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Dentology Podcast with Gary Chapman


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Transcript – Dentology Podcast with Gary Chapman

Episode Release Date: Monday 20 May 2024

Andy & Chris (00:01.732)
It is indeed podcast record a very very enjoyable day because we meet and talk to some very interesting people It’s funny isn’t it when you look now, you know, we’re up at kind of 130 plus episodes It’s building a really nice catalog of content around the business of dentistry It is it is and the people who listen, thank you very much They listen all the way through I think that’s what’s flipping amazing is they don’t sort of listen to 10 minutes of thing. I was just bored in here

cancel off, they listen all the way through. So thank you all our listeners. You’re the ones that make it worthwhile and make it interesting for us as well. And I think also it goes to serve that people are interesting. And today we’ve got a very interesting gentleman. We’re joined by Gary Chapman and Gary is the director of M &A UK and Europe for Portman Dentex. He joined when it was Portman, but now he’s still there at Portman Dentex. How you doing Gary? Good to see you.

Gary Chapman (00:51.053)
I’m fine guys. Thank you for having me on your Dentology podcast. I’ve listened to it a good few times. It’s an honour.

Andy & Chris (01:04.292)
Ah, our pleasure. Thank you for saying yes. Well, I think you’re going to be a really, I think you’re going to be a really, really interesting conversation. I don’t think people will appreciate just how long you’ve been in dentistry. Even by looking at him, they wouldn’t appreciate it. No, exactly. Exactly. But just to get that sense of how it’s changed over, in your case, it’s decades, it’s not years, will be fascinating for our listeners. But also you’ve traversed so many different areas of dentistry as well.

Gary Chapman (01:16.653)
Thanks Chris.

Gary Chapman (01:25.773)

Andy & Chris (01:32.804)
and will come right up to date in terms of where you are with Portman Dentex. But I mean, we’ve known one another for close on 20 years, I’d have thought, something like that. So we bought Frank Tate and Associates back in 2000. And it was very soon after that we kind of got to know one another. But before we kind of get to that kind of beginning when we met one another, there’s a whole period and a chapter before that. But even before that.

Gary Chapman (01:33.484)

Gary Chapman (01:42.636)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, about that.

Gary Chapman (01:50.508)
Yeah. Yeah.

Andy & Chris (02:01.252)
What was your upbringing like? What was your childhood like?

Gary Chapman (02:04.588)
I had a good upbringing, good upbringing, great parents, you know, supported us, me, I got two brothers, all went different ways. One’s a truck driver, one’s took over my dad’s company and I didn’t want to be a builder. So I ended up, it was quite an irony of life is that I was going for a job at the Dental Estimates Board because I used to live in a town called Bexhill, which is next to Eastbourne. And so for this…

Andy & Chris (02:21.828)

Andy & Chris (02:31.524)
Oh yeah, yeah.

Gary Chapman (02:32.555)
It was £1 ,500 a year as a programmer and I couldn’t program to save my life, but it was like, you know, but I was a junior young badminton player at the time and my guy that I played badminton with had dental laboratory and he was looking for an apprentice and I wasn’t the smartest kid on the block when it came to school. So.

Andy & Chris (02:54.628)

Gary Chapman (02:58.73)
didn’t need any qualifications. So instead of going to the dental estimates board, I went to a dental laboratory. And that’s how I ended up in June 1980 as an apprentice dental technician. And I can remember the first denture I made for Mrs. Young. I don’t know how you remember these things, but you can remember. In my bike blocks and my special trays and a lot of your listeners will probably.

Andy & Chris (03:04.58)

Andy & Chris (03:08.516)

Andy & Chris (03:17.348)
Wow, wait, flip.

Gary Chapman (03:25.93)
know that technicians can be your best friends and your worst enemies all in the same day and certainly more back then it was it was a funny it was a I was lucky I believe I was lucky because 44 years later you know it’s uh I’m still in dentistry.

Andy & Chris (03:40.164)
Yeah. I think we should just clarify for people that heard you say you are offered a job of £1 ,500 a year, that was right.

Gary Chapman (03:49.257)
was correct. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Andy & Chris (03:49.604)
That’s back in the 1980s, that’s what you earned as an annual wage. So I think it just shows how the world significantly moved on. I still remember my first salary. Do you remember your first annual salary? It’s a big moment. It is. I remember my first Lloyds Bank salary, £2 ,984, plus London waiting. Plus London waiting. Those were the days. Those were the days. So 44…

Gary Chapman (03:59.721)

Gary Chapman (04:13.609)
Yeah, it goes.

Andy & Chris (04:18.5)
years in dentistry, starting as a technician, can you just paint us a picture of what dentistry was like in those early days? I know you’re on the technician side then, but was it incredibly manual? Was it in essence the same as what it is today? Just we’ve got more technology around us. And what were people like? I think that’s the thing I’ve noticed is the change in people.

Gary Chapman (04:31.945)
Me was.

Gary Chapman (04:37.865)

Yeah, it was far more manual. I mean, we were three technicians in a back of a practice with three dentists. And, well, two technicians and me as an apprentice. And that ran that laboratory flat out. And we would work just for that one practice down in Bexhill, Eversley Road. And yeah, it was a time and a place where, you know, it was totally different.

Andy & Chris (04:56.26)
just for that one practice. Wow.

Gary Chapman (05:09.127)
And then if we worked for one or two practices around the corner, we thought we were millionaires, as Del Boy would say, you know, and you know that we were really on the up, but hard work, you know, the sympathy for technicians back then is, you know, it was a seven to seven job and that would be normal. And you wouldn’t even really think anything different of that. It wasn’t your nine to five, you know, you had to have everything ready to go and.

Andy & Chris (05:16.324)

Andy & Chris (05:29.956)


Gary Chapman (05:37.927)
And that’s how it was. And it never really changed, I think, for years. And I even think now you look at some laboratories, they work so hard, you know, and, you know, it is a, it’s always been a tough industry to be in. And now, you know, that, that is coming to fruition, you know, where technicians aren’t walking into this industry, you know, and I don’t want to get political, but not walking into the industry because they’re just not well paid. I’m not well paid enough. You know.

Andy & Chris (05:48.003)

Andy & Chris (05:58.468)

Andy & Chris (06:06.244)
When you’re at school, sorry when you’re at school were you creative you said you weren’t like Whatever exam were you like creative or? Altie or anything like that Okay interesting

Gary Chapman (06:12.518)
No, I was… No, I was useless. No, I was a sport, sports, it was a sport mad. Football, rugby, anything I could get that I, you know, and I was always clipped around the year for looking out the window. You know, Chapman, pay attention. That’s what I got done for. But, you know, it’s, yeah, I wasn’t a creative guy at all.

Andy & Chris (06:29.22)
Ha ha ha ha.

Andy & Chris (06:37.988)
Mm -hmm. It’s just I always think labs a bit of an artistry as much as a functional thing isn’t it? You sort of got to get it, right? Whether your color matching or whatever that sort of like Yeah

Gary Chapman (06:43.717)
Yeah, yeah. I had a wonderful teacher who became partner, you know, a guy called Simon Adams, terrific, you know, terrific technician. One of the first clinical dental technicians in the country. A good man, you know, and, you know, you through life, I think if you’re lucky enough to have these people in your life, I think they shape you. You know, you know, we became partners, we built

Andy & Chris (07:06.02)
Mmm. Mmm. Yeah.

Gary Chapman (07:11.492)
one of the biggest labs in the country at the time to nearly over 50 people. So that was from being his apprentice to being his partner to really being his boss at the end of the day. You know, but for me it was not about I was any good as a technician. It was that I was pretty good at the, you know, the business side of it. So.

Andy & Chris (07:17.54)

Andy & Chris (07:28.388)

Yeah. Back in the eighties, Gary, you were saying that the lab that you worked in was at the back of a dental practice. Was that quite common practice for dental practice to have a lab integrated into the practice? And when did that, and if that was the case, when did that kind of change where people outsourced and labs got bigger?

Gary Chapman (07:48.9)
I think it probably changed towards the end of the 80s. You used to have your Broughton and Tyrrells and, you know, there were big labs, you know, and the I think Little Johns in Glasgow, but there wasn’t very many of what we called full service laboratories. And what we saw the opportunity was that we were just doing dentures and and crown basic crown work. And then in the middle 80s, bonded crowns came out and we then took that up and that sort of flew. But then we had to move out.

Andy & Chris (08:11.268)

Andy & Chris (08:14.756)

Gary Chapman (08:19.108)
of that shed, which it basically was at the back of a dental practice into our own sort of laboratory. So we then became what I call the full service laboratory, where we did everything from Adam’s Cribs to bridge work, implant work, and then hired the technicians. And there was a lot more technicians around. And ironically, that was my first dip into acquisitions because we acquired

Andy & Chris (08:28.324)

Andy & Chris (08:40.996)
the moon.

Gary Chapman (08:47.364)
The obvious thing then was to acquire some labs and bring them in because we had the British standards BS5750 it was called. So it’s when labs had to adhere to a regulation. And obviously the smaller labs couldn’t do it. And as a bigger lab, we could, you know, and then, you know, it’s many different pathways. We actually invented our own software that is used by a lot of labs now called Transactor.

Andy & Chris (08:50.276)
Mmm, right.

Andy & Chris (09:03.46)
Couldn’t do it, yeah.

Gary Chapman (09:15.716)
and it came from our lab because we needed a window -based laboratory system that we could track all the work and where it was going. So we created our own. Hundreds of labs use that now, even though I’m not involved in it anymore.

Andy & Chris (09:20.708)
Mmm. Wow.

Hmm, it’s It’s Yeah, it’s fun. Isn’t it? Because you think as you were mentioning I was thinking you remember we used to do Valuation sort of the beginning when we bought the business there would always or virtually always be some sort of trimmer or something in the back and Nowadays, I just suddenly thought you don’t see you really see that unless it’s an old -school dentist, you know But there would always be in that room full of white

Gary Chapman (09:42.308)

Andy & Chris (09:53.476)
plaster and powder where they’d have their trimming wheel and their polishing or whatever it might be. And I suddenly thought, yeah, I remember that when those early days, but that’s changed so much now. Is digital dentistry, Gary, is that? You were saying about we’re not seeing the kind of young technicians coming in. Is it now they’re coming in and sitting at laptops and with the advent of digital dentistry and looking at things like what Sprint Ray and other companies are doing in that space at the moment?

Gary Chapman (10:03.972)

Gary Chapman (10:18.244)

Andy & Chris (10:22.788)
Is it becoming a very technology -led industry and we’re moving away from that kind of, that manual eye, that manual craft?

Gary Chapman (10:31.108)
I still think you have what I call conventional laboratories. You still will have them and you will have that service laboratory that is going back if you want full circle to the lab that’s at the back of the practice. And some of the practices have those bespoke labs. But you are right, even if you look at any lab, they’re either having an internal scanner and you go back to when Prasira first came out with their scanning of the preps and then sending them off.

Andy & Chris (10:34.564)

Andy & Chris (10:44.1)

Andy & Chris (10:54.308)
Mmm. Mmm.

Gary Chapman (11:01.124)
So the thought process of the technicians now is to have sort of scanning or printing within the practice. And if they haven’t got that, then they’re outsourcing it to a laboratory that does do it and then sends the work back to them. So you are right, Andy, that technology is certainly driving the technical side of the business. Unless I think somebody told me last year, 27 technicians qualified in the whole of the UK. 27.

Andy & Chris (11:17.092)

Andy & Chris (11:22.5)

Andy & Chris (11:29.764)

Gary Chapman (11:31.332)
And there’s a number 27 where there was, in my day, there was guys where I did mine and, you know, qualification and all these places that, that tech teams were coming out, Manchester and Birmingham, but 27 in the whole of the UK qualified.

Andy & Chris (11:32.708)

Andy & Chris (11:41.572)

Andy & Chris (11:48.196)
Wow. And in your opinion, would you say the digital results are as good, better, worse than an actual technician working on it?

Gary Chapman (11:58.084)
what you’re doing really. I mean that real niche bespoke, you know, is going to be very difficult for machines to replicate. But some of the stuff that is being produced by the machines, shall we say, is extraordinary and extraordinarily accurate. So it’s showing, you know, the good dentistry that’s being done by dentists. It highlights it. It also highlights…

Andy & Chris (12:15.076)

Andy & Chris (12:24.324)

Gary Chapman (12:26.116)
you know, they’re not such good dentistry being done by dentists because it’s going to work both ways and you know, and you can, you can analyze it before you send it. So trim a bit more here or do a bit more there, you know, but it’s a good thing in the long run.

Andy & Chris (12:28.164)


Andy & Chris (12:38.852)
Hmm. Yeah. Yeah. I think for mainstream, for mainstream dentistry, it certainly puts in workflows and a, and a consistency that perhaps wasn’t, wasn’t there before. I suppose you pay for it. Don’t you for bespoke? Cause it’s a bit like, I suppose if you can go and buy a VW Audi or you can go and buy a Bentley. And then the answer is the difference is how much time someone spends on it. I presume and uses their skill and technique. Yeah. Exactly. So in terms of, cause you’re also an entrepreneurial guy.

Gary Chapman (12:49.828)
Yeah, I dig.

Gary Chapman (13:00.924)
Yeah, yeah, indeed.

Andy & Chris (13:09.348)
So how did you go from being an apprentice lab technician to ending up owning a lab? You said you worked with Simon Adams and you built it with him. Was that a bit like an associate buying into a dental practice and going from there? Was it a similar pathway?

Gary Chapman (13:09.5)
I’m sorry.

Gary Chapman (13:19.835)

Gary Chapman (13:25.692)
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I had to spend 30 ,000 pounds to buy into the lab that was turning over 80 ,000 pounds, you know, and I had to I had my 45%, 47 % and 50%. But it was a bit like that, you know, but the difference between myself and Simon at the time, God rest his soul, was that he was a wonderful technician.

Andy & Chris (13:36.612)
Ha ha ha ha.

Gary Chapman (13:55.13)
but he really wasn’t a businessman and you could see where this was going. So it was then to drive now the business and, and, you know, you put me in front of people, it was, you know, I’m selling my dental laboratory to it’s on time. And I would always say that our lab was never a great lab. We weren’t a high end, we didn’t produce fantastic work, but it was on time, it fitted and it was the right shade. And dentists love that, you know, they knew it was going to be there the day before.

Andy & Chris (13:59.364)
But yeah.

Andy & Chris (14:12.932)

Andy & Chris (14:20.676)

Gary Chapman (14:25.082)
And you can build a business around, you know, you can build a really big business around that sort of, you know, promising what you can deliver. And I think that.

Andy & Chris (14:29.316)

Andy & Chris (14:35.844)
Well it makes it sound like a lot of the technicians didn’t by the sounds of things or they were maybe late or needed rework so therefore you you managed to hit the sweet spot where we just did what we said we’re going to do.

Gary Chapman (14:48.026)
Yeah, we weren’t the perfect lab, Chris, by no means. I think any business, whatever business we’re in, we’re not perfect. But we just had that time where one van would come and pick up all your lab work, take it back to one lab, and then it would be back just safe for arguments the next day, all ready and done. So that was the time where there was no lab like ours in the Southeast. We ended up going to…

Andy & Chris (15:02.276)

Andy & Chris (15:07.396)
Mm. Mm.

Gary Chapman (15:18.169)
even ended up going to Wales where I first had my first contact with a guy called James Hull and became his technician. So this is how this all starts to, you start to see how this all rolls, you know. And so, yeah, I mean, we became a very large laboratory, not the best in quality standard, absolutely not. But certainly in those three factors.

Andy & Chris (15:25.124)
That’s James Howell, yeah, yeah.

Andy & Chris (15:36.004)
Mmm, wow.

But what I love is you acknowledge what you’re good at. It was good enough work, it was a good shade, but also you delivered on time. And that consistently, I think working out, they say, don’t they, you can have it fast, you can have it good, you can have it cheap, but you can only have two of them. And you worked out where you were, and by your own admission, you’re saying it wasn’t the best, you could get better, but our price was good, the color was good, and you would get it on time. And that matters.

Gary Chapman (15:43.801)
It was, yeah.

Gary Chapman (15:54.679)
Yeah. Yeah.

Gary Chapman (16:01.495)
Oh, we can.

Andy & Chris (16:07.46)
And because you did it on a routine basis, people know they’re going to get good service.

Gary Chapman (16:12.056)
Yeah, it was predominantly NHS, Andy, you know, it was 90 % NHS, 10 % private, you know, and yeah, it was, you know, so, you know, it became a multi million pound laboratory, you know, so from.

Andy & Chris (16:15.076)
Mm -hmm Yeah, that’s true those days. Yeah, definitely

Andy & Chris (16:25.188)
That’s really interesting isn’t it, the James Hull connection. That’s impressive, 80 grand. I think I met James early 90s I think when I was still working in a bank. Before we get to James and your kind of corporate world, what was your involvement in implants in the early years? Because that was quite a new technology in evolution. How did you get involved in that?

Gary Chapman (16:33.559)
Yeah, a character.

Gary Chapman (16:48.278)
Well, we were doing implants within the business, you know, for not very many, but a few for some stroummen predominantly, for some dentists and went to an ADI meeting, one of the first ADI meetings and listened to a chap called Ashok Sethi speak and Peter Sokka. And they were, and a guy called Stuart Harding and a lot of your listeners will know these names, you know, and…

Andy & Chris (17:08.932)
Yeah, why?

Andy & Chris (17:16.74)

Gary Chapman (17:18.038)
they were doing something really clever with angled abutments. I won’t be too prescriptive, but it was clever stuff. And it was so far ahead of its time. Cut a long story short, with Ashok and Peter and these guys, we started and a guy called John Gould, who was a wonderful engineer, we started our own implant company that is still going, called OsteoCare. And it flourished.

Andy & Chris (17:42.564)
Oh yeah, right, okay.

Gary Chapman (17:47.541)
it flourished to a degree until, you know, just let’s just say headwinds got a bit strong, you know, but we took it abroad, we sold it abroad, you know, and it became again, quite a successful little business. And I’m sure it still is and I hope it still is because they were good people. You know, but it was it was that sort of we became the distributors of the the implant system.

Andy & Chris (17:55.588)

Gary Chapman (18:17.397)
So because we were technicians, we could advise the dentist what they needed, when they needed it, not in implants or placements, but you should have this angled abutment and this healing collar. So what then it did is again, another, when you get into the future of my life, it introduced me to a lot of high earning implant dentists, he’s and she’s, you know, across the whole country that wanted to have a look, you know, at this system. And because Ashok.

Andy & Chris (18:17.476)

Andy & Chris (18:28.068)

Andy & Chris (18:39.684)

Gary Chapman (18:46.548)
and Peter were such wonderful teachers and they were wonderful. You know, they taught dentists how to do implant dentistry at the time. You know, I think our first course was back in Ealing in 1992, if I remember rightly, that I was involved with. So, so that’s how I got into implantology and through that time, selling it in, I was saying to somebody, one minute I was in Damascus and then I was in Poland and then I went to the States, you know, so.

Andy & Chris (18:53.444)
Mm -hmm.

Andy & Chris (19:00.164)
I don’t know.

Gary Chapman (19:14.932)
But I met some wonderful people and learned so much, you know, so with the still still having the laboratory as well and our own mental practice.

Andy & Chris (19:19.076)

Right, yeah. And then, I guess at some point you then developed this relationship with James Hull to a deeper level because you were heavily on the M &A side with James as he was developing his group. So had you, at that time, had you exited the lab? Was that your full -time thing with James or were you spinning lots of plates?

Gary Chapman (19:42.579)
No, what happened then is that I, you could say for two years, three years, I was out of dentistry and into the Botox and all that sort of training dentists and then actually owning my own clinic called Rejuvenate in Harley Street. So basically what happened, we ran that, built that up. We had a clinic in, as I said, in Harley Street and in Ponce Street behind Harrods and built that up.

Andy & Chris (20:01.924)

Andy & Chris (20:10.5)
But, mm. Yep.

Gary Chapman (20:12.882)
And then basically James said he wants to do what was called the face clinics, facial ascetic centers of excellence they were called. And he took that off me and I became the guy that was going to drive the face clinics across the group. And at that time, James had 23, 22, 23 practices. Incredible man, incredible man, you know, so, so, but I just wasn’t any good at that.

Andy & Chris (20:29.444)

Gary Chapman (20:40.593)
and it just didn’t really float my boat. And the guy that was doing the M &A in James Hold was an accountant that really wasn’t understanding of when he had to converse with dentists. So James gave me that chance and gave me that education of how to cut a deal. I knew how to speak to dentists, but I didn’t know. I can remember, I was so embarrassed because he said, well, the EBITDA, and I’m sort of thinking, I’m sitting there nodding.

Andy & Chris (20:53.348)

Andy & Chris (21:03.236)

Gary Chapman (21:10.353)
I didn’t even know what it meant. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Andy & Chris (21:10.948)
There’s still a lot of people that do that today, Gary. You were thinking it was a new lab technique.

Gary Chapman (21:39.504)
We’d literally left each other and then back together and somebody could trust, somebody could trust to spend the money he thought wisely. And that’s how I started doing the mergers and acquisitions for James Hull Associates at the time.

Andy & Chris (21:45.156)
Mm -hmm.

Andy & Chris (21:57.54)
Right, yeah. So you’re with him for a fair chunk of time and then in… did you go straight from James Holt to Portland in 2009 or was there another chapter in between?

Gary Chapman (21:59.12)
So yeah.


Gary Chapman (22:08.879)
No, yeah, yeah. Yeah, basically, we because total mismanagement by the private equity guys. That’s the reality. You know, we, we, we all left on in October, I think it was September, October 2009. And, you know, so operations, the operational girls, it was like a mass exodus. And

Andy & Chris (22:18.148)

Andy & Chris (22:23.108)

Gary Chapman (22:36.942)
when you can’t have James Hull in James Hull at that time, you know, because he was a character that was larger than life. You know, what anybody thinks or says he was a he was a pioneer in my my eyes, you know, so, you know, you know, you know him and David and, you know, and David Huddly, you know, these are guys that, you know, none of us would be here now if it wasn’t for those men that saw these visions and, you know,

Andy & Chris (22:37.028)


Andy & Chris (22:44.612)

Andy & Chris (22:48.9)
He was, yeah, definitely. Those early days, for sure, yeah.

Andy & Chris (22:55.748)
Yeah. Yeah.

Hmm Well, they were doing something that hadn’t really been done before in dentistry and when we operate in a market now Where there’s quite a lot of corporates and multiple owners. It’s easy to go. Well, yeah, but back then No, it was it was it was it Colin Poggo was a Pogo. I remember him vaguely. Yes

Gary Chapman (23:15.213)
Yeah, Colin Pogo. When you think of agents, you know, there was you guys. That was it. I can’t, you know, when I started, there was Frank Taylor Associates. That was it, you know, and you were the go to people that every practicist of my day, you know, conversations we would have back then, you know, but and then obviously there was a lot that weren’t, you know, having advisors if you want.

Andy & Chris (23:22.756)

Andy & Chris (23:26.564)

Andy & Chris (23:38.788)

Yeah, so you joined you joined portman as it was then in 2009 they have two practices you’ve got 440 in the uk and across europe or upwards of 440 across the uk and europe at the moment so it’s gone it’s gone pretty well hasn’t it

Gary Chapman (23:47.725)

Correct. Yeah.

Gary Chapman (23:57.004)
Yeah, around that. Yeah. We’ve been very lucky. We’ve been, we’ve been, I don’t, I, we’ve been lucky. We got a wonderful, wonderful man in Sam Whaley -Cohen and the Whaley -Cohen family because in my opinion, they had the vision and Sam has the…

Andy & Chris (24:14.436)
What was the business plan when you joined that business in 2009 and you sat down with Sam? What was the plan for what Portman was going to become 15 years ago?

Gary Chapman (24:25.868)
Well, I think, you know, I like to think I had a little hand in it where I’d learned what you do do and what you don’t do. When I was in James Holland, when I look back on those days, we were in a, you know, I bought 62 practices in three years for James and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing for the first six months, really. You know, it was just, but then it was buy to sell. You know, Gary.

Andy & Chris (24:31.716)

Andy & Chris (24:35.3)

Gary Chapman (24:55.436)
And this is not James saying that we’re going to build this business up as quick as we can and we’re going to flog it. Very clear. Don’t care who we buy. Don’t. And why I say this, Andy, Chris, is it sort of sets the scene of when Portman and Sam and Mark Hamburger and, you know, Sam’s dad, you know, it was it was we are going to buy quality. We because we knew at James Hole where we’d moved from those.

Andy & Chris (25:03.076)

Andy & Chris (25:19.684)

Gary Chapman (25:23.243)
first slot, which were more NHS based to the next slot, more private specialists that if you bought very good quality practices with very good quality people, you had the chance to build in a very good quality business. And I think his it if I look back, that was the time that we’re not going to buy NHS and I’m sure a lot of you know, people will remember that they thought we were mad. I can have people coming up to me, why aren’t you buying this NHS practice? Or why aren’t you buying that NHS practice? And

Andy & Chris (25:25.86)
Mmm. Mmm.

Andy & Chris (25:35.108)

Gary Chapman (25:53.45)
And we know we’re going to buy private and buy quality and ultimately we’ll be masters of our own destiny rather than than than beholding to any third party, the government, you know, of where we’re going to go and what those pay rises and rises are going to be, I suppose. You know, so that.

Andy & Chris (25:53.508)

Andy & Chris (26:01.7)

Andy & Chris (26:12.548)
You mentioned Sam, we’ve met a few times and he’s a lovely guy, very charming. Remarkable individual. I mean, to win the Chertnam Gold Cup back in 2011.

Gary Chapman (26:28.458)
Mm. Mm.

Andy & Chris (26:28.484)
and then the Grand National and his last race in 2022 on noble yeets of 50 to 1 outsider. It really is. There’s a film, isn’t there? There’s a film hanging in the background of the guy’s life. What’s he like as an individual to work with? Obviously you work with on a daily basis. What’s he like as a guy?

Gary Chapman (26:40.042)
Yeah, that has got a bit of film. Yeah.

Gary Chapman (26:47.465)
Yeah, he top man, top top. He’s a he’s a I can’t I can’t express, you know, near enough. It’s like a bromance, I would say. But he’s a he, you know, I think we I think we we had in our 15 years of working together. I can honestly say we’ve had probably one disagreement and he was right and I was wrong, you know, but but but which is which is which is normal. But he is a good man.

Andy & Chris (27:00.836)

Andy & Chris (27:11.46)

Gary Chapman (27:17.8)
sharp and clever and good looking and I hate him in some ways. But all the stuff we don’t like, but as a man to work for that’s 40 odd years old, he’s one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met in my life. And I’m proud to be working for Sam. He gave me the opportunity, I didn’t have a job at the time, and he gave that opportunity and he had the vision. He wanted to build the best corporate group in the world.

Andy & Chris (27:20.548)
All the stuff we don’t like.

Andy & Chris (27:44.932)

Gary Chapman (27:47.208)
And you’d laugh at that. But now when you look, you know, some people are now laughing on the other side of their face, you know, that, you know, that he is building that, you know, and he is the governor at the end of the day. Yeah.

Andy & Chris (27:49.636)

Andy & Chris (27:53.284)
He’s doing alright, isn’t he? Yeah.

Andy & Chris (27:58.884)
Yeah, yeah, no, it’s going incredibly well. How would you describe the changes that have affected the corporate world, you know, from your very beginning days with James, but to where we are now and what the future looks like for the dental corporate landscape?

Gary Chapman (28:16.232)
Well, I think corporate dentistry is only going to grow and grow and grow, you know, and I think it’s inevitable. You know, I think you’re seeing a lot of corporates out there. And I, I’ll probably say some things that are controversial, but this is probably what people want to hear. You have corporates that are out there that are buying to sell. Quite simply, they’re buying at X, they’re selling at Y, they’re making their money and they’re walking off into the sunset. Don’t really care what they buy. I know.

Andy & Chris (28:37.7)
Yeah, definitely. Yeah, definitely.

Gary Chapman (28:45.608)
personally, that is not the way to go. I don’t know if that’s answering your question as you asked it Andy, but from a, if you sell or go into the right corporate, and there are good corporates out there, you know, there are good people out there, you know, we’re not the only one. And some people will say we’re not good or we’re not bad, but I think, you know, I think if, I always say to dentists, if you,

Andy & Chris (29:02.052)

Gary Chapman (29:15.016)
become part of that if you embrace or you’ve sold the business and you’ve got a lot of money in your pocket but if you embrace the future with the group that you’re selling to it can be fantastic. If you don’t then it can be a whole world of pain and that’s the reality you know and we you know and I would say most well I can only talk for us but I would say I don’t like to buy practices just for the money.

Andy & Chris (29:18.5)

Andy & Chris (29:31.876)

Gary Chapman (29:42.885)
If the seller is all about how much I can get, it’s not really of any interest anymore. And that’s the discipline. So corporate dentistry historically has always been a bit of a whipping boy. I think dentists should thank their lucky stars corporate dentistry is about without a doubt, because if it wasn’t for corporate dentistry, I don’t think dentists would be getting the money and cash that is available now for practices.

Andy & Chris (29:43.492)

Andy & Chris (29:56.708)
Yeah, yeah.

Gary Chapman (30:12.42)
I can remember guys when, you know, when I look back in the 80s sort of rewinding a bit where you would go on Monday morning to drop some work off at the practice and the guys closed down and there’s a notice outside the, you know, please go around, I’ve retired now, please go around the corner to Mr. Versailles where he will look after you. You know, and you know that as well as I do, people would just close the doors, you know, and yeah, yeah, you know, so, and that apparently my colleagues and…

Andy & Chris (30:30.628)
Yeah. Yeah.

Yeah. Yes, right. They never sold, yeah. Never had value, yeah.

Gary Chapman (30:41.732)
Germany say that still happens.

Andy & Chris (30:44.644)
Well, it seems as you mentioned Germany because I was thinking of the company out there, Mielag, and I know the brothers who are kind of running the business at the moment, and they were telling me that that business was set up by their grandfather and then ran by their father, and now they’re running the business. And it very much is a generational business. There’s no plan to build the business and exit. We seem to have a very different culture, particularly on the dental side over here, that it seems to kind of by -build exit.

is very much kind of the cornerstone of a particular sector within dentistry. But that’s not the tactic that you’re taking at Portman, is it? That’s not your approach.

Gary Chapman (31:23.65)
Well, sorry, Andy, for interrupting, but you’re absolutely right, because as we sit here, the guy that founded it is still the group CEO. The guy that started the M &A is talking to you now. All right, we’ve had a few movements in people, but the family, the Waley Cone family, is still invested heavily in the business. I am, and as a lot of people are, because we believe…

Andy & Chris (31:33.38)

Andy & Chris (31:38.02)

Gary Chapman (31:52.482)
we’re building something special. And I, we were offered a lot of money once for our business from another group, should we just say, you know, and, and we turned it down because we would have been lying to the people that we’d acquired that we’re not going to buy the business and, and flog it off, you know, and, you know, and, and, and that was one of those salient points where let’s go, let’s, let’s, let’s keep on building what we’ve already, the foundations on what we’ve already built, you know, so it,

Andy & Chris (32:00.772)

Andy & Chris (32:08.324)
Mmm, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Andy & Chris (32:19.204)
Mm. Mm.

Gary Chapman (32:21.089)
It’s worked well, but you need good leadership. That’s the key, I think, to be honest with you.

Andy & Chris (32:24.292)

In a sort of bizarre way, it’s sort of similar to some of the sales, isn’t it, that FTA does, Frank Tannins. We do get the people who, some people will sell for money, but some people sell because they like the person, they choose the person they like. And I always think that’s quite heartening when we find someone, you know, someone might actually not be the highest price, but the vendor really likes that person and buys into what they want to do. And they will sell. And that’s sort of similar to what you’re saying, isn’t it really?

Gary Chapman (32:54.72)
Yeah, yeah.

Andy & Chris (32:56.038)
It’s about the guys that catch the vision and where they want to go, not necessarily the money.

Gary Chapman (32:59.455)

I think a really good agent, respectfully, has, he’s got to, you’re there to make money. No question. This is a business and we’re all in business to make, to do the best we can for our business. But a really what sets good agents apart for some of the not such good agents, because there are the whole plethora like there is corporates is finding the right buyer for the right seller. You know, I think that’s a big role to play. And obviously then brokering the right deal.

Andy & Chris (33:22.468)
Mmm. Mmm.

Andy & Chris (33:27.876)

Gary Chapman (33:32.799)
for the right buyer and seller, that everybody walks into that relationship with their stomach feeling good. This is where we can move forward. I’m gonna sit here and say, you know, Portman isn’t always the right, Portman Dentex, my apologies. I do make that slip up sometimes, but isn’t always the right place for the people that may want to be in the business. So I think it’s a really important part. And you’re seeing that dynamic change with the advice that.

Andy & Chris (33:33.156)
Hmm. Yeah, that is, that is.

Andy & Chris (33:52.74)
Yeah, definitely.

Gary Chapman (34:02.335)
that representatives are given, you know, do who do you first thing, who do you think you want to work with? You know, I’m working with you, you know, closely, Andy, you we, you know, touched on on on deals and people like that, you know, that you’ve been incredibly helpful with. So so this is the sort of way it’s changed.

Andy & Chris (34:05.092)

Andy & Chris (34:09.316)


Andy & Chris (34:20.74)
But also I think it’s, yeah, and I think as time goes on, it’s becoming more and more important because lots of people, when we started in this game, yeah, lots of people were selling out in their 60s, whereas now lots of people are selling out in their 40s, late 40s, so they are gonna be working on. So the part that they ultimately sell to is really important, right, because they’re not gonna be selling and going. If you sell in your 60s, it kinda doesn’t really matter because you’re probably hanging up your handpiece and you’re gone. Whereas if it’s late 40s…

Gary Chapman (34:35.615)

Gary Chapman (34:45.343)

Andy & Chris (34:49.54)
who you work with really matters. And that matchmaking of buyer and seller, I think is a critical part. Because you also want the person who buys a practice to go on and have success and it thrive. Whether it’s a corporate or an independent, whoever it is. Because in terms of the future dentistry, you need those businesses to thrive. Thrive in your business as opposed to go and do it again somewhere else.

Gary Chapman (34:56.031)
Y ‘all.

Gary Chapman (35:05.823)
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. A really good stat that we have within in the group. And this is only I can only speak for Portland because these stats go back quite a way is that 88 % of our dentists that complete their contracted period stay within the group. So when you look back on the old days of corporate dentistry, you did your time, you was out, or some people did their time and they left before, you know, and didn’t give a

Andy & Chris (35:15.204)

Andy & Chris (35:24.804)
Right, well, it’s hard, isn’t it? Yeah, that’s good.

Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. Yeah.

Gary Chapman (35:36.031)
hoot about their um their deferred payment but but 88 percent means that we you know we must be doing something right and I think the average age is as you are so um you’re absolutely right and is about in in the 40s now 45 46 that people are are selling younger to the group yeah

Andy & Chris (35:50.82)
Yeah. That’s right. But I also have a notion, I think there’s a thing, owner fatigue. And I think owner fatigue sets in around about 10, 11 years. I think people own a business and after 10, 11 years, they’re just like, I’m done. This is hard work. And depending on when you buy, if you buy early thirties, that probably starts to kick in early mid forties. So I don’t think it’s…

Gary Chapman (36:00.255)

Gary Chapman (36:07.359)
Yeah. Oh.

Gary Chapman (36:14.495)
Mm -hmm.

Andy & Chris (36:16.996)
it’s a coincidence that there’s lots of people within that age window that have owned a business for a period of time. Because it is hard work, because you move beyond just being a clinical dentist. There’s a whole batch of other things you need to be good at. All the business stuff that you’ve never learnt about that you don’t really like doing. Dealing with people, who wants to deal with people?

Gary Chapman (36:22.751)
Yeah. Yeah.

Gary Chapman (36:29.695)

Gary Chapman (36:33.407)
What’s that? It’s a hard industry for dentists. I mean, I, I always used to be, you know, I was, I used to think when the dentist has got the Porsche and I’ve got the Peugeot, you know, and to the end of the day, now those dentists earn their Porsche if that’s what they’ve got, because it’s a whole different world for dentists, you know, and probably the technicians have a far easier time than they than they ever did in some ways, you know. Yeah.

Andy & Chris (36:46.948)

Andy & Chris (36:51.812)
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Andy & Chris (37:00.452)
Yeah. When we came to a Portman Dentex event recently in London. Very enjoyable, thank you for the invite. It was great fun, it was great fun. And I was talking to Sam, and it was Sam that told me about your prowess playing badminton as a young man. And you weren’t just decent, I mean, you played for England, which is pretty phenomenal. And I never knew, and it’s funny the things you never get to. But do you think your…

Gary Chapman (37:08.666)
You’re welcome. Yeah.

Gary Chapman (37:16.442)
Yeah. Yeah.

Yeah. Yeah.

Andy & Chris (37:28.548)
your level of sport and that kind of intensity and competitive nature has helped you in business. I’m always fascinated at this link across from sport into business. Do you think that has actually helped you, that competitive nature? Hmm.

Gary Chapman (37:39.673)
without a doubt, you do not like being, you don’t like that silver medal. You don’t like, I mean, it was junior level at the end of the day, or a little bit senior, but you don’t want to be second best. And I think ultimately that you don’t want to be runner up. You don’t want to be the best loser, whatever they call it. You want to win. Yeah, yeah. But that drives you. And then you look at Sam, with his horse racing, that is a tough old.

Andy & Chris (37:43.844)

Andy & Chris (37:53.22)
Don’t like runner up.

Andy & Chris (37:58.724)
Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. First of the losers, isn’t it? Yeah.

Andy & Chris (38:06.148)

Gary Chapman (38:09.785)
That’s a far tougher sport to be in than hitting a shuttlecock across the net. But what it does, it gives you discipline. It gives you that you’re only rewarded by what you put in. So I think from a, I’m sure a lot of your listeners are golfers or badminton squash, whatever, they’re there to win. And I think that just, you just really carry that over into your business, and it’s as simple as that.

Andy & Chris (38:14.18)



Andy & Chris (38:27.94)

Andy & Chris (38:37.572)
It’s part of your DNA, isn’t it? I think it’s in there.

Gary Chapman (38:39.768)
It is. It is. I mean, he was the bad player, badminton player as well Andy, if I remember, Essex and…

Andy & Chris (38:46.884)
Yeah, I played a bit, I played a bit, not to your standard, but I’m the same with you. I played to win and I think sport should be played to win and there shouldn’t be anything that you should kind of be embarrassed about or, you know, everybody won. No, in sport you do have a winner and you have a loser and that’s just the way it is. And I think some of those kind of skills you learn, kind of resilience, coping with failure, because whilst winning is great.

Gary Chapman (38:52.536)

Gary Chapman (39:05.527)

Andy & Chris (39:12.324)
I think someone was telling me like Michael Jordan’s win rate over his career was something like 34%. So if he can only get to that number, it shows that in life we will lose a lot more than we can win. But that builds resilience. You need to know what losing feels like. But it’s interesting to hear that that has fed into your business life.

Gary Chapman (39:17.911)

Gary Chapman (39:26.711)

Gary Chapman (39:30.231)
Yeah, but it’s like losing the practice to one of your competitors. That hurts. That hurts. Now you put a lot of work into it and somebody else walks off with the practice, but you have to pick yourself.

Andy & Chris (39:33.796)
Mmm. Mmm.

Andy & Chris (39:41.412)
Sounds like even now when we lose a sale to someone we’re like, ooh, I know this. It matters. It matters. And it should matter. And if we get to a point where actually we shrug our shoulders and we’re not bothered, it’s probably a bit late. Retirement. Yeah. Retirement beckons. It’s probably a bit late.

Gary Chapman (39:45.942)
Yeah. Yeah.

Gary Chapman (39:52.567)
Yeah, yeah. It is indeed, yeah, it’s a good thing for I encourage my grandchildren, my children with their children to make sure they do something that brings that sort of discipline. I don’t know if that’s the right word, but that sort of thing into them.

Andy & Chris (40:04.612)

Andy & Chris (40:12.708)
Yeah. Gary, we’ve got to the point where we need to ask you a couple of questions. None of our guests get to leave without answering these two questions. So our first question for you is if you could be a fly on a wall in a situation, when would that be and who would be there?

Gary Chapman (40:16.534)

Gary Chapman (40:25.877)
Yeah, well, I’m a mad Arsenal supporter. In fact, I was at the Emirates last night, but so was I. Yeah. But I’m actually going to say this is going to kill you there, probably Chris, but I would love to have been on the wall at Istanbul with Steven Gerrard and that team, 3 -0 down at half time. What did he say to those guys to turn that around in 45 minutes? And those are the moments you sort of think.

Andy & Chris (40:29.156)
So was I Gary. It was we won. Good.

Andy & Chris (40:46.468)
Uh, yeah.

Andy & Chris (40:52.26)

Gary Chapman (40:54.741)
I would hear more, I think it was Benitez was the manager, whoever was being a flow and listening to them, you know, that would have been, you know, that would have been something to, to understand because that’s an impossible position. You know, you know, it’s again sport, but, but like I said, that’s who I’d like to have heard, you know, and would have been an

Andy & Chris (40:58.436)
Yeah, rougher.

Andy & Chris (41:06.436)
Mmm. Yeah.

Andy & Chris (41:12.004)

But that’s all around kind of human psychology isn’t it? How can you get people to…

just reframe a situation and perform differently with such intensity. You haven’t got long to talk to those people and something needs to happen quickly. It’s quite remarkable. I always wonder what Arson would have said. You know when it was like the invincibles or whatever it was and we got to 49, you sort of must get to a point where what do you say? You know, well, okay, well, we’ve won 37 now, so we haven’t lost 37, so let’s just keep going. It’s an interesting one, how you keep that motivation. Yeah. Yeah.

Gary Chapman (41:21.012)

Gary Chapman (41:24.532)

Yeah. Yeah.

Gary Chapman (41:34.419)

Gary Chapman (41:42.356)

Gary Chapman (41:49.19)
Yeah, well that’s what I think. That’s all. Yeah. Yep, now.

Andy & Chris (41:49.636)
And I’ll follow up, Gary. Sorry, I was gonna say, so if you can meet somebody, you were given the opportunity to meet somebody, so you can sit there in a nice comfy chair with a glass of wine or a beer or champagne, whatever your choice is, what would you go with? Who would be there? Alive or dead? Yeah.

Gary Chapman (42:01.299)

Gary Chapman (42:05.619)
It would it would always it would always would have been I’ve read his books, you know, and is Winston Churchill. Just sitting there with him, you know, and he wouldn’t listen to me. I just listened to him, you know, and that can you imagine sitting in front of that man? What that he he had to do and what he did and, you know, none of us will be here now. Oh, yeah, yeah.

Andy & Chris (42:12.516)

Andy & Chris (42:21.956)

Andy & Chris (42:27.108)
Oh, the weight of those is the weight of the decisions he had to make. And his wit. I think that was the thing, isn’t it? He had a very dry sense of humour. I love some of the phrases he’s used to put other people down. I don’t mean that rudely, but as in to just respond to when he’d been criticised.

Gary Chapman (42:35.507)

Yeah. Yeah, but he had a tongue like, like a razor, you know, so yeah, but it would have been what wow, what can you imagine? And then there’s so many people that you could, you know, you could sit back and want to listen to and, you know, namadali, whoever, you know, but that man.

Andy & Chris (42:46.244)
They did. Yeah.

Andy & Chris (42:55.46)
Mmm. Mmm.

Andy & Chris (43:01.156)
He was the right man for the right time, wasn’t it? Oh, in that moment. As you say, I think things would have been very different if he hadn’t been there.

Gary Chapman (43:03.314)
He was injured. Yeah. Yeah.

Gary Chapman (43:11.026)
Well, yeah, yeah, without a doubt, without a doubt.

Andy & Chris (43:15.236)
Gary, it’s been an absolute joy. I always enjoy our conversations. We’ve had many over the years, but to get this one recorded has been lovely. Yeah, and we haven’t got a drink. No. Normally it’s with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee or something. But also I think it’s great just to chart how dentistry has changed. And what I love is after these years, you’ve still got so much energy for it, so much zest, you’re still at the forefront of growing something new.

Gary Chapman (43:18.354)
Same here.

Gary Chapman (43:24.433)
Thank you so much for um…

Andy & Chris (43:43.012)
in dentistry. And that’s a real testament to you that, you know, you still have the outlook of an apprentice. You’re still that kid at the dental lab in Bexhill. You’re still looking for new ways for doing things and learning new ways of going about what you do, which I think is amazing.

Gary Chapman (43:54.864)
you never stop learning. And I would just caveat that I’ve got wonderful people around me. It’s a wonderful team, you know, and with Sam and Julie Ross, and, you know, and there’s a team there that I think as you go through the business of our Portman, you know, you have to have different people at different times to take that on another notch. And we’re blessed with the people that we work with. That is for sure.

Andy & Chris (44:00.196)
Yeah, no, definitely not.

Andy & Chris (44:20.42)

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. No, no, no, not at all. Not at all. No, thank thank thank you, Gary. It’s been wonderful. No doubt we’ll be catching up at some point soon as definitely. It’s a look. Thank you. Cheers, Gary.

Gary Chapman (44:24.496)
Thank you so much guys for giving me the chance. I’m honored.

Gary Chapman (44:33.424)
Indeed. Cheers guys. Cheers Al.


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