In one of our most packed episodes to date, we catch up with Love Teeth’s Kunal ‘Dr K’ Patel.
Kunal lets us in on his early days as an angry young man, his unusual entry to dentistry via training in the Czech Republic and how a seemingly routine job interview at his Cheam practice changed everything.
And it’s an unplanned double-bill as Kunal’s wife and co-entrepreneur Lucy Patel sets the record straight.
We’re like Pinky and the Brain. We wake up and say, “What’s the plan today?” And he goes, “Take over the world.” – Lucy Patel
In This Episode
01.31 – Early years
06.50 – Reality Czech
13.53 – Back in the UK
17.56 – Purchasing a practice
22.07 – Making friends and influencing
26.26 – Love Teeth and being seen
35.46 – Building value
42.14 – Wedding Smiles
46.02 – On marketing
48.07 – Love at first sight
01.08.48 – Finding fame
01.18.34 – Lucy enters the fray
01.20.42 – Love at first sight – Lucy’s version
01.27.24 – Team happiness
01.32.05 – Future plans
01.36.40 – The Love Teeth experience
01.42.14 – Family life
01.49.44 – The question
About Lucy and Kunal
Kunal Patel is the owner of Love Teeth dental clinic in Cheam Surrey. He is an Invisalign Diamond Apex provider and a FastBraces Senior Master Affiliate. He also runs the successful Wedding Smiles brand.
Lucy Patel is a dental nurse, aesthetic therapist and manager at Love Teeth.
Lucy: … and he wraps this cardboard box up in wrapping paper, and she opens it up and it’s empty. He goes, “Oh, [Keira 00:00:08],” as you do. “Keira, I’m so sorry. It’s been really hard at the moment. We haven’t been able to see many patients. We haven’t got any money at the moment.” She goes, “That’s okay.” She goes, “I can do so many things with this box.”
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: It gives me great pleasure to introduce Kunal Patel, one of the rising stars of dentistry; Set up Love Teeth Dental, and him and his wife put his local area on the map. One of the largest and most prominent Invisalign providers in the U.K., and has recently refurbished his clinic to look like something amazing.
Payman: A rapper’s clinic!
Prav: I was actually going to say he’s pimped it out. But he spends most of his weekends and his Instagram stories doing Bob the Builder DIY, pimping himself with his favourite sticky-back plastic for Blue Peter and carbonising everything.
Prav: Take it away, buddy. Tell us where you grew up, and a little bit about your back story growing up.
Kunal: Right, guys. So I was born in north London. It sounds like Fresh Prince. I came down to Surrey, and this is where I’ve settled down. It’s the family home with my parents, my young family, and I’ve bought a clinic five minutes away from home.
Prav: But growing up, Kunal, just tell us a little bit about your childhood. What was it like in terms of the upbringing?
Payman: What kind of a kid were you? Were you hardworking or not?
Kunal: Yeah. I was quite a confusing kid because I think my parents would say that I was really good for many years and then all of a sudden I turned. So growing up, it was north London. Moved down when I was about seven. I went to a normal state school for a while and then, at the age of nine, my mom decided to put me into a private school just to get me into a good 11-plus high school.
Kunal: So for a year and a half I went to a private school. So I lost all of my friends, went to a new school, and, for some reason, at that age, there was influences around me… Because I was quite a really good, studious kid. I was head of year at my old primary school, that type of kid. Then in year… I think it was year 10. No, year 7, just before 11-plus, I got in a bit of trouble at school. For some reason I went into the kids’ changing rooms and smashed everyone’s lunchboxes up, and I started turning into a bit of a naughty kid.
Prav: Was that at private school?
Kunal: Yeah. It was at the private school. So I changed from a state school where I was a really popular kid. I went to this private school, and I wasn’t allowed out to play with the other kids at lunch because I was the naughty kid.
Kunal: I was applying for Tiffin Boys, which was one of the top state schools in the country at the time, in Kingston. The headmistress said, “There’s no point applying. Your son, there’s no chance he’ll get in,” and I was the only kid that got in in the whole year. It just proved that there was something going on in my life and at the time I didn’t understand it. Only recently I’ve probably understood what it was that was going on in my life, and it was external factors, family life, et cetera. I wasn’t that happy kid anymore. I turned into a bit of an angry kid.
Prav: What was it that transitioned you from being this grade A equivalent of super goody-two-shoes to smashing people’s lunchboxes up? Was it the transition from state to private, losing all your friends, and you thought, “Screw this. I’m just going to go nuts,” or was there something else going on in your life?
Kunal: I think moving so much as a kid, I didn’t really have friends, right? I wasn’t that kid that was hanging out on the streets playing with friends or anything like that. My friends were only my family. So it was my close cousins, my brother, my home. Obviously there was things must have been going on when I was younger, and I just wasn’t a happy kid anymore. I was a bit lonesome, and, I guess-
Payman: How long did that last, Kunal?
Kunal: You know what?
Payman: To this day?
Kunal: No joke, I think until the age of 23.
Kunal: I think I had a big change in my life when I was about 23. Up to that point, I was… my friends that knew me back then would have said I was an angry kid. Could have been short man syndrome, I’m not the tallest, but there was something that wasn’t right with me. My family always said I was always a smart kid but-
Prav: Kunal, just in terms of that, angry as in short-fused, angry as in miserable? What was it, man?
Kunal: Yeah. I was just getting into fights.
Kunal: Yeah, I was scrapping a lot. I was just picking fights. I would have this mentality that I had to protect everyone around me. So anyone saying anything bad to someone that I thought I liked… Because, as I said, I didn’t really have friends friends, and I was always trying to make friends and make people like me. So, I guess, if someone said something to a boy I liked, I would go and scrap them.
Kunal: Then I was about 17, 18, doing my A-Levels, and then the fighting became a bit… as you get older, it becomes a bit too much, right? It changed from just fist fighting to people having weapons, et cetera. So me and my family decided, “I’m moving abroad. I’m getting away from this.”
Payman: Is that right? So then do you remember the time when you thought, “I’m going to be a dentist”?
Payman: Doesn’t really fit in with this fighting kid.
Kunal: No, no. As I said, at a young age I was… I was the youngest. My dad’s got seven brothers, and I’m the youngest kid on my dad’s side of the family. I remember my oldest uncle always said, “Kunal’s going to become a doctor.” So, in my head, I was just becoming a doctor. Being Asian, there’s only two or three things we can do: dentist, doctor or-
Payman: There’s loads and loads of dentists in your family, right? Amongst the cousins, there were already lots of dentists, right?
Kunal: Yeah. So we had a few dentists, lots of medics. There was a lot in both sides of the family. I was the youngest. I was the most, in a way, loved, because I was the youngest kid. So I was like that golden child. There was a big age gap. Me and my brother have five years. Me and my sister have seven years.
Kunal: So we got to that age, the fighting wasn’t ending. It was really distracting me from my studies. I knew I could do better. I then tried A2 level to move again. I moved away to North London. I went and stayed at my uncle’s house, there for a year. Did my A2 there. So I left Tiffin Boys, which was a great school at the time, to go to another private college. So I left my friends again. [inaudible] work out.
Kunal: Then me and my younger cousin, who finished his A-Levels, decided, “Let’s go to…” Opened the newspaper and… I came from a wealthy family, and one good thing that my parents did for me was I never knew I was wealthy. I never knew. I didn’t really have friends to compare with. They never made out that we were wealthy. I just thought it was normal until one day my friend said to me, “Wow, your house is like twice the size of mine,” and I still didn’t get it.
Kunal: But I must, in that mindset, had a rich boy mentality because I opened that newspaper that day and I said, “Oh, wow. Look, we can become dentists in Czech Republic. Let’s just go.” I thought mommy and daddy would buy me a dental degree. Got my cousin, I said, “Let’s go. Mommy and Daddy are going to buy me a dental degree.” So we signed up. We left. We landed in Czech Republic. A minibus picked us up, two little 18-year-old boys. It drove for two hours. We thought we were going to Prague.
Payman: What, you didn’t realise it wasn’t in Prague?
Kunal: No. By the time we ended up being at the location it was dark. We were nowhere near a city. This person that could barely speak English took us up to this hostel room. It was a hostel. Dumped us in there, gave us a piece of paper and said, “Somebody will be in contact in the morning.” Nobody came for about two days, and me and him-
Payman: Take us through what was going through your head.
Kunal: We called home, and that movie, Hostel, came out that year. We called home and we were crying in tears, saying, “Please take us home, Mommy and Daddy.” They flew out a couple of days later. My sister came, my mom came, and my uncle came. I think they were shocked, but they didn’t want to say it. They scrubbed up this little flat. It was so weird. They used to have a bathtub with a sink inside it and a toilet right next to it. It was like, “No way. This isn’t how it’s going to end up.”
Kunal: They begged us to stay for a week. We would cry ourselves to sleep every night. I remember when they flew back to England, me and my cousin literally hugged each other and cried ourselves to sleep listening to Boyz II Men. It was-
Prav: Sounds like something out of a horror movie, mate.
Payman: Sounds like you needed it though, man. Sounds like you needed that.
Kunal: No, no. Exactly. This is what I’m going to get to. A few weeks later, there was a lot more of us spoilt, little, rich Indian boys that ended up in a dump in this hostel. We formed a community. There was, what, 150 of us. But this was the problem: only five of us graduated at the end of that 150.
Kunal: In five years. And-
Payman: Why’s that?
Kunal: I think it was the best thing that could have happened to me because we had to speak Czech. We had to read Czech. We had to be able to write Czech. In our first year, at the end of it, they would give us a tooth and made us, in a timescale, drill an MOD cavity in a timescale, and the examiner will look at this with binoculars measuring the angles. So if you weren’t naturally gifted as a dentist, they’ll kick you out. So the whole mindset was different. It was me thinking that I could pay for a degree. Yeah, you can pay to get into university, but to pass is a different story. Half the uni got kicked out in the first year.
Prav: So was this more about your sort of hand skills than the academic, although that’s needed, right, and you’re not going to get through if you don’t have an academic background. Was it assessed on that?
Kunal: We’ve all got our skills, we all know it, right? Language isn’t my best. I can barely speak English to you right now! But I was really good with my manual dexterity. So me and my cousin, we sort of worked together, and literally we only got through this working together. So I was very good at drilling. So during our exams, he’ll slide me over his tooth, I’ll drill mine and I’ll drill his. Whereas he was very good at languages. So during the language exams, he’ll help me.
Kunal: Me and him, neither one of us would deny it, we sort of blagged our way through university. The five of us graduated out of 150 people. It was tough. But I was still a bit of an angry little young kid for about two years until something changed. I met a new group of friends out there. I got a lot more responsibility because I had to learn how to use a washing machine, dishwasher, pay rent, find a new rent. I had to learn all these things, and I was the older cousin, so I had to look after my younger brother, right?
Payman: Would you recommend it to someone to go abroad to study dentistry? What about the Czech Republic, as a place to be, outside of the actual trying to get through the course?
Kunal: So Charles University, that’s the university’s name, it’s well-known. It’s affiliated to America. So it’s a very good university. Would I recommend it? When I went, and I ended up in this little village, we were the first year that did dentistry. So at the end of the five years, I did medicine with dentistry. So my actual initials at the end is MUDR, which is a medical dentist doctor. So I didn’t actually do much dentistry. It’s something that I always say: I graduated having done a couple of fillings and a handful of extractions. I had no clinical skills whatsoever, but I had loads of textbook knowledge. So these universities are amazing in knowledge.
Payman: How did you feel on your first day of seeing patients? Was it scary?
Kunal: Yeah. We had to speak Czech.
Payman: No, I mean real patients in England.
Kunal: Oh, in England? I was so lucky. Obviously, as we spoke about, I had many relatives that were dentists, right?
Payman: Of course.
Kunal: Very successful relatives who had many clinics, but nobody wanted to touch me. So I was very lucky. At that time, my brother’s wife, she was on a dental nursing course, and she was friends with this girl who worked at a dental clinic down the road from us. So my sister-in-law asked her, said, “Can you please ask your boss if they’ll give Kunal a job?” The guy went in, he was a Patel as well, and he said, “No, I don’t want another Patel.” She begged him and said, “Please, please, just give him an interview.” So I walked in. It was down the road. Met the guy. He fell in love with me for some reason. I will never forget this guy, [Jignesh] Patel. He was the guy that held my hand. No-one else would give me a chance. He held my hand [crosstalk]
Payman: Good guy, Jignesh.
Kunal: … and he let me learn from him. He was an old school dentist, proper old school. He taught me to use a paperclip as a post. [inaudible] dentistry. I was always good with my hands and all these things, so I caught up quite quickly. I have to admit, I’m a self-taught dentist. I haven’t done many courses, I never did. I just learnt as I went along. I’m one of them.
Payman: Well you did do some courses afterwards, right? So that’s the thing.
Kunal: Yeah. Well, I’ve only done one course, the Mini Smile Makeover course!
Payman: So then how long were you associate for before you thought, “I’m going to start my own practise”?
Kunal: So four years I worked as an associate, but I always wanted a clinic. Obviously my dad was on my case, like, “Your cousin owns 50 clinics. What are you doing? Hurry up, buy some clinics, boy.” “God, how am I going to get 50 clinics?”
Kunal: I always [inaudible] down. We always said that I’m never going to achieve what my cousins achieve. That was a fact. But I was always a very different-minded person. I went abroad. I came back a new person. My friends that knew me before I went out couldn’t believe the person I was when I returned. I was calm. I realised a lot in life. I had to get beaten up a few times out there by some tall skinheads. It put some sense into me. Came back and-
Payman: Would you say the Czech Republic was more of a racist country than U.K.?
Kunal: Yeah. Especially this town. So where I was in this town, they’d never seen a brown person, and the only brown people they’d seen were Romanian gipsies which were the thieves, they classified them as at the time. I was a short, brown boy, spiky hair. I fitted that model quite well. So we’ll get onto a bus and people will leave. It was only by the end of the five years when they actually accepted us, when it was time for us to leave, when they knew that we were actually bringing a lot of money into the town and we were helping.
Kunal: It took time, but when we went there there was nothing much for us to do. We had a cinema and a bowling alley. In the first year, the bowling alley got shut down.
Payman: Sorry to interrupt, Kunal, but for those who don’t know about your cousin, who’s your cousin?
Kunal: Chirag Patel, and he owns Perfect Smile.
Payman: 50 practises, or whatever.
Payman: So go ahead, go ahead. Your dad was saying, “Your cousin’s got 50 practises. When are you opening yours?”
Kunal: “You need to buy some.” [inaudible] was a different place. He was 10 years older than me. [crosstalk]
Payman: Yeah. So, go ahead. That thinking when you were thinking about buying a practise, what were you-
Kunal: Yeah. So I wanted something close because I’ve always been a family guy. I’d been away for so long, I just wanted to be at home. I wanted to be back home, so I didn’t want a clinic far away. I looked for a clinic close by, for something that I could grow in.
Kunal: Being a local boy in the area, for four years I knew what people were wanting, but being an associate, I couldn’t change my principal in such a way. I changed him in many ways, and we still are very good friends, but I couldn’t because he was content. He was content with what he had. He was happy. He had a great family. He had a nice home. He was happy-go-lucky whereas I’ve always been a bit more of an ambitious guy.
Kunal: So a clinic came up for sale close by and it was on the same road as his clinic where I was an associate. So I had that difficult conversation when I spoke to him. I said, “Look, there’s a clinic that’s come available.” I managed to fend my cousin off from buying it and begged, “Please don’t buy it.”
Payman: Is that true?
Kunal: Yeah. 100%. I went for the viewing and as I was leaving… no, as me and my mom arrived, my cousin was leaving that viewing.
Payman: Oh, dear.
Kunal: So he was nice enough to let me have the clinic. So I had the conversation, I said, “Look, it’s down the road. I would love to buy it. How do you feel?” If he’d said, “No,” I wasn’t going to buy it. He goes to me, “Look, Kunal, if you don’t buy it, someone else will. So if this is what you want, go for it.” He goes, “I would love if it wasn’t you that bought it because I know your vision, I know what you’re capable of.” Because I was his biggest grosser and I was working part-time. Once my cousin did find out I was making a lot of money for Jignesh, he did offer me a job and I did take it. So I was working part-time at one of his clinics at the same time.
Kunal: And then-
Payman: Would you say you learnt from your cousin?
Kunal: Yeah. So the clinic I was working at for him, I was more or less running for him, because they have many clinics, they have managers. I learnt business. I was given an opportunity to run a clinic which wasn’t mine, right?
Kunal: I saw the difficulties of management, staffing. I was there, and because I had that invested, because it was my cousin’s clinic, if something went wrong, I was treating it like my own, right?
Kunal: So it was the best experience I could receive. So I had one guy who was like a mentor to me, taught me everything that I didn’t get from university, and how the NHS worked. Obviously I had no idea. But what was different for me is, what I found when I got to know more dentists in the U.K., is that dentists in the U.K. had more of a fear of dentistry, which was drilled into them possibly from university. I didn’t.
Kunal: We weren’t taught fear. So when people say to me, “Kunal, how are you doing root canals in the week?” In my first year I did X number of crown preps. I just didn’t have any fear in me at the time. Maybe it was stupid of me or whatever, but, touch wood, nothing came of it. One of the teachings I do when I have young dentists and other colleagues come to speak to me-
Prav: To speak to your old self?
Kunal: Yeah. I say, “Look, guys, just have confidence. Don’t be worried so much.” It’s the worst thing I’m seeing in dentistry, is the confidence isn’t there, and that’s what I really feel, is… All the questions I get from dentists, they’re second guessing themselves and my heart says, “Yeah, that’s right. What you’re thinking is right. Go ahead.”
Kunal: It’s that, because I feel as if we could have achieved so much in the U.K. as dentists. America, we say, is five years ahead. I think our confidence has held us back here.
Prav: You mentioned something earlier, which was you were a big grosser for Jignesh and that’s why your cousin wanted you to come on board. What does that mean and what do you think it is in you? Is it conversations with the patients? Is it being able to treatment plan? Is it being able to communicate with these patients in a way that perhaps you know what they want? Call it sales, a lot of people say it’s a dirty word. But what is it that made you a big grosser, and can you put some numbers to that?
Kunal: Yeah. So it took me a while to realise this and I think it was Payman that actually drilled it into me, and over the months of me speaking he said, “Kunal, there’s something that you’re not getting at. There’s something in you that makes you this salesman.” I have to say, it comes down to my parents, right?
Prav: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kunal: My dad was a shopkeeper. He worked like a donkey his whole life. I thought working is normal. I thought working 10 days a week is a normal thing. I remember as a kid, one day I was in his shop, and some lady came in and she starts talking to my dad, telling my dad about her grandkids, et cetera, et cetera, like the whole best buddies. She ended up buying not just a newspaper but biscuits, milk, everything else as well, and she left. I said to my dad, “What was her name?” My dad goes, “I’ve no idea.” I go, “What, have you never met her before?” He goes, “No. It’s the first time I met her.”
Kunal: But what I learnt from him was how he was so able to just open someone up, relate to them, smile, and just be confident enough, and I think I brought that into my dentistry, the way that he just adapts to every single person. Anyone that walks into my clinic, I will adapt my way to a way of speaking to them. My nurses get really annoyed with me because for some reason I put accents on, right?
Payman: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kunal: I don’t know what I’m doing.
Prav: Hi five, bro!
Kunal: I put accents on!
Payman: We get the same from Prav and from [Kailesh] saying exactly the same the thing. Because they grew up in a shop themselves, they just mirror whoever they’re in front of.
Kunal: 100%. Kailesh, Prav, I’ve got to know them. I would say we have similar personalities where, Payman, you have chucked us into rooms with people, and we’ve ended up having to speak to them. But it is a quality that a shopkeeper, I think, gives us, as a parent.
Kunal: My mom gave me a different side of life. She was a housewife. A builder came to do an extension on our house. One morning I wake up and my mom’s telling the builder what to do. I was like, “What the hell’s going on here?” I’m like, “Mom, he knows what he’s doing.” She’s telling him to put the steel 10 inches higher to get the ceiling to… I’m like, “What the hell’s going on here?” Then, next thing I know, this guy’s made my mom a partner in his building company. Three, four years later, she’s the owner of that building company.
Kunal: I was like, “What the hell? From housewife to this. No education based on building work or anything.” I think what I got from her is that anything’s possible, right? Anything.
Kunal: I grew up with builders. My mom’s builders were Polish. We were lucky enough to have a large house, and they lived with us for quite a well. Growing up, I thought I was half-Polish! So that’s why Czech wasn’t so bad for me because it was fairly similar. But I’ve grown up with building work around me, and, being dentists, we are builders, right? I keep saying I’m a self-taught dentist, but a lot of it came down to mechanics of what we did. So growing up around that.
Kunal: So what made me the guy I am was, I think, my dad’s personality traits to adapt, my mom’s personality traits that anything is possible. Anything. And just be confident and do it. I think that’s how I got Love Teeth to where it was.
Payman: Tell us about Love Teeth. When you bought it it was called what?
Kunal: North Cheam Dental Practise.
Payman: I think I came soon after that to see you, didn’t I?
Kunal: Yeah. So-
Payman: What was the previous owners… well, it doesn’t really matter. But the previous guy was there. Prav, the outgoing principal was still there, and Kunal had put the shocking pink around, not as much as at the end, but he’d started, you’d started, hadn’t you?
Payman: How did the word Love Teeth come in? It’s quite a cool name.
Kunal: Yeah. So first the name. Obviously my cousin’s clinic was called Perfect Smile and [inaudible] that name. I knew I needed a new name but it was very… We kept going back to something related to Perfect Smile, Perfect Smile. So we just needed something completely different because we needed it. I think it was my dad actually came up with it, which is weird [crosstalk]
Payman: Oh, really?
Kunal: My dad doesn’t get involved much in much we do in life, but I have to give him that. He came up with that name. I also made it very, very bright, shocking… I call it slightly pink. Because on this road where I was buying this clinic, there was 10 other dental clinics and I needed to stand out. It was the day of Only Way is Essex, it was back in them days, 2014. So I just went, “You know what? Let’s just do it.” I went shocking pink. My landlord at the time, which was the ex-principal-
Kunal: … he went mad. I remember the nurse coming to me, saying, “He’s having conversations with your patients that maybe you are a bit homosexual, whatever.” I was like, “Look, don’t worry. It’s fine.”
Kunal: I was like, “It’s fine. I don’t care what they’re saying.” Oh, there’s my [Oculus 00:28:26]!
Payman: Oh, his Oculus has arrived.
Kunal: So I went for that. I wanted to stand out, I wanted to stamp my mark down and say, “Look, we’re here, and we’re Love Teeth.” I got you in and, Payman, I have to say, there’s two main factors in dentistry that have really given me, I think, where I am today, and Love Teeth is. I think meeting you, this guy-
Kunal: … this guy that was the owner of a large whitening company, in my head-
Kunal: In my head it was… You have to understand, I didn’t know anyone. So you know when you guys all conversate and we all get together and we have these conversations about these mentors, or these inspirations, like these dentists, you talk about Mackenzies. I didn’t know any of these guys. Right? I know Binaje and these people, but I didn’t know anyone. The person, for me, you give me at the time of day. An owner of a company took his time to come see me. For me, it was a huge thing. You came down. I think it was George you came down with to my little clinic in Surri. And the way you spoke, the way you came in, and you had time for me. No one ever gave me time. Remember, I’ve now been an associate for four years. I bought my clinic. I’ve had it for about six, seven months. No one wants to know me. No one. And you came down and you just gave me that confidence I needed. That this guy gives me-
Payman: But you were never short on confidence. That advice that I gave you, I’ve given to a lot of people, but you executed on the advice. That’s the difference [inaudible 00:30:16]. I think I spoke to someone the day before and the day after and said the same thing. So it’s that execution issue. That’s what’s impressive with you. When you put your mind to it, you go ahead and do it.
Kunal: But you gave me a couple of … I remember we spoke and I said, “I want to be a centre of excellence.” And you said, “Dude, how many whitening cases has this clinic done?” I said, “Five in the last year.” And you were like, “I think I need [inaudible 00:30:47].”
Kunal: But I had a vision. I had a vision. I wanted a great brand, like a piggyback one. You had a great brand. It looked premium, and you did what it did. I remember I got Jignesh to buy it as well. And this guy, he was buying Opalescence and keeping them in the fridge and selling 10 pounds a pop and selling whitening for 150 pounds. I got him to get Enlighten, I remember as an associate. And we went on the joint … Now, I have to say that I don’t think I would be the guy I am today without meeting you, Payman. I’m not trying to jack you up or anything, but you are somebody that gave me that time, which is something that I have heard from many people that you are that loving … Depeche also, he says the same thing, that you take us under your wing. You gave us that confidence, that look after us, because you’ve been in the game awhile and you owned one. So it was very reassuring to have you here.
Payman: That’s sweet of you to say so, man.
Prav: So then, so true. A lot of people say the same thing. Payman’s generous with his time, generous as a human being as well. I remember first meeting [inaudible] I had a comedian in me. But I remember even when I started out and he didn’t even know me, and he’d invite me out to dinners, insisted on always paying, which is why I thought he was called Payman. [crosstalk] But you levitate towards these people who are either generous or just very warming. So, yeah, I can see why you’ve hung onto that buddy.
Payman: It’s about you though, not about me. Tell us about your practise. You bought it. You started … Did you immediately change it as far as the shocking pink and the-
Payman: Did you think you were going to scare the patients off a little bit?
Kunal: Well, I thought … And you remember my signs were huge, right?
Kunal: You remember, I bought this clinic and I drove past it three times because it was overgrown in bushes. I drove past it. So first thing I did, I cut it down. I put huge sign outside saying that I’m a dental clinic and I do teeth whitening.
Payman: I remember.
Kunal: My way of thinking was, “Nobody’s not going to come because of the way we look. I’m either going to have still no patients, but the only result I could get is get some positive.” Right?
Kunal: I’m not going to lose patients because of the way I look, because the clinic was doing rubbish as it was. So it was one of them factors.
Payman: Have you heard of Paddi Lund?
Kunal: Paddi Lund? No.
Payman: It’s this Australian dental group and his outlook is the exact opposite of yours. His idea is no sign at all and a locked door so no one can walk in. He wants every single patient from a word of mouth referral. Of course there’s different ways of doing business. Don’t get me wrong. McDonald’s has a sign and then an open door. But it’s really interesting though because you say the obvious thing, the simple thing of, “I want people to see me.” and so many dental practises, you go by and you can’t even tell they’re a dental practise. It’s an obvious thing.
Kunal: I’ll tell you what it is that, why I did it. And if you look at my logo, it’s very old and simple. I just looked at McDonald’s, Sainsbury’s, Tesco. And you’ve done the same thing with Enlightened, right? It’s plain, simple to read. And that’s what we did. We didn’t get fancy. And then my team … Love Teeth’s known for its team. But again, my inspiration for that was how Apple, Google looked after their staff, but also how, Pay, you looked after your store at Enlighten. That’s something that I’d never seen before. Your girls were so loyal to Enlightened and the way you looked after them. You cared about their social side of things, as well as keeping them upbeat, not just drilling down and not just being [inaudible 00:35:17]. I’m pretty sure you treat them very well, and salary wise as well. But you realise, and something that I caught on really well was, his staff love him. They care for that company. That’s something that I really put into Love Teeth. And I think that’s part of the success that I got. And that’s why when I go back to it and I say, “Payman, you were very influential on what I did,” it was these mannerisms that you have as well. It was a combination of all that.
Payman: What did you achieve with … it’s 75% or more than that NHS to start with.
Kunal: So yeah, we were 85% NHS.
Payman: Did you go in thinking you’re going to do what you’re going to do? From the outset, you knew what you were going to do, or did it evolve as an idea?
Kunal: I was lucky because you know the two clinics I worked at, Depeche’s and my cousin Sharon’s, right?
Kunal: They were 90% NHS fashion clinics. And I went in there and I was doing a load of private. And I remember it was the most that my cousin’s clinic has ever grossed ever, even since I’ve left. They’ve never grossed that much. They never have been back. And I didn’t do anything hard. So I wasn’t doing anything special. I was just talking to the patient. I was listening to what they was saying, and I’m just giving it to them.
Payman: It’s interesting. Did what you find comes naturally to you is that, but to lots of people that doesn’t come naturally. You’re telling me, “Oh, be good to your team.” I didn’t say, “I want to be a multimillionaire so I’m going to be good to my team.” It just came naturally to me to be good to my team. It wasn’t something I did. So that’s what I’m saying. You and Kailash, for instance, but you’ve got this idea that you listen to your patient, give them what they want. A lot of dentists don’t have that in their head. A lot of dentists don’t.
Kunal: I mean, look, I don’t have any ego that … As I keep saying, I’m not a UK grad. I don’t have like a university year full of geniuses that are teeth models and all this fancy stuff running courses. For me, if my quality of work isn’t liked by other dentists, it doesn’t phase me. I know for example, Depeche, he won’t share something unless if it’s 100% fantastic in his mind. In my mind, his work, even something that’s rubbish to Depeche, he’s amazing. But in his mind he wouldn’t do it because that’s the way … For me, I’m not bothered if another dentist doesn’t like my work, as long as my patient does. For me it’s that patient, that’s it. And I’ll guess Kailash is the same, right?
Payman: Yeah. He’s focused on the obvious. Kailash recently does want the profession to acknowledge him as well as the way I noticed the way he’s talking. But let’s carry on. It was 85% NHS?
Payman: What happened?
Kunal: And then I piggybacked on Enlighten. I piggybacked on Invisalign. I made options very simple for my patients. And within three years we had quadruple turnover. So, the clinic was valued at what, 350K when I bought it?
Kunal: I got it valued last month, post COVID, and it’s been valued at 3.5 mil.
Kunal: 10 times.
Payman: Amazing, wow.
Kunal: And then post COVID. And again, the one thing that I keep saying is I’m not doing anything special. All we’re doing is listening, looking after our team and our patients.
Payman: You’re doing something special, right? Because what’s now the split NHS to private?
Kunal: We are 95% private.
Payman: In three years?
Kunal: No, it’s been six now.
Payman: Is it six years?
Kunal: Yeah, it’s been [inaudible 00:39:14].
Payman: Your Invisalign numbers, break it down, man.
Kunal: So you recognised me quite early on, right?
Kunal: But no one else had still heard of me until one year I decided I was … I was being FastBraces, that other American … And I was a senior master of [inaudible] of them, which meant that I was doing the most in the UK. And it wasn’t hard. I always knew about Invisalign, but I was always piggybacking off my cousin’s account because he had big discount. So when I set up my own clinic, I didn’t have that discount. And being a dentist, like we all are, we want to go for the lowest [inaudible 00:00:39:58]. So I was doing FastBraces. And then I sat down and I realised … actually one of the reps, Aaron Bernard, came up to me from Invisalign and he’s like, “I need to speak to you.” He saw my big FastBraces sign outside, domes in and he goes, “Why are you doing FastBraces, Kunal?” I was like, “This is cheaper.” And he goes, “How much chair time do you use?” I was using about 13 hours chair time per case in total, 13. And he goes, “With Invisalign, we can get that chair time down. Your biggest expense is this, that …”
Kunal: Anyway, so he made sense. And I said, “Well, I’m only going to do it if I get cheaper [inaudible 00:40:34]. I want the biggest discount.” And he goes, “You have to do X amount of cases in a year to get that.” I went, “Well, the only way I’m turning to Invisalign is if I get that discount by the end of this year.” And then that’s when iTterra had just come out. I hadn’t seen it. I didn’t know about it. He just said, “There’s this machine that will simulate teeth and show your patient’s straight teeth before they even start.”
Kunal: So I thought in my head, “No. The only way I’m going to achieve this target and get to this discount level and make this possible for me is if I hit 150 plus cases.” So I bought an iTerra. And I still remember, I went and bought it. I went to look at head office. We bought it, it came back. It was the biggest thing of my life. I was spending 25 grand on this machine. I remember me and my wife, Lucy, went out for dinner to celebrate it on the way home. And within three months I ended up buying another three.
Kunal: At that point, my wife, Lucy, probably wanted to divorce me. She thought, “What the hell are you doing?” But I saw what that technology was doing. We were showing people teeth straight before they even invested the money and time into it. So I just knew that this was it. And this is what I based my whole business model. And 40% of our income now comes from Invisalign.
Payman: I thought it was even more than that, man.
Kunal: Yeah, so did I, and then I realised I was doing quite a lot of crown work like Hamish. I didn’t say how much of that percentage was Enlighten.
Payman: About the Wedding Smiles. How did that happen? First of all, explain what that is.
Kunal: So, Wedding Smiles came from the success of bringing the iTerra into the clinic. I just saw patients, heads explode. Even my nurses’ heads exploded when they saw the simulation, the technology that was available. And because the clinic was doing so well with it, I thought, “I want to take this to the public. I want more patients.” And we decided we’ll brand it with your help. Payman, I think you came up with the name Wedding Smiles, didn’t you?
Payman: No, no, no. I didn’t like it, remember. I came up with the idea. You were going to go there and call it Love Teeth.
Kunal: That’s it.
Payman: I said, “Don’t build a stand, build a brand.” Do you remember?
Payman: And then you said Wedding Smiles. I said, “No, that’s too obvious.” I had the Bright Smile in my head. They were my biggest competitor when we started. And I was saying, “Bride Smile.” And you were saying, “That’s just the bright. I went straighten everyone’s teeth, not just the bride.”
Kunal: Yeah. And you know what? The idea was we’ll go to a wedding show and we’ll take whitening and Invisalign directly to patients. [inaudible] consumer American-type model but dentist-led. But I had inspiration from your stand at the dental shows because you have the best stand the dental shows. Your stand is amazing. And I thought, “If I’m going to this wedding show and I’m taking my staff out of the clinic …”
Payman: Totally right.
Kunal: So part of me doing this was a social event for my staff, the team, to get them out of the clinic, because I knew I wasn’t going to make millions doing this, but I wanted to do it because we had this idea. So I created a stand like your Enlighten stand. I came to you and I said, “I want your stand.” And you went, “It’s not cheap.” And I went, [crosstalk 00:44:13]. But we did it and we had the best looking stand in the whole place.
Payman: Yeah, you did.
Kunal: It was a three-day thing. And I think it was a lesson though, because what we did at first was we gave everyone Enlighten toothpaste if they came and got a teeth scan done, the whitening toothpaste from Enlighten. And I remember you guys … and this is why I love you so much, Payman, I couldn’t sell Enlighten whitening at this thing, I could just give away free toothpaste, which you gave me. But also you get me money for the actual stand as well with nothing in return. These people I’ve had in my life influence, my mom, my dad, you, it’s being the way you are so generously. Everyone says it now, “Kunal, you’re stupid generous with your information you give out to people.” And I’m just like, “Look, it’s everyone’s worm, right? Everyone could go out, try their own.” It just makes … it cheers me on, actually, the more competition I have. I love it. Ready Smiles happened, straight teeth, four months.
Payman: So how often do you do that?
Kunal: We did it twice a year until pandemic hit. Look, there was some years … wedding shows are very difficult, or exhibitions are. It’s all dependent on time of the year, the weather, and position in the venue. So it’s a very expensive trial and error thing.
Payman: Yeah, trade fairs are tough generally, dude. But you couldn’t have done all of this volume of work without loads of marketing, right?
Payman: What were you doing? What were we doing? I know Kraft’s taking care of your marketing now, but what were you doing before?
Kunal: So, Prav, when did you come on? You came on about six months ago, right?
Prav: Something like that.
Kunal: And I have to say, wow. I’ll go to that in a second.
Payman: But you were doing something before Kraft came along.
Kunal: [crosstalk] So, I’ve loved computers at a young age. I was locked in Czech Republic and all we had was a laptop. So I was always very good with computers. So very early on, I figured out a way to do my AdWords myself and do all these things myself, AdWords myself. Everything that everyone sees from Love Teeth that came out was me. I did then get some help from another colleague in the industry who helped me out for awhile. And the reason why I’ve tried to keep it to myself is I did get ripped off years ago. Some guy from … I think it was from Leeds. I don’t know if I should name him, but he made me a website for like six grand, which is a huge amount of money. This is back in 2014 or something.
Kunal: And it was terrible. And it was fleecing me as so much money on marketing because he knew … he thought I didn’t know. And I knew what was going on. So when I called him up on it, he just gave me all the rights to my website and ran. I called him out because he was saying that he was spending X amount of money on words and this and that. But he didn’t realise I’d know, because I used to do it myself. So then for a long time, I just did it myself, Love Teeth, the whole branding. I’ve made errors. I owned a billboard in my local area, which I don’t know if ever brings me any patients in, but my point was brand awareness. I saw McDonald’s everywhere. I just wanted brand awareness. If people didn’t know what Love Teeth was about, I just shoved it everywhere. That was my reasoning behind my marketing.
Payman: When did you first meet Lucy?
Kunal: I think we should get her into … So, Lucy, she came in … I was about six months in Love Teeth. I just bought Love Teeth, about six to nine months in. She actually saw my FastBraces sign as well. So look at that! Invisalign came knocking, my wife came knocking. So it’s clear, signage works. She was a dental nurse at another clinic. She comes in and takes me to that next level in life.
Payman: What happened? What was the event? How did you first meet?
Kunal: She came for a job interview.
Payman: Talk us through that interview, buddy.
Kunal: I’m now a practise owner. I’m not an associate in life. I’m searching for a dental nurse. Lucy walks in.
Payman: In the clinic?
Kunal: Yeah. For an entry … I’m actually late for my interview.
Kunal: Yeah, at that time, because I was working at another location. I was still working at Depeche’s. I used to own an RA back then, back in the day. And she’s already in the building, I rock up in my RA, get out. So she hasn’t even seen my car yet. [crosstalk] It was funny because my mate was visiting and he was a final year dental student. And he goes, “Can I sit in this interview?” I’m like, “Yeah, sure.” He goes, “Can I ask the questions?” I’m like, “Yeah, sure.”
Kunal: So we both walk in. Lucy’s sitting in reception and we invite her into the surgery to do an interview. So Lucy sat there, it’s me, and my mate. Remember, my mate was all about asking the questions. He wants to get some experience under his belt. I look at him, the guy’s not saying a thing. I’m like, “What are you doing?” Something I need to say is that Lucy is an absolute stunner. I didn’t even know what to say. So I’ve got to interview this girl and all that’s going through my head is …
Kunal: Get out, don’t do it. Get out, don’t do it. Don’t fall in love. Don’t fall in love. What I’m thinking is, “Don’t fall in love with this girl. Be professional. Ask her the questions.” So I’m asking her the questions and I’m all over the place. My mate is still door to the ground. He’s still not saying a single thing. And we’ve asked her and I’ve said, “How long have you been around? How long you been working at your place?” Whatever. And I go, “Oh, I know that clinic.” And she’s like, “Oh, how do you know?” And I went, “Oh, I know them from the area.” She turns around and gives me, “But you’ve only had your clinic for six months. You don’t know them really, do you?” And I was like, “Shit.” I knew straight away this girl was smart. She was smart. She was beautiful. She was calling me out on my rubbish that I was talking at the time. I was trying to be a biggie two shoes, “I’m a clinic owner, come and work for me. Leave the guy who you worked with for X number of years.”
Kunal: She called me out, turned around, and she left. I sat down with my mate and said, “Mate, what happened?” He goes, “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I didn’t know what to ask.” What the hell? I was like, “I’m screwed, aren’t I?” And he goes, “I agree because she was a stunner.” And then I managed to convince her to come work for us, but we had to set my mind straight, nothing more was going to happen. She was just going to work for me. But that changed quite early on as well. I loved how bright she was. She was you unreal. She was a single mom and she was the type of girl that I was attracted to. I got to know her. She was a strong lady, determined. One thing I was always missing in life.
Kunal: And I kept saying this to you guys, and I said it right at the beginning of this podcast, I didn’t have many friends. And I would try and stop fights and things to try and make myself popular to them by defending people in life. And then I was abroad, I came back, there aren’t many friends, no one really knew who I was. I walk into a bar, I’m small. Oftentime, I remember in bars, it’s a proper confidence knocker for me. I don’t get served. You know there’s that bar at the bottom of the bar, when you want to get … I have to stand on it to try and get served.
Prav: Know the feeling, mate.
Kunal: [crosstalk] trying to throw my money at the bar, man, and hold it out there and then show her that I’ve got Platinum Amex. I wouldn’t get served. And it knocked my confidence in years that I was that guy. Even though my dad gave me confidence, the only thing that gave me confidence to talk to people in public was my dentistry. Up to me becoming a dentist, I never had a job in my life. I would be that guy that will go buy something from a shop, and the person the shop will be like, “Hi, how are you? Are you good? Are you good today?” My answer would always be limited, look down, “Bye, yeah. Thanks, bye.” It’s only once I became a dentist and I realised I was maybe good at what I did, I’ve got confidence in that.
Kunal: So I’m still not confident in public, but I was confident with my patient. Meeting Lucy changed it. I knew that these taller blokes than me, when I walk into a meeting or whatever I’ve got, I’ve got a hot wife, right? I did not give a crap. She gave me a [crosstalk] cup of confidence that, “Okay, there’s something maybe about me.” No joke, some of my best friends right now, I’ve met them many times. They didn’t know who I was or remembered me. They started remembering me because I was the brown guy with a hot white wife. No joke. We were that couple.
Payman: Kunal, talk me through … You’ve you’ve obviously talked about Lucy and the confidence she gave you and everything. Just talk us through step-by-step, very quickly. She starts working with you, for you. She’s your nurse at that time. At what point did you go on your first date? At what point after that were you an item? And what was the transition to getting married? And then, you being in your own words, a typical traditional Brown boy, how did that go down?
Kunal: So obviously this girl has come to me, she’s a stunner and she’s my dental nurse. Very early on in the first couple of days, I realised she’s got a child. Right. So in my head … remember, this is me back then, not my way of thinking, probably ignorant or whatever else. I thought, “Okay, fine. She’s got a kid. I’m not going to get with her. Safe. I’m safe.” I wouldn’t do it. So she’s my nurse. After a week of nursing with her and getting to know her, I take her down to the pub and on the way … and I remember, and she’s going to hate me for saying this. I took her down to the pub for lunch and on the drive back, she was like … She’s going to kill me. She was like, “So, how do you know I like you,” or something like that. I was just proper arrogant and just said to her, “You’re going to be mine,” or something like that. You’re going to be my-
Payman: One week one. One week.
Kunal: She knows the exact words because she always cringes about it. I’ll let her tell you. But I learned early on that this was a woman I’ve always wanted, a powerful woman. And she’s got a child so she can look after a family, and I’m a family guy. And she was family and she was smart and she was pretty. So it was like, “Damn, what am I going to do?” But when I started getting feelings, I realised she couldn’t be my nurse. And she was very smart and I always want to bring aesthetics to my clinic. So there was a company called 3D Lipo. We brought that into our clinic and she was good with people. So she started taking over that side of the business, aesthetics. So while we were dating, she wasn’t nursing for me, but she was running a different side of the business for me, and she was more of a free spirit. I thought that was very important for our relationship, it was going to grow. But obviously she’s still got a kid. Now I’m like, “What am I going to do?”
Payman: Can I just ask a quick question, mate? At this point in your relationship, was she just a girlfriend or did you realise that it was going to be more than that?
Kunal: She should refuse to be my girlfriend. I kept trying to make her my girlfriend at that time. I was like, “Come on, let’s go out,” or whatever else. And she was like, “No,” because she has to be careful because she has a daughter. She didn’t want to just be dating anyone. And then one day I met this daughter and that’s when everything changed for me. She was the most incredible young lady I’ve ever met. She was eight at the time, the most loving, caring, most polite child I’ve ever met. And I’ve got a lot of nieces and nephews. They don’t talk to me this politely in my life. This child, she was … And I was just like, “Wow, Lucy knows how to raise a kid as well.”
Kunal: So then the next thing, I thought, “Okay, this is the girl I want to marry. This is the girl I want to be with.” So then, being a traditional Indian boy, I hid it from my parents.
Payman: For how long?
Kunal: For about six to seven months. And then my parents started realising that I-
Kunal: And then my parents started realising that I’m not coming [inaudible 00:00:05]. Right? And my sister-in-law, I remember I said she was a dentist, right. So she started working at my clinic. So she knew Lucy very well. So then my parents started a note thing that I was obviously seeing someone and they didn’t know who. And My parents had met Lucy working at the clinic. They got to know her. They built that relationship. And [inaudible] more or less just went and told my mom, “Okay, now, I’m seeing this girl. It’s Lucy.”
Payman: Being traditional Indian boy, what did they think about someone who’s not Indian and has a kid? Did they have challenge?
Kunal: Yeah. Unfortunately, it will. And I was now 30. And in the Indian culture, that’s quite old to not be married.
Payman: Is it? Is that right?
Kunal: Yeah. So my brother and sister got married at 23, 24.
Payman: Bloody hell.
Kunal: And they knew the type of guy I was, I wanted to get married when I was 18, 19.
Kunal: I always wanted to get married and have kids.
Kunal: I’ve always been that guy, probably because I was abroad so much in life.
Payman: You want to belong to something?
Kunal: Yeah, I wanted that. Right? So from a young age, I always wanted to get married. I was always a family, traditional, Indian guy, but I was very westernised because I lived in Czech Republic for six years. So I think they knew that I wasn’t going to settle down like a normal, Indian, traditional boy does. So I think at that point, they just wanted me to be happy. And they’d been through a lot of things in their lives.
Payman: What about on her side? Or maybe we should ask her?
Kunal: Yeah. I think maybe you should ask what her parents actually thought about us.
Payman: Is she coming in?
Kunal: Yeah. Should I get her in?
Prav: Just quickly, in that six months or so that you were hiding it from your folks, what was going through your mind? If somebody didn’t grass you up, so to speak, did you and Lucy have conversations about this? These difficult conversations, she wanted to meet your parents, she wanted to be a part of your life, she wanted to get her daughter integrated into your life? What was going on there in the relationship?
Kunal: So obviously she had to be very, very careful in terms of it wasn’t just her that she was bringing into the relationship, it was her daughter. So she always had to be careful. And she was always being very strong about looking after Kira and making sure she’s shielded from aspects. So we used to have the conversation. She got to know my family as patients, as owners.
Prav: From a distance.
Kunal: Yeah, from a distance. So she knew they were really nice, a good family I came from. And she had a child quite young so she missed quite a lot of growing up. And her decision making wasn’t the best in normal social life, but Kira was spot on. But general decision-making in life, so I used to help her out quite a lot in an unbiased way and making correct decisions about life and things like that. So she knew that I was someone that she could trust in a way.
Kunal: So it then got to the point where I knew I wanted it. I had the conversation with her and said, “Look, the difficulty is going to be Kira. Right?” But my parents found out, she knew, and then we just thought, rather than us sneaking around… Even my parents said, “Look, if this is the goal you want, then bring her to meet us.” And obviously she was a bit fearful. She had always met them, but not as my girlfriend. And I’ve always said that I’ve never taken a girl home. They’ve never met girlfriends of mine. Because the way that I was, the only girl that was ever going to bring home was the girl I was going to marry. So obviously she knew how important it was, but we knew it was always going to be dependent on Kira, on if we were going to work or not. So I brought her home. My parents met her for the first time. We made it very casual, not like bring the girlfriend home, it was a cas thing, last minute. Mum was making homemade pizza. And I get a message from my sister-in-law who knew that [inaudible] at the time saying, “Just come around. Bring her home. Come and bring her home for dinner.” Last minute thing, I said, “Lucy, you’re coming home.”
Kunal: She’d go, “No, no.” Brought her home and she fit right in. She wasn’t someone that was scared of the culture or fearful, because what I found about Lucy was she hadn’t been exposed to many things. So to her, it was exciting. It was a family. It was a lot of love that was there. And then we decided quite early on that they would move in with us, which is unheard for in Indian culture.
Prav: Mom and dad moved in with you guys?
Payman: Lucy and Kira.
Prav: Oh, Lucy and Kira, sorry, sorry.
Kunal: Move into our family home.
Kunal: Pre-marriage. If it was going to work, we needed to make sure, which is unheard of. So we kept it very quiet from the rest of the family, as in relatives. And they moved in and it just really worked. It was the best decision we made. We had to be sure for both sides of the family, if Lucy would adapt to the culture that we bring. We’re not the most religious people in the world. You know, I just do the fun events most. We do Christmas massive as well. So we’re not the strictest Hindus in the world, but we have a bit of culture in us, the food, our mannerisms can. So she came in and they adapted very quickly. As I said, Kira was a very polite kid. And I promise you now, I think Kira made the whole thing possible, because the way she was so loving to my parents, out of nowhere…
Kunal: We’ve got nieces and nephews, my niece, my dad’s been begging her to give her a hug for the last eight years. Whereas Kira was in there hugging my dad likes, being really grateful. There was a kid that was grateful at the age of eight. It’s unheard for. And I kept trying to stop it from saying thank you. But she was, and it was unheard for. And I think that’s what made it possible, and my parents obviously needed to adapt that. And it was strange for them, but they realised it’s my life, my future. They’re not going to be around forever. And then my mom said it, “You make your decision, just know that you’re going to live with your decision. Okay? We’ll be there. As long as you’re happy. And that’s it.” And that’s where we were.
Payman: How was it living together for Lucy, living with her in-laws and all that? I can understand it with an Indian [inaudible 00:07:11]. But with an Indian woman, she expects that a little bit. A little bit, although many aren’t living with their in-laws, are they? But for someone who wasn’t ever expecting to do that, to then go and do that, it’s a big step, isn’t it?
Kunal: Yeah. So Lucy had been quite an independent girl from a young age. She had Kira. She’s got great, fantastic parents, but they weren’t like my Indian parents were, which are quite strict. Do this, do that. They let her do her thing in life. So coming into an Indian culture, I did say that mum is quite influential in our house. She’s like the queen. And coming into the house, we knew it’s not easy for anyone, no matter what culture you are. And before Lucy, obviously being Indian and being at an age of 30, I was introduced to many Indian girls for marriage. And the one thing that they would all be saying, the majority would be like, “I’m not staying with my in-laws.”
Payman: Really? Even the Indian ones?
Kunal: Yeah, yep. It’s this normal now. And I’m not saying all, but it was very common. They don’t cook Indian food, don’t speak much [inaudible 01:06:31]…
Payman: But then if that’s the case, you could move out now if you wanted to, but you just don’t want to.
Kunal: Yeah. As I’ve always said, I’m very family orientated. And the Indian culture tends to be, if you’ve got two boys, one of you stay with the parents and the other one moves out. It’s normally the younger one that moves out, but my brother and my mum’s personality is very similar. So they clashed a bit more than what me and my mum do. And I was the younger one. So I stayed, and he was older. So they went out, I’ve stayed. And I always said from day one, any girl that was meeting is, “Look, I’d love to stay at home first when we got married. Just because there’s so many qualities my mum has that I’d love my wife to have for my kids’ sake in the future.” I’m not saying I won’t move out, but the house is bloody huge.
Kunal: You can live on one side of the house, mum and dad can live on the other, and you’ll never see each other, if it was a problem. But I have to give Lucy a lot of credit. Payman, you were at my wedding, weren’t you?
Payman: I was.
Kunal: And she surprised us all by singing a Hindi song at my wedding. She was on it to learn the language, she was motivated. And this was before she got really busy, but she was showing these signs. And she really has been trying and still is, but there’s always going to be difficulties with two strong headed women in one house. No girl, I don’t think, wants to not be queen of their home, but Lucy is smart enough. And she’s so happy go lucky in that sense. She’s cool, we all know. And she says that my mum offers her so much. And she’s got so much respect for my mum, because just seeing how powerful and strong she is, that she’s learned a lot. I’m not saying we will never move out, but for now, it’s working. And we’ve got a young baby, so built-in babysitter. Woo-hoo! The best thing that comes with in-laws is having babysitter constantly.
Payman: Tell us about this in during lockdown, you were on TV a lot. How did that happen?
Kunal: My claim to fame, right?
Payman: How did that happen?
Kunal: Okay. So it must have been my social media presence. So I was casted to be the face of NHS Dentistry.
Payman: Oh, yeah.
Kunal: So as a dentist, that’s as close as anyone could find us. So the BBC contacted us through social media and said, “Would you like to be interviewed?” And it was literally the day before. And then next morning, I’m being interviewed on BBC breakfast.
Payman: How did it feel? Because you called me, you said, “What should I say?” How did you actually feel just before you go on national TV?
Kunal: Yeah. So I was lucky enough to have the opportunity with yourself and in Invisalign to do a bit of public speaking. So it wasn’t my first time public speaking. But it was my first time, obviously, national TV and that sort of thing.
Payman: What was going through your head? Were you saying, “I’d better not mess this up.”
Kunal: Look, it was difficult time. Those of you who know my personality, I believe in energy a lot. I want to be upbeat, positive. I didn’t want to become negative. And obviously Facebook was blowing up at that time in our forums, a lot of negativity from dentists. I made the mistake by asking the question on a forum before I went live, “Look, I’m going on, BBC. Is there anything that you guys want me to cover?”
Payman: Yeah, I remember that.
Kunal: Dear lord, I couldn’t believe. It was great to see dentistry street came together, but it was so much negativity. And the story at me at that present moment in time, it was about Nightingale, and how as an industry, or dental NHS, we were making ourselves available. II didn’t call BBC to come and interview me. They came because they knew that we had made ourselves available. So that was all the interview was about. But dentists were hammering me about, “Talk about your finances and how we’re not getting help.”
Payman: Which if you remember, do you remember we spoke that night? And I thought your approach was absolutely right. And this thing about us going on the BBC during a global pandemic and talking about us was such a huge mistake. And what you ended up saying, I thought was the exact right thing to say, saying, “Listen, we want to donate PPE. And we want to be part of the solution,” not, “Oh, we can’t make enough money to pay our bills.” Ridiculous.
Kunal: Exactly. And I did that interview and what I wanted to show, which was… Again thanks, Pay, because you made me stick to my guns. And my guns were, the whole population is in a bad way right now. They need the positivity. They needed to feel as if all of the NHS were grouping together to help the world, or the UK, right? Not us complaining about whatever it was.
Kunal: So after that interview, I went back onto Facebook and I went to see what the outcome was now. 99% fantastic. Everyone said, “Great, Kunal. Your energy was great.” Some people made the comment of smiley dentist. I don’t know if they’ll try and take the mick out of me or what, I didn’t care. But it was what I went to do. I wanted to show the nation, give them some hope that there was positivity. But then I’ve got them people that were saying, “Oh, why don’t you talk about this? Oh, you’re smiling there. You weren’t talking about the right issues.” You know, again, me quite a bit of stick. And it got me down. And then I was invited to next morning to have to speak on BBC News.
Payman: The day after?
Kunal: The day after. I had to go on again. And this time, I was like, “Now my head’s all over the place.” Now I was in a bad place because I’ve got some negativity, I’ve got close friends, which was very surprising to me. I’m not going to mention any, but I’ve got some close friends that were trying to make me push the agenda of the finances, which really upset me. And I start thinking, “Why are you guys making me… You’re my mates, right?”
Payman: But it was a funny time. Some people thought that was the right thing to talk about.
Kunal: Yeah. I get that.
Payman: It’s not like they were trying to mess you up.
Payman: In my opinion, they were wrong, and you were right. But that’s the reason they did it.
Kunal: Yeah, no, a hundred percent. And I do feel that. It was a very stressful time. But obviously at the time, I was all over the place. And there were people that I looked up to that were, I felt, misleading me down the wrong line. And so my second interview, I wasn’t so much myself, I felt. I felt I was trying to push the agenda and it wasn’t what I wanted to say and what the public needed to hear. I was pushing an [crosstalk 01:14:02].
Payman: Do you regret it now?
Kunal: My second one, yeah. Yeah, I do because…
Payman: What did you say? I can’t remember, tell me. What happened in the second one?
Kunal: It was more about trying to push the views that we shouldn’t be closed in the first place, all of this. And it was the wrong time. And I didn’t need to say it. I regret it because it wasn’t my fight to fight. We had people that should have been fighting our corner. And it wasn’t for me being there, and BBC didn’t want that story from me. BBC wanted..
Payman: Listen, man. At the time, I remember on the radio that the British Association of Pharmacy, whatever, had bought ads. Ads, actual adverts saying, “If you’re not careful, your pharmacist won’t be around at the end of all of this.” The Independent Pharmacy Association. And buddy, as you’re all going through a pandemic, do you think anyone cared that the poor old pharmacies might not be there anymore? People were worried for their own lives, their own jobs. So I think your messaging was correct, dude. And I think you should understand why people were saying what they were saying because it was a weird time. This hasn’t happened in a hundred years.
Kunal: No, a hundred percent. I get it. It was a difficult time. I remember. Can you remember? I think it was us three. We had a phone call one morning.
Payman: Oh, we did. Yeah.
Kunal: We did. And I’ve never been like this in my life, but Lucy came down, and I was on the sofa. And I was just crying. And she goes, “What’s wrong?” I go, “The way I dealt with life pre pandemic, as a dentist, we’re untouchable. We’re always going to have an income.” And I was spending money like, no, man. Those of you know me, I don’t want to be successful alone. I share wealth. I want to be wealthy with people because it’s more fun, not alone. So when I sat down and I was asking my cousin to borrow some money because I said to all my staff I’ll pay them a hundred percent wages. And I was sat there and I was like, “What have I done in my life? How am I in this situation?” But then I spoke with you guys and we weren’t alone. We were all…
Payman: I cried, buddy. I cried. And I remember having a FaceTime call with you and you had to hang up, mate, because I think you were getting a little bit emotional. And that’s all right, mate.
Kunal: But you know what, again, I went on the BBC, because the second interview, they didn’t want to invite me back straight away, I remember. Because I pushed it. And then the story started changing. I went on the radio, then the story started changing. Then it wasn’t so much about we needed help and support, then it was about the NHS. Dentists not opening. So then they got me back on, and then it was good. But then at this stage, it was weird because, remember, Lucy’s a nurse, traditionally. She was a nurse, she’s now a practise manager or whatever else. But she was a nurse. So she’s part of the nursing forum. So when I went online and I said, “It’s safe to go back. We should be allowed to go back. We’ve got the PPE. We should be open,” I got a battering on the nurses forums, proper abuse.
Kunal: Okay. And Lucy’s part of them and she’s reading it. Now, all I learned to be thick-skinned, and I did prep my family beforehand. I said, “Not everyone’s going to like what I say,” especially after my first interview. I said to my parents, I said, “However, majority will, whoever will. We just look at the positive. Don’t read the negative. Don’t care. I’m not bothered. You guys don’t get bothered.” So there was a lot of [inaudible] to me. And it was the fact that we were trying to get nurses to go back to work. Let’s be honest. Right? And maybe majority of them were getting a good deal, 80% furlough, sit at home, whatever else. But I was trying to get that message. And she got really upset. And she…
Payman: She got upset. She’s quite defensive about you.
Kunal: [crosstalk 01:18:18].
Payman: I’ve noticed that when there’s a social media backlash, she comes on it.
Kunal: Oh, she comes. This nurse, she is my Rottweiler. I’ve said I used to have a temper, I’ve got rid of that thing, but wow. This girl can fight my corner.
Payman: But you should bring her on. We should bring her on, man.
Kunal: Yeah. Sure. I’ll grab her. I’ll be right back.
Payman: Yeah. If she’s around, bring her on. Hello.
Lucy: Second round to the marriage counselling, is it? Hi.
Payman: How are you?
Prav: He’s been saying nothing but amazing things about you, Lucy.
Kunal: Yeah. I was at that point where…
Lucy: He’s hungry.
Prav: You know what, guys, what, what stood out for me around that time… Lucy, we were just talking about the time when Kunal was on TV. And people were just sort of having a pop at him. And I remember a comment from Lucy, which was along the lines of, don’t quote me on the exact words, “My husband is not a string puppet.” Yeah? “He’s gone out, he’s done this, he’s done that.” And I thought, “My God, what a woman.”
Lucy: I actually had so many inboxes from people who were saying, “You’re such an inspiration. I’m so glad that you said it. And I wish my wife would have done the same.” And I thought, “Oh, I didn’t realise.” But it was true. People were giving him so much advice, or they were wanting him to say so many things. And it got to the point where I think I did just say it quite simply, at one point, I just said, “Well, do it yourselves. He’s the only one putting his neck out right now, so why wouldn’t you do it? If you’ve got so much to say, then do it yourselves at the end of it.” But he did really well.
Kunal: I was really grateful. But the conversation I did have with them was that by doing what I was doing, I was going to leave myself exposed to this. And I decided to tell BBC… Who came? MyTV and Sky came after. And then I decided, no. Because I could see that every time I would go on, my family were more nervous than me. Seriously, they were so nervous for me. And I thought, “I’ve had a bit of exposure, right? I’ve said what I’ve said. I don’t want to put my family through this.” So we decided to stop. And then that’s when I passed it on to [inaudible 00:01:20:39]. We passed the details of [inaudible 01:20:41].
Payman: So Lucy, tell us, you’re such a big part of Love Teeth. Let’s take it all the way from the social media presence to the hiring and retention of staff and the way you talk to patients and all that. But let’s go back to that first day when you met Kunal. What did you think?
Lucy: I thought he was really cocky.
Payman: Is that what you thought?
Prav: How was the interview?
Lucy: The interview, I had never been in an interview like that before because he brought his, I didn’t realise it was his friend, I just assumed it was another dentist, with him. I was sitting in the waiting area and I was actually interviewing the patients. And I was saying, “How long have you been going to the practise? What’s the vibe that you get?” And I was actually interviewing a couple that had only just recently joined since the new refurb. And they were saying the dentists are really, really nice. So that’s what I wanted to know, was the relationship that I could be entering into myself. I came from a private-only practise where you would… It seems strange past COVID now, but I would have to go downstairs, say by their name or if there were over a certain age, it would be by their surname.
Lucy: Mrs. Smith, for example. And I would have to shake them by hand with eye contact and a smile. Now, obviously all that element is completely gone, hasn’t it? But that’s just what I used to have to do. So I had a completely different vibe when I came to Love Teeth, because I didn’t really know about the whole NHS side of it. But I did come from the non-affluent area that obviously Love Teeth is established in. And I just wanted to bring something different because I think Kunal had taken it so far, but I knew that there was so much more potential that could have come. So anyway, he’s late for the interview. So already for me, I’m thinking, “Who does this chap think he is?” And two chaps walk in, himself and his friend. And I don’t know why, I just assumed the taller one at the time was probably Dr. Patel.
Kunal: See, this is why my confidence is so bad. This is why I needed her.
Lucy: And this thing with spiky hair and a Gucci belt followed afterwards and I just thought, “Ugh.”
Kunal: She still says that every morning.
Lucy: I still say it every morning. And then we went in for this interview and he stood. And he stood and he had his foot up against the wall. He was leaning against the wall, with his shoe up against the wall. Very confident. I’ve never seen anything like that before. And he had my CV in his hand. And he goes, “Oh, right. So what practise have you come from?” And I said, “I’ve come from this practise.” I said, “It does say on my CV, which is in your hand.” And he looks at it, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.” [crosstalk] piece of paper, trying to act very sophisticated. And he goes, “Oh, of course. Because we’ve had quite a few patients come from your practise.” I’m like, “Oh, it can’t be that many because you’ve only been here for five months.” And then I think he just sort of realised, “Okay, the interview is not necessarily going to go the way that he thought it would.” And it just sort of went from there, hasn’t it?
Kunal: See, that’s when I realised she was smart.
Lucy: I’ve always been quite quick on my feet. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been like that.
Prav: Lucy, what were your impressions walking away from that interview in terms of like, did you think, “I really want to work there now?” Or what was going through your mind as you stepped out of the door?
Lucy: I turned the job down.
Kunal: Oh, dear. Here we go.
Payman: Oh, really?
Lucy: I’ve still got the emails as proof.
Kunal: Oh, dear.
Prav: He missed those details out earlier on.
Payman: Yeah, he didn’t mention that.
Lucy: Oh, of course. It was so romantic. I was like, “Can I start now?” No, no, no. It really wasn’t.
Prav: Fill us in.
Lucy: So I was leaving the practise that I was working for, literally because it was very full on, I don’t want to say too much, but it was very full-on. It was very intense in the place that I was working. And I think it was starting to impact my mental health and also my home life as well. Obviously, I’ve got Kira, my amazing Kira, but I was that mum that wasn’t always there at nativities. I was the mum that maybe if I came to the parents meeting, I was only there very, very short and I needed to go back to the practise. And that was just because work became my life, and I needed that work to be able to support Kira. But it you how it does, it spirals out of control. And I’d always lived in the area. I knew North Cheam Dental very well. It was a local spot where I lived. And then I did see the signage changed. And I remember driving past and thinking, “Wow, that practise looks amazing. It looks so different now. I can’t believe it.” And then a couple of weeks later, this vacancy popped up on Facebook. And Kunal likes to call it the saucy pink, it was very pink. And I said, “Oh my goodness, that’s that…”
Prav: It’s like your t-shirt, practically
Payman: Yeah. Cheers, mate.
Lucy: Even brighter.
Payman: That’s all I’m feeling today, mate. So I always put a t-shirt on to match my mood.
Lucy: Love Teeth. And I couldn’t believe it. I just thought, “How funny is that?” That they’re now obviously looking for someone. And I remember emailing in and just saying, “Look, I’m really sorry. I actually don’t have a CV, but I have experience in this, that, and the other.” And they said, “Yeah, come coming for a job interview.” And I just quickly drew something up on that CV that he obviously never looked at anyway. And yeah, we just went from that. But I think one of the things that I’d like to think that I brought to Love Teeth because of that is team care. I think all practises, I think a lot have focused on patient care, the patient journey, the patient experience, patient, patient, patient. But how can you look after somebody if you’re not being looked after yourself? So…
Lucy: … if you’re not being looked after yourself. So you are only as good as your team are and as long as you look after them, and one of my biggest and proudest achievements is that I’m now a team faculty speaker for Invisalign. So, I’m one of the first non-dentists, or dental hygienists, or therapists, but I stand up and I get to represent the team members and I think that’s so important everyone [crosstalk 01:27:24]-
Payman: So Lucy, what would you say is your biggest tip regarding team happiness?
Kunal: She feeds them.
Lucy: Number one, I know it sounds daft, I am, I’m a feeder, but-
Payman: You get them lunch, surprise lunch or whatever?
Lucy: Literally one of the stuff literally said the other day, “Oh my goodness. Lucy always brings the best snacks,” but for me, you can bring in donuts, you can bring in pastries and cakes, or get them a Nando’s But I like to always take it to the next level, in the terms of, I’ve got girls that are gluten free, I have the vegans, I have everyone and I make sure I cater for all of them and they never have to tell me twice.
Lucy: It’s the fact of they know Lucy knows. Sometimes McDonald’s will just arrive at the practise and Kunal will say, “When did you take everyone’s orders?” Wasn’t it, one of the girls said, “No, Lucy knows what we like.” I think it’s just those little … I know it sounds really daft but-
Payman: No it’s not, it’s not, it’s really important.
Lucy: Little details of just people knowing Lucy’s going to look after and even food, or just being that listened.
Kunal: So I don’t think she even realises when she does it.
Lucy: No I don’t it.
Kunal: For example, those are cold going around or something. Next thing we knew, I walk into the kitchen at work. There’s 10 packs of Berocca, there’s like a pharmacy there, for all of the team to take. I’m like, “Love, you know how expensive this stuff is?”
Lucy: But your team are valuable.
Payman: [crosstalk] remedy expensive.
Kunal: Expensive, man.
Payman: You bastard.
Lucy: They’re worth it.
Prav: Do you know what you just said there Lucy is that, as somebody who has a restricted diet or whatever, whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, or something like that, there’s actually nothing more embarrassing or awkward than being handed out some food-
Lucy: That you have to turn away.
Prav: … in front of everyone else that you can’t eat. Then you’ve got to say, “Well, I’m a vegetarian,” or, “I don’t eat carbs.” It’s embarrassing. So that’s huge, that’s absolutely huge.
Lucy: Really? I just like-
Lucy: I just like to cater [crosstalk 01:29:31]-
Payman: Who’s the good cop and who’s the bad cop out of you two in the practise?
Lucy: Oh, that is so a tricky one.
Kunal: So you know what we’ve tried to do? Do you guys ever watched that TV show, Billion?
Payman: Billiard. Billions, billions.
Payman: I’ve seen one episode.
Kunal: Right, so they have a member of the team, which is for HR or whatever, just wellbeing, mental wellbeing of their team. Someone to talk to, someone that will encourage, motivate them, push them harder. So what we’ve tried to do in our clinic is I’m the boss, they know Lucy is the boss as well, but also I’m the boss that will be nice, smiley, whatever but when you’re out line, you will know. So, I’m known to make my staff cry, but not because I’m mean to them, but just because in a way, they get to feel that they’ve let me down, right?
Lucy: Yeah, that’s exactly it, they’re more devastated.
Kunal: That they’ve let me down, that’s why they’ll cry. So there’s a comment around at the clinic, “Oh, you’re going to have a meeting with Kunal, you’re going to end up crying.” But what we’ve done is Lucy is that person for them to go talk to for their own mental wellbeing and all of that. So, that’s what Lucy’s there. Obviously she brings a lot more, she’s our concierge service, but she she’s there for the team in that manner because we’ve got girls that live in this country alone, from all over the world and they live alone and they go through their own issues. We found out quite early on that if they’re not doing well outside of work, they’re not going to do well inside of work.
Kunal: There’s 24 hours in a day, they spending about nine and a half to 10 hours of that day in the clinic, eight hours sleeping. So how much free time are they getting outside? There isn’t. The saying that we always say is, this is your safe place. This is your place of happiness. Outside of here is where the problems are, so this is your escape. Then that’s where Lucy comes in and that’s her role. She does it very well. She’s always there to comfort everyone and I think Payman, you’ve got that in your place, the dynamics between Sanj and you, the way it is with your staff.
Payman: Yeah, yeah, definitely.
Kunal: And I think it’s very important. I think what we find is the teams that are doing really well in the businesses have this sort of dynamic. So that’s what Lucy really brings is that nurturing, caring, they feel safe.
Payman: What’s in the future for you guys. So do you want to make this brand more like a regional, national, what do you want to do? Do you want to just keep that one gold, jewel in the crown and do other things in business?
Kunal: Tell them.
Payman: Oh hello.
Lucy: We’re like Pinky and the Brain. We wake up and say, “What’s the plan today?” And he goes, “Take over the world.” I remember when he was working at [inaudible 01:32:35], I’m sure’s been mentioned. I said to him, because I was working full time at Love Teeth and he was working part time when we first got together, actually. I said, “You need to be here.” I said, “Your presence needs to be felt.”
Kunal: But I wouldn’t leave.
Lucy: He couldn’t because of the loyalty and I completely got that. I completely got that.
Kunal: Well, when I bought Love Teeth and he allowed me, I said to him, “I’m only going to leave when you ask me to leave, because you gave me the hand in life.” My mom always said, “Whoever gaves you that first, you don’t.” So even to this day. So, I never left. He was keeping me on for like one day a week or something like that. Until he had to let go but then … yeah, carry on Lucy.
Lucy: Yeah. Then I said, “Your presence does need to be felt.” I knew that somebody just needed to say it. I think he knew in his heart, but sometimes you just need someone just to say when things aren’t right. Eventually he did slip to Love Teeth full time. Naturally, we’ve got [Chirag By 00:06:42] to compare to, who’s got so many connects. I think Kunal wanted to go straight into that and I said, “No.” I said, “Let’s make one super clinic.” I said, “We’ll probably end up being able to make something in comparison to that just by having the one.” I think we’ve done just that and I think now it’s time. Yeah, I think we can execute it. The problem always is, when you go to Gordon Ramsey restaurant, you don’t expect him to be the one frying things for you it’s just, you’re trying to make it replicable. It’s quite hard, there’s not always going to be a Kunal and there’s not always going to be a Lucy in HR but the whole point is that I think if we look after the people that we have now, we can definitely replicate that. I think as long as we have a presence every so often in other places … but yeah, it’s taking over the world now.
Payman: So what is the answer to the question? What are you going to …
Kunal: So we will [crosstalk 01:34:43]. So we’re purchasing at the moment, two clinics.
Payman: Are you, are you, are you, are you, are you?
Lucy: Yep, nothing by halves. Never do anything by halves.
Kunal: So there’s one more, which is an existing dental clinic, which should be coming through soon and we’re going to have brand it Love Teeth and just do it again. The current Love Teeth in North Cheam will be the flagship that will be our main hub and then everything else will be like a franchise model. So, as we grow, we’ll bring on partners. The partners’ focus will be to do the clinical and keep the standards high and with myself and hopefully Prav on board, we will create a franchise model where we can market these clinics and with a Love Teeth brand. But we’re going to try on these two first, one’s a squat, one’s an existing.
Kunal: We’ll take it from there.
Payman: And where are they? Are they all in Surrey?
Kunal: Yeah. So I’m not going to central. It’s not my cup of tea and that’s where my cousin has all these clinics.
Payman: No, but if someone said, “Look, I’m in Edinburgh and I want to open Love Teeth in Edinburgh.”
Kunal: Yeah, we’ll do it.
Payman: As a partner, you’d do it right?
Kunal: Yeah because through Invisalign and things like that, we’ve worked with other clinics and all three of us here know, or all four of us. We know the hardest thing in any business is staffing. The fact that it’s so inconsistent, we’re dealing with humans. So one thing I’ve worked on is we have to make things simple when it comes to a business model. Love Teeth’s business model is very, very simple. It does take a bit of training and I’ve got the … people like you two, the guys who I think train the best. I mean, Pay, don’t you still do webinars every week for whitening? And Prav, I’ve seen your webinars and they’re inspirational.
Payman: So mate you’ve got this chance, you’ve got the chance. Here you are on national podcast, you guys tell me, what is the USP of Love Teeth in a sentence?
Kunal: Experience. So the aim is to have a modern day experience. No matter if it’s to get your teeth done, or any part of any business, the only way we’re going to survive going forward in this future, which is going to be taken over by machinery, technology, digital, anything that’s repetitive is going to be taken over. So only thing that’s going to keep us to survive is our own uniqueness, the human side of it, is an experience. So, experience.
Lucy: I think experience, but also confidence. Having that confidence to just go for it and just determination. I mean, when you look at Kunal’s life, he could have had it really easy, in a way. He didn’t probably need to graft as hard as he has. Even sounds crazy to just say, but having having Keira so young, I could have just got a council house, we live in the UK. That’s what it could have been but we’re two very, very determined people and we just want to bring out the better in every single one of our individuals that come through our clinic. Whether it’s training the staff, but also for the patients as well, we want them to be the best versions that they can be. I think if you read our reviews, everything comes down to the experience and the friendliness. Friendliness, believe it or not does come down to confidence in a way, because if you’re not confident, it’s very hard to come across as friendly. Because if you’re shy, you can come across as very rude without realising, completely unintentionally.
Lucy: So to have that friendly manner, that confidence to be able to talk to people, the confidence to be able to speak about Enlighten in depth, speak about Invisalign in depth. We train them in every aspect, isn’t it? But was that confidence, that brings the experience.
Payman: So just imagine this guy in Edinburgh said, “I want to be love teeth.” How much work do you reckon you’d have to do on the team before you felt like, I’m happy to put the logo up there and they’re going to be Love Teeth? Isn’t something you need to work out, isn’t it?
Kunal: Oh yeah, 100%, there’s logistics that we’ve been going through. So also the next thing that we’re doing is we’re creating our own course.
Payman: Are you?
Kunal: And this course is going to be based on the webinars we’ve done together, but we’re going to go out there and we’re going to fill up courses on individual delegates and then we’re going to give the opportunity for teams to come to our clinic. This is Lucy’s idea, which I think you might have been part of in the past Pay, where you’ve said that this is a great idea, where people come to our clinic for a day with their entire team and they will see how a flow will work. So it will be on a weekend, they pay an X amount. They’ll come in and we’ll go through reception, concierge, TCO, the dentists, the whole flow of how it is. We’ll train this team up and then if they want to be part of a franchise model, a startup, they can go ahead and do it. But we’re not in that position right now if someone says, “I want to open one in Edinburgh,” right now.
Payman: I mean, this is probably how you’ll end up meeting those people, so you’re absolutely right.
Kunal: Yeah, exactly.
Payman: You’re absolutely right.
Kunal: That’s the way we’re going to be doing it because they need to see what we’re about. What I do with Love Teeth isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, right?
Payman: No, no, that’s right, that’s right. But the secret sauce, that secret sauce that is Love Teeth, I’m sure you’re going to get enough people wanting to experience that. Robbie’s the same, isn’t it?
Payman: He’s got people want to go to Dental Excellence and see what is it about Dental Excellence. People want to be in that building to see what that patient experience is. I think it’s going to be similar with you guys.
Kunal: I mean, I think it was … The one thing I must say, what Lucy changed for me in being a principal owner is she made me see things as a dental nurse-
Lucy: As a team member.
Kunal: … how life can be difficult with a young family. So it made me like … We really look after our staff now, proper. We really look after them because I was able to relate that to what Lucy’s [inaudible] could have been, or et cetera. But also she gave me the aspect of what a patient sees when they walk in, so every time we go to a hotel or a restaurant or anything, Payman, you always said that first thing in our first meeting about that burger analogy that you have. We look at these things now, whatever we go, and we want that five star experience for our patients. No waiting, cleanliness, smell, everything is [crosstalk 01:41:38].
Payman: You guys should listen to the Zubair podcast, because he doesn’t talk about this, this stuff that you’re doing, this is your USB here. He talks about how to manage a big group and he set it up from the second one onwards. He started putting systems in place because he wanted a hundred eventually. I think he’s on number 10 now. Have listened to that, that’s a goodie, a goodie.
Kunal: Definitely, so it’ll be my second podcast after your two’s interview.
Payman: It’s been so nice to have you guys on, man. This is the longest one we’ve ever done.
Lucy: [crosstalk 00:15:13].
Prav: He rattles on a bit, but what I really want to just touch upon very quickly and we could go on for much, much longer guys is just home life and family life. What’s Kunal like as a dad to Keira?
Lucy: Oh my goodness. I will say, it would have never continued, the relationship would never have continued if it wasn’t for the fact that he is amazing. In fact, I would almost put it out-
Kunal: [crosstalk 01:42:41].
Lucy: … that’s actually better with Keira than he is [Kyan] in a way. He’s really close to Keira, they get along so well and she thinks so highly of him. Believe it or not, he helped her with her studies so that he got her into this high school.
Kunal: I flew back, didn’t I?
Lucy: Yeah, he flew back from, what was it?
Lucy: Copenhagen when she had her her 11 plus exams.
Kunal: She wanted me to do [crosstalk 01:43:06].
Lucy: Honestly, he really cares for her and I think that’s so important. One little story about Keira, just to explain her as a person and their relationship, as well is he once … The first Christmas he spent with her, he got her a cardboard box and it was just to toy around with her, just to tease her, because he’s used to having nieces and nephews. He wrapped this cardboard box up in wrapping paper, and she opens it up and it’s empty. He goes, “Oh, Keira.” As you do, “Keira, I’m so sorry. It’s been really hard at the moment. We haven’t been able to see many patients. We haven’t got any money at the moment.” She goes, “That’s okay.” She goes, “I can do so many things with this box.”
Prav: Oh, dear.
Payman: Oh, that’s so lovely, what a lovely girl.
Lucy: And it really humbled him, I think [crosstalk 01:43:56].
Payman: What a lovely, lovely girl. So I got to say from my side, the two of you, Kunal and Prav, when you say, “My daughter, my son,” and Prav’s got two step kids, it really, really makes you feel like you really believe that. That you feel like the father of those kids, both of you. I’ve really noticed that.
Prav: Yeah and I’ll speak from my voice as well, it’s not the easiest thing in the world and I know that, but deep down inside, you’ve got these innocent, young, little human beings who look up to you with a degree of respect and as a source of inspiration, or as a role model, or whatever that is, and you put some love back into them and you’ll get 10 times back out.
Kunal: Because in a way, we are making ourselves a bit more vulnerable to her at some point in the future. So there’s going to be a time where there’s another dad and we put so much love in, and we are making ourselves vulnerable but they’re worth it, you know? That’s what I mean. Who’s going to walk her down the aisle? I’m already thinking about that. Is she going to let it be both of us, is it going to be-
Payman: She can decide, let her decide, we’ll [crosstalk 01:45:14].
Kunal: And I have no quarrels, I know there’s going to be a heartache in the future, but she’s worth it, that’s what I say.
Prav: Yeah, and you just got to rest assured buddy, whether you walk her down the aisle, he walks down the aisle, you insist there’s going to be two father of the bride speeches and you make sure yours is the best one, buddy.
Kunal: You’re going to be writing my speech for me, bruv. No, what else am I like at home? That’s all right, I’m a good dad.
Lucy: No he is, he is a good [crosstalk 01:45:49].
Kunal: I’m not a good husband, I’m a good dad.
Prav: What’s the dynamic like at home Lucy, in terms of living with extended parents and that side of things? Obviously it’s not traditionally the culture you’ve been brought up in.
Lucy: Oh definitely not. I mean, what a support network. I was a lone wolf, really when I came and I now have a pack. I think actually living in a joint family, I think that is one of the things that changed me as an individual. I think I’ve become more caring because of it. I think, when one of our girls became ill and she couldn’t leave the house, and I just found myself outside her front door with a bag full of medicine and oranges and food.
Kunal: She had COVID, didn’t it?
Lucy: She had COVID and yeah, she was by herself. She’s a young girl by herself and then before I knew it, I just … obviously I couldn’t go in, but I was doing these things. I was thinking … you know you drive away afterwards and you think yourself, “I just did that.” And I did it without even-
Lucy: … thinking. Yeah, I think having that joint family, that love, that constant love and that support. I mean, don’t get me wrong. It’s not always the easiest. I’d find it hard living with my own mum now.
Payman: How did your parents take it Lucy, when you said, “I want to marry this Indian guy?”
Kunal: It wasn’t your mom it was your nan, wasn’t it?
Lucy: Yeah, we faced a bit of … I mean, what you don’t understand is that the part of Surrey that we live in, I think I had one Sri Lankan guy in my whole school, there wasn’t … and I just knew that he was really good at maths, that was it, so I didn’t really know. When I first met Kunal, I went away from that job interview not knowing that he’s thinking, “Oh yeah, she’s nice.” I just thought, “He’s married with kids.” I’d never really met Indian people before. It’s a very white area and we faced a bit of stick. It was quite difficult on the flip side. I know it was obviously very difficult for Kunal as well but I think it just made us really strong. I don’t think there’s many things that can hit us. Obviously we have our blips, but generally, we’ve been through so much in such a short period of time. I mean, five and a half years, how quickly does that go? But I don’t think there’s … I think we’re pretty much unstoppable. The only things that can stop us are each other.
Kunal: And my health.
Lucy: And his health, if he doesn’t look after his cholesterol.
Prav: We’re going to sort that out, Lucy.
Lucy: Yeah, hopefully.
Payman: Don’t worry, the Oculus is coming.
Kunal: We’ve missed the delivery. Guys, I was mid-
Lucy: I got this text, “Lucy, it’s come.”
Kunal: I was in mid conversation with you, the Amazon driver’s outside. No one’s answering the gate, he’s driven off with my Oculus.
Payman: Oh no, you’re kidding.
Lucy: I’m going to have to chase him.
Payman: You’re kidding.
Payman: Well, it’s been wonderful. I’ve really enjoyed it very, very much. It’s nice Lucy, to have him on his own saying the things that then you come back and actually confirm what he said and with a few nuances thrown in. Really nice to have you both on.
Prav: We’re going to end with my final question, Kunal. So you know what this is?
Payman: No, he doesn’t listen to the podcast, dude.
Prav: Okay. So buddy, just picture this. I just want you to think about this, all right? You’ve got your 50 practises now. They’ve all got the Love Teeth logo of them, in every city. You’ve made it. You’ve fulfilled all your dreams. You’re doing very little dentistry, but unfortunately the time’s come to live your last day on the planet. You’ve got Keira and Kyan next to you.
Kunal: Is she there?
Prav: She’s there.
Lucy: I’m cooking.
Prav: And you’ve got to leave them with three pieces of advice. Then I’ve got one more question after you answer this.
Kunal: Look after each other.
Lucy: Just go for it, I reckon that would be your-
Kunal: Be confident in life and don’t take shit from no one.
Prav: Nice, man. How would you like to be remembered? Your legacy? What would you like people to say about you?
Kunal: I am doing all this hard work because I want to leave a legacy for Kyan and Keira. How do I want to be remembered? Like a positive, hardworking dad that made a difference in one way or another. That’s why I’m doing, honestly, I don’t really care about much of … I said it earlier, I don’t really care how people take me, but I want to not let my kids down. So I want to leave them with a positive remembrance about me. Who can say, “Your dad was cool.”
Prav: Lucy, if the shoe was on the foot and it was Kunal, Keira and Kyan? Tell me about your three pieces of wisdom that you’d leave the world with and how you’d like to remembered.
Lucy: I think I’d like to just always be remembered that I was always there for everything. Anything that the kids had ever gone through, I think that’s the best thing that Kunal’s let me always be there for the kids, and him, and the people at work, and the family.
Lucy: Three bits of advice. Just go for it, 100%. Just go for it. For my kids, just get those grades. I know it sounds daft, but that sets you up in life and just keep smiling, smile through everything in life.
Prav: Beautiful, thanks guys.
Payman: Thank you.
Prav: Thank you so much.
Payman: This has been brilliant. Thank you so, so much.
Kunal: Thank you guys for taking up Sunday-
Prav: It was really good.
Kunal: … and doing it on a Sunday for me. I know-
Prav: Absolute pleasure mate. Absolute pleasure.
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 guests has had to say, because I’m assuming you got some value out of it.
Payman: If you did get some value out of it, think about subscribing. And if you would share this with a friend who you think might get some value out of it too. Thank you so, so, so much for listening. Thanks.
Prav: And don’t forget our six star rating.