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a blog by Chris Barrow

Feeling the pulse – where have all the good people gone?

My quarterly workshops begin with a round-robin of updates from the delegates on their wins (and their challenges) from the last 90 days.

This is always an opportunity to take an overview from my sample of independent practice owners and feel their collective pulse – thus allowing me to spot any trends emerging in the business of dentistry.

The primary theme over the last 48 hours has been around the challenges of recruitment – both clinical and non-clinical team members.

“We are struggling to find….

  1. ambitious associates

  2. hungry hygienists

  3. trained therapists

  4. knowledgable nurses

  5. reliable receptionists

  6. talented TCOs

  7. marvellous managers”

What’s the problem here?

Is it about the money? Can a candidate achieve the same income level for much less work and hassle in other trades and professions?

Is it about the people? Are we living in a world of entitlement in which more income is expected for less effort?

Is it about the profession? Has a career in dentistry acquired a bad rep?

Is it about economic and demographic migration? Has the supply/demand curve on dental people turned against the Employer with not enough good people to go around?

Is it about you? Is your business an uninspiring place to be?

One thing is for sure from the workshops. We had clients from every corner of the UK and Ireland (and one from Madrid) who shared the same experience – it’s not about the post code or the population density.

What can you do about this?

  1. Accept that it has become harder to find good people and manage your expectations – prepare to look for needles in haystacks, to kiss frogs and to fail fast;

  2. Realise that the search for team members goes far beyond a simple advert in print media or online. That your search parties and search engines have to look further than they ever have done before;

  3. Plan a continuous headhunting protocol in your business, to sit alongside your continuous marketing programme for new patients;

  4. Remain alert – every receptionists in a hotel, barista in a coffee bar, colleague at a conference, relative of a patient, assistant in a retail outlet, chance encounter on a school football playing field, cab driver, neighbour, delegate at a post-graduate course – everybody might be a candidate or might know someone. I talk all the time about Dunbar’s Number as it relates to new patient acquisition – rinse and repeat for recruitment.

In the last two days I have also realised that there is another dimension to recruitment; one that we frequently overlook in the hubbub of our busy lives.

Our guest speaker has been Mark Topley, The CSR Coach and his 30-minute presentation on the meaning and benefits of an effective CSR programme in your business reminded us all that people can feel proud when they work for organisations that have core values around:

  1. People;

  2. Environment;

  3. Community.

It’s clearly hard enough to attract good people in the current job market and my tips above on diligence in this respect seem never to have been so relevant.

There is a direct correlation between businesses with a strong CSR philosophy and the attraction and retention of good people.


You have to pay decent money.

You have to hunt for the right people and refuse to tolerate below average.

You have to be proud of your profession and of the difference that you make.

You have to accept that Brexit and the GDC’s heavy-handedness have already shrunken the clinical skills pool in the UK.

In the face of all challenges, you have to be proud of your own business and walk that talk every day in your leadership.

Additionally, you have to be able to demonstrate to your team, your patients and your community that you can “do well by doing good.”

Then you are in with a chance.

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