The Alimond Show

Dr. Harshit Aggarwal - Prosthodontist at Center For Dentofacial Aesthetics

August 06, 2024 Alimond Studio
The Alimond Show
Dr. Harshit Aggarwal - Prosthodontist at Center For Dentofacial Aesthetics
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

When you meet someone who is not just passionate about their craft, but also about making a real difference, you sit up and listen. That's exactly what we did when a visionary dentist with a golden philosophy joined us. With a belief that leadership and a clear vision are the bedrock of any successful business, our guest maps out the journey towards a healthcare revolution. We discuss the formula for success that marries people, processes, and product—but with a twist. Here, the product is trust, and our guest's ambition is to establish a dental equivalent of the Mayo Clinic, blending clinical practice with research and education, all while restoring the integrity of patient care.

Our dentist's narrative begins in the bustling city of Bombay, where his father's dedication to the field of healthcare ignites a similar passion within him. The contrast between quick-fix cosmetic-oriented practices and those grounded in patient education and well-being is stark. Our guest is committed to a legacy that transcends profit, advocating for community-focused, empathetic healthcare. His vision is to inspire others to value long-term relationships and community well-being in medicine, a legacy that would defy the current trend towards impersonal, transactional healthcare.

As we shift from deep discussions to delightful anecdotes, our guest recounts an epicurean escapade in Thailand that's as rich in humor as it is in flavor. But even amid tales of culinary conquests, the focus remains on the mandate for leadership and business acumen within dental practice. Drawing from the wisdom of thought leaders like Simon Sinek, Brene Brown, and Adam Grant, our guest emphasizes these skills as essential for any dentist navigating the complexities of a thriving practice. So, tune in for an episode that's part wisdom, part wanderlust, and wholly committed to changing the face of healthcare—one smile at a time.

Speaker 1:

How long have you been in business?

Speaker 2:

Great question eight years. But inherently, like it's a, I have a mind which is just like I want to do business. I have an entrepreneur mind, so I'll try and figure stuff out. But specifically to your question, when it comes to basic business sense, I'll divide it into two parts. One is your technical business related aspects to it right, unique to every business. That is what it is. But the one thing that's common is being a leader and having that vision that I think is common across any business. There are certain basic underlying principles that are applicable to any business and depending on how you look at things, they change a little bit. But if you have the structural framework, you can replicate that across different businesses. There's nothing different to it.

Speaker 1:

It's called serial entrepreneur huh. Once you have the foundation, you can just apply.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so, like the way I break it down is and this is not for me, this is I forget his name Marcus Limones. He has this television show where he says that any business, you can break it down into three parts. So you need three things for a successful business People, processes and product Right and you need all three to be successful. So product could be a service, could be a product itself, which is physical, People, of course, and then you should have the right process in place.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

And that, I think, is a very basic formula that you can apply to any business.

Speaker 1:

Speaking of product, what's your product?

Speaker 2:

So I'm in the business of selling trust. Okay, actually it doesn't sound as good, but I'll go back Background. I'm a dentist, I'm a medical provider, so that is day-to-day practice. I have a dental practice out in Virginia, in Annandale. But what I'm trying to build is something larger than just a dental practice. If I were to try and summarize it in one sentence like my elevator pitch, if I meet Elon Musk would be I'm building the Mayo Clinic for Dentistry. Okay, when, in under one roof, you have clinical practice, you have research and you have education, which, as an organization, is run as a nonprofit even after I'm dead. So it's something larger than just.

Speaker 1:

We've got a real vision here.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's not just one dental practice, and this is what I want to do, and I restore smiles. And no, no, no, it's about healthcare, because I think that's what's lost primarily in a lot of parts in this country where you as an individual are not a patient but you're a short number, you're managed more than you're taken care of, and we strive to be different, and we have. I like to believe that we have great personal relations with our patients. That's something that my dad taught me and I saw him do, so that's what I'm translating, and the call to arms motto or logo is building trust in healthcare, because that's what's lost and that's what we're trying to build.

Speaker 1:

Why are you so passionate about this? Did something happen where you've lost Not lost trust, but were you? Did something happen earlier in your career that you've created this big vision? Nothing specific that happened to me.

Speaker 2:

Okay, but just looking at how healthcare is done around me, it's driven me to verbalize this vision and say that this is what we need and this is what we want to achieve, because, at the end of the day, the doctor-patient relationship is a very intimate relationship. Many doctors know more about an individual than their spouse knows about that individual, and that is how it should be. It's about building that trust back, like I see so many patients who are like yeah, I went to this dentist and I didn't trust them In the first appointment. As a doctor, if someone comes to you and they cannot trust you, you failed. It doesn't matter how good you are as a doctor. You have failed your duty, your oath, that you've sworn the hypocrite's oath. You failed all of that right up front. So why are we putting ourselves and by this I mean us providers and doctors why are we putting ourselves in a position where our patients are not, in a position where our patients cannot trust us?

Speaker 1:

Why do you feel like that trust isn't happening after our first meeting?

Speaker 2:

I don't know and it baffles me, it completely baffles me. I can make some assumptions based on what I've seen. Like I used to work in a corporate practice right Owned by a large corporation. They own like 800 dental practices across.

Speaker 2:

So it was run not like a medical practice, it was run like if it was a McDonald's or like an FMCG company where you're trying to sell a product and every day at the end of the day the office manager would sit with me and say doctor, here are your numbers. And it didn't make sense. I'm like if today everyone walked in healthy, why do these numbers matter? Why do these numbers matter? And I think maybe not doctors, but I'll say the organization loses perspective and makes it about the numbers on a day-to-day basis and as it percolates down into the minds of the doctor, they are now thinking from that perspective, not from a perspective of I want the best for my patient or hey, you need this treatment, but it's not a necessity. You can sit on it for a year, you'll be okay, that is lost, right. So that's kind of one assumption where you're trying to meet a financial goal while delivering healthcare. And I think those are completely two opposite sides of the coin and you cannot have both.

Speaker 1:

How do you solve that, then Because?

Speaker 2:

it has to come from the doctor. The doctor has to put the patient's interest first, no questions asked. Whatever it is, even before their own interest, they have to put the patient's interest first.

Speaker 1:

We were just talking I was just talking about this with another guest and we were talking about the difference between being a salesperson versus being an advisor Exactly.

Speaker 2:

Yes, and I think you heard it right on the head you have to be the advisor for the patient. I tell my team in the practice what are we doing here on a day-to-day basis? We are not doing dentistry, we are educating people. That is what you need to think of. Even my hygienists I tell them you're not selling dentistry, you're not doing cleanings or periodontal treatment. No, you are here every day to educate and to advise the patient and if they want treatment great, we can do it for you. If you don't want treatment great, you are advised. You know exactly what's going on. You know your next steps.

Speaker 1:

You don't sound like a typical dentist.

Speaker 2:

Thank you, I take it as a compliment, thank you.

Speaker 1:

It was intended to be a compliment. Where did you get this type of mindset training influence?

Speaker 2:

I think it's not one place. I think it's people around me who've influenced me to be this way. Some of it I would attribute it to how I was brought up, what I've seen my father do, so my father is a physician, so part of it goes to my origin story of you know as a kid what I saw, and I think a large part of it goes to the last three years that I focused on myself. I've read a lot of leadership books, a lot of in general how business should be. Combine that into a health care philosophy.

Speaker 2:

You kind of evolve every day. For me, I evolve every day in the shower. That's where I get my bright ideas. So it's been an evolution. It's not been like one institute or one person who's influenced me. This process has been growing and evolving and maturing over the last four or five years, when the last year I would say it's completely crystallized and become something that I can point to, that I can give to others, saying that this is your call of arms, this is a vision that you can take and run.

Speaker 1:

Wait for it. Wait in 10 years you're going to come back and be like actually it's evolved from From there right.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, now it's across all medical right.

Speaker 1:

Speaking of origin story, do you mind touching on that just a little bit?

Speaker 2:

Yes, yeah. So my father is a physician, my mom's a dentist. I hail from India. I'm from Bombay, that's where I was born and brought up and my parents I mean to someone over here it sounds like oh, both your parents are doctors. You must be well off, but it's very different in Bombay In India.

Speaker 2:

I come from a regular middle class family. My dad graduated out of medical school. He had a job at a clinic and it was not a very well-paying job. I mean, he could make ends meet barely, and my mom was still in dental school. So they moved into this northern suburb like in the middle of nowhere.

Speaker 2:

The nearest bus stopped like a mile away and it was gravel road to the home that they were in. It was an apartment complex that was just built. Not far from there there was this fishing village and one of the chiefs of the village heard that oh, there's a doctor who's moved around and they didn't have a doctor. So they came to my dad and they're like hey, do you mind being the village doctor? And my dad was like OK, I mean, I don't lose anything much, I'm traveling like two hours to make ends meet, I'll be here. And the deal they struck at that time was that until my dad's practicing in that village, his rent is going to be X and it's not going to change and till date it is that His rent is 1,000th of what people right next to him pay.

Speaker 1:

Pretty good deal.

Speaker 2:

Pretty good deal right. But now it's no more a village, it's like a metropolis, so it's very different. But the old villagers, they're still there, their families are still there. So over a period of 20 years when he practiced he had those personal relations with all his patients, like he got invited to weddings, to birthday parties.

Speaker 1:

He was a part of the family.

Speaker 2:

He became part of the family Like he's seen three, four generations of families right in that office, one after another. He's seen kids grow, get married, have kids, so that's what kind of pushed me to be that person that become a part of that family, see your patient as if they are your family and it makes a difference. I would see him take house calls at 3 AM. I would have seen parents carry their kids and knock on our door at like 2 AM asking for help and he would help. So that changes on how you look at medicine growing up and I think those are the foundations that help me build my thought process and kind of call it, westernize it to fit the society over here.

Speaker 1:

That's a completely different Like, I think, as somebody who wants to be a doctor, I want to be a doctor. That's the type of doctor If you're not getting in it for the money here in the Western world and you're getting in it to serve and help people, that's kind of the ideal vision of how your life would play out.

Speaker 2:

So I'm very grateful for the experience that I had and I hope that I can pass that through to other people and I can hope I can change people to adopt that mentality and see that, yes, it is fulfilling and also financially it's not that bad, like, yeah, you're not going to drive a Lamborghini, but you live a comfortable, fulfilled life.

Speaker 1:

So I hope I can inspire more people, and so the difference between a Lamborghini and fulfilled life is essentially connect the dots there. For me, is it because you're not going to be recommending certain services that aren't the best fit for that patient anymore? Where's the gap between the people that are driving the Lamborghinis versus the ones that are not, but serving families in a way that you just explained? So not.

Speaker 2:

Every decision is going to be driven by what's best for me to make money right now, got it. It's more for the long run, so growth is much slower, but once it's there, it stays, it's stable. I've met doctors or dentists who are like, oh, and this is their brag, I do 100 veneers a month. They've built their practice around something that's purely cosmetic. The difference over there is when a patient comes into my practice asking for veneers.

Speaker 2:

I talk more people out of getting veneers than actually doing veneers, because then I tell them this is what it is like. This is what will happen if you get veneers today, 10 years from today, 20 years from today, 30 years from today. This is what you're signing up for life, right? Yeah, whilst, as a doctor, someone could choose not to tell the entire story and let the patient get what they want because they came in asking for that. And I can assure you most patients have no clue what they're signing up for, just because they saw it on Instagram or on TikTok that, hey, this is the cool thing to do. This is the rave. I want to be a part of it. I want to do this, yeah. So I think, once you start educating them. From a perspective of this is what you're getting. You'll truly know that a lot of cosmetic dentistry quote, unquote cosmetic dentistry is not what you want to do.

Speaker 1:

You have a message that's kind of going against the grain.

Speaker 2:

Yes, yes, 100%.

Speaker 1:

How long until you think you're going to fulfill your vision of the type of business you want to truly create?

Speaker 2:

That's happened today. Right, I've already created the business that I want. I think the question more is when does my organization become the Mayo Clinic for dentistry?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and that's the correct question I was trying to get to.

Speaker 2:

And I don't know the answer to that question. It may never happen in my lifetime. Like the Mayo Clinic as we see it today is evolution of 100 years. The Mayo brothers are not here anymore, but their vision is alive and kicking and running, so I hope that it happens in my lifetime. I hope that I can see it happen. If not, I hope that I've inspired enough people to carry the torch forward.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

So, yeah, I would love to see it happen.

Speaker 1:

Who are you outside of this vision that you are setting into motion?

Speaker 2:

Who am I outside of that? That's a very interesting question. I don't know the answer to that.

Speaker 1:

You're like, I am only a dentist in December.

Speaker 2:

So, outside of dentistry, what do I like to do? I think I'm a geek at heart, so I have a gaming group. So we play board games, we play computer games. I love to travel. My passion is cooking. That's what I express my creativity. So whenever I travel to a country, I'll take a cooking class Pick up something?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I'll pick up something over there. What's your favorite dish to cook?

Speaker 2:

I cannot answer that question, it's too hard. Everything I'll mix cuisines. So I went to Italy and I learned how to make pasta the way pasta is supposed to be made, like the most basic ingredients. And then, if you travel enough, you'll see a lot of common threads amongst food and then you start to mix things together. So from India I can do like a paneer, thick masala pasta or something like that, where it tingles your tongue and your mind like, oh, what am I eating? What happened here? You know, I actually pissed one person off where I said I'll make pasta and I'll serve it chopsticks and they were like oh, how can you do that?

Speaker 1:

I'm like easily like that spot. Yeah, just watch. That's so, so that's in your bucket list that you haven't visited every single country on the face of the planet.

Speaker 2:

I want to travel everywhere. I'm in travel everywhere, but I like top on the list. I want to do Japan, I want to do the South African Safari, or yeah, so like a lot of things what's your place?

Speaker 1:

you've already been to.

Speaker 2:

Tough to pick one. I've had a lot of interesting experiences, you know Like one experience was I was cooking with the village chief in Panama, you know. So that was an experience in itself.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

There's one experience where I was dancing, like at 1 am In in Cartagena in the middle of the night where they had the street festival. So I've had experiences.

Speaker 1:

It's hard to pick what's your favorite place every place you don't do just the typical tourist see things when you go.

Speaker 2:

It sounds like yeah a little bit of sprinkle of that, because you know.

Speaker 2:

You got to do it yeah or you got to do some things. But outside of that, like most of my trips are very impromptu where the trip is planned, where I know that, okay, for a week I'm gonna be in Panama, but what I'm gonna do in Panama, I don't figure that out now. I go there, I talk with the locals, I speak to the locals what needs, what is the cool thing, or hey, there's what I like to do and then I kind of you let the country speak to you exactly exactly because sitting away it's kind of difficult to figure out, you know what's good, because at the end of the day, trip advisor or Google is going to tell you a Certain story which may not be the local story.

Speaker 2:

So I like to see the country from the locals perspective, you know, and it's always fun. So, yeah, I've had very interesting stories.

Speaker 1:

I love that I love that your yearbook, your scrapbook, would look very fun if you put one together.

Speaker 2:

Yes, it's gonna be very fun like so. For example, one of the most memorable trips was 2023 August. It was my birthday and I'm like I'm gonna treat myself. I Planned a culinary trip to Bangkok and Chiang Mai, so the idea was, every day I had a Michelin star experience. Oh, so at night it was Michelin star experiences, and during the day I would just like walk the roads, eat at like a truck stop or something like that, where my morning meals were like $2 and my Evening meals were like $200.

Speaker 1:

Oh well, you got a balance yeah.

Speaker 2:

I had to balance my budget right. So the idea was it was completely culinary focus, so like as either hole in the wall places trying out things, doing cooking classes and, on the other side, having completely different experience on what food can be From a German's perspective, from an Indian's perspective, from a Thai perspective, from an Indonesian's perspective.

Speaker 1:

You sort of show the hole in the wall versus the five stars. So did you have any that were like, similar in terms of like the quality or taste of the food.

Speaker 2:

It was just all over the place, complete, listen like. I went to this German place called Soering. It's a twin chefs who own the place and that was a funny story where so I'm primarily vegetarian I flex a little bit here and there, but for all the Michelin stars, when I made the reservations I said I want a vegetarian experience. So I'm in the German place, they get started soaring amazing host. And then he brings the menu and he's like today we have an add-on. And he explained to me the add-ons and one was a currywurst and I'll I'll do a good hot dog or a good sausage and I'm like I'll try the currywurst. He's like yeah, we have a vegetarian version of it. I'm like no, no, no, I want the.

Speaker 2:

The burliner the original currywurst that that you said is imported from Berlin, that the chef has and they're like but that's pork, I'm like. Yeah, I understand.

Speaker 1:

I'm gonna break my rules just for you just for this, right.

Speaker 2:

So I felt the atmosphere changed a little bit because they thought I was this food critic who's kind of pushing their limits or something. So it was very interesting because, like, they're like surrounding, like oh, are you okay? Oh, do you want a picture with the chef? I'm like, yeah, let's do it, you know. So I kind of went in the back, I had a picture, so it was a lot of fun. But they catered the entire menu German cuisine to make it vegetarian.

Speaker 2:

Yeah and I was licking the plates off like there was nothing on the plate and that was amazing.

Speaker 1:

They were like he's gonna give us a good view.

Speaker 2:

This is strictly my Imaginative mind in the shower running as to what happened. But who knows? You know that's hilarious. So they had that that's. That was a lot of fun.

Speaker 1:

I love that. So, so, just really quickly though the hole in the wall places were there any places that you're like? Even only paid $2 for it, it really competed with the $200 meal I had. I know it would be a completely different experience.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, the flavor profiles, yes. So, like, we went to this one river market, very famous river market. A lot of people do that tour from Bangkok, but my guide, being local and I kind of like explained to her that hey, don't take me to the tourist traps, like, take me where you would eat, where you would come here when your family comes, yeah. So she took me to like these corner places and it was like just a bowl of noodle soup, right.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, 50 cents or dollar or whatever, and it was mind blowing. It was just a cup of soup with noodles and spice levels. However, you wanted Great flavors, love the food. So, yeah, there were places where the taste was just so amazing. It's like, yeah, this is authentic and this is something that people should definitely do.

Speaker 1:

I love that you need to create your own little off-shoot channel.

Speaker 2:

Right.

Speaker 1:

These are the places to go. This is where you're right.

Speaker 2:

My Google Maps. That's how I save things Like this is where I've been. So like, yeah, if you see my Google Maps, that's the channel. Oh, okay, I love that.

Speaker 1:

Okay, so you told me a little bit about the future. You're telling me a little bit about the past and the present In terms of like two things that you wish more dentist would consider as they're building out their vision or their future business. What are a couple of things that you say often to other practice owners?

Speaker 2:

I think the biggest thing is two big things. One is we are not taught how to be leaders or how to be good leaders. All right, and that is a quality or a skill that can be learned. Some people have it natively, most people don't, and it is a skill that can be learned. So that would be my first advice to any dentist that just go down to basic leadership books.

Speaker 1:

What's your favorite?

Speaker 2:

Simon Sinek.

Speaker 1:

You didn't even have to think about that.

Speaker 2:

He's the foundation of my leadership with Brene Brown and Adam Grant. So, like those three people, I've read their works in and out multiple times. I think they're good, solid, scientifically based, philosophically based leadership books that you should read through. So that's kind of one. Be a good leader Because at the end of the day, as a dentist and as a business owner, you're wearing two different hats. In one place, with the patient, you're an advisor, you are truly a doctor. But when you're not with the patient, you have to change that hat. And many people don't have that second hat and they keep being the doctor and you cannot be. You need to be that leader Because your team looks upon you. They want that guidance. So that's one, and the second is just skills of what a business should be like. How do you read financials? How do you read a balance sheet? What's a profit and loss statement? Just making good business decisions, what should be the next acquisition versus the shiny object syndrome. So basic business skills and leadership skills are two things that I would advise any dentist to go to.

Speaker 2:

In any dental school this is not taught. We are taught how to be good doctors. Some business or some schools may have a course, where there is a little bit of sprinkling of that, but it's truly not taught in dental schools. How do loans work? So many kids graduate and they're like I don't think I can buy a practice or I can start a practice because I have this loan. And that's not true, you can. And they don't know it because they're just not taught to them.

Speaker 1:

Where can they get this info from Is it self you got to like go do the research.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I'm putting up, I'm trying to put up a course where it's a conversation with lawyers, with CPAs, with bankers, where it comes from a perspective, just strictly, purely education of what can be done. But there are certain business schools I believe business schools or courses that people can avail of that at least teach you this. Cost of entry is a little high so unless you're very serious about it, a student may not want to do it.

Speaker 1:

I think the biggest thing with all people, not just business owners, is you don't know what you don't know.

Speaker 2:

Exactly.

Speaker 1:

So you don't even know the right questions to ask. You don't even know what's possible. Yeah Right 100%.

Speaker 2:

Yep, you hit it right on the head.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And then somebody says something I would listen to an interview. They're like wait, that's possible. Yeah, tell me more.

Speaker 2:

Exactly yeah, so I hope that there is a trustworthy centralized repository of information.

Speaker 1:

Kind of like a Mayo Clinic for a dentist.

Speaker 2:

Kind of like that, something like that. You Google it and it just comes up first page how to buy a practice.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, and then, to kind of wrap things up, if you had one piece of advice, whether it's to patients, whether it's to practice owners, whether it's to the business community or just the world at large, what would that message be?

Speaker 2:

Like a generalized message to whole humanity.

Speaker 1:

Yes, yes, yes.

Speaker 2:

Don't forget that you're a human and the other person also is a human. So treat the other person just like you want to be treated.

Speaker 1:

Do you think that's not happening?

Speaker 2:

A lot of it is not happening.

Speaker 1:

What do you think that is?

Speaker 2:

I have no idea. I have no idea. I mean, you look around and I think, especially after COVID, things or at least I see it more things kind of completely changed and everyone's gone into this bubble of me versus us. Humans are not meant to be individualistic. Humans are social beings. We need company for survival. That's how our physiology is too. So if we start thinking from an individualistic perspective, it not only divides society, but it also is detrimental to your health, Whereas if you think us or as a community, it's what we are built for.

Speaker 1:

Stop taking the focus on just ourselves Exactly.

Speaker 2:

Think of the larger picture and it's not about you. You are a tiny speck in the entire universe, like even the earth is a tiny speck in the entire universe. So keep that in perspective and think about community. Leave the world in a better place that you found it, and that'll just bring peace and joy to everyone.

Speaker 1:

Love that. Thank you so much for being on the show.

Speaker 2:

Thank you for having me. This was awesome. I love the conversation.

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The Importance of Community and Empathy