Here’s a business tip that will upset some people.

When you hear on the grapevine that a local practice has been sold………

…..make a list of all the team and clinical members (they will be on the web site) and pick the best of them to headhunt.


Well, lets think about that.

Dentist A might describe that as “poaching” and indicate this as yet another aspect of how the profession has become less professional over the years.

Dentist B might acknowledge that “headhunting” has been a standard practice in business for centuries and that some agencies exist for no other purpose.

It is not for me to decide who is right or wrong – that is a personal choice – but I see nothing in governance or compliance that would prohibit a fair approach.

Unfair approach:

“I hear you have been bought out by X – the word on the street is that they are the dental equivalent of the Death Star so if you need an escape route before they brainwash you, give me a call.”

Fair approach:

“I hear the practice has changed ownership – it is quite normal in those circumstances to review your career pathway and if you would be interested in a without prejudice conversation, we would love to hear from you.”

The key issue here is not to bad-mouth anyone – that just makes the originator or the comments appear weak and untrustworthy.

But business is business and an ethical approach to head-hunting is normal business practice.

So keep your eyes and ears open – there is a lot of acquisition going on at the moment – and that creates an opportunity for those who intend to remain independent.

Letters from a Perfect Imperfectionist – The only real sales people are people like Stevie Ritchie


Image Source: http://www.itv.com/xfactor/stevi-ritchie

A lot of people will tell you that they are in sales.

In reality they are just in account management.

The only real sales people are those whose income depends on making sales.

Affordable, appropriate and approved, ethical sales.

Self-employed, commission-only.

They are the real sales people.

I’ve seen some people go commission-only and then break the rules to make a sale.

I’ve seen them tell lies, falsify paperwork, make undeliverable promises, encourage prospects to overspend on products that are inappropriate for their circumstances and do not solve their problem.

Simply to hit target and generate a cheque.

People like that are just the scum that accumulates at the bottom of the sales kettle – every now and then you have to take a Brillo pad and clean them out – that’s what regulators are supposed to do.

Happily, for every bottom feeder – there are many more who do the job ethically and superbly.

There are those who are industrious and talented and simply shine – people who find sales and sales talk very natural – they have a patois that is lyrical and a blarney that captivates.

I have found them to be in the minority.

The majority are those who start with limited skills but are prepared to work through the “school of transactions” and take their first 200 rejections to learn how to take rejection.

Those who are prepared to invest 10,000 hours in becoming sales geniuses, even though they don’t have a natural talent.

Rather like Stevie Ritchie in this year’s X-Factor, people who work ridiculously hard and have limited talent but a belief that they can make it.

He isn’t going to win (is he?) and he isn’t naturally talented – but by God he is having a go.

If you could inject some of Stevie Ritchie’s ATTITUDE into your people – your business would fly.

“These “letters” are the personal observations of me, Chris Barrow and are not intended to reflect the views of 7connections and its team members, they just give me permission to publish here on the basis that they can keep an eye on me, a bit like a mad relative at a wedding reception. I’m likely to upset the sensitive and outrage the sensible – if you fall into either of those camps then read at your peril.”

Letters from a perfect imperfectionist – Busy?

Very busy business

I have spent most of my adult life, defining my success and my self-worth by measuring how busy I am.

Rushing around the country.

Posting on social media from hotels, airports, stations, practices.

Getting up early and finishing late.

Pushing body, mind and spirit to the limits.

Developing a super-human reputation:

“I don’t know how you keep it up?”

This year I have changed (maybe because of that Island).

I’ve taken time off in each of the last three weeks to meet up with old friends just to catch up on news.

I’m slowing down.

In future…..

I’m going to define myself going forward by measuring how less busy I am than previous years.

The work will still get done.

But my primary motivation right now is to listen to the advice given to me by my genius personal coach Michael Myerscough:

“Is what I’m about to do going to increase or decrease the level of confusion and complexity in my life?”

“These “letters” are the personal observations of me, Chris Barrow and are not intended to reflect the views of 7connections and its team members, they just give me permission to publish here on the basis that they can keep an eye on me, a bit like a mad relative at a wedding reception. I’m likely to upset the sensitive and outrage the sensible – if you fall into either of those camps then read at your peril.”

7 essential sets of numbers that you need to know every month

3d shiny golden number 7I’ve been going on about this for as long as I’ve been listening to dentists (20 years).

If I were to ask a client for their MI (management information) on a monthly basis, what would I mean?

1. previous month’s profit & loss & year to date profit & loss
2. 12-month cash flow forecast with the budget figures for the previous month updated to show the actual numbers for that month
3. product mix – how much of each main class of product was sold?
4. average daily production – what was the average daily production of each of the fee earners for the last month and year to date?
5. associate profitability calculator updated based on the previous month’s figures and year to date
6. TCO conversion stats – enquiries to consult, consults to treatment and average treatment value by patient and by product
7. ROMI – what has been my return on marketing investment for each of the marketing activities we engaged in last month and year to date

If you give us these numbers, at 7connections we can transform your business.

Why, then, is it so hard to extract that information from new contacts and (sometimes) even from the clients who invest in our services?

Abdication – “I just work as hard as I can, look at the bank account on a Friday afternoon and if the balance is OK, we are OK.”

Delegation – “I leave it to my manager to keep an eye on all of that.”

False sense of security – “We are making plenty, so I don’t need to keep that close an eye on things.”

Laziness – “I just can’t be arsed with all those spreadsheets.”

Amazing – even after all these years – and in a business that becomes more complex and risky as each year passes.

There is enough accountancy software (Sage/Quickbooks/Xero) to make this happen and enough people around who can dance with a spreadsheet (if your managers are scared of spreadsheets they need to be trained or put out to grass).

How many of the 7 reports I have outlined above appear on your desk every month?

How much time do you invest in studying the reports and making course corrections?

I promise you – get a handle on this MI and you can grow your practice at a steady 20% per annum = double in size and profits every 3.6 years, then sell it and retire happy.

Ask yourself – How can I get £2,000 to invest in coaching?


Welcome to the Enterprise Nation Marketplace, where you can obtain Growth Vouchers for up to £2,000 of help with your investment with 7connections in:


We are delighted to announce that 7connections have been recognised as an approved advisor in the above areas.

If you are interested to find out more about the Growth Vouchers programme (and to see if you are eligible):


Growth Vouchers programme

The Enterprise Nation Marketplace is part of the government’s £30m Growth Vouchers programme, which is a research project to test how best to help small businesses grow through the use of subsidised business advice.

For businesses looking for advice The Growth Vouchers programme will deliver support for up to 20,000 small businesses in England, focussing on small businesses who have never sought business advice before. Businesses looking for advice can apply to the programme online and they will be randomly assigned to an online questionnaire or face-to-face business advice assessment.

Some businesses will be randomly chosen to get a voucher for up to £2,000 to help pay for business support in one of the specialist areas. You’ll have to match the amount with your own funds. You can then find a Growth Voucher adviser to work with on the Enterprise Nation Marketplace; you then pay for the services in full and request 50% back from the government. (Download a claim form to claim a subsidy for business advice as awarded in your Growth Voucher offer.)

The Growth Vouchers programme is available to small businesses in England who are actively selling goods and/or services, have a turnover no greater than £45m, own 75% or more of their business, and have 250 employees or less. (full eligibility and terms and conditions here).

Letters from a perfect imperfectionist – Notifications


Before I start……

I know that there is an “on/off” switch – just the same as the one on my TV.

But aren’t notifications one of the more irritating inventions in the recent years of the internet?

Mind you, it was always thus.

Notifications is just a new word for interruptions.

Many years ago I recall sacking my then accountant, great guy, multi-talented, because he just kept on answering his mobile phone all the way through our meetings:

Ring, ring – “oh, sorry Chris, could you just hold on a minute while I take this?”

Once because your granny is marooned at the top of a burning building – maybe.

But every 5 minutes, all the way through the meeting?

No thanks – I hired a less dynamic accountant who listens empathetically and has looked after me faithfully for many years.

Similarly, I recall sitting at the desk of a CEO, whose eye contact could never last more then 60 seconds, as he twitched backwards and forwards between me and the messages appearing from the far-flung corners of his empire on his PC screen.

Another great guy – made a fortune (I haven’t) – but I always felt just a bit like I was being interviewed by Ernst Blofeld.

“We’ve been counting your UDA’s Mr Bond.”

So now, I’m sat at my desk in The Bunker, at my Macbook Air in Pret, looking at my phone on the train – and these annoying boxes and bars appear without warning, either quoting the opening line of an email or how lucky I am that someone I don’t know has taken an interest in me…..

“Dear Chris, Just to let you know that all hell has broken loose at…………..”

“Stanislav Heironymous Popodopolus has liked your………..”

“Betty Lifecoach wants to you to play PogoPonyCrushCityBollocksCrystals……….”

“Dave in Karachi wants to optimise your web site.”

It’s my own fault – I have to remember every morning to go to the DND button on my desktop and switch that off.

Then train myself to do the same on my other devices.

Otherwise I’m going to be interrupted all day, in every way, on every platform.I acknowledge my own responsibility here – that I have nobody to blame but myself.

But there is a deeper question that puzzles me?

Who decided, where, when and for what reason – that I needed to have all of these notifications in order to chart my path through life?Was there a meeting of attention-deficit disordered moguls who voted for us all to have our peace and solitude stripped away as an automatic right, should we choose to have a web presence?

Could somebody pop-up and let me know please?

p.s. ever wondered what it feels like at your front desk when your receptionist interrupts our conversation to answer the phone?

“These “letters” are the personal observations of me, Chris Barrow and are not intended to reflect the views of 7connections and its team members, they just give me permission to publish here on the basis that they can keep an eye on me, a bit like a mad relative at a wedding reception. I’m likely to upset the sensitive and outrage the sensible – if you fall into either of those camps then read at your peril.”

Chit Chat versus Conversation


It all started with a chance remark from an associate at a client’s practice:

“One of my problems is that I never leave enough time in appointments to do the chit chat.”

This was a very experienced and highly skilled clinician, a positive team member and a profit-centre within the business.

A real keeper.

But still, he recognised the need to engage more with the patients at this Champions League specialist referral practice.

I paused to think about the difference between “chit chat” and “conversation”.

For me, “chit chat” is what folks do with a taxi driver on the way to the station or airport in the morning:

  • what did you think about the Scottish referendum
  • what do you think about United’s start to the season?
  • what do you think about the weather?

It is a skin deep conversation, calculated to pass the time before we get to our destination and simply polite.

I use Trafford Cars to get me to Wilmslow Station and Manchester Airport a lot.

I know some of the drivers by sight now – but I also know a little about each of them, because I have the habit of asking.

“Conversation” is what happens when I dig a little deeper and empathetically listen to their responses.

  • do you have a family?
  • have you been away on holiday this summer?
  • how’s the taxi business right now?

I know the driver who lives on his own in a flat and has NEVER been abroad on holiday.

I know about the driver who flies back to India 4 times a year to visit his mother in a village 300 miles from the nearest airport.

I have one driver who recently bought a boat on the River Trent with a best friend.

Dreams of weekends of cruising, fishing and entertaining children.

They bought a pup – the engine blew up soon after delivery and it has cost much more than the price of the boat to buy a new engine and get it fitted.

It has taken all summer to turn a disaster into a victory.

The adventures of my driver and his buddy are a central theme of our conversations every time he picks me up:

CB – “how are things with the boat?”

Cabby – “been on any more Islands recently?”

OK – we might not be spending Christmas together – but there is a level of connection – and that means I’m unlikely to change taxi firms.

Patients will return, refer and buy again and again if you engage them in conversation, if you keep notes of their personal circumstances and refer back to those stories at future visits.

If they know how much you care, they don’t care how much you know.

Letters from an Imperfectionist: The Journey


I recently met with Sandy Sanderson from Extreme Expeditions, to talk about his passionate work in exploration and the possibility that I might join one of his expeditions in the next couple of years. Our relationship is synchronistic – we bumped into each other in a Manchester Airport hotel, whilst “The Island with Bear Grylls” was screened during the summer. He came over for a chat and selfie and I enjoyed the momentary celebrity and a good conversation – we have stayed in touch since.Sandy is a bit of a one-off (hence we “clicked”) and a look at his website will have you thinking either that he is a bit bonkers or totally committed to his quest (is there any difference?).

I prefer the latter view, as a fellow risk-taker and rule-breaker.

We talked about Sumatra, Nepal and the Congo amongst other places – and about the levels of deprivation that will be experienced should I decide to embark on one of his journeys.

Finally, he asked me a very good question:


Why do I want to return to an experience similar to The Island, this time with no TV status, possibly even fewer home comforts and no evacuation team 15 minutes away by speedboat in case anything really does go wrong.

In answering his question I reflect that the biggest challenges I have experienced so far in life have been:

living with heavy-drinking and emotionally unstable parents as an only child
failing my O Levels first time around
being passed over for promotion in corporate UK
Everest Base Camp
personal bankruptcy
2 failed marriages
18 arduous marathons
3 failed business partnerships
The Island with Bear Grylls

and that each of these have a 2 common themes.

1.  I was there and in some way engaged and responsible
2. They have been journeys inside myself

(p.s. I could populate a longer list of personal and professional triumphs – so no sympathy required)

I imagine that all humans are like onions, with layers or skins covering a hard central core that seldom sees daylight.

Sometimes those skins are very superficial – a choice of clothing, shoes, computer, home, kid’s school, watch, car – the ways in which we define the tribes that we aspire to join.

Sometimes the skins are deeper – political, religious, economic and moral beliefs, career choice, family environment.

But the core is perhaps only truly visited when all of the skins are stripped away and we are laid bare and exposed to the elements.

The moment when you are charged too little for a sale and you point out the error.

The moment when you commit a random act of kindness and prefer to remain anonymous.

The moments when you only have yourself to blame.

Warts and all – a Perfect Imperfectionist wants to be remembered as humane first and human second.

Some of my favourite times on The Island were my daily, solitary, hour-long walks along the beach; no cameras or microphones, just thinking about my life as I watched the pelicans dive, the waves crash onto silvered sand and a crimson sun settling into the Pacific.

At those times, with only nature as company, my voyage into me left me more grounded, at a deeper peace than I have ever known in my life.

An opportunity to answer the question “what matters most” and to contrast reality with an imagined future.

In the final words of “The Invitation” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer:

“I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.”

I discovered on The Island that I did like the company I kept in those empty moments and also that I have an appetite to meet myself again.

“These “letters” are the personal observations of me, Chris Barrow and are not intended to reflect the views of 7connections and its team members, they just give me permission to publish here on the basis that they can keep an eye on me, a bit like a mad relative at a wedding reception. I’m likely to upset the sensitive and outrage the sensible – if you fall into either of those camps then read at your peril.”