Welcome to our second episode of the Dentistry Unveiled project!

Today’s episode will focus on how Dr. Roshan Parikh, DDS (Dr. Ro) started his first practice in a 460 square-foot space with 2 treatment rooms straight out of dental school and today is well on his way to becoming a leader in the dental care revolution of Chicago. We will talk about lemonade stands, business strategy, book smarts versus street smarts, the role of luck in success, strategy for negotiating deals and Dr. Ro’s vision for the next decade.

Watch full episode here: https://youtu.be/23Qj2zrYj5w

Question 1: Can you tell us a little about yourself, your upbringing and childhood? What do you attribute most to your success?

I grew up in the Northwest suburbs in Chicago. I have a younger brother who is a dentist too and works with me. When I was growing up, I was lucky. I have parents who really want what’s best for their kids and the next generation. Education for our family was huge too. As a kid, I couldn’t go out and play until I completed my multiplication tables on a big legal pad. However, on hindsight, it really shaped me into the person I am today.

Question 2: Was there an event in your life that you can remember that shaped you as a person?

My mom’s an accountant and my dad works for the environment protection agency. I grew up in a middle class family. They always instill education in me. I had a good upbringing and was raised in a middle class family. I started a lemonade stand when I was 7.

Question 3: Lemonade stand story, can you tell more about it? What is the story behind adjusting the pricing?

I was always an entrepreneur by nature and I hired my three year old brother for free. Our house is 2 blocks from the Metra station, and I realize I could price lemonade at different prices based on the temperature of the weather. I guess people couldn’t say ‘no’ to a cute three- year old. The profit margins from selling lemonade were amazing.

Question 4: Is there a story from your childhood that stuck with you but that you’ve never shared with anyone before?

As a kid, I was known to be the smart aleck in the group. People saw that my mouth moved faster than my hands. Having said that, I didn’t get into any fights. However, I was always a good organizer. There was a time when I single handedly organized someone to egg a house. But even though I was a kid and was doing something bad, I was always the leader and was in charge of putting things together. I didn’t get punished although I should have. We had to apologize to the person and his parents and after that my Dad and I went to IHOP for a talk about what I did wrong.

Question 5: Was middle school and high school hard for you?

It was good. I played basketball in middle school and in my early years in high school. I was working a couple of jobs and studying at the same time. I worked at A&F, JC Penny’s and one time with a real estate broker. Working was always in my DNA. I’m probably not the best at reading books. But math and science came easy to me. I was in honors and AP classes.

Question 6: During college, did you live with your parents or on campus?

I lived at home during my undergrad years. I had a 45 min commute to school. I studied at the dining room table and my mom would wake me up at 5am in the morning, where my head would be on the table. She would ask me if I wanted coffee or tea as she knew I was a night owl. The grind and rigor of school was never enough and I always wanted to challenge myself by taking on more work from my job.

Question 7: How was student life and how did you find balance between your school work and social life?

Balance is a tough word. My balance is that I have great friends. I’m satisfied and happy because I always want what’s better for myself. Just like my parents who want nothing but the best for the next generation, I always have a vision of wanting what’s better for my staff, doctors and my patients too.

Question 8: Do you consider yourself book smart or the street smart??

I believe I’m both. I have a dental degree and an MBA. I went to school for a lot of years, so I would say I am book smart. Being street smart helps me navigate people too.

Question 9: What influenced you to pursue a career in dentistry?

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a pediatrician. I loved the idea of health care and helping somebody. From a very young age, I got a lot of injuries from riding my bike and some dental injuries. Hence, I was in the dental office a lot. My childhood dentist told me I might be good in this field, as I liked the artistry aspect of it. In college, I took a jewelry class in metal work and I was good at putting together small metal pieces. I wanted to do something with business and being a dentist, hence I went for an MBA before going to dental school.

Question 10: What did you learn from your MBA classes?

I was taking mostly science classes during my senior year. In addition, I also took night classes for my MBA degree during my senior year. At Loyola, those night classes were free. I believe a class cost $3,000. My days were 15 hour days and I worked also. For my MBA, I had a concentration in Finance and Marketing. At that time, dental schools liked that I have an MBA, however, I didn’t have the experience to know what it actually meant. It was only until I started my first office did I apply the marketing and finance  aspects I learned from school

Question 11: During the UIC College of Dentistry interview process, did they ask you about your MBA program and what was your answer?

I did it because I thought that setting up a group practice would create so much more impact than acting just in the capacity of one doctor. During the interview with UIC, more than half of the time was spent on talking about the business aspects of dentistry with the Dean at that time. Back then, I already had the vision of setting up my own group group practice going forward.

Question 12: How did you manage your time during dental school?

Managing my time in Dental school was tough. At that time, there were 65 students. We got really close. Till this day,I’m still a night person.  I would go to school, eat Chipotle and fall asleep. My involvement as social chair provided me some balance in life. I remember organizing a diversity luncheon because we had a huge melting pot of different cultures at UIC. We had students from Egypt and Ethiopia. It was a really good way to learn about people from all around the world. Each month, about 20 of us would go try out a different restaurant. That was neat.

Question 13: How would you find balance while in dental school?

I moved to the city for the first time. Being able to interact with friends, interact with people provided me some balance in life. But ultimately, going through the rigor of dental school with my friends provided me balance in my life. During dental school, the rigor prepared me for the future.

Question 14: Why did you decide to pursue a practice instead of working as an associate?

Right from the start, I knew I wanted my own office. When we were studying for dental and credit exams, I was doing that but also I was talking to practice brokers. At that time, I wasn’t sure that I would succeed, but I knew that it would make me satisfied and happy.

Questions 15: How did you cope with naysayers?

At that time, even my parents advised me that I should work for a year and learn by working for someone else.Even until now, after opening our 5th and 6th office, my mom thinks its enough.  But I was more of a risk taker than they are and I could see myself doing it and opening more offices.

Question 16: Do you remember your naysayers?

I’m the kind of person that lets my accomplishments speak for themselves.

Naysayers would say that it’s a bad time to be opening offices in 2008 because the economy and the real estate market was down. However, I didn’t see that the field of dentistry was prone to a recession. Everyone has teeth and teeth issues.

Question 17: What made you decide to acquire Olympia Fields office right after dental school?

I walked into the office and loved the typewriter and the wood wall. I didn’t think I would buy this office though. But my visionary brain started to take over and I started looking at the possibilities and opportunities.

Question 18: What made you decide to develop a business plan for the practice before acquiring it?

I figured that my idea was not a plan until I wrote it down. Hence, I wrote a thorough 13 page business plan to show potential banks a roadmap for what I saw. There has to be some concrete stuff behind the vision. Hopes and dreams don’t build offices.

Question 19: Where would you suggest other dentists to start planning an office and writing a business plan?

The three essential things in a dental business plan would have to include: where you are, where you want to be and what you are going to do to get there. You would also have to define success for yourself. What does success look like to you? What does success look like at the end of the year?

Question 20: Can you provide an example of a goal and how would you set it in a business plan?

My original business plan was pretty comprehensive in 2008. I had the demographics for Olympiad Fields. I thought of how I was going to change the name, the types of services we were going to offer, the number of patients we were going to have. I drew out a floor plan on Microsoft word and how we were going to expand to the office next year. It was funny as I think back right now as the lines I drew on MS word were lope -sided.

Question 21: What was your feeling on the first day after the purchase?

On my first day in the office, I brought in a multi specialty printer. It had a copier, fax and a printer. Like the printer, I saw the office as a makeup of different functions and compartments.My goal was to bring the office together and make operations in the office run more efficiently.

Question 22: Olympia Fields office has been growing extremely fast, what are some unique things you did in the office?

In 2009, we started to add specialists to the team.We added an associate dentist and an oral surgeon. I discovered that when people have the option of getting treatment done all in one place, they would do it with us. As a result, we grew to offer more services for the patient’s convenience.

Questions 23: Why are you always the last one to leave the office?

I don’t leave the office until all of the work is done. Over the years, I also have cultivated the habit to eat only after I have done my work. When I was starting out,  I did all the marketing for the office. It was like a full time job outside of my full time job.

Question 24: Do you call your patients after procedures?

When I get new patient referrals, I write my patients a handwritten note to thank them. I believe that handwritten notes don’t come by very often in today’s digitalized world. I really hope they don’t get out of style.

Question 25: How long does it take to call your patients after your workday to check on them?

It depends on the procedure. If it’s a complicated procedure, I call them that day at night. In addition,  I have a call list. More often than not, it’s just a 2 min conversation. It doesn’t take a lot of time to show someone you care. If you do take the effort, I feel that the person on the other end will really appreciate the gesture.

Question 26: How did your friends and colleagues react to you calling your patients?

Mimicry is the most sincere form of flattery. Some of my friends believe in good customer service and also have called their patients. We are a cut in a similar cloth, and we believe in good customer service.

Question 27: How did you scale things that may say are impossible to scale?

I am lucky.I have an amazing staff.  I am the main point of contact during a procedure and a consultation. But my staff is amazing on a daily basis. You scale by teaching other people to do the right thing.And if you’re doing the right thing for the patient, it’s the best thing you can do for the practice.

When you have 3 or 4 people, it’s easy to hire another person for the job. But when you have 65 people in your team,  you have to understand how that person would impact the rest of the team.

Question 28: When hiring, what are you looking for? What represent the right person with the right fit for your practice?

Our best staff are staff members who come from other staff member referrals. It’s important that they share similar values and philosophies as the rest of the team.

Question 29: What are some things that make you different?

I’m a visionary guy. I might not have the answer to the details. For instance, I might not know how to construct a chair. But I can articulate what the function of a chair is. Using that same analogy, I know what the end goal is and I can articulate what the future can look like for my staff.

Question 30: Can you tell me more about your purpose statement that says “stronger together?”

We are stronger because we have staff and more hours to serve you. But ultimately what our purpose statement means is that, we are much stronger than we are individually.

Questions 31: How do you measure success?

To me success is if my family, staff and doctors are happy than I am happy. If I’m in the office and the printer is not working, I’ll try to fix it because somebody else depends on it. If the staff working at the front desk allows me to schedule appointments, I would do that too. My success is measured on the success of my team at the office.

Question 32: What is luck?

I am lucky that I was born into a family that wants me to be the best version of myself and would go above and beyond to do their best too. My mom handles the accounts payable and my brother works here with me too. That is a debt that I wouldn’t be able to pay off. I believe there is some sort of luck involved as people could go by the book and do all the right procedures and metrics, but still might not be able to get it right.

Question 33: Where is the fine line between luck and hard work?

Nothing replaces the hard work that you put into something. For instance, getting up at 6 or 5 am in the morning on a Saturday. The luck is just the intangible aspect that you did not expect to happen.

Question 34: What advice would you give regarding “luck”?

A UIC dental student come and shadow me for a day. Do things like you do.You can teach somebody to work hard. But you can’t teach someone the drive and passion.

Question 35: What’s your biggest failure or regret in life?

I made some marketing and staffing mistakes along the way. Just like what Warren Buffett said, you learn from your mistakes and it’s even cheaper to learn from someone else’s. In business when I was expanding from 2 offices to 4 offices, the mistake that I made was when I tried to do everything by myself. I was running around like a headless chicken. When you have drive and passion, you are clouded by poor judgment. You almost have a superman complex. I had a great team but I just wanted to do everything by myself.

Question 36: What are some issues you’ve run into with micromanaging your staff?

I was handling social media too and I could have delegate and taught my team how to do it. But now I realized there is more joy in teaching someone how to do it and seeing them succeed.

Question 37: What is the biggest misconception regarding corporate dentistry?

Traditionally, corporate dentistry is looked at as big groups that have 800 offices across the country. I look at our offices in a different way. Each of our offices have their own unique culture and local staff. My definition of success is when the back end processes are managed well and that we maintain the culture of each individual office. The convenience that multiple offices bring for our customers is huge. Our patients can travel to different office locations and be rest assured that quality is not compromised.

Question 38: How did you structure the conversation and deal you made with your equity partners?

Clinical quality for me, regardless of the location, is always big. When we hire new dentists, we look at their impressions with a microscope. I would want to partner with somebody who adheres to the same clinical quality as I do. I want to embody the phrase that good medicine is good business.

Question 39: Can you give an example of how you communicated your values to equity firms?

If the quality and culture is there and we’re doing what’s best for the patient, financial success will always follow. That is what is important to me. Clinical quality is always important when we decide on partnering up with offices. I want our office to be one where staff and family comes to.

Question 40: How do you plan to work together with your equity partner firms and plan from 6 months to 5 years?

Our equity partner firms are great at putting processes in place. I have an amazing business development guy and a CFO who work as many hours if not more than I do. We are working hard to build the horsepower so that our platform can scale.

Question 41: How does conducting employee surveys once a month affect your business?

I care about what the staff and patients think. We are growing at a pace that traditional dentist offices don’t grow at. We have quarterly breakfast with our staff because I want to make sure that we grow at a pace that is sustainable. My staff’s feedback is important to me too. If my assistant tells me that my impression is not good, 9 times out of 10 that would be true.

Question 42: What advice would you give your 20 years old self?

Keep more of your hair [laughs]. I would tell myself to not take ‘no’ for an answer. There are many roads to Rome and there’s going to be somebody out there who thinks you can’t do it. Honesty is huge for me. I’m a firm believer of saying what you mean and meaning what you say. My parents and upbringing have taught me that the best people out there are people who gets their stuff done without saying a word.

Dentistry Unveiled,

Tiger Safarov



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About Dentistry Unveiled

Dentistry Unveiled is a project that aims to learn the personal stories of some of the most successful dentists. In this video series, we go deeper to uncover what drives and motivates dentists each day to do what they do. We break down their personal path to success from dental school to today. I ask doctors to answer the challenging question of “why dentistry?” and analyze what it is they are passionate about in the profession and in life. I ask thought provoking questions and get unconventional answers. It’s now up to you to decide if dentistry is truly unveiled.