This week, Payman and Prav talked with Rahul Doshi, cosmetic pioneer and founder of the groundbreaking Perfect Smile Studios.
The trio talk about the science and art of cosmetic dentistry, what it takes to be a clinical leader, team building and more.
Rahul also talks about his decision to join Dentex, as well as the board of the British Association of Cosmetic Dentists (BACD.)
Rather than being demotivated about, “I could’ve done X, I could’ve done Y.” You’ve got to say, “Right, how do I play these cards now and do well with them?” – Rahul Doshi
In this episode
00.18 – Changing lives, exceeding expectations
07.25 – Art Vs science
14.54 – Mentors and going it alone
20.20 – Highs, lows and love at first sight
25.00 – Partners in practice
31.29 – Leadership, team building, hiring and firing
40.24 – Teaching photography
48.52 – Cosmetics, occlusion & learning curves
51.02 – Buying out and selling up
54.19 – Dentex & a day in the life
01.01.52 – On family
01.03.40 – BACD
01.11.00 – Doing it all again (and coming up trumps)
About Rahul Doshi
Rahul Doshi founded the high-end Perfect Smile Studios cosmetic dentistry clinic alongside wife Bavna in Hertfordshire in 1994.
In 2017, Rahul’s commitment to the profession was recognised at the Aesthetic Dentistry Awards with an accolade for his Outstanding Contribution to Dentistry.
He has now retired from clinical dentistry but continues to oversee the team at Perfect Smile Studios in a leadership role.
Connect with Prav and Payman:
Rahul: Well when we met, she was into a different type of music than I was. Her outgoing was different to mine. So yeah, we were very much different people, but the value is actually is what connected us.
Payman: Or was she into gangster rap?
Rahul: She was actually.
Intro Voice: This is Dental Leaders, the podcast where you get to go one-on-one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.
Prav: Today we’ve got the pleasure of interviewing Rahul Doshi on the Dental leaders Podcast. Rahul, for me, I think my journey with you or knowing about you began over a decade ago.
Rahul: Probably, yes.
Prav: I got into the dental industry, started working in the dental industry where my brother had just qualified back in about 2005, 2006 and you owned the most famous dental practise in the UK.
Rahul: I wouldn’t quite say that.
Prav: In my eyes, and I think in many people’s eyes you were leading the field in patient experience in what you were doing, in the way you communicated yourself in the media. And I think you started off a trend or a generation of practises that are today built on the model that you started off. And then that’s how I saw the Perfect Smile Studios, very, very aspirational clinic from the photographs of the waiting room and then once entering your waiting room right through to the experience you deliver to your patients and-
Rahul: Did you go to it back then?
Prav: Yeah, yeah. I visited it then, and first saw the photographs and I thought, “Wow, this is a dental practise.” And then went and sat down, and I even remember sitting down on the cushions and it just being super cosy, comfortable and being offered a drink. And I thought, “Wow, this is different.” Now every practise does that. But you were a decade ahead of everyone else I think. And I think there’s lots we want to talk about, you, your life, how you became to be that.
Rahul: Get to that point.
Prav: Yeah, but if we just focus on that for a second, what was your inspiration behind creating such an amazing practise and the whole experience?
Rahul: Okay, so let’s go back. I think you have to have a vision and we created a vision and the tagline for the practise is changing lives, exceeding expectations, but that was in all areas, whether it’s clinical and nonclinical. So we want to exceed patients’ experience in every single way once they came to the practise. So we wanted to deliver the best clinical care, but also the best care in the journey while they are there and making that unique. As we all know that when you want to differentiate yourself, you’ve got to something which is totally different to what’s being done as a norm.
Rahul: And we spent a lot of time really sort of understanding what other areas in other businesses do to create an exceptional journey and just bringing it in to the practise.
Prav: Take me back to that moment where you were planning that journey. So you were sat down and you maybe you were drawing flow chats together or mapping out that journey from the moment let’s say somebody first makes contact or steps foot in your practise, and you talked about inspiration from other businesses. Did you visit hotels or what? How did you put that process together because you weren’t just copying someone else. You weren’t just saying, “Let me do this, but a little bit better.” You were creating something new.
Rahul: I think we had to break it down into the steps that a patient takes in the journey. And then we looked at every single step and say, “Right, where can I learn about this aspect from?”
Rahul: So for example, in a patient journey starts with the phone as we know, and then comes into when they visit the practise, then into the treatment room and then the case presentation. And then you’re looking at what can I learn from which industry for every single aspect, whether it’s a hotel, whether it’s other dental practises outside the UK, I’m now talking about US because I used to visit the US a lot. Their patient journey there was at a different level at that time as well. Though the practises were orientated to be something different to what we wanted. We wanted to create a unique culture that the patients felt really relaxed. And as you mentioned, the soft cushion at home and we wanted to make the patients feel at home.
Prav: And I think that’s something that I definitely got when I visited that I actually felt like I was a guest. I felt like I was at home.
Rahul: And the key thing to remember is most patients are nervous, especially the type of dentistry I was doing at that time was a lot of full mouth rehab, smile makeovers. So, that involved a lot of dental treatment. And if patients are nervous, you want to try and really make them feel as happy, comfortable, relaxed, as much as possible in all senses, whether it’s what they listen to, what they smell, what they see. And you had to excite every single sense. So it’s trying to do that in a predictable way, but also create a systematic way for that as well for the patient journey.
Payman: I think what was really special about that practise, like I came quite early on, I think maybe two, three years after you’d started, what was really special was the staff the way they were welcomed, the way people took care of you. I remember at the time I think Laura was working there.
Payman: I remember at the time thinking, “Yeah, it was pretty decor.” Yeah. But I’d seen pretty deco before in practise. But the welcome, just the way they handled you and I was a supplier, not even a patient. I was there to sell something to them. But expecting you when you walked in, knowing who you were before you even walked in-
Rahul: Just the experience.
Payman: Many practises today don’t do that, nice cup of coffee, engaging with you, engaging with you as a supplier. I remember thinking this is super special, but I think we should go back, go back and try and figure out how you got to that point.
Rahul: So actually though, now I think of it, there is a book that I read called Raving Fans.
Prav: Who by?
Rahul: I think it’s Ken Blanchard. And it’s always about trying to do something on a consistent basis. We’ve all been to restaurants, hotels, which look amazing and we may have had exceptional food at. But then when you repeat that experience with another person, it may not be consistent, and then you don’t go back again. So achieving the consistency was actually the kep step. And achieving consistency, you need to create a system. So you’re actually systemizing the patient journey of what needs to happen at every single step, when they arrive, meet and greet, create eye contact, the warm handshake, look them in the eyes, try and predict who they are in the name, all that sort of stuff.
Rahul: And then adding plus one. In Raving Fans, plus one means do something extra every single time they come. So what plus one can you think of when you see the patient again or a supplier like you again?
Payman: Yeah, it was special.
Prav: So where were you born? Where did you grow up? When did you decide to be a dentist? Give us the quickie on that.
Rahul: I was born in Mombasa, in Kenya, and I moved over here in 1975 when I was about seven, eight years old. Schooled here. And why did I go into dentistry? Not because I probably wanted to become a dentist because I wanted to join the medical science field. I don’t think I wanted to become a pharmacist, an optician. So it was almost like taking away what I didn’t want to become leaving really dentistry to me as the option that I thought would suit me, my personality in looking after people. I think Asians were always drawn to some sort of medical sort of arena.
Payman: Were your family already in medicine?
Rahul: No, no they weren’t. My family were in their own pharmacies. So they’re in the pharmaceutical industry. So I think I didn’t want to go in that direction. So it’s a question, choosing another direction in the medical arena.
Prav: And was that in sort of in some part fulfilling your parents’ dreams and ambitions? And certainly I know that for me, I didn’t necessarily want to go into medicine from the outset, and I wouldn’t say I was forced into it, but certainly I was fulfilling their dreams. I was academically good and it seemed like the right career choice, my son is a doctor. And so that became part of the process. And then later on I realise that actually this was what I wanted to do and then later on realised it wasn’t.
Rahul: It wasn’t.
Prav: But was that part of your influence?
Rahul: I think for that sort of generation like mine, I think that you’re always trying to fulfil your parents’ aspirations in some way or what they think are the careers that you should probably be in. And I think there must be some subliminal message that must’ve been handed down to me thinking that I need to go in that arena as opposed to arenas that at that time my parents were not considered to be the arenas that you should go into whether it be art or whatever it may be.
Payman: How’s that advice changed with your kids? What have you said to them?
Payman: To follow their passion? And big achievers, both of your kids, right?
Rahul: Yeah, my kids, I just told them, “You need to do what you’re really passionate about, what you enjoy and what you think you’re good at. Because once you are good at something, you enjoy doing it, you will actually become excellent and then you will grow in yourself. You’ll enjoy life. And that’s what really life is about.”
Payman: Was dentistry something that you want either of your kids to do or they didn’t want to do it?
Rahul: I don’t think, well neither of my kids have gone into the industry. One of them has gone straight into finance. That’s what he’s always enjoyed that since he was a kid. So he’s followed his passion. My other son, he’s really into philosophy and politics, so that’s the sort of field he plans to go into.
Payman: So what an opportunity it would have been for one of them to go into dentistry. Did it even come up or-
Rahul: I don’t think either of them even considered it, to be honest with you.
Rahul: I had a practise that I think they could have easily followed my footsteps. And actually when you actually follow your father’s footsteps, then you’ve got the foundations laid in some way because you try and reduce the errors that you would make because you’re told not don’t do X, Y, Z, and it fast tracks things, but that’s not the career that they wanted for themselves.
Prav: Okay. So then where did you study?
Rahul: So I went to Guys Hospital for dentistry and that was my undergraduate qualification.
Prav: Anyone who we know in dentistry now who studied with you in your year?
Rahul: So in my year.
Payman: Was Ash in your year?
Rahul: Ash Palmer was the year below me.
Payman: Oh really?
Rahul: Paul Abrahams was a year above me. So a lot of people a year above me, year below me. I’m trying to think of people like-
Prav: Which year did you qualify?
Rahul: In ’91.
Payman: And what kind of a dental student were you? Were you swatty?
Rahul: Actually I think people would say I was swatty on most occasions on most occasions and chilled out on others. So I don’t think I was the biggest swat, but I don’t think I was laid back either.
Prav: Were you gifted? Were you just naturally talented, did things come too easily, memory recall, stuff you know in med school and dental school? You’re doing all this processing, were you say were naturally at that sort of stuff, or you had to work hard?
Rahul: I think memorising things became pretty straightforward to me. I didn’t realise this, but I think I loved art. I only realised that I really loved art when I actually became a cosmetic dentist as such. I didn’t realise it when I was in dental school, but I was very particular in the way I did my drilling, filling, my preparations, and how smooth they were. I was very detail orientated. I think it was all about the details at that time.
Payman: I think it’s a bit of that back in our day. I mean we’re in about the same generation.
Payman: Back in our day, art was such a dirty word for someone who was trying to go into medicine that we completely shunned. Even like I remember with me and my friends in school, it was math, physics, chemistry, the odd guy did biology. Anyone who was doing something outside of that was-
Prav: Mickey Mouse degree.
Payman: Yeah. Mickey Mouse, wasn’t considered one of us.
Payman: And yet personally looking at it now I feel like I’m much more art orientated than science orientated, but it was so drilled into us even by ourselves. I don’t know. We were very proud of being science.
Prav: I think part of it is, and I always go back to this is this parental influence and because certainly for my parents back then it was a survival game, right?
Prav: Driving taxes, running corner shops. It was about giving you a career that there was some stability in and a vocation.
Rahul: Correct. It was all about the stability and that vocation, the thinking that people will always need a doctor, people will always need a dentist and I think for the Asian community also the respect that the families got for their children going down certain pathways was an important aspect for them as well.
Prav: And then the advice you’ve said to your kids is, “Look, just follow your dreams, airy fairy or not, just go and live your dream and just be excellent at what you’re doing.” And I’m giving the same advice to my kids at the moment. My daughter is big into art and if I look at how I would have thought about that 10, 15 years ago, I’d have said, “Airy-fairy Mickey Mouse degree.”
Prav: Honestly, that’s what I would’ve said. But now it’s more about actually follow your passion and all we really want our children to do is be happy, right?
Rahul: I think that’s also from my personal experience. So when I first qualified, and you mentioned that did you rightly do the right degree or not? Well, when I first qualified I was doing general dentistry and I don’t think I was as fulfilled in doing general dentistry as I am when I’d started doing cosmetic dentistry. The more cosmetic denture I started doing, the more I thought to really enjoy what I was doing. It was the art side of me that came out, the creativity, the detail, the detail was there. But I think the passion came in doing the cosmetic dentistry and that took my career to another level, but also my enjoyment more importantly.
Rahul: And so reflecting on that enjoyment and the passion is what has led me to tell Mike, as you said, “You’ve got to follow your passion.”
Prav: Who had the biggest influence on your dental career, mentor or otherwise, that sort of set you off on that trajectory that you ended up embarking on in creating this amazing practise and doing the type of dentistry that you did?”
Rahul: I’ve got to say there was so many mentors that I’ve had the fortune to come across and it’s taking ideas from different people that have allowed me to be who I am. So in terms of cosmetic dentistry, to be honest with you, it’s Larry Rosenthal, the idea that you could change a person’s life, smile by doing what he did. Okay. The style of dentistry has changed immensely since he introduced that. But the concept of cosmetic dentistry came from him and to a lot of people in the UK.
Rahul: So I’ve got to give some attribution to him, but also people who taught how to create good foundational dentistry in occlusion. So people like Frank Spears was very influential to me. I went onto the Hornbrook course where I learned a lot about occlusion as well. So occlusion and foundational dentistry was really instrumental in what I did. But then also things in communication, communicating to a patient, looking after patients. Patient care became a big part of that as well. So my mentors at that time were people like Bill Blatchford who was a coach from the US, so Peter Blatchford Solutions.
Prav: Correct. Yes.
Payman: So then, okay, you qualified. Who was your first boss?
Rahul: My first boss was a practise near Harrow on Rayners Lane. His name is Stuart Hutchinson. So it was a predominantly national health practise.
Payman: Did you get there and think, “God, I hate this,”?
Rahul: Actually, I worked very close to home, literally five minute drive as to go home for lunch as an associate. I mean I just can’t believe I used to go home for lunch and spend an hour at home and come back.
Payman: Home, parents’ home?
Rahul: As in like, yeah, parents home. So literally go home, eat, come back, do my work. So it just was a routine for a few years until I started thinking that I want to expand what I was doing. I had a need to improve what I was doing. So I enjoyed it for that time. It gave me a lot of rudimentary foundational skills in dentistry because you qualify and you need to get exposure to just doing stuff. And that’s what he gave me.
Payman: So then you decided to set up your ow?
Rahul: Yeah, so I think the plan was to always set up my own practise and I worked in active couple of practises at the same time.
Rahul: So, my week was split up into working with three different practises. And the key reason for that was to learn from each practise what to do and what not to do. And actually I found you learn what not to do more than you learn what to do and that gives you a perception of how you want to run your own practise.
Payman: So these three practises was one of them more private orientated or how was it?
Rahul: One of them, so my first one was predominantly national health, but I started doing more and more private while I was there. Another one was private and that was near Hemel Hempstead. And then a third one was in Wilson, which was national health.
Prav: Take me back to that era. What was the work ethic like back then? What sort of hours were you putting in? How much time are you putting in into dentistry? And so I speak to a lot of dentists from back in the day and they do the kind of hours and the things that probably younger dentists wouldn’t today.
Rahul: Yeah. I think if I look back now, so my first associate job I was doing about 40 hours, 44 hours, Monday to Friday.
Prav: Feeble rights of the NHS, right?
Rahul: Feeble rights of the National Health. Half day Saturday. But then I think things became tricky when I bought my first practise because I used to… When was that? That was in ’94 so I used to travel from Harrow to Hornchurch, which was an hour’s journey. I use to start work at eight in the morning, finish work at seven, get back home by eight in the evening. So, I used to do that four or five days a week, work as an associate in my practise that I first worked in just to get continuity of income walls. The practise was taking off.
Payman: Was it a squat?
Rahul: It wasn’t a squat, but I think in the first six months, by the time you actually established yourself, you actually get… there was some nationality, you got fee per item coming in, capital coming in. You knew that cashflow coming in and I wanted to make sure there was enough cashflow, so I had to work as an associate and run the practise and do the dentistry in that practise, too.
Payman: Must have been hard times. Did you have any difficulties? Going from associate to principal’s a big deal right?
Rahul: I remember actually first walking into the practise thinking, “I now own this practise. What now? What do I do?” I had no plan. I knew what I wanted to do in terms of developing it in the decor, the cosmetics, how I wanted to run it, but then actually becoming a leader and actually guiding team members.
Rahul: … a leader and actually guiding team members who’d really you’d not really known and may have met for a few minutes previous to that, and guiding them what to do, it was something that was new and you had to learn a lot on how to become a boss and a leader.
Prav: Doing all those jobs at that time, multiple jobs, multiple associate jobs, and buying your own business, which I’m assuming was quite risky, did you ever experience overwhelm at that time? What were your lowest moments, and did you ever think of just saying, “Do you know what, I give up.”
Rahul: I think whenever you buy any practise or any business, the first year is taken up and consumed by the passion to do well. So, once you’ve got through that one year, that energy and that momentum takes you through that. And once you actually achieve some level of satisfaction or success in that first year, then you can sort of slow down and start seeing where you’ve achieved. It’s when it takes longer, that’s when those low moments can come. I mean, luckily, I didn’t get many of those at that time, so I didn’t see that or face that, because I think we tried to work hard to actually achieve as much as we could in that first year and make sure that the foundations were laid for us to succeed. So, at that moment in time, no, I didn’t get any low moments.
Prav: And just painting a picture of what your life was like back then, were you with Bhavna then, or were you living at home, parents? What was the sort of personal situation?
Rahul: So, I was living with parents. I had just met Bhavna a month before we bought the practise.
Prav: How did you meet?
Rahul: So, I crushed a VT ball. She was qualifying. I turned up and I met her and I then turned up at her hall, because I knew where she was staying. I figured out which floor she was staying on.
Prav: Love at first sight?
Rahul: Yes, it was. So, I knocked on her door-
Payman: … but, you were you a fully fledged dentist at this way?
Rahul: I was a fully fledged dentist. So this is three, four years qualified. And then as you did, you crash the ball. And then that’s where I met Bhavna.
Prav: And the rest is history, as they say.
Rahul: And the rest is history. Yeah.
Prav: So when did you propose?
Rahul: So actually, for both of us, we knew we were right for each other and I proposed literally a few months after that, six months after that. And I think it’s all good to do with whether it’s business or home values and the vibe you get. So when you actually have the … when you have values that match, you know that somebody is right for you. We had the right values, or not the right values. There is no such thing. But, the values that I had were similar to her values and that’s when we knew we were right for each other.
Prav: And the family values, right?
Prav: Certainly, for me the values that I’ve got from my wife and she gets from me is our upbringing.
Prav: And just meeting the parents and the family seems like quite a traditional way of doing things. But, I think it’s a recipe for a [crosstalk 00:22:59].
Rahul: Values is one of those words, because for instance, if you look at me and my wife, very different people, very different, but our values are aligned. And it’s an interesting point because if you’ve met us for five minutes and didn’t know who we were-
Prav: … totally different. Totally different.
Rahul: But, we do agree on the basics. Actually, so if you look at Bhavna and me, if you spend time with us individually, you’ll see that I’m actually pretty much a shy person, quiet. She’s pretty much outgoing, won’t stop talking.
Prav: Opposites attract, that’s the thing.
Rahul: We’re total opposites. Yet, our values are similar. Well, when we met, she was into a different type of music than I was. Her outgoing was different to mine. So yeah, we were very much different people. But the value is actually is what connected us.
Prav: Was she into gangster rap?
Rahul: She was, actually. That was a joke, and the answer is, she was.
Prav: You’re kidding.
Rahul: Which was totally foreign to me.
Prav: Amazing. She’s got good taste.
Payman: Yeah, he’s a gangster rap guy.
Prav: So, you work at that first practise, was Bhavna also working there?
Rahul: No, she wasn’t actually. So she had just qualified, so she had to go through a VT. So she was doing her VT while I was at the practise.
Prav: And then? How long did that go on for?
Rahul: So that went on until ’96 when we actually got a second practise. And that’s when Bhavna started working with me.
Prav: Did you sell the first one to get-
Rahul: … no. We kept it. And I needed the help. I needed the manpower. So then we started working together. So the challenges were that I don’t think Bhavna ever wanted to work together because we wanted to keep our life separate, not sort of a mix, shall I say, work and home life. But, necessity meant that needed somebody from the inside, shall I say, working with me. And that was important.
Payman: You were taking care of one, she was taking care of the other?
Prav: What was the transition like going from one to two? I got a lot of dentists asking me for this advice, and I don’t think there’s a right way to advise this, but I’m interested on your take, is that someone will have practise number one, it will be at 60-70% capacity. Business is good, life is good, right? And they say, “I need to get my second practise.” My advice is always get practise number one to where it needs to be because there’s room to grow here, less overheads, less stress and then go for practise number two. But, there’s other theories that you could scale up multiple practises, do well, and sell or whatever. And what was your transition like?
Prav: Because a lot of people think you go from practise one to two, and you just double everything, right? Income doubles, everything doubles. What was your perception back then and what was the reality?
Rahul: So the perception is that you get a second practise and everything doubles. But, actually the truth is that if you’ve actually done well in your first and you’ve got the systems right and you can make the systems and carry them over to the second practise, that’s what the second practise is all about is actually taking away what you’ve done in your first practise and actually introducing all those elements into the second practise. If you haven’t done that and you’ve just got away by having a practise and these things just run, then the second practise would be really challenging. The second practise had its own challenges. It wasn’t massively challenging, but everything has its own ups and downs, which, and I can’t remember what they are right now, but because we had the same systems that we had in the first practise that we could just transplant into the second practise, it was pretty smooth going.
Rahul: The only things that double are the stresses of team, dealing with the two teams as opposed to one. So, that was something which I started to sort of really sort of learning about, reading about, is actually people management, psychology management, learning how to develop teams. And again, that journey of becoming a better leader too.
Payman: It sounds like you’re very much into reading around the subject of dentistry, right? Self Improvement.
Rahul: Well, yes, reading around, actually many aspects of non dentistry, shall I say, so leadership, team building, communication.
Payman: You’re fascinated by that?
Rahul: Yeah, absolutely.
Rahul: I really enjoy that.
Prav: When did business partners come into the mix?
Rahul: So what do you mean by business partners?
Prav: You were partners with Ash at one point.
Rahul: Correct. Yes.
Prav: So how did that come about? How did the conversation get ignited? How did you say, “Well, let’s do this together.” At what point in this journey did that happen?
Rahul: So actually, the first practise, [inaudible 00:07:36], I did that with Ash.
Rahul: And that came about because we, again, were similar minded. We were similarly driven. Again, we had similar values as well. And those values is what kept us going until 2010, so we were together in partnership for a good 16 years, which is a good period of time.
Prav: And the second one was with Ash too?
Rahul: And the second one was with Ash as well. Yeah.
Prav: And then it was Perfect Smile after that?
Rahul: Perfect Smile after that. Yeah.
Rahul: So it’s that, I think you have to have the same values with your partners for things to … the same risk profile, I find important.
Prav: Yeah, absolutely.
Rahul: Because Sanj and I, again, my partner, we’re very different. Again, he’s great with systems, he’s great with computers. I’m more a people person. Again, very different. But, our risk profile is similar.
Prav: Are you sure?
Rahul: It needs to be. Yeah, yeah. It needs to be.
Prav: I’ve seen the bar tab when you run your events, mate.
Rahul: You should see the bill for computers. But, also I think the same drive because if one person wants to have … really wants to grow and the other person doesn’t, then you could have an issue.
Prav: What were you bringing to the team and what was Ash bringing to the team? What kind of people? I’m saying, Sanj was very systems and computers and so on, and he really is brilliant in those ways.
Rahul: Actually, Ash was very good, very much a people’s person. So when he met suppliers, when he met the initial teams, he got along with them. He would spend time with them. He was very likeable as a person. He is likeable as a person. I brought in probably strategy, vision, focus-
Prav: … systems.
Rahul: Drive. Yeah, all that to the practise. So not quite systems. I think Ash was more making systems as well. But, I think I was more direction and vision and marketing, et cetera. That came from me.
Prav: I’m involved in multiple partnerships with multiple different businesses and one of the things I know is all the challenges I have is sometimes I want to go in one direction, they want to go in another, or maybe we’re not 100% aligned and you have different conversations. Maybe your lives are going in different directions and stuff like that. What were the biggest challenges during that 15 years in that partnership, would you say?
Rahul: I think it probably is when there may be, as you mentioned, disagreements in the direction or the main direction. Sometimes the small directions can cause issues, but they can be overcome once you have logic and reason. It’s when there is a big differential in the growth or the direction that you want to go into. I mean, we were both reasonable people so we could both iron out issues. So, that would be fine. Sometimes, being truthful, it may be you’d have team looking at one sort of partner as opposed to the other to influence. And one person wouldn’t be able to be influenced in any way.
Rahul: And I think that was me. The team would never be able to influence me. So they’d go through Ash and then Ash would have to come back to me.
Payman: That happens with us too. I’m kind of the soft touch and Sanj is the guy … because it works too, right?
Payman: Absolutely. You have to sort of good cop, bad cop. It does work. And it works well.
Payman: But, we don’t do it on purpose.
Prav: It’s just the way you are, right?
Payman: Yeah. I’m completely stuck on having the happiest workplace in the world. Sanj isn’t. That’s not his number one priority. And you need both.
Rahul: A motivated team is the key.
Prav: So when did Laura Horton come into the mix in your practise? And sort of do you remember your interviewing her for the first time? And I think you saw something in her.
Rahul: She came as a nurse and she came as a nurse before the Hornsea practise. And she started off as a nurse, became a manager at the Hornsea practise, I believe. And we then sold the Hornsea practise and she came with us to the Hertford practise. So that was the evolution. I think, sorry, between the actual becoming a manager and a nurse, she became the treatment coordinator. So she was a nurse, treatment coordinator, then manager. So, that was her journey.
Rahul: One of the most, I think about work, one of the most beautiful things about it is developing people, isn’t it?
Rahul: It really is. I mean, you’ve got all the downsides, right? You’ve got all the risk, you’ve got the day-to-day, the discipline issues. But, seeing people blossom. And then on the other side of it, sometimes seeing people not blossom. Where you give an opportunity to someone and they don’t take it.
Prav: I don’t know who said this quote, but something along the lines of, and don’t quote me on these words, is that try and build your team up so they can leave. But, treat them well enough so they don’t. [crosstalk 00:12:51].
Rahul: And whenever I hired team members, the one thing you always think of is what potential do they have and how much do they want to grow? And what can I do to help them grow? So it’s about actually being a servant to their growth. And if you can achieve that, then that business will start flourishing.
Prav: Because, you must see it now, we’ll get onto Dentex now. But, you must see in dentistry, it’s quite hard, isn’t it? The path where you’re saying nurse, treatment coordinator, manager. She went from the very bottom to the very top. But in dentistry, a lot of times we don’t want people to move. We want that person just to stay doing what they’re doing. And that’s a problem, isn’t it? Because if you can’t see a future for yourself career wise.
Rahul: So that’s when people leave and move. If you want to grow your practise, you want some stability. But you want a team that’s motivated. And to get a motivated team, you want the team member to feel that they’re actually contributing much more than the simplicity in the work that they bring to just nursing. So, one of the key things I’ve always believed in is actually creating-
Payman: … photography was a big thing in your practise.
Rahul: Yeah. Well, every team member that comes into a practise is able to take photographs. That’s the first thing we teach them, but they need to create a role which makes them unique and that they are in charge of totally. That means they have a real important role to play within the practise. And without them fulfilling that role, the practise will be under pressure and that they won’t get anywhere else. There’s also freedom to work in the way they choose to.
Rahul: So, there is that autonomy. So the three things I always think of is autonomy. And so they don’t have to report to do certain things to people above. They need to be masterful. They are good. And they need to have mastery in what they do, so they feel confident. And that brings passion. And there needs to be a purpose. So they come to work with a purpose rather than feeling that they’re doing just a simplistic role.
Prav: As I speak to a lot of associates or new practise owners. And there’s one skill that you’ve clearly developed over time and got is this leadership that you’ve just clearly illustrated here. What tips would you give to somebody who wants to develop that skill and develop their leadership skills when they’ve got no experience of actually what is leadership?
Rahul: [crosstalk 00:15:13]. That’s a big question.
Prav: Yeah, it is a big question. But, what sort of nuggets of advice would you give to them? Someone who’s new, they’ve just bought a practise, because they want to be an entrepreneur or whatever. And you must’ve seen loads of practises now with your involvement with the Dentex.
Rahul: Sure. So I think to be a great leader, you need to motivate your team. That’s the first thing. If you can motivate your team, the team will follow you. That’s the number one of leadership. And you’re not there as their boss, but somebody to actually inspire them. The second is to make sure that they are fully trained so that they feel totally comfortable and confident with what they do.
Rahul: The third thing too actually is find out and get them to be passionate about what they want to do as well. So you actually grow them in areas that they’re passionate about.
Prav: How do you find that out? Is it one-to-one conversations with them?
Rahul: It’s regular one-to-one. And actually, once you’ve been with them for a couple of months, you get an idea of what they are really strong at, what they love enjoying, and you see that glint in their eye if they’re doing certain things. And that’s what you’re trying to coax them to do. So you coax them to having roles that they feel happy about when they’re doing it, and they feel most fulfilled. And that’s a simplistic way of actually growing any business. It’s just motivating and inspiring your team.
Prav: Have you had to fire many people? Or was that Ash’s job?
Rahul: No, no, that was more me than Ash, actually. I was the bad cop, shall I say.
Prav: Never easy, right?
Rahul: Never easy. Actually, it’s the most challenging thing to do is to actually take somebody away from their job and tell them that the business has different plans for them.
Prav: Do you get butterflies?
Prav: Talk me through that.
Rahul: So, actually if I had to fire somebody, I don’t think I’d be sleeping the night before or as soon as I realised that that person had to go, until that moment that I told them that they weren’t part of the business plan, I would not be sleeping. I’d be having butterflies until I met them.
Prav: Do you have the conversation in your head?
Rahul: Plenty of times. You repeat that. And it never goes as planned. Because as soon as you utter the first few words, your mouth starts drying off and you may say something totally different to what you planned. They may interpret what you’re going to say. And then the whole thing skewers anyway.
Payman: It’s so hard. Prav has a very interesting story.
Prav: No, I’m not going to tell you that. My one and only aggressive ejection from the practise.
Payman: That wasn’t the one I was thinking of.
Prav: Which one?
Payman: I was thinking about the box of chocolates.
Prav: Oh, geez. Oh, yeah.
Payman: Tell him. Tell him. It’s beautiful.
Prav: He’s probably not going to be listening. But I hired a copywriter and I think copywriting is probably one of the most valuable skills in marketing. If you can write to get the right message across for the right person, you’ve won the game. The design, the creative, all that can come later. So I spent a long time trying to recruit an amazing copywriter. And one of my key things was that this person must be able to write much, much better than me.
Prav: And I’m not saying I’m an amazing writer, but I’m okay. Anyway, I found this guy and we took him through some tests. So we wrote some tests and stuff and in the tests he passed, he wrote better than I thought I could. He got into the job and he just wasn’t cutting the mustard. And there was something, and a couple of weeks passed and I thought, look, he needs training. And there became a point where I realised that this guy is beyond training. So there was some behavioural things that I wasn’t quite comfortable with and blah, blah, blah. Anyway, I said to myself, psyched myself up in the morning, went to the gym, full of aggression, going to fire him today. I’m going to fire him today. Aggressively. And I felt to myself, having the conversation, and I’m not going to say his name because he might be listening, just out of respect. But I was having this conversation, right, okay.
Prav: And I’m going to have to let you go. And these are the reasons why. I’m going to pay you for the next whatever, so that you can spend some time finding your next job and all the rest of it. He walks in that morning with a huge box of chocolates and says, “Guys, I just want to say thank you for welcoming me to the team. I feel so welcome and such a part of the team.” And I was like, so I went through with what I was supposed to do. But, I felt like an absolute a-hole.
Payman: I don’t think I would have done it.
Prav: But, I had already convinced myself that was what I was going to do. And if it wasn’t that box of chocolates that have cost us another week or two or whatever, right? And so I had to let him go. And then as he was leaving, he said, “Enjoy the chocolates, guys.” And I felt terrible. I still made the right decision, 100%. But afterwards, my team carried on saying, “Do you know what? He’s left us these chocolates. Prav, why couldn’t you wait a little bit longer? Give him more of a chance.” But, they also agreed with me that I’d made the right decision.
Prav: They’re given more of a chance, but they also agreed with me that I’d made the right decision, but that was probably my toughest firing. It’s always tough. And you always remember when you’ve had to let go of people, but you’ve got to care for the business, because the business actually cares for so many other people who work for you.
Rahul: And if that’s effecting the business, then they’re affected, too.
Payman: Even the fired person themselves, they’re not exactly thriving, are they?
Payman: They know who they… That’s one of those things where feelings take over from logic. So then, okay, the first two practises where regular practises?
Payman: The third one was a spaceship, compared to those.
Payman: So that was the influence of, let’s say with Larry, and you’ve been on these courses and all that, but what was it about… Did you and Ash get together and say, “Let’s do this completely different now.” And what would be the equivalent today? It would be some sort of, like something… Robbie’s done something in Liverpool, where from the outside it looks like an IKEA, from the inside it looks like a hotel, it’s was like something completely new that I’d never seen before, when I went to see it. But so, did you feel like you were doing something risky? Wanted to spend money?
Rahul: Well we wanted to create something special, so that’s the key thing, that was the drive. And I think we ran to visit quite a few practises in the US, and see how they functioned, and what created the best, should I say, efficient work patterns for the team. So you don’t want the team members running from one place to the other, going through different rooms, but you want to create a work pattern, which would actually make the patient journey from the front to be seamless, but behind the scenes there’d be stuff happening that the patients would not see.
Payman: And it was a squat, right?
Rahul: And it was a squat. And because we knew the systems that we wanted to bring in, what rehearsed plan from the other two practises, we knew exactly what to do for this practise. And we know what had worked elsewhere in the US, so we just copied that.
Payman: What about patients? So day one, no patients, what did you do?
Rahul: So this was actually [Bavnar 00:42:04]. And the reason why we bought this practise, and this is all about work-life balance, was because we lived near Hartford, we did not want, well Bavnar did not want to go to Hornchurch, or Varnett, because we had young kids, so I needed to develop a practise, so that the school that the kids went to was just literally a few miles away. So we could do a school run, go to work, and then pick the kids up, and go back home. So this was driven towards a work-life balance.
Rahul: And we picked the location because, I don’t know if you remember, when you’ve been to Hartford, the practise, it’s on a road, which is next to a traffic light, so when you actually come into Hartford, the only way to exit the actual town is through that traffic light. And that traffic light’s always red. So most people had to stop outside the practise, see what the practise was, and that’s how we actually got all the patients. So at that time, there was very little, there was no online marketing, we didn’t do any sort of PR stuff then.
Payman: So leaflet, or something?
Rahul: I don’t think we even did that. I think it’s literally the location, which created the influx of patients, the word of mouth, and also the uniqueness of what we delivered. So the name Perfect Smiles. So I remember, there were no practises just focusing on one type of dentistry, it was very risky to actually alienate, and say, “We only do cosmetic dentistry.”
Payman: Yeah. Your main thing, right? How long did it take before it was turning profit?
Rahul: We had the first treatment room made, and that was chock-a-block in the first six months, so six months later, we created the second treatment room, a year and a half later, the third and fourth treatment room came up.
Payman: Oh, so not much pain?
Rahul: So not much pain.
Payman: Very nice.
Rahul: I’m sure we did a lot of networking. I’m sure we did a lot of leaflets, but I think location help, and word of mouth helped. And delivering a service, which at that time, seemed so different and unique.
Payman: Were you active in the community somehow?
Rahul: I was too lazy for that. So to be honest with you, a lot of people go onto the networking rotary clubs in the morning, and-
Payman: Because it doesn’t suit a shy person either.
Rahul: … No it doesn’t, no. And also, is it the right target market? Am I getting the right people in the morning? So yeah, I did that a couple of times, and I thought, “This is not for me.”
Payman: How much of your business, in those early days, say the first 18 months, was word of mouth? Because that type of dentistry wasn’t mainstream as it is today, right? So did it have more of an impact? People were like, “Oh, where did you… I didn’t know that was possible,” it was almost like they didn’t know? It was only accessible to celebs and that sort of stuff? Or did word of mouth have less of an impact?
Rahul: I think word of mouth was quite important, especially it’s like the saying, “Birds of feather flock together,” so it’s actually targeting things like gyms, health clubs, beauty places, and actually networking with them.
Payman: I was doing veneers at that time, too, as a dentist. And to answer your question, the way I felt about it, no one had offered patients cosmetic improvements. And so if you had a 50 year old lady, who must’ve had a nice face 30, 20 years ago, and you could offer them improvement…
Prav: Was that like a sin, or a swear word, or a…
Payman: No, no, no, no. What I’m saying, no one had even offered it to them. So when you say, “Oh, I can make things look nicer,” a lot of people were saying, “Yes,” because no one had ever said it before.
Prav: Yeah. And that’s what I was saying, is that word of mouth, things like that, “Is this possible? I didn’t even know.” It was more positive, than negative, in my experience.
Rahul: So you’re right. So when you actually offered solutions, patients would be dismayed that there was even a possibility, that a cosmetic enhancement could be delivered and made for them.
Payman: There was no botox, there was no aligners, there was nothing.
Payman: Okay. So then, when did the course start? How many years after that did you guys decide, “Well, wait a minute, maybe we can teach this.”
Rahul: Well that started in 2005, so literally a couple of years later, after opening Hartford. So we’d been doing cosmetic dentistry between the three practises for a good five years. So we had a lot of experience, should I say, in doing it, and that’s all we did. And we grew a lot of knowledge in that field, and understood what to do, and what not to do, as well. And I think the teaching really helps the dentistry, because when you teach something, you have to learn it so well that you start delivering even better quality of care, because you’ve learned the intricate details. And the actual dentistry helps the teaching, because if you’re teaching, you want to take exceptional photographs. To take exceptional photographs, you’ve got to do exceptional work, so it pushes your dentistry to another level, so it actually helped each other.
Prav: Yeah. And then the courses themselves, was there a demand? Did you have people say, “Hey, let me come and shadow you for a day?” And then you thought, “Hold on a minute, there’s something here,” or did you think, “Well, Larry’s doing this in America, and no one’s doing this in the UK.”? So what was the thought process around getting the teaching going?
Rahul: So actually that was the thought process, that, “Larry’s doing it in the US, we can do it here. We can actually do it a little bit different, than what Larry’s doing.” I can’t say better, because he so much years experience to us, but what we had done was, Larry was very good in inspiring people, motivating people, but we created systems of what he was doing, so methodology. He would do it with experience, and show how to do it with experience. We were saying, “You actually have to hold a bird. This angle, you’ve got to do it this way. This is the methodology to do every single step,” so we were creating detail and steps in that, and that’s how we were different.
Prav: And I guess, for the UK market, as well, it’s like nuances, or differences, or what was it all [crosstalk 00:48:09]?
Rahul: So this was the key, I think the key thing was to create methodology and steps, because we needed that when we learned. When we learned, we weren’t actually given the steps exactly, we had to figure the steps out. So in figuring the steps out, we created a methodology, and that’s what we were teaching. The European, the UK aspect, of making more natural smiles, probably came a few years later, because initially you’re still in this era of whiter, more American looking smiles, than anything else. And then the market, and the patient’s drive, they want as well. And to create more natural, more bespoke, more personal smiles, was where we started really focusing on.
Payman: Well, and I think a lot of times, you learn from the difficulties in your life. Take us through some of the dark times. I mean, what were some dark highlights, lowlights, if that’s the right word, within this whole process? What were the difficulties?
Rahul: Okay. So when you’ve started doing cosmetic, you’re doing a lot more extensive dentistry, than you are probably used to at that time. So the first thing was that you start seeing patients with wear, and you start saying, “I can solve this,” but then the occlusion learning might not be there, and that’s where we really became really hot on learning, and understanding occlusion. Because without occlusion, things would fail, and we had a few failures, where veneers fail, and they are fractured, and the reasoning was occlusion.
Payman: Before you had the knowledge?
Rahul: Before you had the knowledge, yeah. So the key to any dentistry is actually occlusion, because that is what is going to keep it there. So aesthetics will drive the case, but actually it’s the occlusion which will create a longterm successful outcome for any scenario.
Prav: Have you ever had a nightmare situation, where you came to a point, and a realisation, that’s, “This is a disaster. What have I done?” but now my knowledge is at a level I would never do that, and what did you do about that situation, if it did happen?
Rahul: Yeah. So I think, very earlier on, there was a situation where we had a patient with an anterior open bite. And when you have an anterior open bite, and you think you can actually modify the occlusion, and level it, it’s actually the wrong thing to do. You actually need to keep the anterior open bite somewhat as it is. Otherwise, it’s just like creating all sorts of interferences that patient has never been used to, especially in their guidance forward, and laterally. So you don’t want to create more interferences, that was a big learning curve for me, when trying to help people with anterior open bites. Or even class 3… And so the class 3 anterior open bites, rare cases, were the biggest learning curves for me personally.
Payman: What about in your partnership, did you have moments where you diverged, you didn’t agree, you argued, anything like that?
Rahul: I think, it would probably, sometimes in the methodology, perhaps, I’m now trying to think of the details, but it’s so far away, it doesn’t come to my mind, so I’m just being very open. I can’t remember any specific examples.
Payman: So you ended up buying Ash out?
Rahul: I did.
Payman: And how many years after that did you sell the practise?
Rahul: I bought Ash out in 2010. And then my practise joined Dentex in 2017.
Payman: How did it feel… I mean, we’ll talk about Ash later, but how did if feel selling the place? Did you feel that sense of loss that people talk about? I know Dentex’s model is that you’re still kind of involved.
Rahul: So actually, the only reason why I joined Dentex was not to sell, so that’s an important thing. I did not join to sell, or to leave dentistry. I wasn’t thinking of exit, Dentex were offering me to actually grow the number of practises I had. So they were offering me a way of growing, of not just having one practise, but actually having multiple practises, which they have. And my role, I joined Dentex as what was called a regional partner.
Payman: You’re one of the earlier?
Rahul: I’m one of the earlier people, so I was working with 10 practises within Dentex, I think 9, or 10, practises, I can’t ever remember the number.
Payman: So you transitioned from what you had, to working with 10 practises? What period of time?
Rahul: Within a year. Within a year, or two.
Payman: Geez. And were you just honing on with your experience of what you’d done in your practises, and distributing that? Or did you come across new challenges that you hadn’t come across before?
Rahul: So the reason why I joined Dentex was to grow. And at that time, to still carry on with my clinical dentistry, and I want to be totally left alone in the way I did my dentistry. If I worked for any other practise, I’d be unemployable, because the way I practised was so unique to me, with the team that I practised, and the way I worked in my environment, I did not want anybody to tell me what me to do, and Dentex allowed me to do that.
Rahul: So when it then came to growing 10 practises, opposed to a single practise, because I’d been doing a fair bit of coaching with Bavnar, my wife, in growing other practises, I had that experience with her, so we joined, as a team, to Dentex. And we then were able to grow many practises with her, only because of the experience we had, had in growing other practises previously. And every practise is different, every practise that we’d grown previously had its own challenges. So we were literally just using that same knowledge that we’d gained, and putting into Dentex.
Payman: So just like muscle memory, really?
Payman: You’ve experience the challenges, and you say, “Well, we’ve come across this problem before, and that’s how we’ll fix it.”?
Rahul: Absolutely. And so-
Payman: And it went so well, then they put you in charge of 80 something practises?
Rahul: … Well, so Dentex now has 71 practises. And yeah, so I’m the clinical director, so my title is clinical development strategies director, so my growth of these 71 practises, clinically and in other ways, as well.
Payman: What does that mean, your day-to-day? Day in the life of typical what you’re doing now, compared to what you were doing back then? How different is it? Could you map out a week, very quickly, in terms of what type of conversations you’d be having with whom? Would you be visiting the practise? Would you be overseeing the dentist? Are you doing anything clinic, at the moment?
Rahul: First of all, I don’t do any clinical dentistry now. So one, it’s actually working with dentists, and seeing how I can develop them. So the quickest way to grow any practise is to develop the team. That’s the dental team, and the non-dental team. So I would influence the dentists, by creating a strategy, or a development plan, specific for them, with all the knowledge that I have, and experience I have, on how they could grow individually. How I would help guiding the business managers of Dentex on perhaps what strategies may be needed in the group of practises. I’d be looking at developmental courses, introducing different types of dentistry, to different practises. So it’s so varied, and it’s very much strategy level, a strategic level, and work really with the senior team members, as opposed to going into working with your team members, which is a totally different way of working.
Payman: What are all the… I’ve been to your office, and there’s loads of young people, usually, there working.
Payman: What are they all doing? How is it all broken down? Acquisition’s a giant part of it, right?
Rahul: Yeah. So Dentex actually prides itself, in a sense that it really wants to have a support centre for these practises. So we look at the practises that join, as being like the actual customer, that we want to make sure that they’re so happy. And Dentex provides support to them in all various fields, whether it’s HR, marketing, the clinical development that I do, in compliance, which is amazing, the business support, and the business development that they’ll need from the business development managers, financial support of helping them with all their finances, the payroll. So all the people that you saw, were all these different departments supporting these practises. That being, that these practises actually started growing, because all the stuff that they didn’t want to do is outsourced now, to Dentex, and they just focus on their clinical dentistry.
Payman: I was going to say, talking to the practises, or the principles that have been acquired, for now, it seems like it’s working, that they’re happy. And it’s rare. A lot of times when a corporate takes over your practise, people end up being unhappy.
Prav: Yeah, so true.
Payman: I think the challenge is, can Dentex keep that going with the growth? Because I speak to quite a lot of corporates, who have wonderful ideas, but as the thing grows, those ideas get diluted. And it’s great that they’ve done it so far, with these 70 whatever it is, that they’ve got. But it’s nice to see a happy corporate stories. That’s the thing, because of all those sad corporate stories out there. Can you just briefly summarise what the Dentex acquisition model is, and their values? Because I think, it’ll be good for us to all understand that, and to get an insight as to why these practises are so happy.
Rahul: So I think it all boils down that before, even when the first, or second, practise was acquired, minus probably the first few, it was about creating the right values, and the right culture. And the values were all about igniting passion, integrity, self improvement, creating positivity within the practise, creating ethical quality dentistry, and collaborating with the practises. It’s all about collaboration. So Dentex never actually wanted to inform the practises what to do, but actually collaborate-
Payman: To impose? They don’t impose?
Rahul: … Correct.
Payman: That’s one they say, they say, “They leave us alone.”
Rahul: That is the DNA. So an example, not of Dentex, but of Perfect Smile, where I rarely visit now, so I developed the Perfect Smile studios, the team, the way it works, and I go there once every week, once every two weeks, for half an hour, and it still runs exactly the way I left it. Why? Because the DNA, or the values of the culture, have been ingrained into the team. In the same way, Dentex has ingrained its values of collaborating with the actual incoming practises, and the culture, so much, that everything is built around that, and nothing should actually come in the way of the values and culture. And that was important part of Dentex’s growth, and is.
Payman: How’s the acquisition deal structured? So I own my own practise, I come to Dentex and say, “Hey, I’ve heard good things about you. I’m ready to cash in my chips,” how’s the deal typically… I know every deal’s probably different, right?
Payman: But how’s the deal typically structured? You buy 70%, I retain 30%, and then this whole partnership model just happens? How’s that all…
Rahul: Okay, so what happens is that we buy out the practise, but you get 20% is retained as shares, as Dentex shares. Now, so you get 80% up front. The 20% are given on you achieving the same targets that you were doing last year.
Payman: So not unrealistic goals.
Rahul: Exactly the same goals, no different. And it’s just turnover based, often. And you get back the value of the shares, what they will be worth, in five years time. Now, if the Dentex shares, which they will, grow significantly, you’ve got a second upside…
Rahul: Grow significantly. You’ve got a second upside, so you’d not just getting the 20% back in five years, you’re getting the upside back. So you could be getting back a significant amount, as almost like a second exit, in five years or so.
Prav: So it’s like I’d buy in at 20% today’s value and cash in at tomorrow’s value?
Rahul: Correct. Now that’s the biggest advantage in the way the acquisition process works [crosstalk 01:00:27].
Payman: Assuming tomorrow’s value is more than today’s value [crosstalk 01:00:29].
Rahul: And the values increase, the more practises you have. And actually how successfully Dentex maintains the profitability of the practises, which it’s doing exceedingly well in right now.
Payman: So there’s a Canadian corporate that this was all based on, right, that did extremely well?
Rahul: So there’s a Canadian corporate called dentalcorp, which has a lot of influence on some of the ideas, but also our CEO, Barry Lanesman, he’s extremely talented, extremely knowledge in how to build businesses working with partnerships. So he’s almost repeating his knowledge.
Payman: I’d like to say that an idea is nothing. Execution is far more important than the idea.
Rahul: So there’s a lot of experience that’s come in in developing Dentex from his side as well.
Payman: So who is he? Is he a money guy? Who is he?
Rahul: So Barry is a dentist-
Payman: Oh, he’s a dentist?
Rahul: …who studied dentistry. He went into doing an MBA, realised that actually doing dentistry was not his forte, but actually developing other businesses were. He went to helping out financing businesses in Australia. He developed [inaudible] , which he then sold out and came back and-
Payman: A dental company?
Rahul: It is financing dental practises. Yeah.
Prav: Okay. Let’s go back to Rahul, the family man. Tell me about when your kids were born, when they came into this. This whole story you’ve told us at what point they came into the mix and how life changed for you. Because I certainly know it’s… I always refer to it as different levels, different devils, and it’s just different challenges when either new businesses come on board or family dynamics shift. So just talk to me about that and how things changed.
Rahul: Yeah, so I think I always knew when my kids were born that I had almost like a limited shelf life on time with them until they were going to be teenagers where they would want my time and I would want their time. And then as soon as they became teenagers, they would want less of my time. So I wanted to be able to deliver as much time to them when they were young. So yep, we worked hard, but I wanted to ensure we had plenty of time allowed for holidays. I took Fridays off almost to try and do a lot of admin, so I could evolve and give my weekend to them.
Rahul: So it’s one of the reasons why I never sort of took up hobbies, such as golf, because I didn’t want to take up my time away from family time to be spending several hours on the golf course. And literally it was just doing as many things as possible with them whilst they were young. And as they grew up, found that we start developing more time than we’ve ever had.
Payman: And one’s going to Oxford?
Rahul: Correct. One’s almost completing Oxford. He’s in his final year.
Payman: The other’s going to Cambridge?
Rahul: The other one… Well, not quite yet. His in a gap year, so he got his interviews now, and he’s going to China to do teaching for several months.
Payman: You must be very proud of them.
Prav: Tell us about the BACD role. When did you start getting involved with that?
Rahul: So you know what? I was there the first meeting for the BACD. So I’ve always been a BACD member right from inception as I was… well, with my kids, developing the other practises, and the courses, I never had time to get involved as a committee member or a BACD board member until later on in my life. So I actually didn’t want to take up any sort of responsibilities with the BACD until then. So I started working, I joined the board I think in 2011 and I’ve been a board member since then. As you know, was the president last year. So now the immediate past president. And it’s been great working with the BACD because promoting, the word is ethical cosmetic dentistry, is at the forefront of what the BACD does, and getting the message out there to do things correctly, to look after the patient in the best way, to diagnose properly, to evaluate properly, to consent properly, to give all the sort of pros and cons of what you’re doing, is what BACD is all about. And giving that knowledge in the minutia to achieve that.
Payman: But the process of starting, what were you? The education secretary or whatever, and then going up that organisation to become the president. How much of your time is given to that? I mean how much-
Rahul: So the amount of time each board member gives to the BACD is absolutely amazing. As you know, it’s unpaid time. So there are at least seven, eight days of meetings that you just have to evolve. That does include endless emails and conversations that take place in the middle of the week. Then there are committee meetings that take place on a monthly or every few months. So it’s an immense amount of time that you’ve got to give part of the BACD board. But it’s also gratifying because you’re giving back to your profession with knowledge and experience and that’s pretty satisfying.
Payman: But would you say… What are the upsides then? I guess getting access to world famous speakers that you wouldn’t have otherwise had if you were just a member of the BACD or…?
Rahul: So joining the board actually is more about service than actually trying to get any benefits from it.
Payman: But what are the benefits? That’s what I want to know. I get the service level.
Rahul: So as a board member, benefits would be… You may get some access, but that’s not the… you don’t get that much access really. So if a speaker came to the BACD conference, you may speak to them for 10 minutes more than you would otherwise.
Rahul: It’s literally service focused. There is no-
Payman: Setting the agenda, I mean, does the dossiers, did it go in… For instance, when [TIFF] was president, the thing went very much down the [inaudible] route for instance. What would you say your influence on the BACD has been compared to someone else’s influence?
Rahul: Okay. So I think one of the things that we created for the BACD last year was actually create what’s called the values for the BACD, what the BACD stands for. So going back to the values of me in Dentex and in Perfect Smile, it’s important at the BACD because it’s all about the culture, making sure it’s the right cultural fit for our member wherever you are. Whether you’re at a practise level, corporate level, or at an academy level as well.
Rahul: We’ve changed the website. So that’s evolved massively. Education’s been a big forefront of trying to make sure that we are financially stable now. So the reason for the financial stability is that you can only get great speakers if you can afford to pay for them. And that means financial stability. So I think that’s been really good over the last few years because I was part of the financial director and then joining the executive committee. Our role was to make sure that we were really financially sound to drive the actual education, which is what really the academy is for.
Payman: So in your different hats that you’ve got, you’ve got this, this hat, the BACD kind of hat, you’ve got the Dentex hat, you’ve got the cooperative dentist actually with patients, you’ve got the running a business from scratch to sale, you’ve got the teaching element. Which of these is your favourite?
Rahul: The truth is when you’re actually doing… Each of those, I enjoy immensely. Otherwise, I won’t be doing it. So when I’m teaching and I’m actually influencing people, I love it and I know that people are taking things in and you are making a difference in their life. Same with the academy where I’m making a difference to the actual academy. When I’m with patients, knowing that I’m making an influence in their own life because of the way they feel about themselves in the way they look.
Payman: But do you miss clinical dentistry?
Rahul: Yeah. So I think if you’ve been doing for such a long time, you have such immense knowledge in that field, you’d always miss something about it.
Payman: The thing you miss the most, though?
Rahul: So I do miss actually-
Payman: The reveal.
Rahul: … I miss the reveal. I miss showing them what I could do, working as an artist, actually doing the actual dentistry itself. I miss that immensely. I don’t do much clinical teaching, so I do miss that as well. Whether the knowledge of-
Payman: I miss people in dentistry. You meet a lot of people.
Rahul: You do.
Payman: And do you get that now? I guess you’re meeting quite a lot of people with [crosstalk 00:09:12]?
Rahul: So I’m still meeting people. I’m meeting loads of people all around the country. So I don’t think that that’s changed too much. I just meet different people now as opposed to patients. I meet more dentists and team members and in the business world as well.
Payman: Are you on the road? Are you literally off away every week?
Rahul: So I will visit practises. I’ll visit practises that need my help and guidance and that’s really useful. So it keeps me that coaching mode and also educational mode. And ultimately when you go to visit a practise, it’s quite nice because you’re going back to your roots, in a way, of where you came from.
Payman: And with associates, what would you say is your bugbear? What are the things that if someone wants to be your associate, whether we’re talking practise or now Dentex, you’ve got this situation. What would you say is good advice for an associate if they want to excel, they want to do well?
Rahul: I think it’s all about trying to give, being committed, and always on this journey of self improvement and learning. Because, and whether you’re an associate or whether you’re a team member, if you can actually get people or people who want to do that, they will grow and they’ll be more fulfilled in what they’re doing and you’ll enjoy working with them. So I would definitely recommend that people who have that passion, the word passion again, for what they do. And also I tell associates, don’t try and diversify in so many areas of dentistry because you won’t become a master of any.
Rahul: Trying to figure out what you really enjoy, become passionate about that, learn more about that, get experience in that. And then you’ll actually start enjoying dentistry even more than you do. I’m not saying that they don’t, but they’ll start taking the enjoyment to another level.
Payman: Rahul, if you were to do this all over again, what would you tell your 21-year old self?
Rahul: You know that there are always things that you learn about what you should do and what you shouldn’t have done. Always in your life. But I think the way I think about life really is… and I tell this to my kids… I love playing cards. I love card games, and I love also winning my card games as well.
Payman: What’s your favourite card game?
Rahul: Actually, it’s an Indian game. So [inaudible] but the interpretation might not even come out, but it’s like Trumps. So whenever you had… You get a set of cards and you do the best with those cards that you’re given. So with life there will be things that I could have learned and done things different but these were the cards that I had, and that’s how I played them. So I wouldn’t want to take or change any of them because that’s led me to where I am right now.
Prav: Really nice way of putting it. Actually a lot of people go back and say, “I wouldn’t have made this decision, I wouldn’t have hired that person, wouldn’t have done that or taken this direction.” But it’s a really, really nice way of looking at it because you are the person you are today because of your cards.
Rahul: These are the cards that I was handed, I played them. And you played them to the best of your ability rather than being demotivated about, “I could’ve done X, I could’ve done Y.” You got to say, “Right, how do I play these cards now and do well with them?”
Prav: So apart from playing card games, what does Rahul do for fun?
Rahul: I love running, I like going to the gym, like football-
Prav: Time with the kids.
Rahul: Time with the kids, absolutely.
Payman: So you were close with Anoop?
Rahul: Yeah, absolutely.
Payman: And still are, I’m sure. How did it affect you looking at your own life? I mean okay, we all went through something depending on how close you were to Anoop. How did it affect you, thinking about your own life, what happened with Anoop?
Rahul: You know what? It was quite a difficult time when I found out about Anoop. And you always self-reflect about yourself, as you mentioned. He was a family man who enjoyed time with his family and it just reminded me of how important that was and is, and making sure I develop that.
Rahul: The second thing is, I think, a health scare to every one of us. Thinking you’re at this age and if something that can happen unexpected to Anoop, somebody you know, who is fit and healthy, who used to go to the gym and watch his diets. I’d known him for many years and he was trying to do the same thing I am as well, and he used to go to [inaudible] and try and keep healthy in as best way as possible. But also stress levels in terms of trying to make sure you regulate your stress and don’t overburden yourself with things that you have to do.
Payman: What about you, Prav?
Prav: For me it was really tough because he messaged me before he passed. And it was going through elements of disbelief, utter shock [crosstalk 01:14:06]-
Rahul: I was… Actually, the disbelief and the utter shock was something… First of all, you couldn’t fathom it and it would take a while and, sorry to interrupt, even right now we had the BACD conference, and this was the first conference that I had been to where I did not see Anoop. So BADC conference would be the time that I spent a lot of my time with Anoop, and he wasn’t there.
Prav: And he mentioned you a lot, Rahul, as being somebody who is very authentic, someone who is very genuine, and he thought incredibly highly of you. In my personal conversations, he always used to talk about you as being one of the guys who you get what you see, and is a genuine down to earth, honest guy. And he always used to say that about you.
Prav: For me, the shock, the disbelief. I even had conversations with him in my dreams because I thought he was still here. And today he still haunts me regularly by either popping up in my inbox when I do a search for something else or on a timeline and things like that. And the only thing he brings back is a huge smile to my face because every interaction with him was positive. It was funny, he made you laugh, you remembered how kind he was. And I think he’s definitely left us with a legacy of somebody who influenced far and wide, but also everyone just had positive things to say about him. I actually didn’t know how “famous” he was, because for me, he was very one-to-one advisory and he’d tell you straight.
Rahul: Absolutely. You know what? I’ve shared so many… We’ve been away a lot. We’ve been on sort of trips together and-
Payman: Brazil you went to together.
Rahul: We went to Brazil together, I shared a room with him, and you have these memories in your mind of having fun. And you’re right, he just brought a smile to your face. And to be honest with you, it was because of him I actually went and joined the board of the BACD. It was his persuasion, or consistent persuasion, for me to join, that I joined the BACD board. So I was a basic member, but I had no intention of joining the board if it wasn’t for Anoop.
Payman: So for me, two things. One, the family thing that you said because he really was so into his family and it made me think, you know, my family.
Payman: But the second thing that a number of people this guy touched, the people that came out saying, “Oh, he helped me with that. Oh, he helped me with that. Oh, he helped me with that.” And we talk about legacy-
Prav: True measure of a man.
Payman: Legacy isn’t only the institutions you leave behind or… Legacy is the memories you leave. Individual memories with all these people. And yeah, the people you touch and the positive effect you’ve had on them. And he was so positive.
Prav: He touched so many people, but if he could hear me saying this now, he’d make a perverted joke about it. Because that’s just the way he was and yeah, such a special guy. Really, really special guy.
Rahul: Absolutely miss him today, I really do.
Rahul: I really miss him so many times, so.
Payman: What would you, Rahul, think would be what you want your legacy to be?
Rahul: Actually, I’ve always thought of this, that… not thought of this, but I’ve always want to be thought to be authentic. Almost what Anoop said. I don’t want anybody to have a perception of me being anything different. And that’s all it is. So it’s being who I am and what I do. I’m not there to leave a massive fan club behind or trying to leave a legacy or anything like that. I just want to be the most authentic person I could probably be.
Prav: What three messages, let’s say it’s your last day on the planet. What three messages do you want to leave for your children?
Rahul: Enjoy life. It’s so precious and can be taken away. So for that reason, be healthy. So do everything to maintain your health, and grow in your mind and in every way you can. So yeah, those would be the three messages that I’d give.
Prav: Lovely, lovely. Rahul, thank you so much for your time today.
Payman: Thank you.
Rahul: My pleasure. It’s been great. Thank you so much.
Outro Voice: This is Dental Leaders. The podcast where you get to go one on one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts, Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.
Prav: Thanks for listening guys. If you got this far, you must have listened to the whole thing, and just a huge thank you, both from me and Pay, for actually sticking through and listening to what we had to say and what our guest has had to say. Because I’m assuming you got some value out of it.
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