did you? Did you?

Uchenna Okoye: I did the whole thing up to master’s. And then Frank, oh my God, he is just amazing. Teaching occlusions so that literally it’s like, “Yeah, they’re just these dots here. And if you get the dots around here then occlusion starts.” I mean, I know I’m exaggerating, but it was really there. And Scottsdale’s an amazing facility. And every time I just love it. And there’s [Garridy] Wood. And it’s just such a great.

Payman Langroud…: Because I don’t know anything about… I mean, I’ve spoken to people who do it, but I’ve never been there. But I’ve seen pictures, yeah? But how do they keep people coming back and spending another 10 grand? I mean, is it the quality of the teaching is so amazing that the penny drops and you’re like, “I need more”?

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, absolutely. Because even me, I’ve been doing Spear for 10 years, more than 10 years, maybe 12, 14. And I’m still spending 10k on new courses that are evolving. And it’s the combination, it’s a safe space to learn, it’s a great place to be away and to learn, the quality of the education.

Uchenna Okoye: I mean the Kois, I know that there are people like Scheniqua loved Kois, and I’ve never actually heard him. But both Kois and Spear used to work together. And like lots of boys you all go and fight with each other and things happen. But it just means that there’s even more choice for people.

Uchenna Okoye: So, I would say to somebody, “Hone your craft. Do your dentistry at least two, three years before you start jumping into all these courses and all the stuff.” Because you… I remember, actually I think it was about a year or two years after dental school, I did the Mike Wise course.

Payman Langroud…: Oh, well done.

Uchenna Okoye: Well, it was a waste of time and money. I didn’t know what the hell… I didn’t know what they were talking about.

Payman Langroud…: It was like another planet, yeah.

Uchenna Okoye: It was just… And I was at the course at the same time as Koray I think. And it was like way… I mean, it was good because it started me on that journey. But I’d have gotten more out of it if I’d waited a little, done a couple of years of things failing.

Payman Langroud…: So, how much of your work is the simple align, bleach, bond type? How much of it is porcelain aesthetics? And then how much of it is the full-mouth rehab, that kind of work?

Uchenna Okoye: See, I so desperately want to do align, bleach and bond. It would be so much better for my back. But I was saying to somebody that my niche is middle-aged menopausal women like myself. So, their mouths are complicated. So, it’s all multi-disciplinary. So, if I’m doing all my Invisalign is comprehensive, it’s part of implants, it’s part of whatever else.

Payman Langroud…: Do you place implants as well?

Uchenna Okoye: Oh, God, no. I hate implants. Ugh. Meccano. No, no. I send implants out. Fillings I do.

Payman Langroud…: To Koray?

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. So, to various people. Each time I keep thinking I should get somebody in-house, but I quite like it being somebody else’s problem. So, bread and butter dentistry for me generally tends to be part of bigger treatments. So, I’m still doing the fillings and all the rest of it. Although at the moment I’m probably thinking of getting an associate so that I can have somebody a day or two a week that I can do, because all the plans take so long to do.

Payman Langroud…: How do you handle the fact that people want to see you, and they don’t want to see your associates? I mean, how many practises are you on now?

Uchenna Okoye: Two.

Payman Langroud…: You were three at one point, right?

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, but that one, so the Harley Street one is kind of the best day of my week, I just sit there and chat to people.

Payman Langroud…: So, you’ve got [inaudible 00:48:56]. I remember Jasmine used to work for you as well.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, yeah. She’s.

Payman Langroud…: So, how do you get round that issue of people who want to be seen by you? Are you able to deflect them into associates, or is that not…

Uchenna Okoye: No, it’s fine. So, I did a thing which I learned from I think it was Frank. I don’t know if it was Frank or Garry, where so all your guests initially I see first. Because what I was finding was like maybe they were having routine treatment, then I might see them for something, and then I’d be like, “Oh, have you thought about having braces?” And then he’s like, “Oh, really?” And then it’s that kind of thing. Whereas, I guess I have the confidence to do that, so it became a thing. And I learned it from somebody, I didn’t think of it. So, everybody walks in and I see them. And then I’m like, “Okay, you’re going to go and see this person, or you’re going to go and do that.” And it’s fine. And I think for me they don’t know any better. It’s a matter of fact. It’s like this is how we do it here, and they trust me, so they’re okay with it. As long as it’s in-house, they don’t like going out, which sometimes can be a problem, they want to just stay in, because then it means that-

Payman Langroud…: Is the price the same if you do a veneer and if one of your associates does a veneer, is the price the same?

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. I don’t do the two-tier thing. We’re the same, yeah.

Payman Langroud…: I like that. So now you’re a single mum.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: Tell us that story.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. That’s actually the hardest thing that I’m doing right now. And maybe if I was a mum earlier, I don’t… no, it would have been okay. But I’m a late mum not by choice. You assume it’s going to work, and it didn’t. But she’s awesome. She’s the best thing ever. But it’s hard. It’s hard because you’re constantly juggling. You just don’t switch off. You’re here, you’re there, you’re trying to…

Uchenna Okoye: I remember, this is funny, so we were filming, and it was in the middle of filming, and so I have to have my phone with me because I don’t know what’s happening with her. And something happened with the nanny, so I’m seeing the person, the camera’s there, the phone’s here, I’m texting trying to find another babysitter. In the end I had to say, “Look, you guys need to down tools.” And they had to bring her to the surgery, and then a babysitter came and took her home, because we were running late and it was just… So, that’s just the nature of how things are.

Uchenna Okoye: And it’s nice now because I think people are more forgiving. So, one of my first ever mentors, Linda Greenwall, I know you’ve had Linda. And she’s so inspiring. And I still remember her, she opened her practise a few days after she’d given birth, and the kids were there. And that’s way ahead of her time. That can happen now, but in those days that just was not.

Payman Langroud…: She’s a superwoman with four kids.

Uchenna Okoye: Oh, hugely.

Payman Langroud…: And then everything else. Tell me about being a single mum. I mean, it must be difficult, right? So, you must rely heavily on nannies and the like?

Uchenna Okoye: It is hard. And some days you just think what’s the point, where… So, we’ve just finished filming, and for a week I didn’t see her.

Payman Langroud…: Wow.

Uchenna Okoye: And I would leave at 6:00 in the morning, and I’d get back and she’d be asleep. And so, it’s quite off-putting finally actually on the Saturday of that week when she comes in. Because what I used to do was I’d leave a note and a present. And she was really disappointed that I was there. “Oh, no present today, mummy?”

Uchenna Okoye: But I think that’s one of the thing where you talk about women, men, type thing. Is a feeling of guilt. I feel like I’m guilty of stuff all the time. Patients are hounding me because I haven’t done their treatment plan, or I’m supposed to do appraisals or something with team. Or the other day there was something I was supposed to have put in her schoolbag that I forgot about, so I’m like, “I’ve failed there.” Or at the school gate and she’s refusing to go to school, so now I’m like, “They’re all judging me because I don’t drop her off enough here, and that’s why she’s clinging to me like a limpet and she won’t go.”

Uchenna Okoye: But the nice thing about doing it as a late mum, is that there isn’t anything else I’d rather be doing. It’s just she’s amazing. She’s my world. And because she was chosen, so she calls me, I’m her heart mummy, because she was adopted. Yeah, that makes it all… Every time I want to moan to a friend, they’re like, “You know you chose this? You wanted this, enjoy it.” So, I’m trying to. But it’s the most rewarding thing. So yeah, love it.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, I love my life. I love everything I’m doing. I mean I think it’s hard. It’s so hard. There’s some days that you’re just like, “What’s the point of this? There’s only one of me.” But there isn’t anything that I would drop. I just feel beyond blessed. It is hard work, and it’s constant. And sometimes people say things like, “You’re so lucky.”

Uchenna Okoye: There were days, I remember the early days that I would literally, I’m not kidding, sleep in the surgery. It’d be like 2:00 in the morning, and there’s no point going home, and I would, I have a shower here, [inaudible] now, and you just wished I had a flat upstairs because you just so much work to do and all that kind of stuff. And you just do what you have to do. But I’ve always had that kind of work ethic. You just have to do what you have to do.

Prav Solanki: What’s the typical day for you, Uchenna? Day in the life. What time do you wake up? How does it all start? How long are you at work?

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. Typical day. Normally wake up about 5:00, so if I’m asleep at around 6:00 that’s a lie-in and I feel behind. So, I wake up, I’m a Christian so I pray, I try and stretch because my back is having issues. And if I’m lucky I can do all that. If I’m unlucky, a little person comes in. She’s an early bird, so she normally wakes up between 5:30 and 6:00 as well. So, right at the moment we will spend about half an hour together, so she’d be reading or I’d be reading to her. She generally just wants to watch something, but I don’t let her. And then I will leave home about 7:00, quarter past seven, come to the practise. I like to have the first hour for myself, so to just catch up on stuff and determine what’s-

Payman Langroud…: But does the nanny come in at that point or does she live with you?

Uchenna Okoye: No, do you know, COVID has made me more resilient. Because before that I’m like, “I don’t want anybody living with me and all the rest of it.” The nanny used to come in. But me and a four-year-old for all those months, I’m sorry, it was hell, I cannot lie. It was just so hard. And because she was so little she wouldn’t leave me alone. There was all these people having all these conference calls and all the CPD things, I didn’t get to do any of that at all, I was so jealous. So, she lives with… she’s in there with me, so that’s really helped.

Uchenna Okoye: So, I leave, I come here. We have a morning huddle. Normally the team would have sent me the night before, we do what’s called a day list, so my nurses write, I have a list of things, the occupation, what happened the last time they came in, what they’re coming in for today, any problems. So, I read first beforehand. Then we have a morning huddle, and then the day starts. And each day is different. Sometimes-

Payman Langroud…: And what time do you get home again?

Uchenna Okoye: Now I try and get home by 6:30. So, my job is to… it’s funny how I’ve changed. I used to be like, “I have to get home in time to give her her bath.” But that’s actually really boring, and I’m tired. So now the nanny does the bath, and I read the stories and put her to bed, and then collapse.

Payman Langroud…: And what time do you go to bed?

Uchenna Okoye: Usually about midnight.

Payman Langroud…: Wow.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, so.

Prav Solanki: Midnight to 5:00 AM?

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: Every day?

Uchenna Okoye: Well, my dad growing up. Yeah, I’ve always done that. My dad used to say sleep was practising death.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, I agree.

Uchenna Okoye: So, you have eternity to sleep. So, we’ve always in my house growing up, no matter what time you went to bed, 6:00 AM, morning prayers, everybody’s dressed, seated round for breakfast kind of thing. So, friends didn’t like coming to my house.

Payman Langroud…: Uchenna, I’ve got a couple of other things I want to address with you. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re a very, very strict boss, right?

Uchenna Okoye: Oh, terribly so. I’m told I… well, I know that you know that I’m known for that.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, yeah. But tell us about… The last time I asked you this was a while ago, but you went, “Yeah, I’m a dictator.”

Uchenna Okoye: No, no, I’ve been told I’m a dictator. I don’t.

Payman Langroud…: It’s hard work. Maybe it’s that Nigerian work ethic thing. That to you might seem like a normal, but you’ve got very high standards.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: And people do it exactly as you tell them to do it or they’re out.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: Not even denying it.

Uchenna Okoye: No, I’m not. What I say is I honestly, the God’s honest truth is, I could not afford to see me. I could not afford to be treated by me right now. So, somebody’s coming in for, and they’re going to spend 20 grand, even if it’s five grand, they’re people that have saved for years to even get something like whitening, we have to be on our game. You can’t come in and say, “Oh, the reception was perfectly pristine, it’s just that one moment with that one patient.” Because that’s their experience. And part of why I’m like that is how I was at dental school. So, I don’t want the control thing. And the problem is people come in and they don’t realise that it’s for their benefit. So, I have a new nurse say, the trainee or whoever, and I’m like, “Look, you need to do this and this and this.” Because if you’ve prepared and there’s a problem, you can address a problem. Hopefully you’ve over-prepared, so there’s not going to be that problem.

Payman Langroud…: I get the military side of it.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: Of course, yeah? But the bit I don’t understand is that the staff have to be super happy in this high-end place, right? Because you want to be happy for the patients. And how do you manage that tension between bloody strict boss and happy staff? And you’re going to tell me some people want that, right? And you… Yeah.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, yeah. It’s finding that. It’s difficult. I think it was one of the team talked about… Like Patty Jameson talks about a championship team, and we used the analogy of Team GB. You want to be part of the Olympic team. There are thousands of great sprinters, and just think of how many people they have to get through to pick the people that are going to be in the team. And I consider us as Team GB.

Uchenna Okoye: I mean, I am the best boss from a nurturing, I notice if people are poorly and I will look after you and all that kind of stuff. What the problem is that, I now know that the term is emotional intelligence, being able to separate the loving, kind Uchenna that will lend us lots of money and take us to America and whatever. With the Uchenna who’s like, “Okay, right, it’s time to deliver what we need to now.” And that’s often hard. And yeah, it’s work ethic.

Uchenna Okoye: I remember saying to one of the girls, and we were talking about me growing up for example. So, I failed my A-levels, so I had to resit my A-levels. And my parents didn’t have the money to send me to a Crammer’s college, because I had read that that’s where to go to get the best learning to do it again. And I was here with my brothers and sisters, so I was looking after them. I would wake up in the morning about 3:00 AM, get on the night bus, it was the bus 25, at that point I was working in the warehouse in Harrods, so I chose well. So, the bus would go from Ilford to Harrods. I would do the job there, I would go to school, I would finish, I’d go home, cook for everybody, put them to bed, then I’d go and I had a cleaning job in Tesco’s, which I would then do in the evening.

Uchenna Okoye: So yes, I get it, that I have a really strong work ethic and not everybody aspires to or understands. But I make it very clear that this is what you’re singing up to. And sometimes people say, “Do you actually want me to work here?” And I’m like, “Yeah, but if you’re going to go to Oxford and Cambridge, you know what you’re up against. You don’t have to come to Oxford and Cambridge, you can go somewhere else. But if you want to join us, it’s not easy. And I know that it’s not easy.” So yeah, I don’t know, does that make me an evil witch?

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, yeah. It does, yeah.

Uchenna Okoye: But I love the fact that, because just for the listeners you had… was it a nurse or receptionist? Who was the person that used to work for me that came and worked with you?

Payman Langroud…: I think it was an ex-nurse of mine who came to see you for a while, something like that.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, but then it made me really happy that you turned round and you said, from talking to her and from working with her, that I walked the walk and didn’t just talk the talk. So, when she came to you and she was talking about guests.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, yeah. Oh, that one. Yeah. It was a different one. That was a different one. That was the one who came from you to me.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, yeah, that’s right. One other question. Look, I’ve always maintained you’re particularly strong om marketing, and you always claim you’re not and all that. But you certainly, I mean in the print age and the TV and print age, you’ve dominated. I mean absolutely dominated. You really were maybe the highest profile dentist in the country. Now that we’re in the internet age and the social media age, and we can see all these youngsters dominating because they’re… I mentioned Shaadi before, I don’t know if you’ve come across her, she started her TikTok account in lockdown, yeah? In lockdown. Now has 100,000 followers.

Uchenna Okoye: Oh, wow.

Payman Langroud…: And TikTok is that kind of platform. It’s got massive reach. What I’m saying… By the way, I don’t know anything about it myself. But my question is, how have you transitioned? Do you think marketing’s less important than it was before? Have you transitioned? I myself have a chasm, yeah? While Prav became one of the most important marketeers in dentistry because he’d mastered Google, I myself had a problem when we went from print to digital. I was very good at the Joop age spread ads in dentistry magazine, and then when it came to digital I didn’t know what the hell to do.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. I think marketing… they’re coming for me, the police. Is vital actually, especially in this day and age. I don’t think you can fight it. The world has changed. It’s just like, “Just embrace it.” I mean for me, I love Instagram. It’s like this black hole that you can just get sucked into, so you need to be careful. And I recognise if I’m feeling insecure and bad about myself, stay away from Instagram because it just makes you feel worse because everybody just best.

Payman Langroud…: It’s the highlight reel isn’t it?

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. And for me it’s interesting, because I treat all these journalists and people are sitting there, and maybe they’ve just finished sobbing in my chair, they’ve just had a breakup, they look rubbish. And then you just see, “Hi.” And it’s just 10 minutes later and I’m like, “This is so fake.” But as long as people are aware of that. But the thing about the digital age is it’s allowed… There are people that I’ve met that I could never have met, whether they’re in Egypt or Syria or whatever the case may be. So, it’s made the world a smaller place.

Uchenna Okoye: How have I adapted? I think the thing I find challenging is just finding the time. It’s finding the time to do the things, to learn how to do it. I’ve dabbled in having other people do stuff, but it’s never the same, it’s not authentic, it needs to be my voice. And I’ve learned, I like doing lives because people are there. It’s a bit like this, you’re just chatting to them and you don’t have to do all this hashtag type stuff.

Payman Langroud…: It’s interesting because a lot of people are very uncomfortable in lives. I am myself. But I’ve noticed you’re living all the time.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, I like live. But I don’t know why you don’t like lives, because looking at you, you’re doing great.

Payman Langroud…: No, because this is audio, yeah? If this was video I’d be like…

Uchenna Okoye: Really? [inaudible 01:08:13], you’d be good at it. Yeah, I don’t mind that, because I can… I guess that’s why I do the TV well, because I can switch off. I can forget that there’s a camera there because I’m so interested in the person that I’m engaging in. And also, I now realised that I’m taking it much more seriously because it is actually starting to bring patients, which it didn’t before, not my kind of patients, number one.

Uchenna Okoye: And then the DM thing is amazing. I mean sometimes I think I give people too much free info. Because people are asking me questions and I’m like, “You need to ask your dentist to do blah, blah, blah.” So, somebody yesterday was like, “Thank you so much.” She started Invisalign, she’s up somewhere in Scotland, “And you encouraged me to do it, and I just wanted to let you know it’s going well.” So, that’s-

Payman Langroud…: I think there’s a massive opportunity for someone like you, yeah? In terms of the multiplatform story. So, if someone’s seen you on TV, then DMs you on the mobile, that is a different level of engagement, in terms of awareness engagement, than someone who’s only found you on the internet. And so, there’s a massive opportunity. And then the other side to it is what you just said, that clearly you’re comfortable talking to the camera, which I’d say 95% of people.

Prav Solanki: Are not.

Payman Langroud…: 99% of people, are not. I’m certainly. I don’t pick up the mobile and start talking to it, I just don’t do that, man. Prav does, right? But those two things. The fact that you’re comfortable talking to the camera, and the fact that you’re on other media, makes it just a really important thing for you to go all-in on I think.

Uchenna Okoye: I mean I guess for me, the USP has always been about education. I don’t want people to feel about the dental experience the way that I do, because I hate it, everything to do about dentistry is just awful. So, it’s kind of to empower people, to give them knowledge, to be able to make their own informed decisions. Because you’ll notice on my Insta, I’m not a tooth-posting dentist.

Payman Langroud…: Why is that?

Uchenna Okoye: Because that’s not what… I mean I can’t say that’s not what I’m interested in or whatever. But my thing is, I would hope that people would know that if they were going to come and see me, that the work would be okay, that it would be good work. So, I might be wrong, I don’t know. Maybe I should be posting more stuff.

Payman Langroud…: You should, because they work well, that’s the thing.

Uchenna Okoye: They what? Do what?

Payman Langroud…: They work. They work really well, the before and afters.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. And also, I judge. I’m like, “Nothing is good enough to post.” There’s that aspect as well.

Payman Langroud…: That perfection paralysis thing, that’s a whole story of its own. So, Uchenna, you listen to this podcast don’t you? Tell me you listen.

Uchenna Okoye: Yes, I do.

Payman Langroud…: Oh, thanks.

Uchenna Okoye: I do, it’s very good actually. The other day I sent a DM to… you did one with [Kunal 01:11:25], and I loved his story about Prague. I was like, “I didn’t know this about you. Oh, my God.”

Payman Langroud…: Yeah. So, Prav likes to end it on his question.

Prav Solanki: So, Uchenna.

Uchenna Okoye: Said very much, Prav. Sorry.

Prav Solanki: Pardon?

Uchenna Okoye: I said we’ve been wittering on without you.

Prav Solanki: I’ve been listening. I’ve been listening.

Payman Langroud…: You know he’s been dieting, he’s not eating for 21 days, you know this?

Uchenna Okoye: No. Really?

Payman Langroud…: He’s… yeah.

Prav Solanki: Yeah, I’ve not had a meal in nine days.

Uchenna Okoye: Why?

Prav Solanki: It’s just something I’m giving a go.

Payman Langroud…: It’s what he does.

Prav Solanki: It’s a 21-day fasting challenge. So, no food, just black coffee, water, electrolytes, salts.

Uchenna Okoye: Are you sure coffee is meant to be part of it?

Prav Solanki: Black coffee’s good.

Uchenna Okoye: Ah.

Payman Langroud…: He’s done a lot of research into it.

Prav Solanki: Yeah.

Uchenna Okoye: But do you feel good? How do you feel?

Prav Solanki: I feel fantastic. About this time of day over the last couple of days I start flagging, start feeling tired. But other than that I’m feeling great. I’m productive at work, I’m still training in the gym.

Uchenna Okoye: Maybe I should try it.

Prav Solanki: After day three it becomes really easy.

Uchenna Okoye: Really? Okay.

Prav Solanki: Yeah. Hunger just disappears.

Uchenna Okoye: Really?

Prav Solanki: Completely disappears.

Payman Langroud…: But he has a lot of vitamins and things, I don’t know if that helps.

Uchenna Okoye: Okay.

Prav Solanki: It doesn’t help with the hunger thing.

Payman Langroud…: Does it not?

Prav Solanki: No. No, no, not at all. But it helps with the fact that I’m not going to be nutritionally…

Payman Langroud…: Challenged.

Prav Solanki: Challenged, yeah, yeah. So, makes sure I get all my vitamins, minerals. The main thing is the salts. If you don’t have the salts, you don’t have the magnesium, your neurons are not firing, you start cramping up, all that. And that’s what I did. The first time I did it I really messed up, right? So, now I’m drinking six to seven litres of water a day, 10 to 12 salt capsules. My vitamins are all packed in here so I just rattle my way through them throughout the day. And it just works.

Uchenna Okoye: Oh, can you send me details? I’d love to try it.

Prav Solanki: Absolutely. Yeah, no problem.

Uchenna Okoye: Okay.

Prav Solanki: I’m actually at the end of this 21-day fast I’m going to write a blog, because I’ve had so many questions about the supplementation, about the process, the mindset, and the reasons that I do it, yeah? And the reasons that I do it are multifactorial, right? So, on one of them is building mental resilience and mental toughness, and the fact that if I can function and go without food for 21 days, then it opens my mindset up to other challenges, right? And also, when I get smaller challenges in life, then I should be able to handle them quite easily. So, a part of it is about… And then the other part of it is I’m probably a little bit crazy as well.

Prav Solanki: But Uchenna, onto more important things, which is the final question. Imagine it’s your last day on the planet, and your little one, or not so little one at this time is next to you. And you’ve got to part giving three pieces of advice. What would they be?

Uchenna Okoye: Oh, yeah. Three pieces of advice. I’d say stay in your lane. Just be you. I know it’s that thing of just be you.

Prav Solanki: Focus on yourself.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. Well, it’s not even focus on yourself, but just be the best that you can be, rather than trying to please anybody else, because you never will. So, just be true to yourself, listen to your gut. Which I’ve not been very good at, but I’m getting better. Surround yourself with positive people. That’s so important. People that will lift you up, that will encourage you. Yeah. I don’t know. I guess the last thing would probably be, a bit of my mantra, which is from the bible, which is nothing is impossible with God. So, if you just try it, and even if… That for me there’s no such thing as failure, it’s just another opportunity to do the thing better.

Prav Solanki: Of course.

Uchenna Okoye: So yeah, I don’t know if that answers the question?

Prav Solanki: It does, it does. And just to finish that off, Uchenna, how would you like to be remembered? Uchenna was…

Uchenna Okoye: Uchenna made a difference. At the end of the day that’s the thing I want on my tombstone. Whether it’s a difference with the patients that you’ve affected, with the team. It’s funny being really tough. I get team that have left all the time sending me letters saying, “Oh, now I understand what you were trying to get me to do 10 years ago.” Or family, friends, kind of thing.

Uchenna Okoye: But I lost my sister about five years ago unfortunately. She’s like my best friend and it just came out of nowhere, and it really helped… you realise that when all’s said and done, all you have is the memories of the things you did, the people you touched, and nothing else matters. It’s that. So yeah, that’s what I’d tell my daughter as well. Make good memories

Payman Langroud…: Did you question your belief at that point?

Uchenna Okoye: No, not at all. I mean I was angry. I was angry with God because I just didn’t… She I would say was the heart of us. She was the best of us. And even now… people say it gets better with time, but it doesn’t, you just… I feel, just thinking about her. Because she helped run the practise for a while, so whenever I’m here there’s always reminders of her. But you just get used to the whole being there all the time. So, I just have to trust that God knows why, and when I get to heaven I’ll find out.

Uchenna Okoye: But yeah, I would never be like, “Oh, it was for the best or whatever.” Because it was pants. It was horrible. And she was gone too soon, and it was hard. But I still trust Him. And just like a parent isn’t it? That’s the whole premise of a relationship, or my relationship with God, in that in the same ways my daughter will get upset with me, deep down she knows I love her, she knows it’s for her best, and she has that trust whether she likes what I’m doing to her or not.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, that’s really well answered. Thank you so much for doing this.

Prav Solanki: Thank you.

Uchenna Okoye: [inaudible] been on the phone for an hour and a half.

Payman Langroud…: I knew you’d be good at this. We’ve always enjoyed talking to you. Maybe that’s the reason why Prav couldn’t get a word in. Hopefully when times are a bit better we can have a nice drink together or a dinner together.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah, I miss your parties.

Payman Langroud…: Yeah, exactly.

Uchenna Okoye: Yeah. And it’s nice to see you, Prav. I think you guys are doing a really… this is my favourite podcast I have to say, because-

Payman Langroud…: Oh, thank you.

Uchenna Okoye: No, it’s true. Because it gives a different insight. There are very few, in fact I can’t think of any that’s not just about not dental-based. I think the thing that we as dentists need is to just try and get to know each other a little bit better and forget… I mean there’s enough teeth. I don’t understand the jealousy and all that nonsense. There’s enough teeth for everybody. It’s just like support one another and just build each other up. So, thank you, keep on keeping on.

Prav Solanki: Cheers. Thanks a lot.

Payman Langroud…: Lovely to have you, Uchenna. Thanks a lot.

Outro 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.

Prav Solanki: Thanks for listening guys. If you got this far, you must have listened to the whole thing. And just a huge thank you both from me and Pay, for actually sticking through and listening to what we had to say and what our guest has had to say, because I’m assuming you got some value out of it.

Payman Langroud…: If you did get some value out of it, think about subscribing. And if you would, share this with a friend who you think might get some value out of it too. Thank you so, so, so much for listening. Thanks.

Prav Solanki: And don’t forget our six star rating.


Less than two years into his career, this week’s guest was on his way to being one of dentistry’s finest.

But Tom Youngs had other callings.

At age 28, he left dentistry to pursue ski instruction and life as an unpaid intern in tech startups.

Tom now works as a website analyst while developing his own online sustainable beauty business. He shares his story, regrets, wins and words of wisdom for anyone who’s ever wondered if there is life after dentistry.   

“I kind of was like, okay, I’d like to go onto the next thing.”  – Tom Youngs

In This Episode

03.31 – Two degrees
07.48 – Into VT and ‘underground’ dentistry
13.38 – Aspiration and achievement
19.29 – The move from clinical
37.52 – Time for reflection
42.22 – Entrepreneurialism
48.39 – Regrets
53.53 – A day in the life
57.20 – Last day and legacy

About Tom Youngs

Former biomedical scientist Tom Youngs spent two years in dentistry before moving into tech entrepreneurship.

He now works in eCommerce and is developing  Vyable Beauty – an online sustainable beauty products retailer.

He runs a successful YouTube channel and writes a monthly newsletter at www.tomyoungs.co.



Tom: … experience. Experience this world. This world is an incredibly beautiful and rich piece of rock in this universe. You have the opportunity you’ve been given to be a part of this existence, don’t waste it. Experience as much as you can. Experience it with as many people as you can. Don’t feel like you’re trapped in a bubble. Get outside your bubble and live a rich, fully experienced life.

Intro 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.

Tom: Langroudi, Prav, man. How’s it going, mate? Good to be here.

Prav: I’m good, mate. How are you, Tom? You okay?

Tom: Oh mate, I’m stunning. Absolutely, so privileged to meet you. I’ve heard so much about you. And it’s yeah, I’m actually buzzing to have a chat and speak to you boys.

Prav: Awesome.

Tom: How are you doing, mate? And congratulations on your weight loss, by the way.

Prav: Oh, thank you. Thank you, mate.

Payman: He’s in the middle of a 21-day fast right now.

Tom: Oh, fuck.

Payman: But I didn’t really realise, Prav-

Tom: Are you actually serious? How many days are you on?

Prav: Well, my day nine now.

Tom: Oh mate.

Payman: When you called me, Prav, when you called me and said, “Are you in a restaurant?” I forgot you were bloody fasting.

Prav: Makes no difference, mate. Makes absolutely no difference at this stage.

Tom: Oh my God, are you all right? Pay, do we have to be a bit worried that he’s going to throw a brick through our screens at some point?

Prav: No, mate. I haven’t gotten the hungries or anything, mate. I’m absolutely fine.

Tom: Mate, fair play. That is incredible. Yeah. Definitely some-

Payman: You know what, Prav? You know what happened yesterday? I gave Alex his breakfast, quite a big breakfast, yeah?

Tom: Of course, of course.

Payman: Two eggs, smoked salmon, the whole thing. And then he was going to school at one o’clock and he goes, “Should I eat again?” I said, “What do you mean? Just had a massive breakfast.” He goes, “Yeah, but I’m not going to eat till six.” I said, “Think about Prav.” And he looked at me and went, “Yeah.” [inaudible 00:02:10]. Is there a life after dentistry? I’ve got the great pleasure of inviting Tom Youngs onto the podcast. I go back a long way with Tom. I remember him … Was it pre-qualifying, Tom?

Tom: Do you know what? I actually think it was just after qualifying, just after qualifying. Obviously, I was very aware and familiar with you, but yeah, I think we only met right just after qualifying.

Payman: Yeah. So the question’s been coming up a lot in dental circles about if you do leave dentistry, what’s life like afterwards, does your dental degree get you anywhere? And I’m sure we’ll get to it, but Tom’s story is an interesting one because from my perspective, a super engaged dentist. I mean, someone had a fantastic future ahead of him in dentistry. I think you designed your own instruments. He was very, very into dentistry.

Payman: We went to AACD together in America, but then decided to leave and pursue other things. And so traditionally people would think maybe people who leave dentistry just hate teeth, but that certainly wasn’t Tom’s situation. So it;s really good to have you. Tom, give us the backstory first. I mean, dentistry was your second degree, wasn’t it?

Tom: It was my second degree. Firstly, I would just like to say it’s an absolute privilege to speak to you guys. I’ve known you for probably like five or six years. No, it is probably longer than that now. About seven years. I’ve travelled all over the world with you. I’ve got to know you extremely closely. I look towards you as probably definitely somewhat as a mentor. And I know we’ll dig into this a little bit, but probably one of my main inspirations for actually making that leap out of clinical work. So yeah-

Payman: Oh blood hell.

Tom: … preface that by saying it’s a privilege for me to be here. And I’m really looking forward to digging into some stuff and talking about kind of the backstory behind things. But I think the phrase that you were looking for, you were digging around for it. But I think if you asked my friends that knew me from dentistry, they would call me a turbo dog when it came to dentistry. I was absolutely, as a lot of the guys that have been on this podcast have been as well, complete insane … Passion isn’t even a word. It’s like an obsession, is the word. And I was there, and I was for a few years, I was seeing the crystals of enamel as being the only thing that was the light at the end of the tunnel, which now I’ve kind of had the opportunity to take a step away from things. It seems like there’s more to life than enamel, which is kind of crazy.

Payman: When you did your first degree, what made you then choose to do dentistry? What was your first degree?

Tom: So yes, my first degree, probably similar to a lot of people … Or maybe not a lot of people actually, as post-grad dentistry is now kind of difficult in this country, to get into, but it was biomedical sciences. So probably best to start from a scratch. I went into dentistry originally because my parents were both medics. They were both in the medical profession and I grew up knowing medicine as the only thing, as probably a lot of people can relate to, like the only career path possible. There was nothing out there apart from obviously you wanted to be a professional footballer until the age of six. And when I realised I just had absolutely no talent, realised that, okay, my dad seems to have a good job. My mom seems to have a good job. They both seem really happy. They’re able to provide a really fantastic life for myself and my siblings. And I was like yeah, mad keen on being a surgeon as my dad was.

Tom: So initially, my path towards that was actually to do medicine. And I did my GCSCs, did absolutely shite. There was no opportunity to get into medicine, first off. So went into biomedical sciences. And during the process doing biomed in Dundee in Scotland, my dad was like, “Look, I don’t know if medicine is the right path for you to go down.”

Tom: All of my dentist mates, who had a few dentists mates, seemed to have a better lifestyle, much more balanced, less stressful, which is kind of ironic as I expect we’ll talk about that. I think both medics and dentists look at each other and they think, “Oh my God, you guys have got the most stressful job ever,” or. “We’ve got a more stressful job.” I think at different times of the day, that probably comes and goes.

Tom: But yeah, it was biomedical sciences. And my dad was like, “Look, consider this.” So I went and shadowed my dentist, my dentist back at home. And was like yeah, cool. Let’s do this. This seems like a much more logical path to where I wanted to get to, which is using my hands. Like I always wanted to do the surgery side of things. I was like, so medicine, it seemed to be, if you’re going to be a surgeon, good luck. You’re going to have to wait 10 years before you can be a surgeon. Dentist, you’re a surgeon from day one, mate.

Tom: So yeah. I was like, okay, yeah. Let’s do this. Applied, was very lucky to get into a few places. And I can’t say enough about the experience that I had at Peninsula down in [Ecsta] and Plymouth. And the experience I had that was phenomenal. The facilitator they have, the professors, everything about that course I thought was A-star. Had a fantastic time there. I felt so well equipped when I went into VT.

Prav: And then where did you go from there, Tom? So you went into VT. Tell us about your VT experience. And I’ll just go a couple of steps ahead of that, because when speaking to Payman before about this and actually speaking to Payman about you before, he said to me, “Look, there was a time in dentistry where there was some leading lights, some young up and coming amazing dentists.” And always turned to Payman, I know dentistry in terms of, I can look at a set of teeth that a dentist has done and say, “Wow, that looks really good.” And I can tell good from bad, right? I think Payman’s got a better eye and he can tell good from great or great from excellent.

Prav: And one of the things he said to me is, “This guy’s dentistry is on a completely … He is amazing. He’s excellent.” Right? So just talk me through your journey from VT to becoming this dentist in the short space of time that was able to deliver what someone like Payman would consider to be an excellent standard of dentistry? And then obviously from there onwards, we can talk about what happened next.

Tom: Yeah, cheers. Yeah. I really appreciate that. Yeah, I think that probably stems from within the first year or so of dental school, I really felt like for the first time in my life that I found something that I felt like I could excel in. I really felt like this is something that you got out what you put in. And I seemed to be doing well within the actual course. And I was at a course with people that graduated from Oxford, Cambridge, and I was somehow doing better than them. And I was like, shit. Okay. Well, I’ve probably got a chance here. I’ve got a chance to be good.

Tom: That’s something that’s probably stayed with me my whole life, is that I’ve always wanted to be the best at what I’m doing. Like no matter what it was. So when I left dental school, kind of graduated towards the top of our class and felt like I’d laid a pretty good foundation. And during dental school, I started to kind of dig into the underground scene of the dental world, which Payman will know is the OG dental town where it was … I kind of have to, and this guy will come up because probably my biggest inspiration whilst I was doing it, it was seeing Jason Smithson’s work online, was the real like inspirator to me to be like, this is a guy who works an hour down the road from me, and he is churning out what is quite obviously the best in the world of what he’s doing.

Tom: And as soon as I saw that, I was like, I want to see this guy. I want to see this guy, I want to meet this guy. I want to be as good as that. The attention to detail was artistic. He took the scientific side, mixed it with the artistic side. And I just thought that it was amazing.

Payman: Did he teach you as well in Peninsula?

Tom: Never teach me, no. Watched loads of his courses. When I shadowed him, he was very, very kind to let me shadow him a number of times. So went down and shadowed him. I was also very kind of like an art collector, very proud to have a number of fillings with Jason’s initials etched into my own mouth, which is quite unique. Kind of … Yeah, a weird form of art collection. But yeah, he was the one who really inspired me. And so, give complete credit to that.

Tom: And coming out of dental school, I started to get really into this underground scene. What felt like underground, because none of my mates had any clue existed, was this online scene of international dentists who were just showing off their best work. And I was like, this is where I want to be. This is my crowd that I want to be known within. And that’s how Payman popped up, because Payman was also within that crowd. He was like firmly seated within that crowd, the online community. And from then on, just probably to provide some context for people that … Obviously, I don’t imagine really anyone knows about me or my story, but I left dentistry after exactly two years of clinical work.

Tom: So I did VT, I did half a year of DF2. So I went into DF2 and then I completed half a year of that in Cardiff. And then I did half a year at Ahmad Nounu’s practise in the Black Swan Dental Spa, which I’m sure some of you will be familiar with. So two years was my kind of the length of time I practised for.

Tom: But in that first year, once I qualified, I was like, okay, I have no interest in working for the NHS. The reason was it was becoming really clear to me that there was this equation where you were only going to make money if you churned out a lot of volume. And when I was getting inspired by guys like Jason, who was turning out work which was of incredible quality and finesse, I was like, that’s what I want to aim to. So how do I get to that position?

Tom: So in VT, doing DF1, I made it my plan to … I set out a really clear plan. I was like highlighted maybe five to 10 of the biggest names within the British scene of dentistry. All of the guys that you’ve had on your podcast. So the James Goolniks, and so forth. Again, guys that let me shadow them; James, Zacky, all of these guys that let me into their surgeries, let me sit by their side in the corner and watch them work at their world renowned practises. So that’s what I did in VT, which no one else seemed to be doing.

Prav: Quick question, Tom.

Tom: Yeah.

Prav: What did you do, just pitch to them, I want to come in … It doesn’t seem-

Tom: Yeah.

Prav: … like the sort of thing that any dentist would do, any old dentist, anyways. Obviously, you cherry picked these guys and said, “Look, I’m inspired by these guys. They’re at the top of their game.” And you reached out, email pitch or-

Tom: Yeah, it’s quite simple. It’s business development, isn’t it? It’s networking. I highlighted these guys as the pioneers within the industry, within the BACD, within British dentistry, within international dentistry. And probably emailed them, messaged them. I have no idea how I did it, but I probably prefaced it by saying that I was inspired by you. And most of them, if not all of the ones … I mean, just to paint a bit of a picture here. So in my surgery in DF1, I was in this tiny little town in just south of Merthyr Tydfil, in the Welsh valleys. So a small town as it gets. And on my wall next to my surgery desk, I had a whiteboard, a little tiny whiteboard. And on it, I had a list of 10 things that I wanted to get done during that year that would allow me to put me in a position in year two to potentially work in a fully private practise.

Tom: So on the top five things, the top five, it was shadows Zachy Cannon, shadow James Skolnick, shadow Jason Smithson. All of these names that I highlighted. I was very lucky to have already chatted with Jason. But probably at that point, our relationship was a little bit more … Yeah. Well, relatively advanced. But yeah, literally laid out a plan. Met those guys, ended up going to the conferences, met Payman. And probably jumping ahead a bit, but within that year, Payman had invited me to get involved with his courses.

Prav: Tom, just going back there, because shortly after that, as you’ve alluded to, you exited from dentistry, but you were mapping out your roadmap, your future on the whiteboard. And you were sort of saying, “Right, if I want to be a good private dentist, these are the people I want to shadow.” Did you have a plan for the next five years or 10 years, or sort of think to yourself, “One day, this is the type of dentist I want to be?”

Prav: Beyond becoming a good private dentist, was it teaching? Was it being that inspirational, Jason Smith-esque character for the younger generation, or was it actually practising a level of dentistry that was world-renowned and people would travel miles to come and … Do you see what I mean?

Tom: Yeah.

Prav: You must’ve had some kind of idea of this is who I want to be. Because the type of guy who writes this down on the white board is not every dentist that I speak to, that’s for sure. It’s like you have a clear vision ahead of you.

Tom: And I’ll say this without hoping to not sound like a dick, but my aim at the time was to be the best in the world. So the pathway that I plotted out was to aim to be that person. At the time, I definitely considered Jason to be up there, top five in the world with all of the other top names that would typically go to any of the conferences. You’ll see guys that I was very fortunate to meet. But yeah, it was quite clear. I was like, I want to be the best in the world.

Tom: It was at a time when social media was kind of taking off but really hadn’t, really it was 2013. So dentistry in Instagram wasn’t a huge thing, but I was definitely seeing the likes of people like Max and Belgrade who were starting to pump out content, high quality content, inspirational content. And I was like, that’s who I want to be.

Tom: So yeah, absolutely teaching was probably the end game. But before then, the step to get there was I need to get myself into a private seat-

Payman: Of course.

Tom: … as soon as possible. And looking around and looking at my peers and being like, okay, well, how long is this going to take me? Realistically, I was like, yes, this might take me five years to get there. But by putting myself in the same room as people like Ahmad, who ended up giving me a job, guys like Payman, all of these guys that I networked and met within the first year, I would go to conferences, regional conferences, there’s local conferences, national conferences, I networked so that I could get me my seat as soon as possible. And I was extremely fortunate that Ahmad gave me that opportunity a year and a half after graduating.

Payman: So look, we’re mapping out this sort of beautiful thing. When was the first time that you started to have doubts?

Tom: So this is the irony, in that I assumed it would take me five years to get to that position. Right? And I thought it would take me like five years to put myself in a position where I’m seeing as many patients as I want to see a day. I’m only doing the procedures that I want to do. I can use the materials that I want. I can do whatever the hell I want.

Tom: The reality was is that I reached that within 15 months of graduating. I had my perfect life. And I just had a day where I was like, oh my God, this is it, isn’t it? And it was then. It was then when I had my perfect set up, I had an incredible team I was working with, I had all the materials [inaudible 00:19:07], if it was two patients a day, whatever it was. And I was creating content for teaching. I was starting to teach. And then I was like, oh, this is it, isn’t it? And it was probably after a bit of a stressful day. And yeah, that was probably the seat.

Tom: And I’ll be honest, Payman, it was spending a significant amount of time with you over the course of the next kind of year. And it gave me some insight into a nonclinical direction.

Payman: I didn’t realise that. But look … I mean Depeche and Richard Fields were spending a significant amount of time with me as well, but they decided to carry on.

Tom: With me as well, mate. It was three of us. We spent a lot of time together.

Payman: No. My point is, how come they decided to carry on and continue? I mean, a year and a half in is not very long. I mean, you must’ve had something in your head that said, you need to stick at something a bit longer. Or why was it so clear that you wanted to leave? I mean, that’s the key question. Was it being hired by me to leave? [crosstalk 00:20:27].

Tom: No, it was a multitude of things. So I think as I was growing older, I’ve kind of done seven years of university straight. I’d never taken an opportunity to really reflect on what I’d done, what I’d accomplished, where my direction was going. It was just bang, next thing. Bang, next thing. Plan next thing. It was just a constant road that I never got the opportunity to pause and reflect.

Tom: At that time when I started to like question, okay, is this what my lifestyle is going to be like? Working three days a week in a practise I’ve … A few things started to really pain me. I’ve never felt like I could be myself around a patient, like never. I never felt like I could let my true personality, the fact that I let out quite a few swear words, the fact that I have quite a dark sense of humour, the fact that I’m a bit of a weirdo. I really struggled. I really, really struggled feeling like I was containing that character. And that probably, it was around the same time when I was like, ah, yeah. I’ve got this ideal lifestyle right now and there’s something within me just doesn’t feel like this is me. This isn’t-

Payman: So you think you like teeth more than you like people?

Tom: Probably at the time, yeah. At the time, I was probably like teeth more than I like people. Because teeth, I could focus on and I could forget the rest. And I really felt like I couldn’t be myself.

Payman: Because for me, it was the exact opposite. I like people. I didn’t like teeth as much as I like people. And what I miss is the people, not the teeth. So then, okay. You decided, you had a moment and yet you thought, “Right. I’m thinking of stopping. And Payman stopped and he’s all right.”

Tom: Yeah.

Payman: You said it to yourself.

Tom: So yeah.

Payman: Did you talk to anyone? Do you talk to your parents?

Tom: Oh yeah, yeah. Of course. Of course. Of course. [crosstalk 00:22:24].

Payman: I remember me saying, “Stick at it.” That’s what I said.

Tom: Yeah.

Payman: Did you speak to your mentor, Jason?

Tom: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I spoke to everyone. I did that. Probably jumping ahead, but one of the biggest things I’d always been obsessed with was entrepreneurial-ism. That’s something that I read The 4-Hour Workweek. That was probably what spoiled it, was I read The 4-Hour Workweek in my second year of university, so …

Tom: And already, I’m thinking, “Okay. Well …” So now, and I’m sure a lot of you who’s listening has read this book and it’s my favourite book. It’s my favourite book for one reason. The reason is, is that it’s … And the real beauty in that book is that for anyone that hasn’t read it, it’s Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek, and at the beginning of the book, he explains how we really have only a couple of really precious commodities in life. Most precious one is time. Time is all of our most precious things that we need to hold on to. And the second thing, and in my opinion, I can’t remember if you said this, but the second thing is health. Health, I hold that as the most important thing in my life. Health is the most important thing.

Tom: And I really started to question like, okay, well is being a clinician the best way I’m going to have wealth in time? So kind of look at it from a commodity perspective in time and also health. And I was seeing cracks. I received my first complaint towards the end of when I ended my career there. And that was one of the things which was like, oh my God, you’re doing the right thing. All the steps were very close to when I ended, like within weeks. And it was a case where-

Payman: Did you think it was unfair, the complaint?

Tom: Absolutely. It was a gold standard case. I’d been referred a 16-year-old boy from a friend, for the hospital, to help treat some white lesions on his front teeth. Treated it with the classic … So it was icon at the time, so kind of bonding, whitening and bonding. Got rid of it. The kid was getting bullied at school. Unfortunately, there was an issue with the billing. So the mum didn’t want to pay basically. And she made a complaint to the GDC. So I had to go through that whole process. I was very fortunate that at that time I had already made the decision that I was going to leave. And I had the time. It was within the next few weeks so I wasn’t as stressed about it as I probably would have been, but it was probably the moment that made me feel vindicated with my choice. I felt like I was making the right choice because I had absolutely no kind of … I didn’t want to have to go through that process of feeling that way, knowing that my livelihood was on the line, depending on other people’s experiences.

Tom: So at that point, I was like done. Absolutely done. So yeah, I was kind of lucky to have that moment. But my heart goes out to anyone that has been through those processes. They’re gut-wrenching. So yeah. [crosstalk 00:25:41].

Prav: Were you nervous about speaking to, let’s say your dad, who advised you-

Tom: Yeah, of course.

Prav: … [crosstalk] dentist? And obviously, he must’ve been very proud of you when you qualified and whatnot. What was that conversation like?

Tom: It was tough, obviously. It was very tough. But I’m extremely fortunate to have a wonderful parents. Very enlightened, extremely hardworking. I do think I’ve kind of been lucky in that I’ve received my work ethic from both of my parents, my mum and my dad, are the most hard working people I know. And yeah, I feel like they saw the pain that I was going through. Yeah, I think it was tough for them, but they supported me. And you know what? It’s still taken a few years. Even a year or so ago, I think my mum like, you wouldn’t go back?

Tom: And I think now they understand and they see how happy I am. Yeah. But yeah. I think it was challenging for them, really challenging because you don’t want to see your children go through that, I suppose.

Payman: No.

Prav: Then Tom, I left dentistry, but I kind of stayed in dentistry. Right? But you made a complete break and went towards … What was your next thing you did? What were you thinking? So you said, “All right, I’m not working, I’m not going to be paid now.” So was that when you went to ski instructor?

Tom: Yeah. And a little bit before then. So when I was in VT, I was like inspired by The 4-Hour Workweek. And I was like, I want to make my own tools. So obsessed with like these tools, I want to make my own. So I also in parallel to when I was in my VT years, I was kind of going through the process of getting a set of tools, sample created in Bangladesh, paying for that to come over to me and really enjoyed that process. And that to me was keeping the kind of inspirational juices flowing, the thought of that. And then it came down to like, I was towards the end of VT and I was like, okay, maybe time to … It was at that time I was thinking about moving on.

Tom: And I was like, the guy, the business I was working with in Bangladesh were like, okay, for us to progress this, you’re going to need to place an order. And the order is going to have to be 1,000 units. And as you can imagine, 1,000 units of an instrument that costs a couple of quid each, it starts to add up when you were taking into account all of the risk involved with that. So I was like, I’m not really keen on this now. I would progress this project if I was going to stay within dentistry. But at that point, I had made the decision on what next. And it was the technology industry. So the technology industry was the next area that I had an interest in.

Tom: I felt it was a growing area. Lots of opportunity, lots of different pathways that I could go down. So I laid out a bit of a plan, kind of like how I did in VT. And so, yeah. My plan was I’m going to have to do some internships. So at the same time that I was very fortunate to work at Ahmad’s space. Black Swan, I’d work there on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays each week. I would then drive back to London, and I worked at two internships within tech companies in London. One, they were both in what are called accelerator funds, so for small seed startups. Worked one within the Google campus. And I worked one within the [inaudible] within London as well. So I was working six days a week, three days a week doing internships unpaid, and then three days a week working still with Ahmad in … Yeah, the Black Swan.

Payman: How did you feel you were equipped to handle those internships in the tech companies? Did you feel like you were as good as the other interns there and …

Tom: Really great question, because I think that … Yeah, that this opens up the sad reality … No, it wasn’t sad, but the reality was that I offered nothing. Yeah. I turned up to these guys. I had a biomedical science degree. I had a dentist degree and these guys who when I applied for these unpaid internships were probably looking at each other thinking, “Who the hell is this bloke?” He’s just two years out from being a dentist and you’re saying that you don’t want to do it anymore and you want to be an unpaid intern? But yeah, I think that’s the only thing that got me those jobs, was the fact that I could kind of prove that I was hardworking.

Payman: Did you literally Google, ‘internship tech company’ is that what happened or did you [crosstalk 00:30:45]?

Tom: Yeah. Do you know what? Probably. Yeah, probably.

Payman: Didn’t know someone?

Tom: No. No. No. No. I knew absolutely no one. There are a couple of websites that I used back then. So one was called Escape The City, which was … Yeah, kind of ironic. It’s a website for people who were within previously in like the financial industry within the city of London who didn’t like the corporate life and wanted to work for young, interesting startups. So Escape The City was one website that I used. And that was actually yeah, that was the one. And then there was Work In … We work in startups, so Work In Startups, which is the other one I used. And applied for a bunch, got very lucky and then worked there. Worked to those kind of concurrently with working at Black Swan for about … It must’ve been about four or five months.

Tom: The aim was always to be able to build myself something on my CV that showed that I had an intent to work in the tech industry. And after a few months, I kept on applying for some full-time jobs. And eventually, managed to get a job at an incredible startup called Technology Will Save Us. They’re essentially a toy company of the future. And I ended up getting a job there as a business development manager and ended up looking after their UK retail operations for two years.

Payman: So what was that? You were going into retailers and online retailers trying to sell more of their stuff?

Tom: Absolutely. Yeah. So the business that I worked for had a range of toy kits, and my job was to find businesses within the UK and Europe to sell those into. And I kind of again, wrote down a list. I was like, great. I want to be in all of these stores. And a year later, I was running in between on Oxford street at Christmas time, I was running into John Lewis going and checking our stock. I was going next door into Urban Outfitters, next door into Top Shop. In and out of these stores, making sure that our stuff looked good. So it was a big shift from, well doing a class two cavity on an upper left six.

Payman: How many people were these companies? I mean, was it very early startup or how would you …

Tom: This company, so Tech Will Save Us was a slightly larger startup. So would be just, they’re seed funded, but they had about 30 people working for them at the time in Hackney in London. And my role was as one of two people within the sales team to yeah, to sell those products into all the businesses in the UK.

Payman: So what happened next?

Tom: Yeah. That’s kind of when I, again, two years working for them. And I realised that yet again, I’d still not had a chance to take a step back and reflect.

Payman: Now Prav, are you seeing a pattern?

Tom: [crosstalk 00:33:32]. Prav, you seeing a pattern? Yeah. So-

Prav: Tell you what I’m seeing, the first time I realised you’d left dentistry is I saw a video on social media and you were cracking eggs into a bowl. And I think you might’ve been chopping some avocado or something like that [crosstalk 00:33:50].

Tom: Yeah. Yeah.

Prav: And I thought, “I swear this guy’s a dentist. What the hell is he making videos about making scrambled eggs?” And then I rang Payman, he’s like, “Mate, this guy is one of the most talented dentists I know, and just left.” So that’s when I realised you’d left.

Tom: Yeah.

Payman: Tom, what happened next? Go on.

Tom: So yeah-

Payman: You put your feet up, you didn’t want to be a salesman anymore?

Tom: That job was so, so good. It was epic. I was going-

Payman: Did you get an insight into the management side, the [crosstalk] side? All of the …

Tom: Everything, because it was such a small company. We were working like living and breathing it. It was intense. It was fast paced. I was visiting businesses all over the country. I was kind of like yeah, going to talks with the Maplin head office and negotiating these big deals. It was just perfect. It really was. Absolutely phenomenal job. The people that I worked with were great, the job itself was just so fun. And I felt like I actually did a pretty good job as well. I managed to get our products in the likes of Selfridges and Harrods and like nationwide, and John Lewis. I felt like I’d done really good there.

Tom: Unfortunately, along with that intensity and speed was a fair bit of stress. I won’t go into details, but it was difficult seeing that, being so close to management owned by a wife and husband team where their livelihood depended on the success of that business, and they’d invested so much into. So yeah, it was at that stage where I kind of was like, okay, I’d like to go onto the next thing. But at that stage when things were probably getting a little bit high-pressured, I was like, maybe it’s time for me to do a gap year. And I was 28, and I decided to have my gap year at the age of 28. So yeah, that was kind of where my next step was. So I decided that yeah, for two years, I’m going to act like a slightly older teenager.

Payman: What did you do?

Tom: Yeah. What did I do? What didn’t I do? So I lived a very fast, wild and loose lifestyle, living in the French and Austrian Alps for two years, to put it shortly. But yeah. Within those two years, I saw a lot, I experienced a lot and had the very, very best days of my life and-

Payman: And you were a very keen skier, I seem to remember.

Tom: Yeah. I love skiing. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to do it originally. I wanted to do a ski instructor course, but those costs 10 grand and I didn’t have 10k lying about. So yeah. I was like, I’m going to go and I’m going to be a driver for a chalet company in Val d’Isère. And I spent six months of my life … Most of the time I was drunk driving around the French Alps, with poor customers in the back of my van scraping off ice. And yeah, so it was a loose lifestyle, but that’s the way it was. And I met some amazing friends for life that I see regularly. And I have a wonderful girlfriend that I met three years to this day in Austria. And it’s been … Yeah, it was the best years of my life for sure, were those two years when I had the opportunity to just let loose.

Prav: And then during that time, is that when you got the time to reflect on the future or …

Tom: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. It was the time when I really … I didn’t have that whiteboard, so I had the opportunity to be like okay, things probably didn’t go as you expected your 20s to go, but damn, you’ve had the best two years of your life, so I was-

Payman: Tom, do you reckon that this white board … I’m sure Prav relates to this more than I do because I’ve never had a whiteboard myself, but do you reckon that you were one of these guys who is quite hard on yourself as far as … Or was quite hard on yourself as far as what you need to achieve by when and so on, even as a kid? And then there was a degree of burnout of that kind of behaviour, and you needed these two years to just be yourself and not be ambitious and all that.

Payman: Because your ambition was on a par with some of the most ambitious people I’ve come across. And yet, you chopped and changed a lot. And I get a feeling, yeah? That those two years where your time to be yourself and not have to always strive towards something. I’m expecting Prav to take two years out to be the promoter soon, because he’s got the same problem.

Tom: You know what? You nailed it. It was exactly that. It was a two-year period where I had the chance to meet people outside of this medical field bubble. So just people that had completely different perspectives to life than me. And it was amazing. And I think the fact that I was in my late 20s and I’d experienced that … Yeah, exactly like that. That I need to achieve this. I need to do this, and just live this 100% lifestyle for so long. And I kind of missed the big picture of like actually, life is not about that. Life is about who you meet, who you spend time with. The experiences you have. And those two years, funnily enough, went to Ibiza, had one of the best times ever. I did get to experience things that I probably had missed out on in my years where that whiteboard was set up there with that list of things.

Tom: But it’s funny because just before we got on the call with you today, I opened up my notebook and it was actually, it’s opened up to my page from just about a year ago, where I’d laid out all of my 2020 goals and habits. Quite funny, because I kind of quickly was like, oh that’s quite cute. Reading through them, things like 10-minute morning mobility routine, daily journaling, 100 pushups a day, no two days off. And I’m like, oh damn, I’ve literally done none of these. I’ve done none of these.

Tom: And then in the middle of the page, there’s five words. And it’s; health, wealth, happiness, relationships and career. And I’m like okay. Well, I’ve got all these tactics that I have not done any … Well, I haven’t done consistently any of these, yet when I look at each of those main things like my health, am I happy with my health? Absolutely. Am I happy with my wealth? Absolutely. Like my ability to manage money this year has gone to another level. My happiness, I had a time in the middle of this summer when I was the most … I was laying in bed, it was the most content I’ve ever felt in my life, and I have no idea why. And I think it was part of that was just … Yeah, I don’t know. It was weird. And yeah, relationships, absolutely. Career. Yeah. Pretty damn happy. Yeah, it’s kind of weird. But [crosstalk 00:41:06]-

Payman: What are you doing now? What are you doing now? You have this wonderful time, which sounds to me wonderful. And then you decided, enough of that lifestyle, time to get back to work.

Tom: Yeah, sure. It was-

Payman: The back in tech, right?

Tom: Yeah. I must have been … Yeah. 29. Unfortunately, that two years actually put a bit of a … Yeah, it wasn’t as easy to get a job again after basically just being permanently drunk for two years. It was very difficult for me to get a job. So I started from scratch again. Managed to get a job working at this kind of software startup, which was again, fantastic. Had a great experience there, working there for a year. And for the last year, I’ve now been working for a fantastic startup called Contentsquare, who are a user experience analytics platform for websites, with the hopes of going public within the next 12 to 18 months.

Tom: So a very exciting time. And that’s probably where I see my … If someone would say what I do now, my role is as a website analytics expert. And yeah, recently just launched my own company, which I’m quite excited about.

Prav: Tell us more.

Tom: Yeah. So about a year ago or a year and a half ago, I met up with one of my colleagues at the time. Lovely girl called Claudia. And we worked within the retail space. So we worked with clients from a software perspective. We work with online clients, like Feelunique, like beauty brands, Space NK, all these big beauty retailers. And I was like pitched this to her. I asked her, “Do you think that there’s an online space for sustainable beauty products?” She said no. So since then, we’ve been on the hunt to find some of the best sustainable beauty products within the world and put them all in one place on a platform online which we have called Vyable Beauty. So we have a fledgling business, which has been … I cannot tell you how fun it’s been like growing this.

Payman: And Tom, I remember, I asked you about this. And I said, “Well, you’ve been in this startup world with a seed round, round A, round B. Is that what you’re going to do now, you’re going to raise funds?” And you said to me, if I remember, that you’ve seen the stress that that causes.

Tom: Yeah.

Payman: Tell us more about that. I mean, first is the company you’re at, at the moment, that must be quite a huge place now, right? If it’s going public.

Tom: Absolutely. So it’s a business that I think it has … I can’t remember the numbers, but it’s around $140 million of revenue annually. About seven to 800 people in the business [crosstalk 00:43:49]-

Payman: So you’ve seen these startups from sort of the very fledging ones and the 30-people. And now we’ve got this one with $140 million of turnover looking at listing. And you’re saying that journey’s not for you or not yet?

Tom: Yeah. So it depends on the type of business, right? So that business is a software business. It is they’re selling a service to other biggest businesses within the world. So some of my clients are the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Rolex, those guys. So they’re my clients that I look after. The platform that I’m building, that’s definitely going to be designed as being more of a slow burner. The reality, we’ll never go public. It’s not going to be that type of company. So the investment requirements for that type of company are different.

Tom: But yeah, absolutely. The answer to that is, I don’t know how we’re going to fund things indefinitely. We’re open to any and every option. And I think that’s just part of the process. As you guys know in your own businesses, you have to take what you can see in front of you, make decisions based on that. Perhaps you’ll pivot, as I know that you are, Pay. You’re going to be slightly pivoting, or at least making branches to your business.

Tom: So yeah. I don’t know is the answer. At the moment, we’re just trying to set the foundation for the company. So making sure all of our sales channels, marketing channels are set up correctly and working well. Getting that foundation set so that hopefully over the next few years we can scale.

Prav: And Tom, you’re essentially at the moment, an employee at one company.

Tom: Yeah.

Prav: Earlier on in the conversation, you mentioned entrepreneurial-ism or however you say that, right?

Tom: Yeah.

Prav: And that’s something that sort of fuels you, right? It drives you. And then you’ve got this, what I’ve considered to be a side hustle. And so what’s going on in your mind right now? Is where you’re working at the moment almost like a stepping stone to the bigger picture where you see yourself maybe having multiple side hustles to the point where you think, “Do you know what? The income level on the side hustle is enough to sustain me, and then I’ll go 100% in,” or are you at some time going to say, “Do you know what? I’m just going to take this risk and jump and go 100% into [crosstalk 00:46:11], or whatever it is.”

Prav: And there’s always that tipping point, isn’t there? Where you think, “Right, I’m going to go all in now.” Have you thought about that?

Tom: I don’t know. I flip that question to you guys, because that is something … Yeah, I’ll be honest, I battle with that daily. I ask myself that question daily. I don’t know the answer to that. I do know that yeah, I’ll be completely frank. My venture is something that I would love to spend 100% of my time on as soon as possible. Reality is, as you said, this is a side hustle for me at the moment. It is just trying to make things work, trying to make sure I perform at my job. And hopefully like maybe this resonates with people, like trying to do multiple projects on the side. It is just a balancing act. I’m just trying my hardest to make sure that I perform my full-time job and also spending nights, evenings, and weekends doing my side hustle.

Payman: One thing I would say, bud, is anything worthwhile tends to take three, four years to sort of really [crosstalk 00:47:16].

Tom: Yeah.

Payman: I mean, we have to say, we lost money for three years at Enlighten. Even when you look at overnight successes, there was three or four years before that moment that they were working … Of course, you could be super lucky and the right celebrity or whatever it is, but there is that sticking with something for a bit longer-

Tom: Yeah.

Payman: … question.

Tom: Yeah, yeah. So I think realistically, I’m looking forward and I’m thinking minimum, a couple of years before I’m going to be able to take the full dive into it. So yeah, I’m well aware of that. I’ll do everything within my power to make that jump soon as possible. I’m very fortunate that my full-time role, it feeds directly into what my business and myself. It’s understanding how to optimise performance of websites, which is exactly what I’m trying to do that with my own business, as well as my founder, who I work with as well.

Tom: So yeah, they feed in with each other. They are very complimentary. Frankly, I love my job at the moment. So my full-time job again, is I’m very lucky. I’ve got a great job. Yeah. It’s extremely complimentary to what I’m doing with my own business and-

Payman: Tom, Tom.

Tom: Yeah.

Payman: You’re not the kind of guy to regret stuff. Yeah?

Tom: Yeah.

Payman: But, I want to dig into that a little bit. If there was a regret regarding leaving dentistry, what is that regret? Because I regret it, I regret you left. I think you could have made a contribution for sure, or you already had even as a VT. So by the way, it would take 10 years to really become the dentist you wanted to become. But regret-wise, do you regret it? Do you at all regret it, if there was a regret, what would it be? And for someone thinking of leaving dentistry now, maybe people haven’t got that sort of … You’d seem to be very, very, very comfortable jumping about, doing things. And not everyone’s got that. I mean-

Tom: Yeah. Of course. Of course. Of course. So-

Payman: What’s your advice? What’s your advice about that? And tell me about regrets.

Tom: Yeah. Let’s start with regrets. I want to be careful with this because I obviously know the audience that you guys have and-

Prav: Just speak your mind, mate. [crosstalk 00:49:48].

Payman: Yeah, yeah. [crosstalk 00:49:50].

Tom: So yeah. I don’t have any regrets. I’ve had the best five years of my life without completely objectively, I can look at that and I’ve had the best times of my life. I feel like I’m in a position where my career is now taking off in the direction that I kind of probably was more aligned to me, what I should have done originally. I went down a path of being a dentist based on the experiences that I had with my family. That was what pushed me down that route.

Tom: I think these days, social media has meant that the prospects of entrepreneurial-ism is more accessible to people at a younger age, whereas our generation probably just, we didn’t have that. So it took me reading a book by Tim Ferriss to kind of have my eyes, perhaps, the blinders pulled back a little bit.

Tom: So do I have any regrets? I don’t. Sadly, I’m still on WhatsApp groups with my good mates from university who are still dentists. And every time a message comes through … Well, not every time. We obviously have a lot of banter and stuff, but there’s a lot of times where I’m like, I count myself extremely lucky I’m not in that position anymore. I will always say this, I’ve done dozens of jobs, dentistry was by far the most stressful.

Payman: Really?

Tom: By a long, long, long way. I’ve had some really … What people consider some stressful jobs. I’ve worked in hospitality, a lot in hospitality. Yeah, I’ve worked in technology. And dentistry, nothing will ever touch the stress that-

Payman: How does it go down when you tell someone from a recruitment perspective that you were a dentist, how does that go down?

Tom: I mean, usually back maybe a couple of years ago, it’s a bit more of a different conversation because I think then people were asking me the same questions that you guys are like would you … Well, they were like, are you never going to go back? And I’d have to be like, no. That ship sailed. It was a chapter of my life. I’m proud of that chapter. I feel like I contributed.

Tom: It’s funny, I have one of the most viewed videos on YouTube for class one composite. It’s over half a million views on YouTube and I’m proud of that, I’m proud of that. And I feel like I left a contribution there, but it was a chapter in my life that I have absolutely no regrets. I do think that there’s a lot of people within dentistry that wish they could make that jump. I figured when I was very early on that it was something that I needed to make sooner rather than later.

Payman: Yeah. But look, someone wants to leave, they’ve got all the sort of standard options. They could go into dental public health, or they could go into the medico-legal. But if you go into something completely separate, when you say I was a dentist, does that kind of go down well?

Tom: I think I had some assumptions when I first made the jump, that it was going to be a really important factor in helping me get to where I wanted to get to next. It wasn’t. And that was because I did the full leap out of dentistry. So I cut chords and therefore, there was no ties. It was like okay, great. You got a dentist’s degree. You can-

Payman: Like any degree.

Tom: … do a filing. Yeah, exactly. So perhaps there’s a little bit, the fact that it’s a medical degree, there’s a little bit more prestige with that. It’s a really interesting thing for people … We have a conversation about, whether it’s employees, they do like it, people do like it. One think about it, it’s definitely not cool. It never will be cool being a dentist or an ex-dentist, sadly, as we all know. We all think that we’re these … Yeah, cool, cool people. But no, the medics got that one. So there’s nothing cool about that, but it is interesting. It’s a good topic that, it’s a good discussion topic. It’s always people, brings a smile to their face [crosstalk 00:53:53].

Prav: And take us through either a day in the life or a week in the life, or whatever paints the better picture of somebody who has got a full-time role at another place, running your side hustle, the passion that you’ve got for that, and what that entails from morning routine, right from you race home from work, you’re on this next bit where maybe there’s a switch of mindset and then where does your other half fit into the picture as well?

Tom: Yeah. So I think obviously, at the moment in time, so we’re going through this pandemic where that has been a huge … It’s given me back like 15 hours or so of my life every week, where I’ve been able to invest that time in my business. So instead of spending an hour and a half commuting every morning and every evening, I’ve now got three hours in a day where I can now actually invest that in my business, in the evening for example. So yeah, the full working day, 9:00 to 6:00. And then in the evenings, I’ll do a couple of hours of work, a couple of hours of work. And then weekends, again, we’ve kind of been in this kind of weird pandemic time where everything’s been locked down-

Payman: What does that working day look like? What do you do?

Tom: So my working day usually, it involves two things. So I’m either on calls with our clients. So the businesses that we work with, like I said, the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, whoever they may be. Last week, for example, I was working with the Oliver Bonas team. And so working a couple of hours a day with them, teaching them how to analyse their own website. And then the rest of the day will be working on actually doing analysis of people’s websites. So understanding how users behave on the websites. So that’s my day. So my day is either client facing. My role is a client facing role. Obviously, under these circumstances, we’re doing everything via Zoom. Typically, I’d be expected to be travelling around Europe, going to these businesses’ offices.

Payman: So it’s a bit of software that tracks mouse movements and all of that.

Tom: Exactly, exactly. Yeah. So we know exactly what … And anonymously, we know what users do when they come to a website, where they’re clicking, where they’re hovering. I’m not going to lie, when I did my interview and they kind of explained that this was what the product did, I was like, “What the hell? Are you kidding me?” So yeah, I was very naive to how advanced technology is these days.

Payman: All right. [inaudible 00:56:28].

Tom: Yeah. So that’s what a day in the life looks like. A week in the life is work 9:00 to 6:00. Since not having to commute to work, that’s given me back 15 hours of time, which I’ve been intent on making sure I invest into my business. But yeah, I’m not going to lie, like we’re going through a time where there’s nowhere near enough hours in the day for me to be able to do what I would like to do. So I’m really having to make sure I prioritise, I’m thinking very strategically about my time is going to be going towards the business and learning stuff all the time. That’s the one thing that has never left me. I just love learning new stuff.

Payman: Well, it’s lovely to hear you’re happy and you’re doing so well. Prav likes to end it on his particular question.

Prav: I don’t think it’s relevant, mate.

Payman: I think it is.

Prav: You do?

Tom: Hey, mate. Say it, say it, say it.

Prav: You do? Okay. And the reason I said that is, I think there’s just so much more in Tom’s future and so much more experience for him to gain. But Tom, one of the questions that I ask all of our guests is imagine it was your last day on the planet and you had your loved ones around you, whoever they are, and you had to leave them with three pieces of advice, what would they be?

Tom: Great question. Yeah, it’s funny because I listened to your podcast with Dominic O’hooley a couple of weeks ago. And the question you asked him was what would you do outside if you weren’t a dentist? And he said, “I’d be a philosopher.” It’s funny because I never got to meet Dominic. Always swam him on all of the forums and all the threads and very inflammatory bloke, but a very interesting bloke as well. So yeah, shout out to Dominic who I never got to meet.

Tom: What three things would I tell them now? There’s a few things that I think that I’ve kind of seen to be consistent with my life and what I think leads to my happiness. One of them is gaining some sort of control, a feeling of control over your life. Whether that’s directionally, health-wise, whatever it may be.

Tom: So one of that is figure out what makes you feel like you’re in control. That’s something that I feel has been able to directly help my happiness, directly prevent anxiety, is feeling what that is and understanding what that is. And that’s a process that takes years to understand. I feel like I’m kind of getting there, but understand what helps you feel like … Feels like you’re in control of yourself, your situation, your direction.

Tom: The other thing will be to work hard. I really do believe that working hard is one of the meanings of life. You’re put on this planet. You are given … If you’re an able-bodied, if you are … I recognise that I’m very privileged. I’ve come up in a very privileged position and that’s probably the one thing that drives me the most, is feeling that I have privilege and really wanting to make sure that I give back to this life that I feel extremely blessed to have been given. So work hard would be my second thing.

Tom: Third thing would be, it’s kind of probably along the lines of experience, experience this world. This world is an incredibly beautiful and rich piece of rock in this universe. You have the opportunity you’ve been given to be a part of this existence, don’t waste it. Experience as much as you can, experience it with as many people as you can. Don’t feel like you’re trapped in a bubble, get outside of your bubble and live a rich, fully experienced life.

Prav: Lovely, Tom. Lovely. And one final question. What would you like your legacy to be? I.e. how would you like to be remembered above and beyond the YouTube video?

Tom: Mate, I’m pretty happy with that, to be honest. My legacy, I would like people to look back and say, “He worked hard. He had fun. He laughed.”

Payman: Good. Good.

Tom: That’s all I can … Yeah.

Payman: I think Prav, it was the right question to ask.

Prav: Yeah, I agree. With hindsight.

Payman: But it’s lovely having you on. And I know you didn’t need to do this, so it’s lovely that you agreed to do this.

Prav: [crosstalk 01:01:08]. Thank you so much.

Tom: Yeah. No, thank you so much for having me. I do you think like it’s … Like I said, Payman, you’ve been an inspiration to me over the years and continue to. And yeah, likewise to you, Prav. I think the stuff that you were interested in is there’s definitely a lot of crossover with the things that I’m interested in at the moment. And hopefully yeah, to those people, I do get people messaging me quite frequently from seeing my videos. And I’m just trying to understand why am I not a clinician?

Tom: For anyone that might be questioning things, I’m always open there to have a cover chat, have a conversation about either how I did it, why I did it? It’s a huge thing, so please do feel free to reach out-

Payman: What’s your Instagram, buddy?

Tom: So it’s Tom_Youngs_. So Tom Youngs. Just search for with Tom Youngs on Instagram, find me, messaged me on Instagram. And I’m more than welcome to have a chat to you. Yeah. Not an easy thing to come to terms with, so …

Payman: There’s actually a Facebook group for people looking to leave dentistry.

Tom: Is there?

Payman: I’m going to post it. Things have changed a bit from your time.

Tom: Yeah. Well, okay. Well, yeah. So maybe the support is there already, so you don’t need to have a chat. But anyway-

Payman: No. No. No. I’m saying you might get a bunch of calls.

Tom: Yeah. I know it’s a big thing. So please do use me to ask any questions that you might.

Payman: All right, buddy. Well, lovely to have you and see you soon.

Tom: Thank you so much. Yeah.

Prav: Really [crosstalk 01:02:38].

Tom: Love seeing you guys. Bye, guys.

Prav: Take care.

Outro 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.

Prav: Thanks for listening guys. If you’ve got this far, you must have listened to the whole thing. And just a huge thank you both for me and Pay, for actually sticking through and listening to what we’ve had to say and what our guest has had to say, because I’m assuming you got some value out of it.

Payman: If you did get some value out of it, think about subscribing. And if you would, share this with a friend who you think might get some value out of it too. Thank you so, so, so much for listening. Thanks.

Prav: And don’t forget our six-star rating.




If anyone was born to be a dentist, it’s this week’s guest. Avi Sachdev is a surgeon with Croydon’s Gentle Dental Group, which he co-owns and runs with dad Kam, brother Mish and other family members. The eight-clinic group is the very definition of a family-owned business. 

Avi lets us in on what working with family, talks us through life under lockdown and shares ideas about how UK dentistry could benefit from a more unified approach.


“Always use Enlighten.” – Avi Sachdev


In This Episode

29.00 – Family business
11.52 – Running the group
16.42 – Avi in lockdown
21.40 – New whys
24.20 – Acquisitions
28.06 – Family, roles and recruitment
31.54 – Advice to associates
37.49 – Clinical tips
41.25 – CEREC
43.34 – Blackbox thinking
54.18 – Croydon Dental Seminars
57.14 – In an ideal world
01.05.20 – No-fear mentality
01.07.40 – Avi’s plans
01.13.34 – Last day and posterity


About Avi Sachdev

Avi Sachdev graduated from King’s College London and gained his MFDS from the Royal College of Surgeon in Edinburgh.

He went on to complete a master’s degree with the University of Kent. He is a surgeon at Gentle Dental, a family-owned group of eight clinics based in Croydon.

Avi: I think one of the things that we don’t really acknowledge is, the team behind us are so important. They work so hard. I’m really, really proud of our team.

Speaker 2: 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: It gives great pleasure to welcome Avi Sachdev to the podcast. Avi comes from a family full of dentists. Welcome, Avi.

Avi: Thanks, Payman. That’s quite an intro.

Payman: Yeah. I met your dad… You were probably in school when I met your dad the first time, how old are you bud?

Avi: I’m 32.

Payman: Yeah. I was thinking about it this morning. I think I met him 15, 16 years ago.

Avi: Yeah. Probably. Yeah.

Payman: Correct me if I’m wrong, I think it was a mixed practise in Croydon?

Avi: Yeah, yeah.

Payman: A very average-looking practise, nothing out of the ordinary, but there was something about your dad. For a start, 16 years ago, he was asking for Enlighten in his mixed practise in Croydon. Even today, mixed practises have difficulty beginning. He had a glint in his eye and he said to me, “I’m going to build something.” And I said, “Wow. Okay,” and then he did. He built up the spaceship of a practise, the Gentle Dental in Croydon around the corner. And now you guys are up to how many practises?

Avi: Last year we picked up our eighth.

Payman: Eighth. Wow.

Avi: We picked up our eighth, yeah.

Payman: What was it like?

Avi: Dad had a plan.

Payman: What was it like as a kid? I mean, were you totally immersed in dentistry as a family? How was it that all of you went into dentistry? Was that a plan? Or how was it? Tell me about your childhood.

Avi: I think as kids, it was fairly normal. I think we had a really happy childhood. I think we were in our little bubble, every kid is. We don’t really know what’s going on around us. We used to have dad do the school run in the morning. Mom sometimes picked us up, always running a few minutes late, but whenever dad picked us up, it was always on time, dead on time.

Avi: He always used to leave at like 3:00, if he was having to pick us up. So he was around a lot and took really good care of us, but I also think it was a case of… They never let us know how hard they actually worked for us. They used to take us on holidays and trips and things that we just take for granted, but you see them pulling weekends, you see them working on the books late at night. You saw an idea of just how hard they actually worked to keep everything kind of going and to keep our lives really, really good. We were lucky. We went to private schools all of us.

Payman: Did you live around Croydon?

Avi: Yeah. So they’re still in our family home. So I think that they moved into that when I was two. Shiv, my older sister was three, and Mish was six at the time. I don’t really have many memories of the first home that we had, but I’ve got the memory of the home where we lived down in South Croydon. It was really, really good. There was a lot of fun growing up there.

Payman: So you’re the youngest?

Avi: I’m the youngest. Yeah. I’m the youngest.

Payman: So you watched Mish and Shiv become dentists?

Avi: Shiv took a year out, and so we were in the same year at King’s.

Payman: Oh, is Shiv not much older than you?

Avi: She is a year older than me. She is what? 15 months or so. Mish is four years older so I saw him become a dentist, I saw how close my dad and him were. I never really wanted to do dentistry. Shiv was much more keen to do dentistry, but kind of we were spoonfed our grades. So we got kind of our 11 GCCEs. We got five As at A-level. It was very perfunctory to just sit there and achieve things because of the schools we went to.

Avi: I remember getting my grades and thinking I did okay. And I remember my friends, my year group saying, “Actually, you know what? Out of the 600,” or whatever UMS it was, I remember out of that, the guys that I was with used to get 580, 590 out of the 600. And when I kind of still got my A, they would be just like, “How did you not get 100 out of 100 on this and this and this?” So we were really, really lucky. Our schools really pushed us and our parents worked tirelessly for us. So it was pretty amazing as a kid.

Payman: Was there the propaganda of, become a dentist take care of the family business or not?

Avi: There wasn’t that at all. I think dad really enjoyed Mish becoming a dentist. I think I was too young to really understand what that looked like and that closeness definitely no cush… I mean, it’s funny. I think I wanted to do something in economics or in medicine. My dad arranged my work experience at St Helier’s, the hospital, but he arranged it on the renal unit. So I was surrounded for my two week stint I want to become a doctor, by dialysis patients. I don’t know if you know the smell there. I don’t know if you know how-

Payman: I can imagine.

Avi: Yeah. So I don’t know if there was a little bit of subterfuge going where he’s actually seeding, “Oh, this is what your life could look like, or you could become a dentist.” But no, I didn’t really want to do dentistry even throughout dental school. Kind of I remember year one was mostly sciences, it wasn’t great. So-

Payman: Did you all [inaudible] the dental school as well?

Avi: So dad went to Guy’s back in the day, Mish went there, and then my sister and myself. Yeah. We’re all kind of [inaudible 00:05:45]-

Payman: Family tradition, man.

Avi: Yeah. I know. I think that there was Prof. Hutchinson, I want to say, who taught my dad and then also taught us, which was a weird one.

Payman: So, did your dad come here before university? Where was he before?

Avi: Yeah. So my dad came to university. He was from originally from Kenya, both my parents are from Kenya. Came here before university. Dad worked incredibly hard. He worked in a sweet shop. He worked in a whole bunch of jobs to try and put him and then his brothers, he’s got three younger brothers, through school, through university. The reason he became a dentist was actually to put his youngest brother through kind of school [crosstalk 00:06:23]-

Payman: I hear this story from Kenyans specifically. I don’t know if you’ve listened to the other podcasts here. That same story from Vishal, Bru, from Anup [inaudible] Mani about his dad. I think he’s from Uganda or was it Kenya? But that, it’s a Kenyan thing. It’s like, “Come struggle, put your family through.” And well it’s borne fruit, so that’s nice. So you’re saying you didn’t enjoy being a dental student?

Avi: I don’t know. I enjoyed the student aspect, but I never wanted to do dentistry. I think it was, I remember, halfway through my third year. You know the aesthetic advantage course? You had Larry on?

Payman: Larry. Yeah.

Avi: And the aesthetic advantage course we did. So my brother did that and he kind of did his level one and dad was doing his level three at the time with Larry and Mike. And I think I was Misha’s nurse, which was great over there. So in third year of dental school, we took a trip to New York and I think it was my third or fourth time. It’s one of my favourite cities.

Avi: I sat in the audience, bored out of my head because I didn’t want to be there because I don’t like dentistry. I remember sitting in the audience and I couldn’t really relate to anything because it was all really super cosmetic, high level, higher-end dentistry. This little, young 30 something, 20 something came on, and I was listening, I was captivated by it and I had a chat with him afterwards and-

Payman: [crosstalk 00:07:57]?

Avi: … he was talking to me about the colour of his background and how he’d spent ages picking out and selecting the exact colour. When I was chatting with him, there was something about that conversation, his persona, his kind of, not arrogance, but just confidence, that really resonated, and I think it was off the back of that. I remember walking back to the hotel and thinking, “Actually that’s the kind of dentist I want to be.”

Payman: That the penny dropped?

Avi: That was it. Yeah. And I think actually we have that on tape somewhere. The old recorders with a little mini-

Payman: Yes. Yeah. [inaudible 00:08:36].

Avi: Yeah. So we have those. We actually have that lecture on tape and I saw it, I want to say, last Christmas? I remember looking at myself and I remember looking at a young Mike [Epper] and Larry and the team there, and Jay and even Kathy. It was one of those things where I was like, “That was the moment.” It was a very clear in my head where I was like, “I don’t want to do dentistry, I want to do that.”

Avi: Then kind of we’ve been really, really lucky. We exchanged numbers and actually over lockdown, I actually shot him a few messages and he’s doing really, really well.

Payman: Mike. Yeah.

Avi: He’s doing quite well.

Payman: Mike’s doing pretty well.

Avi: Very, very well. It’s great that he’s so successful yet he’ll still turn around and pick up a message. He’ll still turn around and help. It’s a really good trait, a really good characteristic.

Payman: And so at that time, Mish wasn’t a specialist?

Avi: Mm-mm (negative). Yeah. [crosstalk 00:09:27].

Payman: So when did he decide to do that? How many years was he… ?

Avi: Okay, that was dad. That was that dad.

Payman: Oh, really.

Avi: That was dad for sure. So dad didn’t love perio. So he was like, “Oh, you know what? I think you should do this. I think you should do this.” That was dad. That was all dad. So he qualified and then had a couple of years. I think he did his VT, which is not allowed now. I think he did his VT with dad, which was great. Then a couple of years, I think he did a house job, and then went into perio at [Easton 00:09:53].

Payman: So now, I mean, we’ll go through the story of how it happened, but if we fast forward now, is Mish more the clinical kind of director and you’re more like an operationals guy? How’d you guys split? I mean, managing this sort of eight practise beast, how does it split as far as responsibilities? What does your dad do? What does Mish do? What do you do? What does Shivani do? And you said Shivani’s husband is also a part of [crosstalk 00:10:23]?

Avi: Yeah. So Soro is-

Payman: Soro. Sorry.

Avi: We have a story around Soro. He’s my brother-in-law. So I remember he met everyone in the family except me and I came home and I met him by chance and he was lying down. I think my sister was kind of was sitting there and he was lying down and I think their shoulders were touching. I remember walking in and then suddenly he jumped up. So, Soro and I, we didn’t start off on the best grounds, but actually he’s like a second brother to me. He’s amazing. So Soro is one of the directors now, Mish is one of [crosstalk 00:10:55]-

Payman: So who does what? Who does what?

Avi: Soro does a lot of the clinical. So he works probably the hardest clinically out of all of us. Mish does his specialist work three and a half four days a week, and dad works clinically. I mean, last week I was struggling with a case and I didn’t have the space to see the patient myself. So dad came and did four hours of really high-end cosmetic, smile, makeover stuff to help me out. It was amazing. So dad still does very much [inaudible] dentistry and I work on the operations and the management. Still do two or three days a week, but that’s kind of how we split our time. So, really not-

Payman: So you’re the main sort of operator of the business, is that right?

Avi: I don’t think I’m the main operator. I think I’m really supported well clinically by the other guys, but a lot of the management decisions, a lot of the planning decisions, we kind of sit down and we have a chat and then a lot of the time I’m executing some of the stuff behind it, but it’s really good. It’s a lot of fun.

Payman: But okay, so I was looking at the list of practises. You’ve got a practise in Kent somewhere, Orpington.

Avi: Mm-hmm (affirmative). [inaudible 00:11:59].

Payman: There’s a manager there?

Avi: So that practise at the moment is part-time, so it’s three days a week. It’s kind of [crosstalk 00:12:08]-

Payman: What are the other ones? What are other ones that is working? You’re not there. You’re not there.

Avi: We have quite a lot of really great staff. We have Head of Finance, we have Head of Marketing, we have a group PM. We have some senior receptionists, nurses that really help and support us. We’re not as corporate as maybe we should be, or we could be, but I think we’re really, really lucky. I mean, I’m looking over, I’ve got a couple of whiteboards just literally behind you. Here’s the majority of my work. So we’re just planning management structures now. We’re rejigging things. We’re planning to go into a bit more of a flattened pyramid, so try and promote internally and recruit newbies for some other positions, but it should be good. It should be fun.

Payman: So, that Head of Marketing and Head of Finance are centralised? They’re like head office people?

Avi: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Payman: Are they the only two?

Avi: So I think our PM is somebody who does travel between sites, but she’s usually based out of one, but we only have three kind of what we call potentially management people. We’re really lucky we have…. So the nurse that I work with, she does a lot of our ordering, a lot of our stock control, helps me with a lot of my admin support. We have Mish’s nurse again that helps Soro’s team that really helps. So we really share the responsibility. So we don’t have a huge management team, a lot of our… If there’s a problem, they’ll just come and speak to me directly, and the team will message me directly. So we don’t really have a hierarchy.

Avi: We don’t really have a structure where they feel removed from us, not too dissimilar from where you’re at, where the team can just walk up to you and say, “I have a problem.” And then you kind of empower them to fix their own problem rather than saying, “Actually that’s not my bag. Go and speak to X, Y, Z.” Because otherwise I think the team doesn’t really grow. They don’t feel the pain of, “Oh, I need to learn some more information. I need to do something new.” That’s what we found works well. I’ve heard a lot of the other podcasts and it’s [crosstalk 00:14:03]-

Payman: There are different ways of doing it.

Avi: Yeah, there are very different ways of doing it.

Payman: What’s the head count? So how many people work for Gentle Dental Group?

Avi: Dentists and-

Payman: All in.

Avi: 70?

Payman: It’s a lot of people there. It’s [inaudible 00:14:15].

Avi: We’re really lucky. We’re really lucky. We’re really lucky. Again, my mom’s very much involved in the business. She married dad, got involved. She used to be an accountant, married dad, got involved and does everything from sedation so she’s a sedationist through to PM roles. So again, we’re very much family run. We don’t have this massive corporate mentality. We should. We should, yeah.

Payman: I know what you mean, dude. I mean, like you say, we’re similar at Enlighten. Yeah, it does feel more like a family. I mean, you guys actually are a family, but it depends on what the plans are, right?

Avi: Yeah.

Payman: If the plans are to triple by 24 practises, then it does make sense to systemize everything and have extra people, but if the plans aren’t to do that, then it doesn’t make sense. But [crosstalk 00:15:05]-

Avi: You know like you’re asking me what the plans are there?

Payman: Yep. Well, what are the plans?

Avi: So, I think pre-lockdown, all of this pre-pandemic stuff, I think I had a plan of a number of practises. I had a plan of what I wanted to achieve. We had goals, we had visions we had set. I think the lockdown has kind of allowed us to take a minute and ask really why we’re doing that, and I think that’s happened for a lot of people.

Avi: I’ve spoken to a lot of the dentists from some of the courses. I’m sure have run into you and said, “Life’s different. Life’s changed.” A lot of it is in a good way, but I think one of the things that we’re kind of taking stock of is actually, why are we doing a lot of this expansion? Why are we doing a lot of this growth? Because if we’re doing it for the sake of saying we’ve got a number of practises we’re trying to turn over X, Y, and Z, but actually that’s taking [inaudible 00:15:58]-

Payman: Vanity metric.

Avi: Yeah. I mean, we’re probably not that well-known in the industry. We try and just keep our head down and do our own thing and keep a low profile. I know a lot of people who have kind of even not put the fact that we’re running the National Dental Seminars and the Croydon Dental Seminars together. We are very, very… We try and be quite humble and we try and be quite quiet.

Payman: Yeah, there isn’t one of you who is a social media gangster, right?

Avi: No. [inaudible 00:16:28]. It’s strange. I think I’ve got like six or 7,000 followers, but it’s not something that we use a huge amount and it’s something we need to do, for sure. It’s not something that was a choice. It was something that we just need to get around to do it.

Payman: Well, go on. Explain to me what was it with… I mean, let’s go through lockdown because I think it’s valuable. You’re absolutely right. To me it seems, I don’t know, like a light was shone on your world from a different angle and you see things differently, don’t you? You’ve seen first of all, what’s truly important, right? Health. Health. Health. And you’ve realised, that’s it. That’s the number one most important thing.

Payman: But then as a business, how did it feel on that first day when you were locking down? What did you tell your people? What were you thinking? And then take me through what… You’re saying it changed the priorities of why you’re doing your why. What did the why feel like before, and what does it feel like now?

Avi: Okay. So you’re asking some really good questions there. It’s going to take me a minute to just go order by order, question by question. I think where we first started with this kind of process, this journey years ago, we wanted to grow ourselves. We wanted to grow our footprint in Croydon, in Bromley and Sutton. It makes sense for market share. It makes sense for our CEO. It makes sense for how we’re known.

Avi: Our patients are predominantly from certain areas. If we have practises there, it’s more convenient for them. Actually, to us the fact that they travel 30 minutes is lovely, but if they didn’t have to, it’d be better for them. So our philosophy, our mentality was more, we’re getting patients travelling quite far. It would be lovely to have sites that they could visit locally that are called [inaudible] dentistry locally for them.

Avi: Then I think as lockdown happened, kind of my immediate reactions, emotions were actually that, I don’t know how other people were doing, but we were setting up to acquire sites, so we had cash resource to actually fuel growth, which then went into being sustainable. We were really lucky our bank, NatWest supported us. We’re really lucky that we got some loans. Again, this is all a question of timing and luck that we managed to do all of this. But I think immediately, we kind of were telling our people, “It’s okay. Your jobs are safe.” Whether we had the job retention scheme, or we didn’t, we were saying, “Your jobs are safe. Don’t worry.”

Avi: And I think it was much more reassuring them and our dentists than actually thinking about what I was thinking or feeling. I think it was probably three or four weeks in where we started realising, this is going to be with us for some time. That’s when I started being a bit more introspective.

Avi: You said health is the most important thing. I think over lockdown, we’ve lost some really good people through kind of mental health. It’s really, really important and we’ve lost some really good people through suicide. I think it’s something that Lauren, I think in your earlier podcasts, she kind of touched on, she kind of spoke about. I think that that was kind of a wake-up call. Because you think that you’re about to call that person, you think you’re about to think that that person’s going to turn up to your seminars next week? So that was tough. That was tough.

Avi: I think it’s sitting there and communicating that with your team, saying that things will be okay. I remember doing runs to drop off toilet roll. You know there was that shortage?

Payman: Yeah.

Avi: I remember doing runs to drop off toilet roll to some of our nurses, some of our receptionists. Just making sure that everyone was okay, touching base with them. We did Teams calls, maybe not enough, maybe not as much as we could have. We tried really hard not to lay anyone off, or to let anyone go, but I think for the overall business, we decided we wanted to make sure that we prioritised the happiness and wellness of our team. And we didn’t really want to keep growing and expanding and putting more strain on our system and then…

Avi: Because I think one of the things that maybe isn’t mentioned with growth is, you can have your idea, you can have your vision, and although you’re working phenomenally hard for your vision and your plan, it’s kind of yours at the end of it. I think one of the things that we don’t really acknowledge is, the team behind us are so important. They work so hard. I’m really, really proud of our team. And it’s one of those things that I think changed over lockdown, where we said, “Actually, you know what? We want to try and stabilise where we are. We want to try and improve our systems.” So, all of these mindless errors or issues that are happening internally, whether it’s… I don’t know, just simple things, running out stock or something taking two days to fix rather than a day, we want to try and optimise that. We want to try and be slicker.

Avi: We want to try and communicate more with our team and take better care of them if we can. Not only just from a financial, we pay you a bit more, but actually let’s look at their workload. Let’s see actually, are they snowed under? Is it something where actually Monday morning, everyone hates their job? So, we took a minute to do that.

Payman: Go on then. From the perspective of, what was your why before? It was, you’re telling me you were thinking growth, growth, growth. Now, if you had to summarise what you just said with going forward, what is your why now? Creating a happy environment for people to work?

Avi: Yeah, I think creating a happy environment for patients to come in and see us. Really creating the environment for them to be happy and treated by a team that’s happy to see them and not just a social media, five minutes like, “Oh, check it out. Our receptionists are so cool. They’re so happy to be… ” I mean genuinely happy.

Payman: Yeah, you’re right.

Avi: We have some… I mean, there’s a receptionist I’m thinking of, and they turn up to work and they are funny and they are energetic and they are enthusiastic, but I would show you this person years ago and you’d be like, “Oh, you’ve got to get rid of this person. They’re terrible,” but this person has grown and transformed. Their life is happier as a direct result of coming in. You look at actually their purpose, their being, their friendships. Obviously pre-coroner, they meet up outside of work. Even old people that have left us are still in touch with our staff. It’s still-

Payman: I think that’s one of the loveliest things about being in business because there’s quite a lot about it, which is difficult as well. You’ve got all the responsibility, you’ve got the risks, you’ve got so many things, but one of the loveliest things is watching people grow and facilitating people’s growth. It really is. And it’s not often thought about as one of the benefits of being in business.

Avi: Even Georgiana with yourself from where she started to where she is now, it’s [inaudible 00:23:22].

Payman: Exactly. Exactly. On your point about happiness, I’ve say to my people that when one of our users calls Enlighten, I want them to feel like that was a much better call than they made to any other company, not any other dental company, but any other company. By the way, I don’t know if we’re achieving that, but for that to happen, the person has to be happy to start with. There’s no doubt about it. I mean you can’t put on that happiness if you’re pressured and overrun and snowed under in your job. You’re absolutely [crosstalk 00:24:03]-

Avi: I mean, I still think, I don’t think we’re doing it. I mean, I think we do well-

Payman: No, but [inaudible 00:24:08]-

Avi: … but I think if you ask my team, “How does he look?” They’ll say, “Oh, he looks tired. He looks stressed. He doesn’t…” You ask my team, they’re going to say something completely different. But that-

Payman: That’s the goal.

Avi: Yeah, that’s what we want to try and get to.

Payman: What about acquisitions? I mean, are you constantly on the lookout or have you been? How does that work? And is that you? Who is it in the business who does that?

Avi: So a couple of… I think it’s led by our finance guy. So that goes into… The finance guys sees if the numbers make sense, if the cash runs make sense, then we get the first part of the postcode, it comes into me. We have a look. Is it something that we want?

Avi: Went to see a practise about three weeks ago? Had my-owner practise since… I don’t know, since I was a kid? Drove past it on my way when we went to play football as kids and we’ll see how that pans out. We got another one that we went on the weekend. And it’s trying to find the right practise and find the right person behind it. A lot of the time, these people who are selling, it’s not just about, “I want to buy, or I want to sell a practise.” It’s about trying to find the right buyer to take care of the patients because you start building that rapport, you start building that relationship with the patients and actually-

Payman: [inaudible 00:25:18].

Avi: … and you know quite a lot about your patients. I mean, a lot of the patients I’ve seen… So I graduated 2011? So a lot of patients I’ve been seeing after VT, so I’ve been seeing them for eight years? Seven years? Eight years? I know enough to make sure that actually whomever is treating them as the associate, you want to make sure that they’re in a good, safe pair of hands.

Payman: Of course. So, are you always looking for the same type of practise? Would you buy an NHS practise?

Avi: So, last year we had the acquisition of a mixed site. The year before was private practise, the year before that was private practise. So we’re happy with mixed. We’re happy with the private practises, we’re happy with predominantly NHS practises. As I said, it’s the location, it’s the right fit. [crosstalk 00:26:06]-

Payman: Are you expecting the outgoing guy to stay on a bit?

Avi: To be honest, we’re pretty flexible. We have a few dentists in the family that are happy to kind of help out, but I think we want to try and make sure that whomever we’re partnering with, if they want to stay on, they’ve got a job for life. If they don’t want to stay on, then we transition to a clean exit. That’s fine. As long as we communicate well, and I think that’s the big thing here-

Payman: I guess you would prefer it, right? I mean, it’s funny I’m asking you these questions. I’ve never bought a practise before. I’m not really clear, but would you pay more for a practise if the guy was going to stay on and run it essentially?

Avi: I think, without trying to get into practise valuations, which are a little crazy, sometimes, you look at the [crosstalk 00:26:54]-

Payman: Personally, I’m talking about you. You. You’re looking at this practise, the same practise the guy’s going to stay on for 3, 4, 5, 6, 10 years, or the guy says, “I want out.”

Avi: Yeah, I mean, if you’re buying a 7, 8, 9, 10 surgery practise actually it’s less important if they stay on. It’s much more important if you’re buying a short, the kind of one and two-man band practise that you’re trying to hold and keep hold of and so on and so forth. It’s much harder for us to try and build an entire ship around one and two-man bands if the associate doesn’t want to stay on. Yeah. Nina has literally just walked in. So I moved out for a lockdown and she’s literally wandering over.

Payman: Cool.

Nina: Hello.

Payman: Hi, hi.

Avi: Yeah, I know. Well, I moved out for a lockdown and we’ve got our grandma at home. So Nina very, very kind managed to drop off some [inaudible] sweets. We’ve got Diwali on the weekend.

Payman: Congratulations, man, congratulations.

Avi: Yeah. Sorry. I forgot [crosstalk 00:27:58]-

Payman: Were you-

Avi: … but I think it would be great if they can stay on it. It’d be great. That’s the idea.

Payman: Were you all living together before?

Avi: So, my brother and sister married, a couple of kids now, so they live in their own houses. My brother lives about five minutes from mum. My sister originally got married and moved to Leicester and then she managed to find a practise just up the road from us in Sutton, so moved with Soro back and now they found a house that’s less than five minutes from home as well.

Avi: Then I moved out just for the lockdown kind of phase and period because my grandma’s at home. She’s 50 years older than me, so she’s 82. So just because we’re still seeing patients and there’s a small chance of anything-

Payman: Sure.

Avi: … we’re just being hypervigilant with her.

Payman: Tell me about associates, getting them, retaining them, getting the most from them, for them. What do you look for? Do you think you’re good? Do you do the interviews yourself?

Avi: Our structure’s changed, I would say, over the last year. One of the things about growing is, before I used to try and do as much as I could. So I used to do everything from first interviews through to hiring, through to contracts, through to everything. Now, we have, Shiv, my sister’s involved quite heavily in recruitment and one of our finance guys that help and they support that recruiting pathway.

Avi: For the associates, it’s more my sister. So it’s more Shiv that does a lot of that kind of recruitment side of things. It’s funny, we actually had a call this morning because one of our associates is moving up to Liverpool, I think-

Payman: Yeah. You told me.

Avi: Yeah. So in terms of recruitment, in terms of… A lot of the time… Actually I think you’ve found two or three of our associates for us. So a lot of the time it’s reaching out to our professional network. And those guys they stay, you treat them well. And again, Millie, who I think you introduced us to, fantastic associate. Fantastic. It’s actually a great pair of hands, great mind, really affable.

Avi: But again, you don’t really know that in an interview. So you really do rely on those recommendations. If someone says, “Oh, I think this person’s good,” you really do put some weight behind that.

Avi: In terms of retaining them, most of our associates, I would say, probably stay with us for three to four years. There’s a few that have stayed significantly longer. We had one Chinese guy who stayed with us 12, 13 years. We take really good care of him, but we’re aware that also we’re in Croydon. There’s sometimes the allure of actually working in Wimpole Street, Harley Street, Central London. Because also their life moves on. A couple of them, they get married and move away. And as much as you want them to commute an hour and a half for your nine to five, nine to six job and wonderful is that relationship is, and that we can support them and help them, there’s also their family. It’s one of those things where we’re aware that a lot of them will go with our blessing, with all of the support we can give them and we still keep in touch with them. We still kind of have regular chats and regular catch-ups with most of them.

Payman: Imagine if this young associate, who’s never done any private dentistry before and you guys, a lot of your chairs are private, aren’t they?

Avi: Yeah.

Payman: So, for someone who lives, I don’t know, anywhere south of the river at all, then you’ve got… There is a Gentle Dental… By the way, are they all branded the same or are they not?

Avi: So, there’s seven sites that are same. My brother-in-law’s is the denture and implant clinic in Sutton. So they just do dentures, full-on-full implants. Really, really good. Really, really good quality dentures with a lab on site. So it makes a massive Difference.

Payman: But the rest are all called Gentle Dental?

Avi: Yeah, the rest are all branded the same.

Payman: So, look, let’s say I’m, I don’t know, two years out. I’ve done VT. I’ve done a year of NHS and I don’t like doing NHS dentistry. I want to do private and you’ve got… Let’s say I introduced this kid to you. He’s a good kid. He came on my composite course and he’s all right. What do you want to see from, I don’t know, a portfolio perspective? And what’s your advice to someone like that? If they’re trying to leave the state system, the mix system and get into the private system, what are the key strengths?

Avi: So, for us, I think that’s a really good question again. So for us, we look at people that are really affable and really, really [crosstalk 00:32:39]-

Payman: The soft skills?

Avi: … day, like from minute one, they need to be affable and they need to be incredibly, incredibly persistent. I think that we’re very aware that there’s somebody who will send around their CV, and then that’s the only contact we’ll have from them. We’ve had people reach out on social media saying, “Hey, I know you may not be looking for an associate. Here’s my CV.” And that’s the last we hear of them.

Avi: But there’s… I think someone comes to mind that reached out on social media saying, “Hey, how are you?” And started talking to me and saying, “I’m a dentist. I need some advice.” And about three months later, they’re like, “Actually, do you have a job going?” And at that point, you’ve kind of got to know them a little bit. So I think they need to be affable, because again, you want that quality. You want that rapport-building quality in that dentist.

Avi: So, when you’re saying, what do we look for? We look for that person to be relatively persistent with us, actually tried to get to know us, get to know the business. I mean Ashley [inaudible] had something on Facebook actually the other day, where he said he wanted to buy a product and the person hadn’t researched him, hadn’t looked at his website, hadn’t said anything about him. So again, you need someone to know a little bit about you, before they’re trying to interview.

Payman: Agreed, but this-

Avi: I mean if we [crosstalk 00:33:56]-

Payman: … this question of soft skills. So you’re telling me you can’t teach those. You can’t learn those?

Avi: Oh, no. Not at all. No, no. For sure. No, actually, sorry, let me correct. Sorry. You can learn those. I’m naming Ashley because actually we did… I think I’ve done this course, like, I don’t know, six times or something? Ridiculous.

Payman: You’re kidding.

Avi: [inaudible 00:34:17]. And we actually caught up a couple of weeks back. Again, Ashley taught me a lot about communications as he’s, I’m imagining, teaching a lot of the listeners and so on a lot about communication skills, a lot about soft skills. It’s being able to actually do that in a pattern.

Avi: I was fine talking to people before from a social perspective, but actually to get to know a patient, you want to be able to build that rapport within 5 to 10 minutes. You want them to really be interested in you and you to be interested in them. That’s, I think… I don’t think that’s a skill you can just wake up and have. I think that is a hundred percent a taught skill or experience skill.

Payman: Yeah. Look, I agree with you. Some people have just got that X-factor. Look at Larry or Mike or with other… There’s several here as well. They’ve just got something that they’re just… When they see another human being, they make instant rapport. But my question is like-

Avi: And you think Mike has that?

Payman: Yeah.

Avi: I think Mike didn’t have.

Payman: Yeah, maybe you’re right.

Avi: I think that he’s grown.

Payman: Maybe you’re right.

Avi: I think Larry-

Payman: Larry-

Avi: Well, I certainly… I think-

Payman: Larry came out singing. But my point is this, that as the advice to this junior is, “Okay, go on Ashley’s course. That’s nice.” But I see it all the time, where people give people jobs because they just get on with them and you feel like, “If I get on with this person, they’re going to get on my patients and the clinical will come one way or the other.”

Avi: Yeah.

Payman: And I understand why it happens, but I’m surprised how easy it is to get a job, a quite a good job if you’re kind of a good-looking, cool dentists. I’m surprised at that. I’m surprised at that.

Avi: I think that there’s a nepotism angle there, there’s a contact, there’s networking angle, but actually we’ve got some really good dentists that have been introduced to us through reps or through people like yourselves. Actually, it’s not just about the courses they’ve been on because you’ll never get the chance to show your clinical ability if you can’t communicate to the patient the benefits of what you’re doing, how it’s going to change their lives. So actually, I think communication has to be there as the number one skill to have.

Avi: Of course, you’ve got to back up with your clinical ability, but if there was a young dentist that wanted to apply to work with us, it would be reaching out whether it’s on social media, whether it’s by email, whether it’s anything, coming down obviously not with COVID at the minute, but coming down and even saying, “I just want to watch how you work.” The number of people I’ve reached out to, and that have watched us do, whether it’s a CEREC or whether it’s scanning with invisalign, whether it’s seeing what kind of ortho cases I do, seeing what kind of implant cases Mish does, visiting the laboratory over at Sutton. Even just sitting down and grabbing lunch together, we’ve probably, I don’t know, I’ve lost count of how many times that’s happened. We’ve helped a lot of people and guided them into opening doors, I’d say.

Avi: Whether it’s this guy who maybe move up to local and take a job with your colleague, whether it’s you even introducing us to Millie, it’s about making that initial connection and seeing what you can do to help them. So if there’s anyone who actually wanted to do that, just reach out.

Payman: Let’s get into the clinical a little bit.

Avi: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Payman: Clinically, what are you doing? You’re doing ortho?

Avi: So, I would say about 70% of my work is kind of small ortho, so invisalign. I, again, I do a lot of my own GDP work. So again, I’ll still see a lot of my own recall examinations years later. I used to do a lot more veneers and smile makeover work partly because of the influences from when I was younger. Still, as I said, I’m just… There’s a 10-unit case on a South London footballer we’re doing. Again, it’s that kind of smile makeover, really cosmetic work, which I really enjoy.

Payman: Give me some tips, some Avi tips, clinicals Avi tips.

Avi: Clinical Avi tips?

Payman: Yeah, and listen man, it doesn’t have to be groundbreaking.

Avi: So, what would you like it on? Ortho or would you like it on-

Payman: Whatever.

Avi: … [inaudible 00:38:40]?

Payman: Whatever, yeah. Cosmetics.

Avi: Always use Enlighten.

Payman: of course. Of course, but outside of that.

Avi: So, I think a lot of the time, especially with some veneers and smile makeover work that we, do a lot of the time our preps can be excellent, our preps can be average, our preps can be good, you’re going to have good days and bad days. We always use [expansol 00:39:07]. So really, really good product for… instead of [crosstalk 00:39:10]-

Payman: So, the paste, the [inaudible] paste that [inaudible 00:39:11]-

Avi: Yeah, yeah. Always use Expansol. Again, work with a really good laboratory. So we’re quite lucky we have a few laboratories we work with. Work with a really high-end laboratory. They will always make you look good.

Payman: Yeah, that’s so very true, isn’t it?

Avi: And they’ll also give you the feedback.

Payman: Yeah.

Avi: They’ll say to you, “Actually, you know what?” I had actually, I took a digital scan with iTero a couple of weeks back and we took a physical impression as well. They kind of said, “Actually, you know what? When you were scanning, you couldn’t see this and this. Actually thanks for taking the physical things.” They’ll give you feedback.

Payman: Yeah, you learn a lot from a good tech. I mean, I remember I had a technician when I was a dentist, I had a technician who I didn’t know was one of the top technicians in the country, but he was. He was super, super good. The amount of stuff that… I basically thought I was an amazing dentist, that’s what I thought. I thought, “My God, I’m good. Everything fits. Nothing’s got to be [occlusally] ground in as much.” I was only one year after VT, and I thought I was amazing. I had older patients as well, and as a tip to anyone, if you go for an interview and the patients are, let’s say where there a seaside town, or something ,older patients. As a young dentist, sometimes you think, “Oh, I don’t want to be treating all these older people,” but they are by far the best patients, by far. They’re respectful, they don’t suffer from the sensitivity or whatever. And they tend to take things more easily than… They handle pain more, they tend to be able to pay for things.

Payman: So, I had a patient base who were older and this amazing technician and I convinced myself I was a brilliant dentist. And then the next job, I went to Central London in the city with these city guys. And I thought, “That’s it, I’m a brilliant… I’m going to have these city guys down. Everything’s going to be all right.” With a different technician, this guy retired, and boy did I realise, “Nah.”

Avi: No, as I said, we’re really blessed. We work with a couple of labs. We’re really, really blessed. And we got really good feedback as well. But in saying that they also call us on our stuff when it’s not that level.

Payman: Do you like CEREC?

Avi: So, you kind of brought it back with… Do you remember Hannah? Hannah Newell? From Shine, she was the rep at the time and Rob?

Payman: Nope.

Avi: So, I kind of bought it. We bought two units back in 2013? Yeah. 2013? 2014? As the CAMs at the when they were, I think they were relatively new. I really enjoyed them at the time. I really got into it, and I still do, I would say, maybe a couple a month, but actually I think that as my role in the business has evolved, the number of hours I’m doing clinical dentistry has changed.

Avi: So, I used to do five days a week. I used to work the occasional Saturday. And as my role has changed in the business, I’m doing less and less. So actually where I’m not doing as much routine crown and bridge, the associates are very comfortable scanning now with iTeros and Omnicams and sending it. It’s now, I think, something that is more specialist almost, it’s not something that we would do routinely. It’s something where a patient would come in.

Avi: So, we had a patient come in from Poland who requested a CEREC because that’s what she had had in the past. You sit there and you do it, and it’s really enjoyable. You kind of closed an hour and a half. I know there’s people that book exams over things and try and manage that. I don’t do that. I feel like I want to enjoy the dentistry. So I’m sitting there and I’m enjoying the dentistry that I’m doing with CEREC and I’m enjoying the staining, the glazing. You get to go back to being a little artist and sitting there and painting. Something therapeutic about it. Even when I came down to do the a mini smile makeover course, and you’re sitting there and you’re just working with composites, it’s just something really [crosstalk 00:43:18]-

Payman: I used to stick on classical music and pretend I’m really an artist, and with the brush [crosstalk 00:43:24]-

Avi: Have you been to see [inaudible 00:43:24]? Are you going to see the class [inaudible 00:43:27]? Again, [inaudible 00:43:28]? Very, very good. Very, very good.

Payman: Is it?

Avi: Definitely [inaudible 00:43:33].

Payman: So, go on. Sticking on the clinical then, we’ve been asking everyone. It sounds like you listened to the podcast, but based on the blackbox thinking, the idea that we can all learn from each other’s mistakes. In medicine, that’s true. We don’t tend to talk about our mistakes enough. Take us through your clinical errors that you’ve made.

Avi: I think I was saying, you mean this week, this month? Yeah, I think there’s an element where we all make mistakes, whether it’s something simple in terms of getting an extra piece of, I think it was listening to Andrew, whether it’s an extra piece of paper signed in terms of consent.

Payman: Andrew Darwood, yeah.

Avi: Yeah, again, it’s listening to these guys and sharing those mistakes because I think for us, we make mistakes all the time, whether it’s non-clinical or clinical. The thing is, it’s the impact of those mistakes.

Avi: So, there was a patient where we needed to do a gingivectomy. It’s a surgical gingivectomy, cut and dry. So certainly we don’t get involved. Took a scan to work out actually how much we needed to pull up and looking at it, actually, a lot of it was actually just very thick, soft tissue. So we came up with a treatment plan. You’re talking three and a half, four ml worth of gingiva here from dodgy restorations. We sat down and we tried to do that with a laser across 10 teeth.

Payman: Wow.

Avi: And then prep on the same day and then fit temps and so on. And maybe we bit off more than we could chew there, but again, when I say that was a mistake, I think that’s definitely something I can learn from. And when the patient really backed me into a corner and I tried to do something nice for them, backfired a little bit and had some swelling, had some issues, but that’s just one. I mean, I think we’d run out of time if I went through the mistakes I’ve made.

Payman: Was the mistake that you didn’t leave that one to Mish?

Avi: So, actually, we had a really good chat with Mish, but again, a lot of the work that these periodontists do, a lot of the surgical stuff they do, they’re brilliant with a scalpel. They are so talented. So, we’re lucky to have Victoria, and I think one of your guests, Simon? I think there’s Simon Short? Victoria works with him. So we have Victoria that works with us. So she’s very, very, very skilled.

Payman: Victoria who?

Avi: Rincon. She’s very, very skilled. Lovely girl as well. But it’s these people that say, “Actually, you know what? I think that we should do this surgically.” The patient couldn’t afford to have four weeks of downtime. Patient’s extremely active. They were going to get on flights. They were going to run around and do things. So again, we couldn’t afford to take that surgical approach.

Avi: Again, that’s just on. Another one is again, where we sometime-

Payman: Go on. I’m quite enjoying this. Go on.

Avi: Another one is just [inaudible 00:46:26]-

Payman: Because you seem very open with these. It’s a refreshing change, man.

Avi: No, I think we’ve all made mistakes. I was speaking to one of my friends. She’s in hospital. She took out a tooth. Patient was under GA. Tooth was sitting on top of the airway. The tooth poked… This is a kind of baby teeth. They pop, they don’t just come out straight. They just pop and fly. So she’s popped that tooth now. That’s again, it’s a mistake, but what would she do massively differently? There was a throat pack there. There’s more experienced colleagues. It’s hard to get around it. So you’re always going to make mistakes. We don’t work in a job where it’s going to be perfect every time. It’s why we call it dental practise. Right?

Payman: Yeah, I agree. I [crosstalk] I think-

Avi: [inaudible 00:47:08].

Payman: I mean, the kind of mistake where you drop an endo file or whatever it is, I mean, bearing in mind, you’ve put some rubber down there, but that type of mistake, you’re not going to beat yourself up about hopefully, but even in my short dental career, there were some times where I felt like I let that patient down.

Avi: Oh yeah, for sure.

Payman: You know?

Avi: There’s times where you… Especially if there’s lab work delays or there’s something where you’ve consented a patient-

Payman: No, no. My decisions. My decisions.

Avi: No, so what I’m saying, there’s time where I’ve-

Payman: During the Larry period, for instance, there was some eight veneers that I did that I saw three short years later. They didn’t look great.

Avi: I’m really, really lucky that some of those veneer cases that I’ve done when I was slightly younger, they seem to have stuck. I’m not saying that they’re all going to stick. Some of them may have come away and they’ve just not come back and see me, but I’m quite lucky that we’ve got quite a good stable patient base so we see a lot of our reviews, seven, eight years down. I have photos, despite the fact I only qualified relatively recently, I have photos eight years post-op, which you really would expect them to still be in, but I still have photos from when I first fitted them.

Avi: I think there’s been a few times where maybe I’ve over promised and not been able to deliver. There’s a few consent issues where I’ve brought the consent form, and I’ve added every risk under the sun, and I’ve spoken to the patients and there’s one tiny risk. Like I’ve put some… You know a trial smile?

Payman: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Avi: So, done a really nice trial smile where I’ve taken a kind of a still tech putty index, gone over with lots, attempt to preview and consent the patient to make sure we’re all on the same page, disappeared for four months, came back and said, “Oh, I’m going to get married. Can I leave these on before?” “Sure.” Eight months go by, and she just comes back in having paid, I don’t know, 200 pounds for the trial smile and she says, “Oh, I want to take them off, and I don’t want to go ahead with treatment.” And then very gently removing, I nicked her upper central. I made a dent that’s less than half a millimetre by a quarter of a millimetre, and that was one where I just looked at that and thought, if she’d told me she was getting married, would I have done the case? Probably. I still may have actually done that, but I would have warned her to say, “Instead of coming back in four months, you’ve got to make sure you turn up in two weeks.” It’s not something where I’m now going to turn around and leave that in the patient’s mouth. I’ll take it out straight away. We’ll get some therapies, we’ll get some photos.

Avi: But again, as I said, it could be a denture case. It could be being more prescriptive on my lab docket. I think every mistake I’ve… I haven’t taken out the wrong tooth or dropped an endo file yet-

Payman: [inaudible] it is.

Avi: … but I’m sure I will do these things. it’s not wrong to make mistakes. It’s wrong probably just not to learn from them.

Payman: I mean, on to your point about over promising, I think it’s a young dentist’s error because you think that if you over-promise, then you’ll get case acceptance. But firstly, that statement itself isn’t necessarily true.

Avi: I think I’ve over promised on… My worst ones were actually ortho cases. So I’m getting married in December next year. Will I be done by then? You look at the case and you think this is kind of straightforward. It should be okay. Three months on, and you realise the patient’s not wearing their alignments. And then you think, “Okay, what I’m going to do is put some brackets on.” You finally put brackets on, four months later… it was despite you’ve been doing all of this and all of this, you realise actually the patient hasn’t turned up to two reviews. So you’ve seen them bond up and then you’ve seen them four months later. You’ve chased them, and they’ve said they’ve been busy. And that’s where actually I feel really bad. I know that maybe I couldn’t have done more, maybe I could have, I don’t know what I could have done differently [crosstalk 00:51:08]-

Payman: But then what happened? There was like two days before the wedding and it was wrong?

Avi: So, actually like that case, no… So that was the Saturday, Sunday, Monday case. So we came in Saturday, Sunday, Monday to correct and fix everything that we was trying to do all of the… Instead of going for ortho, we actually ended up doing a restorative solution, but that was so much stress. My nurse at the time was just like, “Never again. Never are we working a weekend and a bank holiday Monday.” The lab weren’t happy and it was one of those things that’s a mess. Yeah, you’re right. It is maybe a young person’s but that’s also experience, right?

Payman: Of course.

Avi: Like, the teeth don’t move like they’re meant to move.

Payman: What have you learned? What about errors you’ve made in management that you’ve learned from?

Avi: Again, plenty. I’m sure there’s plenty.

Payman: Oh, I’ve made loads.

Avi: I think… Sorry?

Payman: I’ve made loads of mistakes.

Avi: I think don’t be scared to fail and don’t be scared to make a bad decision. You can sometimes be strangled by the lack of inertia. Sometimes you can feel that actually where you’re at, there is no kind of panacea where you’re going to be that, and that’s the only good decision. Sometimes you just need to take a step forward. Even during this lockdown is a great example, there is no management handbook for a pandemic. You communicate as much as you can. And again, some of the team I know, they said to me afterwards they didn’t feel like this happened or this happened, and this happened. It’s one of those things you’re always learning.

Avi: I’ve let some really good people go. In management, I maybe could have handled that better. I’ve lost some staff that I’ve wanted to retain. I’ve probably not paid as much attention to certain members of the team, not maybe rewarded them as much, but, Payman, we’re incredibly hard on ourselves, we really are. Or I think that’s one of… We always talk about what’s your worst quality, but it’s not even being a perfectionist. We are incredibly hard on ourselves.

Avi: All of the good that we do, we still think, “Oh, I could have done that.” I mean over lockdown is a great example. I picked up the phone and spoke to, I don’t know, 60 or 70 dentists. Some people got in touch and just said they weren’t feeling great. It happened to be that one of the dentists that I didn’t speak to was one actually that was quite unwell. So do your thing.

Payman: You’re right. You’re right. I mean, I was pretty hard on myself, but it took me two months to even think about, “Hey, let’s use this time to train the team.” Or online courses… It was just like rabbit-in-headlights sort of situation for a bit there. When you’ve got 70 people to worry about, as well as yourselves and family and health and all that, it’s not easy. On the other hand-

Avi: [crosstalk] think there’s also… We have, I don’t know. So I’m just looking at the board behind you. We have about six projects on the go that I’m not directly involved in running the dental practises as well. There’s a lot of stuff that we do behind the scenes. The seminars, for example, so we’ve got that.

Payman: Yeah, tell me about that. When did that start? So Croydon Dental Seminar’s been going a long time, right?

Avi: Yes, that was Mish. We’re really, really proud of him. He started it as a referral kind of system and to get busier, that was the original kind of idea we put on free-to-attend seminars and the food was crap and it was out of a golf course, a kind of bar or something. I didn’t even go to the first three. I was terrible at supporting him early on. As kind of I got more involved, I was like, “Look, the reason we’re not getting people is we need to be [inaudible] Croydon.” So, Mish kind of moved us over to Hampton by Hilton, over in Croydon. We put on some decent food, numbers picked up and he’s done a phenomenal job from back in 2013, 2014, when it first started. I think for the November course that we’ve running, it’s about 460 people. [crosstalk 00:55:11]-

Payman: Yeah, it’s amazing. The one that I went to was pretty packed, man, pretty packed.

Avi: Which one was that?

Payman: One of the ones in Croydon. [crosstalk] speaker-

Avi: We’re very-

Payman: Who was the speaker?

Avi: Minesh, or… ? We’re really lucky. We’ve had some really great speakers come.

Payman: So then you turned into national.

Avi: Yeah. We tried to go with Barry Alton, went to Leicester. Again, we’ve got, I mean, Birmingham on our radar, we’ve got a few other bits that we wanted to do again. Over lockdown, we’ve been doing some kind of more casual conversation stuff that we did. We’re really lucky with Raoul, with Ian Gordon. We got the guys from the BDA kind of Eddie Crouch involved. We got some other guys in, so we were really, really lucky, but it’s allowed us to connect with dentists.

Avi: And one of the things that, I think kind of alluding to the point you were saying earlier, as the young dentists, we’re in our little bubble and dentistry is quite isolated. Hearing Lender [Cruise] say, “I don’t really know what I’m going to speak to my staff about. I don’t know how I’m going to describe what we’re doing.” Just hearing someone with that much skill and ability, and he’s an absolute diplomat. The guy is so poised. He’s just so elegant when he speaks, and just to hear him say, “Yeah, I don’t know what to do,” it’s lovely.

Payman: It’s almost that if you look at experts, a lot of being an expert is about knowing the basics very, very, very well. And what I’ve found is, that if you know the basics very well, you can say, I don’t know with authority, because it’s not the basics, whereas on another subject, like me and you, if we’re not experts at something, we’ll say, I don’t know, without authority, is a totally different I-don’t-know.

Avi: So, we had [Tiff] have a really lively debate. There were a few subjects where just went into break and you could just hear, “Actually, you know what? I’m going to pop back. I don’t know about this.” These guys are mega. These guys are big in the industry. So I think it was probably to get to know them. So that was cool. That was really, really good, but that’s been going now for seven or eight years kind of in one way or another. Next year, again, trying to work out what we want to do with it, how we want to take it forward. It’s good.

Payman: If you could change something about dentistry in the UK, what would you change?

Avi: That’s a good question, actually. Couldn’t prep this one. I don’t think you’ve asked that many people this one.

Payman: Normally I’ve got perhaps interrupting me, asking you about your children.

Avi: You can go into that. I think in what I would change, I think that we need to be more aligned as the community. I think lockdown’s helped with the rise of kind of BAPD. We need to be more aligned as a community. We can’t have so much… Whether it’s the LDC or BDA or BAPD even, we need to be more aligned. We need to have our vision more aligned in dentistry, whether it’s when we go to government and try and negotiate. Even now, I know there’s contract negotiations happening from friends and colleagues, I’ve heard about what’s going on and listening to some of the largest groups in dentistry, asking for different things to the paymaster. The paymaster just says, “Actually I can always negotiate with whomever I want here because-

Payman: Divide and rule, right?

Avi: Yeah, and so sometimes you have these massive focus groups or you have these big organisations that mean so well, but they aren’t sometimes aligned with other organisations. So if there was, I’m not saying one voice or one body, but if there was more alignment in dentistry, still [inaudible] and how that is an internal conversation.

Payman: You’re completely right. You’re completely right about that. I remember worrying a lot about these same issue, but it seems so obvious isn’t it? It just seems obvious. But the reason why it happens is because… Let’s just take the example of BAPD and the BDA, which, by the way, I hear they’re talking. But the BAPD came about because the BDA wasn’t addressing private dentists concerns. And because of that fact, that’s where it came from. Then you get that sort of clique mentality sort of starts coming into it. But you’re absolutely right. That’s a good one. You’ve picked a good one, if you could change something.

Avi: I don’t know about the BDA not representing anyone or of the BAPD doing this. I’m very aware that I have friends in both organisations. I’m very aware that no organisation starts off to isolate any organisation. I think that it would be lovely… I know they’re talking, I know there’s the ADG involved. I know there’s other groups involved. It’d be lovely for them to sit down and say, “Look we’ve got 15 points, we’ve agreed 10. We’re not going to bring up the other five.”

Payman: And you know that there’s only two questions that need answering, maybe/. What’s best for patients? What’s best for dentists? And aligning those. That’s kind of the whole game.

Avi: Let me tell you something that maybe I shouldn’t be saying on this kind of-

Payman: No, we’ll dit it out if you decide.

Avi: I mean, [inaudible] because you’ve also got so much commercial opportunity. I’m going to give you an example, okay?

Payman: Go on.

Avi: If I say that the… We were told about the vaccine on Wednesday last week. Okay? Markets obviously picked up yesterday with Pfizer’s nuts. So, let’s assume we were told on Wednesday. Actually, if we were told on Wednesday, we should broadcast that news. Right? We should tell everyone we were told about, but actually there’s so much commercial gain in not saying anything and positioning yourselves in such a way. So even now with some of the contract reform conversations, I can see some people who’ve been in that higher level chambers, I’m going to call them, speaking to CEOs and speaking to people in the NHS kind of set-up, and beginning to position things. And it’s really strange because you think, “Surely, if you’re having those levels of conversation, surely if you’re saying, ‘Oh, the contract reform’s going this way or that way,'” you’d want to tell everyone, you know? But actually there’s, especially organisations that can pivot and move with massive resource, I’m talking massive resource-

Payman: Go on. Go on.

Avi: … [inaudible] positions.

Payman: Spell it out, man. Go on.

Avi: I mean, massive resources should be enough, but they can pivot and position quickly. So if I said that, let’s say you need to have therapists or you need to have othotherapists or X, Y, and Z. If you know that now, guess what? Tomorrow you’re placing an advert for othotherapists, or therapists, or-

Payman: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Avi: … specialists or level two, whatever and whatever. It’s things that… Again, if I vocalised and said, “Okay, so there’s this,” to everyone, everyone would be like, “Okay, let’s collectively make a pathway where we all can succeed.” But commercially, there’s some organisations and some people in those organisations that have to account to other people. They’re not just family-run organisations. They have to account to-

Payman: They call it stakeholders.

Avi: Yeah. It’s that kind of stuff, which I think if we were more aligned on, that would be a lot better for the profession.

Payman: I hear what you’re saying. So you’re saying it would be great if we were aligned, but to get us aligned, information would have to be open-

Avi: That’s it.

Payman: … and business isn’t always about open information, and often it’s about… it’s [inaudible 01:03:16]. You’re quite right.

Avi: If you look at inequalities, whether it comes to education. I mean, I told you I was super privileged in the schools that I went to, right? I was [inaudible 01:03:24]… My parents worked their butt off to get us, whatever it was, like eight a grand a term fees. It was stupid, but-

Payman: Where did you go?

Avi: I went to Whitgift, in South… To give you an idea of this, we have peacocks in our school, we have a zoo. It’s crazy. It’s a crazy place, a crazy school, but we were so lucky to be there. Again, the way that we were taught, if I say this to anyone who’s done A-levels, you’re taught the mark scheme. You’re not really taught the information. You’re taught how to get an A.

Payman: How to get an A, yeah.

Avi: Yeah, but actually, if that information was disseminated to everyone, it would be really hard for people to not get good quality grades. It’s the same thing, and it starts from that. It starts from your education. You look at the inequality. If information was disseminated quicker and faster in a better form, it would be so much better overall. But yeah, you’re right.

Payman: Do you think where we are today, I often think about this myself, but let’s say I want to get into something or I want to find out about something. Today, I’ve got more information available to me than anyone in history ever had. When I think about our parents, when they had to set up businesses, or whatever, I mean, this is a silly… Let’s say, I said to you, “Listen, Avi. You’ve got to get yourself a metal, what do you call it? A brass name thing outside one of your practises.” Obviously they don’t do them in brass anymore, but you would have to wait for the BDJ to arrive, go to the back of the BDJ and find the one guy who’d paid for that, and you wouldn’t know who’s gone and used that. Whereas, today you can go straight on reviews and so… ” so, my basic point is, we’ve got more information than anyone’s ever had before.

Avi: Yeah, sure.

Payman: So, I guess there’s optimism in that, right?

Avi: Oh for sure. I mean, I’ve met a lot of my dental friends. I’ve met a lot more people during a lockdown. I’ve kind of got introduced. I think you were on [Shadi’s] podcast?

Payman: Yeah.

Avi: And then just listening in some of my friends are doing these weird and wonderful things. And the way that we’re connecting right now is great. I think what I’m saying is, that there’s people still in those conversations that may be on 32, 34-

Payman: True.

Avi: Now, again, I’m speaking really positively with Sanjay from Together Dental. Again, Smile Over with [Gene] and then kind of his troop. It’s lovely to see right now these guys at that sort of level, the way that they’re communicating with me, because I look up to them and I think that that’s what needs to happen more. I feel like, again, we were talking about young dentists earlier, but if you need advice or you need help, it’s a case of actually just looking up to that person and reaching out and not being scared.

Avi: I mean, there was a story around Steve Jobs going to pick up… When he was actually trying to get a job, he went and picked up the phone to the guy who ran HP, Bill Hewlett, sorry. He actually picked up the phone to him in a phone book and said, “Do you have any spare parts?” He actually came down and worked on the assembly line. If you just think about that, Steve Jobs working in the assembly line of that massive company. And that’s how he got to learn parts of the system, parts of the process. Obviously, you’ve seen what he’s done like and then what he did, but you need to have that kind of no-fear mentality. Those people with this, if they’re wanting to do something, what’s the worst that’s going to happen? Somebody’s going to say no.

Avi: I’m lucky with this NDS stuff, that the people that we wanted to really get, we approach, we didn’t turn around and say, “Actually [inaudible] too big for us.” Actually, we turned around and said, “We really want Raoul Dhoshi on this. We really want Tiff [inaudible 01:07:19]. We really want these people.” All they say no. They’re going to feel flattered. Os, I think that’s been quite good, but if we can, as a profession, get those people to speak to these people, it would be lovely. I don’t know if it’s going to happen because as I said, there’s too much commercial gamer. That sounds cynical, but it’s also realistic.

Payman: Why did I ask you what you want to change? So I think we’re coming to the end of our time, but I want to ask a couple of questions about your personal plans. I mean, what are your personal plans? Are you thinking of-

Avi: [crosstalk] where I am right now.

Payman: Are you thinking of settling down?

Avi: Yeah, I think everyone has that journey and has that progression, right?

Payman: Not everyone. Not everyone, buddy.

Avi: I think sometimes though, they’ll have that thought, I’ll say. Maybe not journey, but I think everyone has that thought. I think probably being a little too honest right now, and it is because it’s you-

Payman: Cheers me.

Avi: I think when I’ve been younger, I’ve probably had my heart broken a few times, and I [inaudible 01:08:22]-

Payman: Oh, well done then.

Avi: [crosstalk 01:08:24]-

Payman: Well-done for bringing that out, man.

Avi: … I’ll wait for some… As in, you do. You go through these things, and I’ve probably done it to a few people as well, but I think it’s trying to find someone to settle down with and is trying to find that part of your life. I’ve seen my brother and my sister do it, and it’s definitely something that’s on my mind. But I think more personally, I’m very much focused on trying to work and get that balance right, right now. Right now, I haven’t maybe exercised as much as I want to. You can see the gym on, just like in the background.

Payman: Yeah, I did, yeah.

Avi: I want to try and take good care of myself and to be at a point where I’m able to balance that commitment. That’s probably the most honest you’re going to get out of me.

Payman: I like that, I like that. What about for the business? What will be like the dream with the business?

Avi: I think for the business, it would be, I hate using the word consolidating. It somehow means we’re settling, but it would be running in a slicker operation so that the team who are pulling crazy hours right now, they’re doing such an amazing job. They are able to do a nine to five, nine to six, be really enthusiastic and passionate and then switch off their laptops and switch off their computers and spend time with their family. I think a lot of that has been brought into light with lockdown. A lot of that has happened as a result of the past few months. So I really feel that if we want ourselves and our business to do well, we’ve got to take excellent care of our team, excellent care of ourselves as well, for sure. Really, really work hard with the team around us.

Payman: Yeah, but what about the business?

Avi: The business, I think, will continue to grow. I think the business will continue to expand. As I said, we’ve seen some practises in the last month we’ve been expanding and we’ve been growing. So we’re still looking at opportunity. Those practises that we’re seeing kind of in Croydon, in Sutton, in Bromley. We’re still in regular contact with these guys-

Payman: Dude, [inaudible] how much do you love your job? If I gave you the proverbial 100 million, what would you do? What would you do if you were a dentist. Perhaps let’s go straight there.

Avi: Probably something in economics. I really enjoy… So you know when we were talking about how the internet has changed things?

Payman: Hmm.

Avi: So, I got into trading maybe 2013 and actively trade. So really it’s one of our side projects, I actively trade. I really enjoy that part of my life. That’s that’s not just for the money, it’s actually the [inaudible 01:11:10]-

Payman: The game, [inaudible 01:11:11].

Avi: Yeah, and it’s enjoyable there. I think something in economics, again something in… I really enjoy that, and I’m really passionate about that. I think when we’re saying, if I wasn’t a dentist, it’s quite hard to imagine. I think a dentist can mean so much. So right now, I’m doing three or four days clinical, and then a lot of admin, a lot of management, a lot of other side projects, having a good balance. So I think that that’s probably what I would do for if I wasn’t a dentist, but I really enjoy what I do. I just sometimes feel like in any profession, in any walk of life, even in personal professional relationships, you can feel a little overwhelmed.

Payman: Yeah, of course.

Avi: [inaudible] really got to keep that in check, but I love what I do. And if I didn’t [crosstalk 01:11:54]-

Payman: Well you look pretty happy at work, man. I mean we’re in contact quite a lot, but it’s nice to say, you didn’t really want to become a dentist, you didn’t really enjoy dental school, but now you’re really enjoying your career, you know?

Avi: [inaudible 01:12:09]. I really am blessed. I’m really lucky, like family around me, like you’ve seen dad in his bow ties and you’ve seen my mom and you see how they interact, but I’m just, I’m really honestly, really, really lucky.

Payman: Yeah, it’s a special atmosphere at Gentle Dental. I don’t want you to be overrun with people, but you won’t be, it’s corona. But if someone hasn’t seen that practise, it’s one of the most beautiful practises I’ve been to, and I’ve been to a lot of practises. So it’s-

Avi: I remember when you came down and you said that, “What’s the plan?” and you said, well, build Mecca and they’ll come. I think that was your phrasing. I think we’re really lucky. Dad’s got great vision and-

Payman: I’m a sucker for your architect anyway because my other favourite practise is Andy Moore’s. I haven’t been to Robert [inaudible] but I’ve seen pictures and they look [inaudible 01:12:59], but I really do like the way yours pops out of the end of that building.

Avi: [inaudible] is lovely. Been down there because i think Dad [inaudible] kind of the implants cost and he still would like an implant tutor. Andy is a lovely guy. I haven’t spoken to him in a long, long time, but he is, he’s so hard working [crosstalk 01:13:18]-

Payman: Great guy. Great guy.

Avi: I think he does this… He’s had this line of, every four or five weeks. I need to take a a week [inaudible 01:13:26]. That’s [inaudible] style. That’s really [inaudible] style.

Payman: [inaudible 01:13:27].

Avi: [inaudible 01:13:27]. Yep.

Payman: All right man, because Prav’s not here, I’m going to have to ask his final question. Prav doesn’t like asking his final question when the guest is young, but I quite like it because, we should never take anything for granted as far as health and life and crossing the road. So, Prav’s final question is, you’re surrounded by your family. It’s your last day on the planet. What three pieces of advice would you give them. Your future kids and your family and your family. And finally, how would you like to be remembered?

Avi: That’s a good question. I think, firstly, without sounding too cheesy, I think you have to be kind. You have to be kind because you have no idea what other people are going through. So always, always, always be kind, whether it’s grabbing a donut and giving a quarter or a half of it away to the homeless person, just outside the shop or whether it’s picking up the phone when you don’t want to do it, whether it’s dropping someone or picking someone up at the airport, just be kind as much as you can do good things. If you’re still treating the waiter differently to how you treat someone like yourself, to me it’s not ideal. So try and be kind, [inaudible] no idea what other people are going through.

Avi: Trying maybe to accept praise or my second piece would be the best version of yourself. You can always try and copy someone, but you got to be authentic and original to you. Be the best version of you. Your best might not be someone else’s best. That’s okay. If you wake up and do your best, 9 times out of 10, maybe 99 out of 100, you will be successful. You’ve got to get up. You’ve got to put the hours in.

Avi: We were privileged to get where we were. We were very, very lucky to be born into the families we were, and speaking from where I am, I acknowledge that privilege, but I’m very aware of how many hours I’ve put in. So I think if that’s maybe the only thing to take, just to be the best version and say, just to try your best at all times.

Avi: Maybe touching on that point from earlier to always give back, to always try and pay it forward. So from Lauren’s kind of podcast, that was one thing which I picked up. I think I actually emailed I think I actually emailed and reached out on Facebook actually pretty quickly, to the mental events when I was like, “Look, what about this? And what about this?” And try and help out where you can. Always-

Payman: I’m going to say that with all of your events as element of giving in all of them. And that’s always been a lovely thing to see.

Avi: You’ve been amazing and supported us. And it’s really good to have people like you to lean on and to bounce ideas off, but also, we were talking about the younger generation that will really transform the way we do dentistry. I think it’s trying to help them always remembering that actually you’re never too big to help somebody. You’re never too big to answer a phone or an email or a WhatsApp message. So I think those are maybe my three.

Payman: How would you like to be remembered?

Avi: This is a hard one. This is a hard one. So probably as someone who always had time for people, no matter how busy, always wanting to help. Again, probably the worst quality I have is trying to help someone to a fault, even if they’re not particularly the best person for me to help, but always wanting to give and always wanting to help. And I suppose someone maybe that was successful or otherwise, but I don’t really think about how I want to be remembered. I focus much more on just what I’m doing every day, because I feel like your every day could end tomorrow. If you focus on trying to be remembered and building this massive thing, then you can forget about the person’s life that you can change.

Payman: Yeah, but you could say, “I want to be remembered for being a nice guy,” end of story. But beautiful, man, beautiful. I know it’s a difficult question to ask for a modest person. So, I know that was harder for you than most people.

Payman: Lovely to speak to you and hopefully we’ll have a chance to speak to Cam as well, but I know it didn’t work out this time.

Avi: Yeah, I mean, we’ve been-

Payman: Cam and Mish.

Avi: Yeah, right, we’ve been-

Payman: Yeah, I know-

Avi: [inaudible 01:17:53], and I think again, it’s where they are. They’re lucky to be practising and working hard and enjoying themselves. But thank you so much, Payman. It was lovely.

Payman: Thanks for doing it, bud.

Avi: Yes.

Payman: Take care then.

Speaker 2: This is Dental Leaders, the podcast where you get to go one-on-one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts, Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.

Prav: Thanks for listening guys. If you got this far, you must have listened to the whole thing and just a huge thank you, both from me and Pay, for actually sticking through and listening to what we had to say and what our guest has had to say, because I’m assuming you got some value out of it.

Payman: If you did get some value out of it, think about subscribing. And if you would share this with a friend who you think might get some value out of it too, thank you so, so, so much for listening. Thanks.

Prav: And don’t forget our six-star rating.

You’d never know that this week’s guest was a man without a plan when he first arrived on UK shores from native Italy some 11 years ago.

Since then, Dr Alfonso Rao has launched an expanding group of clinics and a dental training academy while also building a name as one of the Southwest’s foremost implant dentists.

And he’s achieved all of this before the age of 40, seemingly without ruffling a single feather.

We probe Alfonso on the secrets of his success, life in the UK, work-life balance and much more.


“I don’t really often like to be told what to do. If someone tells me and explains to me and I see the reason I’m fine. But if someone says, “you have to do that because it is the way you have to do it,” I’m not too good following.”  – Alfonso Rao 

In This Episode

01.19 – Backstory
08.27 – Italy vs the UK
11.28 – Practice ownership, expansion and work-life balance
19.48 – Teaching
24.37 – The plan
29.00 – Associates
32.03 – On mistakes
37.09 – Out of the clinic
40.11 – Thinking of Italy
43.37 – USPs
45.08 – Exit strategy
46.21 – Last day on earth

About Alfonso Rao

Alfonso Rao graduated from the University of Chieti in 2007 and spent time in practice in Italy before moving to the UK.

He opened a series of clinics in Bristol and Portishead which he later consolidated under the Apollonia Group brand.

He also founded the Delta Training Academy – a leading dental and implantology training centre.

Alfonso is a member of the British Academy of Aesthetic Dentistry and the Association of Dental Implantology.

He is also a key opinion leader and brand ambassador for Strauman, Geitlich, NSK and several other dental technology brands.

Payman: Well, you know my best advice to you buddy?

Alfonso: Yes. Please.

Payman: Keep doing what you’re doing.

Speaker 3: This is Dental Leaders. The podcast where you get to go one-on-one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts, Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.

Prav: It gives me great pleasure to welcome the original Style Italiano of UK dentistry, Alfonso Rao, to the podcast. Me and Alfonso met quite some years ago now, and I remember that conversation because it was all done in Italian flair. He’s a straight-talking kind of guy. He doesn’t beat around the bush. He tells you what he wants. He tells you how he wants it, and it always ends with, “And I don’t want any bullshit either.”

Prav: And that’s him through and through. We’ve, during this period of time, become good friends. As well as helping him out with his practises. And Alfonso, I want you to just take us back to your childhood. Where you grew up. What your upbringing was like, and just give us your backstory buddy.

Alfonso: Yeah, thanks very much Prav. Yeah, I fully agree with everything you say. It’s been a great pleasure to know you for the last few years and it is really nice that we are friends as well as working together. So I obviously am born in Italy in Caserta, close to Napoli. And quite like you, in terms of the background and the grow up. So, my dad is an eye surgeon and most of my background in the family they are all medics. However, one of the things that is probably one of the main difference between Italy and the UK is that most of us are going to public school. So it’s quite nice, because with the public school in Italy you really got variety of class mates. So you can get someone who is the son of the probably, someone extremely rich and wealthy. Someone, son of a professor. You might get someone with a lot more humble background. And I really like that part- [crosstalk]

Prav: I may be the son of a shopkeeper or something, Alfonso.

Alfonso: Right. Yeah, that is my point is that it doesn’t really make any difference, the family and the background. Especially when you’re young, you don’t have any of this pre-concept. So you treat everyone as a friend and you grow up with your main interests that might be the football, or cars, or whatever you’ve got. Without having any pre-judgement . And that is great, because you really learn to deal with a lot of different type of people. And I think that is extremely valuable in your life, because I personally feel comfortable in every context. I’ve got no problem if I’m in a gala dinner but I’ve got no problem if I have to be in a market where there is no toilet and no… any place where to have a seat on a table with a fork and knife. So, from that point of view I think yeah, Italy that can teach a lot. Because obviously you learn and you are dealing with all sort of people. Some good and some less good.

Alfonso: But then you learn how to treat the different people. That’s one thing that has been definitely one of, a valuable point of growing up there. In terms of other things, again family background. I’m the only child so I’ve always been quite supported, let’s say that. However, I’m really grateful to my parents because they never really felt me the only child in terms of the freedom of whatever I want to do without feeling the pressure of succeed or do what my dad did, or anything like that. So I’m quite lucky in that aspect.

Payman: What made you become a dentist, Alfonso?

Alfonso: I always thought that I want to be in medics. And when I was 15, 16, my idea was to become a doctor. And again, I don’t know how much you unconsciously… you obviously look your parents, they are role model. You want to become like them. You might want to please them unconsciously as well. And my uncle is a dentist. And I remember that when I was kind of the point where I was starting to do some work experience, I realised that one of the problem with the medicine and being a doctor is that, for example, at that age when you’re 18, be a surgeon is really, really cool. But then you realise that you got lot of, out-of-hours call. You have to work in a hospital. You’ve got no freedom. So I was a little bit scared of that part of lifestyle that my Dad had. Because he’s been always a head consultant and head of department, which means he’s always been on call almost 24 hours.

Alfonso: But then I always felt that my uncle was a dentist, because he had this private practise, he probably had the slightly better life balance with work and his own life. So that was the bit at the time attract me of dentistry rather than medicine. But I always had the passion of healthcare, involved and helping people. And helping them sorting out their problems.

Payman: And when you qualified as a dentist, how long did you stay around your family area? Did you study near your family or did you go somewhere else?

Alfonso: Oh yeah. No, I left home when I was 18. And yeah, I graduated really quick, so I was one of the youngest graduates of my year. So I basically, I was qualified dentist I had just turned 23. And then at the time I worked a little bit in Rome and around the area where I qualified, which is Abruzzo, Pescara, so the Adriatic Coast. And then the idea was for me eventually to go back and work in my uncle’s practise. So then I went back year, year and a half later and started to work with him. But we’ve got quite similar personality and that clashed. Plus, probably one of my limit as a personality, maybe Prav can confirm that, is that I don’t really often like to be told what to do. If someone tell me and explain me and I see the reason I’m fine, but if someone say, “You have to do that because it is the way you have to do it,” I’m not too good following. [crosstalk]

Prav: I think your response to that sort of request usually is in two words and the second word is off.

Alfonso: Yes.

Prav: With the typical Italian hand gesture. Yeah?

Alfonso: Yeah. Yeah. So really, I went back home to work with my uncle and then basically we start have argument. And he’s my mom’s brother, so that was bit of a drama at the time because it was, “Okay, what should I do?” I cannot really work and for one of his competitors and have a competition in my own town with my uncle there. That would really upset my mom and cause tension in the family. And so I said, “You know what? I’m just going to take my gap year and go to UK to study English.” And that is how I then moved here 11 years ago.

Payman: Oh, so you never went back after that.

Alfonso: No, I did. Two, three years after. Once, I was start to get more established in UK, at one point I almost had a bit of crisis where I was, “God, now I’m not going to be able to go back again.” Because then I was starting to lose contact with colleagues and a way of working. So then I opened a practise. I think Prav, when I met you the beginning, I had a practise in… I set up a practise in my own town. And I was working in Bristol from Monday to Thursday. Thursday night drive to Gatwick. [crosstalk] Stay there overnight. Fly Saturday morning. Go in practise at 9:00 in the morning until midnight Friday and Saturday and then fly back on Sunday. And then drive back Sunday down to the Bristol and then start again on Monday.

Payman: Bloody hell.

Prav: I remember. I remember.

Payman: What were your impressions of the UK with regards to dentistry when you first got here, and outside of dentistry. Why Bristol? How did that happen?

Alfonso: I mean, no. Like all Italian, my first step was London.

Payman: Oh.

Alfonso: Everyone goes to London first. Because again, the idea was to study English more than really to do dentistry. And then I remember that I was in this English course in London, and everyone say, “Well you have to present.” I was unable to speak English. Now I’m much better, but I was even worse at the time. So I was like a beginner, it was my first class. And everyone had to stand up and say, “My name is Alfonso.” I say, “I am a dentist.” And everyone say, “Ah, you’re a dentist. You should make so much money and you’re here doing this class.” And then I start to understand a little bit more about how the system worked. And I really, really liked the idea of the NHS in terms of the social system for everyone able to get healthcare and dental care. Because in Italy we don’t have anything similar.

Alfonso: And as I said earlier, I always had a passion of helping people. So I thought, that’s great. I can get good lead in that, helping people and do dentistry, which is kind of what I like. So, that was my first impression, which unfortunately that was completely different then when I start working some of the NHS practise. And I realise that the quality of dentistry that I could offer was not really what I was hoping to offer. And then I had to make some decision and start to work and move to a private practise.

Payman: Alfonso, [crosstalk] just as an idea. If I walk into a random restaurant in Italy, I’m going to get better food than if I walk into a random restaurant in London, right? But what would be the same story with dentistry? If I walk into a random practise in Rome, am I going to get better dentistry than if I walk into a random practise in London?

Alfonso: Definitely not. So Italy, what we usually say is that you’ve got, is like an S, you’ve got the peak. So in my opinion, UK you’ve got some standard. Then you might don’t get the highest quality that you might reach in Italy, but you don’t really have the really lowest peak of quality that we reach in Italy as well. So in Italy, this is how it is. You can go somewhere where you can get some fantastic, incredible clinician that can do amazing work. But you can also go somewhere where you find that dental technician, they work as a dentist illegally. And the level of what they’re doing is terrible. So that is the problem in Italy. Everything is a little bit less regulated, and that is why you tend to get this peak.

Payman: Yeah, I can get that.

Prav: Alfonso, how did the whole practise ownership come around?

Alfonso: That is another really nice story that I don’t think you really knew, because at that time I was working in a mix practise in Bristol. And there were three expense share and I was hoping to buy into this expense share practise. But then I think, there was an argument between them. And one day, one of the partner went there overnight and removed all of the dental chair. So we went to work and there was no dental chair there. So I realised that I was not really keen to get involved in that type of situation and that’s why then I resign and I left. And at the time I was working as a visiting implantologist for James Hall. And then Joe, that is my partner now in some of the practise, he was working in one in the Queen’s Square, the practise now I own. And unfortunately the dentist that owned the practise at the time, he had some problem. So he was unwell, so he was off. So they asked me to just help them, just as local because I had some spare base, because I was in between jobs.

Alfonso: And then unfortunately, he was not really able to get back to work. And as I was there and I had really good relationship with the practise manager, with the staff, then he offered me to buy. And then I just bought the practise at the time.

Payman: But I mean, this domination that you’re doing in Bristol feels like, to me, you and my old pal Touraj Razavi, buying up all of Bristol. Was this a plan from the beginning?

Alfonso: Oh no. That definitely was not the plan.

Payman: There’s seven practises that you own or part-own now, is that right?

Alfonso: Yeah, correct. They’re not all in Bristol. And now, we are moving a lot more down the M4 corridor. So now we are, yeah. Prav, is where that we’ve got this 10-town clinic project and we’re moving from, ideally from Cardiff moving toward London. And I know Touraj really well as well. And yes, we… it’s nice because we’ve got good relationship, and a respectful relationship with each other. So, although we are competitive, we’ve got really nice relationship which I really like. But was never been the plan. The original plan was I buy my own practise, at least I can be my own boss. As I said earlier, I’m not really good to be told what to do. And then I talk and I start to realise how many headaches I have in one practise, and I thought, you know what… if I have three, I probably have got the same three headaches. But then I remove practise, but then it was not the case. So now I’m trying to say, “Okay, if I am seven. This is got to at one point be getting any better.” I don’t know the answer yet, but yes, we’ll see.

Prav: But Alfonso, you talk about headaches. I tend to get, although we’ve spoke about many stresses that you have of practise, ownership and dealing with certain individuals. You tend to handle stress quite pragmatically and quite simply, I think, as a business owner. Some people really let it get to them. What’s your way of just, handling these stressors… two practises, three practises, up to seven. And then you’ve got this idea, and you can talk to about it later of growing this empire, right? But how do you let these things not get to you and just flick it off your shoulder the way you do.

Alfonso: You know it’s one of those things and we had this conversation. I don’t know. I think again is a little bit my background. I try to take things with the proportion. Like sometimes, I stop and I think, “What’s important in life?” It’s family, health. This is at least my kids, my wife. And I’m lucky. I’m lucky that I do a job that I like. I’ve got almost everything in the world, and that is what is really important. So I always try to take things in proportion and understand that yes, there are a lot of these things that they are, complaints and they can cause stress, but in the proportion with important things in life, they are just things that don’t… the daily bit that can annoy every one.

Alfonso: But I don’t think it should really affect my health or my nature. And this is how I try to manage that. And yeah, I have to say, a lot of people that make comments at how I can be so relaxed with all those things. I don’t know. I honestly sometimes look my phone and I’ve got 25 message, 100 email a day or something like that, and-

Payman: You certainly make it look easy buddy. On your Vespa with your handkerchief hanging out of your coat. Prav, you don’t know, he took us out in Mini Smile Makeover when we came to Bristol. And to this day, the team, we talk about our favourite Mini Smile Makeover, it was that one. He took us to some, where was that place you took us to, the Richard said something about the pizza place that was really-

Alfonso: Yeah, yeah. Bosco, yeah. I remember that.

Payman: Fantastic food and we drank and we had a great time. And then Dipesh rode his Vespa and had an accident. And then he was limping around the next day. But you do make it look easy. I know it’s not. I know it’s not. Of course, it’s not. How many employees do you have now?

Alfonso: We’re at about 50.

Payman: 50.

Alfonso: Yeah.

Payman: So what’s the secret of that? Do you have managers on each site that you really trust? How does it work? What’s the corporate structure?

Alfonso: Yes. We do have a manager on each site. The truth is that I’m at the sites at the moment and it’s why I say maybe growing my headaches. I’m at the sites at the moment where we’ve got practise manager on each site and I trust them a lot. However, I don’t really have the office back up yet, which I what I hope is going to make things easier moving forward. That’s why, again… joke aside, I’m not really aim to become like a corporate or anything big. But I think if I can get to that 12, 13-practise size, we’d probably be a nice group size where I can still have control of the clinical standard, hopefully in some of the benefit of having the group management. But I still do a lot of micromanagement in terms of, the dealing of the daily staff, with everyone. I think it’s important to build the relationship and to give people the opportunity, to empower people to make the decisions. So they know that they need to make the decision and I will be there to support their decisions. And yeah.

Payman: So then what kind of a boss are you buddy? Are you firm or are you fun or what are you? What’s it like working for Alfonso?

Alfonso: I can ask, there is a practise manager around the corner. I can get her [crosstalk] I’m intense in the way that I usually, am all my relationships. So I give 100% and I often present 100%. For more point of view, I do have a personal relationship with a lot of them, and most of my managers are my age or they’re older than me. So that obviously something that play a part as well. I’m type of person that when is the time to work I’m 100% focused, it’s work, work, work, work, work. But then outside I try to always be, really friendly relationship and I almost always try to support them in a personal aspect or life as well. Because I think it’s important to be there for them and they usually, that is building a relationship that works on both sides and they will be there for me. So there is a lot of respect on both side.

Payman: And you still work how many days as a dentist? Do you do mainly implantology now?

Alfonso: Yeah, so I do only implant and Invisalign. So some cosmetic. I do three and a half days clinical. I work, like this week where I’ve done four clinical days and then we are running a course today and tomorrow with the academy. So I will end up doing six days.

Prav: And Alfonso, how did the teaching come about? Because I remember when we first met we were having our initial discussions were on, “Hey I’ve got this company who want me to teach for them. I’ve got this company who want me to teach for them. This one wants to give me X. This one wants to give me Y,” et cetera, et cetera. I remember those conversations so vividly. So how did you, coming from Italy to here, being as young as you are, how did you get yourself recognised as, ‘Hey I can teach.” Or, “I want to teach.” Or what was your teaching journey?

Alfonso: That is something that I always really, really liked since my time at university. I think that everything you said is obviously completely correct. It’s not something that has been taught. Like a lot of things. I’m not extremely good sitting and making business plan and say, “This is going to open now. This is going to open next.” I can do a lot of things as I feel are right for me, for my colleagues, for my practise and for my family. So a lot was that I was invited to teach for different companies in a different aspect.

Alfonso: Now at that point, I start to feel that, that was not enough. Because I was doing things for others rather than for myself. And I think especially when you do teaching, it’s extremely important to be as independent as possible. Obviously, I do work with a lot of company and I do make a relationship with them as well. But I wouldn’t have shown or discuss in the course something that I honestly don’t really use in my clinical work every day, because there is obviously dignity and ethics. I don’t think that otherwise I would be good at explaining either.

Alfonso: So that is the reason, because we started the academy, so okay. Rather than teach for other people or teaching or a company, why don’t we reverse-engineer that. Why I’m not having my academy, I’m happy to deal with the company, I usually work with my clinical staff anyway, but basically in my way, in my rule, in my time. And I decide how to do it. But teaching is something that I find extremely rewarding. From a clinical point of view, I find that, that help me to be a better dentist. Because since, you remember, this was conversation where the beginning. At the beginning I was not taking enough clinical photos, but now I do photos of almost every cases, because obviously I need for the teaching.

Alfonso: And then when I review my photos because obviously I have to prepare a lecture or presentation, I often try to be self-critical and say, “Okay, I should have done this in a different way. I should have done this in a different way.” And I’m not too competitive with people around me, that’s why I was saying even with Touraj, I’m really relaxed about my competition and my competitors. But a lot competitive with myself. So I always want more from me.

Payman: And what do you guys teach? Obviously implantology. And Massimo does endo, is that right?

Alfonso: Yeah, so I do all the implant side. Massimo does endo. But then we also use our entire connection the last few years to do some prosthetics course or restorative course. We are doing courses from Rubber Dam to oral surgery, from GDP, to full large cases, so microsurgery. So we always try to do course with the different level. But one of the nice things that we try to do is keep the academy as nice and fun place to be. And that’s why we realise that a lot of people, they are coming to the academy for one course and then they’ll end up doing the whole journey with us. So-

Payman: Is the academy part of Queen’s Square? Is the building, or is it a separate place?

Alfonso: No, it’s a separate building. So it’s part of the High Street Dental Clinic at the moment. Ultimately, our dream and goal is to have dedicated centre with the proper facility in there, but at the moment is a dedicated centre but is within the practise. The top floor of the practise. [crosstalk]

Payman: And the name Delta Dental Academy. Is that a different name to, what’s the group called? Is it called Queen’s Square?

Alfonso: No, so the group now. The new setup of the group is called Apollonia. Apollonia Clinics. That was started as a Queen’s Square group but now is getting bigger and is becoming Apollonia. The name of that was for, is an acronym of my and… now I can’t remember what that is…

Payman: Prav, you need to get on to the branding.

Alfonso: Yeah, Prav.

Payman: Get everything in brand.

Prav: Alfonso, where is all this going? Because we have conversations and they’re so random mate. So sometimes you’ll buy a business in the same way Payman or Destat is in a restaurant, mate. Yeah? So just to give everyone a little bit of insight into that, we go to a restaurant and Payman says to me, says to the waiter, “Yeah, we’ll have everything in your starter list.” And the waiter looks at him like there’s something wrong with him, right? And then as he looks at him, he holds two fingers up and says, “Twice.” Yeah?

Alfonso: I’ve seen that. I’ve seen that.

Prav: You’ve seen that. Right? In the same respect, I’ll get a phone call from you and go, “Yeah Prav, I’m just buying that practise across the road and there’s another practise down there I’m going to buy and there’s another two practises here I’m going to buy,” and for me, looking at it from the outside I’m looking at this and thinking, “I don’t think he’s looked too much into these businesses, it just seems like a good idea.” And you’ll say, “What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen? I’m going to lose a bit of money. But let’s just give it a go anyway.” Is there a plan?

Payman: But, but, but… where does the confidence come from yeah? To get up, go to another country. Go to some random town at the end of the day Bristol for you, being from where you came from, and open seven dental practises. Where does… were you always super confident?

Alfonso: The answer is probably yes. In terms of-

Payman: What’s the answer to Prav’s question? Do you look into these businesses or do you work more off emotion?

Alfonso: No. So, okay. So to articulate a little bit the answer. In terms of confidence, is that in a little bit is again, going back to the background. So I’ve always been probably again, married to my parents. They support me but with the right distance at the least, well I felt that. And I kind of feel confident because I know that I’ve got my family behind, which means I know that important things are fine. And they will be there for me. If I’m successful or not, so I don’t feel that the success is something that obviously is going to change the relationship that I care. And is why I don’t feel that I’ve got much to lose, because I’ve got them anyway.

Alfonso: In terms of how I decide to buy business, I honestly trust my feeling a lot. And I also choose the business based on the people. So I do believe a lot in having that feeling when I see people, and I do like… I like to make sure that I buy business where there are people that I can work with. A business that I feel that I can add the value to their business and we can work together as a team. So for example, I’m never really attract to buy a business that is extremely successful and say, “This is what I really want.” I rather to get involved in a project, where I know that I can go there, work hard and try to succeed.

Payman: So what is the vision man? Where is it going to go when you say 13 practises? What’s the vision? What’s your five-year best case scenario that you would really like to achieve?

Alfonso: I enjoy dentistry too much. So there are some people they say, “Okay, now you…” I think I will still be in five years. So let’s say, best case scenario in five years time, I will be able to do only the bit that I like of dentistry. So really, which is… I’m quite already quite liking the position. I only do implant and Invisalign. I would probably do only the implant case that I want and the Invisalign case that I want.

Alfonso: And then, I quite like the business side as well. So in terms of, the management of the practise, or take a practise that from smaller to [inaudible 00:28:31]. Support my younger associate. So if I can get, I realise that being in clinic and trying to be at high level 4 or 5 days a week is too much. So I find that doing the bit of teaching, business and clinic help me be sharp in all the different things.

Payman: What about- [crosstalk]

Alfonso: I’ve got different view. From the different perspective.

Payman: What about associates? How do you handle associates? What pisses you off about associates? What’s the best associate and the worst associate? I don’t mean names.

Alfonso: No, no, no, no, no. Not going to do any names. So again, I’ve been quite lucky, because I’ve never been in the position where we have to, really rarely we have to advertise for the associate. So again, like you said, I know a lot of people in dentistry. Through the Academy we’ve been able to know delegates and they’ve become associates over the years as well. Which has been really positive as well.

Alfonso: But then sometimes the associate is often, they don’t really appreciate the work that is behind the scene. So what I mean is that, a lot of the associates they see, the bit that is nice of owning the practise, being able to make the decision, and they don’t really realise that for example, this morning before I run the course at High Street and Delta, I went to Queen’s Square at half seven to look at the rotor. We had an autoclave broken. So I spoke with an engineer about that. We’ve got one of the receptionists, that have flatmate test positive, so she’s off. So we’re to make arrangement about who is going to cover what.

Alfonso: And they don’t really see all that amount of work that is behind, not just by myself, but by my practise manager and everyone else. And they turn up to work and they say, “But why the coffee machine is not working?” And you think we don’t respect you, obviously we want the coffee machine to work as well. But there is a lot more that is behind. And like everything in life, you need to choose what you want. There are some people that they prefer to come to work, do their bit and then go home. And there are other people like myself, that I enjoy to look the 360 degree package. But some people, they don’t really understand that, and they would like to pick and choose, and that is what annoy me with an associate.

Alfonso: I really like the associate on the other side, that they work as a team player. Because I think one of the key of the success of some of my practise in Bristol has been always the [inaudible] approach. So every associate, and you can speak with all of them, they’ve got full clinical freedom. I really rarely interfere with any decision. I only interfere if I start to see things that they, abuse the clinical standard that we want to produce as a practise. And I think that empowering people works for everyone.

Prav: Yeah. But we’ve been asking everyone this question in order to try and learn from each other’s mistakes. Because in medical, people tend to hide their mistakes. And there’s a book, I don’t know if you’ve read it, Black Box Thinking. It’s about-[crosstalk 00:32:02]

Alfonso: Yeah.

Prav: So what’s been your biggest clinical mistake that you’ve made? If you’re happy to talk about that.

Alfonso: Yeah, no problem. If I have to generalise, as a clinical mistake, I would say the biggest mistake is when I didn’t say no. When you’ve got that patient on the chair and they start to make pressure, and the pressure can be from every different source. There are some type of pressure is financially, if I’m prepare to pay whatever. And I am being completely honest it doesn’t affect me at all much and often is a counter-productive sign. Because I feel that they are trying to buy me and I don’t like that.

Alfonso: But the most common, I think for us, and for a lot of dentists, the ego, when they say, “No one else was able to do that. I heard that you’re the best. I think you can do that.” And you almost feel that you want to prove something. That to the patient, to yourself. And when I didn’t say no, and I start cases where I realise that other people, if they make a mistake, there was a reason because they made the mistake. So when I was trying to re-do something and that didn’t work. So for example, I don’t know, you might… with an implant case, you see a case where the implant fails and you say, “Okay, the case failed because the reason, we wait and see.” You re-do it, and then yours fail as well. And then you realise that maybe was nothing wrong with the clinician and in the implant, but maybe was the genetic of the patient, or the overall hygiene, or medical conditions, or other factors.

Alfonso: And so, to generalise the answer is, my advice is never to say no. This is probably the main thing that I’ve learned from my mistakes.

Payman: I like that man. The level of work that you’re doing. The complex implant work… there’s going to be failure, isn’t there? That’s something that anyone who does complex implant work knows. But learning from it’s the key. If I wanted to get a job at your practise, what would be the best thing for me to do?

Alfonso: Again, as I said earlier, for me it’s really important building relationship. And often, I think it’s important for me to choose the person, not just the clinical skills. I strongly believe that you can train and teach clinical skills, but everything you can teach. You can teach skills. But you can’t easily change the nature of the person. So for me, if I know that you’re the nice person and I think you’re the person that we can work together because we’ve got similar value, similar ethics, I think that for me is more important than probably everything else.

Payman: So look, building such a massive organisation. It’s easy to look at it now and say, “Hey, he’s got a great life.” But along the way, where was the pitfalls? What would you do differently? What was your darkest time in building this thing?

Alfonso: I think the most difficult part for me was when… So when I first moved in UK, I think I was telling you about, went to London, studied English. And then I was looking for a job. And I was speaking with one of these recruitment company, they say, “Oh, I’ve got perfect job for you in a nice practise.” And I didn’t obviously understand a lot of the things at the time. So I went to work in the [inaudible] dentist, outside Lincoln-

Payman: Oh yeah. [crosstalk]

Alfonso: It’s a really, really… It’s a beautiful town. Really, really nice. And I have to say, when I look back at my time in Lincolnshire, people were really nice and friendly and they helped us a lot. But I went to work in this practise and the clinical standard of that practise, they were really, really low. And at that time, I remember that I moved from London to Lincoln, with my girlfriend at the time that is my wife at the moment, with a cat hidden in my car, because I was not allowed to have a pet in this apartment. We don’t [inaudible] in the car, but the flat that we rented was not ready when we arrived in Lincoln, so we had to live in the car for weeks and I went to work and they didn’t even have an autoclave.

Alfonso: So I say, “What am I going to do now in Lincoln?” Quite a few miles away from Naples. With the cat, and the girlfriend in the car on the phone and not even a place to live. So that probably was one of the most difficult time where I thought, why I’m here, why I’m not back home, why… And was raining outside.

Payman: Wasn’t it. Your frontier.

Alfonso: When everyone in Naples was probably on the beach with an apéritif, or having… But then I think like everything, you need to go through that part and learn from the mistake and be prepared to work hard. So again with my family, my ethics, my values always been work hard and hopefully the reward will come eventually. And I always felt that that was probably my way of working out.

Payman: Yeah.

Prav: Alfonso, obviously life outside building this empire, what’s it like for you? And how do you maintain that balance? Because I think you’ve got a really, really good way of doing this. The work-life balance, and what from I think it revolves around levels of intensity in both aspects of your life, right? So just tell us, typically, what does Alfonso do outside of work and how do you manage that work-life balance as a multiple business owner with a family as well, and a young family at that.

Alfonso: I have to say, and I’m not saying that because you are here. But this is a conversation where at a lot of times, and I remember at the beginning when I was work, work, work, you always say, “Look, think about that. Think about that.” And a lot of my changing about my life balance is been from conversation with you. So I’m happy to give you this merit in this conversation. And again that is also part of testament of our friendship. You see, you were telling me things that you didn’t get reward with the second part of.

Alfonso: And I think it’s really, really important to try and understand. To try and divide it. So when I work, I 100% focus on my work. But when I go home, I try to switch different half and I like to spend my time with my wife, my girls and try to enjoy the time that I spend with them. Obviously, I work out to try and give them more opportunity, a better life, and see they are happy with their life. For me is really rewarding. And that is part of what makes me happy. I always try to also try to have… I agree with you, I’m happy with my balance. I think I should try to find a bit more time for myself. Because I try to spend a lot of time with my family, a lot of time with my work. Probably not enough for just myself. Like things, training.

Payman: Yeah, what would that look like if you had a day to yourself? What would be your ideal day?

Alfonso: Probably watching 6, 7 game of Napoli, one after the other. I really like football, I like, and I’m massive support of Napoli. Sometimes for me, time for myself is just really time of, even go for a walk and have time to think about, a bit of exercise. But I’m no massive fan of a gym, but I like play sport, like tennis or football. Something that is social is well. And then social time with friends. Having time to have a chat with them. Catching up. Nice pizza and a beer. Just talk about stupid things that they don’t necessarily matter. Just a bit of distraction.

Payman: What do you miss the most from living in Italy?

Alfonso: The seasons. So, here the thing that for me is most difficult is when in the spring here, after we’ve got nice weather. But in Italy, especially when you come from close to Naples like myself, from April to June, July, when the weather is nice, you work til Friday and then on the weekend you are going on the seaside. You are going on a boat. You are staying on the beach. There is only apéritif on the beach, restaurant outside. That is the thing that I miss. That part of the lifestyle. And I have to say-

Payman: I thought-

Alfonso: …as a lifestyle, there is a little bit less stressful than in UK. Everyone is a bit more relaxed, little bit more with the good and bad.

Payman: What don’t you miss about it tell me? Is it that thing you said about lack of regulation and…

Alfonso: Yeah, working in Italy. So when I set up my practise in Italy, I remember I said, “Okay, I liked the way I worked in UK. I’ve got microscope, I’ve got this.” So I give the appointment, first patient at 2:30, second patient 3:00, third patient 4:00. I went there at 2:00, no one there. 3:00, no one in there. 4:00, no one in there. Everyone turned up at 5:00. Planning to have a treatment now and there. And I said, “But your appointment was, you don’t even…” “Yeah, but my daughter, she was… I had to drop her to school, I had to do that.”

Alfonso: So then, you end up working until midnight because this is what everyone does. No one complains because you are running late. Everyone accept. They are sitting in the waiting room, talking with other people, there for hours. But then they get in the lifestyle, then where is the time with my family. Then I’m there until midnight, and probably to get the same income I would have get if everyone was turning up in time and I was finished at 6:00. And that is the bit that I don’t really like.

Payman: And what’s the bit you don’t like about the UK? Apart from the weather. The food, huh?

Alfonso: No, the food’s lovely. We’ve got a lot of Italian deli around. Great restaurant. One of my best friend in Bristol is at the Michelin-star restaurant, Peter.

Payman: Actually the food’s really improved a lot in the UK.

Alfonso: Yeah, yeah. The food in Bristol is really nice.

Payman: Yeah.

Alfonso: The thing that I don’t like sometimes in UK is that sometimes I feel that there is a lot of stress and pressure for things that are not important. So you’re going to back to what we were saying, getting stressed. And I remember when I owned the practise, one of the first complaints that I received, a patient wrote me a letter to say that we didn’t have Home and Garden, one of these magazines? Why are you spending half an hour of your life writing a letter because there is no magazine room. By the way, it was in the waiting room. It was back and she couldn’t find. And sometimes I’m thinking, that is just creating negativity forever, for me. And I think is an unnecessary negativity.

Payman: And so, Alfonso, there’s this group that you’re… call it, you’ve been winging it to get there, right? Just buying a practise here and buying a practise there and now you’re formalising the Apollonia group, right?

Alfonso: Yeah. Correct.

Payman: And you’ve got this loose strategy.

Alfonso: Yeah.

Payman: Want to start acquiring practises down the corridor, right? What are you bringing different to the table in comparison to other corporates who are out there buying practises? What is it? What’s your point of difference that you’re bringing to the table?

Alfonso: I think the main point for us is that I’m a dentist, and for me is everything about the clinical work. My view of dentistry is that if you do good dentistry, and if you do high quality level of dentistry, the financial aspect will always naturally follow. And I think that a lot of dentists, especially if they decide to sell their practise, they often are scared of getting corporate and going down. They try to micromanage and change the way that they are doing dentistry. Then our view is that we want to improve the quality of dentistry to get the practise to succeed. And I think that view, I know there are a lot of corporate that say that they will have a similar view. I don’t think there are many that are really doing that. So, we’ve got great retention of clinician and staff when we buy a practise because we treat them well.

Payman: What’s the exit plan, dude? Are you saying you love it so much you’re not going to exit? Or what are you saying?

Alfonso: I’m 36, Payman. So for my exit, there’s always…

Payman: Is that all? My goodness.

Alfonso: I look a lot older since I start to work with Prav, I’m losing hair. But I’m only 36. [crosstalk]

Payman: Same thing happened to Payman.

Alfonso: So my view is that if your practise are profitable and are successful, why sending? So you know, I would be happy to go another 10, 15 years to working as a dentist 2 or 3 days a week and then as a business owner and teaching the rest of the time. So that is something that I really don’t have a long-term exit plan.

Prav: You’ll figure it out as you go along, right?

Alfonso: Yeah, you’ve seen by now. This is a lot about me. I find out how, what I will do.

Prav: Listen Alfonso, I know we’re running out of time, so let me just ask you the final couple of questions.

Alfonso: Yes.

Prav: Imagine you’ve got your girls around you, it’s your last day on the planet and you’re going to leave them with three pieces of advice from Daddy. What are they going to be?

Alfonso: It’s a really good question. I think would be, be yourself. Do only what you are feel comfortable and happy to do, because the main thing is to be happy. And you only live once and I think it’s important to try and be as happy as possible. Be respectful because it’s extremely important to be respectful to everyone. Because if you want to be respected, you need to be respectful to everyone. And I think that this is something extremely important as a value to have. And the third part is probably, to don’t have any regret. Do everything that you feel is the right thing to do and enjoy.

Prav: And then, finally Alfonso, how would you like to remembered after passing? So imagine somebody years after you’ve gone turns around and says, “Alfonso was…” and then just complete that sentence.

Alfonso: I’m glad Prav, that you can only see the first part of my body not the second. In Italy, I’m quite romantic on these things. Alfonso was a nice person in terms, helpful with everyone, is what I always try to be. Happy and smiling, so you know, a pleasure to have around other than be grumpy and be moaning about problems. And I think that is really what I hope people that will think of me. And yeah.

Prav: I think it’s definitely a fair summary. That you’re a pleasure to be around and certainly one of the people when this rings and your face pops up, it always brings a smile to my face. Because I know it’s all going to start with, “Ciao, como esta?” And it’s always a pleasant conversation. So-

Payman: And a real, real pleasure to have you on, man. Thank you for doing this.

Alfonso: Thank you very much, and really it’s a pleasure to be invited and to have time to share and my experience with you. And again, hopefully people that can… I hope I can inspire some people as well. I’m honest, because again, my experience was move to UK without any plan and the moment I’m happy with what I’ve achieved so far. So I think that working hard hopefully pay off in the end.

Payman: You know my best advice to you buddy?

Alfonso: Yes please.

Payman: Keep doing what you’re doing.

Speaker 3: This is Dental Leaders. The podcast where you get to go one-on-one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.

Prav: Thanks for listening guys. If you got this far you must have listened to the whole thing. And just a huge thank you both from me and Pay, for actually sticking through and listening to what we’ve had to say, and what our guest has had to say, because I’m assuming you got some value out of it.

Payman: If you did get some value out of it, think about subscribing, and if you would, share this with a friend who you think might get some value out of it, too. Thank you so, so, so much for listening. Thanks.

Prav: And don’t forget our 6 star rating.