Many is the practice visit I make where the signage in the premises is either scruffy, irrelevant or confusing.

The pictured sign was spotted at Pret a Manger (yes, my favourites) in Newcastle on Tyne.

I took a break from a client conversation, wandered down the corridor and, faced with this signage on the toilet door, froze, unable to decide what to do next.

Well, for a moment or two anyway, until nature’s call became greater than my social inhibitions.

I suspect that signage in dental practices isn’t quite so confusing but the “presentation” is often below par.

I’m well known for arriving at a new client’s premises and, after asking permission, wandering around the place, taking down laminated sheets that have been Blu-Tacked to walls, cupboard doors, doors proper and the front of expensive reception desks.

“We have to put these up for the CQC!

Well that may be the case but here are some lessons that you might want to take note of:

if it has to be up there – get it properly framed and mounted or hung
if it doesn’t have to be up there – don’t put it up there
if there is any Blu-Tack or sellotape then pull it down and replace as above
remember that you have about 15 seconds attention span – if I cannot read what you want to say in that timescale – take it down
don’t confuse me (as above)

Oh – and while I’m at it:

get rid of those charitable plastic collection pots and replace them with a practice charity that you support as part of your CSR programme (Bridge2Aid!)
get rid of those posters that feature photo-stock pin ups of Americans with big smiles
get rid of other businesses brands on promotional material – promote only your own brand
get rid of clutter
get rid of dog-eared magazines
get rid of crappy DIY loops on the TV


use Purple Wifi to offer free internet access and collect email addresses at the same time
use professional signage that asks people to friend your Facebook page
use real photos of real patients throughout your premises
use professionally made TV loops to tell stories about patients whose lives you have changed and stop talking about products

Let pictures tell a story.


Like this patient photograph from the team at Your Perfect Smile in Aviemore, featured in their marketing and on posters in the premises.

The glamour in travel

The Glamour in Travel

Is it me or is there absolutely nothing glamorous about air travel any more?

As a child in the 60’s my father would occasionally treat me to a trip to Manchester Airport, where we could park at the one and only terminal and pay a small fee to climb to the observation deck – actually the roof of what is now part of Terminal 1 – then walk along the pier to see the aircraft at their gates immediately below us.

Watching a BOAC jet-liner arrive from the USA was allowing us to feel connected to a world that we only knew from television, unable to imagine the lifestyle of those fortunate enough to disembark.

The television series Mad Men has captured some of that magic, accounting for its appeal to a certain generation hankering for an illusion of “good old days”. A time before notifications when we communicated face to face.

Today air travel is in the same experiential league as waiting to see a doctor in the emergency out-patients department of a city hospital, early on a Sunday morning.

You can find drunks, brutes, doddering and confused oldies, disorientated foreigners, people who are simply ignorant and rude, long-suffering families with exasperated children, all attended to by staff who are immune to any emotion about the livestock they corral through various chutes and sheep dips.

Outside, enthusiasts still gather to watch ever-larger behemoths lift into the sky from a distance and behind barricades of electronic surveillance and razored metal.

The days are gone of sleek and beautiful metal tubes that carried the bourgeois tourist, the artistic intelligentsia or the privileged business traveller, attended by customer service fashionistas who could grace the pages of any glossy magazine.

Airports are now mass transit terminals, each one a Walmart of must-have niff-naff and trivia and processed food and drink, a security risk creaking under the pressure of an exodus of consumer refugees.

In order of miserable travel experiences:

  • Air travel
  • Driving a car
  • The Underground
  • Commuter rail

You can no doubt add to this list.

So is there any romance left in travel?

Some thoughts and suggestions…

  • Cycling in rural areas and across terrain
  • Boats, almost any shape or size
  • Mountainside funiculars
  • Para-gliding (according to my fellow Islander Mike Fletcher)

Again, what would be on your list?

And if you were the father of a young and impressionable child, where would you take them at weekend to be amazed by the ingenuity and inventiveness of mankind and inspired to seek a bigger future?

The SWOT analysis – we all know it and we never use it

The SWOT Analysis

Ask any dental practice owner what a SWOT analysis is and they will tell you – and probably be able to scribble the famous matrix on a napkin, beer mat or envelope.

Ask them the last time they conducted a SWOT analysis on their own practice, either solo or with the whole team – and you will likely get a blank look.

The history of SWOT reveals that it has been adopted to many different situations and environments.

Credit for its most significant development as a planning tool is shared between 4 professors of organisational strategy who taught at Stanford University and The Harvard Business School in the 1950’s but the origins are lost in the folklore of business history.

Later, the scope of SWOT was extended even further.

As late as 2003, G. Panagiotou published an article in the Business Strategy Review (“Bringing SWOT into focus) that enlarged the conversation to include “Telescopic Observations” (see below), giving a framework to consider SWOT across the spectrum of:

Technological Advancements
Economic Considerations
Legal & Regulatory Requirements
Ecological & Environmental Issues
Sociological Trends
Organisational Structure
Portfolio Analysis
International Issues
Cost Efficiencies and Cost Structures

A matrix can quickly be constructed to identify areas of required attention across these categories.

And it is possible to analyse your dental practice by reference to those same categories.

The SWOT Analysis_1

So I ask a few simple questions….

“What would a SWOT analysis reveal about the present condition of your practice?

“Would it help to identify where you need to go next?

“Would it help you to know what your team think and vice versa?

“Would it help to have the conversation facilitated by an experienced dental business mentor, coach, consultant or trainer?

“Could you perform a SWOT analysis of each individual area of your business:

your web site?
your telephony team?
your compliance systems?

The list, of course, goes on.

In a world of increasing complexity and connection, maybe it is a good idea every now and then to take an old idea out of the drawer and see where it takes you.

Letters from a perfect imperfectionist: Digital

Marmite 500PX V2-01

I’m talking about digital.

I’m writing this in the middle of the BDA Conference in Manchester – where everyone is talking digital.

The exhibitors are showcasing digital or heading that way.

Digitise or die!

We’ve published Venn diagrams and workflows about digital.

Next month at the Clinical Innovations Conference, digital will loom large.

We are seeing the birth of the integrated digital dental clinic, of digital treatment planning, digital marketing, digital education.

I’m not hearing much talk about people.


Talk about relationships, performance, behaviour, Maslow, leadership, training and development.

Talk about managing expectations, nurturing, word of mouth, appreciation and recognition.

Both conversations require the evolutionary process – if one gets ahead of the other you create an imbalance that makes the consumer fearful. Frightened consumers stop buying.

The digital heroes are emerging.

The people heroes need to make sure that their message isn’t lost in the sound of electronic notifications.

Passengers are normally less interested in how clever the plane is than they are at how well the cabin crew look after them and, of course, whether they arrive safely and on time.

“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.”

At what point do you think twice?

At what point do you think twice

At what point do you think twice about buying the things that you really need?

rescuing your daughter when she is stuck abroad with no travel insurance and no cash
a vet bill to keep your cat or dog alive
the central heating repair man on Boxing Day

We seldom think twice.

At what point do you think twice about buying the things that you really want?

a bottle of red wine at Tesco?
   • me – £12.99
   • you?
a movie download from iTunes?
   • me – £4.99 for a rental (no purchases)
   • you?
a new pair of Asics running shoes?
  • me – £60 (at the Outlets store)
  • you?
a new laptop?
  • me – £1,700 (top of the range Macbook Pro)
  • you?
a seat at that “once a year” trip to see your favourite football team play a big game?
  • me – £100, cash only, “be at gate X at this time and ask for big jimmy
  • you?

When purchasing a desirable, we each have an emotional tolerance level at which we feel good value exists and beyond which we are either don’t think we deserve it or we feel as if we are being ripped off.

So – in dentistry.

There is a price for getting people out of pain and out of trouble.

There is a price for delivering long-term care.

There is a price for helping people to feel more confident about their smile.

Willingness to pay your price depends upon whether the patient’s emotional tolerance level has been established or recognised during the consultation process.

Advertising the lowest price broadcasts your low self-worth and a lack of pride in your profession.

It says “I’m cheap and I can be bought”.

Searching for the lowest price indicates the patient’s low self-worth and a lack of respect for the profession. It says “I’m broke and this is just another commodity.”

Assuming, on the other (better) hand, your prices are correct for the target profitability of your business, if the patient has to think twice, you have the wrong person in front of you.

You might want to consider what has to happen in your marketing for the person sat in front of you not to have to think twice before accepting your price.

Letters from a perfect imperfectionist: “They don’t send me flowers any more”

Marmite 500PX V2-01

I get this call a lot.

Actually not those exact words but more like:

Chris could you take a look at our website please?

Its 2/3/4/5/6 years old and we dont think it is working for us as well as it used to.

The people who built the website for us dont seem as keen to connect with us as they used to be because:

they are busy signing up new clients
they have developed interests in other business sectors/activities and don
t seem to be as enthusiastic about the dental sector any more
they have told us that we will need to spend a lot of money to get back on top again
they don
t seem to be quite as on the ball as the early days

I have a lot of friends in the “web build” business and want to quickly add that I’m not tarring everyone with the same brush here – some deliver excellent and continued service to their clients.

Equally, I’ve worked with clients who want to blame every external contractor for their own inability to get things done.

As a consultant myself, I’ve learned over the years to manage the client’s expectations of what I can do for them – and also lay it on thick about the homework they will have to do to make the relationship fruitful.


I do remain surprised that the “web build” sector seems to be one that is populated by suppliers who don’t “get” the long-term care (of their clients).

They Don't Send Me Flowers Anymore

A new client recently asked me to review a site that was a few years old – content rich (an online patient education centre) but not ticking any of the boxes for 2015 digital marketing:

no data collection (cardinal sin)
no social media badges on the home page
no video testimonials
no Google reviews
no blog
no white papers

…and yet the client is paying upwards of £1,000 per annum for a “maintenance contract”?

If I had the time I would run a business coaching course for web build people – it would be called:

all the money you need for the rest of your career is in the pockets of the people that you already know and the people that they can introduce you to

Machines can optimise and advertise.

People care.

“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.”

Guest post: Defensive Champions

Every now and then a client is inspired to write a blog post and I’m always delighted to offer any coaching on the writing style and content, as well as offer a platform for the post to be published. So here we welcome a newbie blogger, Ash Quraishi, Principal at Westmount Dental Surgery, Sunderland.

Defensive Champions

There has been a lot of debate in the sporting world recently with fans criticizing defensive tactics to win championships. This has most certainly been true of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea and most lately Floyd Mayweather’s display against Manny Pacquaio.

This got me thinking, are defensive tactics boring in the business world or do they really make you champions? Moreover if we were to believe this, then what would a Dental Team Formation look like?

Goalkeeper – Business Manager – The money manager really which has to make sure that there is some money left in the bank at the end of each year. Has to set budgets and manage accounts and ensure the team does not end up letting in more goals than they score.

Right Wing Back – Nursing Staff – The team that assist the dentists in going forward by comforting patients and helping explain treatments. They also help the defence in ensuring that everything is carried out to the highest standards.

Centre Back – CQC Manager – The Health and Social Care Act has had mixed responses since its introduction, but one thing for sure is that the practice must comply by all its regulations to stay open. Not having this covered is a major own goal and could lead to practice closure.

Centre Back – Complaints Manager – Every practice receives complaints but the best practices manage these complaints effectively and learn from them quickly. Having a designated person qualified to deal for this is the best way to resolve any issues quickly without major distress.

Left Wing Back – Reception Staff – This team also helps the dentists going forward by converting enquiries and passing them onto dentists and TCO. They are also the face of the practice and can help diffuse any complaints or pass them to the necessary managers.

Creative Midfield – TCO – An integral part of the creative engine that receives new contacts and converts them into consultations feeding them to the dentists.

Creative Midfield – Marketing Manager – The team that controls and helps feed the TCO with new contacts. Also keeps the whole team motivated and aware of the team goals.

Attacking Midfield – Hygienist – integral part of the attacking team that works in combination with the dentists to continuously score and keep the team running.

Forward – Dentist/Implantologist – Maintenance and high value treatments score goals for practice.

Forward – Dentist/ Orthodontist – Maintenance and high value treatments score goals for practice.

Forward – Dentist/ Aesthetics – Maintenance and high value treatments score goals for practice.

Manager – PM – makes sure all the team members work perfectly together to get the best scores

Coach – 7 connections – makes sure all the team is well focused and has clear goals and invested in improving

Medical Team – HR – There to help team member’s that are not performing their best by training and coaching.

The large dental teams could probably be able to recruit individual members for each position but in smaller practices some members may play in more than one position. The aim is however to ensure that your team are all geared towards scoring by providing for the dentists and also preventing goals being scored against you by providing best practice and having solid accounting techniques. This is where most practices fail and undo all the work done by the dentists and the front line.

As Howard Schultz said in his book,

“Processes and systems, discipline and efficiency are needed to create a foundation before creative ideas can be implemented and entrepreneurial vision can be realized.”

This is having a solid back room of defence as described to prevent any own goals from being scored and allowing the front of house to shine.

“I realize now, with hindsight, that the back room is really the arena where points are score. In football it is often said that offense scores points, defense wins championships. In business, the front room is what the world sees: in our case, the coffee, the stores, the style, the brand. But the back room is where we win.”

The development of the business development process

The Development of The Business Development Process

We have been planning the future of 7connections over the last few weeks (not that we don’t do that every day) – meetings with my business partners and with the team to talk about where we see the business going over the next 10 years.

It has been interesting to reflect on the process by which the development of a business takes place and, inevitably, I have found myself in conversation with some clients on the same subject.

One of the questions I get from clients is “how on earth do you keep track of everything?”, especially when EVERYTHING gets more complex?

In the graphic above I have attempted to show how our conversations turn into action and also some of the cloud-based applications we use.

Overall Goal

Why are we doing this?

The overall goal is preferably quantitive – numbers and dates – sales of £X and profit of £Y by Z date.

The overall objective might be qualitative – build a business that is ready to sell – become the best in the world, delight customers, innovate.

Qualitative outcomes should be gathered together in your mission and vision statements – around your core values, as they can seldom be developed into daily tasks.


What organisational structure will we need to make this business work effectively – how many people and what will be their roles?

Protocols & Documents

What written evidence are we going to need for training, governance and compliance?


What exactly has to be done and in what order?


How does each item of workflow break out into individual action areas?


Who needs to do what, by when?

You can see from the graphic the applications that 7connections use at each step in the process. There are other applications out there – some for Mac and Windows, some best suited to the needs of niche markets.

Finding a cloud-based application suite that your whole team will buy into and use is a useful attribute of the successful development process.

Planning quality (undisturbed) meeting time with your management team to agree the above is the sign of a mature and evolving business.

The whole process is driven by good conversation but conversation without an execution process is just imagination.

Letters from a perfect imperfectionist: See you in 6 months then?

Marmite 500PX V2-01

I’ve never had to internet date, use or any of that malarkey (thank goodness) and I have to confess to being a little bit captivated by Channel 4’s “First Dates”.

All about my continued fascination with “what makes people tick”, even the weirdos.

Watching a few evenings ago, I got to thinking about dentistry.

Imagine, if you will, that a couple meet in that restaurant and “click”.

The chat is good, the food and wine are great, the atmosphere is wonderful. The happy couple discover that they have lots in common.

As well as the serious business of eating and drinking, the banter is classic.

Clearly there is some magic in the room.

See you in 6 months then

At the end of the meal, one party says to the other:

“So – how was that for you?

The other replies:

Ive really enjoyed your company and the whole experience.

At which point the conversation continues as follows:

OK – well Im glad you enjoyed yourself.

What Ill do is, in another 6 months Ill send you a text message reminding you that we can meet again for a quick lunch.

As well as the text message, Ill send you a short confirming letter.

We can then meet briefly for a sandwich and catch up on what youve been doing.

If you are really hungry, we can agree a time for another dinner, depending on how busy I am.

Between now and then you wont hear from me as Ill be busy dining out with other prospective partners but I may send you a newsletter every now and then to let you know how much fun Im having with the other people I see.

Romantic eh?

I’ve been writing recently about how poor recall letters can be.

We note from our records……”

Listening to Bill Starkie at the SOE Business Insights roadshow it came home to me that dental practices aren’t just poor at recall letters, they are poor at maintaining relationships – period.

I understand that you are busy and have lots of people to see but for every one of those people you may well be the only dentist/therapist/hygienist that they are seeing right now and they want to know that you appreciate them.

Why is it that, whenever I have joined a practice, the best they have been able to do is a letter and a text twice a year, like an unreliable lover who pitches up when they want affection but at best ignores and, at worst, sleeps around when you are not in their mind?

You put so much time, money and effort into seducing and conquering your new patients in the first place but then so little into keeping them sweet.

If you treated your dates the way you treat your patients, you would spend a lot of nights at home.

“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.”

The race for Google reviews

The Race for Google reviews_1

This is what happened when I Googled “dentist Manchester” at 06:30 on 29th April 2015.

The race for Google reviewsThe organic listing show practices based close to but (but not exclusively in) the city centre.

The preference has been given to those practices that have been collecting Google reviews.

As you can see, 360 Dental Care Ltd and Smiles Dental win that race – but with just 22 and 5 reviews each.

Google shows those stars once you have 5 reviews up there.

The more positive reviews the better.

If you Google “dentist London” you will see my old friend James Goolnik’s practice Bow Lane Dental Group with 109 reviews at the time of writing.

Google is the new Trip Advisor.

I have heard 2 people say that in the last week:

Krishan Joshi – Dental Focus – at our Ultimate Marketing Academy meeting in London last weekend and Bill Starkie from Software of Excellence at their excellent Business Insights Seminar in Manchester a few nights ago.

Somebody in your team has to be encouraging happy patients to:

like your practice Facebook page
share a selfie at the end of their treatment
consider volunteering for a patient video testimonial
allow a story about their experience to feature in your monthly e-newsletter
take three of your business referral cards to pay forward
submit a Google review

As if you didn’t have enough to do already?

Maybe so – but there is little point in paying agencies for web site design, SEO, paid media, attraction marketing and Lifecycle Marketing if you and your team are not doing the basics listed above.

Oh – and by the way – you had better be worth 5-stars.