Today’s guest says he doesn’t think of himself as being a leader. But a few minutes into the episode, and it’s clear we could all have something to learn from Vishsaal Shah.
In 2017, an unsettling discovery at Visaal’s practice turned his world upside down, leading to regulatory investigations, lawsuits and more than a lifetime’s-worth of stress.
In this episode, Visshal gives us the lowdown. He also fills us in on his early years in Kenya, and how an extraordinary approach to life, which put friends and family firmly front and centre, has helped him through the many highs and lows.
“If you constantly compete with others you become bitter, but if you compete with yourself you become better.” – Visshal Shah
In This Episode
01.22 – Early years
16.43 – Odd jobs
28.31 – Graduation
35.16 – Into practice
42.41 – Give and take
53.05 – A life-changing discovery
01.22.37 – Vissaal’s advice
About Vishaal Shah
Vishaal graduated from St Bartholomew’s and The Royal London School of Medicine in 2003 and went on to spend seven years as an associate.
In 2020, he purchased a practice in Hoddesdon, which he transferred into the popular Dentality brand.
Vishaal has lectured for the BACD and BDA and has gained a Postgraduate Certificate in Education from the University of Bedfordshire. He is now an honorary clinical lecturer for undergraduates at St Mary’s and is working towards a Masters in Implant Dentistry at Edge Hill University.
Visal: Well the mum actually said, come on kids we’ve got to go swimming. I don’t like swimming, I’m scared of the water, this and that. I turned round, why are you scared of water? I turned round to the mum I was like, look I used to swim, here’s my achievement scrap book and it had all my certificates for swimming in Kenya and stuff like that, and I showed it to her, she goes, you can swim? I said yeah, I said how do you think I got here?
Speaker 2: This is Dental Leaders. The podcast where you get to go one on one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts, Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.
Payman: It’s my great pleasure to have my good friend Vishal Shah on the show, thanks a lot for doing this Vish.
Visal: Ah it’s a pleasure, thank you for inviting me.
Payman: I don’t think you and Prav have met before, have you?
Prav: You’ve met my brother, right?
Visal: Yes, absolutely, great fan of him [crosstalk] good guy.
Payman: So Vish we met each other long time ago, when you were building Dentality, I think when you were putting the thing together. How long ago was that?
Visal: Well the new site was actually 2013, so that’s when we properly met.
Payman: All right, but we met once before that.
Visal: But we’d bet a few times before then yeah.
Payman: But let’s go from back … take us back to where were you born, what was your childhood like?
Visal: I was born in Kenya, a little town called Nakuru, it was a little village town sort of thing, grew up in a … to be honest I think was a very, very privileged environment, I went to the equivalent public school there, all my teachers were from England. But the thing was, there was … my dad’s got a joint business with his brothers, so there was nine kids to pay school fees and all the rest for, so it wasn’t a plush as you’d like it to be because obviously you were in one of the best schools in the country, even in the region, sort of thing. And we had students coming from all over Africa and everything, but paying for nine students at the same time is a big, big ask on the family business.
Payman: Did all nine of you go to the same school?
Visal: Yes we all went to the same schools, yeah. But my fondest memories, by dad he never missed a school day, he was the one who was up in the morning and we do the rounds of all the family houses, so me and my brother would get into the car first, go to my uncle’s pick up two cousins. Then go to my grandma’s and pick up three cousins, so it was lovely like that. I was very, very lucky, my dad and my mum as well. My mum would be at every single sports match, cheering me on the sideline, and stuff. And I played a lot of sport, that was my main thing. So from an opportunity point of view I can only thank my parents for where I am now, they’ve been every reason why I am where I am. Because I was a bit of a lazy so and so.
Payman: Were you?
Payman: You’re not lazy any more.
Visal: Well no I think I’m paying for me issues from before but generally it was all fine, I was a mediocre student, I was one of these kids who just always wanted a bit of acceptance, because I used to be the short, fat kid who used to get bullied at school.
Payman: Same as me.
Visal: You don’t look it [crosstalk 00:03:17]. You look amazing man. So there’s always this push to try and prove myself and all the rest of it, and I suppose that’s where a lot of the drive comes. But again none of it would have been possible if it wasn’t for my mum and dad, they did everything they possibly could to give me what I wanted, within reason. Nothing was every easy, I couldn’t just say yeah, can I have this or can I have that, and it’s done, absolutely not.
Payman: So when did you move to the UK, how old were you?
Visal: So I was 18, I moved in 1998, and literally just got a place at university, I actually missed my grades, I actually got, I missed a grade for my original place that was offered to me, and I actually ended up getting into dentistry through clearing. So at the time, it was Bart’s in London, they weren’t necessarily the best placed university in terms of the rankings and stuff. But I was just happy to have a place, and do what I wanted to do. And yeah, got the place, I think it was first part of August, and in September I moved to England.
Payman: As a foreign student. Paying those fees.
Visal: As a painfully paying those fees [crosstalk 00:04:26].
Payman: How much was it, do you remember?
Visal: Yeah, so the first year was 12 and a half thousand pounds, that was just for tuition, and then you had accommodation and living expenses on top. The second year was roughly about 15, 16 thousand pounds. And then after that it was 25 thousand a year, 20 thousand a year.
Prav: Just going back to growing up with nine cousins, brothers … what was that like in terms of family community spirit, all the rest of it? Because for me it was me and my brother mainly that were brought up, and I just wonder what it’s like growing up with nine cousins and having that where you’re just always thick as thieves together, lots of fun. A really good family community spirit, and are you still close to each other?
Visal: Yeah I mean, growing up it was awesome, we didn’t need friends as such. On my mum’s side of the family there’s 81 cousins. [crosstalk 00:05:24].
Payman: … massive.
Visal: So my mum’s one of 10 kids, and my dad’s one of eight, so times were fantastic. Wherever we’d go so it would always be a family affair, and one thing I really admired from about my dad was, he was one of the go getters, he’ll push the boundaries and he didn’t care what people thought or how he had to go about doing things, if he wanted to do something he’d go find a way to get the job done. So a lot of his push for me personally was didn’t want me to do what he does. I’ll come back to that later if we’ve got some time, but he always pushed me to do other things, and sport was a huge part of it, so we all used to … all of us cousins, we’d go to our grandmother’s house on Sunday or Saturday, or whatever it is. We’d all sleep over, so the girls would do the girls things, the boys would actually do whatever they’re doing. So a typical day would be, we’d play cricket during the morning, and then have lunch with the whole family, so literally 40, 50 of us sitting down together, plus family friends and stuff would just come in.
Visal: And then in the afternoon we’d play hide and seek and stuff like that. And then once we got a little bit older and stuff, it was great community, it was a great environment because we never, ever needed money. So if I wanted something, if I wanted to buy my school uniform for example, dad would just go, oh go to that uncle’s shop. And I’d just walk in, and everything’s done, and I walk out. And initially you think you just think okay fine, dad’s told you to do that, so go and do it, and then you come back home. But then when you get a little bit wiser, you think hey I can get a way with a bit of stuff. So I just used to go to the shop and like, yeah put it on my dad’s account. The uncle would be like, yeah no problems, he knows he’s making money out of it anyway. So round about the age of about 14, 15 it got a bit out of hand, especially going to the local club because again everything there was a chit system, so you just sign your name on it, dad’s membership number was there and everything else.
Visal: All the waiters knew us because they’d seen us grow up, so it was quite easy. And one memory that actually comes up, me and all my friends we were actually at the club, so our routine weekend would be, Saturday morning get up, we all get dropped round to the club by all the mums. Mums going to whatever they’re doing and dads would go to work. My dad however, he was nicknamed like the CID officer basically because he’d keep an eye on everyone, and he’d come to the club every day at lunchtime. So he’d come to swim, obviously, but the plan was that we’d be swimming, and then we’d have lunch together et cetera, et cetera. And the funniest story is one of my friends who actually moved back to Kenya, but he came here to study as well and he ordered 20 samosas between four of us. And that was just the starter, and when my dad walked in, he just like, what is this? [inaudible] you’ve got to sit right there-
Payman: Eat them all.
Visal: … and if you don’t finish them, I’m going to actually stick them up where the sun don’t shine. But it was really, really nice because it wasn’t a situation where these are my kids and those are your kids, or whatever it was. Everyone’s parents were all disciplinarian in their own right. My best friend for example, we got up to a little bit of naughtiness, when we’d just finished our O levels, our GSCEs, and we decide to go out and we wanted to go and have a couple of drinks and celebrate. And his car broke down and in the end we had to actually call his dad up to say, look the car’s broken down, what do we do? And he’s like, where are you? We’re actually in the next town, but we’d said we were going to play golf. So his dad dropped everyone off and obviously I lived closest to Ricky at the time, and got home and he turned round to my dad and he goes, listen, don’t give him a hiding, give my son a hiding because he’s the culprit.
Visal: So it was really nice in terms of community feel like that, and to a certain extent it kept us all in check, because you couldn’t do anything naughty anywhere without-
Payman: Without someone finding out.
Visal: … without someone finding out you know? I was 14 years old, we all went to the nightclub in the city, and we bribed our drivers and everything else. People were in the club, and I remember seeing one of my dad’s mates, and he was being a bit naughty himself, so I was just like, right uncle, you’re going to buy me a beer-
Payman: Got one on you.
Visal: … and none of this is going to go anywhere, because I’m going to put you into it as well. And I remember coming back the next day and we were all excited and I was just like, I don’t know how my dad, the CID officer, hasn’t found out. And he was sat in the living room, reading his paper, and I just walk in, hi dad. I was probably stinking of booze or something, or at least my clothes were, and just as I walked into the corridor to go into the part of the house where all the bedrooms are, he was like, so what was Carnivore like? Because Carnivore’s the name of the club. And I was just like, oh crap I’m in so much trouble you know. But he let me push my own boundaries to a certain extent, but education was a huge thing to him. My grandad passed away when my dad was 14, so he started working from that age, so he’s seen a very, very hard life, helping to look after the rest of the family and all the rest of it.
Payman: How did it feel when you then arrived in the UK without all of that massive support structure, by yourself? That must have been a big shock.
Visal: Do you know what, it was to a certain extent, but it wasn’t. Growing up in Kenya, anyone from England was the coolest thing ever. They got the nice trainers, they’ve got all these things, and we’re walking around and begging and pleading to dad, dad can we just buy one pair, we keep it as best as we possibly can. So I was really excited-
Payman: So you were ready to leave at that point?
Visal: I was ready to leave to a certain extent. I didn’t realise how ready I wasn’t until I got here. But one thing that always sticks in my mind, was as I said, my mum and dad were real hard core disciplinarians, and I vividly, vividly remember the night before I left, and my bedroom wall and my dad’s bedroom wall are the same wall, right? And normally it’s just like [inaudible] things, you just knock on the wall, that means get yourself into my bedroom, and he’d be like, give me the remote. I’m like, seriously? What the hell yeah? But on this day, his exact words were, you packed? Yep. You done? Yeah. You ready? Yep. Excited? Yeah. Sit down. And I was like, dad what did I do? And he goes just sit down, I said but dad I’ve been at home all day, I’m thinking I’ve done something wrong, not knowing [inaudible] something wrong. And I sat down, and I said, dad I didn’t do anything wrong. And he just said, quiet.
Visal: He goes two things. The first thing is, never ever go back on your word or break someone’s trust. And if that happens, doesn’t matter what the world thinks, doesn’t matter what you do to actually regain that, the fact is you broke it the first time. It’s never going to be the same again. And I was just like yeah, I understand, didn’t really. And the second thing he said to me, which actually makes me realise now, and it makes me realise every day what he actually meant, and how incredibly wise he is. And he said, you’re leaving tomorrow as my son, but when you come back I want to be known as your dad. And I was just like dismissive, I was like yeah can I go now? The typical teenager [inaudible] yeah all right dad, you’ve done your thing, now let me just go. But I got onto the plane, and that’s when it hit me. Because my dad is … as far as the town’s concerned, we’d been in that town since … well in Kenya since the 1800s, late 1800s, so we were one of the first Asian families to colonise that town, and everyone knows by dad. Literally the priest has a weird bowel movement and my dad gets a phone call.
Visal: If someone’s murdered, my dad’s the first one there on the scene, and the police are letting him through the crime scene and all the rest of it. And it just made me realise that, my dad is actually an absolute super hero, this guy is there for everyone and anyone. Middle of the night he gets a call, and he’s out. He negotiated … where we are, the town we are, between that town and the two main cities either side which is Eldoret and Nairobi, is part of the trans African highway, and there’s no intensive care unit. And in Kenya a huge amount of road traffic accidents, just huge amounts. And dad actually negotiated from a charity in Salt Lake City in America to donate us an intensive care unit. And just to see stuff like that and the impact that he’s ended up having on other people’s lives. The friends that we’ve made, I’ve got people I call God Parents in Canada, these guys were our neighbours and he just emptied half our house of all the furniture when they move in because their furniture was lost on a shipping container somewhere. I haven’t come across many people who do that.
Visal: He is truly selfless, and am I ever going to say that I can go back and be known as his son, I don’t know about that. He’s a true gem.
Payman: So then you weren’t with him, you were by yourself. Were you a good worker in college? Did you go crazy partying? [inaudible] new found freedom, or were you one of those swotty kids because you were paying, right? You knew how much it was worth.
Visal: No, not at all, I do remember that we had a little bit of trouble with the finances and stuff initially, because there wasn’t only me, it was myself and two other cousins who came over, so they were paying overseas fees as well. So one was doing engineering, and the other one did actuary, and then there was two in the pipeline the following year who were coming. So I actually remember asking my dad, I said dad can we actually afford this? And he goes, you go what you need to do, I’ll sort out the rest. But I knew that it was going to be a tough time, so despite that, I was not a swotty guy, I was always late for lectures. The tutors used to actually get one of the students to come in and actually wake me up in the halls and stuff. But a lot of it was to do with what unravelled throughout the university experience. But I partied hard, I had this new found freedom, okay I have a lot of family here. The majority of my mum’s side of the family live here, and a few of my dad’s family live here.
Visal: But one person that was actually instrumental was my dad’s eldest sister’s husband, and he was an amazing gentleman. He was going through his own stuff in his life, and whatever he did, always said do it four times. I remember my cousin was actually out in Dubai and he was buying a stereo system, and at that time there was these tape decks with the CD on top, do you remember those?
Payman: Yeah, I remember those.
Visal: And he phoned up and we were all standing in the kitchen and he goes … because my cousin, so his daughter was going to university as well. So there was his daughter and three of us, and my cousin phoned up and he goes, dad this is a really good one, but there’s a better quality one. And he goes, buy the best one, and buy four. My cousin’s flying in from Dubai, and I could hear him on the other side of the phone saying to his dad, are you mad? He goes, there’s four kids here, no matter what happens … and the way it all started out was, there was four piles on that kitchen floor every single week. And not many people get that man, so I’ve got a lot of love for a lot of people.
Payman: That’s lovely man. So then you told me the money dried up coming from Kenya.
Visal: Yeah so it was quite a difficult time, so this came towards the end of my first year, and it was difficult because the way things work in Kenya is very different to how it works over here. And in Kenya you’d be just like look, we’ll pay you next month, we’ll sort out it, we’ll clear it out, and we’ll barter here, and barter there sort of thing. The money just dried up. Now initially we didn’t know anything about it because what was happening is that my uncle started funding all of us, but when it comes to 20 grand a year-
Visal: … as well, well at that time it was coming up to the 16 grand. That became quite difficult, because it becomes an embarrassing situation, for everyone involved. If dad’s looking to borrow something and my uncle’s got his other kids and this that and the other. So it can create a little bit of discomfort as well. It never did, everyone pulled together.
Payman: In the third world, one of the characteristics of it is, you can make a lot of money. But another characteristic of it is that instability where you can suddenly lose. It’s one of the characteristics of living in the third world-
Visal: Absolutely, and this-
Payman: … both sides.
Visal: Yeah, when the banks collapsed and stuff, like BCCI and all of this. That really hammered us, we lost a lot of-
Payman: So you were left having to pay the school fees yourself?
Visal: Well I was actually left with no idea what was going on.
Prav: End of year one or …
Visal: Well, end of year one, start of year two, so the first instalment was due for year two, and it came to December in my second year, and I started getting letters from the university saying, you haven’t paid your fees, what’s going on? And I’d be phoning dad, and he’d be like yeah, we’re sorting it out, we’re sorting out. I was just like, dad these guys don’t wait yeah? And he was like, look just tell them, just explain to them that we’ve got a little bit of a situation and we’ll sort it out, don’t worry, we’re good for it. And I said, dad they don’t care who I am, there’s about 50,000 students here you know? But eventually it dawned on me that, holy crap this is serious. And didn’t know where to go. There’s no support for international students at all, nothing at all.
Visal: I did something about it later on, I started the ball rolling for overseas students afterwards, but it was scary. Because you just think, 16 and a half grand, plus whatever your accommodation is costing, plus your spending money and stuff.
Payman: So what did you do?
Visal: Found ways. So there’s loads of things. At the time when I moved here, and at the time of this crisis when it started, we weren’t allowed to work as overseas students, we just didn’t have right to work.
Prav: Permits, or whatever it is.
Visal: There was nothing.
Visal: And it only changed about two years later, so when I was coming into my fourth year that all students were allowed to work 16 hours a week, and you can supplement your income. Didn’t have any of that, I started doing all sorts of stuff. I remember going into the university and just thinking, what sort of job could be … this is not going to go to revenue is it?
Payman: 25 years later.
Visal: But it was just like, what sort of job can I get a bit of cash in hand for? And I remember seeing this advert, and I’ll never forget it, it was on a yellow piece of paper, and it was a lady who was actually looking for someone to tutor her son, teach him how to read and write and all the rest of it. So I phoned her up and I said, look this is me, I’m at the university, I’m studying dentistry. She’s like, oh cool let’s meet up, and stuff, so I met up with her. And didn’t know what to expect. Had I done tutoring before? No, could I get cash in hand? Well do what you have to mate, just get on with it. And I went to meet her and we got on really, really well. So she goes, okay, fine how much would you like? And I said, I charge £8 an hour, and that’s what I do. So she said, okay fine. Every Sunday come in here for an hour. So I said, brilliant.
Visal: And then slowly, slowly what happened is, she started introducing me to all her friends, and all the rest of it. So I had, and she was ferrying me around to everyone’s houses, so I had about five hours during the morning where I was tutoring the kids. Well probably about six, six and a half hours if you include travel time and everything. And then one day one of the kids turned round and said, well the mum actually said, come on kids we’ve got to go swimming. I don’t like swimming, I’m scared of the water, and this, that. I turned round, why are you scared of water? And I turned round to the mum, I was like, look I used to swim, here’s my achievement scrap book, and I had all my certificates for swimming in Kenya and stuff like that. And [inaudible] she goes, you can swim? And I said yeah, I said how do you think I got here? No I’m joking. And yeah so I said I’ll take all the kids swimming. So we’d actually get dropped off at York Hall in Bethel Green, and I’d take nine … Health and Safety would have gone absolutely crazy to know me.
Visal: But I had nine kids in the swimming pool at any one time, and that too was £8 an hour each, and we only swam for an hour. So that was good-
Payman: Good earner that one.
Visal: It was a really, really good earner. And then slowly, slowly things started changing. Oh there was another place actually-
Payman: So you earned all the money to pay your tuition fees and … no.
Visal: No it wasn’t enough.
Payman: Your dad came through?
Visal: So dad borrowed and people who we thought would help, didn’t. It’s often the case, you do find that, that you have expectations of people and you get let down. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, or it’s a common thing, or people will always disappoint you, but people have their own issues going on too, and it happens, it’s life. But there’s some people who came across, who I never ever in my life imagined. Some people I’d not met. My mum’s sister in law, so her brother’s wife, sorry her sister, she just came in and just yeah, here’s 10 grand. And I was like … the guys I call my god parents in Canada, they sent me money. And I was just like, how is this working? And all along dad’s just trying to … he’s obviously trying because he’s got to pay for all three of us as well. Uncles were trying to help and stuff, but dad generally had more sort of connections, in Kenya and stuff. And somehow it came through, we paid off that first … sorry second year, and just as you thought right breathe. Boom, another letter from the university.
Visal: Because you were late, we want the payment up front.
Payman: Oh dear.
Visal: And I just thought to myself, how am I going to do this? I can’t ask dad … I know what he’s done, and I know how much he’s had to go through to just get this year paid off, what do I do next? So I thought okay fine, well work more. So there’s this place I went to in Farringdon once, it was after a night out, it’s a little place called Tinseltown, a lot of people know it.
Visal: But at that time they actually were nothing, like literally it was a basement little café where they used to give the cab drivers teas and coffees and stuff, and they used to get it for free so long as they brought customers with them. And the waitresses were quite hot, so I was like, I want a job here. And I just went in there, I was like, look guys have you got any cash in hand in jobs? And he’s just like, what?
Payman: Did you say it just like that?
Visal: Yeah, I just said look, come on have you got any jobs going? And they go-
Visal: … no. And I was like, come on man, I’m sure you do. You’re open at four in the morning, I’m sure there’s plenty of people coming in pissed, I’m sure you can sort me out. I said, anything, I’ll take anything. And he goes, look you’re not going the like but if you want it you can have it. And I said what? And he goes look, exactly what you said, people like you students come in here pissed, and then they create a mess sometimes, so if you want to clean it up, you’re more than welcome to. I said, done, when do I start? He goes when do you want to start? I’ll start now, I don’t mind. And me and the owner, who was an elderly lady, she was lovely, she was like, everyone used to call her mum, so I just jumped on the bandwagon and started calling her mum too.
Visal: But we started establishing quite a relationship and the youngest guy, there’s two sons, Sahil and Shiraz. Sahil was quite militant, he was quite strict about everything, so we’d all stay away from him. But Shiraz was the young guy, he’s got all these ideas. He just set up a business to recruit actors and actresses over the internet, and he goes yeah, I can phone Steven Spielberg and this that and the other, and I was like, really? But we’d sit there at five, six in the morning when it’s all quiet, and we just talk about our dreams, what we want to achieve and stuff. And believe it or not, Shiraz is actually in Hollywood doing what he dreamt about. It’s beautiful, and Tinseltown became something huge, and I was like, Shiraz why don’t we do this, I’ll get … why don’t you guys get some leaflets printed out, Farringdon Station, the market’s open early, all the city workers are coming in. I’ll hand out flyers from four til eight in the morning, and I’ll go to Uni from there.
Visal: He goes that’s a bloody good idea, okay fine. So I used to hand out flyers as well. I never threw any away, never ever threw any away, because it’s about trust. And it was an idea I gave him which was my responsibility so effectively I had to show him some sort of return on interest, on investment and stuff. But it’s great, many, many years later I went back with a few of my friends, just nostalgia sort of thing, and this guys, Sahil, the elder brother, the really militant one just stopped me and he goes, hi. And that was it. I was like, what did I do to this guy. And I think the last time I’d actually turned up to this place I was pissed, so it wasn’t nice. And he then just pulls up a chair out of nowhere, turns round to all my mates and just pointed at me and he goes, you all know what this guy’s been through to get to where he is. We love him. And just walked off. What’s wrong with this guy? First of all he just completely blanks me. But there’s a lot of instrumental people, there’s a lot of instrumental people.
Visal: I ended up actually curving my way through negotiating a professional studies loan as well, I wasn’t allowed it, but when I went to the bank, I still remember the name of the bank manager, his name’s Adrian Tourer, and I walked into the bank and I said, Adrian I want a professional studies loan. 25 grand’s a lot of money, I thought, that’ll sort me out for the next year at least. And I walked in, and I just looked at the form, and he goes yeah go and fill out this form, and I’ll fill it out for you. And it came out, taking out details and it says nationality, and it thought Adrian, what’s wrong with your tooth? And I kid you not, this is a true story, right? I said what’s wrong with your tooth? And he goes, I know. I said, it looks horrible, and you’re a manager. I said listen, let’s fill this form out in the dental institute while I do your tooth. I’ll just fill it all out.
Visal: So I took him across to the emergency clinic, sorted his tooth out, and he skipped that. Because I was quite well spoken, having had an education in a British school effectively. He just assumed that I was English. Ticked that, and I got a professional studies loan.
Visal: So a lot of wheeling and dealing-
Payman: So I’m thinking back at my college days, where it was free, and then-
Prav: We got a grant.
Payman: … well I got money from my dad, and much more money than everyone else around me anyway, and how carefree I was regarding that whole side, and then to listen to you every year, struggling. And I’m sure it made you, shaped you as well, right? Because they say adversity shapes you, but it’s admirable-
Visal: Do you know what? The thing is, if you’ve got to get somewhere you’ve got to, by hook or by crook you’ve got to get there, you’ve got to do whatever you’ve got to do. And if you sit there, I think, feeling sorry for yourself, everyone will feel bad for you, but everyone’s moving one. And it’s up to you what you want to do.
Payman: So then when you finally qualified, that must have felt like an amazing moment.
Visal: The day I actually qualified I actually … I remember sitting in my room and I’d done all right in all the exams, and my biggest nemesis was oral medicine, I was so weak at it. And I just thought, man if that one hasn’t gone right I just hope the ortho side of it, because it was ortho, peds, oral med together, I thought hopefully I’ve aced the ortho and the paediatrics and that’ll cover up what I’ve done, what I’ve messed up on in oral med. And I just stayed in my room, I was too scared. Because it was like, having been through all this, and at any one time at university, because I didn’t know where my next money was coming from, I had no idea, I had five jobs at the same time as full time university.
Payman: And call me a conspiracy theorist yeah, but they like to fail foreign students so that they another year.
Visal: No, not really actually. Not really because of course they like foreign students, but I think at the time when I actually joined, there wasn’t that much of an emphasis, they actually upped I think their intake of foreign students because they saw the money coming in. But for me I wasn’t turning up to college, I got myself into a lot of trouble, I almost didn’t get signed up because I got into a fight at the halls of residence just before the exams and stuff. And so I was in front of the disciplinary committee, and all sorts of stuff that happened. I missed a meeting with the academic registrar for Queen Mary’s. And obviously Queen Mary’s have come just put their stamp on Bart’s in London, I was just like, I don’t care who you are, being quite laddish as far as the university’s concerned, and I went into his office. I said look I’m really sorry, this is the situation, he goes sit down. What happened? So I told him what happened, my version obviously, and he just pulled out this massive thick pile of paper, saying well according to this report, that’s not true.
Visal: So I said you think I’m lying then? He goes, yeah. I said you’ve already made your decision before I’ve walked into your office, tell you what we’re done with this conversation, and I walked out. And as I walked out, and I didn’t know what the academic registrar is, as far as I was concerned the guys at the dental school were my teachers, tutors, heads, whatever bosses, whatever you want to call them. And I slammed his door, his door was made of glass. Smashed.
Payman: Oh bloody hell.
Prav: Oh dear.
Visal: I just kept walking, I just kept walking. And then I went back to the university, I saw one of the tutors who I was quite close to, and was, you never do anything half way do you? When you mess things, you really screw it up. And I was like, yeah I’m sorry. And he goes, look you’ve got to go and tell the secretary of the dental school, everyone was scared of her. Everyone was scared, and I was like, I ain’t telling her, you’re telling her. He was like, I ain’t going anywhere near that, and we had a little [inaudible] on the clinic, and he goes okay let me go and speak to her first, and then we’ll take it from there. But I think they saw what I was going through, the amount of hell that was there, but eventually I wrote 400 letters, I wrote to David Beckham, I wrote to Mike Tyson, I wrote to anyone who had money.
Visal: Even students who were within the university and I just said look man, you seem to be pretty well off, would you mind helping me out? I didn’t care about being embarrassed.
Payman: Do or die.
Visal: This is do or die you know. I’d saved up £500, which is the cost of the ticket back home, and I’d given it to one of my friends, and I said, keep this. He goes, what’s this for? And I said I don’t know when I’m going home, I have no idea, but it could be tomorrow, I don’t know what the university’s going to say. I said I don’t want to phone home and ask my dad for that money, I just can’t be doing that. So it was stress, but do you know what, I had a bloody good time too. I had a really good time.
Payman: So then you qualified, where did you work?
Visal: So I qualified and again, most people were doing their vocational training, which was at the time, I had to pay 25 grand to do it.
Payman: No way.
Visal: So I’ve just come out of university, I’ve paid up all these fees.
Payman: And not earned anything.
Payman: Blood hell, I didn’t know that.
Visal: Yeah, and I just thought to myself, there’s no way. Now basically what happened, through a person at university, a university contact I found out that this guy [inaudible] in fairly well to do circles, and I talked to him and he goes, tell you what I’ll go and speak to my dad. And he spoke to his dad, his dad spoke to his friends, and turns out that one of his friends was married to someone from the same town as me in Kenya. And he decided to help out and pay my fees. So what happened was, when I actually qualified, the idea was not to actually to go into vocational training, it was to actually go in and join on as an assistant under his number, and then I get grandfather to cross in due course. I only found out that you actually need that VT number when you’re actually registering as a performer, but they grandfathered my across on everything, so when I bought my practise, this is actually when I did my VT equivalences, seven years after qualifying. So I was doing VT equivalence then.
Payman: How funny.
Visal: But yeah, so qualified 110 grand in debt, no place to stay, didn’t know where I was going, and ended up in a practise in Clacton on Sea as an assistant.
Payman: Assistant being, [inaudible 00:33:45]? [crosstalk 00:33:45]-
Visal: You were an associate effectively,
Prav: You didn’t have a-
Payman: Because you don’t have that number.
Visal: Yeah, but my bank accounts were frozen, I was already threatened by HMRC to have a deportation, I’d no work permit, so for six months I couldn’t work, and you had to advertise the job in the papers for there months beforehand, make sure there was no one in the UK who could actually apply for it. So I’m sitting there man, and I’m going to and from Clacton to London working as a medical-
Payman: Did you consider going back to Kenya to be dentist there?
Visal: I’d fought too hard to be here. And it just never … it was just not an option. Sometimes I do think, why didn’t I just do that? Because there’s a lot of dentists that do very, very well out there. Funnily enough my own dentist, he’s done exceptionally well, but-
Payman: You were a man on a mission.
Visal: But yeah, that was it, you had to get there, and I became quite tunnel visioned about it, because I hate the idea of someone saying you can’t do that. Because [inaudible] question in my mind innately that comes up is who are you to tell me that? You haven’t even see me try yet.
Payman: Do you think that’s some sort of reaction to the bullying and all that?
Visal: Absolutely, I think every single experience in life shapes us to a certain extent, I think recognising it is important, you’ve got to recognise where you’ve come from, what you’ve been through, why you are like you are. None of us are perfect-
Payman: Self awareness.
Payman: So fast forward to when you bought a practise.
Visal: Yeah so the guy I was working for in Clacton, he decided to sell up, the new guys came on board, they were very business orientated. I was the lead associate so … and I could do anything that I wanted, why? I was doing 17,000 UDAs a year, so that’s just on my own. The average I think is about 6,500 if that, per person.
Payman: Wow, bloody hell.
Visal: So when I actually left, they had to actually replace me with three dentists.
Payman: Were you working ridiculous hours?
Visal: No, basically every single appointment I had was effectively 10 minutes, and then you catch up on the time and make it up somehow. So my days were between 50 and 70 patients a day.
Payman: Bloody hell.
Visal: Every day. And then at the weekends, I’d actually all the nursing homes in Tendring, in the whole of Tendring District Council, I did every single nursing home, 32 of them. Dentures, extractions-
Visal: Yeah, from one to the next to the next to the next, yeah.
Payman: So then you saved some money by this time so you went to buy a practise?
Visal: Yeah so mum and dad came home obviously for graduation and stuff, and that was really, really nice. That’s when I actually … again it was that second hit of, and wave of the love I’ve got for the university now, because I walked in and remember the Dean of the dental school, in the last six months he said, right Vish, we’re going to give you £150 a month. I looked at him and I said, what? And he goes, well you’re going to tell me what you’re going to use it for. I said oh, I’ve got this to pay for, that to pay for, that to pay for. He goes give me the cheque back. He goes I want to see you in the Student Union every Friday having a couple of drinks at least. That’s what you start off with, whatever’s left you can do what you want with it. And that was lovely. My graduation, I didn’t have the money to pay for it, so the guy who was running the whole graduation thing, he said, we just forgot to charge you. I went in the day after, to actually say to the guys at the accommodation office, that look guys I haven’t got the money, but here’s a self-filled affidavit, I’ll pay it as soon as I’ve got the money.
Visal: No, it’s been comped. And I just thought wow. Mum and dad were here, my friends gave me their credit cards, just spend whatever you want, man, it’s fine, we’re all doing this together, you know. So it was fantastic, it was absolutely brilliant, but when mum and dad came, I took them over to Clacton and said look this is where I’m going to be staying, and funnily enough I was staying with the boss, and I stayed with him for three years, and I just saved. Saved and saved and saved. So within four years I actually paid off the 110 grand, and I bought two houses.
Payman: Paid off all the cousins, and people who-
Visal: I had a ledger, actually and I paid off every … in fact funnily enough one guy, he gave me £80 and I phoned him six years later. I just happened to remember his number of the top of my head, and I phoned him, I said hey buddy how’s it going? He goes, Vish? I goes yeah. He goes how the hell are you man? I say yeah I’m just glad you’ve got the same number, and we had a bit of a catch up and he goes, what’s going on? And I said listen I’ve called you for reason, he goes what? And I said I borrowed £80 of you in 2000, and this is like 2008 or something like that, and I paid him £80 back. So I don’t forget, if someone helps me out, if someone does something for … it doesn’t matter how big or small, that’s not what I’m about, it’s more about the gesture, the thought, and being human.
Prav: I guess the message is from your dad right? That last day?
Payman: Yeah, that’s what I was just thinking, that right now.
Visal: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely.
Payman: So then the Dentality that I saw being built, this state of the art private looking thing, was when you’d moved site.
Visal: Yeah that’s right, so I-
Payman: The previous one wasn’t called Dentality-
Visal: No so it was called Hogs Hall Dental Practise.
Payman: Nearby it, wasn’t it?
Visal: Yeah it was just around the corner sort of thing, it was the usual dental practise setting, estate agent downstairs on one side, funeral directors on the other. Hairdressers behind them, and through a dark deep corridor you go up to the dental practise which just stinks and looks horrible. So I left my associate job because I didn’t like the way things were run. And it was no fault of the guys who took over, they were there to make money, which is fair enough. Some people do it for business, some people do it for the love of dentistry. And I just thought, I’m going to be horrible here, and I’m going to fall out with these guys big time, so before that happens, just go. Because they’d paid their good will, and at the end of the day they don’t need crap off any associate. So I just thought, off I go. And the only practise that I could afford was this one that I bought. I always wanted to be in Hertfordshire. Why, because I’ve got family in East London, Surrey and mum’s family’s all in West London. So I thought nice half way house, I could go and keep in touch with everyone.
Visal: So moved there, when I bought up, and the change in name was very, very personal to me. Because I’ve been through a lot, through university and all the rest of it, spoken to a lot of people who are just … they’re just disgruntled, they’re just unhappy with dentistry, and I think generally that’s the way the feeling is. Dentists are not generally a happy profession. And I just thought, do you know what, I want to change the way people think. And not only patients but your team, and your peers and your colleagues and other dentists, because everyone has something that goes not according to plan at some point in their lives. I said, I just want to change the way they think. And the word mentality came up in my mind-
Visal: … so I actually just took the M off and put a D on it, and that was it, and that’s how Dentality-
Payman: So when I saw it, it was a triple shop front.
Visal: I remember that conversation.
Payman: Like the biggest shop I’d ever seen, on the high street, and like super modern, and there were people drilling away, people working, and I said to him, wow look at this man, I said you’ve really gone out of your … you’ve gone for it, man. And he goes, have I? I say yeah, yeah, you’ve definitely gone for it. And he goes, ah you know I just thinking I should build it and they’ll come.
Visal: I remember exactly what your words were, actually.
Payman: What were they?
Visal: So Payman actually said to me, he goes, I don’t mean to be … I care, I’m here to help you. I remember you had your six series BMW that you drove into and parked half of the back. And you said, Vish with all due respect, you’ve got a corner shop, you could have just bought a freaking Tesco Extra. What are you doing? And I said, yeah I know it’s big, but there’s a reason for this. And he goes, yeah you but you know that Tesco Extra needs to be stocked, you can’t have an empty Tesco Extra, with newsagents five foot by five foot, right and you just put everything in one place within arm’s reach right? He goes you can’t just have a dedicated corner and this open shop floor for the rest of it.
Payman: But to your credit, how long did it take before you filled it up? It was full, properly fully running within two years or something?
Visal: Yeah so it just, you know what the practise went from strength to strength, and it was all to do with just being open and honest and trustworthy, you know?
Payman: In a small town, good news travels fast.
Visal: So does bad.
Payman: We’ll come to that. Vish tell the story of the receptionist who came for a job, one of my favourite stories, even though I’ve heard it before, I want Prav to hear it.
Visal: So I had a girl came I for interview, and I spoke to her for a little while, and I was just like, realised actually she’s a very, very bright young lady.
Prav: She was interviewing for reception role?
Visal: Yeah, she was interviewing for a reception job, and I said, so what made you drop out of school and decide that you want to start working? And she said, I just wanted to go to university but I’m not sure about it, et cetera, et cetera. And said, well what are you interested in? She said to me, I’m interested in forensic medicine. I said, that’s amazing. Anyway we carried on talking and all the rest of it, and at the end of it I actually said to her, I’m going to be completely open and honest with you, and she goes, what’s that? And I said look, I’m not going to give you the job. And she was like, what? And I said, please hear me out. And I said to her, I said if I gave you the job, which I know that you’re more than perfectly capable to do, every time I say hello to you, or every time I walk past you I’ll feel guilty. She goes why? I said, because you’re better than this, and I don’t denigrate a reception job or anything like that.
Visal: My receptionists are like my … the front of house, they represent me and my brand and my vision, but I said you can’t quit now. You’ve got to go to university. And she goes, what? And I said yeah, I said who have you come with? Who’s brought you for your interview? She goes my mom, so I brought her mum into the surgery, sat her down in my office. First thing I did was I congratulated her, she’s a single mum, she’d done so well to bring up such a lovely, well mannered girl. And just said to mum, look support her and if there’s anything I can do. We’re in the community here at the end of the day, and I said anything I can do. Whatever it is, if she wants to sit down and revise biology, I’ll do that with her, it’s not a problem, but make sure she studies. And about a year later I got an email, and she goes, I don’t know if you remember me, I’m the girl who ended up crying at the interview. I’ve got into forensic medicine. And that was cool, that was really nice.
Prav: Amazing story.
Payman: And did you see yourself in her? That you had these opportunities, and you had people who could have helped you on that journey along the way, and thought this was your time to-
Prav: Give back.
Payman: … give back.
Visal: I don’t ever think honestly speaking, this is without sounding too righteous, I never think about giving back or taking, just give. It doesn’t matter. Time, a lot of people say, I’ve not got enough time, sometimes that is the most important thing that you can give someone. And it always leads back to my dad, I used to go to the shops, all my cousins used to go to the shop, the boy cousins, go and see how your dad earns money. See what he has to go through, to put you through school, this that and the other. And I turn up to the shop, and my dad would send me home. I walked three miles, by the way to get to the shop, and dad would say, off you go. Can the driver drop me? No, he’s busy, so I’d have to walk back. And one day I got really peed off, and my dad said to me, I said to dad, what’s your problem? I’m trying to come in and help you. And he said, you’re not going to do what I’m doing. You’re going to be better than me, not going to happen but … and those sorts of values.
Visal: He believed in me, yeah I am his son, but everyone needs a little bit of a push. A lot of people helped me, one guy helped me with food, I didn’t have money for food, and his son is now a dentist and works in the practise. We’re great friends, his mum came over to the practise. I’ll never forget them, and it doesn’t matter what you do, if someone was there for me. That lady the Jamaican, well she’s from Guyana, she comes to the practise even now. I don’t know if you guys watched the [inaudible] livestream yesterday with the magic trick. Okay, that lady is the one who gave me my first ever job, was in the dental chair. She doesn’t pay. And money is not my driver, it’s not my driver.
Payman: It’s funny you said something that my dad said to me, and it got me a little bit emotional.
Visal: I noticed, sorry.
Payman: Which is, he said to me, son the reason I work so hard, is I don’t want you to do what I do, I don’t want you to suffer, I don’t want you to be a shop keeper, I want you to be better than me.
Visal: You know these sorts of things are things that I think in nowadays, in this world, because of the sacrifices that our parents have made, we generally take for granted, and my friends have got kids, it’s just the norm. [inaudible] get an iPad for Christmas, it’s like … or the right colour of iPhone or whatever it is, and my dad is just, he’s the king man, now Payman you’ve met him.
Payman: He’s a lovely guy, I don’t actually recognise this disciplinarian that you’re talking about, because he seemed like a very sweet, lovely guy to me.
Visal: Yeah, we’ve become really, really good friends and-
Payman: Is he back in Kenya?
Visal: Yeah he’s in Kenya at the moment, yeah, he’s in Kenya. But you know as the years go by, he turned from the disciplinarian to my friend and he used to always introduce me as his brother and all the rest of it. And then it turned round to I’m the guy now that he talks to and stuff. You’re talking the surgery and [inaudible 00:48:10], my dad never had the opportunity to see the old surgery, the only time he came to see the old surgery was when I was opening the new surgery. And they were always nervous, when I bought my first house, I phoned my mum, and mum, guess what. She goes what? I said, is there an echo there? She goes what? Is there an echo? She goes, I can’t hear anything. I was like oh sorry it’s on my side, guess where I am. She goes, where are you son? I was like, I’m standing in the living room of our first house in England. And she was just like over the moon, you know how Indian mums get, oh my son, all that sort of stuff you know?
Visal: And then a week a later, I completed on another house. What I’d done is, I was saving up and I wanted to buy a really nice big house so that all the family could come over, because people mean a lot more to me than anything else, you know. And I thought, split the deposit and just have something there. And the following week, called her up again, and I was like mum, [inaudible] literally, because it was literally a week apart. And I phoned mum again, and I said, mum hi, how you doing? What you up to? And she goes nothing. I said mum, what’s this echo thing, man keeps happening? And she goes, I don’t know, what you talking about? Ah I know what it is mum, guess what? And she goes what? I’m standing in the living room of the second house. And she’s like, did you ask your dad? First thing she said, did you ask you dad? And then a week later I phoned her up again, and I was like hi mom how you doing? And she goes yeah I’ma all right. And I was like mum can you hear echo? And she goes, don’t bloody tell me [crosstalk 00:49:42]. I said no, no mum, you’ve got to hear this one out.
Visal: I’m standing inside my safe deposit box at the bank, there’s an echo here now. There’s no more money left. But it’s all about being together, and it’s the same thing, it’s about, if you have the opportunity to get or help someone along their way to better themselves, not to say they’re bad as a person, but to better themselves in terms of career prospects et cetera, then it means a lot man. When I qualified in my first year, obviously the money situation was really, really dire. My brother actually ended up going to South Africa to study at university, and one of my friends in the year above at university gave me the money for his fees. And he came in, funny enough, end of last year, November, and I do a lot of [inaudible 00:50:30], he goes I just want to learn all this stuff, and I don’t know which one to invest in and all the rest of it. So I said, look come over and stuff, and I told him literally everything, including stuff that people don’t say, like literally you know.
Visal: And he sent me a text that evening saying, Vish, why did you do this because people don’t … and I didn’t only tell him about that, I told him about how exactly I run the business and how I make things turn and all the rest of it. Because no one shares that information, why did you share it with me? And out came the ledger. And from 2003, I took a photo, a screen shot of him, and I said, that’s why. And it said his name with the money that he gave me, and I said, you helped me pay my brother’s fees. I’ll never forget that.
Payman: And so during this whole process, relationships? Women?
Visal: Yeah, came and went. I had a great time at university, I did some really stupid stuff. We all do our laddish things and all the rest of it, and I moved into Clacton, the only brown guy in the town, sort of thing, which was quite a novelty to everyone. But the nice thing was, the majority of the people, because by the time I left Clacton, because I started List Build, because I was sitting on reception during the week, and on Wednesdays I book in patients for myself. And that built up over seven years to over 10,000 patients, everyone knew me. To the point I walked into a nightclub and I just hand the keys to the bouncer, and he drops me home. I order a pizza but I get the pizza delivery guy to come drop me home, pick up chilies and then go back to the pizza place-
Payman: Those little towns are good for that, you had little town mentality from Kenya. Those little towns are good for that sort of thing, man.
Visal: Do you know what, I just recently went back to Clacton, my ex boss passed away in 2018, so I thought, I’ll go back. We didn’t finish on the best of terms but he started me, and that doesn’t matter what happens, that won’t change. And I owe him and I always will. And I went back to Clacton to do [inaudible] cases and stuff, and I thought let me just go and see a few guys and see if they’re around. The guy from the local kebab shop put on a spread that I’ve never ever seen in my life, walked into the local restaurant that I used to go to, the chef came out. This restaurants packed with people, it’s on a Friday night, right? The chef came out, the owners came, we’re all dancing around in the middle of this place where people are waiting to be seated and stuff. Walked into a pub with the guy I used to play golf with, and he’s just like, bloody hell man, the legend returns. And it’s just lovely having stuff like that it’s-
Payman: Proper community.
Visal: Yeah, and you know what, sometimes you’re so embroiled in your own stuff that you don’t actually understand or realise what impact, positive and negative that you can have on people. And the past two years I’ve had to look at that very, very closely.
Payman: Take us through it bud, so Dentality was going super, super well.
Visal: Yeah, it was yeah.
Payman: Tell the story bud, a disaster happened to you.
Visal: So in November, 6th November 2018, everything changed, well actually before that, December 17 I and my wife ended up separating. We’d had quite a rocky relationship throughout, these things happen.
Prav: When did you meet you wife in the whole journey?
Visal: So I actually met her in 2008.
Prav: Which was when in terms of qualifying, buying a practise, what sort of-
Visal: So I qualified in 2003, met her in 2008, bought the practise in 2010. We got married in 2009, so very shortly after all the practise and stuff. So that comes with its own complications obviously, but it is what it is. So yeah we just sort of met, got married very quickly.
Prav: How did you meet?
Visal: Just, well we met in August, is it August, yeah I think it was August, by August, we’d met in August and our parents met in December for the actual engagement ceremony. We got engaged in April, in Kenya, and that uncle I was talking to you about, he was very, very ill. And he was one of my heroes, but I was a bit of a hero for him as well because I’d made it through so he was very, very proud of me. And he said, Vish whatever you need, money, don’t worry about anything, it’ll be fine. And literally about a week before he’d gotten admitted into hospital, and I went to see him, something I’ll always feel sorry for because I just said, man the traffic has taken me six hours to get here. Because I drove from Clacton to the hospital in … called now Mayday hospital in South London in Croydon. And I remember sating that and do you know what, I’ve never ever felt more guilty saying that, every time I think of it it makes me feel guilty. Because that’s the last time I saw him.
Visal: And he promised, he goes Vish, I don’t care what the doctor says I’m coming to your engagement. And he died on the night of my engagement. So in the morning when everyone was ready to go excited for the engagement and stuff. Yeah, I knew what had happened.
Payman: Grief and guilt, grief and guilt always go together well.
Visal: So yeah, so got married in August 2009, and-
Payman: When did it go wrong?
Visal: Before we got married.
Payman: [inaudible 00:55:46].
Visal: Yeah, do you know what, it’s-
Payman: In retrospect you’re saying that, right?
Visal: Absolutely, absolutely, and I think-
Prav: Was that an arranged marriage, or …
Visal: It was an arranged meet, so my mum’s cousin lived in the same town as her parents and yeah basically it was just like [crosstalk] this guy, yeah it was an introduction thing. And I was always very, very focused, I think in fairness to me, to a certain extent I always had my goals set out. And I said, look this is the sort of guy I am, these are my goals, this is where the goal posts stand. And it may seem harsh now, but they’ll never move, so what you see is what you get.
Payman: And those goals were what? Business?
Visal: Just ambition-
Payman: Ambition, relationships.
Visal: Relationships, principles, family values. I’m quite old school, elders, respect. Even now when an elderly patient comes, I’m not going to call them by their first name there’s no two was about it. They get called Mr or Mrs or Sir.
Visal: I’ll always do that, and part of that actually stems from my grandad. A lot of people get asked, when you’re a kid you get asked, if you’d like to meet someone who would you meet? I never chose a celebrity or any of these politicians or … I wanted to meet my grandad. Because every single time he’s been brought up in a conversation, the people that actually say, gentleman, and they actually salute. And he wanted my dad to become a doctor, and he sadly passed away in a car crash. So yeah we went through a lot, even in final year of university I lost my uncle and my auntie, both in a week, they died in a car crash as well. And my cousins were in the car at the back, so we’ve been through a hell of a lot. I know it really still stings my dad whenever he thinks about it, all these years ahead.
Payman: But you were saying about the marriage breakup, the disaster was more than that.
Visal: Yeah, so anyway me and the soon to be ex wife, should I say we split up in December 17, January 17 I almost lost my mum, she went to India for a hip operation and we almost lost her, so I had that going on, and obviously the whole emotional side of it, it slows you down, and fast forward November, and we had an incident at the practise the hygienist was actually working there, wasn’t sterilising instruments between seeing patients.
Payman: How did you first find out about that?
Visal: So it was one of my nurses, she went in to update day list or top up surgery whatever it was, and she just happened … the eyes of these girls man, you just admire them for what they actually do. And just happened to glance in the sink, and the scaler tips didn’t match the number of hand instruments. She just picked it up like that. Out of nowhere, so then she went and told the head nurse, and the head nurse said, right you keep making excuses to go into the surgery, and I’ll keep an eye on the de-con room. And no movement. They went and told the practise manager-
Payman: Why was she not sterilising? Because she was lazy? What-
Visal: She’s in a better place to answer than I am, mate.
Payman: Yeah but what do you think? You have no idea?
Prav: You pulled her in or [crosstalk 00:58:57].
Visal: What actually happened was, they went and told the practise manager, so the practise manager went in there and she was, oh yeah I’m sorry it won’t happen again, I’ve just been rushed all morning, blah blah blah, and she brushed it under the carpet. My practise manager wasn’t a clinical background person, she had no nursing degree or anything like that. So she just left it, and she went back to the head nurse, because they were all saying what did you say, what did she say blah blah blah. A little bit of banter around and chit chat. And my head nurse said, you’ve got to tell Vish. I don’t expect anything less than 110% in my practise, which makes it very hard to work for me, or with me. And my practise manager’s very words were, he will murder her, I’m not saying anything to him right now. Keep an eye on for the rest of the day, I’ll talk to him this evening, I’ve got a meeting with him this evening. And I remember 6.30 in the evening, I’m standing outside having a cigarette, and my practise manager came up to me, and she said, I’ve got to talk to you.
Visal: And I said, what you leaving? Ha. And she told me. And that … the only way I can liken it to is if any of you’ve watched the Lion King, you know when there’s that stampede and Simba [inaudible] just go whoa. And that happened, and I was just like, holy shit. What do I do? And I was straight on the phone to a few people I knew, what do I do? And I was getting mixed messages. Don’t follow it through. And others were like you’ve got to report it. I knew what I was going to do anyway but I didn’t know how to go about doing it. Bottom line is it goes back to what my dad said, don’t ever break anyone’s trust. And the patients is all I could think, they’d seen me come into Hoddesden not knowing a single soul in the town, slowly, slowly building my reputation up, they were referring their friends, their families, their kids. Everything was coming together. When I started off, the practise had 1400 patients.
Payman: But you pulled her up on it?
Visal: So I pulled her up on it.
Payman: What did she say?
Visal: I’m sorry, that was it.
Prav: Did this date back to … did she try and say it was just one off, or …
Visal: So I asked her that, but the thing was we had CCTV in the hygiene surgery. The day she got caught she was working in another room, and just all hell broke loose. I reported it to the GDC, I spoke to someone at the GDC and they basically said you’ve got to report it through the website. I said where? And they go oh where the illegal practise section is. I goes like that’s for tooth whitening, and they go yeah report it through there. I said okay, so I sent it off, got an acknowledgment, reported it to NHS England, NHS England got Public Health England involved, CQC got involved, obviously the Indemnity Organisations got involved, the BDA got involved. Ultimately the papers and the press and everyone got involved, now there’s lawyers involved. And I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Do you know what, it actually … with what’s actually happening, because nothing’s sorted out yet, but it actually brings in the huge question, what the regulatory bodies surrounding our profession are actually doing.
Payman: And the awful thing is that you did the right thing, and doing the right thing destroyed your life.
Payman: If you’d brushed it under the carpet, and just slap on the back of the hand, and don’t do it again.
Prav: Could have destroyed his life.
Visal: You know what, one particular person actually said to me, nothing’s going to come of it, here’s the statistics, gave me some papers on it and all the rest of it. And I was like, but that’s still betraying trust, and if I let her get away with it this time, she’s going to do something else, there’s going to be another short cut, and eventually there’s only so many short cuts you can make before you actually genuinely hurt someone. I can’t have that on my conscience.
Payman: So what happened to your patients? What happened?
Visal: All hell broke loose.
Payman: Go on.
Visal: 563 patients were written to. And they were offered blood tests for blood born viruses.
Visal: So Facebook … we were in the papers in China, we were everywhere, literally blasted over the entire media, social … you name it, and everyone knew.
Prav: News travels fast in a small place.
Visal: Exactly what we said earlier on. But it wasn’t even a small place, even within the dental community. I had loads of mixed things being said. Some of my associates they got told, I wouldn’t stay anywhere near that man, move. Don’t be affiliated with that. And do you know what, hands off to the associates, solid.
Payman: But the backlash then, the patients started blaming you.
Payman: Because at the end of the day it’s the practise, you can’t say it was her. Or how did it work?
Visal: What actually happened was one of the patients who attended the practise, attended to see the hygienist through direct access. Happens to be a lawyer who owns his own medical negligence law firm. So he jumped on the bandwagon. How the details got leaked out, and how these lawyers got their hands on it is beyond me, because currently we’ve got 30, 35 lawsuits. It’s gone all the way round, so basically what happened was, the lawsuits came in, the hygienist got her indemnity organisation, the indemnity organisation said they won’t support her, so then she did the right thing, I thought and got a firm of solicitors who generally deals with these cases for the indemnity organisation. And just literally last week, everything … the patients there, I don’t know exactly what’s been said, but those lawsuits are now coming directly at me.
Payman: When they tested these 565 did they find anyone had been-
Payman: So then the lawsuit, doesn’t someone have to be damaged in order for a lawsuit to stick.
Visal: I think the biggest thing for me was to actually try and reassure people. It was very difficult to do that, I had people coming in, screaming down the surgery, walking into my room, following me through the back doors, and just literally just barging into the … it was horrible. I lost staff as a result of it as well. But it was the barrage of paperwork, I had to provide a serious incident report, then a 72 hour report, then a root cause analysis. I did six weeks, because I had only six weeks’ worth of CCTV, so I’d already preemptively been through it, I went through every single patient record card, and no one was allowed to do it, I was doing it. I went through every single one, and this that and the other. We had one patient who was HIV positive, who we know, who’d told us. But we’d actually offered him to have appointments either at the end of the session before lunch, or at the end of the session in the afternoon, just so that we can take that little bit of extra time, clean everything down. I got accused of being discriminatory. Every single time I said anything, the CCTV in the hygiene room, oh you’re going against GDPR. And there were just constant fights about it.
Visal: I even asked to put a letter to the patients from the practise, because NHS England and Public Health England jumped onto it, and asked to put a letter in, and two days before they send me the proof and they’ve taken out my letter.
Payman: It’s like a chain reaction.
Visal: Wat are you guys doing? And they said, well we’ve spoken to our legal team, they don’t think it’s a good idea that your letter should go out in the same envelope. And I said so you’re going to post this out without my letter in it? And they go yeah, but you’ve still got the opportunity, you’ve got a couple of days, so you can post your own letter out. And was like, all right let’s get shirty now. If I threaten legal action … it wasn’t a nice time, and people who are in the regulatory profession who are actually collecting a salary should really, really look at themselves, and stop being a jobs worth. Honestly and I mean that. If that person listens to it, I hope they’re listening to it because the way they dealt with it was absolutely wrong.
Payman: And in that profession, I’ve treated lots of medical negligence lawyers, because I used to work next to a law firm, their whole thing is that you’re taking it personally. Don’t take it personally. In our world we’ve just been through the struggle to get to this point, personally it’s like 81 people supported this project in the end. So of course we’re going to take it seriously.
Visal: That’s what the BDA told me. Don’t get me wrong, the BDA were fantastic. They really did come in, but the crux of the matter is, this is the situation, take it on the chin, today’s news, tomorrow’s fish and chip shop paper. Take the hit. And I just thought, really?
Prav: And during all this, were you going through the divorce at that time?
Visal: Yeah, still going on, yeah. Still all going on.
Prav: So you had that at the same time.
Visal: Mum falling ill, almost dying. My dad, my brother. My brother had twins as well. He’d moved to America, he wasn’t allowed because he lived in South Africa, he had one of the typical robbery stories and moved overnight. So he couldn’t work. Then they were looking for a house because he was living with his sister in law, so I helped him with the mortgage payments just to get him on his feet until he started working and stuff. That’s my job, I’m big brother.
Prav: Where’s the practise now? What’s the state of play? Are you still open, are you still trading, or …
Visal: Yeah we’re still open-
Prav: But the damage.
Visal: Do you know what Prav, honestly it’s been hard, it’s been hard. If one thing comes out of this, we’ve heard over the years so many colleagues have been in horrible, horrible circumstances. And a lot of the youngsters they’re so passionate but one thing will happen and they’ll just completely break them, and we can’t let that happen.
Visal: And it is just one of these things. In fact you’ve triggered a memory. I used to pray, I don’t play anymore, I used to pray every day, and I never asked for anything as such.
Prav: Why did you pray? And who did you pray to?
Visal: So god? When I left home my dad gave me a little photo of one of the gods, and I still have it.
Prav: Same one yeah?
Visal: Same one, in fact funny enough the last time he was here I reframed it, and everything else. I’ve got that, and there’s like three tiers to my little temple at home. Obviously god’s at the top, my grandad’s on it, and so are mum and dad because they’re my world. And every day I pray for the same thing, every single day, and that was, there’s a lot of problems in this world and you’ve put me through experiences that’s made me thick skinned so I know I can take some, I know I’m resilient. So if you’re going to give a problem to someone, that’s going to push them over the edge, don’t, give it to me. In return just give me the strength, but as a compromise you’ve got to look after my family, because I’m not near them. I think that prayer was answered pretty damn well.
Prav: So you stopped praying.
Visal: Well sometimes-
Prav: Did you lose religion? Is that what you’re saying? Are you religious?
Payman: Well to some extent right?
Visal: Well not exactly because-
Prav: No but you used to pray then you stopped praying-
Visal: It’s not about religion, it’s more about discipline, it’s more about respect, it’s more about-
Prav: Why don’t you pray any more then?
Visal: I’ve got nothing to ask for mate. I’ve got no expectations. Everything I’ve done in my life to date I have fought tooth and nail for, and sometimes I’ve paid the ultimate sacrifices for it. Ultimately in my eyes, nothing’s ever been easy. All my mates say, nothing’s easy for you Vish, everything single time you do something it’s just hard way round. It’s always, always something else, and no it’s all right, I don’t want anything [crosstalk] work for it.
Payman: I’ve been through one legal process and it almost broke me, one, and your strength to handle 35 at once. I only-
Visal: That’s plus the divorce lawyers-
Payman: Yeah, yeah. Last year we moved house, and I threw away the paperwork from this legal thing that I was in. And that one thing was a huge box of papers, that had to be read and all of that pain, but it makes me think that you were prepared, made ready for this challenge by your previous …
Visal: I think everything does come to a head sometimes, and I’m not saying that I’m the strongest guy, and look at me, superman, ha ha. No not at all, I’ve got huge kryptonite, my personality, I’m so driven, so focused that I often forget about how other people feel, my staff. The amount of crap they put up with.
Payman: One thing I remember about you is, I’m one of these late night guys, Prav wakes up at 4 am, we laugh about it. I kind of go to bed a 3 am-
Visal: Yeah, I do both.
Payman: Bit like Drew. But you used to call me at one in the morning, talking about work, and I used think, oh isn’t there someone else awake at this time of night.
Visal: That hasn’t changed, not changed for 20 years, maybe more.
Visal: You’ve got to do it, I’m comfortable, I haven’t made an empire or anything like that, but you know what, whatever it is, it’s mine, well half of it.
Payman: Vis you’re handling it yeah, but this amount of stress, this amount, it’s a lot of stress man. This amount of stress is going to hit you somewhere, and so be careful of that. The not sleep and stress together, that’s a big combination.
Visal: Do you know what, Payman it’s a very simple rule I follow. Give it all you got.
Payman: I can see that.
Visal: Because at the end of the day, when it comes to … forget judgement day, forget a higher power asking you. The first person’s going to ask you is you. What did I do? And if you have, yeah but I did this, but … because of this I couldn’t … you’re making excuses-
Prav: Kidding yourself.
Visal: … and no one really cares, no one cares. If I said to you, oh Payman I’m really tired I’m sorry I missed today, can we organise another time? You’re like, yeah don’t worry about it. And then you think well, I’ve allocated time for him I’m not going to do it again. That’s my fault. So if you commit, you’ve got to do it. I told you about what I’ve done in the last 24 hours, so for me no, every single little thing resonates back to my dad.
Prav: So when you hit rock bottom, when you were in that hole, and I’ve been there a few times, be it through health, or relationships, whatever that is, we all have our way of coping with it. Right and I struggle to believe that when you are really deep down in that hole you just say, hey I’m strong, I’m just going to be superstrong and be true to myself. Ever have any doubts? Do you ever start talking yourself out of things, or …
Visal: I think we all talk ourselves out of everything all the time, just to-
Prav: Or think, what the hell is this all about?
Prav: What am I doing?
Visal: But the thing is, if you actually analyse it, it’s a way that we as humans just break it down into small sizeable chunks.
Prav: Is that what you do? Analyse it?
Visal: No, because I don’t get a breather, I honestly I don’t get a breather. Last time I had a holiday was July 2018 and I’ve worked seven days a week since.
Payman: Seven days a week.
Visal: Seven days a week since. I’ve got my divorce coming up, I’ve got to do a massive payout, that’s the law of the land, that’s the way things go. I’ve got to afford it.
Visal: Or I’ve got to be able to be in a capacity where I can actually be lendable. So that’s a big worry, and I constantly … I did used to ask myself, why me? Why me? I’ve never ever done anything wrong to anyone, I’ve never stolen off anyone, I’ve never … yeah I can be a bit of an arse sometimes, I can be a real piece of work at times, but you generally do that with the people that you’re closest to, because-
Prav: So true.
Visal: … you’re hoping that they’re going to understand who you are, because they know who you are. But in fairness to my ex, she may have had enough too, and you can’t knock anyone for that. There’s a lot of stigma, especially in the Asian communities that still hangs about with the idea of divorce, but she said something to me which was, it’s a failed relationship, nothing else. And there’s a lot of things I have and there’s lot of deceit and contempt that I have but the bottom line is that that’s going to come to anything. It’s not going to help anyone. A lot of people said, oh watch you know, you’re such a nice guy, she’s … I was like, I don’t want her to suffer. Don’t talk about stuff like that, just make sure I don’t suffer, in whatever shape way or form. But the last two years have taught me a lot of things, it’s taught me about who my real friends are, and people I thought were my friends were actually not. Quite a few examples. But [inaudible 01:16:29]-
Payman: Give us an example, don’t say who it is, but an example of what’s happened that made you think that. Or the other side, so what happened that made you think someone really is your …
Visal: I had a friend who’s just about an acquaintance, maybe at bit more, and phoned me up and said, Vish I’ve just sold my flat, and I’ve got an extra 10 grand, do you need it? And I was like, wow! I’ve got another friend of mine at university who honestly I’m really proud to say he’s my friend, because we hardly ever talk. Once every three to six months, and he phoned me up and he said, I’ve just sold my practises for an absolute frigging fortune, how much do you need? And I said, what do you mean? He goes, whatever you want. You can have whatever you want. I was like, what? He goes, I mean it, whatever you want you can have.
Visal: There’s always a way, there’s always, always a way, you’ve just got to see it. And when you’re down, Prav, like what you were saying, it’s okay. Take that time, because you need it, but no one’s going to judge you for … and even if they do, they’re not really your friends, they’re not the sort of people who matter. I mean in conferences a couple of years go, I’m standing there and someone behind me says, you see that guy, he’s down and out. You know what, phoenixes do rise, and they only rise from ashes. So everything around me can burn down, but I’m here to stay for as long-
Payman: Yeah, I tell you what bud, you know they say that thing, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy, but yes, but also if anyone’s going to get out of this, and be victorious at the end of it, you will. Because you’ve got some drive man.
Visal: Yeah well the victory, it’s not about victory Payman, it’s if I can actually just help a few people along, just people who are actually feeling a bit down, say do you know what yeah, let’s do it. Brilliant, brilliant, that’s the sort of thing my dad did, and you’ve got to be able to do that for people. And I don’t know, I’ve had people come up to me and say, wow [inaudible] posts on Facebook and this that and the other, and I’m just like, I’m just a regular guy man, I’m not anything special at all. I happened to fluke one or two composites or a few crowns or whatever it is. But I’ve worked as well, I have worked hard, I’ve put in the hours. I was never naturally artistic for anyone who knows and see me, I’m just like a bit gorilla sort of thing. You don’t get very many arty gorillas, but you know what, one thing I’ve got, and that is buckets is love for people. And love just for the idea of being a human being.
Visal: It doesn’t matter what you have, I don’t care. Are you hungry? I’m hungry, let’s eat, simple, doesn’t matter where you’re from. We’re both hungry, we’ve got something in common, get on with it.
Prav: What’s next?
Visal: What’s next?
Prav: Get divorce over, the whole lawsuit thing disappears.
Visal: Do you know what Prav, I’ve realised that my love for dentistry is so deep, my love to actually … it’s almost like to prove to myself, there’s things that you see, a lot of people slag off Facebook and say, this has become the university of Facebook and people are saying stuff without even noticing, or people are posting stuff without even noticing. But that was one of my biggest teachers, because it would be the big guys who are actually saying stuff, or wouldn’t bother or whatever it is. There’s some people who are haters, and have their own little digs and stuff.
Payman: There’s massive down sides, but there is massive upsides too man.
Visal: Do you know what, it is honestly … that made me up my game. And the courses I go on and all this sort of stuff, there are a lot of inspirational people out there. And funny enough, I actually got told about the podcast through someone else, before you told me about it. And the amount of people who listen to it and stuff, and I think that you guys are doing is absolutely fantastic, because this is not just about enlighten or what you’re doing or anyone else is doing. This is actually about bringing community together, and a lot of people talk about it, very few do. So I’ve got a lot of respect for you guys, when you said me come to this. I was like, why? I’m nobody, you know? This is Dental Leader’s podcast, I’d like to be a leader, and I’d like to be a good leader. I think I’ve got a long, long way to go. I’ve got to work a lot on myself, in terms of what next as a person, in terms of actually being a little bit more aware of how I actually influence the interactions that I have with people.
Visal: Because if you actually genuinely want to help people, you’ve got to have a pretty good idea of what you’re like yourself, and there’s no ifs and buts. You can’t have any excuses, so you’ve got to work a lot on yourself. So that’s the first thing, which I’ve been doing anyway.
Prav: What do you mean by working on yourself?
Visal: Just little, little things, little lessons every day. Just I had on my phone as my screen saver for a long time, was if you constantly compete with others you become bitter, but if you compete with yourself you become better. I think it’s beautiful, beautiful saying. And you’ve just got to find inspiration. No matter what it is that you want to do, find some sort of inspiration, someone to push you. And it doesn’t have to be someone who’s better at you than doing something. To someone just say, go do it man, come on, let’s go.
Payman: I love that out of adversity you’ve come out there with this beautiful things like you’re saying now. Anyone else could have been bitter about what’s happened, and I would be absolutely understanding of it if they were.
Visal: Who does it affect ultimately though?
Payman: Oh I get it, dude I get it. But you’re a very, very special person, that’s why we asked you on the show.
Visal: I don’t think so, I think I’m quite regular.
Payman: [inaudible 01:22:26].
Visal: But thank you.
Prav: I think I know the answer to this question already. So we ask everyone this, and you’ve listened to the podcast, and if it was your last day on the planet, what advice would you leave the world or your loved ones with?
Visal: Be who you are, get to where you want to get to because you want it. And don’t let anything stop you. Because anyone who says you can’t do it, is another human being, they ain’t perfect either. Give it your best shot, if you fail, you know what? You did what you could, and there’s a little bit of self respect and dignity and humility in that. You just sit there saying oh so and so said I didn’t do it, you’ve lost me already. Just change the way you think, and just stay strong, things will come. Everyone has a bad day, everyone has their own kryptonite, and everyone’s is different. What may be kryptonite for you may not be anything for me. But keep going, we’re a great profession, we’ve got people like you guys here, there are people out there who inspire so many. So yeah, just keep going, be the best that you can be. Whether you live once, or you reincarnate, it doesn’t matter what your religious belief is. Get better every day.
Prav: Beautiful man.
Payman: Thank you, thank you so much.
Prav: Thank you so much, thanks for sharing that today.
Visal: Thank you.
Speaker 2: This is Dental Leaders, the podcast where you get to go one on one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts, Payman Langroudi and Prav Solanki.
Prav: Thank you for tuning in guys to the Dental Leaders podcast. I’ve just got a little request to make, if you’ve got a suggestion of somebody else who we should be interviewing, or somebody who’s got a really strong story, powerful story to share with us, please send us a message and help us connect with that individual so we can bring their story to the surface.
Payman: Thank you so much for taking the time guys, if you got some value out of it, think about sharing it with your friends, and subscribing to the channel. Thank you guys.
Prav: Don’t forget that six star review.