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a blog by Chris Barrow

All these trainers, consultants and coaches – how do I decide?

Economic recession, lack of leadership from dental trade associations and professional bodies, HTM 01-05, CQC bureaucracy, registration of healthcare professionals, volcanic ash, excessive Bank Holidays, staff pregnancies, gappy books, the NHS pilots, unprofitable associates, stroppy hygienists, therapists who are too slow at fillings, staff who don’t want anything to change, direct access for hygienists and therapists, patients delaying and deferring mid-range treatment plans, competition from corporates, retailers and supermarkets, the tooth whitening palaver; – have I missed anything? A sage once said that “consultants” hand out the worry beads and then offer themselves and their products/services as the solution – “buy my book, videos, training programme, consultancy, coaching – and you will be saved.” There is no doubt that in these times of hardship, there is fertile ground for the services of people like me and my peers. It’s perhaps for that reason that I’m noticing three trends in what I will generally describe as “the dental consultancy market”: • existing product and service providers hiring dental consultants to speak and consult as an “added value” to their own offering; • the development of new consultants to cover new areas of need – take compliance and social media marketing as two current examples; • the arrival of new players in the consultancy market – two in the last few weeks, taking on roles in general dental business consultancy and sales training My mantra (when my peers email me to say “have you seen this new company/individual in the consultancy market?”) is that “competition stimulates demand”. The more people are talking about training, consultancy and coaching, the more gets bought. It was the same when Boots came into the dental market, invested millions in marketing and all of my independent clients saw an uplift in business. It has been the same since 1996, when I arrived in the dental consultancy business and, from memory, the only other provider I could see was Sheila Scott (who I notice is enjoying a sell-out tour with Practice Plan at the moment – good for you Sheila). Nowadays, you cannot throw a stick around dentistry without hitting somebody who holds themselves out as a trainer, consultant or coach – almost all of whom transitioned into consultancy after a previous career – in my case financial services, others have been management consultants, bankers, accountants, marketing consultants and, of course, dentists. It does beg the question “how do I choose whom to work with?” and I genuinely believe the answer is about style and not function. I was at an Industry Leaders meeting a few weeks ago and asked to introduce myself. In a moment of frivolity I responded with: “My name is Chris Barrow and after 16 years I’m waiting to be busted as a guy who has made a very good living out of re-packaging common sense.” The fact is that there are just two ways to run any business – and they are very well and very badly – there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground. So if you run a business very well, a good consultant can help with training, consultancy and coaching for you and your team – to break through a glass ceiling and take you to the next level. If you run a business very badly, the same people can get you back on the right tracks. But there is a magic ingredient that has to be in place – you have to like each other. And by “you” I mean you, your family and your team – there is no point in bringing a consultant into your team who is going to be divisive, perhaps because you like him/her but nobody else does. Style isn’t transferable – there are plenty of people who find my style unbearable (and they are sometimes vocal in their opinions!) and there are some who love my Northern tough love. You cannot judge a consultant on content, you have to decide for yourself on style – oh – and by the way – if you decide on price, then you are the lawful prey of the least talented.

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