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a blog by Chris Barrow

Lessons from failure (if you fail fast)

In our June newsletter (circulation around 6,500 - the reason I'm telling you is relevant to what follows) we announced the launch of a brand new Associate Development Day in collaboration with my friend and client Dr. Neil Harris of HRS Dentalcare.

Our motivation for this was the hugely positive feedback we had on Neil's presentation to my clients at our Q1 workshop series on "The Self-Managing Dental Practice".

Not only did Neil lift the bonnet on his own business engine, he also shared all the details of how he takes salaried associates on an "apprentice" basis, mentors them for a year and then "promotes" them to become percentage-paid self-employed associates who generate excellent digital workflow, happy patients, great dentistry and above-average daily productivity.

What's not to like?

Full of our success, we immediately decided it would be a great idea to take this message to a wider market - why hit the road in Q4 this year, with the intention of improving the job satisfaction, skill and income of more associates?

I like to think we are pretty good at our marketing and so the appropriate structure for a training day was created.

Neil in the morning on the very latest in digital workflow (including live digital skills) and myself in the afternoon on personal branding/marketing for associates, chair-side communication skills and the very latest in treatment plan presentation.

In our imagination - 7 locations around the UK, Saturday meetings so as not to interfere with earnings, plenty of notice, 20 seats per location (to break even after costs - I make money on the 21st ticket sale), ticket price £495 for the day (inc. VAT).

An intention to increase every delegates job satisfaction, skill and earnings by at least 30% with no extra hours.

Of we go:

  • Internal marketing to members of The Extreme Business 100;

  • External marketing to my aforementioned newsletter database;

  • Social media marketing (we have very good "reach").

A month later...........

4 tickets sold and a deafening silence from the marketplace.

I have 7 potential conference venues who want bookings, deposits and contracts with hefty cancellation fees.

I have digital equipment suppliers lined up for the live demos.

I have time booked out of Neil's busy calendar.

But I have no audience.

So this is where we have to fail fast in business - and not fall into the common trap of.......

"This is my idea - my ideas usually work - I don't want to lose face - we are going to keep at it - maybe it's the summer recess - maybe there will be last-minute ticket sales - maybe they will start buying in September - maybe we have to re-work our marketing message - maybe I have to enrol strategic alliance partners to promote the day - maybe the current economic cycle is making people more hesitant about spending - maybe the meltdowns in NHS and corporate dentistry are affecting confidence - maybe, maybe, maybe.....

Maybe there aren't enough associates who want to grow.

Maybe we got it wrong.

We are refunding the 4 ticket sales next week and, thankfully, early enough that calendars will not be upset.

Neil and I have discussed that we might bring this back in 2024, (maybe in one location) but for now we are getting on with our lives.

In a world in which consultants do have a habit (don't we all?) of parading "their best lives" across the media - I prefer to share my failures as well as my successes - I think it makes me a better coach for my clients and helps me sleep.

Our Associate Development Day fell flat on its face. Period.

Some lessons here you I want to share with you (because we can all learn from this):

  • Kiss a lot of frogs (that means ideas as well as people);

  • Watch carefully - delegate but never abdicate;

  • Fail fast - if it looks like a failure - it probably is;

  • Never be afraid of failure - 9,999 light bulbs and all that;

  • Be honest at all times with your audience - honesty, transparency, vulnerability - all attractive;

  • Learn;

  • Move on

Off to day #2 of our Leeds workshop shortly - coaching around 20 Owners on their next steps.

Have a good weekend.

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