Letters from a Perfect Imperfectionist: The circus

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A dental practice can sometimes be like a circus.

There are performing poodles who jump through rings of fire, lion tamers who hold their fierce captives at bay, uni-cycling jugglers who manage to keep their bodies balanced and all the balls in the air, trapeze artists and tight-rope walkers who nervelessly defy gravity - then, of course, the clowns; some happy, some sad, dedicated to one simple goal – to make you smile.

Together, they suspend disbelief and create moments of unforgettable magic.

There are different qualities, different standards of performance and behaviour, even in the circus world.

Some are cheap and rather nasty.

In the late 1950’s I grew up in Ashton under Lyne, Manchester in a very working class community that looked exactly like those old opening sequences from Coronation Street – row after row of terraced houses and thick chimney smoke mixing with the cold air to produce Autumnal smogs.

There was a ‘croft’ at the back of my grandparents house (an open space of land, covered in a loose black gravel and surrounded by high red-brick factory walls) that was the only play area for children.

Every year, around October, the travelling circus and fair would arrive – looking back, Romany families who made their living touring the mills towns of of the North West.

The family would multi-task (the lady with the poodles was also the trapeze artist, the lion tamer doubled as a clown, the strong man was the horse trainer, the sons would manage the dodgems and the twirlers, looking for local girls to flirt with and steal a kiss and a grope).

The standards were poor (the lions were mangy and the horses old).

The ringmaster clearly enjoyed a pie, a pint and a fag but no longer loved his job.

There were rumours of cruelty and starvation.

But we turned out in numbers every year, to be transported for one evening into a world outside the dark satanic mills in which we carved out a life that was comfortable but humble by today’s standards.

In those days, we tolerated what we saw because we had no other frame of reference and nothing much else to do on those dark nights (no internet, no TV, no restaurants, no malls – just the pub, the cinema or the church, depending on your anaesthetic preference).

Nowadays, such tatty troupes would be stopped by the civil authorities and abandoned by their potential audiences, who would rather go out for a franchised pizza experience and sit the kids in the corner with their iPads.

Nowadays, more of us expect Cirque du Soleil and are prepared to shop around, change, complain and write damning reviews online if we don’t get it.

We expect to be amazed, entertained, transmogrified by our experience into believing in the impossible. To have our faith in human potential restored, to have the hope of a better future for mankind packaged, gift-wrapped and delivered with a symphony of sound and light and a half-time Cornetto.

We want all the fun of the fair and a world-class performance for our hard-earned money.


Tell me this:

what is it like under your Big Top?

does your mission/vision statement read like this?

Cirque du Soleil was built on values and deep convictions which rest on a foundation of audacity, creativity, imagination and our people: the backbone of our success.

Cirque du Soleil places creativity at the core of all its endeavours so as to ensure limitless possibilities. This is why the creative challenge is of the utmost importance with each new business opportunity, whether it is a show or any other creative activity.

Cirque du Soleil dream is also an integral part of its philosophy: To take the adventure further, step beyond its dreams and, above all, believe that our people are the engine of our enterprise.

Cirque du Soleil offers its artists and creators the necessary freedom to imagine their most incredible dreams and bring them to life.

The International Head Office, located in Montreal, wishes to be an international laboratory of creativity, where our world’s best creative minds, craftsmen, experts on various domains and performers can collaborate on creative projects. By assuming the roles of catalyst and unifier, Cirque du Soleil is able to reinvent itself with each new chapter of its history.

Ultimately, would any kid run away from home and seek their fortune by joining your circus?

Watch this

What colour are buffer days?

Emails like this make my day!


Hi Chris

Feeling the glow.

We’ve just started the Sasco planner for 2015, and my eight weeks holiday are right there. The rest follows.

I always think of you when we do this and thought I’d share it with you :-)

Mind, it’s taken a lot of bloody hard work and determination on my part to get this far, and there’s no way I’d be doing it without my team at York Place Dental and my external team of people like you.

Keep up the excellent work Chris

Cheers mate


Richard Helen


How lack of team trust can ruin your business

5 - trust

You cannot teach trust, run training courses on trust, manage people into trustworthiness. But you can decide never to tolerate un-trustworthiness in the people around you. A business coach can help you take a look in the mirror and decide whether you need to work on yourself or execute a cull. Watch our video to find out more.

When we trust another person or an organisation, we rely on them too. The absence of trust between any of the people in the team can be a serious virus in the machine. To find out more, why not take a look at our Lack Of Team Trust Infographic?

Guest Blog: Zen Wealth Client Case Study


The following case study is broadly based on a real life experience of Zen Wealth clients with names and some information changed for confidentiality purposes.


Andrew Martin runs a dental practice in Surrey and has a couple of employees, Chris & Laura. He would like to set up some life assurance for himself and his 2 employees, but he has heard that tax relief is only usually available for bigger companies with 5 employees or more. Is there anything else that he can consider?

Our Advice

Andrew is quite right in that until recently smaller companies with fewer than 5 employees have been excluded from being able to offer a group ‘death in service scheme’ to their employees.

A Death in Service scheme (commonly known as Group Life Cover) provides a lump sum payment to the beneficiaries of an employee should they die whilst in service with the company. This type of cover is generally cheaper than an individual insurance policy because it is arranged on a group basis and preferential rates can be obtained.

Previously, smaller limited companies (with less than 5 employees) have not been able to set up such a scheme and would have had to pay their insurance premiums from the company and be subject to a P11D benefit in kind (or they could have just paid the premiums personally from income that has already been subject to tax and national insurance).

However, this has now changed with the introduction of ‘Relevant Life Policies’, which are available to smaller employers, such as Andrew.

With a relevant life policy, the policy is owned and paid for by the company and the premiums can be offset as a business expense. The relevant life policy is set up in a trust so that if a claim is made it is paid to the employee or company director dependents.

As such, a relevant life policy takes advantage of death in service scheme tax advantages, and so Andrew’s company can pay for the life insurance on behalf of himself, Chris and Laura, offsetting the monthly premium against corporation tax. Furthermore, they will not have to pay personal tax as it isn’t classed as a benefit in kind.

Andrew’s company owns the policies and then a Trust is put in place so that on death their families receive the monies due. It never enters the company; the company just pay the premiums.

A relevant life policy is particularly attractive to Andrew, because although he is a Company Director, he is also classed as an employee.

In a sense the relevant life policy would allow Andrew to buy his own death in service benefits via his Company. The Company pays for the policy premiums removing the need for him to pay for the relevant life policy from his own personal funds.

As Andrew’s policy is paid for by his Company and not from his nett income, this can result in savings of up to 50% (depending on his personal income tax banding).

In the whole if you are a Company Director and looking for Life Insurance then Relevant Life Insurance Plans are certainly an option worth considering. The policy provides your beneficiaries with a peace of mind in regard to finances should you pass, whilst also providing tax advantages on policy premiums for the Company Director.

Click here to read the previous Zen Wealth guest blog.

Patrick Murphy Charted Financial Partner image001


70 St Mary Axe

London, EC3A 8BE

Tel – 020 3102 4085

Email - Patrick.Murphy@zen-wealth.com


Letters from an imperfectionist: People/Organisations who piss me off


Here’s a starter list – can you add to it?

  • People who use mobile phones whilst they are driving – we should be allowed to shoot them on sight
  • Organisations who try to call me with “Unknown” or “No Caller ID” on my phone – can I make it absolutely clear that I will NEVER answer my phone to you?
  • People who park on double yellow lines or on the pavement outside the shops in Hale, Cheshire – who the hell do you think you are? You lazy sods! It makes me want to take a dump in your front garden…
  • All the customers who sit outside Picalinos (or, as I call it, Prickalinos) in Hale, Cheshire – you pretentious snobs – you think you look great and you just look paper thin
  • All the customers inside Picalinos who thought it was fun to insult my daughter when she worked there as a cocktail waitress, so that they could show off to their friends – we laughed at you every week, you ignorant idiots
  • People who jump up when the seat belt light goes out on a landed flight and cram the aisles with themselves and their bags, as if getting off the plane first were a life and death decision (but even worse – the people who unbuckle before the light goes out)
  • People who think that, because they own a Lamborghini, they can hurtle it at 70mph down the road at the end of ours, completely disregarding children, old folks, dogs being walked and others – what complete and utter morons some nouveau riche people can be

Rant over – thank you.

Happy to hear your comments and build a bigger list – come the revolution……..

7 steps to better diary management in private dentistry

Implement better diary management in private dentistry to achieve great results with our handy mind-map.

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3… 4, 5, 6, 7!

It all started 10 years ago…


No – not Bridge2Aid (although I’ll soon be singing along).

On 17th September 2004 I wrote and published my first ever blog post.

10 years ago.

2,408 posts on “the life and times of Chris Barrow” and “the business of dentistry”.

6,547 genuine comments from real people – many supportive and some highly critical.

26,735 spammy comments from computers and nut-cases.

Quite a few costume changes by yours truly:

  • The Dental Business School
  • The Million Dollar Coaching Programme
  • CoachBarrow
  • The Dental Business Club
  • BKH
  • 7connections

I only wish I could run a word-count.

(Does anyone know how to do that?).

On behalf of my blog, I would like to say a few “thanks you’s”.

  • Kimberly Black for your talented, and loving help back-stage during the formative years
  • The late Thomas Leonard for inspiring me to become a coach, Marlene Panet-Raymond, Susan Austin and Andrea Lee for helping me realise that coaching could be a real business
  • The Team at ApexHub for similar help in recent years
  • The aforementioned and, at different times, Dental Focus and DDL who have had the unenviable job of migrating all those posts from one site to another
  • WordPress, who have provided a secure a reliable platform throughout
  • My family, friends, enemies, suppliers, strategic alliance partners, colleagues, clients who have been the cast and have made my job as a blogger so simple
  • The businesses who have delighted or dismayed me
  • The authors who have educated me
  • The hardware manufacturers and software developers who have made the whole process of journalling easier every year
  • My personal coach, Michael Myerscough, who has talked me off quite a few window ledges over the years and taught me to accept myself as the perfect imperfectionist
  • Annie Bradley, for unconditionally creating the perfectly imperfect space in which I can be me and be loved

Eulogy over – here’s to many more years of being a scurvy elephant.

Oh – and just out of curiosity – here is what I wrote all those years ago:


We have just finished the first day of our Coaching Success Forum and I’m taking an hour’s break before a bonus evening session.

What a day – CB live and uncut plus existing coaches sharing how they have applied the material in the Million Dollar Coach Programme to their own practices – with successful results.

It has been so interesting to hear other people share their stories – the delegates have gained enormously.

I have enjoyed the experience immensely and we still have another 2 days to enjoy.

Testimonial : Artisan


What is your number one reason for signing up to Artisan?

Having been using magic box since it’s start up and seeing the interest and the leads that it generated, it was quickly apparent that we needed to initially make sure that prospective patients could find details and information about the promoted treatment. This all needed to come from the multiple sources of marketing into one place. These enquires then needed to be followed up systematically and automatically so we can ensure the enquires are always fully fulfilled. Also, the need to develop a email database with patients who are interested in treatments we offer, so that when a promotion is applicable to them that they know about it and are quickly engaged into it.

What is your number one goal for this service?

Main goal is to turn the leads generated by marketing into appointments with our TCO and then convert these into paid for appointments and treatments by the dentist.

 Give one reason why other dental professionals should consider using this service?

If you find that your current system dealing with emails is simply reply to an email enquiry but are frustrated and concerned that there is then no follow up, or that your system then couldn’t reengage with that person in months to come, then Artisan is something to consider. It is the final link on the loop of marketing to raise enquires but then dealing with those enquiries in a simple, staged approach, all automatically and using very little ‘working hours’.
Geraint Buse. Marquess Dental, Anglesey.

Letters From A Perfect Imperfectionist: I Want An Apple Watch

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I don’t need one.

I just want one.

Having watched Jony Ive’s preposterous introductory video (surely the most impressive piece of voice-over garbage created in the history of marketing), I still want an Apple Watch.

I have a watch – in fact I have more than one watch.

My beloved Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean cost me a lot of money, quite a few years ago and was my ultimate statement (to myself) about how successful I thought I was (in the days when such tokens and symbols were more important to me).

I haven’t yet descended to 2000 feet below sea level to see if it stays water-tight and keeps working – that wasn’t why I bought it.

My Omega is the kind of watch that you expect to leave to your eldest son when your time runs out.

It does make me feel a little bit like Daniel Craig/James Bond every now and then.

I notice from the Omega web site that the current price is double what I paid 10 years ago.

Clearly, experiences are recession proof.

My Garmin watch can track my running routes using in-built GPS tracking.

I used to have a few other fashion watches but the Omega blew them all away and I never thought I would want another watch.

But now I do.

My eyesight nowadays is probably too weak to see some of what will be on that screen (and I’ll most likely have to wear the smaller screen because I have thin wrists).

An Apple watch won’t do anything that I can’t already do with my iPhone 5s (that’s another story), my iPad Mini Retina Display and my Macbook Air – oh and my watch.

But I still want one. Probably an Apple Watch Sport – because that will make me feel sporty.

That’s the power of Tribes.

Don’t tell me you don’t feel the same way – about something.


Ask Yourself : What Are The Characteristics Of A Good Leader?

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Back in August we published a mini slide presentation on “The Performance/Behaviour Matrix” – click here to view presentation.

The feedback has been very positive and using the matrix to “score” team members, then following the format of The Personal Progress Interview (PPI) has generated a number of interesting email threads.

I am constantly asked about “leadership” – by managers as well as owners – and what the characteristics of a good leader are?

Much has been said – and the vintage Chris Barrow answer has always been that a good leader:

- Is the custodian of the vision for the future direction of the business (and shares that evolving vision) 

- Is the example of the standards required by virtue of their own performance and behaviour 

- Is an effective delegator, focusing on their own unique ability 80% of the time and leading their managers 20% of the time 

So, in answer to the question “how do I lead my team?” it is necessary to display the attributes mentioned above AND listen, listen, listen to what your team are telling you, via the PPI’s that you hold with them.

A good business manager will hold PPI’s with team members every quarter.

A good Clinical Director (yes – that’s you) will hold PPI’s with all fee-earners every quarter.

A good Principal will hold PPI’s with all managers every quarter.

Performance/Behaviour Scores on the doors and PPI’s.

The best teams I have worked with over the last 25 years in dentistry have followed these principles AND added a good social element to their business journey.

p.s. bad apples and well poisoners are ALWAYS extracted at the earliest opportunity – it only takes one to bring the whole system crashing down. Zero tolerance.