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a blog by Chris Barrow

2 + 2 = ?

I’ve been a scribbler of sorts since my first personal and private journalling back in 1978, when as an administrative assistant in the pension office of a Blackburn IFA’s office, I used to write in the evenings about the events of the day – goodness knows where those handwritten notes are nowadays. In the 1980’s I kept a personal journal for years. In the 1990’s I began to write about professional matters in a printed, weekly newsletter that was posted to a readership of 100 business-owner clients. Along came “t’internet” and back in the late 90’s my ezine grew to a readership of over 2000 people in dentistry. Nowadays I concentrate my professional writing in this blog – but still continue to scribble on my Facebook site and in various dental journals on and off-line. All of that amounts to literally thousands of words per annum, none of which will have J K Rowling worried about her sales – but they have been invaluable in building my professional visibility and as a catharsis for each day’s events. However (and its the “however” that prompts me to write this morning before I start my real duties of the day)….. However – every now and then what you mean when you write and what someone thinks when they read can be different – simply because of a genuine misinterpretation of a few innocent words. Let me share with you a quite bizarre case in point. On 24th September I wrote a blog post called “Time, Money and People” in which I described a Director’s meeting at IDH that I had been privileged to attend the day before – and I used the following phrase to describe the purpose of the meeting

I spent yesterday with them, agreeing the 3-year vision, 12-month plan and 90-day goals for the Private Sector Division.

Can you see where I said “yesterday” – that’s the 23rd September 2008? OK – so let’s move on. On Tuesday this week I wrote a separate blog post, describing the events that had taken place the day before – that’s Monday this week, when I attended a follow up meeting with the principals and business manager of a privately owned and independent dental practice. To set the post in context, I described what had happened at a meeting over three months earlier – that’s in June this year.

Three months ago I was privileged to attend a planning meeting in which a vision was established for the next 3 years, a plan for the next 12 months and goals for the next 90 days. Standard stuff – and this is a world-class business.

June this year. I then went on to describe my surprise at finding the partners of the private practice in dispute – because they hadn’t been communicating effectively during my absence – and what we did to repair the situation, which I described as an “elephant in the room”. I also reminded my readers that the “3-year vision, 12-month plan and 90-day goals” is “standard stuff” – its what I’ve done as a business consultant in dentistry for 11 years and will continue to do as a Director of IDH. Can you guess where this is going? After a superb day of meetings with potential acquisition candidates yesterday, I jumped into my car last night, checked my messages on the iphone – and found, to my horror, that I had both emails and voice mails asking me whether the reference to the “smelly elephant” was referring to my co-Directors in IDH! Not an overly good start for the new kid on the block – you are all smelly elephants and I’m going to bust you publicly? Needless to say – a few quick phone calls set the record straight – and I’m setting it straight again here:

  1. Smelly elephant = private practice clients falling out of respect for each other – elephant successfully led back to pen on Tuesday;

  2. IDH = great meeting on 23rd September – in fact a major attractor for me has been the breath of fresh air, working with a management team that are ego-less, vastly experienced at the right level and speak authentically and professionally at all times.

But the reason I’m dedicating some of my precious early-morning time to this post is to consider the wider ramifications of that mis-reading. I will have to be careful going forward because I’m no longer a lone maverick consultant, used to speaking his mind on matters general and specific. Even though this blog carries a disclaimer that the views expressed are my own and not those of any company or business I have worked with – I’m operating on a much bigger stage now. That means there are those who could take a position that this blog will become “the voice of IDH” and offer a candid camera inside the company. So can I set that record straight also – and state here and now that my intention going forward is to use this blog to record four experiences:

  1. my personal and professional reflections on the progress of “Dentistry UK” as a profession;

  2. my observations of the decisions that principals get right and wrong as they evolve their practices – passing on good and bad ideas;

  3. The delightful and disappointing customer service experiences I observe;

  4. my personal life – there seems (in this age of celebrity) to be a market for telling you what I’m reading, listening to and watching and what I’m up to with my private life

And let me clarify what I will NOT be writing about:

  1. the internal operations, the people, intellectual property and strategy of IDH other than general observations on my progress in building the division – focused on good ideas that its harmless to pass on;

  2. the private and confidential negotiations I am party to with potential acquisition candidates.

I find myself very fortunate that this “hiccup” has occurred so early on – because it has encouraged me to write this post. No matter how many times I re-read my earlier endeavors, I cannot see how the connection could have been made. But you know what? It was. So here’s a moral for any would-be scribblers. You may write thousands of words a year – and 99% of them will be understood and appreciated – but the 1% that are misinterpreted will take some fixing. Don’t get precious about your artistic integrity – just fix it.

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