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Today Jana Denzel speaks to Robbie Hughes about his journey in dentistry, the concept behind Dental Excellence and Millionaire Smile and what skills you need to be successful.
Dr Robbie Hughes qualified from the University of Liverpool in 2008 with honours and an array of prestigious awards for distinction grades and exceptional clinical performance.
Very early in his career, Robbie set his sights on promoting excellence within the private dental sector. With a very special interest in cosmetic dentistry.
How many years of general dentistry do you need before you can switch into cosmetic dentistry?
You need to focus on the quality of what you’re doing and the speed at which you’re doing it too.
The best way to do this is through a VT scheme. Then follow it up with a well-supported practice and a good principal.
For me, this starts with mixed dentistry and then slowly moving to private.
However, I was focusing on white fillings, crowns, and bridges, then moving into simple orthodontics, bonding, and then into smile makeovers. So, it definitely was a transition.
Now what I do is full-arch smile makeovers or rehabs. But it took me 10 years to get to this point.
I’ve practised a lot with implants, orthodontics, veneers, and crowns. I’ve practised so much with all of this and understanding each concept that I can now delegate what I don’t have the time to do to my team and still overlook it.
Now I can focus most of my time on my niche, smile makeovers.
What your favourite smile makeover and why?
I don’t really have a favourite; they’ve all got their own challenges.
Each smile makeover is customised to what the patients want. Sometimes that makes things easier based on what they want. But sometimes it’s more difficult to manage their expectations.
I enjoy them all. For some of them you can surprise yourself with the impact you can have with the delivery.
To have a favourite, in regards to its impact on me and my career, it’s probably going to be one of the Liverpool players. Maybe Roberts because it’s so white!
It got so much press and acknowledgement. It’s one of the things I’m known for now.
But I wouldn’t say I have a favourite. They’ve all got their own unique identity and I’ve enjoyed all of them.
What’s your biggest challenge to date?
My biggest challenge is handling the growth.
I work very hard and I’ve always had this vision in my mind of where I am now and where I want to be. That’s stayed with me for a very long time.
I am constantly driving and working towards this.
However, my biggest challenge is managing that growth. Sometimes it can come quicker than you expect.
There are things like building your team around your growth, choosing the right team members, and converting that team to have your mentality and be on board.
This, as well as dealing with the endless hours of hard work and dedication that comes with it, is challenging.
Growth is one thing, but how you handle and manage that growth is probably always going to be the biggest thing.
What is really striking is the clinic you have built; it’s different from every dental practice in the UK in terms of design and service. Where did your inspiration to build a clinic like this come from?
Any successful business is successful because you find an area of an industry that needs improving.
If you can meet that demand for what needs improving, all the other things will come with it.
That’s what I did myself. I was training at such a high level, delivering quality treatment, and I was involved with digital dentistry.
However, the environment didn’t suit what we were delivering. And it didn’t make sense to me.
I like nice things and a nice lifestyle.
When you go to other areas in the world or the UK, into other industries — even private medical industries or the hospitality industry — everything is about luxury and about experience.
It just didn’t exist in dentistry. But you have people spending tens of thousands of pounds on their smile.
Yet the environment levels were so below that.
I wanted to change that and change the whole mentality of how it is looked upon.
We’ve managed to do that with my clinic, but that’s just the beginning. What we need to do now is change it forever; every clinic should look and feel the way we do. I want to help do that.
How do you motivate your team and get them to believe in your vision?
Not everybody can understand your work ethic and vision and what it takes to be a part of a brand.
That’s the way we consider ourselves: it’s not Robbie Hughes, it’s Dental Excellence.
We have a certain set of standards and guidelines. And we try to employ now based on personality instead of skill set; we have to train people to a certain standard as we follow strict guidelines and protocol across the board.
We always try to find areas where we can build our team members up and make them believe in what we are doing.
More recently, we have let the girls run free with the Tiktok videos. Some of them have become half-famous!
Now they feel like a part of the family, a part of the brand, and have their own identity within the team.
With this they are going to be with us for the long term, we’ve created a family within the brand.
What should dentists be doing to spend their down time productively until their clinics open?
I don’t think there’s one right answer for everyone.
For me, I focus on things that if I feel I had more time I would focus on more.
There are huge changes coming into dentistry and I have my team working behind the scenes to make sure we come back and we stand on the right foot with regards to the protocols and looking at how the new normal will look.
When I developed and opened this business, just under two years ago, one thing was that we opened and hit the ground running so fast. I almost wish we could have this facility empty for a month with just me and my team. I could then reinstate certain areas of the business, brand, protocol, and workflows we follow. And embed those ideas more rather than just learning as we go along.
That is exactly what we have been doing now. Going right back to basics and improving the team so that when we come back, we are better.
This is a forced evolution, and I think everyone will have to evolve.
So be productive. But be productive in the areas you can improve on.
The first thing you can do is analyse yourself, your brand, your business. Be productive in the areas you feel need improvement.
For some that is knowledge, and since there are webinars every single day, you can spend 10 hours a day learning.
Be open-minded; look at yourself rather than at what others are doing. Find the areas you need improvement, support your team, and build.
Not only do you practice dentistry, but you also have your own oral care cosmetic products and your own Avant Garde Dentistry program. What are your upcoming plans for them?
I looked at both areas of the industry and sought what was missing and what I could improve. So I developed these two concepts.
The first concept is Millionaire Smile. This is an over-the-counter product for not just teeth whitening but that also has health benefits.
There are professional products out there. But they don’t take the approach of what the consumer follows.
So I decided to create something that took a professional approach and was also an affordable luxury.
It’s almost like the entry point of what we are doing at Dental Excellence: luxurious but affordable and delivered very professionally.
This aspect of the business is going to grow. We have a lot of things in the pipeline for this over the next couple of years.
The second concept is Avant Garde Dentistry, which I have been developing over the last few years.
It’s almost like an all-in-one service for dentists and dental practices.
It’s based on the endless questions I get about me and my journey.
I thought of ways I can fast track my success, which took 10 years, to take maybe two or three years for another dentist. It all starts with training and education.
Understanding the workflows, the protocol. Understanding what the patient wants day in and day out and how to deliver that experience with quality and predictability.
The quality control aspect of that is through my dental lab and how we produce all of these services following my workflow.
We also offer a business consultancy side where we look at your business and your personal brand and help develop and grow those.
There is the marketing side, which helps deliver live patients into your seat when you join the program.
Avant Garde Dentistry powers the whole concept. My goal is to have hundreds, if not thousands, of dental clinics across the globe powered by Avant Garde clinics.
It’s your clinics that we are involved in; we help build brand awareness and growth for your clinic. And we share that experience and journey with you.
We are able to give you what I managed to do in 10 years over a shorter period of time.
The end goal is to raise the bar for dentistry as a whole; we are raising the standard for dentists and the end user by focusing on one brand, one definition. And that’s Dental Excellence.
How do you define success?
If you can wake up every day and enjoy what’s ahead of you. If you can go to bed every night and feel like you’ve given your best and made some sort of impact or change in the world. Then you’re successful.
You can have a vision of what you want to do and what you want to be. As long as you’ve got no regrets and you’ve tried your very hardest, then without a doubt you are successful.
There are ups and downs, there will be failures. But that doesn’t judge success at all.
It’s about how hard you’ve tried. How much you believe in what you’re trying to do.
If you stick with that and believe in it truly and passionately, then that, to me, is success.
What are the most important skills for an entrepreneur to have?
I think vision, definitely. You have to see something that is refreshing to you and something you believe in passionately.
You have to believe in it more than anyone else believes in it! And you cannot have doubts!
The second one is probably hard work. Nothing comes easy. You have to work relentlessly hard to get to where you want to be.
I think the third one is probably just humility.
Just taking everybody on your journey seriously and always trying your best to help people along the way.
It’s not always just about you. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with how helping people can inadvertently help you along your journey as well.
What guest would you like to share dinner with (dead or alive)?
As a visionary, he was 20 years ahead of his time.
As an entrepreneur, he believed in his vision more than anyone else could possibly believe.
He had so many failures, yet he never gave up. In terms of his work ethic, he was relentless in his approach to get where he wanted to be.
He made mistakes, but he learned from his mistakes.
For someone that had an amazing vision he knew how to get there. And he made sure he did; he was very good at building a team around him.
As he said, he ‘play[ed] the orchestra’, and his story is an amazing success story.
I would have loved to spend an hour with him to pick his brain.
Who is your role model and why?
Within dentistry, it is Doctor Apa.
This is because he has built an amazing brand and business.
He stuck to his values from day one, he understands what he represents, what his brand and team represents, and he continues to build on that day in and day out.
His success story is fantastic. You can only respect people like him. He is a great role model for anyone in dentistry.
What are you most grateful for in life?
Health. I am grateful for my health, my family, and their health.
I am grateful that both my parents are still alive and I’m able to have my loved ones around me. As we take life in stride, being happy and not taking life too seriously.
I think that’s the most important thing.
If you had the chance to start your career again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. Honestly, nothing
It’s all about the journey — some things go well; some things go not so well. But that’s how you learn your lessons and that’s how you progress.
I’ve always followed my dreams and done so with passion and pure authenticity. So I would not have done anything differently.