THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow

BDIA Showcase gossip – day 3 – Saturday 21st October 2017 (and some thoughts about Irish

So first hand eyes on the ground intel reports that attendance at a trade event is down, but certain events – like your practice plan talk – are very popular. How do you interpret this in the context of how the profession is changing? I remember a few years ago you predicted that in the later part of this decade about 30% of dentistry would be provided by corporates, 30% by supermarkets and 30% by boutique style independent practices – how on course is that prediction do you feel? I know when you gave that talk in Ireland, dentists in the audience were incredulous but I saw no reason why it couldn’t come to pass. Now I read the ads in our dental journal for the first time with a section for “associate positions” and “dentist positions” (which are mainly companies looking for dentists to work for them), and I am sure the UK is similar. Stephen Murray – Swords Orthodontic – Ireland

It’s a rare event for me to post on a Sunday but the call of “continuity” is bouncing around in my head and I feel that by breaking my habit I’ll achieve closure.

Sunday morning after conference is, as usual, a feeling of burn out and I’m still in my PJ’s at noon, after my weekly domestic finances update.

Stephen’s comment above is worthy of a detailed response, which I’ll come to shortly.

For me, Saturday at conference was a bit of a holiday as there was no speaking gig and a deliberately empty dance card of meetings, so a chance to wander around a bit, catch up on my day-job emails and, frankly, fool around with friends.

The attendance numbers were noticeably up on the first 2 days but nowhere near previous years and most of the talk on the conference floor was around how BDIA are going to respond to the merger of The Dentistry Show and BDA annual conference next year – quite a coup d’état by Closer Still Media Group.

It was Annie who pointed out (as we chatted on the train home) that what was also missing from Showcase was all of those little stands around the periphery – the big boys were out in force, out-doing each other in pomp and circumstance but quite a few smaller businesses with tight budgets have deserted Showcase and I bumped into some serious players whose stands of previous years have been replaced by just turning up and networking.

I did have an internal laugh as I met with the Dental Focus team at 10:00 yesterday and, as we talked in the catering area, there was a lone individual creeping around the tables and surreptitiously dropping flyers for his company without authorisation – I’m still not sure whether that should be applauded for ingenuity or decried for cheating? I’m edging to the latter interpretation.

So is the BDIA facing it’s autumn? We shall see but it would be interesting to be a fly on the wall as they either ignore the obvious and plough on regardless, perhaps in the knowledge that “big stand wars” will continue – or meet to try and figure out what to do next?

Perhaps they should ask their audience.

For me, Showcase, like The Dentistry Show, is always incredibly useful as an opportunity to meet with the trade, take the pulse of the business of dentistry, spot innovation and meet with my extended family of 21 years (we are all looking older though).

Staying sober this year was a bonus worth repeating, especially listening to some of the late-night to early-morning stories from the grim faced survivors of the Bash and the after-parties.

Notable conversations on Saturday were with:

  1. Dental Focus (again) to talk about collaboration on my Extreme Business 2018 workshop launch (video to follow) – I’m hugely grateful for their support;

  2. A long overdue catch up with Jim Moran from FTA Finance – a fellow plain-speaking Northerner with 36 years of banking experience, who is now a gamekeeper turned poacher and does an exceptional job of sourcing competitive finance for those buying practices (a totally nice bloke as well);

  3. A fascinating conversation with the team from Isopharm on the development of business related on-line training – watch that space.

The rest of the day was simply about “walking the floor” and bumping into old friends, apart from a 2-hour hideaway to answer the emails.

Now – let’s return to Stephen Murray’s earlier questions….

  1. if attendance is down, why is my Practice Plan talk popular? First things first – my presentation on Thursday was very sparsely attended, Friday I filled the seats and aisles around the stand. Why? Probably because I’m noisy and not afraid of using a hand-held mike and wandering around the audience (same as Ashley on Thursday). Secondly because I used video in my presentation, including a brief extract from Milad’s Ed Sheeran cover (I’m not daft). Thirdly because I’ve had over 25 years practice at holding an audience. I spotted Alan Suggett doing the same with a packed house elsewhere, indicating that a good speaker will always draw a crowd;

  2. I well remember that Irish Dental Association presentation – otherwise known as Daniel in the lions den – an Englishman opening an Irish dental conference at Croke Park – go figure;

  3. The audience were tangibly hostile, not to the messenger as much as the message, a prediction of a future controlled by corporates and retailers, spelling THREAT to the smaller independent. I do seem to recall one outraged delegate standing and telling me that it would never happen in Ireland;

  4. The British market now has easily more than half of the NHS dental budget delivered (or should I say failing to be delivered) by corporates and mini-corporates, frequently fuelled by the short-term objectives of Private Equity and we all know the extent to which that has ruined large parts of the market for clinicians, teams and patients alike;

  5. The advent of supermarkets has been less noticeable but companies like Sainsbury and House of Fraser have dipped their toe in the water through concessions;

  6. Ireland has followed slowly behind, partly after the collapse of the Celtic Tiger but I’m over there every month with clients and have noticed their growing economy (thank you Brexit voters) and conversations about corporates starting to take market share and destabilise what has been a very level playing field for many years.

  7. In the absence of the UDA system, goodwill values are lower as the attraction to institutional investors of Government funded contracts isn’t there but it seems inevitable that the market will change in ways that will be similar to the UK;

  8. Which spells OPPORTUNITY for those independents who recognise that, as here, there will always be patients looking for quality in their clinical outcomes, in the materials used and in the customer service experience delivered.

Stephen, get ready for the ascendancy of corporate dentistry in Ireland, albeit quite a few years later than I originally suggested on that fateful Saturday morning in Dublin.

For all of those recovering from Showcase this morning – make the best of today, stormy weather aside – back to work tomorrow.

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