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a blog by Chris Barrow

Conversations with Chris #5 From the tuck shop to Business Angel (wearing four hats all the time)

An interview with Tim Thackrah

It’s an absolute pleasure to engage in conversation with a best friend about his life.

Most people in the profession would recognise Tim as the owner of Elmsleigh House Dental Clinic (EHDC) - a specialist referral practice in Farnham, Surrey - one of a decreasing number that are still owner-managed and not gobbled up by a dental corporate.

Tim has built from next to nothing one of the best in it’s breed - but there is more to him than that.

I haven’t met many people who I could confidently describe as a serial entrepreneur but Tim fits the title well.

Tim’s business life begins at age 12, when he runs the school tuck shop and takes the product line somewhat beyond the approved list - early signs of a budding speculator.

We follow him into dentistry and his early career as a dental associate who was sacked from an NHS practice for being too good at his job.

Borrowing every penny he muster, he bought the original practice in it's current location and literally had to sleep on the floor in the practice to make ends meet whilst he grew the business.

Later, he borrowed again to gut and refurbish the property, surviving 18% interest rates and recessions along the way, as well as a moment when 70% of his team had to be replaced in one hit.

A journey of 30 years through thick and thin to become a jewel in the crown of specialist practices.

Along the way, many diversions into other non-dental businesses, resulting in successes, failures and a deep understanding of what works. There are, however, two key messages that the listener will recall long after the fun we have during our chat:

  • The Four Hats principle of business ownership - and how most dentists fail to pay themselves adequately for the work they do - ending up with lifestyle, rather than proper, businesses;

  • How Tim has reduced from 200 to 60 clinical days a year and less than 12 days working ON the business - by creating a self-managing dental business and a superb senior management team.

Tim now invests the majority of his time as a Business Angel and helps young tech businesses to get off the runway - he has experienced some spectacular success in this area and shares with me his tips for investors in other people’s start ups.

For all of that - he’s a best mate and one of the most generous men I know with his time and his money.

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