Click Fraud Protection Tracking Pixel
Google Reviews
Google Reviews
0330 088 11 56     A A A

Dentology Podcast with Shabnam Zai


Home/Dentology Podcast/Dentology Podcast with Shabnam Zai

Transcript – Dentology Podcast with Shabnam Zai

Episode release date – Monday 11 December 2023

Andy & Chris (00:00.498)
Yet again, yet again, another new guest. I am so excited, so excited. I love these things, they are brilliant. It’s like chatting to people in the pub or the cafe, depending on whether you drink or not. I think it’s life stories that are the thing that get me. I think people quite often go, oh, I’ve got nothing interesting to say. I’m not really interested. All people are interested. Yeah, definitely. If you ask enough questions and shut up, then it’s amazing what people will just tell us about themselves. And that’s the really interesting thing is that it’s not dentistry, it’s the…

the people behind the businesses or behind what they do. That’s what’s fascinating to us. Let’s introduce our next guest and then we can shut up. We can. So today, ladies and gentlemen, we are so fortunate we have Shabnam Zay joining us. And Shabnam is a dentist, but also the co-founder with Nikita Mehta of West House Dental, a private squat practice in Pinner Middlesex. Welcome Shabnam, how are you? Yeah, hello. We’re good. We are very good. Thank you very much. Even though the weather’s a bit pants at the moment, but.

Shabnam Zai (00:49.636)
I’m really well, I’m really well. How are you guys?

Andy & Chris (00:57.478)
So we’re looking out, you see, we look out from our podcast office onto poor weather. Yes. But it’s a great it’s a great day for us when we do this. Yeah, we’re just saying about people are interesting. And I think dentists and dentistry is such an innovative, forward thinking profession. There’s just endless people who are just doing bright, exciting, innovative things. And you firmly fall into that category. I mean, you find out about your career and your practice soon.

Shabnam Zai (01:26.268)
Well, Andy, it’s interesting you say that because one of the things people ask me, why do you like being a dentist? And whilst I enjoy the clinical side of it, it’s actually my patients that I love the most. And I’ve been in one practice for 20 years and being part of their life, hearing their stories, just it’s almost it’s amazing. It’s an amazing opportunity to be part of someone’s life.

Andy & Chris (01:35.619)

Andy & Chris (01:48.027)
Talking and working, ideal combo. But I think at a deep level, we as humans, we love connections, community, and I think we do forming tribes, and I think tribes can be lots of different things. And I think working with patients over decades and getting to know them. It’s generational stuff, isn’t it?

Andy & Chris (02:08.47)
So let’s go right back to the beginning. What was your childhood like? Where did you get brought up? Siblings, parents? I always think it really gives a good insight as to kind of what you’ve become, if we understand a little bit about your beginnings. Was it Rampenner? Yes. Or was it somewhere else? Yes. Ha ha ha. Hmm.

Shabnam Zai (02:24.152)
It wasn’t, it wasn’t. So I am a London girl, a West London girl. I was born and brought up in Ealing. And yeah, I had a great childhood. Really, really had fun. When I was nine, I remember this day, I went to the park with my friends. My mom and dad went to a wedding and I was at the park and I was on a seesaw and they gave me the bumps. And unfortunately they bumped me a bit too hard. I flipped and I actually broke my front teeth.

Andy & Chris (02:30.348)

Shabnam Zai (02:53.904)
So at the age of nine, I was that child that had the trauma. Yeah, so going back, maybe that’s why I did dentistry, you never know. And that was quite a traumatic experience, but I had an amazing dentist who fixed my smile. A few months after that, sadly, my dad passed away. So I was pretty much brought up by my mum and I’ve got an older brother. He was always a bit of a car fanatic. So I know a lot about cars.

Andy & Chris (02:54.292)

Andy & Chris (02:58.665)

Andy & Chris (03:06.872)

Andy & Chris (03:12.725)
Oh, dear.

Andy & Chris (03:20.866)

Shabnam Zai (03:22.108)
When it comes to my household, I’m the one that changes the oil and fixes the car and sorts it all out. I’m very, very hands-on and as a child we were, you know, we had a simple life. So I kind of helped my mum decorate the house. I wallpapered, I fixed the plumbing. I’m very, I realised from a young age I like fixing things.

Andy & Chris (03:27.013)
Oh wow, brilliant!

Andy & Chris (03:42.64)
Mm. Wow. Was that also impacted by the loss of your father at a young age as well? Did you kind of have to grow up a bit quicker than you might have?

Shabnam Zai (03:51.312)
I don’t know actually, I’m not sure. So my mom and dad always did things themselves. I think when my dad moved to the country, they lived in, they were born in India, they grew up in Yemen. They got married to Africa. My brother was born in Zambia and then they moved to England. And when my dad came to England, he had quite a lot of money with him. He made a massive investment, probably equivalent to about a million pounds in today’s terms, and he lost it. He lost it, he got swindled.

Andy & Chris (04:02.757)

Andy & Chris (04:05.89)

Andy & Chris (04:16.234)

Shabnam Zai (04:19.804)
So then you went from having so much to having so little. So I remember having lodgers when I was younger in the house and having to make do with what we could.

Andy & Chris (04:26.371)
Just to make ends meet. And was your father self-made as well? Did he make that money himself?

Shabnam Zai (04:33.048)
Yeah, so he did lots of different jobs. He actually lived for a short while in Switzerland and was a watchmaker and then when he was in Africa he did he was an accountant. When he worked in England, he worked in a foreign school. Yeah, so he just did whatever he wanted and he learned German. Very forward thinking for that time, especially from our community.

Andy & Chris (04:40.792)

Andy & Chris (04:44.526)
Wow, fascinating life. How’d you get from an accountant to a watchmaker? Flip me.

Andy & Chris (04:53.388)

Andy & Chris (04:56.762)
an eclectic sort of mix.

Shabnam Zai (05:00.592)
he just always did things. And I remember my mum and dad building a wall in my back garden and that wall is still there. And it’s really nice. I think we’ve always been a bit of hands-on family.

Andy & Chris (05:09.102)

Andy & Chris (05:12.502)
So anyway, I’m more interested in cars now. So have you got like a super nice car or like a sporty car or an old classic car?

Shabnam Zai (05:18.316)
No, I have got a Honda Civic at the moment, but if you ask me about the mechanics, so my brother, he’s an engineer, he designs cars, he does the chassis and he does all the AutoCAD designs, so I know a lot about the engineering side of things which is…

Andy & Chris (05:28.075)

Andy & Chris (05:34.29)
So do you have an aspirational car that you would like? Yeah, I want one of them Yeah, I had one of those very nice breakdown but Quite a few times. They’re not the most reliable From what you said, it sounds like there’s quite an entrepreneurial flair in your family with you know, your brother and your dad

Shabnam Zai (05:37.66)
I’ve always wanted a Maserati actually, I don’t know.

Shabnam Zai (05:54.972)
There is, Andy, at the same time, quite the opposite, because when my dad did pass away, he didn’t have a will. So suddenly overnight, we couldn’t even access the life insurance or policies that my dad did have. And it was really hard for my mom at that time to manage everything on her own. And I think we all became a bit financially risk averse. We ended up saying more, being a bit more cautious, a bit more careful.

Andy & Chris (06:02.488)

Andy & Chris (06:10.391)

Andy & Chris (06:18.615)

Shabnam Zai (06:22.236)
So I’ve kind of always had this desire to own a business, but at the same time, I’m incredibly financially risk averse. I kind of wanted to do lots of things and tried, but didn’t, and always held myself back a little bit.

Andy & Chris (06:32.632)

And when you say tried but didn’t, did you kind of just not throw yourself into it completely? And can also ask what did you think about trying but not doing?

Shabnam Zai (06:46.792)
So for example, buying a property, I looked at many properties as a buy to let, yeah, as an investment, and a house was pretty much too much for me, but my mum kept, Indians we always say, buy a house, buy a house, don’t buy a flat, and you get the freehold. And so I’d get really far down the process, but then when it came to the very end, it never quite happened. I’d kind of do 80%, but never actually quite do it. And I was a squirrel, and I saved and saved and saved.

Andy & Chris (06:51.222)
What has a bite to let sort of thing.

Andy & Chris (07:13.711)
that button.

Shabnam Zai (07:16.548)
and I had a massive deposit, which I use now for my family home, so it has been invested. But when I think about now, at being a dentist for 20 years, if I had invested in 2007 in that house, you know, my financial situation is very different now, yeah. So it’s very easy to look back and regret on things. And I tell people all the time, I only regret the things I never did. So I think now I’m just like, go for it.

Andy & Chris (07:31.83)
What would it be worth now?

Andy & Chris (07:40.655)
Yeah, yeah In hindsight, they said yeah in hindsight, it’s great. We can all get back Oh, we hindsight’s a foresight of the gobshite So I wouldn’t duff yourself up over it because you can’t at that time You made the right decision I’ve never sold any of my houses I’d have turned them all into bite-to-letters and I’d never sold any of my cars and I’ve kept it as classics However at that time I didn’t have the inspiration the courage or the money Yeah, and I think that’s it isn’t it just has to fall together

Yeah. But as a profession, we nearly didn’t get you, did we? Because you were on the cusp of studying chemistry at Imperial. And then interesting, you say that it just didn’t feel right. And that’s obviously a gut instinct. And are you quite are you quite led by your gut? Is that something that’s quite strong in how you make decisions?

Shabnam Zai (08:17.169)

Shabnam Zai (08:28.676)
Yeah, very much so. It’s something that I’ve gone back to. I think it’s something I had very strong when I was younger and then in my 20s I lost it slightly because I started listening more to other people thinking I didn’t know enough, I should listen to others, I should get their advice and I lost it a little bit. But now having my own practice, even when we were building the practice there were so many decisions that the other people were advising us about and Nikita and I just went no, we want to do it this way.

Andy & Chris (08:35.049)

Andy & Chris (08:40.909)

Andy & Chris (08:55.538)
You’re gonna stick, yeah?

Shabnam Zai (08:57.108)
And we’ve just realised that when we are authentic to how we feel, we just get a much better outcome. Yes, if we did it another way, we’d make it work. But it just works so much better. And I, I really didn’t want to do dentistry. I never thought about becoming a dentist. I was actually a very average student. I was in grade three for maths, which nobody ever believes. My maths teacher told me that I was stupid and I’d never do well. And I don’t know whether that was a thing for me.

Andy & Chris (09:04.454)

Andy & Chris (09:08.972)

Andy & Chris (09:24.785)
Oh wow. That’s motivational. Great teaching skill that.

Shabnam Zai (09:26.1)
That’s the most emotional thing ever. And she was the one that actually gave me my GCSE results and I got an A. So maybe that motivated me. And yeah, I didn’t want to, I really love chemistry. Really, really loved it. Even now in my practice, I’ve got a mug with the periodic table on it. So still a passion of mine. And I did the open day, I did everything. I filled out my UCAS form. I was just about to post it.

I was just about to post it outside my school and the envelope in my hand, I was putting it through the letterbox and for some reason I couldn’t let go and I took it back out again. And I did better than expected in my exams and I thought actually maybe I could try and do something a bit different, something a bit, try something that I didn’t have the opportunity to consider before. And I thought if I was going to be a chemist, most people thought I was going to be a teacher when I was younger.

Andy & Chris (09:56.982)
You got that close.

Andy & Chris (10:02.305)

Andy & Chris (10:12.566)

Shabnam Zai (10:19.548)
but I’d probably go into research and create a new element called shabnamium or glomerulium. But that sounded quite lonely to me and I’m quite a people person. I thought what could I do that’s scientific and with people and I looked through the UCAS book, there was this big like yellow pages and I flipped through it and I saw different professions I’d never thought about being a doctor and I went to the payphone outside my school and I rang my dentist up.

Andy & Chris (10:23.95)
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

Andy & Chris (10:29.546)

Andy & Chris (10:38.634)
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Shabnam Zai (10:48.076)
I rang him and he kindly spoke to me and I just told him, I said, I’m really confused, I’m not sure what to do. And he said, look, are you free? Why don’t you come over now? And I got the bus from Greenford to Ealing, I know, in my school uniform and I went to his clinic and I stood in the corner and this lady came in and she had her hand over her mouth and she’d been crying. She’d fallen and broken her teeth. And over the next hour, I said, I’m sorry.

Andy & Chris (10:56.695)

Andy & Chris (11:01.09)
That is amazing.

Andy & Chris (11:12.13)
which you know what that felt like as a young child as well.

Shabnam Zai (11:15.608)
Over the next hour, I saw him rebuild her smile, and she left smiling. And I just went, can I come back next week? And on the way home, I rewrote my personal statement.

Andy & Chris (11:28.23)
Wow way. It’s a ballsy move isn’t it? I mean you know to just ring up for a start hey I’m gonna ring the dentist and then to get off your what’s it to actually go to the place and then also it’s a great thing that the dentist said yeah come and have a chat I mean it’s so many stars aligning at the moment. I also love that

Shabnam Zai (11:28.628)
Yeah and it was funny because all my teachers told me not to apply because they said it was too early.

Shabnam Zai (11:49.372)
my dentist.

Andy & Chris (11:54.274)
the thing you said about the courage of your convictions. And I think it’s so easy to take advice from everybody, which means you then end up with a blended and confusing view of what to do. Whereas between you and Nikita kind of having this view of this is what we’re gonna do and we’re gonna go for it. Okay, it may not be perfect, but it’s gonna be our way of doing things. And I think in society, there’s so many advisors and coaches and consultants. And I think in many ways, I think it almost confuses people as opposed to streamlines it. And I think to have…

that vision that you had to get you to where you wanted to be is great. But I find it fascinating that you were literally holding your envelope in the post box and you didn’t let go of it. Yeah. But that gut instinct. And then obviously for someone who lived in Ealing, you did the obvious thing and went to dental school in Newcastle, which is quite a long way from home, isn’t it? Yeah.

Shabnam Zai (12:30.844)
Literally, I’m moving and pulled it out again, yeah.

Shabnam Zai (12:44.208)
Yeah, so again, I’m a London girl, I’m a London girl, and I really wanted to stay in London, and my dream was to stay in London, and the only reason I wrote Newcastle is because my dentist, who I did work experience with, went there, and his name’s Sobhiya Banerjee, and I know some of your listeners may know him. Yeah, really, really lovely guy. And so I just put it down for that reason, just to fill a space, and I was really lucky. I applied very late, I applied in December.

Andy & Chris (12:59.035)
Oh wow, yes. Very well known, very well known.

Shabnam Zai (13:12.736)
and all my teachers told me not to bother, but I continued and I got four interviews and I got four offers. So I was in a really privileged position to have been offered all the London universities. And what defined it for me was, when I went for my interview, I went and had the tour, I had the conversation. My mom’s got quite bad arthritis, so she can’t really walk very much. So I left her in some common room and said, I’ll be back in a couple of hours. And when I came back to meet her,

Andy & Chris (13:23.974)

Shabnam Zai (13:40.54)
I was like, oh, I was telling her about everything. I said, oh, you won’t guess what’s on the fifth floor. And she’s like, oh, the plastic heads. And I was like, how do you know there’s plastic heads on the fifth floor? And she said, oh, I was sitting here. Some students saw me and asked me why I was here. And I explained, I was waiting for you. So while I was here, they said, would you like to see the university? So they took my hobbling mum to the fifth floor, showed her the Phantom Headroom, brought her back down and gave her a cup of tea. And I went, this is my kind of place.

Andy & Chris (14:00.466)
Oh wow.

Andy & Chris (14:09.186)
Yeah, you’re in the right place. Wow, that’s amazing. If they’re treating your mum like that. Wow. And what was dental school like for you? Was it an enjoyable experience?

Shabnam Zai (14:13.084)

Shabnam Zai (14:17.404)
Amazing, amazing. It’s such a good university, Newcastle. I had an amazing, I had so much clinical experience. There was always opportunities to do more. So I left university feeling very, very confident in my clinical skills. I did an exchange in Helsinki for a semester. So in fourth year, I lived in Helsinki and pretty much when I arrived there, the Dean of the Dental School said, you’re here to make friends and have fun. See you later.

Andy & Chris (14:34.914)
Oh wow.


Andy & Chris (14:44.175)
Oh, wow. Was he right?

Shabnam Zai (14:46.392)
It made me realise that I could do dentistry anywhere in the world and that was amazing. And then I also travelled around China, Tibet and Nepal, did some dentistry over there, all while I was undergrad. So they gave us great opportunities.

Andy & Chris (14:50.243)

Andy & Chris (14:59.714)
flip. That is amazing. I think the remarkable thing is, I mean, you know, you, you look incredibly young for your age, but the, the time, no, but you do. No, no, but that’s the point. People, people that they’re watching this won’t believe that you qualified so many years ago. That she’s 52. But, but, but the point is that you talk about, I’ve got lots of really great clinical experience and I came out feeling very competent.

Shabnam Zai (15:11.028)
I’ve been a dentist for 20 years!

Andy & Chris (15:28.406)
We talked to lots of younger dentists and I think that’s something that has definitely shifted over the years and people now are incredibly good at admin but perhaps don’t necessarily get the clinical experience that they’ve learned which is why when they go through their foundation year that’s when they’re really honing things that they’ve perhaps had the theory of or watched but not done with a drill in their hand.

Shabnam Zai (15:48.308)
Yeah, I was a VT trainer for many years for therapists and dentists and yeah, there is this, you need to be in a supportive environment those first few years to get some confidence. But I think there is still opportunity. I had some time when I was free, I’d speak to consultants saying, when you’re doing this, can you call me? I actively looked out for those opportunities and tried to do extra things.

Andy & Chris (15:51.875)

Andy & Chris (15:58.241)
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Andy & Chris (16:12.254)
I love the very relaxed sort of, you know, you’ve got this sort of, I’m not really an entrepreneur and I’m sort of, you know, sort of laid back a bit. But the answer is I love it. The fact of you are, you know, even in the stories we’ve had, you’re always putting yourself in a place which is almost of uncomfortableness, sort of almost unconsciously uncomfortableness, you know, taking the letter out, ringing someone up, going to visit, replying late, go to Helsinki. You know, it’s a brilliant story in the fact of, you know, it’s a…

It’s just sort of like normal, isn’t it? It’s not normal from the people we speak to. I can tell you it’s not normal, Shephones. No, not at all, not at all. So you were an associate for a good number of years and then obviously this urge to set up a practice took over. Talk us through your kind of associate life up to that point when you decided that there was something more for you down the track.

Shabnam Zai (16:42.884)
Thank you.

Shabnam Zai (17:02.312)
So I currently still work in my VT practice. It is my, I love it, it’s my home. It’s my dream always to own this practice. And when I started here, the principal said that in five years time he was thinking about selling. So that obviously was very interesting to me. And it’s such an ethical practice. Like for an NHS practice, I’d have half an hour checkups for adults, I had a 15 minute checkups for children.

Andy & Chris (17:30.571)

Shabnam Zai (17:30.728)
I didn’t have any restrictions on how I could work clinically. And it was all about doing the best thing for the patient. So clinically, I had a really great opportunity to build my clinical skills, like wet handed dentistry. And it’s a very high need area, it’s in Slough. So when I, the Malds I get are very, very neglected. And five years came and went, I really skilled up. I had a friend who did VT with me, his name is Mahmood Malju.

Andy & Chris (17:42.018)

Shabnam Zai (17:58.412)
and he is very driven and he was like, shab shabs come on this course with me, come on this course with me. So he made me do Invisalign, he made me go to Newtonfile and Sanjay Sethi, where did Cori’s implant course, like we just did, we skilled up very early on. We actually went to a study group called Dentology, which is like yours, but on Harley Street. And I remember sitting there in Fazeela Osborne-Khan’s practice looking at her presentation, I’m a terrible dentist.

Andy & Chris (17:58.55)

Andy & Chris (18:21.686)
Ah, Fazeela, flip.

Shabnam Zai (18:25.844)
But it kind of made me realise how great dentistry can be and how beautiful it can be. And then 10 years later, my principal still wasn’t in a position to sell. And he, I asked if I could become a partner, if I could, you know, transition into that and that opportunity wasn’t there. I then by this point had got married, I’d moved to Battersea, so I was living in South London but commuting to Slough.

implant course with Cori and he kindly offered me a job in Wimpole Street. So it was quite extreme. So one minute I’m doing NHS checkups on exempt patients and the next day I’m charging £400 for an examination on Wimpole Street. So it was, but then I realised that the way I treat my patients is really much the same. And so I always had this desire to have a practice, but I kind of just, I was always really risk averse.

Andy & Chris (19:16.174)

Shabnam Zai (19:22.792)
financial risk of ours felt I didn’t have enough confidence, I wasn’t gonna be able to do it. And then what really changed was I had my daughter. I had my daughter, and when you have a child, you want your child to kind of live their dreams, you know? You’re kind of like, I want them to live their dreams. And I realized that I wasn’t living my dream, and I wasn’t being such a good role model for her. And at that particular time, I met Nikita, and we started investigating the idea of buying a dental practice.

Andy & Chris (19:40.962)

Shabnam Zai (19:52.384)
And we looked for five years and you guys showed us so many wonderful places, but for whatever reason over those five years it didn’t work out and we were quite limited. We were quite limited on our location and things like our budget. So we tried and tried and tried and it just didn’t happen. And all the while we were still working as associates and enjoying our clinical life and we knew that we were good associates. We built goodwill.

Andy & Chris (19:59.074)
Just not the right one. It’s back to that gut instinct thing. Yeah.

Andy & Chris (20:12.798)

Andy & Chris (20:21.247)
Just in terms of timing, Shabnam, when was this? What sort of time period are we talking about when you got together with Nikita and you started looking for practices? Right. Right, okay.

Shabnam Zai (20:25.812)
So I started looking to buy a practice, yeah, to buy a practice about 10 years ago. So 10 years after qualifying. And then we looked for five years. And then Nikita’s husband said, why don’t you build your own practice? And we’re like, oh, we don’t know how to build a practice. And he’s like, you guys are like, you guys are quite, you know, good at dentistry. I’m sure you can do a good job at running a business. I was like, okay. And he started looking for D1 planning permission, places with D1 planning permission.

Andy & Chris (20:42.55)

Andy & Chris (20:54.558)

Shabnam Zai (20:55.592)
And I remember Nikita was nine months pregnant, first day of maternity leave. She was due to have the baby on Thursday, and this is a Monday, and her husband rings her saying, can you go see this place? She really didn’t wanna go, and she waddled up the stairs with her big tummy, and it was in a park, in a historic building above a cafe. It was 1,200 square feet. It was perfect for a three-surgery practice. She took a video walking around and rang me straight away and said, this is it.

And what do you do when you’ve got, you know, four kids under four, between the two of us, and your dream practice comes up? You just kind of have to take it. So we did, we went for it. And that’s when I realized I didn’t know anything about setting up a practice. There was nothing out there at all. I went to the showcase and I remember just having this panic list. Nikita had given birth the day before. I’m at the showcase now.

Andy & Chris (21:31.034)

Andy & Chris (21:35.36)
for it.

Andy & Chris (21:43.438)

Shabnam Zai (21:54.184)
trying to find a solicitor, trying to figure out how to get the loans, an accountant, builders, equipment. I didn’t even know what I needed to set up a practice. I hadn’t even thought about compliance or CQC or anything. And it was really overwhelming and it was a really difficult process. And then what happened is we didn’t get the lease. We didn’t get the lease because someone outbid us by 15 grand. And I told Nikita, I said, I really felt like it was mine, like it was ours, like I felt it.

Andy & Chris (22:23.359)

Shabnam Zai (22:23.64)
She said, by the end of this year, we’re going to have a practice. And I thought it was just the hormones of having a baby, you know, talking then. And literally October that year, we called the agent up and he said, Oh, you know, that place you like is back on the market. And then we just jumped straight in. And by that point, we had seen so many other places and realized how special Pina, the park in Pina was that we just, we just felt both of us eating. No regrets.

Andy & Chris (22:51.326)
Hmm. It’s interesting you say about your daughter. So up to that point, you perhaps passed over opportunities or not followed things through for not being entrepreneurial and quite risk averse. Was it quite a shocking moment when it dawned on you that you’re going to need to start living the life you really want to live to show to your daughter what the art of the possible is? Or was that something that kind of grew and built with you over a period of time? Because it

To buy practices is an incredible thing to do, to set a practice up from squat. It’s challenging. Yeah, it’s the realm of the few. We talk to lots of people and it’s incredible how many people we talk to who think it’s a really good idea, but the amount that actually follow through and do it are quite few. So for you to go from being somebody who’s quite risk averse, was it the support of having Nikita with you in that there was a partner?

Was it the support of your respective families? Was it the daughter? Does it come down to one element or was there a change inside of you?

Shabnam Zai (23:54.524)
Yeah, I think it was a gradual change. I generally lacked in self-belief and I didn’t take financial risks, but I married well. I have a great husband and he just, whenever I wanna do anything, he’s like, just go for it. And he just has so much faith in me that it kind of made me have a bit of faith in myself. And also Nikita, Nikita gave me the confidence that she could see us doing this and I trust her so much.

Andy & Chris (24:15.584)

Shabnam Zai (24:24.232)
that I believed her. So in that moment, I didn’t believe myself, but I believed that she believed in me. That makes sense.

Andy & Chris (24:30.462)
It’s great the all things for a purpose, isn’t it? You know, going back your all things, you know, we talked about the envelope, ringing up, blah, blah. But also in a way, the fact that you saw it, excited about it, did all that prep about actually, you know, panicking about not being able to find, you know, what do I need to do, what do I need to do? And then losing it, but then reclaiming it, in a way that was so.

beneficial by the sounds of things. Because when it then really truly came, you were a bit cooler about it because you’d already done probably quite a lot of the work to, you weren’t freaking out quite as much. Does that make sense? You’re sort of.

Shabnam Zai (25:05.82)
No, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. So we kind of had some stuff in place that we thought we might need, but we literally didn’t have a clue still. And actually I tell people the amount of hours I wasted, there’s not one place you can go that tells you everything you need for a practice. Like to the point where how many trays do you buy? How many hand pieces do you need? Like we had to think, there was a thing called decision fatigue. We just got so tired of making decisions because we just had to think all the time about every little thing. And…

Andy & Chris (25:08.74)

Andy & Chris (25:12.491)

Andy & Chris (25:20.481)

Andy & Chris (25:24.963)

Andy & Chris (25:29.342)
Ah. Yeah.

Shabnam Zai (25:34.168)
now in retrospect that is such a nice way of approaching it. And I didn’t have a mentor, I didn’t have anyone that had been through it. I really wish I had someone that I could just talk to or ask.

Andy & Chris (25:45.923)
I suppose thinking about the minutiae, isn’t it? How many hand pieces do you need? How many, you know, I hadn’t really thought about it from that point of view, because we talked to people, oh, you need to spend this much money, but that’s the real practical bit, isn’t it?

Shabnam Zai (25:49.808)
Yeah, nobody closes.

Shabnam Zai (25:59.764)
Everyone asks, how long does it take to build? How much does it cost? Where do you get your equipment from? Who is your builders? They’re the questions you ask. And actually that’s not really that important. That stuff will just happen. It’s all the other stuff that you don’t know about. The values, the kind of practice you want to create. Cause those values in your vision is what creates your team. That defines who you recruit. That’s the kind of services you provide. That dictates the location you pick. You know, that’s actually the true nub of actually design.

Andy & Chris (26:02.111)

Andy & Chris (26:06.687)

Andy & Chris (26:11.575)

Andy & Chris (26:16.832)

Andy & Chris (26:27.106)
Mm. And did you do that thinking before? Because your space, and for anybody listening to this, you should definitely jump on the website. It’s West House Dental, the dental practice in Pinner. And look at the website. There’s some beautiful pictures of the setting. But had you done the thinking around what you wanted, the culture, the values, the patient experience to be, and then this location fitted it? Or did you see the location and just go…

Shabnam Zai (26:29.204)
practice is really exciting.

Andy & Chris (26:53.846)
we can turn this into something incredible. Was it kind of chicken or egg?

Shabnam Zai (26:59.496)
So Nikita and I, when we were thinking of setting up a practice, we had a cup of tea in Morrison’s and we had a bit of paper and we just wrote down a list of the things that we wanted from our practice. And most of the things were we wanted it to be a three surgery practice because we didn’t want to have a beast, we didn’t want a chain or an opera. We wanted it to be within half an hour from our home. We wanted it to be a private practice. We even divvied up what kind of treatments we’d do. So I’d do the dentures.

Andy & Chris (27:03.711)

Andy & Chris (27:11.572)

Andy & Chris (27:17.144)

Andy & Chris (27:26.603)

Shabnam Zai (27:27.056)
the root canals and she did the veneers and we literally broke it down. I said I’ll do compliance, she said she’ll do accounts. We really divvied it up the job. So before we’d even got into the whole process as a partnership, we’d clarified and got a lot of transparency of what we were expecting from each other. And I am quite a calm person. I treat a lot of nervous patients and yeah the park really lends itself to mine and Keita’s temperament in the sense that we…

Andy & Chris (27:29.358)

Andy & Chris (27:37.93)

Andy & Chris (27:52.824)

Shabnam Zai (27:55.716)
It’s like a really, our practice doesn’t look like a dental, everyone comes in saying it doesn’t look like a dental practice and that’s actually what we want. That’s the biggest compliment. It just looks like an apartment. You’re coming to my home. But we don’t want to have like banners of Invisalign and implants. We just want our patients to feel comfortable. We want them to feel calm. We want them to feel looked after and to really give them that level of service that I like. You know, people always say they want to treat their patients like their family. I actually do.

Andy & Chris (28:00.918)

Andy & Chris (28:07.116)

Andy & Chris (28:22.505)

Shabnam Zai (28:23.54)
treat all my patients like their family. And now I’ve got the environment as well. So I’m really, I pinch myself actually. The amount of times Andy, I go into my practice and I walk in and I look around and I still can’t believe it’s mine. It almost seems too good to be true.

Andy & Chris (28:29.846)
Hmm. Ah, ah.

Andy & Chris (28:39.282)
Lovely. Out of interest Shabnam, did you, if you looked at your new patients, did you attract new patients to dentistry and patients from other practices, or was it all really new patients to dentistry because of the location and the way you did it?

Shabnam Zai (28:57.132)
Yeah, so initially with the squat, nobody knew me in PINNAR. So in all my other jobs, I was chock-a-block, refusing new patients, I can’t take any more on, I’m too booked, I can’t see more. And I’d open up my doors, and I was happy if I had one patient a day. And a lot of the patients I saw initially were emergencies. So they were in pain and they needed help, and then they became patients, and then they started recommending, and that’s how it started.

Andy & Chris (29:17.462)
Ah, okay.

Shabnam Zai (29:24.08)
And also we relied really heavily on friends and family to support us at the beginning of any business. But that only lasts for so long. For me, having patients recommend through word of mouth is definitely the best way of getting patients. Some of them were new, some, like I had a patient the other day, he’s not been to the dentist for 25 years. So he’s not technically a new, new patient, but he’s not been for a long, long time. And just…

Andy & Chris (29:31.256)

Andy & Chris (29:48.119)

Shabnam Zai (29:52.004)
Seeing him when he left the appointment made me so happy because he was so fearful when he came in. And when he left out, he said, I can’t believe I was putting this off for so long. And I took a picture of him.

Andy & Chris (29:59.671)

Andy & Chris (30:04.462)
But what a gift, what a gift for you to have in terms of changing someone’s view of what it’s like. I was going to say, it sort of goes back to that first, I think sometimes dentists do sort of forget. Incredible. You know, that first meeting with the dentist that you went and saw and woman had smashed her teeth, which was similar to yours. And he was able to restore her confidence and her smile. And I think, I don’t know, but I sort of feel sometimes dentists do forget how

Flipping amazing. Yeah, what you do is and how you can truly change people’s lives

Shabnam Zai (30:39.724)
Yeah, and Nikita and I are both similar in the sense that we don’t just fix teeth. We’re not one tooth dentistry. We always look at the patient and sometimes it can be giving them advice on their general life because I end up coaching them a little bit. And even to the point where I had a patient who was doing a degree in motorsports and he was over here for a while and I was like, oh, I know a dentist that races, Shiraz Khan. Let me introduce you to him.

Andy & Chris (30:46.433)

Andy & Chris (30:51.199)

Andy & Chris (31:02.706)
Oh sure has it.

Shabnam Zai (31:04.912)
And then the following weekend, he was in Wichita’s team in the pit stops at Branhat at a Porsche day. So, you know, like, and I always like trying to help my children get good work experience because where I work in Slough, particularly, it’s a very deprived area. A lot of the kids here haven’t had anyone in their family that’s even gone to university. So when they’re aspiring to do dentistry or things like that, they don’t have any opportunities to do work experience or so, like in this practice, I know.

Andy & Chris (31:11.01)
How fabulous.

Andy & Chris (31:19.522)

Andy & Chris (31:29.097)

Shabnam Zai (31:32.4)
got at least 200 kids into medicine and dentistry and that’s not including the other subjects and then we do mock interviews, we help them write their personal statements. You know when you give someone the opportunity and then you see how it elevates the whole family and then I see that ten years later.

Andy & Chris (31:40.556)
Wow. Really? Wow.

Andy & Chris (31:46.15)
Yeah, but you’re a byproduct of that aren’t you? You know when subia when you rang subia banerjee and subia said come down and see me your uh, You know, we wouldn’t have you in the profession possibly you might have dropped that envelope in and you’d be doing chemistry Imperial you’d be sitting in a lab somewhere coming up with shabnimium Well, we but that’s the truth, isn’t it? You know subia does that and they obviously had such an impact on you and your life and your career and your family What a lovely thing to then

Shabnam Zai (31:54.195)

Andy & Chris (32:14.918)
and pass that forward and pass that down to other people. Like a community hub almost, it’s amazing. Yeah.

Shabnam Zai (32:19.584)
It’s amazing, honestly it’s such a privilege to be able to do that and I was from a single parent family, I had no family here that had been to university. I didn’t even prep for my first interview, I remember I went to Queen Mary’s and I totally fluffed the interview, I just hadn’t prepared, even when they asked me why do you want to do dentistry, I hadn’t even prepared that answer well and I just came out feeling so disappointed in myself.

Andy & Chris (32:26.189)

Shabnam Zai (32:43.58)
and I was very, very lucky that I had other interviews offered. But some people nowadays only get one interview, and if you mess it up, you know, you really got to take the opportunity. So I actually still did. I got offered a place. I don’t know how, because I don’t know what I was doing. My interviews were so, maybe things have changed now, but even when I went to Manchester, so I love photography. My dad loved photography, so I love photography. I got a camera when I was nine, and I’ve always had a, I’ve had two things in my bag since childhood. One is a kite.

Andy & Chris (32:43.811)

Andy & Chris (32:46.988)


Andy & Chris (32:56.074)
I was going to say, did you get off of the place? I was going to say, yeah.

Shabnam Zai (33:13.156)
and why is a camera? Because when the wind’s good, I want to fly a kite, because I love flying a kite. And with photography, I remember going to Manchester, and when I arrived, I know it’s random, yeah, my husband’s like, why are we going to a park? And I said, I want to fly my kite. And I went to Manchester, and I went to the interview, and he said, oh, how was your journey? And I said, oh, it was really good. I wish I brought my camera. And he’s like, why? And he’s like, oh, you’ve got amazing red brick buildings here, this is before the IRA bomb.

Andy & Chris (33:15.081)

Andy & Chris (33:22.646)

Shabnam Zai (33:42.96)
And I started explaining how I develop film in the dark room and I do photographs. And then you hear this knock on the door and he just looked at me and he said, why do you want to do dentistry? And I went, no, and I just answered, we spent the entire interview talking about photography. So yeah, it’s interesting how your passions can kind of still enable you to get a place in dentistry.

Andy & Chris (33:57.921)
I will.

Hmm. Yeah. You’ve obviously done a lot with your clinical career, moving around lots of different practices, exposure to a real kind of diverse range of patients from, you know, the deprived areas, slough to the very high end private West End. Moving away from that side of things on to the business side, you’ve obviously founded a dental practice. What’s the myth?

that people don’t know about setting up a dental practice. Yeah, everybody kind of sees a success you’re having now, but what’s the thing that kind of you’ve taken from this process? What’s the most important thing? It’s easy, isn’t it, to set up a practice? Really, really easy. Yeah, exactly. Everyone can do it. But the thing is, people only get to see and hear about the successful ones. It’s definite. But what are the hard yards you have to go through to get to where you are?

Shabnam Zai (34:51.528)
The hard yard. So you need to have a clear vision of what you’re trying to achieve. Because when you’ve got a good purpose and you know what you’re trying to achieve, it makes it much easier. I don’t, it’s incredibly hard work running a practice and opening a squat just before Brexit and COVID was not great timing. But we survived. If anything, it’s shown, Makeda and I, that we can pivot, that if we can live through that, we can manage anything.

Andy & Chris (35:06.638)

Andy & Chris (35:16.631)

Shabnam Zai (35:20.44)
I’ve realised how adaptable I am, how calm I am. In a crisis, I’m incredibly calm. So I think being calm and making quick decisions. In the past, I used to do their own thing and want to pick the best thing. And I just had to decide that I had to make the decision. Because in business, if you take too long to just make a decision, it’s going backwards. Even if you pick the wrong thing, it doesn’t matter. As long as you’re making decisions and moving forward.

Andy & Chris (35:34.966)
Ah, okay, yeah. Need to commit.

Andy & Chris (35:46.958)
analysis paralysis.

Shabnam Zai (35:47.276)
Yeah and I think you need to have a bit of self-belief like in yourself. I don’t know why I didn’t have it because I’ve had it before and I lost it at some point. So really have a good community around you, good people, mentors that you can lean on. What else can you do to make a good practice? Be prepared. Like I show people how I did it because I wish I had someone to help me. So I’m always speaking to dentists all the time whether they want clinical advice or

what courses should I go on from VTs to more experienced. And I believe in our dental community that we have so many amazing clinicians, we can help each other so much. And you have this podcast, so you’re educating and you’re helping. And I think it comes in many different ways. There’s not one, I can’t think of one particular thing, lots and lots of hard work.

Andy & Chris (36:18.242)

Andy & Chris (36:35.552)

I tell you what’s interesting and it would be, I wonder if you’ve ever tried to unpack it, but it’s quite interesting, the self-belief thing. You had it, you lost it, you regained it. It would be interesting to know how you lost it, do you know what I mean? Or how it sort of went and dissipated. Was it external or internal? Yeah.

I’m not asking for an answer, but I’m just saying it’s an interesting reflection as to whether, so I was really confident and believed in myself, then somehow I forgot about that bit and then I’ve regained it. It’s quite fascinating, I think. Would you have, do you think you would have done this on your own? Did you need Nikita and did Nikita need you for you to make this fly? Is it something that you would have got there on your own if you’d needed to?

Shabnam Zai (37:13.881)
Yeah. Yeah, it is.

Shabnam Zai (37:28.025)
I wouldn’t have enjoyed it.

Andy & Chris (37:31.254)
Ha ha.

Shabnam Zai (37:32.98)
I probably could have, like realistically I could have. I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. I really like it. Yeah, and also I work better with people. I know that about myself and I need someone to bounce ideas off. And both Nikita and I bring different things to the partnership and I quite like that she compliments me but at the same time our values are very, very aligned. Like we are all about integrity, ethical dentistry. Like our values are so aligned.

Andy & Chris (37:34.827)

Andy & Chris (37:38.454)
the shared experience is quite powerful.

Andy & Chris (37:46.025)

Shabnam Zai (38:02.148)
our ethos is so strong that we knew that no matter what happened to the practice, we would always come up with kind of similar decisions because we were so aligned. And we’ve also made a plan for if we don’t agree what to do then as well. It hasn’t happened yet. Yeah.

Andy & Chris (38:13.334)

Andy & Chris (38:17.418)
I think it’s very important. And I think in partnerships of two, I think you’re right. I think, because as you said about decision-making.

it’s better to make a decision and be wrong and then change your decision than make no decision. And I think in partnerships of two, that can stymie things in that it’s easy to get to a point where you get a stalemate, where you just don’t make a decision. And that’s not good for either of the partners involved, it’s not good for the business and for the team as well. It can be quite a frustrating environment to work in. So what’s your process then if you get to a stalemate? Fight.

Shabnam Zai (38:44.678)

Shabnam Zai (38:49.844)
Still mate, so we have a team meeting with our other halves as well and sometimes we have to just do what’s best for the practice. We haven’t had a situation yet so yeah, I think we both respect each other so much that like I say we just have to make a decision sometimes and it may not be 100% what I want or 100% what she wants but for the best of the business and the partnership we would sometimes just make a decision.

Andy & Chris (39:09.698)

Andy & Chris (39:13.196)

Andy & Chris (39:19.329)

Shabnam Zai (39:20.532)
But I’m really lucky because Nikita’s like my best friend. And I’ll be honest, I was a bit worried about going into business with her because I didn’t want to spoil that friendship because our families are so close. And I’m so, so lucky that it hasn’t. If anything, it just makes going into work a bit more fun because you just hang out with your best friend all the time. And there’s tough times that we… And she keeps me to account. Like, she doesn’t let me get away with stuff. But at the same time, she knows when I’m struggling and she will take some stuff off me and vice versa. I’m a bit of a workaholic.

Andy & Chris (39:27.8)

Andy & Chris (39:38.849)

Shabnam Zai (39:50.068)
and like last year she just booked annual leave for me. She’s like, you’re making me feel guilty about taking holidays. So she booked annual leave for me in my diaries. Even if you just don’t go anywhere, just don’t come to work, we’re not gonna mess with you, you’re just gonna have a week off. Yeah, so she really looks after me.

Andy & Chris (39:54.799)
Ha, brilliant.


Andy & Chris (40:02.158)
Just have some time off Yeah That’s great. That’s very caring. Thank you And as a result of the process you’ve been through you now Support other dentists looking to go through the process themselves in there because like you’re saying about You know how many handpieces you need you know those kind of small nitty-gritty things. It’s easy for ovens Oh, yes, all that location and you know find a builder and you’re right sometimes big bits putting in place the

Shabnam Zai (40:15.74)

Andy & Chris (40:27.618)
building blocks isn’t that difficult. It’s often needs to glue, it’s the small bits in between. So what does that kind of look like in terms of your support to dentists?

Shabnam Zai (40:36.248)
Yeah, so you know, some people are naturally risk averse, they don’t like taking financial risks, they lack can self believe they wouldn’t even think or try to think it’s possible that they could build a practice. But I want to, they just wouldn’t even know where to start, which is how I was. But I want people to know that was me. That was me and I am proof that it’s possible. So if I did it, anyone can do it. I really mean that I’m just

Andy & Chris (40:40.814)

Andy & Chris (40:46.795)

Andy & Chris (40:54.039)

Shabnam Zai (41:01.52)
I still can’t believe I’ve done it, but I really wish I had someone to help and guide me. And basically anyone that I work with, I just promise to give them everything. So I give them my business plan. I show them my cashflow forecast. I’ve created checklists for everything, all the equipment I bought for the practice. And I also, like I’m doing a course at the moment. So I have an online course of how to set up your own dream practice.

Andy & Chris (41:04.066)

Shabnam Zai (41:26.444)
And I have exercises to do while you’re an associate because I think you can learn so much from the current practices you’re working in. Things that you just turn up and assume is just working but somebody’s implemented that. That is a process and a protocol. And if you learn that then and you have that information, it’s so helpful. Like even how high your cabinetry is, like how high do you want your work surface to be?

Andy & Chris (41:31.187)

Shabnam Zai (41:49.68)
you can decide that, and it’s centimetres, but actually for your work flow, there must be a room in your clinic that you like working in. I remember getting asked, how much distance do you want from the head of the chair to your cabinetry? And I was like, I don’t know, how much space do I need? And you know, you don’t want to keep bumping into the cupboards, and there’s all these little, little tiny questions that I got asked, and I didn’t know. And then Nikita and I both had to find out the answers whilst we’re trying to get a loan, whilst we’re trying to get builders, while we’re trying to get the lease.

Andy & Chris (42:06.952)

Shabnam Zai (42:17.992)
while trying to negotiate the heads of terms, all this stuff. And then after all that, we still made massive blunders. With our lease, for example, we just jumped in both feet, as I told you. We just said, we’ll take it, that price, we’ll take it. And they said it was exclusive. I was like, okay, that’s just a marketing term to say it’s special. And it wasn’t, it meant that VAT wasn’t included in the price. So when we actually got to sign the contract.

Andy & Chris (42:24.455)

Andy & Chris (42:42.9)
Ah, I see. Right, right, right.

Shabnam Zai (42:44.808)
the rent didn’t include VAT. And then when we saw the figure, we were like, what’s that? And they’re like, oh, it’s VAT, but you can claim that back. And I was like, no, we can’t, we’re medical. And they didn’t know that we didn’t know that. And there were literally everything, keys in hand going, what are we going to do? And that’s a massive miscalculation to make on your first day. So I tell people about all that.

Andy & Chris (42:48.177)
Exclusive at VA too.

Andy & Chris (43:02.926)
Well that’s the extra 20% isn’t it right there? Yeah.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Shabnam Zai (43:13.212)
mistakes we had, all the problems we had, all the things that they should check for early on to not waste their time. So sometimes, for example, if you need to do structural work to the building, get permission from the landlord early. If they say no, there’s no point investigating that place for a dental practice because if they’re not willing to give you more than five years on a lease, it’s not worth proceeding with that because I remember we had a bit of issue with that as well. They only wanted to give us five years. I actually had to show them.

the loans and the paperwork and I said, I’m spending hundreds of thousands of pounds. I can’t move this in five years because it’s bespoke. And it’s not even what you see, it’s all the internal connections and things. And yeah, then we were really lucky that we had an opportunity to speak to the landlords or the trust because it’s not owned by anyone. And in the end, they gave us a 30 year lease.

Andy & Chris (43:47.095)


Andy & Chris (44:01.475)
Mm. Yeah. Mm.

Andy & Chris (44:07.494)
Oh wow. Wow. Makes your investment recoverable. Yeah. I’ll tell you what would be really useful if perhaps you could send us a link, we’ll drop that in the show notes for people that would want more details on that. Because for many it’s such a big…

Shabnam Zai (44:18.604)
Yeah sure and if anyone wants to connect with me on Instagram I’ve got like a five steps of how to set up a practice you know if someone doesn’t want to they’re not ready to have it. I don’t even mind having a phone call I don’t mind giving people advice because all my career people have helped me so I’m really open to kind of helping anyone anyway.

Andy & Chris (44:35.882)
You might need to book it, might need to set up a calendar. Yeah. Otherwise I’ve got a feeling you might be overrun with lots of people. It’s a lovely approach though, because very early on for you as we’ve talked about, you know, there are certain people who kind of held their hand out to you. I think it’s lovely that you’re now doing that based on your own experience with other people. Does that thing pay it back or pay it forward? Pay it forward, yeah. Or does it pay it forward, you’re doing the same thing? Well, we have this thing about dentistry as an income system, it’s all joined up.

Shabnam Zai (44:40.379)
I haven’t got that much free time. No, I’ll do.

Andy & Chris (45:02.418)
You know, and whilst we don’t necessarily know the people that we’re helping, if everybody keeps doing the right thing, it does make the profession stronger. And it is a great profession and managed well. It is relatively low risk from a financial point of view. It is relatively low risk, which is why the banks and others are so keen to support the profession because relative to other professions and industries, it is very low risk. However, if someone’s walked a path before you and somebody like you

Shabnam Zai (45:18.728)

Andy & Chris (45:32.712)
There’s a phrase isn’t there learn from your mistakes and I think a much better one is learn from somebody else’s mistakes Yeah, that’s what you’re offering you’re saying look Yeah

Shabnam Zai (45:38.894)
I love being a dentist, I really love being a dentist. I knew nothing about running a practice at all. Business side of dentistry just doesn’t exist. I have to say thanks to you guys actually because one of the few bits of information we did find on a squat was a seminar that Nikita went to by Frank Taylor and it was like two sheets of A4, there was only about five points on it but those five points were the things I ran to the showcase with. So at least I had that.

Andy & Chris (45:44.77)

Andy & Chris (45:48.011)

Andy & Chris (45:56.898)

Andy & Chris (46:04.962)
Phew, excellent, there we go, look at that.

Shabnam Zai (46:05.492)
Thank you.

But yeah, you get information from different ways and if you can definitely give back, it’s always nice too.

Andy & Chris (46:16.507)
Yeah. So just bring us up to date, just to finish off. You’re five years in. Page’s releases. Yeah, are the three surgeries all done and running? What sort of science team have you got? What services do you offer your patients?

Shabnam Zai (46:21.394)

Shabnam Zai (46:27.916)
Yeah, so we planned the practice to be three surgeries from the start, but we didn’t install all three. We’ve got all the plumbing in, so we started with one chair and we wanted two, but then we also wanted the really nice chair and the really nice cabinetry, so we went for that. So we did one and then we installed the second chair during COVID, so despite having no income, we just pushed ahead and carried on with our project to grow. So we’re currently at two

Andy & Chris (46:37.727)

Shabnam Zai (46:57.648)
to what potential to orthodontist ones joining us to hygienists, some of those oral surgeries, some of those root canal. So I’ve grown the practice to really serve my patients and as I’ve been in the practice, I’ve realized what my patients need. And as I know what they need, I’m providing more of that care for them. And all kind of within the umbrella of mine and Nikita’s ethos, which is really looking after the patient, not cutting corners and giving them really, really good service and a lovely patient journey. I

Andy & Chris (47:10.999)

Andy & Chris (47:18.712)

Andy & Chris (47:26.476)

Shabnam Zai (47:26.888)
When people say they hate going to the dentist, it makes me even more determined to make them like it.

Andy & Chris (47:31.758)
Yes, I love that concept of extending your services based on patient need as well Rather than just kind of saying we’re now doing this. Do you want one? Yeah, you’re looking at what the needs of your patient are and then bringing in specialists other services to make sure you can provide The broadest range of care makes sense

Shabnam Zai (47:47.972)
And also we get an opportunity to mentor. So I love mentoring. I’ve been a BT trainer and so we get associates that want to grow and then we help them and I’m teaching them the business skills that I wish I’d been taught early on and they may not fully appreciate it while they’re working with us. But I make them create open days. I make them do their own open day posters. I get them designing things, thinking about the wording on things and, you know, visiting other practices.

Andy & Chris (48:03.1)

Andy & Chris (48:14.35)
That’s good.

Shabnam Zai (48:16.328)
they just will build that skill set. So hopefully when they get an opportunity, they’ll be able to do it more confidently and have that belief in them.

Andy & Chris (48:20.626)
Yeah, like a little incubator. Yeah. I imagine you’ll probably be losing some people in the future because you’ll train them so well and they’ll have such confidence. They’ll go and fly. They’ll go and fly for themselves. Yeah.

Shabnam Zai (48:28.616)
But I always have, I always have. Yeah, so I’ve certainly of my nurses have become dentists, hygienists, so I never feel we should contain anyone when I see someone’s potential, like I was a very average student, and I just someone gave me the opportunity to try and push me. I like to encourage people to try if they want, I can’t push someone that doesn’t want to do it, even if they are. So I

Andy & Chris (48:35.638)
Hmm. Really? That’s interesting. Yeah.

Andy & Chris (48:46.114)

Andy & Chris (48:51.582)
Yeah. No, no, no.

Shabnam Zai (48:56.544)
I do lose a lot of good nurses. In fact, I’ve got a nurse with me today and she wants to be a therapist. And I’m like, why don’t you just apply for dentistry? I need to do dentistry. So, you know, making her dream a bit bigger because I think sometimes we don’t dream big enough.

Andy & Chris (48:58.932)

Andy & Chris (49:03.522)

Andy & Chris (49:09.006)
thoroughbreds and show ponies. Yeah, exactly. Exactly, yeah, putting some wind under their wings.

Shabnam, it’s been a fascinating story. I think your energy is just so good. You’re so enthusiastic about your own career, your practice, but the profession. And the profession is definitely better for you holding onto that envelope. I’m very grateful that you didn’t let go of it and it dropped into that post box. Yeah, definitely. We always finish up asking, I guess, the same two questions. And the first one we have for you is if you could be the fly on a wall somewhere in a certain situation, where would that be and who’d be there? Yeah.

Shabnam Zai (49:47.376)
When I was younger, I’d look at very successful people and think they’re special, they’re successful, I’m not them. And as I got older, what I realised is they’re just normal people that have just had opportunities. But what they’ve done is they’ve become successful. So I was thinking who I could speak to. I was thinking maybe someone like Oprah Winfrey, who early on in her career, when she got rejection and was told she wasn’t going to amount to much.

Andy & Chris (50:07.82)

Shabnam Zai (50:13.436)
I would love to have been in that conversation to see how she responded to that and also what she did straight after. You know how people pick themselves up after that kind of rejection and failure and that kind of confrontation. I’d love to see how she managed that.

Andy & Chris (50:17.484)


Andy & Chris (50:26.593)

And I guess because Sunday Night Opera’s been so phenomenally successful, Queen of Opera. we’ve only ever seen different levels of success. Even from the earliest days when she came on our radar, she was still incredibly successful. But yeah, that would be fascinating to go right back to the very beginning because everybody suffers with rejection of some sort or other in the early days.

And if you could meet somebody, sit down with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, perhaps in the cafe below your practice and looking over the Memorial Park, who would you like to meet?

Shabnam Zai (51:03.048)
So I’m going to be really selfish and I’m going to say my dad. So he passed away when I was nine and while I can remember his laugh, I can’t actually remember his voice and I’d love to hear his stories from his mouth. So I’d actually pick my dad.

Andy & Chris (51:09.728)

Andy & Chris (51:13.688)
We’re out.

Andy & Chris (51:17.81)
Yeah, well it sounds like he had a fascinating life himself. I mean, like a accountant to watchmaker in Switzerland. Yeah, it’s all that about. It sounds like a real character. Unbelievable. Yeah, no, yeah, that would be a very sweet moment. And building their own brick wall. Yes. A bit of a builder. Shavlett, thank you so much. You’re not short of demands on your time with all the things that you’ve got going, but I genuinely feel that…

Shabnam Zai (51:36.916)
My pleasure, thank you.

Andy & Chris (51:44.13)
dentists young and old are going to take a lot from this. I think for people who are thinking about setting up a practice, I strongly recommend they reach out to you. You know, it sounds like you’re so open in terms of support you’re offering, but just your story for people who are partly on that journey, they’re going to take a lot of confidence that you can do it. It does work out. Just keep pushing. You will get there. And you might not feel you can. I think that’s quite cool. Yeah. I’m going to say just on today’s weather, be careful with your kite flying. Yes.

Yes, it’s not quite flying weather today. No, in Pinner. It’s pouring down. In a park. It’s pouring down, yeah. Windy though. It’s nicely windy. Yeah, nicely windy. Lovely to have you here. Thank you very much indeed for your time today. Really, really appreciate it. And yeah, I wish you all the best and hope to see you soon. Yeah, thank you very much. It was really interesting. Thank you. Cheers. Yes, come and have a look. Yeah, come and have a look. Thanks a lot. Keep well. Cheers.

Shabnam Zai (52:17.012)

Shabnam Zai (52:27.158)
Thank you. Definitely. Come to the practice, I’ll take your coffee.

Shabnam Zai (52:33.672)


Frank Taylor & Associates

© Frank Taylor & Associates, 1 Bradmore Building, Bradmore Green, Brookmans Park, Hertfordshire AL9 7QR. All rights reserved.

Dental Website Design by Digimax Dental

Do you want to:
No thanks, please take me back to the main site.