The Group Dentistry Now Show: The Voice Of The DSO Industry – Episode 162

Sulman Ahmed, DMD, Founder, Chairman & CEO of DECA Dental Group and President at The Association of Dental Support Organizations (ADSO), joins the GDN Show to discuss:

  • Growing up in Zimbabwe and moving to the US
  • A customer-centric service model in dentistry
  • Working in the business to working on the business
  • The ‘take it personally in business’ concept
  • The ‘Starbucks of dentistry’ philosophy at DECA
  • Much more

To order Dr. Ahmed’s book ‘Make Them Smile’ visit to you can find the retailer of your choice.

To learn more about DECA Dental visit

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Full Transcript:

Bill Neumann: Welcome everyone to the Group Dentistry Now Show. I’m your host, Bill Newman. As always, we appreciate you listening in, or maybe you’re watching us on YouTube. Without a great audience like you, we wouldn’t get great guests like the next guests we have on the show. He may look familiar to you if you’re watching. If you’re listening, well, we’ve got a surprise. We have Dr. Salman Ahmed. He is the founder, the chairman, and the CEO of Decadental Group. And he actually is doing a lot, has done a lot in the industry. But he actually just wrote a book which he was able to give me a copy of an early copy So we’re gonna delve into this which is it’s really interesting. I just finished it up last night It’s a story. It’s his story And he’s got a really interesting background. So we’re gonna take you through his background how he got into dentistry Why he started decadental what that means to him and it’s really a bit of a guide for entrepreneurs, not just dentist entrepreneurs. I mean, certainly it makes sense. And we’ve got a lot of dentist entrepreneurs here. But but he gets into things that I think really can work even outside of health care verticals. I mean, this is not just written for dentists. But Dr. Ahmed, thanks for joining the show today. This is me. A lot of fun.

Sulman Ahmed, DMD: Bill, thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be on and would have thought would be on here talking about a book. But here we are.

Bill Neumann: Yeah, I know that’s going to be one of my questions, because that’s certainly challenging. But like I said, I did finish up the book. And your background is, I think, pretty unique. So you were born in Rhodesia, which is now modern day Zimbabwe. So I guess you were there when it was under the crown, right? So it was Rhodesia back then. in southern Africa and then you end up coming to the U.S. and then going to dental school. So maybe let’s start there. Your childhood in Rhodesia, what was that like? Your parents were Pakistani, is that correct?

Sulman Ahmed, DMD: Yeah, my parents were immigrants from Pakistan to Zimbabwe now, and I was born there and grew up and lived there until I was 19, then moved to the US to pursue my college education and ended up going to dental school. So that’s kind of the roundabout circle. So it’s multiple places throughout my life.

Bill Neumann: And in the book, you talked about kind of how it was interesting to be in school. And it wasn’t like it was in certainly in the US. I mean, when they had lunch break, it was it certainly wasn’t guaranteed that you’re going to eat.

Sulman Ahmed, DMD: Yeah, no, it was it was chaos. And I think I use that example in the book because it’s pretty representative of Any entrepreneur trying to build a business today, that ability to hustle and get in the front of the line, it’s got to feel like, and I think in chapter one of the book, I talk about a grand vision. You’ve got to want this more than anything else, almost to the point where you’re, you’re kind of obsessed with it. Um, and you know, that’s, that’s how I was about starting this business, but yeah, that’s absolutely right. The, the school lunch bell would ring and everybody would run, um, to the cafeteria, which was, um, it wasn’t a seated style. You stood in line, you grabbed your food and then you just found a place to, to sit. There were no tables or benches or stools. Um, and if you were at the back of the line and they ran out of food, then, They just kind of closed the shutter and that was the end of it. There was no explanation. It was just kind of an understood thing. So I think that’s one example. There’s so many. If you just kind of made things work with what you were offered. And so when I moved to the U.S., you know, there’s always a talk of the American dream and the land of opportunity. Looking back, it’s so true because there’s so much opportunity here. A small example for me, when I moved to the U.S., the Zimbabwean dollar to the U.S. dollar, the ratio was one U.S. dollar to seven. after my first three months of college year, it was one US dollar to like 14,000 Zimbabwean dollars. And so all of a sudden you couldn’t afford tuition. Luckily I was able to get federal aid throughout my college and then also through dental school. And then beyond that, when I started my practices again, there was banks willing to finance that. And I only share that because sometimes I think we live in a world today where there’s this notion that, you know, everybody, you know, should be doing something for me. And I just think the ability in the US to operate and grow is just unmatched anywhere. And I think that’s really why it’s called the land of opportunity, at least for me.

Bill Neumann: What was the decision to go to dental school? Why did you ask? I mean, were your parents deaf?

Sulman Ahmed, DMD: Yeah, I wish I had a great story about, you know, how I wanted to. you know, get people out of pain. I think there was certainly part of it was working with my hands and there’s, you know, helping people, uh, instant gratification where you’re not dealing with this long, you know, played out thesis or dealing with life and death decisions. So for me, my parents were both medical doctors and, you know, I always enjoyed like the sciences and the biology pieces, but I was also intrigued by business. And so starting out, I think dentistry for me beyond, some of those aspects, you know, working with my hands and being able to take care of patients. I think the thing I liked about it was the ability to set your own schedules and kind of be your own boss. So that autonomy was, was somewhat important to me. Um, and then obviously as I came out and started practicing as a dentistry and the world we’re in today, there’s gosh, so many different models today. Um, so it’s all kind of evolved over time.

Bill Neumann: So you end up going to Tufts Dental School. And one thing that I read in the book that I found pretty interesting is you finished up your clinicals rather quickly, but you couldn’t graduate early. So you end up being almost, you’re a student, but you’re also a student teacher.

Sulman Ahmed, DMD: Right. Yeah. You’re paying tuition for four years, regardless of how long it takes you to finish. And I think, you know, the journey was very interesting. I was, I would say, pretty average throughout my academic career and even like the first year or two of dental school where it’s, at least back then, it’s changed a lot. The curriculum has changed a lot now. You know, it’s more classroom style. And then the clinical rotations kind of start in third and fourth year. And, you know, doing all the gross anatomy, histology, biochem, all those classes were fine. You know, but when we got into the clinic and I was actually starting to work with patients, Man, my whole life took a different meaning because I started enjoying that interaction so much, being able to understand what they wanted, their limitations, whether it was financial or time, and how we were going to take care of them. it kind of things really started coming full circle. And I enjoy that aspect so much, just not having the same day to day every day where it’s, you’re doing different procedures on different patients. Um, so I would work through lunch or stay late and work with, you know, faculty after hours and treatment planning. I was, I was able to just expedite. I think the, you got, there’s a point system. So every time you did a cleaning or a crown, you know, it was certain points. I think a crown was like, eight or 10 points, a cleaning was like one point, and you had to get like 1000 points. And in addition to that, you had to check off certain competencies. So it was a little bit like a game to me. I was like, all right, you know, if I can get to 1000 points, you know, how fast can I kind of get it done. And, and I managed to finish that pretty early, and then was afforded the opportunity to then mentor and be a student teacher, which again, I was working with now the, you know, the class below me and training them. So I almost felt like I did twice the work, which kind of accelerated my growth, not just as a dentist, but also just being able to relate to people, which I think I talk a lot about in the book about is emotional intelligence or emotional IQ and the ability to just, whether you’re presenting a treatment plan to a patient, you know, you’ve got to be able to understand pick up on cues on, you know, do they want to get this done or not? Are they here just for a cleaning or do they really want to address what you think they want to address? And it is surprising to me, both in the dental world, but also now taking a step back in the business world, how unaware people are at times. And, you know, so that was, whether it was my childhood or just the opportunity to be around that, or the different cultures, different languages, different countries, I think that’s been like one of the keys to my success is just being able to understand people.

Bill Neumann: So you graduate dental school and you had some challenges, right? And I think you, you talk about that in the book, but you didn’t come out of dental school and say, Hey, I’m going to create a decadental. I mean, that was not, what were the thoughts you graduate? Yeah.

Sulman Ahmed, DMD: And I think that was, that was the hardest part in writing a book. And just to go back a little bit, I started writing this book after COVID. It was more of a diary to just leave to my kids so that. You know, I think we all we all know like our grandparents and but we we kind of know a few things about them, but we don’t know how they felt at different times of the chances of opportunities of the risks that took. So the book was just for me to have like a little diary. That’s how it started. Then it turned into a lot of different dental people. wanting to expand, how do I go from 1 to 5, 5 to 50, how do I fund it, my associates just quit, how do you, you know, all of that kind of stuff. And then it started extending beyond dental to other healthcare professionals and then other businesses. And so I had all these emails and templates and playbooks and the book came about by just putting it all in one place. To get back to your question, yeah, it was so rough in the first few years. And I was always so shy to share that because it was embarrassing to me to talk about all the failures. But at this point, the goal of the book was to be very transparent in the hope that even if there’s one person out there who’s like, man, I’m in a better position than he was. So I’m going to go take a chance and do something. That was really the impetus of putting it all out there. But yeah, for me, it was a lot of debt coming out. And I think I was either too obsessed with my vision of creating this multiple office group to even realize that, or too naive to realize how stupid I was. But I had half a million dollars of student loan debt. You know, between the first couple of practices, it was a startup that cost $800,000. There was an acquisition that was, I think, $1.3 million with all the working capital included. You know, I bought a condo coming out that wasn’t done. And, you know, it all kind of catapulted into this position where I didn’t have enough cash flow and I had all this debt. And there was a period that my first year out where I didn’t think I was going to make it. So I share all those stories in the book.

Bill Neumann: And I think that’s that’s important for people to hear that. It’s not that’s not this. It’s not an easy road. And, you know, there’s certainly it’s, you know, you don’t go and it doesn’t go like this, right? It’s not a straight line. Right. So this theme, the Starbucks of dentistry, comes up in the book quite a few times. So why don’t we talk a little bit about that vision that you had? Your model, Decadental’s model, is pretty unique really in the industry. And I think all DSOs seem to have their own model that works well. But can you take us through Why did you say, hey, I’m going to model. Well, first off, how do you go Starbucks and dentistry? Like it’s almost like the two seem separate, but you talk a little bit about that.

Sulman Ahmed, DMD: Yeah, yeah, for sure. So, you know, the goal was to create a brand. Ideal Dental is our patient-facing brand. Deca Dental is our, you know, staff-facing brand. It’s our support center. Deca comes from the word, you know, me wanting to own 10 offices at some point, which I never, ever shared with anybody until we kind of surpassed that. But yeah, the Starbucks and the Ideal Dental are both branded, you know, are both built around the guest model. So, you know, Starbucks had great retail locations. I think of ourselves as a retail healthcare brand. Starbucks is open, you know, seven days a week. We’re open six days a week. And It’s not that their coffee necessarily is the best coffee you can get, but it’s a very predictable, standardized experience. In other words, you can go into any ideal dental today and you’re not going to have a long wait time. You’ll be taken back, um, you know, relatively quickly getting there. And our dentists will be pretty competent because I’ve been trained in, in taking care of the needs that they’re, you know, um, offering the patient. So that was kind of the thesis. And then in addition to that, You know, if you think of Starbucks, it’s not just coffee, right? They have a protein plate and they’ve got these different kind of things, you know, that the guests may want at the time. So same thing with Ideal Dental. We don’t just do general dentistry. We do all specialty six days a week under one roof and then warranty our work, too. So that was the general kind of notion. Can you build a brand that’s in these markets that is identifiable and stands for something. And that that was the notion behind creating Ideal Dental and the Starbucks of Dentistry.

Bill Neumann: Maybe back to leadership. That seems to be a central theme in the book. You touched on it a little bit earlier that you feel like maybe your background coming from a different country and maybe some of the challenges you had there really helped you become the leader that you are now. Maybe talk about the importance of being a leader and what that means to you, and maybe some tips. You don’t have to give all the tips from the book, but maybe some that stand out to you.

Sulman Ahmed, DMD: Yeah, I think any leader should be able to demonstrate to their staff on what they believe their core values are. For us, that’s And it’s each letter in ideal stands for something, you know, and so the I stands for integrity and the L stands for loyalty. Out of all the company core values, you know, those are the two most important to me. And, you know, loyalty to me is not just loyalty from my staff to me, but also loyalty to our patients or our guests. And then integrity is doing the right thing, right? As a dentist, you’re in somebody’s mouth, you’re cleaning out decay and filling a cavity, you know exactly how deep you get, how much decay was cleaned out, and what the best measure in treating that is. That shouldn’t even be a question because there’s no compromising on that integrity of the work. the loyalty to the patient and to each other. So those were two. And I think leadership to me, which, you know, and I talk a little bit about in the book too, but it is so important in this age where, I don’t know, you can look at anything, whether it’s social media, and everything is just about how perfect everybody is, whether it’s their workouts or their life or their family or their house or whatever it is and that’s just not the reality of living and I think it’s so scary when I have a younger dentist who I’ve had this happen actually with somebody who hadn’t even graduated a few years back and they wanted to meet and we finally got a meeting set up and they said, yeah, I’m just going to do what you did. And I think that’s really scary because in my head I’m thinking you have no idea what I did. And so I think the book kind of helped shed some light, but the odds of kind of coming back from where I were very slim and I don’t recommend, you know, that you go do what I did. But I think as a leader, It’s being transparent is really, really important. And being vulnerable is really, really important, because we’re all human. And there’s no leader that hasn’t at times felt like they’re failing. And how do you manage that? How do you let your team around you know you’re going through a tough time? It can be personal. It can be professional. And I think when we build out a team, especially when you’ve got a team with people there for 15 years, a lot of stuff happens. People get divorced. People have kids. Financially, things change. Some people make enough money where they never have to work, and others, you know, have other financial obstacles that life hits them with. So that vulnerability, if you can be transparent and vulnerable as a leader, it opens up the doors where people want to share that with you because they feel comfortable because you shared something with them. So those two things are extremely important in leadership today. And too often, I just don’t see that happening.

Bill Neumann: And I’ll show the book a couple of times here anyway. It’s called Make Them Smile. Let’s see if I can get that in the camera. There we go. Make Them Smile. And can they get this? Where would they get this book? I mean, can they get it on Amazon?

Sulman Ahmed, DMD: So you can buy this. Yeah, you can get it anywhere. Books are sold. Barnes and Nobles, Amazon, Apple. I think Audible is already available now. The book comes out May 7th.

Bill Neumann: Yep, yep. So yeah, everybody can. I’m a big fan of reading, but yeah, you’re right. If you want to just listen to it, you can listen to it as well. One other point in the book, and this really hit home for me personally, because it’s a challenge that I feel like currently with the business that we have, can I have? It’s going from when you’re working in the business to working on the business. And I’m sure that is a challenge for a lot of the listeners right now that maybe have two or three locations and they’re doing all the clinical work or most of the clinical work. And then, of course, as they scale up, to work on the business becomes even more challenging because you have less time. Talk a little bit about that. When did you realize or when did you make that transition from working in the business to actually working on the business? Like you said, I can identify with that 100% today.

Sulman Ahmed, DMD: So out of the few people I’ve sent the books to, it’s funny that that point really, really hits home regardless of what what business you’re in. And I think too often we get so caught up in the weeds and we think we’re like the superpower and patients only want to see us. And I’ve met so many dentists and business people where, you know, they’re like, oh, I’m killing it. And, you know, I’m like, tell me more. And, you know, they’re like, well, I have four locations or three locations. And I, you know, Spend a day, you know in each one and a half a day and the other two and it’s great But what I’ve noticed is when I leave one location or if I’m and I go to another one and the other one Does well in the first one tanks and it kind of goes back to that whole notion. I think Everybody in for some reason today, you know in the last five or ten years this whole multiple office notion is has kind of taken off and But you’ve got to really be the person that wants to do that, because there is absolutely nothing wrong in having one location, a great location, providing great customer service, and being happy. For the other group of people that want to have more, to me, a true business is only scalable when you don’t have to do dentistry in there. Do you have systems that are good enough that you’re you can be out of it and the business kind of keeps growing and keeps generating revenue. And that, you know, that’s where, you know, I was working six days a week, then five, then four, then three. So it kind of was a gradual thing, but I was, I was victim to that. In fact, even now, even though I’m not practicing dentistry and I’m managing our, our, our enterprise, um, there’s so many times, you know, where I get so caught dealing with stuff in the weeds that I can’t take a step back and think about strategically, where are we going? So I intentionally have my schedule set up a certain way where, you know, Monday are kind of all my internal one-on-ones with my executive team, and we meet as a team. And then Tuesday is a few more one-on-ones. And I try to leave a little bit of time in the later half of the week to just get out or think about you know, where is the company going? Are we making the right decisions today? And what do they look like 10 years from now? So that’s what working on the business means to me. And it can start even if you have one location, you can get so consumed by just doing the dentistry and the hygiene checks and running from one operatory to another, where you kind of lose sight of like, well, what are you really trying to achieve? Is it, you know, making sure you have flexible hours for your patients? you know, doing more dentistry? Is it being more efficient? Is it maybe doing the same dentistry, but in less time and maybe not working as much? So that’s kind of what I mean by, you know, working on the business.

Bill Neumann: Another thing you mention in the book is this concept of take it personally. So maybe talk a little bit about that philosophy and how it’s helped you make decisions.

Sulman Ahmed, DMD: Yeah, I think, you know, when you’re personally investing your time, your money, your experience into anything, your view of that becomes very, very different. And it was like seven or eight years ago, we were at a conference when we were kind of going through a growth spurt, a company conference where we had all the employees in. And I kept hearing a lot of like, oh, well, you know, the morning schedule fell apart. The patient showed up late and the patient was so rude and the patient didn’t want to reschedule. And I came up with this notion of saying, let’s just call our patients guests. And let’s see how that sounds, because if we’re treating them as a guest coming into our house, if they’re a little late, that’s OK. And so it kind of changed our whole outlook on how we think of the customer when you think of him as a guest. So yeah, that was really a big, big change for us.

Bill Neumann: Well, I think a lot of the audience would like to understand a little bit more about, you know, the scaling process of Deca. So like early days and then like, how did you start to scale? Especially you were DeNovo, right? So you had the ideal dental brand. You knew you wanted to be the Starbucks of dentistry, that consistency. So talk about trying to scale something like that. What was that process like? And again, maybe some ideas for some folks ahead. Not easy.

Sulman Ahmed, DMD: Yeah, it’s not easy. I think, you know, if you look at dental, and we’ll just talk about dental since the audience here is largely dentists in this podcast. But if you think about dental, you have an M&A component where you’re going and acquiring practices and hopefully making them better. And then you’ve got a de novo component where you kind of pick where you want to grow, how you want to grow, you hire your staff, and you build a culture. And they’re very different. One is very operationally intense, and it’s like a slower pace. It’s very controlled, but it’s a slower growth, and there’s not as much debt involved in it. The M&A model, you’re paying up for practices, and you’re inheriting a lot of the staff and the patients, and you’re hoping that there’s some kind of common theme that you’re bridging together. So today, 80% of our business is DeNovo, and I’d say about 20%, 25% are strategic acquisitions. We like doing acquisitions where we find another dentist or a dental group that has locations in a geography we want to be in. you know, that is aligned and how we think it would be a clinical extension of us. And those have been extremely successful for us. You know, we’ve done it in North Carolina, when we first expanded to Houston, Florida, Seattle. So we love those kind of expansions, but there’s got to be big alignment in the vision and the culture and buy-in and saying, Yep. We view the world the same way. We’re not quite there yet but with your help we’ll kind of put it all together. But yes one is they’re very different models and each comes with its pros and cons.

Bill Neumann: And it seems like there’s some hybrids out there, but for the most part, you go one way or the other. It doesn’t seem like there are a lot out there that are doing too much in the way of hybrids, doing both DeNovos and acquisitions, or they certainly favor one over the other.

Sulman Ahmed, DMD: I think you’re absolutely right. I think it’s, I don’t know if there are too many groups that are doing both extremely well, or some that are doing M&A really well, and others that are doing DeNovo really well.

Bill Neumann: So another question I think would be really interesting to get your feedback on. You discuss this in the book, but What was it like finding a private equity partner, that first partner that you had, you know, you’re going from, you know, relatively small, smaller platform, you know, where you’re leveraging your bank debt to an equity partner. Can you talk a little bit about that, how you were vetting out your partner and what the transition was like?

Sulman Ahmed, DMD: Yeah, for sure. I think, you know, First of all, I didn’t really even know or understand how and when we became a DSO. I just always thought of myself as a dentist, growing dental practices, self-funding most of them. And then we got to a point where the banks would lend enough for seven or eight locations a year, and we’d had other DSOs move into the Dallas market that were doing like 15, 20 a year. You know, I think I quickly realized, because we would have dentists from them come and work, or we could just kind of feel like, hey, we’re, you know, we’re doing a better job in this market. So how do we expand this? And the banks weren’t the answer. I was very skeptical, you know, in the start of taking, you know, private equity, but in the end of it, you know, I view it as another financing option. And we’re very clear with our partners on expectations in terms of like, you’re a capital partner, not our operating partner in terms of like you know when it comes to clinical autonomy decisions labs and all of those things. There’s absolutely been no interference in in that aspect of the business. And so I think that’s that’s kind of how I viewed it generally and still do is as any business gets bigger the financing needs are different and there’s not There’s not too many businesses beyond, I don’t know, 50 locations that don’t have some kind of outside financing. It could be your partner docs are the source or there’s some source of financing, but it’s not like 100% owned entity, um, after, after such a point. So you gotta just pick and choose what you feel comfortable with. I think as long as you can control your narrative and make sure you’re not compromising on the integrity of the value, uh, you promised to the patient. And, you know, for us, that’s that, that clinical, um, quality, um, then, you know, you’ve got to pick what method suits you best to grow. And, and, you know, every, just like every dental group is different and every dentist is different. Every private equity group is different. And, you know, and so the story continues.

Bill Neumann: So not only are you the chairman, founder and CEO of Deka Dental, but you’re also the president of the ADSO, the Association for Dental Support Organizations. So I guess I’ve got this kind of like a twofold question here. I’d love to find out what the future of DecaDental is. So where are you looking to take DecaDental now? I mean, you’ve created an incredible group and you’ve grown substantially. I’m sure you’re going to continue to grow in the future.

Sulman Ahmed, DMD: I look at it as twofold. One is like the people that work at Deca, you know, I think There’s a huge opportunity for them to keep growing both in learning and their wealth creation opportunity. And then outside of that, I think I’d want it to be a national household brand as people in the different markets identify Ideal Dental and they think about a toothache on a Saturday or somebody that does all dentistry under one roof. I want that brand to be synonymous and be like, oh, I go to Ideal Dental just like you go to Starbucks to get coffee. At least that’s the aspiration.

Bill Neumann: Since you’re part of the ADSO and you’ve got a pretty good perspective on the industry as a whole, where do you see the industry headed? We’ve had some challenges certainly in the past couple of years and this kind of goes back to the different models, right? We talked about acquisition models and some of those, there were some I think people probably overpaying for a lot of practices when interest rates were low, maybe not finding the best partners, but we’re looking maybe geographically or they were just buying to scale and sell. And I think we see some groups that maybe are challenged. So what do you see? What do you see the industry headed?

Sulman Ahmed, DMD: Yeah, I’ll give you my personal view and then I’ll talk a little bit about my view from the ADSL kind of seed. I think probably both are have a lot of overlap in some aspect. Look, dentistry, at least since I’ve been doing this, I started the business in December 2008 at the last recession. And then, you know, college from 2011 onwards has had such a great run where everyone’s just been excited about investing in dentistry and every model’s kind of worked. And there’s all these different DSOs and they all are different and catering to different people. And some have a lot of things in common and some have nothing in common. So I think there is a little bit of a true up in a reality check that has started happening and I think will continue to happen. And I think people are going to realize and not all DSOs are the same and just just saying I’m just going to invest in the dental industry. it doesn’t really carry the same weight as it did before because you’re really investing in a specific company. And if the foundation and fundamentals of that company are not sound, and look, we saw a bunch of this when, you know, we look at, we probably looked at 75 or 80 acquisition opportunities last year. A lot of them, most of them, all groups ranging from 10 to, you know, 100 plus locations. And some of them had only been around for three years. And that makes you very nervous because you know, they started in 2019, and then COVID happened. And then in 2021, they bought a bunch and, and then they’re exiting the business. And, you know, when you look at year-over-year growth, or any kind of organic growth, it’s hard to comp. And so I think some of that right-sizing, correcting is going to happen, has started happening. I think overall, while it hurts, it’s probably going to be good for the industry long term. I think the dental groups that have a solid foundation, that aren’t just in a rush to just grow and keep proving something without strong fundamentals, are going to have a hard time. And the ones that have done it right are going to be even more successful as as they separate themselves from the herd. So that’s my view. I think the ADSL has obviously also evolved a lot, starting out with the big four or five groups, and now there’s so many different groups that are part of it, from very few locations to a lot of locations. And I think the diversity that’s kind of been included, that’s added like a whole new twist. So I think it’s become more entrepreneurial. I think it’s become more open. And I think it’s become a great opportunity to train people wanting to learn more, having access to people who’ve done different things and have been in the dental space you know 5 10 15 to 35 years. So I think it’s a great time to be in dentistry. But I think the groups that spend time doing it right versus trying to speed it up just to get somewhere you know are there’s going to be a separation of that. And we’ve started seeing that in the last few years.

Bill Neumann: And just the timing, I think, of this podcast is great to talk a little bit about. So the ADSO annual meeting is coming up June 12th through the 15th. It’ll be in Denver at the Gaylord out by the airport. So great meeting. And I mean, that’s that’s your meeting. I saw one of the panels was going to be you’re going to be the moderator and it’s going to be, I think, CEOs Unscripted is one of the with some of the top CEOs from different DSOs. That should be a lot of fun.

Sulman Ahmed, DMD: That’ll be a lot of fun. And I think, you know, I have the ability to ask some questions that maybe they haven’t been asked before. Others haven’t felt comfortable asking. So that’ll be a really, really fun panel for anyone who’s been following the industry.

Bill Neumann: Yeah, absolutely. What we’re going to do at the end of the show is we’ll drop a link for Make Them Smile, the book. So you can just go to Barnes & Noble or Amazon and just click on the link and get it there or Audible and listen to it. And then also we’ll link to the ADSO event as well. So if people want to want to sign up for that, they can do that. Um, one thing that I forgot to ask you about, because you told me about this when we were in the green room really was Ideal Dental has a JV partnership that you’re like just launching right now, which is pretty unique. So could you talk a little bit about what that JV partnership looks like?

Sulman Ahmed, DMD: Yes. I think, you know, we built a business around the guests and what do we, everything we do needs to be the easiest thing and the best thing for the guests. And, uh, Over the 15 years, we’ve built such great systems that we can have any dentist kind of come in, learn it, and do really, really well. Same thing with hygienists and staff and just customer service. And last year, and I think you were probably there, I was speaking at the Yankee Dental Conference in Boston, and I took my nine-year-old son with me. And I happen to go to dental school in Boston, too. So one Friday afternoon after one of the Yankee sessions, I took him to my dental school just to show him around, and we ran into a fourth year dental student who was graduating in May that year. And we were just in the elevator together. The next morning, Saturday morning, we were working out. You know, I was working out and my son, there was a basketball gym, which you could kind of see it from the weight area. And I see this guy talking to my son. So being a careful dad, I kind of rush over to make sure everything’s OK. And it turns out it was the same dental student. And so He’s like, hey, I’m sorry, I just saw your son and recognized him. I saw you guys at the school. I’m like, oh, yeah, you were Dennis. And so he’s like, OK, you’ve been out longer. What year did you graduate? And he’s like, can I get your name and number in case I have some questions on contracts or what to do after school? I’m like, sure. I give it to him. I go back to working out. He, I guess, must have looked me up. And so he comes running. And he’s like, oh, my gosh, I didn’t know. you know, you’ve kind of built, you know, this this brand and that’s amazing. And I’ve heard of it. And, you know, he said, I’m from, you know, upstate New York and I’m a third generation and went to a local church and went to the local high school. And I’d love to open an office out there. Would you partner with me? And it just kind of dawned upon me at that time, you know, why not? And so that was really the impetus. And so I think where with where with where Dennis are today, It’s the world of dentistry has gotten more and more complex, not just in the legal, but just in terms of funding, you know, the students that have so much debt, where do you want to go take it all on by yourself? And a lot of people don’t want to go buy an office because it may be older. It may not be the perfect geography may not be. the patients or the staff or the look or feel that they want. And so, you know, like I said, when you think Starbucks or dentistry, you think of retail health care. We have, you know, some of the best real estate in the country when it comes to Ideal Dental and how we position our locations. And so for the first time, yeah, we’re opening up the doors. You know, you can read about it more at, but essentially, you know, We would partner with you in a location that you would kind of pick. You would tell us where you want to be. We’d present you and it’s zero to 100. We kind of do everything from the site selection to all the competition, the analysis, negotiating the lease if you like the location. And then, you know, the whole credentialing, construction, all the pieces to get the office ready, all the staffing, all the marketing. It’s like full turnkey where you can come in and be the dentist, but have the support in a location that you kind of picked and a geography that matters to you. So that that’s super exciting. And I’m super passionate to get that off the ground.

Bill Neumann: Well, that’s great. Yeah. And we’ll drop that in the show notes as well. Well, this is a great conversation. And again, I just want to make sure everybody gets the copy of the book, Make Them Smile. You’ll be at the ADSO meeting for sure. So you’ll be busy there. But if anybody’s thinking of attending or going to be there, make sure you look for Dr. Salman Ahmed. decadental group and really appreciate your time. I mean, this is it’s been a lot of fun. And I learned a lot from the book. Some of that, again, not being a clinician, but as an entrepreneur, seeing some of these challenges that I had, it really does trans this book translates into a lot of different businesses. And I think just about anybody would get a lot of value out of this. So hopefully everybody enjoyed this show. Until next time, I’m Bill Newman. Thanks again, Dr. Ahmed.

Sulman Ahmed, DMD: Thank you so much. Really enjoyed it.