Payman Langroudi sits down with Zak Kara, co-founder of Bounemoputh-based Smile Stories, to explore the philosophy and practices behind his success. 

Zak shares insights into the importance of teamwork, thoughts on patient communication and why some conventional dental words and phrases off limits during patient consultations.

Zak also explores patient journeys, creating a practice ambience and his practice-growth philosophy.



In This Episode

01.00 – Private dentistry and the patient journey

04.55 – Smile Stories

11.00 – Patient selection

20.00 – Personal and professional background

28.40 – Comfort, ambience and atmosphere

32.21 – Banned words

36.10 – Practice management

01.10.00 – Practice growth

01.17.10 – Consultation and communication

01.57.25 – Leadership and structure

02.05.00 – Black box thinking

02.21.19 – Last days and legacy


About Zak Kara

Zak Kara is the co-owner of Bournemouth-based Smile Stories dental practice.

Zak Kara: But if you don’t recognise the person in front of you and their real true wishes, [00:00:05] it’s kind of pointless. You know? That gets quite deep and philosophical. But panky one, some [00:00:10] of it was quite philosophical, and it makes you realise what you’re about as a person and why you’re in [00:00:15] dentistry and the communication stuff. And coming back to some of the banned words. One of the banned words [00:00:20] might be surgery. So the Americans call it an office, but we don’t call it a surgery in art. We call them treatment [00:00:25] rooms, because surgery is a word that conjures up images of all sorts of stuff you don’t want.

Intro Voice: This [00:00:30] is Dental Leaders, the [00:00:35] podcast where you get to go one on one with emerging leaders in dentistry. [00:00:40] Your hosts [00:00:45] Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.

Payman Langroudi: It gives me great pleasure to [00:00:50] welcome Saqqara onto the podcast. I’m Zak Sagi, I’ve been following for years [00:00:55] now, and one thing that’s particularly made me sort [00:01:00] of interested in Zak’s musings is his approach to patient journey, [00:01:05] his approach to really, you know, private dentistry in the way that it really should [00:01:10] be done. Um, we get questions all the time, people who want to leave [00:01:15] the NHS, and there are different characters. You know, there’s the character who thinks that NHS [00:01:20] dentistry is, um, you know, private dentistry is NHS dentistry at a higher price? Um, [00:01:25] and then, you know, you get all the way to people who want to focus on one particular [00:01:30] type of treatment, um, segmenting patients, making sure that the person [00:01:35] who comes into your chair is the person who should be there and being kind of pre-screened, [00:01:40] and it’s going to be a real sort of, I think a [00:01:45] pod that’s going to give us a lot of value. Um, to talk to Zak, I will go through the, [00:01:50] you know, life story part as well. But it’s a pleasure to have you, Zack.

Zak Kara: Thanks very much for having [00:01:55] me. I appreciate it. As I said earlier on before we started, um, I’ve been listening to what you guys do for a long [00:02:00] time, and, um, it makes me feel very honoured to to be asked, so thanks for it.

Payman Langroudi: Really? Yeah. [00:02:05] Excellent. You get different types of guests as well. You get guests who say that, and then [00:02:10] and then you get guests who say, oh, yeah, I’ve been waiting so long. How come it took so long as well? So [00:02:15] thanks a lot for coming in, actually, because, you know, you come all [00:02:20] the way from Bournemouth. Um, and it’s I always find the in person interviews so much, so much [00:02:25] more sort of intimate than, than on zoom. Um, and the other thing I want to say [00:02:30] is that, uh, I’ve been doing going to a few events in the last few weeks and the [00:02:35] number of people who are coming up to me and asking about the podcast. And so wherever you are right now, [00:02:40] whether you’re, you know, on your way to work, which seems to be the the most common one, or [00:02:45] walking the dog or taking a run, um, you know, I salute you. I salute you for, you [00:02:50] know, wanting more dentistry because, you know, it’s quite fashionable these days to hate your job [00:02:55] and all of that. But there’s many, many of us who love our jobs. And, um, [00:03:00] Zack is the kind of person who, I don’t know, on on the outside, [00:03:05] I feel like you adore being a dentist, that you love it. Um, now, whether that’s [00:03:10] the Meccano side or whether it’s the actual the running of the place and, and one [00:03:15] thing I’ve noticed with Isaac is that you’ve got a sort of looking at things from a lateral [00:03:20] angle, thinking outside the box kind of kind of thing. And you’re very good at putting that into words. [00:03:25] Into simple words. Oh. Thank you. Yeah. Um, so I want to I want to, you know, with this podcast, we tend [00:03:30] to start with where were you born? But sometimes with my [00:03:35] ADHD side, if I don’t ask the question that I want to ask straight away, yeah, I [00:03:40] end up just not listening to anything else and just waiting to ask that question. And really the [00:03:45] question is around that, around, you know, why did you become this guy who [00:03:50] who is just so good at talking?

Zak Kara: Do you think I’m good at talking? Yeah, I’ve got [00:03:55] high expectations. Well, you must have set high expectations for this. Pardon? Um, I look [00:04:00] I love a chat. Yeah. The deep down origins probably go to together with the question you were going. Well the [00:04:05] traditional first question, which is that I grew up in my dad’s record shop. You guys have heard this all before on [00:04:10] the podcast with Prav background and so on and so forth. Um, so I grew up getting to know people’s [00:04:15] stories, and you’ll write that my approach to dentistry is definitely been that I look at things [00:04:20] slightly laterally compared to most technical minded dentists, but there’s still a huge [00:04:25] element of my day to day that I love in that artistry and that finesse and that [00:04:30] attention to detail. That’s it. The thing that I that really, really gets [00:04:35] me out of bed these days is actually a bit deeper than that. It’s connecting people to [00:04:40] their real skill set. And I found that the power of words and your processes and [00:04:45] your workflows, and what you can create as an organisation is really what makes me excited. [00:04:50]

Payman Langroudi: I see. And so this practice that you’re in right now. [00:04:55] Yeah. Did you rename it Smile Stories or did you buy it as Smile Stories?

Zak Kara: Back [00:05:00] story okay. If you want the overview. But the brilliant.

Payman Langroudi: Brand I love it. You know, I [00:05:05] must have come across a thousand different names for dental practices, but that’s a great one.

Zak Kara: I’m [00:05:10] not going to compare us to any other practice, but what I do find, and funny enough, you mentioned a bit earlier [00:05:15] on in the intro. Thank you. That’s very kind of you. What you said, um, is that a lot of practices [00:05:20] become dentistry according to what that clinician or those clinicians believe dentistry [00:05:25] to be, because that’s all they’ve done in their careers. And then they put a private price tag [00:05:30] on it. Yeah. And then they go, well, you sit down in the chair and it’s fee per item, and this is how you do dentistry. [00:05:35] And then some take it to the next level, which I would call private private dentistry, which [00:05:40] is rubber dam, comprehensive thinking and all the rest of it. Those practices are sometimes [00:05:45] fine can become a little bit, I don’t know, forgive the terminology, but kind of up their own ass [00:05:50] kind of a bit. Big picture. They think they’re so big thinking [00:05:55] that they kind of just lose sight of themselves and they become quite pretentious. [00:06:00] And actually, I found that when you then look wider afield. For example, [00:06:05] I’ve just been over in Chicago at midwinter meetings and American dentistry got brought to the UK, [00:06:10] you know, 20, 30, 30 years ago. Now that makes us feel old. Um, and I was aspiring to this [00:06:15] stuff when I was a dental student, you know, 2004. I began at dental school not that long ago, but 20 years ago. And [00:06:20] I thought that I was aspiring to be the Larry Rosenthal dentist. The white coat [00:06:25] that made you a big deal and you could easily call a practice, I don’t know. I heard of one the other day.

Zak Kara: What was it? [00:06:30] Uh, dental philosophy. And I thought to myself, okay, by the way, this practice hasn’t [00:06:35] become, uh, come to be. So, um, maybe I shouldn’t have said that, but, um, this was a mooted [00:06:40] idea, and I don’t think this is going forward, but it becomes something that’s a little bit kind of, I don’t know. [00:06:45] Again, forgive the terminology, but a bit wonky. And that isn’t really me. So [00:06:50] what will you became? Small stories. Yeah. You’re right. It, um, it evolved from a [00:06:55] chicken fuelled weekend, literally and metaphorically. I’ve sat on a old school [00:07:00] waiting room floor of what was called Castle Lane Dental Care in Bournemouth, um, alongside my now business [00:07:05] partner and absolutely one of my best friends in the world, Gareth Edwards, who’s a kind of, um, the [00:07:10] kind of dentist that doesn’t bang his own drum but really works hard, like the hardest working white guy [00:07:15] you’ve ever met kind of thing. But, like, yeah, properly works hard, okay. And he puts in the hours and the slog [00:07:20] and he gets it. And he was one of the few guys I’ve ever come across when I was like, I don’t want to compete with you. I want to collaborate with you. [00:07:25] You really get it. And so we think that we’ve created something that’s quite special and unique in small [00:07:30] stories, because we do genuinely believe and we, our team, it’s become instilled in them, that it’s about the relationship with [00:07:35] the person. So it’s that middle ground between what people think dentistry is and [00:07:40] that overdone, overzealous Charlie big potato. I’m [00:07:45] I’m a pretentious dentist, dentist, white coat dentist. That’s not us at all.

Payman Langroudi: So when [00:07:50] you say he got it. Hmm. What was the sort of the moment, the sort of resonating [00:07:55] story or the what was the.

Zak Kara: Thing you got?

Payman Langroudi: What’s the thing he got? [00:08:00] You know, like, so because, you know, dentists, you know, so, so, [00:08:05] so happy that so many different types of people listen to this. Right. But there are there [00:08:10] are people out there who are dental students. There are people out there who are dental nurses. And then there’s [00:08:15] every type of dentists you could imagine, and quite a large number abroad as well, right, where the [00:08:20] culture is different. Yeah. So if you had to distil it down, to bottle it down [00:08:25] to what is it he got that that resonated with you. That’s so few of us get. [00:08:30]

Zak Kara: Great question. I think the moment was when Gareth and I [00:08:35] actually just began to realise I literally sent him. And by the way, this proves that if you’re ever [00:08:40] thinking, oh, they’re an interesting kind of guy kind of girl, jump into their DMs, just [00:08:45] have a conversation with them, because it literally began with that. I said, you’re in your 20s or 30s, you’re in Bournemouth. [00:08:50] Um, I’ve never heard of you before. It would be great to meet you. We went for a coffee, turned [00:08:55] into another coffee, turned into a beer. It was like dating. And the thing that we got [00:09:00] about one another and we got about dentistry, I believe, is this. It’s [00:09:05] the fact that. The whole picture [00:09:10] can only be created properly in dentistry. Comprehensive minded dentistry in [00:09:15] a playing the long game slow burn kind of way. I think the best way for me to explain this [00:09:20] is this. So I spend a lot of time around jazz. Jazz. Gulati I know you know pretty well. [00:09:25] Um, and in conversations with jazz, the thing that I realised is there’s [00:09:30] a lot of dentists out there who are in their first, let’s say, 5 or 10 years or even beyond that. They’re doing fee per item dentistry [00:09:35] or they’re doing NHS dentistry and they want to take it to the next level. The way that we found you can [00:09:40] take to the next level is only by having the person in front of you, your patient or [00:09:45] client, having them opt in to the dentistry themselves [00:09:50] because they came up with the idea themselves, and the power of the journey of how [00:09:55] to get them there matters.

Zak Kara: It’s an entire it’s an all encompassing thing. It’s everything [00:10:00] from the way it looks in the clinic, smells in the clinic, the words that are used on the answer to [00:10:05] the phone or actually, quite uniquely, we don’t answer the phone. That’s a bit weird, I know, and [00:10:10] it’s quite self-selecting and it’s maybe a bit too niche for some practices. But even if you’re a new [00:10:15] potential client or patient, there’s a process. It shouldn’t ever be obtrusive. [00:10:20] It shouldn’t ever be so many obstacles that it becomes that thing that we were mentioning earlier that you disappear up your own arse. [00:10:25] Yeah, but there’s enough self-selecting aspects to it. And that’s the thing I think Gareth [00:10:30] really got, which was that he’s technical minded enough to realise we can do this. We [00:10:35] have to some extent then in some ways kind of scaled it back a little bit over the years because, [00:10:40] um, it becomes too complex. And so, for example, 2020 four’s theme amongst Gareth, between [00:10:45] Gareth and I is simplify or delete because we’ve created a bit of a Frankenstein, [00:10:50] which can be a pain in the neck to onboard new team members with. So there isn’t to say we think we’ve created some sort [00:10:55] of gospel, but what we have created is definitely unique.

Payman Langroudi: We get more specific. I mean, what [00:11:00] does that even mean?

Zak Kara: Do you mean in terms of the patient journey or do you mean. Yeah.

Payman Langroudi: When, when, when [00:11:05] when you say that the patient will come asking for the treatment. Okay. What is it. What [00:11:10] does it mean? I mean, give us give me an example of a person.

Zak Kara: Okay. So I’ll give you an example. So um, we [00:11:15] created the brand if you want to call it that. Small stories, not from [00:11:20] the logo or whatever. Some practices tend to kind of like spin things around in the [00:11:25] backwards kind of way. And then we called it this. And then we live on we’re on this street. So we called it that. We began with small [00:11:30] stories because we realised that people matter and it’s all about not necessarily the technical craftsmanship [00:11:35] of the dentistry, but how it makes people feel. And the power of a story, as you all know, is very, [00:11:40] very, uh, compelling. Yeah. Okay. So if you want the, the nitty gritty, [00:11:45] um, let’s say client I met the other day in her 50s, um, [00:11:50] had come to see us in quite a different headspace as opposed to some, uh, new clients. Her [00:11:55] husband had seen Gareth some years back in a different clinic, and she came [00:12:00] in to see us and said, Dave got me a chatterbox set of teeth for Christmas and [00:12:05] said, I’m going to. You want to go and see the guys at Smyths Toys? They’ll look after you because she’d done too [00:12:10] much continual drip, drip, drip. Commenting [00:12:15] on the nature of her teeth, the fact they break all the time and all the rest of it, she’d already arrived [00:12:20] at that decision making point in her, in her, in her life, her dental life, if you want to call it that.

Zak Kara: Where she realised she [00:12:25] didn’t want to do that anymore. Yeah. And so she contacted us and she was already in that headspace, which we [00:12:30] didn’t need to do much to guide her with. But there are other people that are at the other end of the spectrum. Most [00:12:35] of them begin at the other end of the spectrum, which is that they come to see us and they go, I’d like straighter, whiter teeth, or [00:12:40] they go, ah, this crown really bugs me. And I had an injury when I was in my 20s. So how you [00:12:45] carve the path for that person matters. A lot of practices. They’ll phone up receptionist, [00:12:50] they’ll answer the phone, they’ll go, yeah. The next availability with Zac is two and a half weeks away and [00:12:55] it’s £95. I’m not saying that you [00:13:00] should create too many barriers to entry, but that’s frictionless. That process is [00:13:05] too frictionless, and any old goodness knows who will land in your chair. [00:13:10] And our belief is that the dental treatment room time, we call it a treatment room, by the way, [00:13:15] not a surgery because nobody likes surgery. So we’re very hot on words and quite pedantic about it with our [00:13:20] team, because as soon as that becomes contagious, it becomes contagious. And you can’t scale that back. You can’t pull that [00:13:25] back once it’s disappeared. So words matter. Um, the [00:13:30] process, though, for somebody who’s phoned up with that kind of headspace [00:13:35] needs to be guided.

Zak Kara: So we ask for photographs, for example. There’s a specific process that we follow [00:13:40] and we go so that we can guide you best. And our team of dentists can make sure that we [00:13:45] offer the right type of treatment or the the right type of advice. When you come to see us in the building, [00:13:50] could you help us question mark. That’s it. Shut up. So [00:13:55] they might WhatsApp them back this question or they might phone it might be a conversation on the phone to be fair. And they have to ask [00:14:00] answer the question with yeah, sure. And the answer to that is therefore [00:14:05] next step. What a lot of our clients find is that by sending us a set of photographs, by the way, I can send you [00:14:10] some example photos on WhatsApp. It’s so easy now. Smartphones are so clever, blah blah blah blah blah. If [00:14:15] you can show us different angles, we can give you some free advice. Do you know the the [00:14:20] thing about that that’s interesting is probably about 30% of the time I have Laura or Hannah [00:14:25] or Hannah, our care coordinators come and see us. And there’s certain specific times of the day where we do things collaboratively [00:14:30] like that. And I’ll go. I really don’t think, given the nature of the goals that this person is presenting to us, [00:14:35] I don’t think we can help her.

Payman Langroudi: Just from that.

Zak Kara: Just from that. Love that. [00:14:40] And the reason why is because, to be blunt about it, hey, we’re busy enough to not have [00:14:45] to be so, um, so desperate.

Payman Langroudi: To take to see everyone. [00:14:50]

Zak Kara: Exactly. And I’ve worked in other clinics where we used to look after footballers and footballers wives, which was the least fun [00:14:55] ever, by the way. Don’t aspire to that, if that’s what you think. In the first two years out of uni you think you want to do. [00:15:00] Yeah, um, certainly not my way of doing it anyway. Um, and the other way of doing it is [00:15:05] basically to go, okay, well, we charge £500 for a new visit or. Oh, by the way, we charge 250. [00:15:10] And by the way, most of our clients need a CBT which is 250. So everyone knows in that type of clinic they’re [00:15:15] walking in the door and it’s going to cost them £500. And they think that by being wealthy that [00:15:20] fixes the problem. The problem with that type of mindset is they will always think they can throw money [00:15:25] at a problem. So we treat and we treat and look after normal people with normal jobs. But it’s [00:15:30] about finding and cherry picking them.

Payman Langroudi: So is Hannah. Was that her name? [00:15:35]

Zak Kara: Hannah and Laura.

Payman Langroudi: And Laura is so well trained that they can make those decisions [00:15:40] themselves or or they write most of the time, [00:15:45] or what happens? Do you know, what is it about that patient’s goals and the photos that they showed you? [00:15:50] Okay.

Zak Kara: So we actually find it’s quite interesting. I don’t know if maybe if you’re listening to this, you probably thinking [00:15:55] I’ve never followed a process like that, but probably the closest thing to it that you will have done is [00:16:00] I believe you can tell a lot, even from somebody coming into the building. And let’s say they’re filling in a medical [00:16:05] history form. Yeah. Or back in the day when small stories began and evolved from [00:16:10] just myself and Tasha. Tasha is a nurse, dental hygienist, therapist who now became [00:16:15] my wife. Um, and these things happen sometimes. And, uh, uh, Tasha and I [00:16:20] just began on evenings and weekends, and we used to give somebody a medical history and a dental history, and that was [00:16:25] from the evolution from a bit of an amalgamation of Pangaea and the roots that I, um, [00:16:30] came from one two years out of university and then some choice and some other bits and bobs from the US. [00:16:35] And when you plug the MH in the dental history in together into a what I thought was quite [00:16:40] a concise thing and you put it in somebody’s hand, you can find out a lot just from their handwriting [00:16:45] even, and from the nature of the words they use, even from the kind of style of their grammar [00:16:50] in that they might say, okay, so one of the questions on the dental history might be, tell [00:16:55] us about your previous dental experiences.

Zak Kara: Oh my God, worst thing ever. Hate this torture. [00:17:00] They can immediately tell their expectations of always look isn’t to say we can’t treat [00:17:05] them, but if that goes together with the other thing, which is I want a perfect smile and [00:17:10] I’ve got to be ten out of ten. And by the way, it’s my daughter’s wedding in two months. And I’m like, whoa, [00:17:15] whoa, chill out. Too many things. We’re trying to solve too many things at once. And then I’m [00:17:20] thinking, is this a particularly, um, is the person got the temperament of the kind of person who [00:17:25] is going to be flexible and, you know, they’re given the nature of the fact they need [00:17:30] replacement of at least six crowns that I can see. And I’m probably a bit of author and maybe a bit of grafting [00:17:35] and a bit of complicated work, like you can just tell sometimes, and to be honest with you, it’s [00:17:40] a bit of a busy restaurant philosophy.

Payman Langroudi: Pay your chips. So basically you’re trying [00:17:45] to get the information that many of us get in the first assessment ahead of [00:17:50] time.

Zak Kara: Yeah, because treatment room time is sacred to me. To us, the treatment room time. [00:17:55]

Payman Langroudi: From a business perspective, you mean. Yeah. Yeah.

Zak Kara: From a business perspective. But also because.

Payman Langroudi: Time is.

Zak Kara: Sacred. Yeah. [00:18:00] Time is sacred. But also as an associate, let’s say back in the day, I used to work in I’ve worked in probably 15 different [00:18:05] clinics in one shape or form a day here, a day there, NHS one, one one. I’ve done it all [00:18:10] as an associate. Right. And I’ve seen it and done it the ways that I believe that you can do so [00:18:15] much better. And I’ve kind of from each one of those little episodes gone. I wouldn’t do it like that. That’s a bit, that’s a bit weird [00:18:20] or oh, I like that. Actually. They do a 3D scan as the first thing they do when they walk in the treatment room. Oh [00:18:25] that’s cool, I like that, and I’ve cherry picked that and I’ve amalgamated it into some of my best friends [00:18:30] in dentistry. Cringe when they hear this because I say it all the time. You’re a patchwork quilt. Yeah, I’m a patchwork [00:18:35] quilt, and we all are. And you just choose the bits that seem to resonate the most with you.

Payman Langroudi: I [00:18:40] think. I mean, the the situation is that most of us don’t [00:18:45] do that as much as you’ve done it right. Most of us tend to sort [00:18:50] of just follow a, like you said at the beginning, a particular kind of way of doing dentistry [00:18:55] that you saw in a the best one of the 12 practices, maybe, that you worked at. [00:19:00] And I get what you’re saying. Of course, there’s I’ve worked in practices where it’s a brilliant [00:19:05] practice, but the boss was a fool. Yeah. You know, and even though that seems like [00:19:10] a difficult thing because, you know, he’s obviously not that much of a fool because it’s a brilliant practice. [00:19:15] Sure. But, you know, he did something that I would never do. Or all the opposite [00:19:20] situations sometimes is a wonderful area and it’s a bad practice, sometimes a brilliant practice and the wrong area. All [00:19:25] those different permutations. Most of us end up doing the same [00:19:30] thing, and yet you almost on purpose are kind of [00:19:35] doing anything to be different.

Zak Kara: Yeah, almost to our own detriment sometimes [00:19:40] in honesty.

Payman Langroudi: So there’s going to be a downside to that. There’s going to be a downside to that. But but but with you definitely, [00:19:45] you know, it’s almost like you’re innovating in a patient journey and and [00:19:50] all that. And I’m sure clinically you’re looking to lots of different places as well. And and all that. What [00:19:55] is it about you that you know? What what was it about you that made you into that guy? [00:20:00]

Zak Kara: You know, I’ve pondered this quite a lot. Um, my sister and I talk [00:20:05] about it once in a while when we, um. When I was growing up, I grew up in my dad’s record [00:20:10] shop, and my dad’s a my mum and dad were first generation immigrants from Kenya. And, [00:20:15] you know, as a kid or a or a in your 20s, maybe even early [00:20:20] 20s, probably at that point in my life, I was thinking I was rebelling against that because [00:20:25] there was a lot of what I believed at that point to be control. My parents were so controlling classic [00:20:30] Indian burners in in record shops.

Payman Langroudi: A bit different though, right?

Zak Kara: A bit quirky. But this is interesting because my dad’s [00:20:35] approach to things, my mum and dad’s approach was let’s leave West London, where all of their my mum’s [00:20:40] side of my family landed in the UK, and let’s do something a bit different. So they moved to north west Kent, [00:20:45] which was seen as crazy. You’re moving to Dartford. What. What is Dartford. Yeah. [00:20:50] You have to go b260 from M25. B260 off the M25, [00:20:55] Abbey road was like oh what, what is that. Yeah. Crazy. So you know Mum and dad uh [00:21:00] were commuting into London which again was seen as crazy. You have to wait at the train station in, in the snow. And so I think that [00:21:05] probably deep down when, when you realise you can do something different, [00:21:10] I think it’s probably almost the challenge deep down inside me of what [00:21:15] if we thought a bit differently and just went, let’s follow our nose. And and that’s part of life’s fun, [00:21:20] isn’t it? Part of life’s fun is being is challenging yourself. Like, for example, on the train to come and see you today. [00:21:25] I was on my computer, and if somebody had been over my shoulder or sat next to me, they’d have been thinking, I’m a software developer. [00:21:30]

Zak Kara: Because I was working automations, I was working on different ways of connecting software together and integrating [00:21:35] them together to make our team’s life easier because we pay about, I think in total per [00:21:40] annum, something like 56K on different, uh, bits of software and automations that charge us [00:21:45] per usage, different ways of doing things. But that to me is at least one team member salary. [00:21:50] So it’s just thinking a bit outside the box and going, [00:21:55] I love a bit of tech. I can learn something different. I’ll learn something different. One of my best friends, [00:22:00] Chris, who’s a complete opposite end of the spectrum, Chris and Emily. I met them at first day, first week of dental school. [00:22:05] Chris is now Max facts consultant. Congrats! By the way, if you’re listening to this Chris C you literally just finished [00:22:10] and he’s been through the whole journey 17 years, 15, 16, 17 years later, uh, and [00:22:15] he, uh, realises that, um, we’re just [00:22:20] so worlds apart. But you can do all those things in dentistry because you use your your basis of your [00:22:25] degree or your, your clinical aspects of things. And you go, hmm. What if [00:22:30] I just think differently?

Payman Langroudi: Yeah. But, you know, I, I [00:22:35] must have thought a bit differently to want to give up dentistry, right? Yeah. Um, and, you know, start a teeth [00:22:40] whitening company. And people ask me all the time, how the hell did that happen? And in a way, [00:22:45] I feel like I just fell into it. Um, but when I analyse it, when [00:22:50] I do look back, I do think in my situation, I went to school [00:22:55] with some interesting cats and, uh, listening to the stories of their family businesses [00:23:00] was maybe inspired me a little bit. Um, I was [00:23:05] particularly disappointed with what a dental practice is when [00:23:10] we became dentists. And by the way, my my first job [00:23:15] adore the guy, but but it was an NHS practice. Yeah. And I [00:23:20] just couldn’t believe that this was what dentistry was. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Now the reason for that was we [00:23:25] had a revolution in Iran and we came, we just ran away and came. And [00:23:30] our first dentist in the UK was our dentist from Iran, same guy who’d also [00:23:35] who’d also run away. Turned out he was a super duper. But we didn’t know he was just our dentist. Right. [00:23:40] Um, but he he set up in Harley Street, so we went and saw him in Harley [00:23:45] Street. I didn’t even know what the Harley Street was right at the beginning. Yeah. Um, and, [00:23:50] you know, it was a very plush place. That’s the dentist, right? That’s what it is. Yeah. So in my head, [00:23:55] that was what the dentist was, is that thing. Yeah. And then when I first saw dentistry, the real [00:24:00] dentistry, I was like, oh my God. Yeah. I couldn’t believe it.

Zak Kara: And you become conditioned don’t you. To that. And I believe dentists [00:24:05] generally, especially in the UK appreciate a lot of people listening will be overseas as well. But [00:24:10] in the UK in particular, it’s deep rooted in whatever we’ve been doing for the last 20, 30, 40, 50 [00:24:15] years. We actually utilise that to our advantage. By the way, some of our marketing and some of our sort of ingrained conversations [00:24:20] we have with our clients and patients is we say things like, it’s not 1995, [00:24:25] we don’t do old fashioned scrape and polish, because that isn’t what we believe dentistry should be [00:24:30] provided, as it’s a gentle we call it a jet wash and a thorough, uh, gentle [00:24:35] but thorough clean of your teeth and your gum foundations and blah di blah di blah di blah. And how you explain that [00:24:40] and go about demonstrating that and then proving it really does set you apart. But [00:24:45] you need to be surrounded by people coming back a little bit to the Gareth thing. You need to be surrounded by [00:24:50] people that get it, that kind of realise that it can be different, and it’s about actually being bold and brave [00:24:55] enough to do something different a little bit like my dad’s and my mum did when they moved away from West London, and [00:25:00] their little nest of their, their extended family, and they realised that actually I look back at [00:25:05] that in hindsight and think to myself, they probably did a lot of things that they did out of fear, [00:25:10] and a lot of the advice they give us is deep rooted in fear as well. They [00:25:15] moved away from East Africa when Idi Amin in the 70s forced a lot of Indians out. It was literally as close [00:25:20] to the bone as, by the way, you’ve got however many weeks or months or you all of your [00:25:25] assets, literally imagine all of your assets, every penny to your name and everything you’ve worked for, [00:25:30] your family’s entire history gone. It will be acquired [00:25:35] by the state. Take a Kenya passport or take a British passport. Underestimate.

Payman Langroudi: You mustn’t underestimate. [00:25:40] I think Rona calls it generational trauma. Yeah. You mustn’t underestimate [00:25:45] that. Yeah, that even though you were born here and you had none of that. Yeah. The stories, [00:25:50] the fear, you’ll hear those stories from your parents and grandparents, [00:25:55] they they they permeate you and, you know, they kind of define the person [00:26:00] that you become after that.

Zak Kara: Deep down, you do. Yeah. And but the the more years you get [00:26:05] on the, on the, on in your own life, um, in your 20s and 30s, I think [00:26:10] it only took until my late 20s, early 30s, now nearly late 30s, uh, when I [00:26:15] realised that there’s a lot more to it and the reasons behind some of the things they said and did, the way they acted, [00:26:20] even as subtle as my dad. I always remember finishing school, um, [00:26:25] getting back to the shop. Um, mum at one point had to commute to London from [00:26:30] south east London to to work in the civil service to supplement the family income. My parents insisted [00:26:35] that we went to a we went to a private primary school for a for a short while, and beyond that point [00:26:40] they’d just run out of funds to be able to do it, but to be able to sustain it, that’s what they did. Um, and [00:26:45] my I remember being around in the shop with dad from about 4 p.m. till about [00:26:50] 630, when we’d. Pick up mum from the station down the road in Longfield. And one [00:26:55] time dad was sweeping the floor and he had, I don’t know what the actual. I think it might [00:27:00] be Swahili, but I think basically he called it foggy or so foggy. Is is a is a is a broom, is [00:27:05] a broom. But such an old worn down broom that the handle, I swear, was so tatty [00:27:10] it was like a stick, like a like a twig that had got so worn thin because he’d held it in a particular [00:27:15] place.

Zak Kara: And I mean this. I’m not just kind of telling you a story. The broom itself was so [00:27:20] curled back on itself that the bristles weren’t bristles anymore. And I used to go, dad, why don’t you get a new broom? [00:27:25] This is my broom. I’ve done it this way the entire longer than you were born. [00:27:30] 1983. They started the shop. We were born in 85, 86. My sister and I and [00:27:35] I at one point said, why do you do this every day, dad? You. We’ve gone around the entire shop. It’s a loop, a record [00:27:40] shop. Um, so you’ve gone around the entire shop. There’s barely any dust. He said. Something [00:27:45] will stick with me. He said, it’s [00:27:50] not about what you’re doing. It’s about how well you do it and what [00:27:55] you demonstrate and what that demonstrates to others, or words to that effect. And [00:28:00] how you do anything is how you do everything. If you put that amount of effort [00:28:05] into sweeping the floor, when people walk past and go, oh, Mr. Carr is sweeping the floor. They literally [00:28:10] used to call him Mr. Carr Micro famous in his little village in Kent. He was [00:28:15] micro famous. He was on the radio once, my dad. The local radio. [00:28:20] Uh, and, um, but it applies.

Payman Langroudi: To dentistry, right? Because the patient can’t see what you’re [00:28:25] doing at all. There you go. And so we have to demonstrate it to them in other ways. Um, [00:28:30] now let’s, let’s, let’s go through the, the basics of [00:28:35] I mean, I know you’re, you’re big on pain free injections, which which I am too. I really [00:28:40] I think I think if you if you get proficient at pain free injections, it’s better for [00:28:45] your career than an MSC in restorative dentistry. Um, because those patients [00:28:50] tell patients and those patients stick with you. And the magic that a patient feels [00:28:55] the first time they get a pain free injection because they’ve had so many other injections. [00:29:00] So so we’ll get we’ll get to specifics. Right. So so pain free injections obviously. [00:29:05] But tell me about some other sort of interesting non-clinical cuz [00:29:10] like for me I visit practices coffee. The [00:29:15] quality of the coffee to me tells me all sorts of stuff about incorrectly [00:29:20] by the way. Yeah, incorrectly because there are some practices, brilliant clinicians, brilliant [00:29:25] equipment, crap coffee that that happens. Yeah. And the opposite and the [00:29:30] opposite. But I’m so biased on coffee that if I get when I go in [00:29:35] and they say coffee, I say sometimes they never say coffee. Right. So that says a lot, right? Yeah. You say coffee, [00:29:40] I say sure. Sometimes they’ve been criss barrowed up. They say something like a latte or [00:29:45] flat white and that’s that’s always nice to hear that. Right.

Zak Kara: So you hear the machine going in the background [00:29:50] and you’re thinking, okay.

Payman Langroudi: Flat white whatever. Yeah, yeah. Generally I expect it to be rubbish. [00:29:55] Yeah. And sometimes amazing coffee comes out. Right now nothing’s happened. I haven’t met the principal [00:30:00] yet. I haven’t seen the equipment yet. All I’ve had is a sip of coffee. But I’m already making [00:30:05] all sorts of deductions. And I’ve been to a thousand practices. Here are patients. [00:30:10] Um, can you think of other, other cues? I mean, obviously General Clinic in your.

Zak Kara: Mind here, we don’t [00:30:15] offer coffee. Do you know, we intentionally don’t offer coffee because, uh, although [00:30:20] those five senses do matter, and taste does matter. Our approach to it is that [00:30:25] the smell, the sound, the sight that everything else and [00:30:30] including smell like, you know, like a decent, uh, restaurant or hotel does, uh, it always smells [00:30:35] right. Yeah. The lobby smells right. The. We call it front of house. Our lounge smells right. Um, [00:30:40] the look is right. It’s earthy, it’s real. There’s brick wall exposed genuinely by my own [00:30:45] hands, grinding a brick wall, brick dust in my hair through the build phase of the new clinic last year. [00:30:50] Um, and all of those things to us, kind of even the brick [00:30:55] wall. I deep down believe that that matters because it says real. [00:31:00] So our approach to it is real. That isn’t necessarily your approach or another clinic’s approach, but [00:31:05] it’s our approach. There are intentionally real plants in there in the lounge. It’s [00:31:10] because the words that we use with our clients are real as well. So we have two front of house crew [00:31:15] members. One of them will be sat down. One of them sat up or stood up at a greet station that we have. We intentionally [00:31:20] utilise that as a bit of a kind of natural, you know, when you go to a decent restaurant and there’s almost like [00:31:25] a natural waiting point.

Zak Kara: Yeah. Like, you know, you’re gonna tell somebody that you’ve got a reservation or whatever here, that’s [00:31:30] your greet station. And that’s also a point where it stops any old Tom, Dick and Harry walking [00:31:35] in off the street and making a big old, big old mess of our experience for our real clients. [00:31:40] Yeah. So we can utilise on a little tablet that we have in built into the greet station. We can utilise [00:31:45] that space to jump on a website and scroll through. And oh, by the way, here’s an example of our previous client stories. [00:31:50] And sometimes we divert that human being into the client. Coordinator’s room we call [00:31:55] them cos not tcos care coordinators to us feels more, um, authentic [00:32:00] than a treatment coordinator. They’re coordinating your care. Okay, so [00:32:05] that’s one of our methods physically in the building. Um, but there are [00:32:10] plenty more, as I was kind of alluding to a bit earlier on, which are a bit more kind of, um, uh, tech orientated or [00:32:15] virtual, let’s say, um, and the photos and the part of that process is very unique to us. Um, [00:32:20] the.

Payman Langroudi: Tell me about other banned words.

Zak Kara: Haha. And do you know what we actually [00:32:25] have? I used to work.

Payman Langroudi: In a practice. The word dentist was banned.

Zak Kara: Oh really? Yeah, they say instead. Surgeon. Oh, [00:32:30] surgeon who’s.

Payman Langroudi: Who’s your surgeon?

Zak Kara: Hahaha. Terrible. Um, it [00:32:35] might work for some clinics and yeah, he will.

Payman Langroudi: He wanted to really push over that sort of doctory [00:32:40] sort of implant centre. And I.

Zak Kara: Can see that, that, you.

Payman Langroudi: Know what a banned words in your.

Zak Kara: Practice. So we have [00:32:45] a list of nearly 50 of them pay 5050 and not joking. And we actually call it the team thesaurus [00:32:50] because some of them are banned words and some of them are instead of this, try this. So Gareth [00:32:55] and I, when we were scoping out the build and some of the inspiration for the new clinic that we moved into, [00:33:00] we we basically outgrew that old fashioned Castle Lane dental care that I mentioned earlier on, with its horrible [00:33:05] carpet that was fraying around the edges. And Tash used to come in and do the little haircut on the beginning of the day. [00:33:10] And, uh, you know, the old fashioned artex on the ceiling outgrew that place, moved into the new purpose built clinic. [00:33:15] Last year, Gareth and I went up to Manchester, and the inspiration we got behind a lot of the team thesaurus [00:33:20] and how you embed it into the team was actually from lush. We went into lush because we were just interested [00:33:25] in how they display things. Um, and we started talking to somebody by the dental section. They had [00:33:30] like some dental aspects of things, probably fluoride free toothpaste and God knows what else, right? Yeah. Sales [00:33:35] essentially. Assistant came over probably in her early 20s, and [00:33:40] she was so good. She was amazing about talking about her products in a particular way. [00:33:45] And we literally asked her at the end of this 20 minute conversation, we had to come clean and go, we’re dentists. We’re here in Manchester [00:33:50] doing a bit of scoping out of like, you know what’s cool in the Manchester? Because we love the city, right. Wicked city. [00:33:55] Um, and she said, well, we, we start the day with [00:34:00] focusing as a team. One of our product specialists will focus on their particular angle on things, and [00:34:05] it’s part of our drip, drip, drip feed training. So we instilled that in as part of our [00:34:10] most practices. Call it a team huddle or we have a ten minute meeting every morning starts at 8 a.m. sharp till 8:10, [00:34:15] 8:10 till 8:30. Our our clinical team and our non-clinical team set up.

Payman Langroudi: They’re [00:34:20] going to have to interrupt you because I know to you it seems like second nature. Yeah, but [00:34:25] plenty of practices don’t have team huddles. What happens?

Zak Kara: Ah, okay. So [00:34:30] the band words come up, she’ll come on to.

Payman Langroudi: Oh do they, do they. Yeah.

Zak Kara: At the end of the team ten minute meeting.

Payman Langroudi: Just literally [00:34:35] take me through it okay. You go through patients coming in today. Yes. And what about them?

Zak Kara: We might begin [00:34:40] the day. So this is important. It’s it’s not led by the boss. It’s not led by principles. [00:34:45] It’s not led by a manager. It’s led by front of house. Because our front of house crew are building [00:34:50] coordinators. They’re the they’re the clinic coordinator for that day. So they’re the point of contact. And the team [00:34:55] need to know psychologically that if I’ve got all you know, what hitting the fan my [00:35:00] go to is Alice this morning. And Alice comes with her pre-printed day schedule. [00:35:05] Um, as I mentioned tech earlier on, um, forgive all the tangents, by [00:35:10] the way, but one of the things we do in tech is, uh, we custom built our own software, [00:35:15] which is a client scheduling software which integrates with Dental. It pulls out the information for the day [00:35:20] in question, and it prints it in a particular way that we like it designed. Because on that day schedule, [00:35:25] yes, you have a list of clients that that clinician is seeing, but it also indicates which nurse is working with them. [00:35:30] And on the right hand side, it also has space for them to jot down what it is, notes for that [00:35:35] particular client. And on the right hand side there’s also three columns. One of them is next in [00:35:40] the workflow. So we have a particular workflow for certain treatments. For example, Harry today might [00:35:45] be seeing one of my clients for what we call phase one dentistry, which is restorative [00:35:50] dentistry. Um, getting that mouth stable for that client. And it might be that he needs to take a 3D [00:35:55] scan at the end of that, so we can upload that to the next phase of the process, which might be [00:36:00] clear aligners, or it might be ortho, or it might be, um, implant planning with the Cbct or [00:36:05] whatever else it is, but who’s.

Payman Langroudi: Filling all that stuff.

Zak Kara: Out? So in the treatment room that gets filled in at the end of the day. But if you don’t [00:36:10] instil that in the team at the beginning of the day through the ten minute meeting. Yeah, why on earth would they think to do it? Yeah. [00:36:15] Right. So they need to know they circle that or they, they put a highlighter around it to go, I’ve got to do this at the end of this [00:36:20] treatment. And that matters because the notes will have been written up when that appointment was created [00:36:25] or when, let’s say I’m listening in ten minute meeting I go, oh, Harry, quick one for Craig. You’re seeing him this [00:36:30] morning. Can you do a da da da da. And he jots it down. There’s also a couple of other columns on there. Like for example, [00:36:35] are we going to request a Google review? Are we going to do something the following day a kindness call. [00:36:40] And that ten minute meeting becomes your that day schedule becomes your sacred, um, [00:36:45] your document that you take with you through your day and you hand it over to front [00:36:50] of house when you finish your day. So as a clinician, you’ve got to go to place. That [00:36:55] is essentially the crux of this ten minute meeting. It’s basically it’s a bit like a maitre d [00:37:00] in a decent restaurant. Talk me through what’s happening today. But before then, it’s even subtle things that we’ve [00:37:05] added on to that flow. Like, for example, who’s in today? In which treatment rooms? Oh, Sarah, one of our dentists [00:37:10] is starting at 2 p.m.

Zak Kara: she’s in 2 to 8 today, so the team need to know don’t shut down treatment [00:37:15] room three, because Sarah’s coming in and she’s working with Esther. And they’re going to start at two, 230 [00:37:20] and so on. So even we’ve found all those, you know, those niggly, niggly things [00:37:25] every day that just piss you off. Somebody couldn’t even be bothered to plan ahead for [00:37:30] the day to keep my treatment room open. And now we’re running late all afternoon. It’s just solid teamwork. [00:37:35] Yeah, so they need to know about it in the ten minute meeting, right? The next thing it [00:37:40] might be who’s joining us as a visitor, we increasingly have clinicians from all sorts of [00:37:45] places, shadow and shadow us and spend time in the clinic. So this is Tom. He’s going to be spending the day with us. And I might say, [00:37:50] oh, Tom’s a dentist from a very good dentist in his own right from over in Cornwall. Welcome, Tom. He’s going to be with us [00:37:55] till what time? 6:00. Okay, cool. So everyone knows Tom, right? That couldn’t be weirder for Tom if he’s [00:38:00] not introduced. Right. He’s just sitting there like a lemon. And then we talk through the clients on the day schedule. That might take [00:38:05] six, seven minutes. And that’s important because it’s the back and forth between two different clinicians and [00:38:10] so on.

Payman Langroudi: But outside of outside of the sort of the I don’t mean to belittle the [00:38:15] obvious. Yeah, yeah. Do you do you go into oh so and so’s finishing treatment and she [00:38:20] likes this sort of chocolates and surprise and delight whatever.

Zak Kara: Yeah. [00:38:25] It’s not necessarily the surprise and delight. Oh let’s do, let’s get out whatever it is. But it is, it is. [00:38:30] There’s an element of that for sure. And for definite we bring up, for example, I might mention Kay, [00:38:35] one of our clients, oh, she’s just had a baby, by the way. She might not be feeling the the best that she’s literally come in [00:38:40] a week after her baby boy was born. Oh by the way, she sent a picture. Like, how weird or [00:38:45] awkward would it be for Kay, who went to the trouble? Because we are talking to her on WhatsApp [00:38:50] all day, every day. Our front of house crew arranging the right appointment at the right time, and she sent a picture of her newborn [00:38:55] baby over. If the clinical treatment room didn’t get that information, Kay is going to be feeling really awkward. [00:39:00] She’s gone to the trouble of keeping our relationship, and that relationship matters, that everyone on the team [00:39:05] is on board with that because we’re. So congratulations. What’s his name by the way? Not [00:39:10] you know, oh yeah. You had a baby. Didn’t you know we already knew in advance because [00:39:15] that that’s the synchronicity that matters. Um.

Payman Langroudi: So so [00:39:20] I do expect after this degree of care, stuff goes [00:39:25] smoothly in general. In general. Yeah, of course there’s always going to be something, right? [00:39:30] Stuff goes smoothly. But more important than that, people feel special. Yeah, right. [00:39:35] And so people who feel special tend to tell other people. Yeah. And so have you sort of [00:39:40] keep do you keep a count on word of mouth referral or forget account. Can you [00:39:45] tell me sort of hand on heart, that word of mouth referral in our practice is just way up. Because of this. [00:39:50]

Zak Kara: We do we, um, we log through our CRM, [00:39:55] um, software that we, we have and we have different channels, which we use Pipedrive [00:40:00] just because we always have um, and it’s quite business to business orientated, [00:40:05] but there are lots of things that we’ve adapted and manipulated and customised and stuff. Um, so we [00:40:10] have different inbound leads, um, different workflows for general dentistry, for teeth straightening, for [00:40:15] implants, for whatever. And we believe they are the kind of core foundations, [00:40:20] um, from which people tend to search for dentistry. So the key [00:40:25] ones tend to be, um, I no longer want my teeth to keep breaking out of the blue. And [00:40:30] that, by the way, matters not I just want a dentist near to me. So slight curveball [00:40:35] again. Uh, might sound weird, but we don’t offer emergency dentistry for somebody in pain, [00:40:40] not for a new client. Wow. Because we’ve found over the years that it’s very difficult [00:40:45] to get somebody on board and keep them on board. And percentage wise, you’ll lose that battle more [00:40:50] often than you win that battle. And we don’t want to be the go to place where you phone up in the next emergency. [00:40:55] So our approach to it is.

Payman Langroudi: Sorry, explain that to me. Why is it why is it hard to [00:41:00] to make that person stick? Okay, because he didn’t come looking for you. He came looking for pain relief.

Zak Kara: Came, came. [00:41:05] Yeah. Sounds controversial, but when we looked at the statistics prior to Covid, you see [00:41:10] those types of scenarios. And fair enough, it was a different environment then. Uh, the [00:41:15] client lounge looked different. It smelled different, different location and stuff. But we found more often than not, [00:41:20] those people coming in, even though you felt like you’d been the saint who looked after them in an [00:41:25] affordable way, we solved their issue. Oh my God, Zach and the team are so amazing here, blah blah blah. More [00:41:30] often than not, they don’t come back. Wow. And so interestingly, what an insight. Well, interestingly [00:41:35] that because most people build their whole clinic and their brand on the basis of I can help people, [00:41:40] right. But what we found is the flip side of it, if you become the busy restaurant and you have a busy restaurant [00:41:45] philosophy behind this, you actually if you really want to do comprehensive dentistry every day, what we actually [00:41:50] do is we let them go and have dentistry done elsewhere. And then we go, [00:41:55] oh, so we’re so glad you found us from your friend, whoever it is. And yes, [00:42:00] we do track word of mouth. And it isn’t, by the way, the biggest inbound percentage of our of our new [00:42:05] prospective clients. And but we still want to keep that relationship because we wouldn’t want [00:42:10] to harm our relationship with their friend who’s recommended us. Right. So we tend to say something along the lines of, [00:42:15] so sorry to say, the next availability in our schedule is around about a week and a half away. All [00:42:20] of our clients who come and see us tend to see us because they’ve planned ahead proactively. And we [00:42:25] have. We offer comprehensive dentistry here, so feel free to call NHS 111. They may be able to solve [00:42:30] your immediate pain.

Zak Kara: Let’s get you out of that issue and then come back and speak to us, or I’ll happily follow [00:42:35] up with you in a couple of days, if you like, and see how you’re doing, because then it demonstrates [00:42:40] that level of care in the same way it demonstrates that we are bothered about them as a human being, and [00:42:45] then we offer them the complete new client, new patient experience when they’re [00:42:50] in a headspace that they’re ready to receive it. And they walk in the door through this process again. [00:42:55] Again, slight curveball, but our process pay for general dentistry is a [00:43:00] bit backwards. We only packages and new client visit into a health [00:43:05] check and a hygiene visit, but we do the hygiene visit first. What? The [00:43:10] reason why is because we find that when you have a hygiene visit first, it [00:43:15] it’s kind of insistent on we do preventative proactive dentistry [00:43:20] here. It also gives them what I find works so well, which is [00:43:25] in order to get somebody to make a decision, you kind of have to breadcrumb it. So our hygienists [00:43:30] are brilliant and they 3D scan every new client and patient at the very beginning [00:43:35] of their first hygiene visit, prior to the prior to which, prior to this time, they’ve not even [00:43:40] seen a dentist in the team, but they have taken a three shaped scan. It’s [00:43:45] free. You don’t even pay for the scan sleeve. Take a 3D scan and they show off the tech at [00:43:50] the end of that visit, which works brilliantly because it gives that person an insight into what’s [00:43:55] really going on. Because we know, don’t we? In dentistry, you can see all these 15 things going wrong [00:44:00] and they’ve got no clue because they’ve got no pain.

Payman Langroudi: Yeah, yeah. I mean I think you one underestimates [00:44:05] the difference that that might make here because we’re so in it the wood for the trees or whatever. [00:44:10] Yeah. But if you put yourself in the patient’s position, particularly if you’ve never had a [00:44:15] scan, which most people haven’t these days yet. Yet. Yeah. And you’re seen by this [00:44:20] other person who’s not the dentist who’s taking care, taking a scan. So it’s a whole different experience, isn’t [00:44:25] it? Yeah. A whole different thing.

Zak Kara: Is, you know, you we often find that new patient visits [00:44:30] for a dentist tend to be a bit of a loss leader. Let’s face it, you can actually carve out the ideal [00:44:35] path for them after that first visit. And they’ve gone home and probably had time to [00:44:40] do a little bit of grieving. That’s a strong word, but we use that word within our team [00:44:45] because our team know that they need the opportunity. If there’s some relatively bad news i.e. my teeth aren’t quite [00:44:50] as good as I thought, and there were some brown bits and some black bits and whatever. By the way, our hygienists and therapists aren’t [00:44:55] tasked to diagnose, but they are tasked to give them [00:45:00] a guided tour, show them the colours, and they don’t even say what they see themselves. [00:45:05] They kind of go, what do you see out of interest? And what they’re doing there is that’s the true [00:45:10] meaning of Co diagnosis. It’s become quite trendy to say co diagnosis. Yeah true co [00:45:15] diagnosis is nobody ever believes or trusts new information [00:45:20] particularly not in health care in a relatively mistrusted space like dentistry. [00:45:25] Yeah until they believe they’ve come up with the answers themselves. So what I do, which is maybe a little [00:45:30] bit sneaky, is that if I’m giving someone a guided tour of their 3D scan, their three shaped scan on the screen, right, I’ll [00:45:35] move it around.

Zak Kara: Here’s you on the right. Here’s you on the left. Let me show the the arch of the teeth. This is [00:45:40] really the view that most dentists look at. And I’ll show them the occlusal view. And I’ll zoom in a little bit and [00:45:45] I’ll go, do you know what? I can see so many different things because I do this all day, every day. [00:45:50] Why don’t I actually pause and let you tell me what you what do you see? I do that intentionally [00:45:55] because it gives them the opportunity to tell me the colours. What do you see? Some of them [00:46:00] will go, I don’t know, dentist. You tell me and they dither and [00:46:05] I might prompt them gently. What colour do you see? Is it this yellow bit here or. Oh, this bit here. [00:46:10] Yeah. That’s the back of that tooth. That’s a bit kind of weird with my tongue, isn’t it? Why do you think that might [00:46:15] be? And that’s letting them walk this slow and steady journey. And if our hygienists [00:46:20] and therapists are doing that at the first, we call that the pre um pre new client [00:46:25] visit hygiene visit, um that first step in the journey. And [00:46:30] they will offer the opportunity for them to go home and think about it.

Zak Kara: Because by the time [00:46:35] they then come back and see a dentist they’ve been offered the correct length of visit. That’s the other thing [00:46:40] I find golden with this. Some of our, uh, in previous clinics, when I was trying to do a new client, [00:46:45] new patient visit, it wouldn’t be long enough. Yeah, well, you’ve only got yourself to blame [00:46:50] if you’ve seen their mouth and you’ve got an idea of their. Temperament because Tasha or Camilla or [00:46:55] whomever in our team has already told me and by the way, also offers the opportunity [00:47:00] to gently but tactfully ask somebody to find a different clinic. That [00:47:05] does happen once in a while. Yeah, yeah, once in a while, because Tasha will go. I couldn’t even lay a bat [00:47:10] beyond 20 degrees. You ain’t treating her. Mhm. And I’ll go okay. Cool. How do we how do we [00:47:15] not spot that already. And she’s going it’s all right. At least I only burned you know 30 minutes 40 minutes. Hygiene visit. [00:47:20] Don’t bother getting into a spiral of a mess. When they then come into the dental treatment room. Then [00:47:25] you have to you’re compelled to give them a diagnosis. Then you’ve got a duty of care. That’s a problem. [00:47:30] So what we actually do is we use some tech. We use do you guys lose use loom. Sure.

Zak Kara: So do you use [00:47:35] a loom video all day, every day. It’s literally show them the three shapes scan on the screen. There’s my my picture of my face [00:47:40] my video. And I’m talking to them. And I’ll give them five minutes free of my time. And I’ll send that through our care [00:47:45] coordinators. And I’ll ask them in that video. Given the nature of this, this and this, and [00:47:50] I’m sorry to say, because of the layout of our treatment rooms and because of our problems [00:47:55] with posture and position, what we find is that actually you will need some treatment to be done and [00:48:00] you’ll better, better looked after by a clinic that’s best set up to do that. I’m sorry to say that can’t be our clinic. [00:48:05] So what we’re doing is asking them to go somewhere else. I don’t care where they go, I do, but, you know, I don’t, um, [00:48:10] I don’t specify, you know, like old school dentists used to go send them to your worst enemy kind of thing. I don’t really care who they [00:48:15] go and see, but it won’t be us. Because I won’t just do that thing that most principals do, which is. Oh, well, [00:48:20] at least it’s money. Let’s bring him in. Let the associates deal with them. That’s again, a recipe for the whole [00:48:25] team’s disaster.

Payman Langroudi: I’m really interested in this grieving period. It’s very interesting [00:48:30] idea that they almost they’ve almost marinated in the problem. [00:48:35] There you go. For a week or two or however long it is before then seeing you [00:48:40] and you confirming and the words, I mean, it must be that when you say when you say, [00:48:45] what do you see? And he’ll say, I see a crumpled up tooth or whatever. [00:48:50] Then when you say, oh, you know, you’re crumpled, there you go. There’s a, there’s active listening. This is well, [00:48:55] there’s just, there’s, there’s a, there’s a feeling of the guys really listening. But you know, active [00:49:00] listening is, is wonderful to understand. Right. But to tell someone that [00:49:05] I’m, I’m actively listening to you is a wonderful thing. If that’s trust, isn’t it.

Zak Kara: That’s more powerful [00:49:10] when you then put it in words on a screen. So for example, um, if not through this pathway, but [00:49:15] if you came to see us for, let’s say, more cosmetically focussed dentistry, that’s again a two stage process. There’s no hygiene visit [00:49:20] involved at the beginning, but we do the information gathering first. We tell people in advance [00:49:25] so they don’t come into the building confused or feeling like they’ve been ripped off in some way, [00:49:30] that they don’t get an answer by the end of that first visit. But we do a separate follow up consultation, which is [00:49:35] on zoom generally and virtual because we don’t want to burn chair time on it. But behind the scenes between [00:49:40] that, our team have put together a comprehensively focussed treatment plan, and that isn’t what most old school specialists [00:49:45] used to do, which is write a blinking letter. No one reads the letter. No one cares, nobody cares. [00:49:50] But if you bothered to put it into pictures and by the way, our team create [00:49:55] that, we believe we’ve created a really neat. We would say this, wouldn’t we? But genuinely, [00:50:00] I don’t see any other clinic that have done this. And if you want to know more, feel free to hit me on Instagram or whatever. [00:50:05] And I’m happy to share. But our process there is that we put it into [00:50:10] pictures, animations, diagrams that are relevant to them and walk them through it.

Payman Langroudi: So [00:50:15] look the process of every time you mention something. What’s firing [00:50:20] off in my head is, well, that’s another process that that’s going to have to, you know, okay, [00:50:25] the hygienist sees the patient gets all this info. Now that info is got to get to [00:50:30] you. Yeah. And you know, each one of these processes. Right. And as you said [00:50:35] the simplification part that you’re you and Gareth are going to focus on this year. But [00:50:40] how long would you say it would take if I was going to come and shadow you guys? How [00:50:45] many weeks or how many days would I have to be there before I get it and understand what’s going on? [00:50:50]

Zak Kara: Do you know, this is one of the reasons why we recognise in order to be able to create a clinic, which is not just contingent [00:50:55] on Gareth and Zach. Yeah, we have to be able to create something that’s neat, succinct, [00:51:00] but actually achievable by most dentists, most clinicians, most non-clinical [00:51:05] team members because it will take us two months to onboard a new non-clinical team member pay, which is mental. It’s absolutely [00:51:10] mental and it’s costly. And and actually, in a weird way, it [00:51:15] it’s almost counterintuitive.

Payman Langroudi: It depends on what makes you happy. Right? [00:51:20] I’ve asked this question of so many dentists. Right. What’s the usually [00:51:25] the last question. But let’s go there. What’s what’s what’s in the future for you now if in the future [00:51:30] there is a 30 practice plan. Yeah, 130 practice plan [00:51:35] or a three practice plan. Yeah. Or you know, I keep on bringing [00:51:40] it up, but, you know, Robbie, he was telling me, um, one practice in every capital city in the world. Yeah. Okay. [00:51:45] Plan. Yeah. Um, or, you know, so [00:51:50] many of us. The one perfect practice. One one. And we know it’s never going to be perfect, right? But [00:51:55] one place. Yeah, yeah. One place where, you know, you’re [00:52:00] going to trying to get as close to perfect as possible. What comes to mind? What [00:52:05] are you thinking?

Zak Kara: I don’t know. Do you know how long has it been?

Payman Langroudi: How long is.

Zak Kara: This masterpiece has been alive [00:52:10] for nearly three years. Is that all 2021 only? Yeah, just after Covid. So we’re in [00:52:15] so early, you know. Yeah, I, Gareth and I say this to each other all day, every day. If we’re having fun, we [00:52:20] carry on. That’s all that our nose has followed over these last few years. And we’ve done some slightly wacky things. [00:52:25] And if there’s going to be one thing I’ve definitely learned in hindsight is take advice from others who have walked [00:52:30] your path sooner. Um, we didn’t not take that path because of ego reasons, [00:52:35] but coaching has been so valuable for us even to be able to structure our day [00:52:40] to day, our week to week. Because in a weird way, like you said, you can’t see the wood from the trees. And I’m a bit of a numbers [00:52:45] guy, and I like the tech and I like the details, and I create huge spreadsheets. Right. So we’ve been working [00:52:50] very closely with a lovely guy called Mike Hesketh, recommend his services, but not if he gets into In [00:52:55] Demand that he gives us a worse service. But Mike is a coach. He’s also a very successful [00:53:00] business owner and clinic owner of his own right.

Zak Kara: And he used to be in the commandos in [00:53:05] the military. So that’s his roots. And he taught us over these only last few months we’ve been working together [00:53:10] that the details matter in some things. So we never used to even have a daily [00:53:15] cash flow spreadsheet. And I used to think things like that were overkill in terms of information. But you do need [00:53:20] to know where your money is going on a day to day basis, to forecast ahead that you don’t ever get to those peaks [00:53:25] and troughs, and one of those troughs that takes you close to zero in the bank, and then you shit your pants, right? [00:53:30] Yeah. Because you need to be able to feed your families, because that’s the whole purpose of having a clinic in the first place. [00:53:35] If you can’t even take your fair share and your percentage as a principle dentist is [00:53:40] nowhere near literally not even a quarter, some months of what I would have taken as an associate. [00:53:45] But you do need structure in your life. I’ve gone off on a tangent. I [00:53:50] forgot what you asked me. What did you ask? Um. [00:53:55]

Payman Langroudi: Well, we were. Well, we were talking about processes, right? Processes. How long it takes to learn.

Zak Kara: So [00:54:00] when dentists come and spend us, spend time with us in the team, we’ve realised that we need to simplify [00:54:05] this into something. But typically it takes about two or 3 or 4 months [00:54:10] of soaking it up. And what we have learned over the years through Harry, amazing dentists in our [00:54:15] team, um, and Sarah, relatively new dentist in our team. We almost need to create this as a [00:54:20] mentorship program. So what we did with Sarah is we salaried her for the first four months, and there was a [00:54:25] set agreed a number of days she’d spend in and around the team because a big part of this is onboarding [00:54:30] with an associate, for an associate whom the team need to like. [00:54:35] There’s no better advocate than the team themselves for that [00:54:40] particular clinician. So you can’t just start and let them fail for the first six [00:54:45] months. Look at their numbers, look at their outcomes, and go, well, that’s crap. There needs to be [00:54:50] a pathway, and you need to create a nurturing environment where they start to realise, oh [00:54:55] crap, actually, I need to learn how to talk like these guys do. Okay, I need to learn some of the processes. What’s [00:55:00] this Pipedrive thing anyway? And all that kind of thing. And it’s literally taken Sarah about four [00:55:05] months and you know, she’s now in the team about, I don’t know, seven months, eight months or something. And she’s flying because she gets [00:55:10] it. And all that groundwork has been done. But most principal dentists, most clinics don’t really [00:55:15] see the wood from the trees in the sense they can’t recognise the value of that.

Zak Kara: Again, it’s costly. You know, a flat rate for [00:55:20] a dentist on on the basis of mentorship is basically paying them to come into the team, which is mental [00:55:25] because as an associate, in some practices, maybe not. You know, I don’t want to blow smoke up our own [00:55:30] asses, but maybe not in our clinic, but in clinics that I’ve shadowed, I would have paid to go and spend [00:55:35] time with them. Yeah. So it’s the other way around. However we’re paying and funding Sarah’s or [00:55:40] did fund Sarah’s life for no clinical outcome whatsoever, purely on the basis that we [00:55:45] saw something in her. And I believe we’ve created something that is so unique, which I actually [00:55:50] would have loved to work in. I do do genuinely mean that as an associate dentist, so [00:55:55] much so sometimes to our own detriment on a personal level, because I think to myself, it’s not the bloody same [00:56:00] as a principal created this amazing clinical environment. We’ve got the best handpieces wicked chairs, [00:56:05] A-dec 500 tellies on the ceiling, the full shebang. Clinical team most [00:56:10] days, more nurses than we need, not less. No trainees take six months to onboard [00:56:15] a dental nurse to be completely independent. Well, certainly in all facets, including implant sedation and all [00:56:20] that. But it literally takes so long to create this amazing machinery that [00:56:25] sometimes you can’t feel the full benefit as a principal.

Zak Kara: Because. Because [00:56:30] as an associate, I aspire to have all those things. Yeah. But on the flip side of it, as a as [00:56:35] a principal, I don’t sit there for four days a week as a, as a clinician. And I [00:56:40] also have all the other pressures of, for example, less so now because the management aspects of [00:56:45] things are more neat and they’re better delegated and stuff like that. But, um, you [00:56:50] know, you still get the flack as the big bad boss, as a principal, you know, you will always be [00:56:55] the person who I did used to think that we had some sort of Goldilocks scenario. [00:57:00] We were about maybe 12, 14, 16 of us as a team at that point. And I [00:57:05] think we I thought we’d created that little beautiful little moment where it was like having a flat [00:57:10] hierarchy and everyone got on great guns with each other, and we all socialised with each [00:57:15] other. And they were. Gareth and Zach weren’t seen as the big bad bosses, but as soon as you went beyond that [00:57:20] to 20 to now, I think 24, 25 of us, something like that, there’s [00:57:25] only so much you can do and I do really. It’s painful sometimes because I do. I would love to have a chat [00:57:30] with most of our team every day. I literally have not got the minutes to even sit on the loo myself [00:57:35] sometimes. How am I going to be everything to everyone? And I’ve learned you can’t [00:57:40] know.

Payman Langroudi: But there are. I know what you mean. There are. There are moments, I think back at moments in enlightened [00:57:45] where it felt that way, um, tends to be smaller, smaller teams [00:57:50] where that can be the case. And, you know, as an associate, [00:57:55] you kind of it’s such so easy to be like, happy with, with your nurse. [00:58:00] And, you know, because we’re all in, we’re all in it together. It’s just a lot, a lot of fun. Yeah.

Zak Kara: Close the door. [00:58:05] And God knows what else happens out there. At least we’ve got. Yeah. You know, we create our little sanctuary.

Payman Langroudi: I remember as an [00:58:10] associate being very much working for the practice personally, I, you know, if someone said something [00:58:15] bad about the boss, I would sort of say, look good on you. You don’t you don’t realise what you know.

Zak Kara: What [00:58:20] happens behind the scenes.

Payman Langroudi: Yeah, yeah. Always, always trying to protect the boss as [00:58:25] an associate. But but it’s a very easy thing to do as an associate. Yeah. You become a boss [00:58:30] and there’s things like fairness. Yeah. Which is interesting. [00:58:35] You know, it should be. Be fair. Of course we should be fair. Right. Um, but but then, you know, I [00:58:40] find for me, it’s a tiny business, right? We have 54 people, right? It’s a tiny, tiny business.

Zak Kara: Compared [00:58:45] to.

Payman Langroudi: Most. No, no, but. Any business, right? Let’s say so-and-so comes up to me and says, can [00:58:50] I do X, which is a bit outside of the norm? Yeah, I’m going to say sure. Yeah. Because [00:58:55] we’re so small. Yeah. It’s one of the very few benefits of being small. Move.

Zak Kara: And you can shake. You [00:59:00] can.

Payman Langroudi: Move. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. My partner, who just met Sam, he didn’t quite meet him. He’s quite the opposite. [00:59:05] He’s like, well if you do that, that’s unfair isn’t it. Because that person’s had that now. And now what [00:59:10] you have to think is what if everyone wants that? Yeah. Yeah. And he’s right in his own little way. Of course he’s [00:59:15] right.

Zak Kara: Equal opportunities for everyone. Yeah, yeah yeah, yeah.

Payman Langroudi: And so suddenly something that should be very [00:59:20] simple and, and you know, not, not a big deal can become a really big deal. And then you get [00:59:25] to pay.

Zak Kara: Gets everything in question. I was just about to mention pay. Do you have a set hierarchy and structure [00:59:30] for nurses for example first year into the company as a trainee you paid this, then this, then this and [00:59:35] structure can help. But equally we haven’t ever done it that way. In truth, because everyone’s more valuable [00:59:40] than others, because some are more valuable than others, because that’s the nature of human beings. And also [00:59:45] it’s a timing thing. Some got lucky and joined us at a time when we were desperate for nurses, and we’d have paid anything [00:59:50] post-Covid. The world has changed a lot in terms of, but I.

Payman Langroudi: Really struggle with the meritocracy. [00:59:55] Question. Yeah, someone joined you four years ago. Someone joined you two years ago. The [01:00:00] one who joined you two years ago is better. What do you do? What do you do?

Zak Kara: Our approach to [01:00:05] it is that we pay based on merit. We we kind of go, okay, you’re the [01:00:10] the the skill that you cannot teach well is approachability, um, [01:00:15] human skills, willingness. And I recognise it even in interviews, [01:00:20] even the first conversation, if I’m using the word client and a dental nurse who [01:00:25] is maybe five years into their career believes that they know the right way to do it, and they keep bouncing back with patient. [01:00:30] I’m thinking this is going to be a hard person to teach, and I can spot some of those early warning signs quite soon. [01:00:35] Now. Now we’ve done enough interviews, Gareth and I, that we can kind of bounce off each other and navigate the path. [01:00:40] And sometimes people, you can just hear it in their voice. Voice, oh my goodness, they’re going to be amazing. They’re going to fly. [01:00:45] And yeah I don’t know. Is it the wrong thing? Page I’ve [01:00:50] got to lots of points in our journey so far. Very short journey. Only three years where I’ve just thought, no, [01:00:55] I’m just going to do what I trust my gut with. And my gut feeling is telling me this person’s worth. The [01:01:00] top end of our pay banding in our in the in the job spec. Yeah, [01:01:05] yeah.

Payman Langroudi: But but so listen I expect there’s some sort of pathway. [01:01:10] I mean it’s very early days, but I expect a junior nurse joins. Yeah. And [01:01:15] then it’s almost like a promoted promotion to a more senior nurse. And then maybe a practice [01:01:20] manager or in charge of this implant.

Zak Kara: Nurse and more skilled nursing. Yeah. So yeah, what.

Payman Langroudi: I’m saying is [01:01:25] there’s an expectation that that’s to do with how long you’ve been there as opposed to [01:01:30] meritocracy. And I’ve talked to other practices, other principals, and they [01:01:35] say, oh yeah, I promoted this person sooner and it got everyone else annoyed. [01:01:40]

Zak Kara: Yeah. Well, yeah, we’ve encountered those moments that we don’t very well in honesty. [01:01:45] And it’s hard in a small team. It’s very difficult. Yeah. You’re not actually taught any of these skills of how to [01:01:50] navigate the. Because every person a little bit like clients or patients when they come to see you can only [01:01:55] see their experience through their own eyes and their own personal journey. So each one of those team members, [01:02:00] you kind of need to keep your eyes on their eyes and what they’ve seen and who [01:02:05] joined after them and what position they’re in. And and it’s very hard in your timeline of your growth [01:02:10] as a company to keep your eyes on every perspective all at once. And so, in truth, [01:02:15] we have done it based on merit and based on need demand at the time. For example, you take on a [01:02:20] new associate dentist. One of the things we’ve never nailed down is how you choose [01:02:25] to make the right moves at the right time, because, for example, we’re gearing [01:02:30] up to the next level at this point, and we’ve taken on a new care coordinator and a front of House crew member. We’re [01:02:35] probably slightly overstaffed on a non-clinical basis, but we also know the numbers, and we know that our inbound [01:02:40] traffic of new prospective clients is huge, and we cannot sustain [01:02:45] that number without burning out our existing team at the moment. And so as a result of that, [01:02:50] we’ve got to take it to the next level.

Zak Kara: We’re going to go right, okay. If we can have more potential new clients at this [01:02:55] point, what’s the lag period until we need to then have [01:03:00] the next clinician ready to go? So for example, it might be a two month lag [01:03:05] to then have an associate ready or three month lag or whatever it is. And again, there’s no [01:03:10] rule book for this. And this is the thing we literally tell our team this. Sorry to say, guys, we are not reading some sort of [01:03:15] textbook of small stories. This is how you create this. This is we can only go by advice and [01:03:20] you can only go by others experiences, and you kind of need to take risks. And that’s kind of the things that excite [01:03:25] us as business owners, isn’t it? Um, and yeah, we’ll get burned once or twice. We’ve been burned once or twice. [01:03:30] We’ve, uh, we have to human beings and team members in our team who [01:03:35] sang the story through their journey. And we’ve recognised their skill set isn’t quite what [01:03:40] they first purported it to be. How do you handle that? Well, associates, you [01:03:45] mean? No. Not necessarily. More often than not, non-clinical team members. Um, but you often, [01:03:50] if you’re really listening, uh, and are caring, understanding person, [01:03:55] you go, but what is their skill? Let’s not judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, [01:04:00] right? Yeah.

Zak Kara: What does the fish do? And oh my God, she’s amazing with computers and numbers. And [01:04:05] she can do this in five seconds flat. All right. Cool. Let’s steer the ship a bit this way, and then [01:04:10] hopefully we look back in three, five, ten years time and go, that was really good that we made something cool there. [01:04:15] Do we aspire to do we aspire to have three 3130? No. [01:04:20] When I see not even three, perhaps, [01:04:25] perhaps, um, I don’t aspire to the international thing in honesty. [01:04:30] Uh, you see dentists around the world who are setting up their Miami clinic and their Dubai clinic and this and that. No, that’s not me. [01:04:35] Um, I’m just, uh, the thing that I’ve always struggled with is when you start something, establish something [01:04:40] new, it would rely, I believe, too much on me as a human being [01:04:45] to set our stall out, to provide that kind of dentistry without [01:04:50] doing the shortcut thing. And my heart is in comprehensively minded [01:04:55] dentistry done the right way. And it’s too easy to set up a system and go, yeah, that’s what we believe in. We’ve [01:05:00] copy pasted small stories into a new location. Would it really be done to the nth degree [01:05:05] of detail, the way that we would created it the first time around? Would it could be, could be, could be. I need [01:05:10] your help them because look, I don’t know for sure.

Payman Langroudi: I don’t know for sure. Because, you know, it’s difficult to say that [01:05:15] because, you know, I haven’t been there, you know, and, you know, if I visit and you show me something and I go, [01:05:20] God, that’s so difficult to replicate or to teach or something. But at the same time, [01:05:25] you do have to acknowledge, right, that I went to the what was it, the, um, [01:05:30] uh, the hotel like in [01:05:35] four seasons? Four seasons? Yeah. In Marrakesh. Okay. I just [01:05:40] stay there. I went for a coffee. Yeah, but, you know, it was.

Zak Kara: Was it pretty sure it was. [01:05:45]

Payman Langroudi: A Four Seasons?

Zak Kara: Yeah. It was, it was, it was. It’s what you get in the US.

Payman Langroudi: It was a Marrakesh version [01:05:50] of the Four Seasons. But it was a four seasons feeling. Yeah. And if [01:05:55] I, you know as well as I, if I, if I walk into Mumbai Louis Vuitton shop.

Zak Kara: Yeah they’ll be the same [01:06:00] experience. Is it the same in dentistry. In, in healthcare. Well well well well yeah that’s the quirk [01:06:05] isn’t it. So the question.

Payman Langroudi: You I mean, are you saying that doctor APA’s clinic in Miami isn’t as [01:06:10] good as doctor APA’s clinic in Dubai?

Zak Kara: Are they getting doctor APA. Sorry, are they [01:06:15] getting doctor APA every time, or are they getting the iteration of which will always be kind of APA [01:06:20] and kind of not? Does it matter? Again, that’s another question that’s a bit more of a philosophical, philosophical [01:06:25] thing that we haven’t probably squared the circle with yet. We’re, you know, I’ll join you on the pod in another three [01:06:30] years and I’ll tell you where we went. Um, because, uh, yeah, I don’t think there’s any rule book of [01:06:35] life. And my feeling. My feeling. Sorry to interrupt.

Payman Langroudi: Sorry to interrupt you, but my feeling on it is. Yeah. You’re the kind of cat [01:06:40] that if you’ve managed to do what you’ve managed to do in the last three years. Yeah, you’re the kind of cat who can [01:06:45] pull this off in more than one location. Yeah, there’s many people who can’t. [01:06:50] But personally, I’m the kind of guy who can’t. Yeah, that’s not what I could do. My my partner [01:06:55] Sanjay upstairs. He’s he’s the he’s the kind of cat who could systems people understands. You’re [01:07:00] the kind of cat who could pull it off. The question is, can you be bothered? Yeah.

Zak Kara: It’s important. [01:07:05] That’s an important question, man.

Payman Langroudi: Yeah. Because look, if you can go on three holidays [01:07:10] and skiing and put your kids in private school and, and feed your parents or whatever [01:07:15] is important to you. Yeah, yeah. Why should you build empires if that’s [01:07:20] what’s important to you? You know, that’s an important thing. There’s the other side of it. That and [01:07:25] I, and I like this idea of you should live up to your potential. [01:07:30] Yeah, yeah. And that’s what I’m kind of saying.

Zak Kara: Well, you know, moments like this and [01:07:35] even sitting here talking to you on, on your pod at the moment and, um, and when you reflect and you [01:07:40] have feedback from others and one of the reasons why I did the stuff on Instagram, which is a lot of people now commenting on [01:07:45] and I really appreciate, um, Zach, small stories on Insta, by the way, if you’re listening to this, um, is kind [01:07:50] of to exude a little bit more about what I’m really about and what really does drive me on a daily basis. [01:07:55] And then when you get feedback, you kind of go, actually, geez, again, you can’t see the wood from the trees there. There’s [01:08:00] a lot more that’s different than what we do compared to what some even can even comprehend or can even [01:08:05] conjure up in their own, in their own, you know, let alone apply it to their own working world. But come up with the idea in [01:08:10] the first place. Um, do I think that, um, uh, am [01:08:15] I now finally at the other end of that kind of growing something from being the toddler phase into an [01:08:20] established organisation now? Yeah, there’s been three years when since Covid and since [01:08:25] beginning Small Stories, when I wasn’t really Zach, the thing that a lot of people [01:08:30] don’t recognise is that you become a different person. And if you’re of our kind [01:08:35] of approach to life and you bunker down and you really have to spend the hours sweating in the office [01:08:40] and you put in all the late nights and you don’t see your niece and nephew and you don’t see your extended family [01:08:45] the last time. So my parents was nearly a year ago.

Zak Kara: They’re not that far away. They’re in Leicester, but it’s still a solid [01:08:50] journey from Bournemouth. Right. But you know when you see when you kind of look at the whole picture of your life, you’re like, [01:08:55] was it worth it? I think I’m only just. And this is a word of warning to anybody who’s starting their own clinic. [01:09:00] Do expect that it will swallow up your life in every single way, in ways you’re not [01:09:05] even thought about, and I do I regret it, no, not now. But there’s been many moments when I went, why [01:09:10] the hell? Like, my income is crap, my lifestyle is crap. I was a stone overweight until [01:09:15] a couple of months ago when I’ve really just gone. I’m going to just shake this up. This isn’t really Zac. This isn’t [01:09:20] the guy that used to be the happy go lucky associate. I’ve evolved into the big bad boss. I don’t want [01:09:25] to be that. Yeah, yeah. And only then when you kind of reflect back and you go, actually, fair enough. [01:09:30] I can think a bit more, bigger picture now. I was in Chicago at midwinter meetings last week, and [01:09:35] it’s finally then when you go, yeah, it’s pretty cool, this dentistry thing, and it’s pretty cool when I share this [01:09:40] stuff. And even American dentists are a lovely lady speaking. I wasn’t speaking, but speaking in [01:09:45] groups. Yeah. Um, you know, at the bar and whatever else. And people are going, hang on a minute, say that again. [01:09:50] And, you know, one of the dentists literally pull out a phone and went, you do what? And she’s making a note for us. I’m like, [01:09:55] okay, well, maybe it is a little bit different.

Payman Langroudi: Yeah, for sure it is different. And this is what I’m saying. Yeah, [01:10:00] that most, most people wouldn’t have bothered with what you’ve already done. So [01:10:05] that that’s why you could be bothered to keep going. Yeah. Um, although, you know, [01:10:10] you, you say you had a hard time. Dude, I refuse to believe you had a harder time than me.

Zak Kara: Yeah. [01:10:15] Glenn, we.

Payman Langroudi: I mean, lost hundreds of thousands of pounds in the first four [01:10:20] years. Like, the first four years. We just lost money. Just lost loads and loads and loads of money. [01:10:25] Um, to.

Zak Kara: Establish the company, just to set the thing up and get it moving. Fuck it up. [01:10:30] Yeah, yeah, yeah, but.

Payman Langroudi: But the real business is take three, four years. Yeah, yeah. In dentistry, we’re very lucky. [01:10:35]

Zak Kara: Yeah. Of course.

Payman Langroudi: Very lucky to be cash flow positive so quick. Yeah. Um, and [01:10:40] and you’re right, it needs to be all encompassing to be a success. It’s like a child. [01:10:45] Yeah. Have you got.

Zak Kara: Kids? No, don’t. It’s just like a child.

Payman Langroudi: It starts as a baby. You have to feed it [01:10:50] and stay up late at night.

Zak Kara: And the bits that that become the reward for me on this journey so [01:10:55] far has been moments when I’ve finally managed to step back a little and observe others [01:11:00] of positions of responsibility in the company, kind of talk new team members [01:11:05] through the small stories way we call it the the nine small stories ways. They were kind of evolved from our our [01:11:10] values and the things that we establish from day one of like the deep, deep rooted recipe [01:11:15] for why we are, why we exist, and those evolved into really practical [01:11:20] things, the nine ways. And when I see new team members talking, talk, uh, being talked through it very professionally, I [01:11:25] kind of go, yeah, it’s kind of got its own life of its own. And that does make me feel excited.

Payman Langroudi: Yeah, [01:11:30] yeah, that’s a lovely thing. When you when you, when you think something up one night at 2 a.m.. [01:11:35] Yeah, yeah. And then nine months later there’s people talking about it.

Zak Kara: Yeah. It’s really cool. [01:11:40]

Payman Langroudi: Though. Tell me what they are. So you don’t have to go through all mine. So the ones that you love.

Zak Kara: So we walked the entire journey. But [01:11:45] the basic overview of our values, there’s two main things that we say all day, every day, which is that we deliver. [01:11:50] Wow. First time and every time. And number two, our clients come first and they will always be our top [01:11:55] priority. It’s as simple as that. Um, but when you boil it down into the actual journey, for example, the [01:12:00] first of our nine small series ways is that the right clients arrive [01:12:05] at the clinic and they’re pre-vetted and pre, um, we’ve got to know them beforehand. [01:12:10] And any one of them could be our friends, which might sound a bit cringey to some, but we believe [01:12:15] that is the simplest thing. If I’m walking past one of our treatment rooms and there’s laughter, we want to its [01:12:20] working. The next might be, for example, that, um, our, [01:12:25] uh, our team at front of House does, um, a choreograph, [01:12:30] but they’re never, never scripted. And they’ve designed an experience that makes people feel warm [01:12:35] inside and makes them keep coming back and never feel like they need to dress up to visit us. [01:12:40] So there’s things along those lines that are kind of what we’ve boiled down as a team into what [01:12:45] we are as people and what’s the best thing about it. When you’re you look back and you reflect at moments like that that I [01:12:50] was just mentioning, you kind of go, that’s really us, Gareth and I.

Zak Kara: That is us [01:12:55] and our own personalities extrapolated out into an organisation which then [01:13:00] took on a life of its own. But I can genuinely hand on heart, tell myself, yeah, this [01:13:05] is really an extension of me. This is how I believe dentistry should be delivered. [01:13:10] Weirdly enough, talking to coaches, it turns out that a lot of clinics kind of rely [01:13:15] on mouths of their patients and clients not being fully stabilised. For that to be a good [01:13:20] business prospect or proposition for a new future owner. So in a weird kind of way, [01:13:25] sometimes boutique can kind of play against you. If you were to stabilise [01:13:30] the mouths of every single one of our patients, which is what a smile story is all about. It’s a phased and [01:13:35] comprehensive plan, and the aim of the game is somebody joins us as a member, and then they just need to [01:13:40] see us for six monthly or 12 monthly or whatever it is for their consistent, ongoing care. [01:13:45] The. Troublesome thing with that is that we actually haven’t got a lot of work to do for our maintained clients. Is that a bad [01:13:50] thing? In some ways, no. But deep down inside me, ethically [01:13:55] it is. It’s the right thing. Yeah, yeah.

Payman Langroudi: Of course I wasn’t aware of what you said before [01:14:00] or I wasn’t aware that was a thing. Um, but anyway, if you do it right, [01:14:05] the the patients on your. Do you say members.

Zak Kara: Members? Yeah. Our membership [01:14:10] plan. Yeah.

Payman Langroudi: That that itself. That’s like an annual recurring revenue thing.

Zak Kara: It is it is, you.

Payman Langroudi: Know, that you can [01:14:15] sell that as a thing, right? That’s true. Yeah. Um, but, you know, the [01:14:20] story is so impressive that it’s all post-Covid. I mean, to me, like post-Covid [01:14:25] seems like day before yesterday.

Zak Kara: How much of it.

Payman Langroudi: Were you doing as an associate.

Zak Kara: Of [01:14:30] the style of the industry that we’re doing here? Um, so I moved down to Bournemouth for [01:14:35] the unicorn associate gig, the six handed dentistry gig at a clinic not terribly far [01:14:40] away, and learnt the roots of what I kind of boiled down into comprehensive dentistry, the way [01:14:45] we do it about five, four years before Covid, something like that. Um, before [01:14:50] that I believed I was doing really thorough thinking, comprehensive dentistry, but had no real way. [01:14:55] I’d never seen anyone plug it together properly. So somebody comes to see you. How you [01:15:00] can see there’s also to do. You can see there’s possibly, you know, like a bridge or an implant or a prosthesis of some sort [01:15:05] in that lower left area. And oh, but there’s loads of amalgams and stuff to sort out first. And [01:15:10] how do I get this person on side and walk them through a journey that’s palatable for them in [01:15:15] a timely way, that we’re not waiting for a tooth to blow up into a problem or break beyond repair? [01:15:20] What my old school approach used to be and worked alongside a lovely guy called Richard Guyver, [01:15:25] who was the principal at the time of um Envisage in Emsworth down on the south coast [01:15:30] envisaged has now become a little entity, a quite big entity of its own, actually not through Richard, [01:15:35] but by the now owners of that mini corporate and and [01:15:40] what I learned there was that I could plug some of the ways I’d do it into. I was just learning, [01:15:45] really. Somebody came to see me. It was independent dentistry. There was a membership plan, [01:15:50] but essentially it was fee per item, classic thing, 10% or 20% off.

Zak Kara: By joining the membership [01:15:55] plan on X treatment that we’re going to provide for you. And the way I used to do it was I used to win the [01:16:00] relationship by doing 1 or 2 high priority things, getting them on site, [01:16:05] proving to them that the local anaesthetic is going to be painless. As I explained, [01:16:10] proving to them that I’m bothered about the details. And oh, he really took his time on making [01:16:15] sure the bite was correct at the end of the visit. And oh, the dental nurse and him were having such a good time [01:16:20] and having a nice chit chat. And ah, they’re lovely people to create consistency, to win that [01:16:25] relationship, to then play the slow, slow, slow game. The problem being that there’s a lot of times they were the wrong people [01:16:30] because they actually really just were of the mindset of I [01:16:35] just want my tooth fixed, and I kind of want to wait till the next one to break, and I’ll fix that when it’s broken as well. [01:16:40] And funnily enough, I then kind of embarked on a different way of doing it by proactively asking [01:16:45] the question and here’s a here’s a good one if you if you like the power of words in the way that [01:16:50] I do, let’s say you’re doing an old school check-up. We don’t really call it a check-up, we call it a health check, [01:16:55] but, um, or a 3D health check because 3D health check. Yeah. So we do a 3D scan for every [01:17:00] single person every time. So the first thing that happens, it processes on the screen. And we do the walk through because [01:17:05] we’ve then got a record in colour of how their teeth were on that day.

Zak Kara: Right. So [01:17:10] um, the method that um, we in hindsight, uh, could have [01:17:15] approached this with would have been something like this might sound like a bit of a fluffy question. [01:17:20] Can I ask why you’ve come to see us today? And they might go, they might look at [01:17:25] you funny, and my patient or client might look at me funny if I were to ask that question like, why do you think I’m here? I’m here for my check-up. You’re [01:17:30] supposed to come every six months, aren’t you? But I might stick to my guns there and go. But why [01:17:35] a little bit deeper? Yeah. Get a bit. Yeah. Why? What is it about a check-up that bothers bothers [01:17:40] you so much? Or what is it? Is it that your parents kind of instilled that in you as a kid, and you’ve been [01:17:45] doing it ever since? Or what is it about your teeth that are bothering you? Is it you haven’t got any pain at the moment by the sounds of [01:17:50] it. Why are you here? And some of those people will be the kind of people where you [01:17:55] can keep expanding out that conversation and listening actively, and you might embark [01:18:00] on some of the conversations with some of them to sort of go, ah, actually, it sounds [01:18:05] like you would prefer to avoid waiting for other teeth to fall down the same [01:18:10] slippery slope as that one that broke when you were on holiday last summer. So you remind them of that [01:18:15] unforeseen, unexpected breakage or pain or whatever, because it was.

Payman Langroudi: And now you’ve got them into the comprehensive [01:18:20] mindset. There you.

Zak Kara: Go. Because that was more costly and complicated. Am I right in hearing you carefully that you [01:18:25] don’t want to just wait for another jagged edge and you don’t want to wait for another root canal and all the rest of it, and some of them will [01:18:30] go, yeah, and you go, would it help you if I talk you through what I can see? So [01:18:35] I might then show them the cusp that’s very thin on that upper six. And, you know, then you extrapolate [01:18:40] that out into a quadrant based plan or you might go whilst this tooth on the this first molar [01:18:45] here. Is looking like it’s going to break at some point. It could be that some of our clients, [01:18:50] in a scenario like yours, say to me, do you know what, Zach? Over a period of the next year or two, let’s work through [01:18:55] in an order of priority. That makes sense. Let’s do proactive dentistry. If I’m tackling the upper left area. And [01:19:00] the reason why that can work well is, as you’ve experienced with our blue protective shield, call that rubber down, [01:19:05] blue protective shield. It means that we can protect your entire mouth from that upper left area, and [01:19:10] you’re only frozen and numb for one visit. You can kick back, watch the telly on the ceiling, listen to me and Tash [01:19:15] natter on blah di blah di blah. And they go, yeah, that does make sense. And before you know it, you’ve [01:19:20] got a quadrant completed the next visit. So I don’t do single tooth dentistry, not because I railroad [01:19:25] people into not doing single tooth dentistry, but people only find us for that. When you position it through the eyes [01:19:30] of other clients, they go, oh yeah, I can see that makes sense. You know. Do [01:19:35] you think.

Payman Langroudi: Your exposure to Pankey and Coy’s has made you a more interventionist [01:19:40] dentist than the average?

Zak Kara: Yes, but not in American way. And in Pankey, actually, [01:19:45] Pankey is a brilliant organisation, by the way. But I went to Pankey too early in my career. I was their second [01:19:50] year out of uni.

Payman Langroudi: How much of it did you do?

Zak Kara: I did essentials one and two of the four in [01:19:55] the continuum, and I always intended to go back to Pankey, but funnily enough it became part of the patchwork quilt course. [01:20:00] Joined a little bit of that and lots more lectures around the world and all the rest of that stuff.

Payman Langroudi: The personal mastery, [01:20:05] the financial mastery stuff. Useful?

Zak Kara: Yeah. Big time. It was the thing that actually got me excited. Pankey [01:20:10] won the first of that week long continuum residency program was gold. [01:20:15] It was opening my eyes to something which actually, in hindsight, has formed the bedrock of [01:20:20] my day to day dentistry and probably influenced my stories more than I realised. And which [01:20:25] is that the interpersonal stuff, and that isn’t just understanding personality types, but the the [01:20:30] interpersonal stuff in the sense of dentistry needs to work [01:20:35] for you as a career. It’s you can be as selfless as you like, [01:20:40] but if you don’t recognise the person in front of you and their real true wishes, [01:20:45] it’s kind of pointless. You know, that gets quite deep and philosophical. But Pankey won. Some [01:20:50] of it was quite philosophical, and it makes you realise what you’re about as a person and why you’re [01:20:55] in dentistry and the communication stuff. And coming back to some of the banned words. One of the banned words [01:21:00] might be surgery. So the Americans call it an office, but we don’t call it a surgery in art. We call them treatment [01:21:05] rooms, because surgery is a word that conjures up images of all sorts of stuff you don’t want. [01:21:10] We don’t use the word late in a treatment room or client facing room. Might [01:21:15] say Zack is a little behind schedule this afternoon because nobody likes lateness.

Zak Kara: It’s a negative [01:21:20] word. We don’t call it a waiting room because nobody likes to wait. What do you call it? We call [01:21:25] it a client lounge or front of house or. Yeah. Um, we we call it a [01:21:30] treatment room, not a surgery. As I mentioned, we we just have different ways of approaching these things. And even [01:21:35] there’s we always believe in keeping everyone part of a three way conversation in a treatment room. So [01:21:40] nurse client, clinician. But sometimes you have to be a little sneaky [01:21:45] with the code that you say. So lateness. If I’m running behind schedule and I can foresee that this is going a [01:21:50] little bit Pete Tong, I might just say to Tash or Amy, who I’m working with, can I get a ten L, please? And [01:21:55] it’s ten hours, ten minutes late, which is signalling to them we’re running late. But if they believe [01:22:00] that from their viewpoint that we might be able to catch this up, we’re listening. We’re understanding [01:22:05] one another with our terminology. What happens then? So they might type on the computer screen. And the reason why it’s a ten is [01:22:10] because there’s literally four buttons. You have to press ten L enter and it goes to front of House, who then [01:22:15] send a WhatsApp message to our client in advance.

Payman Langroudi: To not turn up so soon.

Zak Kara: Yeah. To basically [01:22:20] kind of go just a quick heads up because we, we thought we’d message to respect your time. That’s a kind [01:22:25] thing to do. We’re going to respect your time. Um, thought I’d give you a heads up [01:22:30] that Zach and Amy’s schedule is a little bit behind this afternoon. Feel free to run [01:22:35] an errand, and we’ll be ready for you by around about 3:20 p.m., rather than 310. Will that be a problem for [01:22:40] you or. Well, I hope this was helpful question mark. And they’ll often message back and [01:22:45] go, oh my God, amazing. I’m five minutes late. Anyway. Kiss kiss. Thanks very much. Not often the kiss gets, but you know what I mean. [01:22:50] Like you’re creating this proper relationship between between clinical treatment room [01:22:55] and front of house, front of house and client. They therefore come in not over, they’re not sweating [01:23:00] or they’re not. I respect your time is.

Payman Langroudi: A beautiful message to send in whichever [01:23:05] way you can.

Zak Kara: Send kind, isn’t it? It’s just kindness. And panky taught me that actually, [01:23:10] you don’t need to be that pretentious. I’m a doctor. I’m really important. And [01:23:15] you know that. There’s, you know, you can respect yourself and have people respect you in a funny way [01:23:20] by respecting them.

Payman Langroudi: Dude, why do you think it is that so many dentists [01:23:25] go into this other mode of sort of dentist mode, and I [01:23:30] get the feeling that you talk to your patients like this the way you’re talking to me and why [01:23:35] why is it that and by the way, I was that dentist too. I just think everyone’s like that dentist. Yeah. And then I shadowed [01:23:40] a couple of people and I was like, what? It’s like this other. This other persona. Yeah. What do you think [01:23:45] that is?

Zak Kara: I think that’s deep rooted.

Payman Langroudi: Have you had have you had to decouple associates sometimes. [01:23:50]

Zak Kara: Because they just generally don’t make it.

Payman Langroudi: You’re not hiring those people.

Zak Kara: Exactly. The and [01:23:55] again, side note, if you are listening to this and associate thinking, I kind of want to know more about this, then feel [01:24:00] free to let us know. You can come and shadow. We have loads of dentists all the time. The team are very used to it, but those ones self-select [01:24:05] out because they recognise from day one that if they can’t have a little chilled out conversation [01:24:10] with any one of our team at the ten minute meeting or after the ten minute meeting in the morning, [01:24:15] they’re just not going to be our vibe. Like, you might as well just go away somewhere else. Like, no disrespect to you, but you’re just [01:24:20] not our vibe. You don’t share the same values. That’s okay. I’m cool with that. And you know, [01:24:25] we’re busy enough with the busy restaurant philosophy that we’ve got bums on seats all day long. It’s hard to find [01:24:30] available visits in our schedule and long may it continue. And why did they go into that mode? [01:24:35] I think it’s deep rooted in who they learn from. And there’s one of the things I [01:24:40] think in dentistry we kind of have got wrong, which is that it’s not incentivised in our profession to be [01:24:45] at the top of your game in the real, applicable day to day sense of operative dentistry. [01:24:50]

Zak Kara: As a clinician with, you know, some of the guests that you’ve been on your podcast are outstanding [01:24:55] clinicians with their hands and with their craft way beyond I’ll ever be or [01:25:00] ever aspire to be, because I will never aspire to take close up photographs of my work and put it on a massive [01:25:05] lecture screen on a in a lecture theatre. It’s just not me. But [01:25:10] interestingly, I think those people learn not from those clinicians. The wrong sorry, [01:25:15] the the dentists who are on the wrong path and go into that mode aren’t learning from these types [01:25:20] of clinicians. They’re learning from ones who haven’t done the real operative dentistry on a daily basis, on [01:25:25] the shop floor, in a real working clinic under a and a live pressures [01:25:30] of finances for clients and live pressures of time restraints and nurses who are [01:25:35] breathing down your neck because they want to get to lunch on time and all that stuff. So I think they learn from the old school. [01:25:40] I think they learn from dentists who are 20 years out of date and nicest possible way to some of [01:25:45] my clinical tutors at uni. The majority of them graduated in the 80s 70s. [01:25:50] Mental? That’s mental.

Payman Langroudi: I’ll ask you a question that keeps getting. I [01:25:55] keep getting asked, and I’m sort of the wrong person to ask the question because I don’t own a dental [01:26:00] practice here, but I know lots of young dentists who are looking for private jobs. And what [01:26:05] are what are what are you looking for in a in a young associate? Okay. This thing [01:26:10] that we just mentioned. Yeah. Someone you can sit with and have a beer with and not think. Yeah. Not not not [01:26:15] alien. Yeah, yeah. Just call me Zach. Yeah. So simple as that is. Does that now what else? [01:26:20] Because I’m giving advice like, you know, take photos, do Instagram [01:26:25] rather than learn, you know, Crown preps.

Zak Kara: It’s [01:26:30] that there’s some ability to see that dentistry is not about the 0.2 [01:26:35] margin on that crown. It’s actually about having a broader range of skills. Like, [01:26:40] I can pick up a camera and and very ably take a half decent photo. I am wearing magnification. [01:26:45] I can place a rubber dam, but not just place a rubber dam and I. But I’ve got the patter. [01:26:50] I’ve got some ability to talk the talk whilst I’m placing the rubber dam, because the wording that [01:26:55] you use as you’re placing this blue protective shield matters based on the client or patient’s perception [01:27:00] of it, which will ultimately make it more of a success. So if you haven’t got your wording down, [01:27:05] you’re probably going to suffer or struggle. Besides, your nurses will then think you’re weird and [01:27:10] they’re using these using this blue shield thing, and it’s annoying. You can’t floss it anyway. I don’t see why you’re bothered with that. [01:27:15] To some extent, that’s probably because you’ve been working in the wrong clinic. Maybe you should be working in the right clinic, but that’s a [01:27:20] bit aside from that. Um, the, um, the other elements to it are definitely the emotional [01:27:25] IQ. Yeah. It’s seeing the words as seeing the world through the eyes of [01:27:30] that client or patient who might be receiving dentistry for the first time in years. [01:27:35] It’s how you go about calming them at the beginning of the visit. Yeah, but how do you.

Payman Langroudi: Assess that [01:27:40] in an associate or not? An associate in a prospective associate? I mean, tell [01:27:45] me that process. Do you get people to come in and work?

Zak Kara: We have a phantom head. Yeah. And [01:27:50] um, so yeah, we do. Yeah. So we, um, through the guys at, um, incidental, we [01:27:55] we acquired a phantom head. Thanks very much, Chris. Um, and they essentially helped, [01:28:00] um, us to, um, be able to kind of work out a path where [01:28:05] we can just cut teeth on that model all day, every day. And it’s not weird to for [01:28:10] a new potential clinician to just be like, right, okay. They’re just going to throw me in the deep end and see how I get on. [01:28:15] Our approach to clinical dentistry is forehanded. So again, that’s a bit wacky for some of them. [01:28:20] And so we don’t put pressure on them and go, you expected to be shit hot on day one, but an openness to [01:28:25] it matters if they’re the kind of dentist who goes, no, no, no, I always have my instruments on the bracket table.

Payman Langroudi: You have to worry about [01:28:30] that.

Zak Kara: Yeah, because you have.

Payman Langroudi: To teach them so many different new tricks. Exactly.

Zak Kara: And one of those tricks is give [01:28:35] it up. They ain’t yours. They belong to the nurse. And we have set up these treatment rooms on purpose in the way that [01:28:40] we have to be open minded to anyone, including left handers and right handers. So we have to both [01:28:45] sided chairs for a reason. Ah, um, mobile units are swappable [01:28:50] on purpose because we’ve recognised that you need to be able to work from both sides. So yeah, that’s what you do. Left handers. [01:28:55] Right? So if you’re not open to the fact that we are compromising and we’ve created [01:29:00] an organisation that caters for most people, then you’re probably not going to be open [01:29:05] minded enough to even think, ah, I get it the smart way and I want to do it like that. The ones that [01:29:10] you pay, you just know. Yeah. You just know deep down in your gut the [01:29:15] first few conversations you have with somebody, will they cut it or will they not? I won’t [01:29:20] say his name and I don’t want to pre-empt too much, but we have a dentist who’s doing some shadowing with us at the moment, and every [01:29:25] time he comes in to see us, he rolls up his sleeves.

Zak Kara: He understands the people he’s recognised. [01:29:30] He remembers their stories. He the team members. He recognises [01:29:35] them and knows their names. And you know, he can create continuity and congruency from [01:29:40] visit to visit. He comes in shadowing and he’s not being paid a penny for it. But some of those subtle things [01:29:45] are the things that you cannot train or teach in somebody. You’ve either got it or you haven’t. And lo and [01:29:50] behold, Tash brings him in a friggin tin of olives this morning. I’m like, why are you taking him olives? And she she went, because [01:29:55] we had a conversation about olives. And he tasted one of my at lunch a few weeks ago. And then, you know, that creates that [01:30:00] bond. And before you know it, you get more out of one another. And that’s the self-perpetuating fun [01:30:05] of building a relationship with somebody. And hopefully he’ll turn into a clinician or a team member for. Future [01:30:10] who’s worth his weight in gold and vice versa. He should be winning. Creating a win. Win. [01:30:15]

Payman Langroudi: You said your main source of new patients isn’t word of mouth. So what is it?

Zak Kara: To [01:30:20] our detriment, it’s mostly, uh, it’s online. It’s, uh, it’s sometimes paid [01:30:25] ads, but sometimes it’s the SEO related stuff. So we’re at an early phase of building our web [01:30:30] presence. And so as a result of that, we’re ploughing four figures every month into [01:30:35] all of those elements of it. And there’s no rule book on where you put your money every [01:30:40] month into each element of it. And there’s not actually any hard and fast rules of [01:30:45] return on investment to say, okay, we put that much into SEO and content and blog [01:30:50] writing and this and that and whatever this month, how much did it translate into, I don’t know, scratch your [01:30:55] head. And it’s all about a presence, isn’t it? So, um, yeah, majority of our, um, of [01:31:00] our inbound traffic tends to come through our web forms from our website, um, our paid ads on [01:31:05] social media, um, Google, PPC, that type of stuff. Yeah.

Payman Langroudi: And who [01:31:10] handles that? Have you got an agency or.

Zak Kara: No, we tried all sorts. Um, it’s actually [01:31:15] Gareth Edwards. He turns out he’s an absolute partner. Partner? Business partner. Yeah. So Gareth and I [01:31:20] have a real synergy with lots of things. And it just so happens we’ve gravitated to things that are very complementary [01:31:25] to our skill sets, but complementary to one another. Um, I could have probably done a fair bit more of the marketing [01:31:30] stuff, but it doesn’t make me doesn’t put fire in my belly every day. Whereas Gareth will spend [01:31:35] his evenings, his weekends, and just almost for fun, sometimes created a hobby out of oh my God, I love [01:31:40] the web marketing stuff and I and I really want to do it. And then, to be honest, what we also done is employed [01:31:45] some agencies on that journey and learned some of their tricks and then made the matrix [01:31:50] and gone, okay, well can plug that together again. Patchwork quilting some of the skill set. There is [01:31:55] a whole different beast of its own and it’s a full time job. So Gareth does pretty much a full time job of a web [01:32:00] lead in our team. Or.

Payman Langroudi: You know, sometimes it goes full circle as well. So we [01:32:05] used to have in-house loads of people for marketing. Then we went sort [01:32:10] of outsource. Then we go back in-house. And there are things that you guys [01:32:15] have no idea how to do. Right? There’s we had a meeting today. The company’s whole [01:32:20] job was heat mapping. Yeah.

Zak Kara: Where people go on the website where they click and all the.

Payman Langroudi: Rest of it in [01:32:25] real time changing. Yeah, yeah, yeah, changing. Changing it.

Zak Kara: And there’s a lot of that will turn into AI [01:32:30] related. It was design and UX changes. Yeah. And so UX is quite an interesting thing. And it’s quite, [01:32:35] quite a fun thing to explore if you want to go and go down that rabbit hole in some ways, uh, as a, as a, [01:32:40] as a business owner, you have to be able to outsource some of that stuff and trust that somebody [01:32:45] either in-house or external has got their handle on that one element of it. And the more data [01:32:50] you see, the more you’re like, whoa, that is crazy how that stuff works. Um, and yeah, we’re redeveloping [01:32:55] our home page at the moment as a result of some of those changes. And we’re going, oh, actually, let’s make it a bit easier. Oh, [01:33:00] crap. When you scroll down, you have to scroll down three times to get to this. So they have that whole thing. Yeah. Yeah. [01:33:05] You have to be you know, it’s all built for mobile first, isn’t it? Uh, 80% of our traffic comes from mobile. [01:33:10]

Payman Langroudi: Yeah, that’s a sobering statistic. When you’ve been seeing everything on a big screen.

Zak Kara: It has to remain [01:33:15] above the fold so that the first thing you see is super accessible. We’re even thinking about how [01:33:20] far your thumb has to go. Most people are right handed, how far your thumb has to go to to get to the button [01:33:25] that we want to make. Easy to press. Do you have.

Payman Langroudi: A boat or is that against your authentic on.

Zak Kara: The [01:33:30] on the home page on the on the website? No we don’t we we haven’t for that reason. [01:33:35] Mostly because I’m not going to name any names, but you scroll down a lot of these websites and it’s just so annoying [01:33:40] when.

Payman Langroudi: It comes up.

Zak Kara: It frustrates the hell out of me on a personal level. I’m sure there’s great data behind it, but, [01:33:45] um, the thing that I would like to make it useful for, maybe some developers [01:33:50] of these bots can listen to me in this, and the time when it would be most helpful for me [01:33:55] is when somebody’s showing exit intent from a website. So if they’ve scrolled down, they’ve not found what they’re interested [01:34:00] in. They’re scrolling back up. That’s when a bot should appear.

Payman Langroudi: Yeah, [01:34:05] I don’t know. In some ways, the data the data would have, the.

Zak Kara: More I look into it, the more I realise [01:34:10] actually, these bots don’t do things that seem quite obvious to me like that. But anyway, the most [01:34:15] annoying is when you’re on a website website, and three seconds later, hey, I’m so-and-so, what do you want from [01:34:20] these huge menu? And you’re like, get out of my way! All you’re looking for is the X button. To be honest.

Payman Langroudi: I know [01:34:25] what you mean. I’ve done that a lot too. But but having said that, we trained a bot recently and [01:34:30] it’s answering questions better than everyone on our team now.

Zak Kara: That’s what you afterwards about some of the ideas we’ve [01:34:35] got.

Payman Langroudi: And yeah, yeah. So it’s an important thing because I reckon in two years time [01:34:40] you’d rather buy from a bot than from a human, because.

Zak Kara: It’s just so much more slick and.

Payman Langroudi: Doing [01:34:45] it right. You know, the efficient AI and I used to be a bit of a control freak myself [01:34:50] on answering questions. And then, you know, you learn to give that up when you see this thing that’s [01:34:55] always answering them correctly. Yeah. Every single time. Yeah. And you realise even [01:35:00] I won’t be able to do that. Yeah. There’s, you know.

Zak Kara: It’s it’s pretty sobering as a human [01:35:05] being isn’t it. But the only thing it does lose at the moment is that emotional intelligence and that. That [01:35:10] hot?

Payman Langroudi: Of course, of course. But I mean, did you hear about Gemini that recently? What happened? They [01:35:15] said so Gemini is the Google version of of ChatGPT [01:35:20] or something like that. And they said to it if, if, uh, if misgendering [01:35:25] uh, what’s the name of the father of the Kardashians? That guy. Bruce Jenner. [01:35:30] Bruce Jenner has.

Zak Kara: No, uh, is it.

Payman Langroudi: Bruce.

Zak Kara: Jenner? I think we might have.

Payman Langroudi: I [01:35:35] just missed misgendered him. Okay, okay. Yeah. So if if misgendering Bruce Jenner [01:35:40] would save the world from from nuclear apocalypse. Yeah. And there is no other way of saving the [01:35:45] world from nuclear apocalypse. Would you misgender Bruce Jenner? And it goes. No. And it’s caused a serious [01:35:50] situation there. Google are having to deal with that situation now. Well, yeah. [01:35:55] And especially because with AI people think it’s the end of the world stuff. Yeah, yeah. So cool. Cool [01:36:00] cases.

Zak Kara: Alert. Yeah.

Payman Langroudi: Let’s get to darker days [01:36:05] because you’ve told the sort of effortless story I know, I know, it hasn’t been I’m not stupid enough [01:36:10] to think it’s been effortless. I’m sure you’ve had so simple. Many difficult days and nights and so forth. [01:36:15] Yeah, sleepless nights and all that. But I’d like to hear the sort of the darkest parts, [01:36:20] um, of of the journey of actually building this business, um, [01:36:25] or your career because, you know, we haven’t I didn’t do the normal thing of start from the beginning. All [01:36:30] right. Take me through your career. Um, I’d like to hear about your most difficult patient. [01:36:35]

Zak Kara: Okay. Probably darkest or biggest mistake [01:36:40] in my career. When [01:36:45] I went to go into the too much of the specifics of it, uh, I was sacked. I [01:36:50] was sacked from an associate position. I was sacked from an associate position [01:36:55] off. Off contract, off terms from the associate agreement. And [01:37:00] at the time, it was like my world was shattering around me because [01:37:05] I remember receiving an email. I was at a one day a week associate position, not the same position, but I [01:37:10] was at. So the the other position which I was sacked from was I was at three days a week, three and a half days a week. It was [01:37:15] a very solid income, and I was doing what I believed to be amazing, comprehensive dentistry. And I was really kind of growing [01:37:20] on a day to day basis. But our relationship, the relationship between myself and the principal had broken down [01:37:25] and it was quite clear to see. And in hindsight, you look back and go, yeah, actually it wasn’t going anywhere. Was it? Like [01:37:30] if we got to a point where we’re literally arguing with each other over something as simple as [01:37:35] the fact that I’d come in on a bank holiday weekend to see a new, [01:37:40] sorry, an emergency patient on the out-of-hours rota for that particular region. [01:37:45] And I was essentially told off for the fact that, um, I had [01:37:50] then, um, poached inverted commas, this patient to join the practice. [01:37:55]

Zak Kara: I hadn’t I’d simply done what I believed to be deliver great dentistry, and they’d left singing [01:38:00] our praises and wanted to book a new as a new patient to come and see us again. Different approach to what we do at small stories. [01:38:05] But that’s kind of what most practices do, right? I could see why, through the eyes of the principal, that might [01:38:10] look like poor reputation management, but at the time, as an associate, I believed I needed a pat on the back [01:38:15] for that, because I’ve come in on a bank holiday Monday and I’m trying to do my best to grow this bloody business. Right. But [01:38:20] that was just one of 50 things that went wrong in that relationship, and it was never going [01:38:25] anywhere forward. But that moment nevertheless, when you get an email that says da da [01:38:30] da da da, Monday lunchtime. And by the way, there’ll be nothing in your clinical diary from next week, [01:38:35] whatever it was. Wow. And you go, ah, now [01:38:40] what? And I remember there being a lump in my throat and being unable [01:38:45] to even concentrate for the afternoon of patients or clients at this other one day a [01:38:50] week clinic I was in. What was.

Payman Langroudi: The feeling? Was the feeling unfairness? [01:38:55] Was it like failure? Was it it was a bit like, how am I going to pay my mortgage? [01:39:00] It was it was all feeling.

Zak Kara: It was, oh God, I’ve been so stupid. It was also that I moved down to Bournemouth [01:39:05] on the basis of of wanting to make this really work. I’d gone all in [01:39:10] and and it is a feeling of fairness or unfairness, isn’t it? Because I’d kind of given up what I believe to be a cool [01:39:15] 2020s in my 20s, uh, under ten years graduated London City [01:39:20] life thinking, oh, this is what all the cool kids do. This is what proper dentists do. You have to work in the city. And I [01:39:25] did have a pretty good job in the city. Maybe not. You know, in hindsight, it’s a very transient community I [01:39:30] find in the city. So your patient base comes and goes difficult. Very difficult.

Payman Langroudi: I didn’t enjoy working.

Zak Kara: I didn’t enjoy [01:39:35] it at all, to be honest. I was opposite Saint Paul’s Cathedral, working amongst people that are very like, oh yeah, I’m going to [01:39:40] spend two years in New York. And oh yeah, by the way, I can’t make it this morning because can’t be bothered. Yeah, too many things to do. Dentistry [01:39:45] is not my priority type of thing, you know. And so, um, I’d given up a lot. [01:39:50] Um, I didn’t sell the flat that I co-own. Um, but I moved away to Bournemouth, thankfully, in hindsight, [01:39:55] I met my now wife, and I love her to bits, and so that was a great thing that happened. But but all of that, [01:40:00] um, all of that. Was part of the tapestry, [01:40:05] and that feeling in that moment was, what am I going to do? And to be honest with you, I kind [01:40:10] of just did probably a little bit like I was talking earlier about my parents, what they did when they had fear [01:40:15] inside them after having been forced out of a country that they’d grown up in until the age of 18, 19. [01:40:20] And you just get going, the tough get going and you go, right, okay, what do I do? Um, jeez. [01:40:25]

Zak Kara: Okay. My pal Simon’s been talking on, on and on about expert witness work for ages. [01:40:30] Um, I better go and get my certification in from Cardiff Uni in expert witness work. [01:40:35] And I began report writing, and then I went, okay, I’m going to follow my nose. I think there’s a really good [01:40:40] opportunity in a practice not far away in Salisbury. And I think actually what I need to do is [01:40:45] beg, borrow some money off mum and dad to get an itero scanner and I need to start learning to be able to do [01:40:50] some of this work that I’ve been doing in comprehensive dentistry, in a more [01:40:55] kind of approachable, direct to consumer kind of way. I don’t mean at home braces, by the way, but [01:41:00] how do I make this comprehensive dentistry plug in to what people are searching online [01:41:05] for? So all of those things became part of my week and I was doing loads of extra okay. So bringing [01:41:10] the income in so.

Payman Langroudi: It fed to.

Zak Kara: You. Yeah.

Payman Langroudi: But tell me about the other side of it. I mean, [01:41:15] how long did it take for you to sort of stop feeling terrible? [01:41:20]

Zak Kara: Probably at least a couple of months till we were back on our feet [01:41:25] as a family. Tash did a whole bunch of locum work. She. Dentist, therapist. [01:41:30] Yeah, yeah. Um, did a whole bunch of locum work because she had some connections in and around Bournemouth. She’d been their entire life, and [01:41:35] she’s been a nurse since she was 16, 17 kind of thing. So, you know, she knew people and we managed to [01:41:40] financially make things through and not have to sell the property and whatever. But for a few months it was harum [01:41:45] scarum because I had done that thing, which maybe I don’t, uh, advocate. But in my first [01:41:50] ten years, I’d just spent all my money on reinvesting in myself. All of my money was in my brain. I’d literally [01:41:55] gone to Pankki. I’d gone to expensive courses around the world. I’d literally gone, I’m going to plough it [01:42:00] all back in. And to be blunt with you, in hindsight, I was probably a pretty crappy associate in most practices prior [01:42:05] to this one that I’m mentioning because my income on a monthly basis wasn’t brilliant. Um, [01:42:10] and Richard, for example, probably as a practice principal, massively supported me. In hindsight, [01:42:15] I was making nothing for him, really. It was probably barely breaking even from the high from the associates [01:42:20] treatment room. Um, but.

Payman Langroudi: You didn’t know it.

Zak Kara: I didn’t know it. Because you can’t see the wood [01:42:25] from the trees. You don’t see the perspective of one of another person until you’ve walked a little bit in their shoes. [01:42:30]

Payman Langroudi: And I think it’s important. That’s an important lesson in itself, right? That you know that as [01:42:35] an associate who doesn’t gross very much, you’re losing money for [01:42:40] the practice big time.

Zak Kara: Yeah. And you look at the, uh, you look at the hourly, um, fixed costs per [01:42:45] chair. And we believe in spreading that out. And it being a fair, every room has to wash its own [01:42:50] face approach. So for treatment rooms, it costs us over £90 an hour to run the [01:42:55] bloody place. If you’ve got a client who FTAs last minute, £90 just went down the drain, [01:43:00] and most practices compensate for that on the basis that the principal gross is handsomely. [01:43:05] Or does the implants or whatever it is in your particular practice, and you basically fudge over the numbers [01:43:10] and go, ah, isn’t this lovely and profitable? Oh, isn’t it good? Because at least I’ve got a five year exit plan [01:43:15] and blah blah blah is what most practices, they’re investing in their organisation for the future [01:43:20] and then what they’ve created. Our approach is very much that it has to work on a monthly, daily, uh, [01:43:25] daily, monthly, yearly basis. Um, coming back to what I was saying about the [01:43:30] the feeling it took at least a couple of months to get over that. And it was only when [01:43:35] I realised that the only way to do this was again, the tough get going. Tash and I went, well, [01:43:40] you know, what we’ll do is you’re learning more about online marketing. At that point, [01:43:45] Facebook ads were very junior in dentistry, and I began to put together some clever video [01:43:50] marketing that I worked with a few freelancers around the world to put together, and we had tons [01:43:55] and tons of bums on seats for cosmetically focussed dentistry.

Zak Kara: And Tasha and I ended up room renting in [01:44:00] what became what at that point was Castle Lane Dental Care. Oh, I see, so we were there Saturdays, [01:44:05] Sundays and evenings in an old school NHS practice because they [01:44:10] were sort of functioning on a daily basis with a principal who was about to basically retire, which became obvious. And [01:44:15] then he did retire after Covid, which then became a pretty obvious direct pathway. [01:44:20] Almost in hindsight, you look back and I tend to say that I was kind of railroaded into buying the [01:44:25] practice because there wasn’t really any other way to carry on doing dentistry for the client base we created. So [01:44:30] Tasha and I were doing evening and weekend dentistry, cosmetically focussed, and it turns out that that was in particular in Bournemouth, [01:44:35] not a thing that people were willing to do. So we we were gunning it. We were gunning it pre-COVID [01:44:40] and we were doing very well. And, uh, small stories became like lighting the touch paper and it really [01:44:45] going, you know. So.

Payman Langroudi: And then did you remodel straight away?

Zak Kara: Um, so [01:44:50] weirdly, we redeveloped the Castle Lane clinic, uh, got [01:44:55] rid of the carpets, had to do loads of structural work. Uh, all of that stuff became an overhaul. [01:45:00] But weirdly, we did it prior to buying the. This. Again, not something I would advocate, but essentially [01:45:05] Gareth and I chucked a load of money in five figures each and we’re buying it. Mm. It was a weird [01:45:10] situation because the guy who was, um, retiring after Covid, it was a unique scenario where [01:45:15] he couldn’t work because of his medical health. Immunocompromised and blah, blah, blah. So he was kind of [01:45:20] there, but not there. Gareth and I were going, well, look, we’ll scratch your back and we’ll do you a deal [01:45:25] and we’ll look after your patient base you’ll be looking after for years. But essentially we’re working towards purchase here. [01:45:30] Let’s do the legals behind the scenes. And Gareth and I were like, we’ll get a three month head start. If you put five [01:45:35] figures in and I put five figures in, shall we just refurbish the place? And we could have lost that money. But [01:45:40] thankfully all of the i’s got dotted and the T’s got crossed and we completed. And, um, that was March [01:45:45] 21st that we we signed on the line and, and we owned the place and yeah, we, we, [01:45:50] we bought the place for just over 300 K and it was all it’s a pretty, pretty [01:45:55] smooth.

Payman Langroudi: And the work was done by the time you’d bought the place.

Zak Kara: Pretty much.

Payman Langroudi: I [01:46:00] love that I’ve never heard of that before.

Zak Kara: Pretty much the work was done we were in and also we [01:46:05] had multiplied, uh, the revenue stream to make it proven as a process prior to buying [01:46:10] the place.

Payman Langroudi: Also, I mean, brilliant timing.

Zak Kara: It was it was it was a [01:46:15] little bit that’s why I say railroaded. It was a bit of a it was just a stupid no brainer. Like, in hindsight, I always used to be the [01:46:20] kind of person as an associate who went, no, I don’t want to be a principal. I can’t be bothered. People are difficult, QC, [01:46:25] blah blah blah. But actually this became the opportunity to be like, right, okay, if you want to carry on being a clinical dentist [01:46:30] sac, you’ve got to just just go. Yeah.

Payman Langroudi: But also post-Covid was that massive [01:46:35] rush of private dentistry.

Zak Kara: And we jumped on that like, you know, jump on the coattails of uh, when [01:46:40] things are flying like that nationally, internationally, then just go.

Payman Langroudi: But I think now there’s a [01:46:45] I mean, it depends when you’re listening, but but here we are beginning of March [01:46:50] 24th and the, the profile of patients walking into dental [01:46:55] private dental practices. A lot of them are NHS patients who can’t [01:47:00] find an NHS dentist sort of thing. And they’ve decided that they’re going to go private [01:47:05] and often with them they’re not looking for comprehensive care. And if no one’s ever mentioned [01:47:10] it, or are you, are you having to filter that kind of patient away?

Zak Kara: Yeah, all the time [01:47:15] and not not away. Because actually, if you ask the right questions prior to them landing on the [01:47:20] in the treatment room bum on seat, you do find that some of those, when you tap into what [01:47:25] they’re really their real goal is some of them do want comprehensive dentistry because they’ve.

Payman Langroudi: Never had they just.

Zak Kara: Don’t know what it is. [01:47:30] Yeah, they’ve nobody’s even asked them. They’ve literally just phoned up a dentist and gone, yeah, can I [01:47:35] come for a check-up. And the dentist has been terrible at communicating. Yeah. The dentist does nothing modern, doesn’t take [01:47:40] any photographs. The dentist looks in their mouth and goes, yeah, nothing’s broken at the moment. And they think that’s it. And [01:47:45] that to them becomes dentistry. And that’s what I mean by the difference between private dentistry i.e [01:47:50] NHS dentistry with a price tag or dentistry, dentistry, private dentistry, [01:47:55] that is that is completely different thing. And you kind of just don’t know what you don’t know [01:48:00] until you see it from around the world. Which is why the American influence was quite important to us, um, and has been part [01:48:05] of the tapestry of what we’ve created as a, as a, as a clinic and me as a person. Uh, but [01:48:10] the thing we definitely aren’t is super interventionist, like a lot of these American [01:48:15] schools can be. And it used to make me really cringe. But at Panki, they they used to be [01:48:20] clinicians as part of their teaching faculty who would look at the screen and go, oh, that’s a 28 and [01:48:25] a 28 was for for mouth rehab. And I’m literally looking at them like, what [01:48:30] if I’d have said that to my undergrad tutors two years ago? They’d have literally shot me in the face like, no, no, [01:48:35] that to me is a real case. And then you go, um, so there’s localised anterior. Where have [01:48:40] you guys thought of like a double composite, like additive approach and then look at you [01:48:45] like, like you’re a weirdo. What the hell is this? This guy, this weird European guy, wants to do weird European [01:48:50] things. That’s not what you do. Composite composites, just a temporary material.

Payman Langroudi: They see composite as just [01:48:55] transitional. Yeah.

Zak Kara: And you’re like, no, no, no, no, no, there’s a different way. But so this is how it became [01:49:00] part of the kind of part of the puzzle where we do an adaptation of the things that we learned overseas, [01:49:05] and we have to make it and mould it part of our daily lives. So, yeah.

Payman Langroudi: How many [01:49:10] scanners are there in your practice?

Zak Kara: Two otero’s in a three shape.

Payman Langroudi: For how many? [01:49:15] Four rooms. Four. Yeah. Because you know, the way you’re saying it, that there are scans happening left, right and centre. [01:49:20]

Zak Kara: Yeah. We have to be a bit strategic about where they move around the building and stuff. But yeah, I mean, uh, it became [01:49:25] an inevitability that if you want to do dentistry in this way, you have to show people you need a screen on the wall.

Payman Langroudi: So the CapEx [01:49:30] is more than your average practice, right? You’re buying these the expenditure [01:49:35] as far as dental chairs, the left and right handed, these, [01:49:40] uh, scanners everywhere. Yeah. You’re spending more than the average practice [01:49:45] would have to spend on out without doubt.

Zak Kara: Without doubt. And, um, yeah, like I said earlier on, sometimes [01:49:50] to our own detriment, because you look at the, um, the stage of growth that you’re at [01:49:55] and you kind of go, we’re investing for the future here. We’re creating something unique. Um, but it I [01:50:00] say all it was about to say all it requires. And. But it really isn’t that complicated. [01:50:05] But it just needs the right, uh, human beings to be able to understand the value [01:50:10] of that and go, I fancy a part of that. And so that’s what we found with associates. Increasingly. Sarah, joining [01:50:15] us, I think, was a bit sceptical about what we do because it seemed like it was either unattainable by her. [01:50:20] This was last September. We first met and I think sceptical to some extent, um, because, [01:50:25] um, she was kind of a bit like, is it really what they say it is? And [01:50:30] we find it takes time to have to really demonstrate that to even to a new team member, that this is [01:50:35] our approach and this is why we find it works. And only then a few months later does the penny drop and they go, ah, [01:50:40] that’s quite good, I like that. So I didn’t have to face the person who gags, and [01:50:45] I didn’t have to do look after the person who won’t let me lay the chair back and all those things, and you’re [01:50:50] like, yeah, we created this on purpose.

Zak Kara: And they’re like, ah, cool, okay, cool. But you don’t [01:50:55] know what you don’t know, right? So, um, yeah, it’s definitely more costly to [01:51:00] create and to run on a daily basis and some practices. But but equally it’s more valuable. So it’s about [01:51:05] how you present it to a client or patient. And thankfully, because of the phased, comprehensively planned nature [01:51:10] of it, we don’t just slap clear aligners on anyone walking in the door. We build that as part of [01:51:15] a phased plan, but how they receive that information becomes breadcrumbed. So once they receive [01:51:20] that information, they then can decide, are they going to, uh, work through this in a phased way, [01:51:25] i.e. kind of spread things out and decide to do the dentistry later that they [01:51:30] knew they walked in the door wanting, or are they going to bundle it all together and go, I’m all in. And that [01:51:35] increasingly happens because again, it becomes what you didn’t know, what you didn’t know. [01:51:40] And your friend goes, yeah, I needed a bit of that as well. And oh yeah, I had a couple of veneers on these two teeth afterwards. [01:51:45] And so he becomes an ever consensual and ever more [01:51:50] comprehensive plan. Yeah.

Payman Langroudi: Do you find I get that completely. But do you find sometimes [01:51:55] best practice in a business sense conflicts with [01:52:00] your notion of authenticity and treating people like [01:52:05] family or whatever it is that? Let me give you an example. Like Prav often talks about slow lane [01:52:10] buyers. Yeah. Um, and he says large, like 60% of, of buyers [01:52:15] will take eight months before they buy something. Yeah, yeah. Um, so [01:52:20] the best way to, to keep in touch with those people is to follow up. Right. To keep following [01:52:25] up.

Zak Kara: Yeah. So you say even over years.

Payman Langroudi: Yeah. Yeah. So, so what have you got in place regarding [01:52:30] that? I mean, uh, what I’m it’s not only slow lane buyers, right. It’s any unfinished [01:52:35] treatment plan. It’s any any person who said, I’ll think about it.

Zak Kara: The [01:52:40] only way to maintain that for me is with relationships. It’s it’s, uh, probably sounding quite [01:52:45] repetitive at this point, but the the membership plan works incredibly well because even if somebody completed phase [01:52:50] one of their treatment plan. And by the way, that kind of sounds to some people [01:52:55] when I say that phase treatment plan, what you’re saying. You can either go all in on phase one or you’re not at [01:53:00] all. Yeah. To be honest with you, if you’re a new client or new patient to come and see us, our approach is that we [01:53:05] offer and we say this to people before they land in the dental chair. We offer completely [01:53:10] healthy mouths. We do. Total mouth health is actually what we terminate the terminology. We do that and [01:53:15] we do lifetime smile, confidence, the two things we offer. So if you want total mouth health, total [01:53:20] mouth health, sorry, I’ll get it right. It does say it on the website. So if you want that, you need [01:53:25] to come through to see us through this process. And what we’ll do is put together a comprehensive plan. And if you like the idea of this, [01:53:30] you’ll have a completely healthy mouth.

Zak Kara: And then you can pause on the next phases if you wish. But at least you’re [01:53:35] stable and healthy. But at that point, 95% of people on the membership plan, because it’s incentivised to [01:53:40] be on the membership plan. So you keep that relationship, and every six months you keep knocking on the door and you go, [01:53:45] okay, things are stable at this point. How are you feeling about everything else? And that’s as simple as you need to keep it. [01:53:50] And before you know it, people often of their own accord go, I’m ready now. I’ve got the money I’ve saved [01:53:55] up because some people don’t want finance, they don’t want to spread it out and they just want to go. No, I’ll save up for the things I [01:54:00] want in life. I’ve got. You said it was going to be about five K. I’ve got five K ready. What do we need to do? And [01:54:05] we find that’s quite straightforward. The other ones who have the smile story, the plan [01:54:10] and they disappear into the aether. Yeah. Those ones, they come back through a follow [01:54:15] up process and even three months.

Payman Langroudi: Crm process.

Zak Kara: Kind of, but not automated, [01:54:20] to be honest. We find that loses the heart. And actually we need to understand the real core reason [01:54:25] behind what it is that didn’t make the move right now. So as part of this process [01:54:30] that I mentioned, we might see somebody for, let’s say they come in for a cosmetically focussed plan. [01:54:35] We put together the plan, we follow up with a follow up consultation on zoom, and then [01:54:40] our care coordinators continue the conversation and sometimes they won’t convert straight away. They’ll convert later [01:54:45] down the track, but sometimes they it’s because we’ve got enough heart behind it and we’ve got enough [01:54:50] knowledge about them as a person from the first ever conversation again, it’s handled by one human [01:54:55] being who knows them on a personal level. Oh, you did say you might be moving house. Is that what’s the obstacle [01:55:00] at the moment, or are there any other obstacles you have? Shed with us at this point. And then before you [01:55:05] know it, you know the timeliness of how quickly to reply or not or respond or not.

Payman Langroudi: So [01:55:10] the process of staying on top of that, which basically is the software, is telling [01:55:15] you what happened last time, what what what the patient said. Yeah. And [01:55:20] is it giving them prompts to contact.

Zak Kara: We have the task management system for that. So yeah [01:55:25] we quite like asana for example, which is a smart way to make sure that every role in [01:55:30] the team is, um, is completed at the right interval and in, in [01:55:35] a timely way. So as a team of care coordinators, they then know who to move where at each stage of the [01:55:40] process. So which care coordinators handling follow ups today? Who’s handling this today. Who’s handling this. [01:55:45] And then Hannah, one of our care coordinators might go, no, I didn’t message so-and-so because she did say Friday is the best [01:55:50] day to contact her. So they pick and choose their battles like that because they know the person. They know that [01:55:55] Marie always has a Friday off work. Don’t bother phoning her on a Wednesday. That’s just going to annoy her. Phone her on a Friday. [01:56:00] So let’s wait till Friday, you know. So there’s things like that that make it a systematised thing to make sure that we [01:56:05] all know each stage of every one of our tasks, and we know that the left hand knows what the [01:56:10] right hand is doing. Yeah.

Payman Langroudi: And if you know, I’m seeing more and more practices where they’re doing those [01:56:15] tasks off site. Yeah. Um, because there’s plenty of work that needs doing that, [01:56:20] that kind of gets in the way of everyone.

Zak Kara: Else nailed on. I actually think that that is, [01:56:25] uh, that is that’s something we are increasingly growing towards having virtual assistants. [01:56:30] We have a virtual assistant who’s brilliant and and she does a lot of the stuff that she just does [01:56:35] not need to be in the building for. And it works her for her life, and she can probably do it more efficiently. And [01:56:40] actually, sometimes I see her come in in the morning and she’s done it at 11 p.m. last night. Why? Because she was awake and she fancied [01:56:45] doing it. She wanted to earn some money. So crack on.

Payman Langroudi: I think, you know, in dentistry, there’s so few opportunities [01:56:50] for working from home. Yeah, but but this I see this as going to be in the future. It’s going to be a big [01:56:55] thing tech.

Zak Kara: Orientated.

Payman Langroudi: And just, you know, you’re going to be you’re going to be there’s going to be website [01:57:00] people, people who fill out a form on your website and then nothing else happens. That person needs [01:57:05] to follow up. Right? Why does the person have to be in a dental practice to do that follow up? Precisely. Um, even [01:57:10] some of them, they tend to be more mini corporates, but you know, call centre, you know, all [01:57:15] centralised in one place. Yeah. Um, the marketing activities and the follow up activities. [01:57:20] I, you know, I think we’re going to see more of that.

Zak Kara: Dental clinics tend to be [01:57:25] very where one business in one location type thinking. And [01:57:30] we need an office for that on site. Well, you do you actually you need somebody to coordinate it and somebody [01:57:35] to lead it. And that’s something we’ve been working very hard on in creating an organisation structure as we’ve grown, because [01:57:40] we recognised that we’ve grown beyond that eclectic little family of eight that sit around the dinner [01:57:45] table and go, oh, you do the gardening and I’ll do the washing up. And no, no, no, we need a structure and to [01:57:50] have a bigger organisation, we need to have lead for operations, a lead for marketing and so [01:57:55] on and so on. And we need a right hand person for Gareth and Zach.

Payman Langroudi: I [01:58:00] don’t feel like I got your story, your most difficult, patient story.

Zak Kara: Uh, I [01:58:05] think we’re going to ask this because I do listen to your pod. So, um, I actually [01:58:10] haven’t got one specifically, but I it did conjure up, uh, the story of, uh, one of our clients not long ago. [01:58:15] Actually, she’s midway through her small story at the moment, obviously, for obvious reasons. Won’t won’t name names. Um, [01:58:20] so these types of clients you encounter once [01:58:25] in a while and you go, oh, it’s just a heart sink type of thing. It’s probably [01:58:30] related to the fact that I thought that I could be all things to most people, and probably [01:58:35] a little bit of not ego, but probably a bit of I think she’ll get this. I think [01:58:40] she’ll get this. She’s basically in her 60s. She came to us because she wants a lovely wide smile. [01:58:45] I want taller teeth sack. I’ve never had a lovely set of teeth that I’m proud [01:58:50] of. Looked after her through the process that I explained, several teeth needing phase one dentistry [01:58:55] I recognised in the follow up consultation. She’s not a brilliant listener. She’s not [01:59:00] a brilliant listener. She’s not very good at retaining information. And before you know it, even by the end of that [01:59:05] conversation, I’m thinking, if I’ve said this to her right now and she’s asking me something I told you about 20 minutes [01:59:10] ago, and then thinking she can’t retain information between one visit and the next. So it we [01:59:15] we thought to ourselves, okay, I’ll tell you what I’ll do.

Zak Kara: I’ll take this slowly. We won’t go all in on phase [01:59:20] one. We’ll take this visit by visit, because then you and I can get to know each other better. And you’re [01:59:25] quite anxious with dentistry. Let’s be honest. You know, you get it. I understand because of the backstory [01:59:30] you’ve explained to us, and we know the next thing to do is the priority tooth on the upper left [01:59:35] side. So why don’t we tackle that one a little bit, like that approach that I mentioned earlier on my my slightly more old school approach, [01:59:40] and that for me, was a way of dipping our toe in the water and getting to know her and visit [01:59:45] by visit. We started to see some signs of improvement and she understood. Rubber dam. Oh wow, that thing is so good. [01:59:50] I’ve never had it done like that. And she could recognise that it was painless between visit to the next she [01:59:55] said yeah, I used to get sensitivity after every dental visit and now I don’t. This is so [02:00:00] good. And then we got to the point where the full. Gold crown with four posts and a crappy old Indo and [02:00:05] all that needed to come out. And on that day I’m thinking, oh for goodness sake, this is going to be the least fun ever. Um, section [02:00:10] the tooth and all the rest of it ended the visit. Zach, why do we need to remove that tooth again? [02:00:15]

Payman Langroudi: I’m thinking once it’s out already.

Zak Kara: Yeah, okay. Like I [02:00:20] okay. What do you see on this x ray? Um, because [02:00:25] I showed her the PA on the screen and I said, this tooth is looking [02:00:30] this way because of some dentistry had done 20 or 30 years ago, as you described. What do you see on this? And [02:00:35] somehow by then, the end of that conversation, we’ve gone full circle. And she went, ah, yeah, I do realise now. [02:00:40] And somehow I think by the end of that visit, I’d saved it. Ish. But [02:00:45] then visit by visit, it’s still been difficult. We finally got to the end of phase one and one visit [02:00:50] from it. She came to see me the other day, and a temporary crown as part of this comprehensive plan has broken, and I had to put [02:00:55] a picture on the screen. And I said to her, what’s your understanding of why this is broken? And it’s because of a lack of occlusal [02:01:00] clearance, because we haven’t yet filled the missing spaces on the lower left, and this crown on the lower left isn’t [02:01:05] from a dental health point of view isn’t going wrong. But it’s over erupted and it’s interfering [02:01:10] with their occlusal scheme and all the rest of it. And it’s part and parcel of the fact that we might place a denture or an implant or [02:01:15] implants on that lower left quadrant, for example. So I’m then thinking, how the hell do I not [02:01:20] let her embark on the next phase because she’s going, but when we’re going to get these tall teeth you talked about, [02:01:25] and I’m thinking, what’s your understanding of why the teeth are flat in the first place? [02:01:30] Essentially, the long and the short of my story with her is that I am struggling to see [02:01:35] what I’m going to do next with her, and once in a while, these types of things do happen where we [02:01:40] go, oh, I wish we’d never taken her on in the first place, because now I’m going to look a bit silly [02:01:45] when I go, yeah, this plan that we put together, yadda yadda yadda, which she’s bought into, I [02:01:50] don’t really want to provide it for her, because I know that there’s a higher chance than most that [02:01:55] she is going to get to the end of it and say something like, no, this isn’t what I wanted after all.

Zak Kara: And [02:02:00] it will just be a time burn and it will be an effort burn. And you look back and you go, ah, it just [02:02:05] wasn’t worth it. So I will probably pull the plug after this phase and kind of go. I think actually, in hindsight, I need [02:02:10] to level with you and I need to talk. I need to talk to you about the ideal path. If you would like X, Y, and z, my recommendation [02:02:15] would be.

Payman Langroudi: There must be a worse story than that one. It’s [02:02:20] a good story.

Zak Kara: It’s a good story. It’s a good story.

Payman Langroudi: There’s a lot of learning points in that story. [02:02:25] There is a lot of learning points in that story. But. But it’s not painful enough.

Zak Kara: Not painful enough. Okay.

Payman Langroudi: You’ve [02:02:30] been qualified, what, 12 years or 15 years? Yeah. 15 this year. There’s a more [02:02:35] painful there’s more painful.

Zak Kara: I’ve had all the usual stuff. We’ve all been there. I’ve [02:02:40] perforated a lower premolar and hit and stop patients stuck hypo [02:02:45] through to the PDL and all this type of stuff. No no, no, no.

Payman Langroudi: I don’t mean.

Zak Kara: That boring.

Payman Langroudi: I mean, I mean, I mean [02:02:50] some somewhere where like, like this is this one was verging on it, but it would have been good if something more [02:02:55] had gone wrong.

Zak Kara: Thanks for pre-empting my misery. But, um, is [02:03:00] there anything really, truly bad happened? I’ve had all sorts from, you know, NHS [02:03:05] 111 days. I’ve had people come in in the treatment room and threaten me. I’ve had had to call the police. I’ve had [02:03:10] hair raising moments when you’re going, shit, I think there’s a drug addiction issue here. How am I going to get this person [02:03:15] numb? Because I’ve given them like eight cartridges of local and they’re still going, Zack, [02:03:20] Zack, everything’s fine. I can still feel it. And I’m going, how did I not spot [02:03:25] there a coke addict, for God’s sake? This is really ridiculous. Like, you know, we’ve had all sorts. You know, I’ve really been there and done [02:03:30] that, but I can’t think of one where I’ve gone. Oh, well, marinate.

Payman Langroudi: Marinate [02:03:35] in it, I saw look in your eyes there where you actually thought of it, did I. Yeah.

Zak Kara: Yeah. No, I thought I [02:03:40] tell you what it is I made me think of, you know. Do you know Mukesh Soni? I’ve never met Mukesh Soni [02:03:45] in face to face, but he used to, back in the day, post a lot on a particular Facebook group and he used to say bicycle [02:03:50] clips, moments where you remember those. Yeah. So you do your implants and da da da da da bicycle clips because [02:03:55] you just got wet stuff and brown stuff dripping down your legs. Yeah. Sorry if you’re eating your food [02:04:00] listening to this, um, I, I don’t have one of those I don’t have. I’ve got [02:04:05] loads of moments where I’m like, ah, I was crowned. No, I don’t, thankfully I’m [02:04:10] rinsing this crown and it’s dropped down the sink. What do you do? I’ve had those moments I’ve had and [02:04:15] we will learn, don’t we? And we and we go and put the plug in next time. And where are we going to. Ah. [02:04:20] And you know, to be honest, you said it earlier on. I bet you talk to your patients and clients like you’re talking to me. I do. And when [02:04:25] that moment happened, yeah, I had that shiver down my neck and the hairs stand up and I’m going, oh, but [02:04:30] I just had enough of a relationship with that person to go. I’m so sorry to tell you that your crown [02:04:35] is in the u-bend. Um, would you like me to handle this? I can handle [02:04:40] it for you right now, because I knew the layout of the room and whatever, so I got it sorted. I said, take a seat in the lounge for a minute. I [02:04:45] promise I’ll get this sorted and disinfected. So I found it. We got it. Gold crown, disinfected and whatever else. And they went, [02:04:50] are you sure that’s safe to put back in my mouth? And I went, yeah, well we can autoclave it for you as well. So we did Gold Crown. That’s [02:04:55] a success story.

Payman Langroudi: That’s a success.

Zak Kara: Story. Sorry, I haven’t got complete [02:05:00] on the. Maybe it’s unfair to the graveyard.

Payman Langroudi: It’s so unfair to us. Like someone as positive as [02:05:05] you for such a negative story. So I’m going to. I’ll leave it. I’ll leave it at that. I’ll leave it at that. Um, although [02:05:10] I am still interested in what you would consider as your biggest mistake in [02:05:15] not clinical, but. Yeah, career wise.

Zak Kara: Career wise.

Payman Langroudi: Yeah. [02:05:20] Don’t follow me off with something.

Zak Kara: You know.

Payman Langroudi: A cliche [02:05:25] about.

Zak Kara: My biggest mistake got.

Payman Langroudi: Me to. Yeah.

Zak Kara: Biggest mistake that I can share with you. [02:05:30] Yeah. Is it’s going to sound cliche as well. It’s [02:05:35] it’s it’s kind of being a bit. I’m not an arrogant person, but it’s. Did I mention. Goldilocks [02:05:40] earlier on. I believed for a long time in creating what we’ve created, that somehow we had a Goldilocks [02:05:45] practice. We don’t need help. We don’t need coaching. We don’t need, uh. I’m sure we’ll be able to [02:05:50] work it out for ourselves. We did have some, uh, coaching from non-clinical dentists [02:05:55] previously, and I learned that because they haven’t walked a mile in our shoes [02:06:00] and actually been on the shop floor, they don’t really know to give the right advice. So my biggest, our biggest [02:06:05] mistakes as an organisation have all been rooted in running before we can walk, investing [02:06:10] incorrectly in the wrong things at the wrong time because we didn’t realise and probably [02:06:15] still don’t realise what we don’t know, and and putting money into stuff that was [02:06:20] a complete waste of time, like marketing endeavours that you look back on and you go, did we need to spend [02:06:25] five figures on a on a world class marketing agency at that time? No. Why [02:06:30] did we do it? We were probably too afraid of the competition. Why am I focusing on the competition? We shouldn’t have bothered [02:06:35] because we should be running our own race and we’re makers of our own destiny. And we are, um, [02:06:40] other non-clinical mistakes is probably related to what I mentioned earlier on to do with, uh, actually [02:06:45] knowing your numbers on a daily basis. I’ve spent most of my, uh, time in the non-clinical [02:06:50] sense, in a financial orientated sense, uh, uh, at the clinic, [02:06:55] uh, building these fancy spreadsheets, but not utilising the information in them terribly well. Very good at creating [02:07:00] a pretty spreadsheet, but not very good at analysing the data and going. But that needs to change. Move the dial. [02:07:05] Yeah. What would you say, Ricardo?

Payman Langroudi: You know, I think it’s a big issue, right. Like key performance [02:07:10] indicators that make sense to to follow. What would you say. They’re like a [02:07:15] number of new patients.

Zak Kara: Number new patients is the obvious one. And if you talk to Mike who does our coaching with us, you [02:07:20] need to keep it very, very simple. Number of new patients. What feeds the new patients? For us, it’s the number of virtual [02:07:25] consultations that our CEOs do or phone calls that our CEOs do. And then we also want to know last week’s [02:07:30] data. So we keep a track of what’s going on this week or forecasted for this week and what happened last week, and [02:07:35] always be better. And in order to grow, we need to then therefore know how many of our [02:07:40] new clients stories are being converted to people that are saying, yes, um, and [02:07:45] as cringey and businessy as that is, I hate the word converted. Sorry. If you’re particularly, uh, it’s a business, [02:07:50] but we have to.

Payman Langroudi: We have to become what it is.

Zak Kara: Yeah. So I don’t know a better way to describe it, but we convert somebody [02:07:55] from that headspace of, I want this thing to, yes, I’m going in, I’m doing this thing. [02:08:00] And then we know it populates on average X amount of clinical hours over the foreseeable month, two months, [02:08:05] three months, our next availability. And we play that busy restaurant philosophy type game, which [02:08:10] is that we never want to do a disservice to our pre-existing clients. So we only take on a certain number of new clients [02:08:15] per month, and the next availability is always four five weeks away. To be able to start, [02:08:20] which for a lot of practices is too long, but too long. Do you know what we do? We offer 4 or [02:08:25] 5 weeks, and then we phone them back in a couple of days time and go. By the way, there’s last minute availability for next week. Do you want [02:08:30] to grab that? That’ll that makes people move. It makes people move. It [02:08:35] does. Philosophy behind it is, do I really want to wait another four weeks? No, I want to go. Let’s go. I’m excited. Let’s start. [02:08:40] And funnily enough, that does is it fills your white space. So it’s a little game of strategy [02:08:45] and that’s one of the tactics involved in it.

Payman Langroudi: Well you know there’ll come a point where [02:08:50] the wait will be too long or classically they say raise your price [02:08:55] at that point, but you might not want to do that. And so you you’ll need another clinic. [02:09:00]

Zak Kara: Yeah, we possibly will. We need to expand which we’re in the process of doing. And uh, and [02:09:05] um, one thing I’ve definitely learned is that you’ll never get it right. You’ll always have a hygienist. You know, a [02:09:10] year and a half ago, we were nearly held to ransom by a couple of hygienists in our team, um, on the basis that my [02:09:15] diaries are too empty because this new hygienist has joined and it’s spread everything out way beyond what it used to be. [02:09:20] And I can’t sit here with white space. One of them left, the other one followed suit. We [02:09:25] had two new hygienists who replaced them. Suddenly their books are two filled again, and [02:09:30] you look and go, if you’ve just been patient for two months, the machinery was moving. [02:09:35] You were going to get a field diary. You were just impatient. But it’s amazing how, uh, a lot of people get [02:09:40] cannot see the bigger picture.

Payman Langroudi: It’s like you’re so generous with the knowledge. [02:09:45] You’re welcome. Um, and I think it makes sense to be generous with the knowledge. Because [02:09:50] if anyone thinks that the information itself is the key, it’s. It’s the execution [02:09:55] of the of the information. Um, but have you [02:10:00] thought about teaching?

Zak Kara: I love teaching you do teach? Uh, I used to be a clinical [02:10:05] teacher at Portsmouth. Uh, that was actually funny enough. Where I met Harry, uh, when he was a fifth year student, [02:10:10] coming down from King’s once a week on their rotation program. Their outreach program. They spend a week in Portsmouth. Uh, 1 [02:10:15] in 4, 1 in 4 weeks. Um, and I stopped doing that just before Covid, um, because [02:10:20] I just couldn’t dedicate the time to all these different things all at once. The expert witness work, the out of hours work and blah, blah, [02:10:25] blah. And but the thing that I really love now is seeing people’s eyes light up when [02:10:30] I talk about the things that we’re talking about now, now, which is actually systems, [02:10:35] workflows, processes, communication and how we get to the end. The [02:10:40] goal of what we set out to do in the first place, and redesigning or designing [02:10:45] and redesigning. Your own destiny in not in a fluffy, kind of [02:10:50] like, life coaching kind of way, but in a kind of if you’re getting the wrong people landing [02:10:55] in your treatment room on your chair. Have you asked yourself why? Because it’s [02:11:00] your responsibility to choose who lands there, and there’s nothing wrong with self-selecting [02:11:05] or pre-selecting out the wrong people.

Zak Kara: And I think a lot of dentists, because of their backstory. Usually in NHS [02:11:10] dentistry where you’re told you should just keep, um, you should just work, work, work, because [02:11:15] that’s how you get good, actually. You lose sight of the bigger picture. And if you want to choose [02:11:20] the right people, you can and you can do it in an unpretentious way. So these days, for example, in our [02:11:25] team, I’ve been badgered by our team too much now to the point at which, um, we have started [02:11:30] posting some stuff on our social media, and it turns out there’s a lot of people that resonates resonate with it. So, [02:11:35] um, Zach smiles stories on Instagram and we post regularly our reels of me doing something, [02:11:40] us doing something, and it’s as simple as, for example, hey, there was a video not [02:11:45] long ago that’s, I don’t know, six figures in terms of views. And it’s me talking somebody [02:11:50] through how this rubber dam works and why this blue protective shield matters. And it’s me literally [02:11:55] going to greet a client from our lounge and going, hi, I’m Zach, nice to meet you. You must be. And [02:12:00] somebody messaged me, slid into my DMs and said, who taught you to do that? And I went, what? [02:12:05] Greet somebody? And they went, no.

Zak Kara: How did you know what seat they were sitting [02:12:10] in? And I went, I knew because there’s actually a design behind that process, which is that our [02:12:15] front of house crew, no two seats, and every new client goes in that chair or in if [02:12:20] that’s occupied, the next chair. And we have a system behind the scenes of like they’re in seat number two. So if I’m [02:12:25] ever in doubt and I’m looking at the screen going, and there could be about four people waiting at front of house at the moment, I’ll message [02:12:30] and go, which seat number are they? Are they in please? And before you know it, I go and greet them warmly and go [02:12:35] and look in their eyes. And I shake their hand and I go, I’m Zach, nice to meet you today. Come on down. It’s the first time you’ve come to the clinic today, [02:12:40] isn’t it? And they usually soften up, but it turns out people don’t seem to have that in their patter [02:12:45] or their daily thinking. And that’s the fun bit when people message and go, oh, there [02:12:50] is a different way to do this, you know?

Payman Langroudi: Yeah, it’s nice man. It’s nice, nice [02:12:55] to hear it. So many different nuggets, um, from someone who’s only three years [02:13:00] in man like to. So I see the future as being very, very bright. Thank [02:13:05] you. Um, but you really, you owe it. You owe it to yourself to do more, I think. Do you think? Yeah. [02:13:10] Do you think we.

Zak Kara: Should put together a course?

Payman Langroudi: Well, yeah, we’ll do everyone.

Zak Kara: Everyone wants a course these days, right? They all have [02:13:15] an academy. How many academies now?

Payman Langroudi: There’s nothing wrong with it, man. There’s nothing wrong with it, dude. I mean, if you remember, you [02:13:20] don’t remember. It was before your time. You qualified in 2009? Yeah, [02:13:25] when I qualified. Yeah. There was nothing. Yeah. You literally had to go [02:13:30] to America to to get education. Nothing existed. And I hear that whine of too many [02:13:35] courses and and and so on. Yeah. And I don’t know, people talk about [02:13:40] people wanting to be teachers two years out of dental school and there is that. Yeah. Yeah. But at the same time, [02:13:45] I see, um, students, I’m following some students. I went to Bdsa. [02:13:50] Yeah, I was following them. Been they’ve got a fantastic page is [02:13:55] tutoring people on how to get to dental school. Um, as you know, has been [02:14:00] posting since, since the first year. And then we get people on mini smile [02:14:05] makeover sometime. Still don’t have Instagram, uh, where they’re on Instagram, but [02:14:10] they’re not. There’s no dental Instagram. Um, they don’t have loops, you [02:14:15] know, and and so, you know, I rather than sneering at that, all that teaching [02:14:20] side, I’d at least say that guy’s involved. And you know what [02:14:25] I was saying about people who listen. Yeah, you have to listen to a dental podcast, [02:14:30] man. There’s there’s so many different things you could watch or listen to. Yeah, it’s true, but [02:14:35] if you’re if you’re on your way to your practice or on your way back from your practice, you’re listening to a dental podcast, right? Yeah. Yeah, [02:14:40] yeah. That that shows the degree of.

Zak Kara: Interest.

Payman Langroudi: Interest in your job. Right.

Zak Kara: Interest in [02:14:45] and wanting to better yourself and knowing what else is out there. And, you know, to be fair, you know, I’m not, um, entirely [02:14:50] sneering at that type of approach. The main thing on my mind is, um, I wouldn’t [02:14:55] it would if I was going to do something on those lines. I do feel I would owe it to our team as much as anything [02:15:00] else to have this stuff out there, because I do know I can see it in their eyes. There’s a team they love to be [02:15:05] able to share the four handed stuff that we think is normal every day, but a new clinician joins and they’re like, they have no idea [02:15:10] what to do. And we’re like, yes, they won’t know what to do because this is not normal, right. But that goes so [02:15:15] hand in hand with some of the other stuff we’ve mentioned and the workflows and the communication and stuff. It just synchronises [02:15:20] so well and that we’d love to be able to do that kind of thing. I just wouldn’t want to be one of so many that [02:15:25] try to do certain things. And and it’s having a platform to do it. Um, yeah. Maybe [02:15:30] if you are listening to this and you fancy the idea of it, then, uh, give me some encouragement, I don’t mind. Yeah, you should do it.

Payman Langroudi: You [02:15:35] should. So honestly, I’m not a dentist anymore, but I if I was, I [02:15:40] had 100% invest in that. Yeah. Thanks. Because because a lot of it, it sounds like [02:15:45] hocus pocus. Like how the. Oh, do you do that?

Zak Kara: You know there’s a way to integrate. No, I know, I know the best thing. Now, [02:15:50] we’ve actually got proof in the pudding. It’s not just my ideas in my brain. We’ve done it. It works. Here’s how [02:15:55] the system works. But you kind of need to ascribe to the whole system, and you kind of need to know what’s part of my patchwork [02:16:00] quilt. Because as you mentioned, when you graduated, when I was at dental school, we didn’t have anything either. [02:16:05] The internet was very slow. Uh, we had Paddy Lunn’s book. I remember picking up Paddy Lunn’s book. Remember [02:16:10] him? Yeah. It’s amazing what a heart behind Paddy Lunn’s book. Literally the most black and white book you can ever [02:16:15] see. Um, Australian dentists. Um, now, no doubt retired. Um, absolutely [02:16:20] brilliant. There’s gold in there really is. Absolutely. And it becomes part of that whole philosophy. So sometimes the [02:16:25] most old school things, the things that seem outdated are actually it’s. Yeah, it’s uh, it [02:16:30] should become part of everyone’s repertoire.

Payman Langroudi: It’s been a massive pleasure, man. I’m going to end with the [02:16:35] the usual final, final questions. Yeah. Fantasy [02:16:40] dinner party.

Zak Kara: You know, I’ve pondered this already. I’ll come out and say it [02:16:45] straight away. My roots are in music, proper music. So it would be [02:16:50] Freddie Mercury, Prince and Michael Jackson. I know that’s cringe.

Payman Langroudi: And Michael Jackson. [02:16:55]

Zak Kara: And Michael Jackson. How could it be Prince and say that these days I know I’m not Prince [02:17:00] Andrew.

Payman Langroudi: As a massive Prince fan, I just object to [02:17:05] Prince and Michael Jackson.

Zak Kara: I just want to fight.

Payman Langroudi: All Michael Jackson. No, no, no, I want a fight.

Zak Kara: I would I would just be like, [02:17:10] right, why don’t you guys, why don’t you get on? And I’d want Freddie Mercury to just sit [02:17:15] there and drink wine all night because.

Payman Langroudi: Because there was no Billie Jean and there was no kid. [02:17:20] There was no one who said, beat it. There was none of that happened. None of that happened.

Zak Kara: That’s [02:17:25] why he is controversial. This is exactly why I suggested it. So those are my three for the dinner party. And also, [02:17:30] worst case scenario, we just put YouTube music on and have a frigging great night.

Payman Langroudi: Some record story like [02:17:35] record shop stories. It must be interesting having a record shop. Do you get like, what do you get?

Zak Kara: It’s part of [02:17:40] you don’t get anything. You get told off by your dad when you’re nicking the CDs of the weekend and recording them.

Payman Langroudi: You [02:17:45] know, the customers you get like DJ types, you get what happens.

Zak Kara: At that time, it was record collector [02:17:50] types. It was like old school fellas with a beard and long hair. And they’d come in and [02:17:55] they’d. You’d see the same names and faces every weekend. I’d be there on a Saturday or a Sunday, and that had a few little [02:18:00] side gigs of selling things like, uh, you know, at that point they had to get a £10 top up voucher for Orange Mobile [02:18:05] or whatever. So I used to get paid in top up vouchers. Okay. And uh, some of them, some of my, [02:18:10] uh, my roots of like, why I, why I like talking to people must come from the record shop. Yeah. So I’d [02:18:15] see the same names of the faces. And I used to have this little party trick where I would just know where that record [02:18:20] is, and I’d be able to go to the shelf, and I’d literally be barely tall enough to see it, and I’d go, this [02:18:25] one, LED Zeppelin two. Uh, and I’d know it by the record cover. So weirdly, now [02:18:30] when people say things like, uh, somebody mentioned R.E.M.

Zak Kara: the other day and R.E.M. had an album called automatic [02:18:35] for the people. Amazing album, right? Great album. And I picked it up and I just know that record [02:18:40] sleeve. I know that cover because it’s just black and white. Yeah, it’s embedded in me. So some of those [02:18:45] things are part of my tapestry for sure. And, uh, you look back now and you’re like, why do I like [02:18:50] getting to know my patients and clients every visit? It must be rooted in that. It’s rooted in [02:18:55] the conversations I had with people every week, and I’d find out about their family and oh, when are you buying that? [02:19:00] And I used to be the cheeky little kid, because my dad used to love the fact that I loved the chat, and I’d be that one who [02:19:05] goes, so when are you buying the the the, uh, the stack. So we used to have little stacks together of [02:19:10] like, back catalogues. So like the Queen back catalogue, you buy a whole stack, you package it together. Massive. Good deal [02:19:15] that when you buy the queen stack.

Payman Langroudi: You had a bit of a lateral thinker. [02:19:20] Anyway, to do a record shop, right? Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s a kind of a niche thing to do. Yeah. I had a [02:19:25] friend whose dad had a record shop too, and he’s just have fun there. I’ll tell you some fun. [02:19:30]

Zak Kara: Fun taught me something. It taught me diversification because actually at that point wasn’t trendy [02:19:35] in the 90s. Well, it was in the 80s, and it was in the early 90s recession hit. Um, John [02:19:40] Major has got a lot to blame for that. And as a result of that, things went very Pete Tong for [02:19:45] wreck. Uh, not just record shops, but retail in general. Yeah. And at the same time, CDs [02:19:50] were beginning to take over and tapes were getting a little bit outdated. Yeah. And, um, Sainsbury’s over the road. [02:19:55] No, in fact, at one point it was Safeway over the road, literally over the road from the shop started selling [02:20:00] CDs and it was like a price war, literally £9.73 for a CD. And [02:20:05] then they used to do it £9.23 and that’d be like, that’s below cost, what am I gonna do? And he used to go [02:20:10] and ask me to go over the road and price shop for him and go, how much are they selling it for? And they’d come back and say, [02:20:15] essentially, in the mid 90s, dad realised that he had to diversify the business and he took some of it online. [02:20:20] And so he had a, the first ever, uh, first ever website he had was created by my dad and I on, [02:20:25] uh, a really rubbish old PC, windows 3.1, uh, or maybe an [02:20:30] old school Pentium, whatever it was. And, uh, we created a website and essentially took his record [02:20:35] player needle business online. Wow. And dad ended up leaving the business as [02:20:40] a physical entity. And when we’d gone to uni about 2005 and he carried on just making his [02:20:45] little trickle along income. Home with a stack full of record playing needles [02:20:50] that were all.

Payman Langroudi: The record players have totally come back in.

Zak Kara: Yeah, now. Yeah, they come full circle. But [02:20:55] dad’s had enough of business and he hated customers, always complaining every five minutes and sending them back, and [02:21:00] he’d go, uh, um. Doherty, 40, Murray, Missouri. [02:21:05] And they sent it back, meaning they made a complete mess of my products. Oh, I see they made [02:21:10] cucumber of it, which means they made cucumbers out of my product and they returned it back to me.

Zak Kara: Yeah, [02:21:15] that’s my dad.

Zak Kara: So, yeah.

Payman Langroudi: Now [02:21:20] I feel a bit sad. I didn’t go more into your backstory, but. But you’ve given so many pearls that it’s [02:21:25] not have to worry. Let’s, let’s let’s go with the final question. Yeah. You [02:21:30] on your deathbed, surrounded by friends and family. Anyone who’s [02:21:35] special to you. Yep. And you’re going to offer them three [02:21:40] pieces of advice. What would they be?

Zak Kara: I [02:21:45] would tell them that for the rest of your own days. If you keep [02:21:50] doing what you’re doing, you’re going to keep getting what you’re getting. If you keep doing [02:21:55] what you’re doing, you’re going to keep getting what you’re getting. And if you want to do better [02:22:00] every day and it’s bothering you, you’ve got to do something different. So that probably [02:22:05] is rooted in the diversification and things we were just talking about, I tell them. I [02:22:10] really did do my best because [02:22:15] I always wanted to be better myself. Um, so I hope I’m looked [02:22:20] back, um, at fondly, um, as a person and somebody who [02:22:25] thirdly, would, you know, be generous, be generous with your time, because, [02:22:30] you know, in my first something I regret, uh, my first eight years out of university, I spent two, two [02:22:35] weeks every year with bridge to aid in East Africa because I always believed in giving something back to East Africa. [02:22:40] Life took over, Covid took over the business, and so on and so on. But it’s something I will go full circle and do, [02:22:45] because the heart you receive from somebody who’s got nothing, and the amount of generosity you [02:22:50] get from somebody who’s got nothing, that’s real generosity to me. And if you can dedicate your own time [02:22:55] to being generous and receiving in return, um, then that’s those are some of the [02:23:00] most special moments of my life. And, um, hopefully they, uh, I have more opportunities to do just that [02:23:05] and again in the future.

Zak Kara: Beautiful man. Really beautiful. Thank [02:23:10] you so much for.

Payman Langroudi: Doing this, dude. I really enjoyed it very, very much.

Zak Kara: Thank you very much for having me.

Intro Voice: This [02:23:15] is Dental Leaders, the podcast where you get [02:23:20] to go one on one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your [02:23:25] hosts Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki. [02:23:30]

Prav Solanki: Thanks for listening guys. I hope you enjoyed today’s episode. Make sure you tune in [02:23:35] for future episodes. Hit subscribe in iTunes or Google Play or whatever [02:23:40] platform it is. And you know, we really, really appreciate it. If you would, um, give [02:23:45] us a.

Payman Langroudi: Six star rating.

Prav Solanki: Six star rating. That’s what I always leave my Uber [02:23:50] driver.

Payman Langroudi: Thanks a lot, guys. Bye.


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