THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow

Listening for the clues in your niche

I reflect upon a conversation with a prospective new client last Monday. He is an orthodontist who first heard me speak at the annual conference of the British Ortho Society (BOS) last year. This encouraged him to subscribe to the ezine, which he has read since then. Initially he called our offices about 2 months ago with a general business enquiry and this was handled by my sales manager. Normally, a phone call between the dentist and Paul would suffice but, in this case, the dental practice was close to Paul’s home – so he called by. It became clear that the dentist’s problems were specific and immediate, so a conversation about The Dental Business School and a year of business coaching was important but not urgent. What was urgent was the fact that he had opened a new practice on the strength of a contract for service promised by the local Primary Care Trust (PCT) – for the uninitiated, that means a contract with the Government to provide service under the National Health Service (NHS). Having invested heavily in property, equipment and people, the PCT offered zero funding in April this year, quoting “lack of funding and adequate coverage”. The first is true, the second is a very un-funny joke, with children in the area waiting over 12 months for treatment. He faces financial ruin unless he can quickly market his services on a “private” (independent) basis. Which is where I come in – I have the knowledge to help him do that. But time is the enemy – I simply don’t have the time to run around the country doing “International Rescue” – and my daily earnings rate cannot be sustained by individual practitioners (I’ve created a highly leveraged business model that spreads my services across large numbers of clients in workshop environments – my average daily earnings rate is £3,250 and no individual dental client is going to pay that for a day’s coaching – neither would I ask them). To solve that problem, I referred my caller to another coach, who is a qualified dentist, is fully Barrowed-up and I know can help. He runs a lower-leverage business model and can provide advice at a more realistic investment level for the client. What caught my attention was a chance remark by the client towards the end of our conversation. “There are lots of other orthodontists in the UK going through the same crisis at the moment.” “How many?” I asked. “Maybe 250 practices that I know about, through our various email groups and the BOS.” “Well”, I asked, “would it help if I were to put on a roadshow in September, travel around the UK and speak to groups of ortho principals about how to fast-track their marketing?” Needless to say, the response was very positive and he even thought the BOS would broadcast the event to their members. Yesterday I ran this week’s ezine, with a request for any other ortho readers to respond to this offer. This morning I have a number of emails saying “yes, please – get yourself on the road and we will recruit attendees.” A small door opens to reveal a much larger opportunity. I reflect this morning that I could have “fobbed off” the original call as being a “no income” opportunity – but I didn’t – I kept listening and stayed focused on helping the caller get his outcome. At first glance – I handed a perfectly good client to another coach, with no prospect of income. At second glance – I may have opened the door to a major business opportunity – The Orthodontic Business School as a specialist subdivision of The Denatl Business School. I’m feeling quite pleased with myself.

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