FMC’s Craig Welling discusses his journey from sales rep to managing director at the leading dental communications organisation.

Craig gives the lowdown on the equity-backed management buy-out at FMC, gives his view on the group’s hotly debated awards and Top-50 list, and reveals why you should never play ping pong with Payman Langroudi. 


In This Episode

03.56 – Backstory

09.50 – Education Vs experience

13.54 – Starting at FMC

22.18 – The media landscape

25.10 – FMC buyout

51.23 – Awards and Dentistry’s Top 50

01.02.23 – Motivation and culture

01.09.53 – Dealing with large and small organisations

01.13.13 – Looking back

01.14.27 – The competitive landscape and the future of FMC

01.21.33 – Black box thinking

01.26.25 – Fantasy dinnerparty

01.29.12 – Last days and legacy


About Craig Welling

Craig Welling is managing director at FMC Media – a leading global multichannel media and communiations company serving the dental community.

You look at the energy we generate about 98,500 unique users, of which about 68,000 of them are logged into the site. So we know the details and we can track them. That’s going to become incredibly powerful when cookies are available because you can’t pixel. And obviously what you’ve done where you’re giving the money to Mark Zuckerberg, if you can’t pixel, you know, all of these things that you’re doing, you’re going to need an organisation that has that data, has that infrastructure. And we’ve been doing that for the last 4 or 5 years. And we have a data team that’s just constantly looking at that user journey and harnessing data and. You know. So I think it’s it’s more about how people are preparing for the future. And, you know, I know how hard that journey has been over the last four years and the development and the infrastructure and the team and the investment that’s gone into developing that. You know, I wish anyone luck was going through that now because it’s not easy.

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.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome Craig Welling onto the podcast. Craig has really lived the British dream. We talk about the American dream sometimes. Craig’s lived the British dream. He joined FMC who anyone who’s in dentistry will have some contact with as a cold caller, a marketer telemarketer, and I’ve known him since that time when he was just just a young lad. And over the last ten, 15 years, he’s worked his way up that company, culminating in a management buyout of the company where he’s become the boss of the company, along with Tim and Jason, which is amazing. It’s a beautiful, beautiful story, but if you’ve ever picked up a Dental magazine, it’s likely to have been an FMC title. If you’ve ever been to an awards ceremony, it’s likely that that’s an FMC award. The Dentistry Awards Private Dentistry awards. If you’ve ever been to a massive event, you know they’ve got big events in Manchester and London and so forth, along with loads of other activities. And avid listeners will remember on episode 130, we had Ken Finlayson, who’s the F in FMC? No longer is Ken the boss. So lovely to have you Craig.

Thanks, Paddy. What a what a wonderful introduction. I’ve never been introduced like that before so yeah, appreciate the words. Shall I give.

You my intro? Craig?

As long as if you can top that, that’d be lovely.

Not a freaking not a fricking chance, mate. So before we started this, Craig said to me, either in his late teens or early 20s, his recollection of us last meeting was in a curry house in Manchester, and it was and it was a brilliant curry. And we were in the gym and we were just we were just talking about Craig’s journey. And I said, what you joined as a young kid hitting the phones and now you’re the boss of the company. And he goes, yeah, one of three. I mean, that just blows my bloody mind, right? And I’m sure during today we’re going to talk about that journey. What happened. You know, what what have you done specifically to make that happen. You know, what have been what have been the ingredients of that? And was that a goal? Was that a dream? Did it happen? Right place, right time, hard work, probably a combination of all those things, but really, really interested to learn your story, Craig, and hear what it was. And look in you know, dentistry news travels fast, right? So I’d heard about this on the grapevine and I was like, bloody hell, I really want to know what happened and how and why. Right. So yeah really curious. And Craig, we usually we usually start this podcast by asking, you know, where did you grow up, what was your childhood like and all that sort of thing. So so just give us your backstory. Early days of Craig as a as a young lad growing up.

Yeah. No worries. So I mean, I grew up in a in a small town in Hertfordshire called Elstree, Borehamwood come from a really traditional working class family. My dad worked for the Royal Mail as a as a lorry driver and my mum worked for a company called bowerbirds actually, which produces coffee, but two really hard working individuals. And I think for me, you know, I was always about people, you know, at school, I loved the engagement, I loved interacting with people. I found it really hard to focus, if I’m honest, in terms of knuckling down on the educational side. And I’ve battled my way through school, quite honestly. And, you know, the work ethic was always there, but it wasn’t something I particularly enjoyed. So I got got through my GCSE, stayed on A-levels, and I remember I did my A levels and I just thought, you know what this is, this is not for me. I’m not going to go on to be an academic. And I remember I went went back home and I said to my mum, that’s it, I’m out, I’m tapping out. And she, she said, right, jump in the car. And she took me down to next and she bought me a suit and went to the library and made me print out my CV. And she said, you’ve got a week to go and get yourself a job if you’re leaving school. And I’ll never forget that. I think that was quite a pivotal moment in my in my adolescence, really. And, you know, I remember walking into estate agents and different, different organisations as a young guy in a, in a really cheap suit, not I and criticism, but for a job. And I remember I got the phone call actually, and I started at an estate agents the week after which, which was a which was a tough role. But yeah, you know, like I’ve got both my parents still together. I’ve got a sister. We’re really 2.4 children, working class family from a small town. Nothing really exciting, to be honest. It’s just. Just. Yeah.

So your mum, your mum took you to a took you to next. Got you your suit and what job. What, what was that process of. Right. I’m going to start applying for jobs. What was going through your mind? Was it always sales? Was it was that your thing because you were a people person? That’s what, you know. Like back in the day when we were at school, we’d go to like the careers adviser and they’d say, oh yeah, you’re Asian, so you’ve got to be a doctor or an accountant, or do you see what I mean? And are you doing well in your A-levels or whatever? What was going through your mind there in terms of you dropped into the estate agent job? That’s all sales orientated. And then you ended up I think it was.

I remember I had a few of my friends were older and a couple of them were in the sales, and I quite liked that you could make your own destiny, you know, in the sense of if you could see, you know, driving nice cars, wearing a nice watch, nice clothes and, you know, ultimately come from a very similar background to me. And I quite like that, that, you know, they they’d been able to achieve that from, from, I suppose hard work. And it’s something I’ve never really reflected on if I’m honest. Prav it was more I saw an opportunity in that and looked at recruitment agencies, looked at estate agents. But I don’t think I ever thought, oh, it’s a people’s thing. I just kind of saw other people doing it, doing well and thought, I’ll give that a crack that that might work out.

But both of those roles, I’m sure there were others, but recruitment estate agent, you need communication skills, people skills. You need to be able to get on with people. A bit of banter and sales, right? So whether whether that was deliberate or not, there must have been some subconscious there, right?

Yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, like I think I started with always like that at school that you had your group of friends, you saw each other every day. You’d have a good laugh. And that was really my my purpose to school. It was to connect, have fun. You know, the academic side was never the thing that was driving me. So I suppose, yeah, subconsciously it was to get into a sector that you could communicate with people and, you know, enjoy ultimately. And, and yeah, a state agency was it was tough. I was very it didn’t, didn’t, didn’t quite um, you know, the first couple of years was amazing. I think, you know, you kind of get that stereotypical view of an estate agent. And to be fair, it’s not wrong. You know, they are, as people say, and actually ended up doing quite, quite well with the estate agency. And then the just late 2007, actually, the recession hit. And I remember we went from like four branches and about 70 employees down to a core group of like ten of us. And it got incredibly tough. And, um, I remember sitting there thinking like, I’m earning way less than I was earning. This is not going in the direction that I anticipated. And so I went to a recruitment agency, and I just started starting to apply for a few jobs and then a telemarketing sales role come up for a media company. And I thought, I’ll you that that sounds quite cool. And, you know, fast paced and a movement. And then I found out it was in venture into media. That’s big niche. But anyway, come in and met with Ken and then that was it.

You when you look back. If you could rewind by 20 years, knowing what you know now, would you go on and do a degree and all of that? Has it held you back in any way? What would you tell your children about that?

Yeah, you know, that is something I’ll definitely reflect on and I think. I would definitely have tried much harder at academics. And and I think that that would have put me an even greater step down. And I think education is important. And now I’ve got two young children, you know, that that is a big focus for me. But personally, I don’t think it’s the be all and end all. I think it’s a combination of education, you know, work work ethic and application is, is and also just just common sense. Right. You see a lot of these people that go off to Oxford and Cambridge and they’re super intelligent, but they can’t they can’t sit in a room with them.

Just totally dreamy.

People like Prav, man. People like probably Oxford boy, you snobs can’t no common sense. But listen. Listen what?

What I was about to say, Craig, was this right? You know, I run a business, a few businesses, and I also have a lot of friends. Well, let’s just go to my business, right? More than half the people in my business do not have a degree. But I would say I shit you not some of the smartest human beings I’ve ever met in their craft. Whether it’s software development, whether it’s design, whether it’s user experience, having those people skills. And so even though Craig, you might sit back and reflect and actually one one of my team members who’s been with me the longest, James has always said to me, oh, do you know what? It would have been nice if I, if I had my time to go back and get any way smart enough to go and get his degree and postgraduate degrees and all the rest of it. But let me tell you, it is his experiences and his exposure to having not done that and being exposed to other things in early life that has shaped him to be who he is today and. Your path would have been completely different as well.

If you’d have slapped a degree on the end of your name. You may not be sat where you are today because the estate agent role, the recession, the fact that then you went looking for a recruitment job and then you landed in telesales and the the butterfly effect of the way the stars aligned. Right. Had you where it is. But you know, as a father, we all want I guess we all want better for our kids, don’t we? And perhaps the opportunities that were not afforded to us. And you think, okay, well, let me push education your way. Right. But but it may be that, you know, you have a you have a couple of kids and you think, do you know what one of them’s cut out for the academic route, but the other 1st May not be. And that’s cool, you know, and and that’s my take on it, even though I’ve, I’ve gone deep into education and thrown a ton of time to my education, I don’t necessarily believe that that is what is required for success.

Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s a really good point. And it’s funny you say that actually, because my daughters are still so young. I’ve got a six year old and a four year old, and I can already see their personalities that the the eldest, you know, she is quite academically driven, really enjoys school is where I see a lot of the a lot of me and the younger one, you know. Much more chatty. And, you know, she she wants to be in the room and be in the thick of it. But but you know, education is second. So it’s. Yeah, it’s a really good point. I think it’s playing to their strengths isn’t it. And I think that that comes into business as well, looking at people’s core strengths and values and making sure you’re equipped in, in the right way to, to fulfil what they can.

Craig, on that first day when you went into FMC, what were your first impressions of the Dental market? I mean, we’ll talk about FMC as well because it’s such a special company. But the Dental market, what were your first impressions of it and how right or wrong were you?

I suppose first is a tough one because, you know, I think. You kind of learning the ropes and you’re understanding what the products are and why we produce the products that we produce. Obviously, I remember making those calls and being hung up on a few times thinking why these people are not very nice and but, you know, you learn the role and you understand that, you know, dentists in particular are incredibly busy people, and they’re only making money when they’re in the chair. So they’re the last thing they really want to do is speak to someone who’s going to sell them a subscription. So but I think as I’ve gone through the profession and, you know, as you introduce Payman and we hold lots of events, we hold lots of awards, and I think the dental community is an incredibly powerful thing. And, you know, amazing people, you know, there’s a lot of collaboration and people are there to help each other. So I’ve come to be incredibly fond of this sector. And yeah, I think it’s full of great people.

What about FMC as a company? I mean, there’s a certain buzz about that company. You’ve got to take your hat off to Ken and Kimberly. I guess the the way that they made that company a meritocracy, I think. Yeah. The fact that you went from the bottom to the top of that company shows that, right? Yeah. But also I feel like, you know, very hard working. This is from the outside, right? You tell me if it’s a very hard working and yet lots of fun at the same time.

Yeah. I think you just absolutely summed it up. I think, you know, Ken’s become an incredibly close friend of mine. And, you know, I’m a close family friend and he knows, you know, my and my family. And, you know, we’re continue to be friends, you know, as we are. But I think the one thing that that Ken and Kimberly instilled was, you know, one is work ethic for sure. You know, and what one thing you can’t say about either of them is, is that they didn’t lead from the front. You know, I think Ken was the guy. And, you know, that that guy’s work rate and effort and being relentless was was something that really rubbed off on me. And but, you know, through my career looking at him, just thinking how was he got the energy, you know, 4 or 5 in the morning in amounts out for a run working on this, doing that. And. And you know, I’m a competitive guy by nature and, you know, incredibly skilled as for him as his business. But he made me want to beat him, you know, in return as a business owner was phenomenal because it and I remember sitting there thinking, I’m going to absolutely smash in this week. I’m going to see more people. I’m going to do this. You know, chances are it didn’t in the early days because he was it was he was on it. But you know, with hard work come a lot of reward and a lot of fun. So, you know, the team culture is, you know, you see everyone at the awards that they will be Uber professional and Uber slick and they all work their socks off. But as soon as the job’s done, we have a good time. And, you know, and I think that’s what it’s all about. You got to do that. And they all get rewarded really well for that.

What do you think it was about? I mean, you jumped around a few jobs before there and then you stuck there. What do you think it was about it that kept you there whereas all the other jobs lost you? Was it the progression?

Yeah. I mean, it’s not something like, you know, like with with progression. It’s not something that’s like unless you’re on like a gradual scheme and everything’s completely mapped out and you’re going to get to this point and then you’re going to go there, you know, thinking in kind of small to medium sized businesses, it doesn’t really operate like that. And I don’t think we really operate like that now. So I don’t think so much it was the progression. I’ve just really enjoyed it, really enjoyed the culture, and I really enjoyed being around Ken and and the team and, you know, the sense of being part of something that was successful and playing a part in that. And I think, you know, big, big learning for me is if you can get everyone on that journey and, and everybody feels like they’re part of that success, that that goes ahead of a long way on top of salary, on top of bonuses, which obviously are important as well. But I think that self esteem and and being part of a success is, is just as important.

You mentioned earlier might have been offline that you had two stints at FMC. You joined in the early days. You went away for a bit. You came back. What happened in between and what pulled you back?

Yeah, it’s actually Prav. It’s quite funny. I remember I come for the interview and, and I actually interviewed for the digital advertising display role and, and then there was also a telesales role. And I really wanted the display role but didn’t quite make it, so actually got rejected for the position. And then I got a phone call to say, actually, you think you’d be suited for that? And I remember I come in on my induction and Payman you probably remember James Howell.

Yeah, yeah. And Beth.

So, so Jane James Howell and Beth. Yeah, he was a sales director at the time. And he turned around and he said, the thing is, Craig, I’m. The people have been FMC for ten years. This is our culture. Nobody lives. And about three weeks into my role, I found out that the business has been sold to Springer and. What was going on here? And and then James left and a couple of people left and I asked him, this is not what I got told. In fairness, you know, the core team was still here. And yeah, we carried on working, but I think I went from education straight into work, and I never really got that time to do anything for myself. So, you know, like people that goes to go on to uni, they get that time and living away from home and, and the rest of it. So I decided that I wanted to take a year out and travel so, so handed by noticing I went went travelling for just over a year and then come back. Same thing as I’ve kind of got got out of system, had a lot of fun memories for life. And then I dropped Ken a line and just said, oh, I’m back, you know, are you doing anything? And then he said, oh, actually, we’ve got this position. And he had a company called Premium Practice Dentistry.

I remember.

Yeah, yeah.

So I went there and I said, yeah, really. You know, we had a good chat and we met over, over a drink in Hartford, and he offered me the role. And about two weeks before I started, he got, I got a phone call from Tim and he said, oh, Ken’s just reacquired FMC. How would you feel about working from Shenley? And at that point you don’t really understand anything and also start. Yeah, that’s closer to home. Perfect. You know that that works really well. And and walked back into the organisation and it was literally like nothing could change. You know, the same faces were there. Ken was back at the helm, Julian English was around and and then. Yeah, come back. So it was, it was a it was a for me. I didn’t really understand the whole nuance of what had happened and the challenge of reacquiring the company and redeveloping the culture. But but yeah. So it was a, it was a the first stint was more of a just kind of getting into a new role from a state agency. And it was really when I come back from travelling and kind of had a thought that, you know, I need to take on my career now in my early 20s and wanted nothing.

So. But how does it feel? I mean, it was from, you know, we’re talking 2008 till now where the landscape in media has changed so massively. And, you know, in many ways there was, you know, I was advertising with FMC from the day we started. Yeah. But in in many ways, some of the dollars that I’ve been was giving to FMC, I’m now giving to Mark Zuckerberg, you know, and such a big change and navigating that change. And, you know, every industry is going through it. But media kind of first in that. Have you’ve watched that happen. Right. You’ve watched the transition from print to digital.

Yeah. And I think that’s a very broad question. But you know, I think it doesn’t take a rocket scientist. Right. That print media isn’t it was I think there’s still a big part of print media that that remained, you know, with the profession and even going out talking to dentists, you know, they could still consume print media. It’s just not what it was. And I think the issue now where you’ve got with, with, with marketeers and, and business owners is everyone’s looking at that final 3% of the funnel. Yeah. Everyone wants to know I put in x pound and I get X pounds back. And there’s only certain types of media that can perform that. Right. And you look at in the funnel marketing and lead generation. And I suppose our job as a, as a, as a media company is really to show facts and educate that you can’t just focus on that final 3%. You know, we can deliver campaigns that will deliver you your ROI. But, you know, I think there was a podcast that Steven Bartlett did when he was saying, you know, people have forgotten about the the 97% at the top of the funnel, you know, and you look at the big brands like Apple, like Coca-Cola, like Google, you know, they’re everywhere and they’re everywhere for a reason because they’re they’re building that brand. So for us, we’ve really had to adapt to make sure that, however, a Dental professional consumes media, we want to make sure that we have a LinkedIn channel and a leading approach. And really our job is to work with companies to to identify what their need is and make sure that we, you know, we put together a solution that will tick all the boxes. We’re not going to just work with a company on a one month campaign to do the final 3% because, you know, the world doesn’t work like that. So I think we’ve had to adapt our products, but we’ve also had to adapt to becoming more of a solution sales organisation rather than just a media sales company, if that makes sense.

So, Craig, back to your back to your story, back to your journey. So from that sales, what how did you evolve? So so I want you to give me a almost like a potted history of sales professional doing well, hitting your targets, getting your bonuses, enjoying your role to now being one of three bosses of the company. Right. What what happened in your evolution as a human being and as a professional? And then how did that even come about? Like like what was the what was the what was the journey? If that’s the question, you can sort of articulate and answer for us.

Yeah. So I think if you, if you, if you spoke to Ken and asked him about me, he would say I was an absolute annoyance for years because I think I got went into the role and to me, sales was always a numbers game. You know, if you if you believe in your product, which I did and you know, we’ve developed and I’m more passionate about our products than we’ve ever been, but if you’ve just got to get through to the people to explain it, and if you can do that, you’re going to do all right. And I remember my first role was selling tickets to the World Aesthetic Congress, which was held at the QE two. And I think we used to charge some £600 a ticket, and it was really looking at those kind of top end high, you know, cosmetic orientated professionals. And we did really well. You know, we see a huge turnout and and you know the brand was really strong. And then we went on to, to sell in subscriptions. And again it started to get a lot of traction. And I think probably my ego got got in front of me from, from a, you know, a young age from seeing success and, and earning quite well and saying to Kenya, I want to do this, I want to head this up, I want to I want to do this. And I suppose, you know, looking back now is is I was in the job for about a year, didn’t have a clue about anything. And it. Credit to Ken. He managed that situation really well and, you know, he’d be really kind, but it’d also be really honest.

So he’d say, you know, it kind of said, you know, things are going really well, but you need to work on this. You need to work on that. And, you know, let’s do this. Let’s put you on that course. You know, he was really instrumental in kind of my development. And then Kimberly was involved in the organisation. And for anyone who met Kimberly will know that she was a very unique character. And, you know, she she’d become a dear friend of mine and was was, was again instrumental in my personal development and my, my growth. And she really, really pushed me. And she, you know, she, she’d set outlandish targets, you know, that you just. And there’s a fine balance, right? I’m sure you guys have it with you with teams and the products that you sell to say, you know, this is what we want to try and generate in terms of new customer acquisitions. And if you go too high, you switch the team off because they go it’s just ridiculous. And then but you don’t want to sell it too low because obviously, you know, you want to deliver what you set out for. And Kimberly used to set outlandish numbers, and I’d go home and I’d be like, she’s mad, absolutely mad. And but then you get to the end of the month and you do hit them. And then there’s the realisation of, you know what? If you put the effort in and you’re home still and you try really hard, it is achievable.

And that was something that really stuck with me. He’s like, you know, you hear people about this blue sky thinking and, you know, shoot for the stars and all of these cliche sayings. But, you know, Kimberly was was, you know, she was someone who did that. And, you know, we weren’t always him, but but it showed that you could. So so that really stuck with me. And I’d always try coming through, whether it be with, you know, tele sales. And then I moved on to head up a magazine called laboratory, which was like our next title. You know, what was about 2000 labs and probably 50 suppliers in the lab? Well, back in 2008 and again, I grew that title and had phenomenal success with it. And, you know, the more people that you get out and see and the more people that you can show your proposition to, and you believe in your product. And then, you know, ultimately the end user believes in the product, you’re going to get results. And we got really good results from that. And then again moved on to another title and then saw a really big opportunity with exhibitions. So, you know, I think conference is a kind of paid for conferences and, you know, moved out by then and you had two big, large national exhibitions. And we we launched like the digital dentistry show. So we went a bit more niche, and then we launched the private dentistry show. And again, that was out seeing companies selling space, but really developing a proposition and going out to market.

And I then got appointed as commercial director. I think that was 2015, 2015, 2016, so really stayed on the events and supporting media and worked really closely with Joe Lovett, who was a great guy, you know, very charismatic, and I’ll learn a lot from Joe as well, just the way that he’s with people. And I think, you know, again, it’s all these cliche sayings, every day’s a school day. But, you know, I think in seeing things with, with, with people and, you know, that that works really well. It’s just adapting it to your own style and thinking, you know, I’ll utilise that and I’ll try that. And that doesn’t quite work. And just being authentic. And so I went on to do that and then. Obviously then the pandemic hit in 2020. And you know, I’m sure everyone’s aware that unfortunately Kim passed away in that period and can add a very, very tough time. So Kim has actually stuck over in in Bali at that point. And it was I mean, one of the most challenging times, one, to deal with losing a really close friend and then trying to support a friend and a colleague who’s going through absolute hell, but then also looking at the business and thinking, you know, fuck, what the hell are we going to do? You know, it was a and I’m sure everyone went through that. And, you know, looking back, you know, taking out all of the terrible things that happened with Kimberley, Covid was actually one of the most enjoyable times at work, I’d say.

And we as a team will sit there and we agree with that because, you know, our backs were against the wall and we just saw the spirit in the team come together and and we innovated and we launched new things. And you know, we got some things wrong, but we we got some things really, really right. And, you know, that really propelled us into this, this new era post Covid. And then following that, Ken returned from Bali and sat down with myself and Jason and just said, you know, I need to be there for my family and I can’t be as involved. And and he appointed us as NDS of the business, you know, and he kind of took a back step. So he wasn’t involved really from 2020 onwards. And again, I think that was quite a steep learning curve from 2020 to 2022 that you just got to work it out and you’ve got to make mistakes and you’ve just got to keep trying and keep pushing and don’t give up. So it’s it feels like therapy. Yeah. You know, like, you know, just explaining it that way. I think it’s been a real roller coaster of a journey because you learn things off so many different people and you adapt it into your own technique and your own way of, you know, your own values and what you believe in and how you position things, you know, coupled with just just taking risks and going for opportunities and just working it out. And ultimately here we are.

And but the thought of private equity backed management buyout, whose idea was that who first came up with that idea. Was that you guys or was that Ken’s idea or.

Yeah. I mean, it wasn’t really an idea. I think obviously, again, going back to what what happened with Ken. And then he had another tragic loss, which his son.


Because as parents, you can’t even imagine and you don’t even want to imagine, you know, but we still had the business to run. And we stood up, Ken, to support. And I think, as you just mentioned, that the media landscape was has changed dramatically over the years. And, you know, we we come out of Covid and much, much stronger business, you know, from from our offering and our multi-channel approach and the results that we were delivering and our transparency of results and looking at the end of the funnel and our social and our content creation and all of these things are either the modern media business should offer. And like anything, we had a big community. You know, we had a big following. And that’s really how we’ve always commercialised. We monetise our community, so we’ve always offered education. And we looked at developing an online platform for education. We felt like, you know, there’s some really good platforms out there, but there was nothing that was really simple and effective for the for the end user. And credit to Tim, you know, he really spearheaded that project along with Lori, who’s our marketing director, and he’s kind of like head of product. And they developed this phenomenal platform, which was like a Netflix interface, e-learning platform. And obviously, we’re really lucky that we’ve got an abundance of content from some of the leading clinicians globally because of the magazines that we publish, and we put that into an online platform and really without much effort and energy, we generated thousands of subscribers. So I remember sitting there and looking at the numbers and thinking, well, we’ve got the vast majority of the advertising market, you know, in the media landscape because of the size of our portfolio and, and our multichannel offering, there isn’t any, you know, and I think everybody there’s space in the market for everyone. So and I think there’s some really strong other publications out there. But in terms of the breadth and the reach. Wasn’t anybody that could really come close to what we had to offer.

So the growth.

Opportunity in media wasn’t really there unless we looked at other verticals, so looked at similar markets like veterinary or optical or. But then there was just this, this, this moment of saying, well, we haven’t really pushed the education side and we’ve generated this, so what could we do if we really went for it? And myself, Tim and Jason and Ken sat down and, you know, it needed a lot of energy, a lot of investment. And I think, you know, we collectively agreed that if we could raise the funds that Ken would be willing to because, you know, he’s he’s he wants to be with his family and he’s gone through that, that time. And so we went through a crazy. A crazy period, and it was really eye opening and fascinating. And I actually listened to your brother’s podcast, Prav, about obviously when he joined the.


And he talked about, you know, the, the model of private equity. And I think you hear all these things about private equity. And straightaway everybody gets their back up and they’re like, well, yeah, it’s scary. But you go through the process and it’s fascinating. Absolutely fascinating is the only way that I can describe it. And I actually loved every minute of it. I thought it was phenomenal. So we we went out and we put our proposition to ten different private equity firms. We also looked at other ways of lending. And out of the ten, I think we got eight offers, which was, you know, it was great. It really showed that we had a solid business and a solid growth plan, and they really liked what we were doing, and we gelled really well with two guys, a guy called Abbott and a guy called Alfred, and Alex, the founder and CEO of a company called Coniston Capital. And and they battled management buyout. And then yes, it was the end of August and we’re yeah, we’re right in the thick of it.

But how did you know what to do? Did you have corporate finance?

Yes. We used a company called Castle Finance and Lake Victoria. And so again, if anybody’s looking at going through a process I couldn’t recommend hard enough. She was absolutely phenomenal. Phenomenal. She you know, you go through, you meet with them, you talk about the business, you talk about your growth plans, and you know what you’re looking to achieve and timelines and and then they basically challenge you on so many points and, and really gets you to really understand the business deeply and look at all of the different. Levers that you can pull in the opportunities that there are, and then you pull together an. So an information memorandum, which they then share out to their network of private equity firms. And then they invite you to come in and you basically present a bit like Dragons Den. And then they sit there and they grill you for half an hour in a nice way. They’re there to get a job done as well. Yeah. You know, they’re looking to make investments and then and then, you know, you kind of shortlist it and then you go, you might go for dinner with them. You go and have a beer and you see what they’re like socially and make sure that you kind of values are aligned and you really believe in, in the direction that, that you’re taking a business and that they believe in that and they’re not going to come in and try and change that. And then, yeah, we’ve picked them and so far they’ve been phenomenal that let’s get on with it.

But you said.

They’re majority shareholders right. So they they can do whatever they like. They can they can pull the plug on you or sell you or whatever it is. Right. So if you say to them, this is my growth plan, within x number of years, Y will happen. If you don’t hit that plan, they can literally mess you up, right? Is that correct? Is there someone on your board now from them? How does it work?

No. So yeah. So so it sits on the board. But then we also we have a Non-exec chairman James Tyler was CEO of Dennis Media. So Dennis Media was published a title called The Week. And I think they they exited for 330,000,002 years ago. So you know massive subscription business. It’s got a wealth of experience and knowledge from from media. And, and he sits on, on the board with us as a conduit. I suppose the thing is, Payman is, is like any partnership, right? Is you’ve got a team, you could fire all of your team tomorrow if you wanted to. You went out of business.

Yeah, I know, but then, you know, like, are you having to answer to them now or, you know, people talk about the downside of this sort of thing is that they will interfere with you and so forth.


So they could write is the honest answer if they wanted to. But they’re not they’re not. You know, we’ve got we outline a budget and we outline an approach and we outline an investment. And as long as we stick to that and we don’t, you know, draw £1 million extra investment out to go and, you know, set up a business in UAE without, you know, with you anyway. So, you know, we’re completely aligned on our, on our, on our journey and where we’re going to go. And I suppose, you know, let’s not be foolish that there’s going to be some ups and downs in the next 5 to 10 years, and I’m sure there will be difficult conversations and I’m sure we’ll have difficult conversations with them. But but we’re all aligned to where we want to get to.

And have you suffered with imposter syndrome in the middle of all of this? I would yeah.

It’s a it’s a real interesting one because I had a chat with James last week and and honestly, looking back, I think I’ve suffered with it my whole life. Generally, I think, you know, I’ll sit in meetings with, you know, Harvard grads and people that develop, you know, all of these incredible platforms for dentists. And they’re Uber intelligent and some of the brightest people I’ve ever met. And I’m sat having dinner with them and they’re buying. I always leave there just feeling frustrated, saying, you know, what the hell just happened there? But but yeah. So I think that is in you know, obviously I think that is still something that I’m getting to grips with.

So, Craig, I just want to want to ask a few more questions about the process. I’ve been through that process with a dental practice. Right. And, you know, you have this idea. You go to an advisor, corporate finance, a broker, whatever that is, right? And they put, you know, you produce a pitch document essentially, and then you went to how how many people you said eight people said yes or whatever, we’d like more information or whatever. Yeah.

So we went out to ten. So we met ten. And then I come back to say that they were interested.

So your pitch, your pitch was, hey, we need some dough to buy Ken out. This is how the business is going to grow and provide you, the investor, with a return on investment. Right. Because if that model, if that story wasn’t there, they they ain’t just going to stump up the cash for no reason. Right. Yeah. So, so so you’ve got to prove to them that, hey, whatever you’re putting in here, you’re going to get that back. And so in a period of time, an eight out of ten people said, I think your story is great. Yeah, and we won in. Right. Just talk me through the process. You’ve now got eight on the table. Yeah. Was it a really easy decision like the one that stuck out as, like they’re the clear winner because, you know, we’ve had a pint with all eight of them and these were the coolest guys. Or was it, you know, the questions they asked or the direction in which they wanted to take the company was aligned with yours. What was talk me through that process.

Yeah. So a couple that we met and straightaway you just, you know, like you’ve got interesting territory. These are not people that we can work with. They’re just not, you know, they’re just they didn’t come across as really nice, genuine, authentic people. So they was off. So I think there was three that were left. And, you know, all really nice companies. I think the thing that stood out with Coniston was one they. Like. I suppose the other two felt like it was more lip service, like they you could see it was a solid business with, you know, a market leading brand, really engaged community, you know, and a big potential for, for growth on that, on the on the professional side. And I felt like a lot of it was lip service just to try and get a deal over the line. And then with Coniston and the thing that I really liked about those those guys is they were straight talkers, you know, they challenged, they didn’t just say, yeah, that’s great. What would you do in this scenario? What would you do in that scenario? Have you thought about this? You know they challenged on that media change from social. And obviously, you know we’ve got a business plan for for all of these elements. And ultimately just I think just we just clicked with them. You know, I suppose this when you say you’re going to buy a house, you know, you do get a feeling and an instinct and, you know, you go through the facts and the figures and ultimately they were the guys that one could meet Ten’s demands. Because, you know, this, let’s be real, can add a number that you needed to achieve. And that was a number that they had to be willing to pay, which they weren’t. So that was great. And then they really had to believe in us and that to challenge what we wanted to get to.

So of the three people that you shortlisted, did all three hit the magic number? Yeah. So so it was so, so the number was the number went out of the equation then. And then it was about the right fit.

The right fit. Yeah.

Obviously the number was the first thing that needed to be agreed. Yeah. And then that was agreed. And then and then it was a case of like who can we Gerald? Who do we believe we can work with and obviously gambatte to to payment point of, you know, they can do this and that. We need to make sure that we were comfortable in, you know, picking the right partners and.

So when you pick the partner, is there a whole process of due diligence that they went through? They tore through your finances, the books, the team, the the structure. What was that process like? The thing.

Is, the Craig Cairns sold that company a couple of times before already, so he must have dotted all the i’s and cross all the T’s several times before. Right?


And the thing is, you know, you can’t build a brand like FMC half heartedly, you know, so we have lots of structures and everything was in place. I think you know, me, Tim and Jason will bring quite a different element to the business from very operational. So I think if you ask Jason about how the process went, it’d be very different answer to mine. You know, I thought it went pretty well. They challenged a couple of things like, but Jason’s really the guy that was in the thick of that, pulling all of the packs together, providing information, and did a phenomenal job.

How long was that process, Craig?

This was the just over 11 weeks.

And was was this 11 weeks of day in and day out, constant information requests, providing this, providing that. And during that due diligence process, was there ever any point where you thought, fucking hell, this ain’t going to happen?

Yeah, multiple times. Multiple times. I mean, the challenging thing is I still got the business to run and and you’ve still got the magazines out the door. You still got put the events on. You still got planned for the awards. You know, you still got to keep innovation. You still got to keep the team motivated as well as get through 200 questions a day. And, you know, of course, I think anyone who’s gone through that process who says that it’s just easy and you’ve never questioned yourself, I wouldn’t believe, or I’d want to know what their secret sauce is, because there was multiple times we’d sit there and think, Jesus Christ, is this worth it? This is like, what’s that? What’s this? Why have they raised that? And then you get through it and you realise that, you know, there’s tactics that are involved. But also, you know, anyone who’s dealt with lawyers, buying a practice, selling a practice, you know, they asked questions they’re had to ask and become irrelevant over a period of time. But again, you learn a lot through it. Right? And and you start to understand, you know, I’ve never done an acquisition, I’ve never done a buyout, you know, and we’re going through our first acquisition now, which is incredibly exciting. Which, which, you know, I can’t go on too much into the detail of it because it’s due to complete next week. But, you know, all of these things, you’re then on the other side of becoming a buyer and not a, you know, so it’s. Yeah. Just just a fascinating fun.

And Craig my my sorry my understanding of of from what you’ve told me, the plan that you presented to them was that you’re going to shift to more of an AR model annual recurring revenue model. Is that right?

Yeah. No.

I wouldn’t say a shift because, you know, the heart of what we do is media, right? And we will never lose that. And that is something that we need to maintain and continue to innovate. And, you know, one of the big things that I really liked about this process was understanding your why. Why do we do what we do? And ultimately we do what we do to help businesses grow. You know, from a media perspective, we work with brands to help build their brand, grow recommendations, generate ROI, and and educate the profession on the services that are available. And then we looked at the professional side. And if you look at the the offering in the market, again, there’s great solutions in the market. But what we believe is there isn’t really anything that really empowers that, that that professional development from a practice or an individual side. So it’s how can we create solutions to really help practices and individuals grow. You know, and I think from, from developing that this, this naturally that becomes a subscription led model. So you know, we will never drop and we will never forget about media. That is the heart of what we’re doing. It will always be. But we will have an assumption of professional services where we will really look to help and grow the professional side of the business.

We can’t have someone from FMC on and not talk about things like Dentistry’s top 50. Yeah. And and and other controversial subjects like awards themselves. I mean, there’s a love hate relationship in the profession with both of those two things, right. And I guess I don’t want to be the, you know, the the guy who asks you this unpopular question, but what do you think? I mean, what do you say to the people who say, look, that all of this stuff pitting dentists against each other, implying one dentist is better than another, is sort of fake? It’s not. It’s not real.

Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, like like like we went back to, I suppose, the beginning of the conversation, like self esteem and recognition is a big thing. And I think really people don’t understand why we launched the awards when, when we launched them and what, what what you know, going back to why why is on that. It’s not to put people up against each other. It’s we’re getting to the publishing awards and we have done since, since I’ve been in the business. And you with any awards. Right. They’re self nominated. You have to write about yourself and we enter brand of the year. We enter publishing company of the year. And when you sit there and you write about your business, it really makes you reflect, like going back to what we did with this, you know, talking about corporate finance at the end. And you look at it and you think, actually, you know what? I think we can improve on that. And I think we can we can do this a bit different. And it’s only when you actually take the time to sit there and write down and really reflect on why you think you are the leading business in, you know, the South, or why you think you’re the leading practice in the North or whatever it may be.

And that led us to really up our game on, on, on the brand side of things and look to the bits that we weren’t really happy with and what we like, what we didn’t like. And I’ll tell you that we improved our brand position by about 10% off the back of entering those awards and every year. And that’s really the aim of the awards, right? If we if every dental professional that enters those awards, or any practice that enters those awards can sit down and reflect and actually has an impact of making them try harder, 1 or 2%. That’s a good thing for the profession and a good thing for patients. Okay, whether people think is right or wrong to put people up against each other, it’s a good thing because everybody’s trying harder, everyone’s producing better dentistry. And the only winner in that is the patient.

Yeah. But do you have do you have sympathy for the, you know, for the for the dentist who’s sitting in Yorkshire who hasn’t even entered the awards because that’s not what he does. And you’ve called some his his next door practice. Best practice Yorkshire or something. Do you have empathy for that guy? He’s not into going for awards. He’s into taking care of his patients. Do you have do you have empathy for the position of that guy who thinks, you know, what the hell?

Yeah, absolutely.

But I suppose, you know, we can only judge what’s put in front of us, right? And we’ve got a panel of 20, 25 leading clinicians, you know, chaired by David David Houston. And it’s a vigorous process. You know, they all take the time out and they come to the office and they go through these awards. And. Estate and I cannot tell you like I’m in credit to all of them that take their time out because of the love and passion that they’ve got in sector. And you know they will ultimately choose who they believe is the best that’s in front of them. Yeah. And you can’t pick the guy that didn’t enter. And you know, I suppose you’ve got to feel for these guys that are you know, there’s probably some of the best clinicians out there, right, that aren’t on Instagram, aren’t on Facebook. Yeah. Their clinical skills are way above anybody that’s ever won an award. I can only imagine. And no one really knows who they are. And that’s that’s fine. Right. Because that’s that’s the lane that they’ve, they’ve chosen and that’s what they do. And, and you know, that’s it. There’s nothing else really to say, is there. It’s like we can only judge and follow a process that’s in front of us. And, you know, if he was at the awards on Friday night in Leicester, it was incredible. You know, like looking at people’s reactions when they’re shortlisted and when they win. But like that is one of the best feelings of the job. Like means everything to them.

I mean, one thing’s for sure, you guys have really got that process down to a tee. When you go to one of those award ceremonies, you just feel like there’s a buzz in the air. And particularly that Leicester one, it’s a loads, loads of fun that night. Loads and loads of fun. All the teams are out and so forth. Tell me about the process of actually hosting something like that. I mean, you guys must be very slick in it right now, by now. But you know, there’s massive productions and teams and everyone’s stressed out. Well, tell me the process. How far ahead are you working for the awards?

Yeah, it’s about six months. And again, I cannot take any credit. And to be honest, I don’t really understand.

The love that.

I’m just being honest. Right. I just, you know, we’ve got the production team, you’ve got Leander, who’s our event director, who also hosts the awards. You know, they’re be in the office till like 9:00 at night, like a good month before the awards. So, you know, every day and they’re making sure. And they’re perfectionist and they really care. So in answer to your question, I don’t really understand the whole process of it, but I know that they work incredibly hard to make deliver that as you see it.

And what about the top 50, man? Because I’d say the top 50 is even more controversial sort of thing. I mean, do I need to spell out the charge?

Just what’s your.

Thoughts on top.


I think it probably sells loads of magazines and things. Right. It’s one of those things that everyone’s interested in. So, you know, it’s got attention. It’s definitely, definitely an attention grabber. I’m sure everyone reads it. I’m cool with it, dude. But, but but there’s a lot of people who don’t know what I mean. Well, I can spell out the problem, but the idea, the the idea that it’s voted for or was voted for now, now you guys just just announced it for yourself. And again, it comes back to the same question of really, is number 14 better than number 67.

Yeah. And I think, you know, when it was numbered I don’t think that was right. And I think everyone’s always misunderstood how the top 50 worked and no one’s really ever knew. You know ultimately and I think can explain this when when he was on the pod we’re we’re incredibly well connected. Right. In terms of we know what’s going on in the sector and we know what, you know, people that are having an impact, people that aren’t having an impact. So we utilise our network of our awards judges, our editorial board, and we’re asking people to put forward who they believe had a big impact in the sector. And then ultimately, the content team will sit down and they will go through and they basically shortlist and they will pick 50 people that they believe has had the biggest impact on the sector. And I think if we can’t pick that list, there’s not many people that can. And I suppose we would always challenge anyone that has something to say about it, to say, well, who don’t think it should be on the list. And we’re having that conversation to understand, you know, why they believe they shouldn’t be on the list. And, you know, we always take that that feedback and review. Now, ultimately, every time that’s happened, no one’s been able to answer the question because, you know, I think the 50 that have always been picked have had a big impact on the sector, and they’ve done great things for the profession.

I think part of your problem is the brand dentistry. Yeah, because if we’re talking about dentistry is top 50, there’s all sorts of people who missed out. You know, academics, you know, people in dentistry is such a big subject. Whereas I think maybe, maybe you guys are more sort of general practice oriented. But listen, dude, I’ve got no problem with it myself. I know loads of people do though. Do you get a lot of blowback about it?

Oh, every year. Every year.

And so what are what do people say? What’s the criticism? Is it having them at all or is it who’s on the list?

I think you’ve.

Seen a lot of comments on social around top 50, and.

I’ve sent you quite a lot.

Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

There’s always going to be people like, I think if you put yourself above the parapet and you’ve got a big social following, whether you know, or you’re a big media company and you do these things, you’re always going to have a big fan base and people that love what you do. But you’re also going to have people that detractors. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And we’re we’re really comfortable with that because you, you know, you cannot please everyone. And ultimately we are we’re in the market of eyeballs. And when the top 50 is launched, that is the number one most visited day on that website. And I’m pretty sure all of the detractors will jump on that site to see who’s on the list.

Yeah, that’s for sure.

You know, so if it was that big of an issue and, you know. You know, they really care. You know, obviously it means a lot to people. And we’re only ever trying to do good things. We’re never we’re never going out with the attention to say, let’s do this is how many people we can wind up. People think, you know, generally think people sit there and think, oh, they’ve done it again. They’re doing this is controversial. Like everything we do, we’re just there to try and do good for the profession. Whether it’s the award, whether it’s recognising people in the top 50. Whether it’s putting people on a speaking program, I think it’s all there to try and do good for the profession. And ultimately we’re never going to be able to please everyone. But, you know, we keep trying and we work really hard and, you know, we don’t always get it right. Nobody gets it right all the time. But but one thing we won’t do is we won’t stop. And we keep trying really hard. And we make sure that we do the best that we can to keep elevating the dental profession. And I think, you know, if I’m being biased, I think we do a good job of it, and we want to make sure that we keep doing that.

And we definitely do. Before Prav jumps in, tell me, how do you get people to come in and stay till 9 p.m.? I mean, how does that work?

Yeah, not not not once ever till now.

I think it just goes back to culture and and care and, you know, just, just. It sounds corny, but just just the love of what you do. If you really enjoy what you’re doing, you love it. Stay until 9:00 and having a bit of food and a couple of drinks with your peers while you get something together. It’s not. It’s not horrendous, is it? Yeah. You know, we’re going to get a Nando’s in and have a couple of beers while we do this. It’s like it’s fine with people you really enjoy working with. And you know what you’re going to what the output is going to be at the end of it, and what that means to, to us as a company, but what it means to the profession as well. So, you know, I think we’re really lucky in the fact that the people that we’ve got here, as James told me all those years ago, have stuck around and they’ve been here a long time. You know, I think every everybody’s been here ten years plus. And, you know, we’re building a team now. We’ve got a lot of positions open and we’ve got, you know, a new kind of era of FMC starting. And it’s really exciting. You know, not not everybody makes it, if I’m honest. And you can see that straight away. People come in if they don’t fit the culture.

You know, loving this 9:09 p.m. story, because we had one episode where we were talking about Prav recruitment process, and it turned out his number one concern is he doesn’t want people to leave at 530.

Absolute bollocks.

Absolute bollocks.


Listen, I urge everyone to listen to that episode. He was his number one point. Do you know what time saving employees. But go on, Trav, go on. Absolute shit. Payman.

Absolute bullshit. Um.

So, look, my take on this is during recruitment, right? And I think what pays alluding to is, is I don’t want to talk watcher. Right. And so and so there’s, there’s a culture thing that you’re talking about. So are you here because you love what you do or are you here to collect a rate. Yeah. And if you’re here just to do your job and collect a rate, you’ll fucking know it’s 530. In fact, at 525, you’ll hear your bag packing up. And when it hits 529, the fucking door’s gone, right? Yeah. And and I definitely don’t want to hire anyone like that. Right. But I’m a massive believer in in, um.

We mustn’t fetishise it, though. We mustn’t. Let me listen. Let me.

Carry on. Let me carry on.

Let me let me finish.

Just for the sake of the argument. Yeah. An enlightened 530. Everyone gets up and leaves. Yeah. Unless there’s something going on. Like. Like he’s saying, like if there’s a go on. But.

But the point I’m making, I’m a massive believer in switching off from work. Right. And I tell all my team this year, I mean, I’ve got a new guy who’s just joined the team. Ross Yeah, fucking hell. Like this. Geezers on slack at 6 a.m. messaging me. Yeah, 9 p.m. he’ll be messaging and he’ll be working and messaging me. Right.

He’s figured you out.

No, no, no, it’s not that.

It’s not that at all. Yeah, it’s not that at all. But but he tells me he absolutely loves what he does. Yeah. He feels a sense of responsibility for the projects he’s got. There’s no deadlines being given to him. But he does it out of and there’s no requirement there. Right. But I guess for me, you know, I want people to be there because they love what they do. That’s really, really important to me. Right. And you know, in that episode we’ll have mentioned that, you know, whatever it is. Right? But I’m not interested in Clockwatchers. Right. I’m not interested in someone who just wants to come in. Boom, out the door. That is what it is, right? Maybe enlightened. The work is done at 530 or whatever, right? Most of my team. Yeah, finish at 530. Since we’ve gone remote, things have changed, right? Since we’ve gone completely remote, some team members say, hey, I’m doing the school run. I’m not going to be in at this time, but I’ll get my work done right. And you’ll find some of my team are working until 7 or 8 at night. So some of them finish at four. Yeah. On certain days, whatever doesn’t really matter. Yeah, but but I think the important thing is you ask Craig the question, how do you get those people to stay tonight? You don’t have to. Yeah, you don’t have to. You don’t have to get them to do that. It’s because they want to do that because they feel either a sense of responsibility. They love it.

Yeah. Yeah. But you know, guys, the reason I ask the question was if that’s the culture in the company, then you can understand why how a junior will end up. If everyone if all the seniors are staying till nine. A junior will end up staying till nine as well. Yeah. Doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to. Yeah it could, it could be that the culture is pressuring them to.

They’ll go they’ll they’ll get filtered out.

I think the. If you look at the organisation and is now what’s the time now is 518. It’s probably three, 3 or 4 people I guess, right, that are there because there’s certain projects that need delivering or we’ve got the industry awards coming up next Thursday. You know, we do flexi time, we do remote working. We have all of these benefits. What’s the like 60% of the team will leave at 5:00. Right. They’d do a solid day’s work. Phenomenal operators. And you know that’s that’s that’s that’s that’s great. You know they’re so instrumental to the business. And then you’ve got another layer of people like you say Prav that it really brought in to what we do, what our our vision is, where we’re trying to get to. And they’re putting the extra yards to make sure that the projects finessed and, you know, they take the extra time and effort. And if they’re in the office an hour later just to get that extra level of detail and delivery that they do that. And I think it’s, you know, you can’t have everyone in an organisation being a racehorse or being there till 9:00 at night and you know, you need to have a good blend of people that come in and they do a really solid job and they they give good output and they like what they do. It’s a nice environment. And, you know, ultimately they’re it’s a job for them. And I think every organisation will have that. And you have another layer of people that you know that are a little bit more career minded, that want to put in the extra effort and the extra hours. And they care about the journey, they care about the, the, the overall outcome. And obviously, you know, people in those categories are rewarded different, different positions within the organisation.

And also different times, different days. You know, there might be a day that, okay, I’m going to stay behind because I just need to get this shit done. And other days they finish on time. Some days they finish a bit early, some days they need an early day on a Friday. That’s cool. And it’s that give and take, right? That’s what’s important.

Yeah, absolutely. Craig, tell me this.

Sometimes, you know, you’re visiting people or you have been I guess maybe you don’t do that anymore, but you’re visiting people, selling them events, ads and all that. And sometimes you’re talking to, I don’t know, global head of marketing for Invisalign, who’s a $20 billion company. And then another time you’re talking to a lab owner, tiny business, 12 people. Would you say the fundamentals of those two situations are the same? Or have you learned how to handle sort of the giant company? You know, the way the way they move slowly or whatever. Give me some thoughts on the on. It’s such a different types of people, aren’t they.

Yeah, definitely. I think.

You know, overall the fundamentals are the same. Right. Everybody’s got an objective and they’re seeing us because they need help with that objective. And whether that is they need to grow their brand. They need to get, you know, more sales. They need to drive more traffic to the website. They need to help content creation. So, you know, ultimately the fundamentals are the same. I think the language that spoke to, you know, the chief marketing officer at align. You know, to the language of Alabama is that the is not going to be talking about setas and cap and, you know, churn and and the rest of that that that kind of marketing speak. And the CMO alone is so, you know, I think it’s just adapting the language and the output to the end user. But ultimately the fundamentals is exactly the same, right? We’ve got a product that can help them with their objective, and it’s just presented in a way that they understand, okay. If I do that, you know, potentially this is the outcome that I’m going to get. Or if I do this, this is what I’m going to get. Is this exactly the same, whether you’re talking to a lion or you’re talking to Barry’s lab in Scunthorpe.

I guess you’re not playing ping pong with the eyeliner.

No. I want that rebound. I want that. Prav.

He’s lost so much. He’s lost so many ads and exhibition. Now that he owns the company, we can be open about it. Because before we play a game with him. Before we used to play a game of ping pong. He used to lose, lose like an exhibition space to me. And then he go, don’t tell anyone about this Payman.

And really.

He really suckered me in. It’s a yeah, and I don’t really play play that much.

So man.

Play. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely play. Shocking. I think I’ve got this. Go. I’ll give you six points. Head starts with six points. You see. Yeah. Yeah. Those mental.

Listen he tried that. He tried that bullshit with me years ago. Right. But can barely hold the bloody bat in my hand.


He’s got two left two left fingers.

And then and then and then when I’m playing table tennis, I play it as though I’m on a full flipping size tennis court. Yeah.

That’s exactly right.

So absolutely useless, you know. So, um, yeah, I give him about 10s of entertainment and then.


Amazing. Craig, knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently in your career?

Oh, said Bill Gregson.

What I’ve done differently, I’d have been I’d have been more patient at the beginning, in the in the early days definitely would have been more patient. And.

You know.

And impatience is a disease of the 20s. It is.

Yeah. I think I think like believing in the process. And I think obviously these are the things that you learn as you go through it. But I think, you know, if you believe in yourself and you work really hard and you get the results, you know, good things are going to happen, right? You’re going to get noticed whether you’re in in writing, whether you’re in FMC, whether you’re in a line, whether you’re in Google, you know, if you if you if you put the right level of application in and you try really hard and you get results in your area, you’re going to get noticed and good things are going to happen. But I wouldn’t rush into things thinking, this needs to happen now. Now, I think it’s good to have a level of urgency, but don’t put too much pressure. I think I put too much pressure on myself in my early days, trying to get to somewhere that didn’t quite mean to get to.


Yeah. And you know, you’re definitely the market leader in Dental media, but you’re no longer the biggest company in Dental media, from what I can see. I mean, some of these gigantic companies that are now involved with exhibitions and all that. What are your views on the competitive landscape?


I would say we are the largest Dental communications company from a from a media perspective in terms of Dental media. I think the competitive landscape, again, it’s a really interesting one, right? Because I think as you alluded to, we are general high street practice. We’re not that IT media and we do regional shows. And I think if you look through the market since Covid, there’s been a huge transition, right, including exhibitions. And I think you look across the board, not not just in Dental, but in all of these other, other sectors that the big large shows have all taken a massive hit, right, because of this end of funnel 3% ROI. And I remember when, you know, you would go to many early shows and yeah, in life and you must have spent some serious dough with these parties. And I think, you know, when you look at the way that the market is now and everyone’s focussed on that ROI and the funnel is you can’t drop a hundred K investment on a show for two days to speak to 300 people, because you’re not going to get that return. And I think we noticed that quite early on, and hence why we launched our regional model, that we’re not trying to be massive and 10,000 stans and the rest of it, we’re just trying to get people to to affluent and populated areas in the UK that don’t tend to travel. So I’m really excited about the future of the shows. I think they’re gaining really solid traction, and I think our content program for next year is looking incredible, which again now. So I’m really excited about that.

And then I think on the traditional publishing side, I think, you know, there’s some great, great magazines and there’s some great titles out there and they they do a phenomenal job. And I think we do really well with what we do. I genuinely don’t believe there’s anybody that can touch us from a digital perspective from Dental UK, our social reach, you know, our data and our investment in, in in that approach. So, you know, we’re constantly pushing the boundaries and obviously as we move into a cookieless future which which we all know has come in and, you know. If you look at the entry, we generate about 98,500 unique users, of which about 68,000 of them are logged into the site. So we know their details and we can track them. That’s going to become incredibly powerful when cookies are unavailable because you can’t pixel. And obviously what you’ve done, where you’re giving the money to Mark Zuckerberg. If you can’t pixel, you know, all of these things that you’re doing, you’re going to need an organisation that has that data, has that infrastructure, and we’ve been doing that for the last 4 or 5 years. And we have a data team that’s just constantly looking at that user journey and harnessing data and. You know. So I think it’s more about how people are preparing for the future. And, you know, I know how hard that journey has been over the last four years and the development and the infrastructure and the team and the investment that’s gone into developing that. You know, I wish anyone luck who’s going through that now because it’s not easy.


What’s the future of FMC? Craig, you alluded earlier to a situation that obviously you can’t talk too much about, but I’m sure we’ll be announced in the in the near future. You mentioned an upcoming acquisition. So what’s the plan moving forward? Is it is it acquiring complementary businesses to increase your footprint and exposure? Obviously to grow it. Where do you see FMC between now and the next five years? What’s the plan?

So I think, you know, as I said, I think media and now and awards and events and that side of the business is at the heart of what we do. And really diving into the education and and building solutions that allow individuals and practices to to really become better clinicians and, and better practices, whether that’s through education, whether that’s developing systems that can make their life easier through compliance or HR and or asset management, and really trying to build that infrastructure of products that can help practices perform better and taking our hassle. So I think, you know, I think there’s great product out there. I generally do, and I’m not just saying that for lip service, but I think that there’s a there’s definitely an opportunity for a slicker, easier interface and platform with content that can help a lot because I think a lot of the platforms that are out there at the moment and feedback from clinicians is that they’re great. They tick a box, but they’re quite clunky in their hearts and views. And so I think, you know, developing that side of the business and really having it led by dentists for dentists is going to be something that that will ultimately help the profession.

Okay. And so you talk about platform there and obviously having a better platform improving the platform and so on and so forth. But if you could just paint a picture in five years time, what would FMC be doing something fundamentally different through its acquisitions?

Yeah, I think.

It would really it would really break into the professional offering. So at the minute, if you ask people about FMC, they probably know us through the private industry awards, or they might know Dentrix or they know dentistry magazine. Yeah. And I think in five years time we’d be known for that, as well as offering market leading solutions for practices.

So you mean B2B as well as B2C?

Yes. Yeah. Well.

I mean.

As in as in.

As in dentists. Yeah.

As in.

Yeah, but but but so, so so the offering rather than FMC being predominantly a company that allows businesses that want to advertise to dental practices, also directly helping dental practices to improve their businesses as well. Correct. Yeah.

That’s you articulated that much better than I did.

Sometimes I just want to wrap my head around things in a really simple way. So just for my simple mind to understand. Um, so. Yeah, that’s that’s brilliant.

Before we move on to the final questions, before we move on, what would you say is your biggest mistake you’ve made in your working life, Craig?

It’s been a few. It’s definitely been a few things. A couple of.

Ping pong, ping pong games.

They do fun games.

And. Yeah, I think two biggest one one was being too obsessed. I think in two ways is, is is is panned out for me really well. But then it’s a big a big impact. You know, it has an impact on the family. Right. And I think you know we we touched on it just before I lost my brother in law 18 months ago, which is really impacted my, my, my family at home. And I think, you know, you. I would say big mistake is being too obsessed with with the end goal and the mission and not actually taking time back to to probably being a bit selfish. In all honesty, I’d say that’s a big mistake. And then the other one is is is getting going at things too quick. So making rash decisions. And, you know, we made a rash decision with launching the Cardiff Dentistry Show. Absolute shocker.


Craig, have you have ever had the biggest? I always ask so asks this question. Then I try to dig into the detail. Right? So rather than a mistake we made as a collective, a mistake Craig made as an individual, and when you made that mistake, you had an oh shit moment. So like, like almost like you’ve just made a mistake, right? Whether you’ve jumped off a phone with a, with a supplier or a dentist or whatever, and then you think, fuck, I can’t believe I’ve just done that. Yeah. Any of those?

Yeah, yeah, definitely been one of them. Actually, I had a meeting today and I won’t I won’t name any names, but we had a, um, we had a leadership team meeting, um, last week, and we had, you know, the idea was to be really open and honest and understand as a business where, you know, to basically to align everyone to say, this is the journey, this is where, where we’re going and let’s get everything on the table. And a lot of, you know, I’m quite a simple character, and if there’s an issue, I’d like to raise it. And I raised an issue with an individual in a fairly direct way and didn’t really show too much empathy with with the way it was delivered. And I remember leaving the meeting and I knew that it had to be said because it was generally there to help. And I remember I left the meeting and I went back and I spoke to my wife and I said, I think I’ve really messed up there. And, um, so I called this individual on Thursday and in my head, I had this plan that I was going to apologise for the way that I delivered it. They explained why I said it and and in my head I was like, the conversation is going to go like that. It’s all going to go fine, man. It it should. And it went the complete opposite. We ended up having a huge argument, really unprofessional.

And, um, exactly what you said. I got off the phone and I thought, I’ve absolutely messed this up, but I’ve really, really let the team down there because they felt that I’d been untrustworthy and and betrayed them. And it was not my intention. And and I felt awful. Absolutely awful. And then a senior member of the team and I have a really important role. And I had a really important role with the awards on Friday. And then, you know, you know, that feeling when you go home and you just feel sick, you just like, you know, you’ve really messed up. And I felt sick and, and and we had a meeting today and I explained it and, and I tried to articulate it and I apologise and I haven’t and it’s all fine and it’s all settled. But I’d say in, in recent times that’s been the one that’s really, um, you know, as a mistake, I think, not rushing into things and dealing with everybody in the same way. Right. Everyone’s got different emotional levels. And the way that you approach people is, I can talk to someone in one way and be really direct, but in other ways I need to adapt the way I say it and still get the same outcome, but I need to be more sensitive to their situation. And yeah, so hopefully that answers the question.

It does, it does.

It’s lonely at the top, my buddy.


Let’s move on to the final questions. Prav. Let’s let’s start with mine. Let’s start with mine, because yours is more profound. Yeah? Yeah. Craig. Fantasy dinner party.


Three guests. Dead or alive. Who would you have?

Yet, so I’d have my brother in law out of the way. He’s, um. You know, he was a good way. And he was a fun, fun guy. But in all honesty, I want to understand. But not not to get too deep into it. But, you know, he he suffered with, with depression, which we wasn’t aware of. So I’d like to get into that because I know mental health is obviously a big thing within our profession, but, um, to try and understand what happened there and try and give those answers to my wife and, and then then make my life easier there and then on a more positive, uplifting guess, I’d say. Reed Hastings. So, so CEO, founder of Netflix. I think we spoke a lot about culture today, and obviously they released the book, Netflix culture and, you know, just fascinated in the way that he did. You know, it doesn’t have a number of holidays, doesn’t have a time machine. You know, he lets his team do what they want, when they want. They can take their voting, voting, you know, their holidays whenever they like. Just that mindset of how we develop that. And I think that’d be fascinating. Fascinating. Just really getting into into those details. Um, and then Elon Musk, you know, that that vision of, you know, like your reaction there is, you know, he’s crazy, but the vision that he’s got and how he sees things from such an early point on, before anyone who had thought of that, how does that work? And what is it that he sees and he believes? And is it is it a gut instinct that, you know, I just would love to understand that in more detail.

I like that. Prav Prav wouldn’t have much, much, much sympathy for the pick your own holidays. Prav I’m joking. Just a joke. It’s just a joke, buddy.

Lucky you.

You see, one thing I’ve noticed is your Prav has to be very careful with what he says on this pod. Yeah, because members of his team listen to this pod as they’re editing it and so forth.

But listen, mate.

I’m absolutely cool with it. Yeah.

Absolutely cool.

You’ve changed man.

There you go.

Craig. It’s your imagine. Yeah. So she last day on the planet and you’re surrounded by your loved ones, the kids, and you have to leave them with three pieces of life advice or wisdom? What would they be?

Oh three. So I’d say be authentic. You know, I think we probably all going through life when you’re with groups of people and you’re trying to make it and try and do things and saying things to impress and to to have an impact. But ultimately it’s not you. And and I think these people always get found out. So I always say to them, be authentic, be yourself. No. Trust what you believe in. And and everything will come good. Because, you know, I think people understand when when someone’s being authentic, like you can, you can see the bullshit life and it irritates me. So I think be authentic. I think the other thing is, I’d say cherish the moments. You know, I think we’re all in a world of of, you know, living in the fast pace and a fast pace and looking at the next goal. And where are we going to get to and how are we going to do this? But actually, you know, just just cherish the small things, you know, like having a cup of coffee in the morning with your wife and your kids in the garden, like just, you know, it’s simple, but just just enjoy the moments because you don’t know when they’re when they’re going to end and then you don’t know what’s around the corner. And, you know, we’ve obviously gone through tragic times the last few years with, with you know, Ken’s lost and my brother in law. And I think that really heightened the fact that, you know, just just enjoy the successes and enjoy the small things because, you know, what’s it all about, why you work so hard and you do all these things and but you know what? No one’s going to ever going to remember half of it. But your family will remember the the little holidays, the walks on the beach, the coffees in the morning. And so I’ll definitely need to start doing that more. And then lastly. I’d say.

Just work hard.

And then be consistent. You know, I think there’s there’s too many of this, this next generation coming through that, trying to get these get rich quick schemes. And, you know, they they see the success on social media and they don’t see the, the ten years of growth and just just work hard and be consistent. And I think even when you don’t want to get up and you don’t want to go to work, get up, go to work, try your hardest and then go home. And you do that every day. You’ll be all right. Don’t don’t cut corners. Don’t try and cheat. Just just be consistent and work really hard.

Incredible advice.

Thank you Craig.

And really, really the way you’ve lived your your career there Craig. Right. I’m so, so very proud of the three of you having dealt with you so over the years and and always enjoyed dealing with you. I’m so proud of what you guys have achieved. You know, it’s a wonderful thing and it’s a wonderful thing that you’re carrying on Ken’s sort of work. Really well done man.

Thank you Matt.

I think it’s really inspirational mate. And yeah, I think we need to I think we need to have episode two of that Curry, mate.

Yeah, definitely. We’ll have him.

Back in five years and see if any of the stuff he says comes true or not.

But that’d be gone and I’d enjoy that. But thanks. Thanks so much for having me on. I’ve really enjoyed it. It was, you know, good to actually go back and reflect on the things, because I think without the these platforms and talking about it, you actually forget about, you know, how things be working career. And it’s actually yeah, it’s been really enjoyable.

Amazing man. Thanks so much for doing this, buddy.

Thanks, Craig.

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.

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.

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