Dr. Zachary Linhart: “Happy customers are your best advocates”

The biggest difference between a good idea and an actual business is fulfilling a need — will people want to buy the product? We got to rely on real-time feedback from our dental practice and knew that an oral care line would help patients continue caring for their teeth at home. We have patients from all walks […]

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The biggest difference between a good idea and an actual business is fulfilling a need — will people want to buy the product? We got to rely on real-time feedback from our dental practice and knew that an oral care line would help patients continue caring for their teeth at home. We have patients from all walks of life, races, religions, and locations. We were fortunate enough to get input from all of them for our line.

As a part of our series called “Meet The Inventors”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Zachary Linhart.

Linhart Dentistry is a world-renowned practice led by the father-son duo, Dr. Jan Linhart and Dr. Zachary Linhart. With a mission to find a better solution for their patients’ smiles and provide the world’s safest, finest, and most up-to-date oral care solutions, Drs. Jan and Zachary Linhart launched an at-home product line using clean, safe and effective ingredients that strengthen your teeth from the inside out. Today, Linhart offers the most current and comprehensive approach to preventative and restorative oral care.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

The Linhart Legacy dates back to 1929, when my grandfather, Dr. Ernest Linhart, graduated from medical school and started his own Dermatology practice in Prague, Czechoslovakia. After surviving the war, my grandfather brought his family to the USA to escape Communism. His son (my father, Dr. Jan Linhart) became a Dentist, and there was never any doubt I, too, would find my way into a medical field. I attended Bowdoin College, and then NYU College of Dentistry, and now here we are!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

We like this one by Pele: “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” I also love the ancient latin adage, “Mens sana in corpore sano,” meaning “a healthy mind in a healthy body”.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

How I Built This on NPR with Guy Raz is one of our favorites. It’s incredibly interesting to see the struggles that other entrepreneurs have gone through and get a peek behind the curtain of extremely successful brands. Lately I have become interested in the Spectacular Failures podcast as well. It’s about incredible business failures that could have been avoided. No better way to learn than from your own mistakes, and preferably, someone else’s mistakes!

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. What was the catalyst that inspired you to invent your product? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?

So many of our patients were buying commercial whitening toothpaste, we were even giving our big-box brand toothpaste to our patients. These formulas contain high levels of silica, causing abrasion and a loss of enamel, which we saw the negative impact of in our dentistal practice. We knew our patients deserved a better solution and we were confident we could create it — so we did!

There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?

The biggest difference between a good idea and an actual business is fulfilling a need — will people want to buy the product? We got to rely on real-time feedback from our dental practice and knew that an oral care line would help patients continue caring for their teeth at home. We have patients from all walks of life, races, religions, and locations. We were fortunate enough to get input from all of them for our line.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

Plenty of companies have created oral care products! The difference for us was the fact that we have 50 years of dental experience to back up the formulas and an incredibly strong brand. If the type of product already exists, look for a unique angle that no other product has.

Did you have a role model or a person who inspired you to persevere despite the hardships involved in taking the risk of selling a new product?

Dr. Ernest Linhart (my grandfather and Dr. Jan’s father). At 24-years-old, Ernest Linhart graduated from Charles University Medical School in Prague, Czechoslovakia and became a successful dermatologist. In 1966, he and his family left Czechoslovakia to emigrate to the US in search of freedom and the American Dream. In more ways than one, he began the Linhart legacy — one of hard work, sacrifice, family, and providing a pristine healthcare experience. If you don’t take a risk, you can’t achieve. Dr. Ernest and Magda Linhart took an incredible risk by coming to America.

For the benefit of our readers, can you share the story, and outline the steps that you went through, from when you thought of the idea, until it finally landed on the store shelves? In particular we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

The Linhart oral care line is based on 10 years of research and product development. The collection of better-for-you products is the answer to the limitations and harmful effects of commercial oral care lines. By using state-of-the-art ingredients and 50 years of dental experience, the Linhart line offers you an easy, at-home oral care solution for a brighter, fresher smile — faster and safer than you thought possible. Filing patents and trademarks isn’t fun, and that’s why patent attorneys exist. They aren’t cheap but you want to make sure your intellectual property is protected. As far as a good manufacturer, it needs to be someone you trust. Our first toothpaste manufacturer screwed up tens of thousands of tubes of toothpaste worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. For a startup like ours, it could have been devastating — even the end of the Linhart product line. We were able to overcome the issue and find another manufacturer who we have a stronger relationship with and trust.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I was in dental school, he was adjusting the base of a removable partial denture. The process is called a re-line, and the re-line acrylic is placed on the underside of the denture and then the whole thing placed into the patient’s mouth to recapture the shape of their gums. At the time, I had no idea I was supposed to let the material partially set, and then remove it. Instead, it set all the way in the patient’s mouth, locking in the denture acrylic around the patient’s own teeth. Needless to say, the patient wasn’t thrilled. It took about an hour of drilling very carefully to free it. You only do something like that once — I will never make that mistake again!

The early stages must have been challenging. Are you able to identify a “tipping point” after making your invention, when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

We customized our formulas over and over again using patient feedback until we perfected the ideal consistency, foaminess, minty taste and all the other factors that make a good toothpaste. Linhart toothpaste combines three cavity-fighting ingredients that aren’t found in any other brands, which really delineates the product from others. When our patients started asking for the toothpaste to give it to their friends and family, we knew we should make it.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Invented My Product” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Have a why:identify a need and make sure you are passionate about meeting it with your product.

Create a strong brand: our catchy branding is one of the key draws of our oral care line.

Formulation (and re-formulation) is key: don’t be afraid to re-formulate to improve the product — trusted customers will appreciate your ability to iterate, reiterate, and make it better.

Focus on quantity AND quality when it comes to distribution: we knew that we wanted to get our product into as many hands as possible, but we also knew we wanted to maintain a luxury brand. This led us to specialty pharmacies and homegoods stores nationwide, where we could have personal relationships with the owners.

Happy customers are your best advocates: customer testimonials and referrals are our #1 source of new customers.

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

I cannot emphasize this enough — research and development is a key first step. It took us ten years to develop our products and collect the feedback we needed to get the best formulation. Anyone who manufactures something for mass market knows it’s much more difficult to change something once it’s already in production.Try to get your product as perfect as possible before launch.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

We are the medical experts on oral care, so we didn’t necessarily need a consultant for the formulation and invention of the actual products in our line. We found it helpful to assemble a team of strong designers, salespeople, distributors, and marketers to help us get the product into as many hands as possible. We have learned to trust the experts in these areas to get the best results possible.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

For us, the right answer was to bootstrap. It was about diversifying beyond our dental practice and bringing Linhart to more people with the experience of practicing dentists — not VCs or investors. Today, there are so many companies, startups, ideas that get funded by VC, PE, and other sources. While this is great and this funding gives brands money to expand and get strategic support, it can also take away control from the founders. Make sure you only partner with those you can trust — don’t raise because it’s the cool or trendy thing to do.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

We’re very lucky that what we do on a daily basis is a service that helps people live their best lives. In another sense, at the New York University College of Dentistry Linhart Continuing Dental Education Program, we assist in giving professionals the tools to go farther and perform better to form the future of dentistry. In addition, we’ve done multiple outreach campaigns around the world to promote proper oral care.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

The biggest thing we’re focused on right now is how to spread the love we feel for our patients, our customers, and our family beyond our network to create more smiles — literally and figuratively. We call this concept #LinhartLove. For example, we delivered oral care products to essential workers at hospitals in three states heavily affected by COVID-19. We are so appreciative of the healthcare professionals on the front lines keeping us safe and we wanted to show our gratitude. We’d like to turn this into a larger initiative to get our products and our expertise to people who don’t have access to great oral care worldwide.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would love to meet Oprah. She’s self-made, incredibly influential, super smart, hard-working, and knows what is important in life. I also think she is an incredible influencer and she would love our product! Mike Rowe is another role model of mine. He has built a brand around himself like Oprah has, and both of them have done it by building trust and admiration from their audience. It’s one thing to create a product people love. It’s a whole other thing to create a person people truly love.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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