So who is Elvis now?

The King

I’m working with a number of clients who are growing micro-corporates using the hub and spoke acquisition method.

The first challenge is to identify a potential vendor and negotiate a realistic price in the face of competition from over-optimistic valuers, hungry corporates and heartless predators.

Assuming you the purchaser are successful in beating those competitors, the second challenge is to get through the due diligence to the point of sale.


You must be joking – the fun is about to start.

The third challenge is the greatest – integration of the new team into your existing business.

The team you are buying will smile, make eye contact, listen to your speeches about how “nothing is going to change in the short term and all of your jobs are secure” and then reconvene in the staff room, in the pub or on the phone and WhatsApp in the evenings to discuss what’s really going to happen.


I speak to owners and managers who are pulling their hair out some months down the line because they are finding it almost impossible to facilitate the changes in performance and behaviour that will bring the “spoke” into line with your basic protocols and core values.

Problem #1 – the original owner has stayed on as a an associate and either involuntarily or deliberately is undermining you. He or she was “Elvis” for years and when “Elvis” was in the building, things were done the way “Elvis” liked. “Elvis” recruited them all and has history and habits. Making yourself the new “Elvis” will be impossible unless you are there every day.

Problem #2 – BDS spells God. The existing clinicians don’t see why they should change anything, or why they would have to. After all, they are used to giving orders, not taking them.

Problem #3 – The team don’t like change – especially when it moves them out of an existing comfort zone. So they will turn up for the meetings and training sessions (sometimes facilitated by people like me), take the day off work, say “yes” to everything and then do bugger all different.

So what’s a budding micro-corporate builder and his senior management team to do?

Solution #1 – Change the people.

Solution #2 – Change the people.

I’ll leave you to figure out what I mean.

After a period of frustration, it usually ends up as Solution #2.

Unless you go for Solution #3.

Open your own “spokes” as squats – then you are “Elvis” all the time.

You would save yourself a lot of time and frustration.

Just saying……..

On being nice

Hotel reception desk at work

I shared on Facebook last week my delightful check-in experience at The Hilton East Midlands, after a long day of disrupted travel and cancelled meetings.

Staggering through the door after 2 planes, a bus, a train, a taxi and a 16-hour shift, I was welcomed by Alice.

Alice lit up my day in a way that was shareworthy.

Let’s just remind ourselves how Hilton do their training for receptionists.

  1. a residential course at The Hilton Academy working at a mock-up front desk
  2. an apprenticeship beside an experienced receptionist at another hotel before…
  3. you “get your wings” and are allowed on the front desk at your home location

During this schooling period, you are taught the 38-step check-in system contained in the Hilton Brand Standards Manual (BSM).

There are BSM’s for every department in Hilton – concierge, conferencing, restaurant, housekeeping.

The 38-steps in the BSM are both performance and behaviour related.

The performance steps are about getting me checked into my room quickly and safely.

The behavioural steps are where the system comes to life for the guest:

  • If the guest has stayed at the hotel before, welcome them “back” to the Hilton;
  • Use the guest’s name at least three times during the check-in process;
  • Make eye contact;
  • Smile:
  • Ask if they have had a good day or travelled far;
  • If the guest has a loyalty card, then thank them for their loyalty and offer appropriate upgrades (for me that means an Executive Room and complimentary wifi);
  • Show genuine interest;
  • Enquire as to their travel arrangements the next day and whether you can be of help;
  • Use your initiative if you can go the extra mile.

The list goes on – but in its purest form is a system for being nice.

Four Seasons hotels call this The Golden Rule:

do unto others as you would have them do unto you

I’ll bet Alice isn’t earning any more than a dental receptionist – nor the barista who served me at St Pancras late last night and offered my coffee free of charge, just because I smiled at her.

But Alice and the barista have a system that includes being nice to people – no matter what mood you are in or what is going on back-stage.

Being nice is free and makes both parties feel good.

It’s essential to have a system for being nice when your business is like a three-ring circus a lot of the time.

Sadly, in the absence of a system, there are some people on reception who don’t think that “nice” is part of their job spec.

That’s when the thousands you spend on branding and marketing may as well be poured down the grid.

Alice is a wonderful brand ambassador for Hilton, as were the barista and the young lady who supervised my check-in a The Premier Inn last night – not as swish but equally nice.

It makes such a difference.

Are your Front Desk team systematically nice?

The Four Hats Business Model

firefighter helmets

I was reminded in conversation yesterday of a belief developed with my friend and business partner Dr. Tim Thackrah back in the late 90’s (and just as relevant today).

As the owner of a dental practice, you wear Four Hats, for each of which you are entitled to remuneration:

  1. As a Clinician – you are entitled to a commercial percentage of your production;
  2. As a Managing Director – you are entitled to a salary for your time;
  3. As a Landlord – you are entitled to rent from the premises;
  4. As an Investor – you are entitled to interest on your capital investment.

A common mistake is to ignore this and simply collect whatever change is left in the till at the end of the trading year.

The rationale is “that is all that cash flow will allow” but what this encourages is a false view of how well (or otherwise) your business is performing.

To believe you have a good business, when in fact you don’t and, therefore, to deny the need to do anything about it.

If you handed one or more of the Four Hats to someone else they would get paid wouldn’t they?

Wearing all the Hats and not getting paid for the 70 hours a week that requires (to “save money”) is the worst of all possible scenarios.

My role as a business coach is to

  • help you decide which Hats you want to wear
  • help you recruit the Hats you are missing
  • help you design a business that can afford to pay all the Hats

Excel in Excel – The Spreadsheet of the Week #3


This week I am sharing with you a template that has evolved over 15 years and has probably caused more controversy than any other.

The Associate Profitability Calculator.

Associate Profitability

It takes some explaining and getting used to.

The most frequently asked question is “what do you mean by predictable annual overheads?”

By that, we mean the costs of running your business EXCLUDING:

  • payments to self-employed fee-earners (associates/therapists/hygienists)
  • lab
  • materials

Everything else is operating cost and payable whether or not clinicians and/or patients show up.

Once you can nail that number and calculate the all-important OPERATING COST PER SURGERY PER DAY, the rest of the spreadsheet should be self-explanatory.

Over 80% of the time I use this with clients, we discover that, at best, their associates are breaking even (that means making the business no money) or losing the business money every day they show up.

I’ve heard all the arguments about the other reasons why you would hire associates:

  • cover for holidays
  • seeing the patients you don’t want to see
  • succession planning
  • emergency cover
  • specialist skills

And whilst I understand them all, this spreadsheet convinced me 15 years ago that the 50% contract was largely unprofitable. As a result of that we designed the sliding scale.

Nowadays, of course, associate remuneration has reduced – but it is still worth conducting the exercise as the individual productivity of the associate will affect your bottom line.

Before I am accused of associate-bashing (and see the p.s. below), my purpose in using this spreadsheet is often to engage the associate in a conversation about how they can improve their communications skills, so as to increase ethical production.

The main point I make to Principals every week is that the alternative to lose:win is not win:lose (there is no point in announcing a drop in earnings).

The solution is win:win – how do we work together to secure and increase your income and make a realistic profit for the business?

Have fun with this – please email if you have questions.

It’s a Pandora’s Box. Be careful when and how you open it.

p.s. some time ago I elected to be remunerated monthly by 7connections based on my own coaching fee income and by reference to the same sliding scale – same numbers – same percentages. My “lab and material costs” are travel and accommodation and are deducted before the sliding scale kicks in.

I love it because every month I get paid exactly what I am worth and I know I am a profit-centre within the business. 

Consequently I just love it when somebody tells me that “it can’t be done”.

Drawing Toast


On Saturday I was privileged to be one of the presenters at the Bridge2Aid Speaker Training Day – a group of over 25 volunteers who gave up their weekend for some formal instruction on how to represent the B2A community on trade stands, at networking events and in-practice talks.

We had huge fun, lots of laughs and managed some serious stuff as well.

The brief for my own session was to offer some tips and tricks on public speaking, especially for those who would rather jump off a bridge than stand to talk. An early decision was to avoid “Death by Powerpoint” and have the delegates instantly engaged.

Hence my reference to the wonderful resource made available by TED speaker Tom Wujec on his web site Draw Toast.

The idea is simple and effective – arrive with plenty of magic whiteboard and flip-chart pens – and begin by having the attendees take a few minutes to create a visual representation of how to make toast.

Here’s what happened in 15 minutes on Saturday morning.

IMG_5247 IMG_5248 IMG_5249 IMG_5250 IMG_5245

Then show them the video on Tom’s web site – which explains how much more effective groups can be when they are asked to take part in collaborative visualisations.

Following which you can set a challenge – in this case how to become a better public speaker – and ask them to return to their whiteboards and create visual systems. I’m starting too use this technique in my team training for dental practices – a refreshing change from stupefied theatre-style audiences, slide shows and the dreaded role-play.

We went on to create some excellent visuals on public speaking. As you can imagine – Draw Toast sessions are noisy, fun, different and memorable. What can also emerge is a systematic approach to:

  • how to answer the phone
  • how to run the Front Desk
  • how to create a Patient Journey
  • how to manage the treatment planning experience
  • your marketing plan

and many other aspects of the business of dentistry.

I’ll bet you could “Draw Toast” on clinical procedures as well.

Draw Toast workshops are fun. If you would like me to facilitate one for you – just ask.

The Friday Guest Blog – Get Dental Plans



It’s not often we see a new player in the dental insurance and plan arena but this product caught my attention and is worthy of your attention.

Having diligently worked their way through the innovation cycle, Marc and Paul are now ready to connect with early adopters.


Get dental plans was set up by Marc Benjamin and Paul Lewis in 2013 with the aim of offering simple, straightforward and affordable dental insurance plans. With 30 years’ experience in the healthcare industry, it was apparent that there was a demand for dental insurance and with all the publicity around the importance of maintaining good oral health, dental insurance is a preventative solution to encourage regular attendance helping to prevent any dental problems before they arise.

We have put in place a number of dental insurance plans which are flexible, simple to understand and implement, require no pre-joining checks or administration by the dentist. We have also negotiated discounted rates and various other incentives to our clients such a free electric toothbrushes and other money saving offers.

We feel that some of the plans available at present are restrictive and difficult for patients to clearly understand and use. The plans that we recommend offer complete clarity on reimbursement for every item of treatment.

Get Dental Plans in the main market their service and plans via dental practices with the aim of offering a simple solution to their patient’s requirements which will lead to more regular check-ups and hygienist visits for the dentist therefore increasing turnover without any outlay.

We simply arrange a lunch and learn session with the dentist and staff to provide an understanding of the products that we offer and encourage the dentists to display our leaflet on their counters and hand them out to their patients. We then do the rest.

We offer plans which are underwritten by major insurers and immediate cover is available for check-ups and hygienist visits. Cover is usually available immediately for treatment such as fillings, root canal, crowns and bridges.  Implant cover is also available with generous limits as well as child and adult orthodontic cover.

Dental insurance is becoming very popular for individuals and is sought after by employees of companies.


Then again – Apple don’t know everything…


You thought you had seen it all yesterday didn’t you?

The Campbell Clinic Treatment Plan – “The Box”?

Well, they went one further than Apple.

Realising that, at the end of treatment, there is a golden opportunity to reinforce their relationship with a patient.

  1. to thank them for their business
  2. to reinforce their decision
  3. to request reviews/testimonials and
  4. to request referrals

So, they thought outside of that box again – and decided to create something that the patient would keep and remember – their end of treatment pack.

Look – and learn…..


IMG_5190 IMG_5191 IMG_5192

If Apple made dental treatment plans


Do you, like me, keep the packaging from your Apple products, simply because it is beautiful?

Do you, like me, love the tactile experience of unpacking the box – and the “sigh” as the lid slides sensually open?

Do you, like me, believe that you can positively differentiate yourself from the competition by delivering an exceptional customer service experience as well as clinical excellence?

Do you, like me, understand that if you give patients something to talk about, they will?

So do the team at The Campbell Clinic.

With their permission – I present “The Box” – the packaging with which all of their treatment plans are issued – and on the USB stick – a full treatment plan, photographs, x-rays and even a video blog from the clinician.

Compare this with your treatment plans.

The cost?

£10.00 a box.

The raw materials?

Time and effort to engage your imagination.

The desire, dare I say it – to think outside The Box?










Excel in Excel – The Spreadsheet of the Week #2

Business background

Last Tuesday I shared with you a personal cash flow forecast.

This week we repeat the exercise but this time focusing on your business.

When I meet monthly with my coaching clients, we first take a look at their management accounts (otherwise known as Profit & Loss Statement) and I ask their book-keeper or accountant to prepare this information for the last full trading month and for the trading Year to Date (YTD).

In the world of cloud-based accountancy software, this information is arriving more quickly after the month end.

At the start of our working relationship, I ask if a 12-month budget & cash flow forecast have been prepared for the current trading year?

This is seldom the case.

Which brings us to today’s attachment.

We begin by estimating income and expenditure for the coming year. This can often be a combination of guess-work and a review of the previous year’s figures.

Once the forecast has been completed, the budgeted figures for each completed month are replaced by “actuals”.

In this way, over the year, we can begin to see how accurate the estimates were and also how far on or off course we are for the targeted results.

The benefit of this is that as clients become accustomed to completing this spreadsheet every month, they start to feel the pulse of the finances in their business and stay on track.

The attachment follows – I strongly suggest that you replace the headings and numbers with your own information and, perhaps for the first time, build your own financial route-map.

Another tip is to get your senior team members involved in the process of collecting, collating and analysing the data – understanding how the money flows through your business can be a healthy eye-opener for them.

7c Professional Budget & Cash Flow Forecast

The Perfect Imperfectionist 2016


Today I’m excited to be publishing my first e-book via Kindle Direct Publishing, namely an updated and revised version of The Perfect Imperfectionist.

It was 2011 that I first created a series of blog posts (edited by Marita Macdonald) on how to remain human and sane in a world which expects so much of us.

My theory is that if you can get organised 80% of the time, that’s enough (and more than most).

The rest of the time it’s good to be disorganised, perhaps even therapeutic.

In this latest edition I’ve included updates to reflect the new technology many of us use in life and business, as well as the significant changes that have taken place in my life since the original work.

Over the years I have had feedback that this little piece has encouraged others to be more accepting of themselves.

Writing is essentially a catharsis but if it helps others, that is a bonus.

I hope that this might help you.

You can see the pages here:

Amazon UK

Amazon outside of the UK

Incidentally, most weekends I publish a very personal blog of the same name.

You can find that HERE and subscribe.

Oh – and there will be more e-books to follow on the business of dentistry.

All proceeds from my e-book sales will support dental charity Bridge2Aid.