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a blog by Chris Barrow

Lockdown Leadership - Part 5: Communicating with your suppliers and lenders

It's time to stop consuming the conversation and start creating the conversation

A very good Monday morning and I trust that, like me, you may have had some rest this weekend - a chance to recharge the batteries and also to become more accustomed to the lockdown lifestyle.

After a Sunday afternoon of Spring cleaning my back garden, the afternoon dog walk was delightful in the lovely Spring weather.

Equally, my afternoon was strange as I walked into the local town of Altrincham to see the deserted streets, through an empty Bowdon village, marvelling at the Victorian mansions and villas and back through my own Hale village, where people queued in silence to enter the local supermarket one at a time.

Back to work today.

At 06:30 am today we will be sending the launch email to the 68 practices who are taking part in our Regeneration Programme.

Team CB have been working hard over the weekend to set things in motion, we have created a brand new Facebook Workplace Page for all of the participant owners, managers, clinicians and team members. I'm going to be interested to see how that works and what level of participation we have.

Later today, at 17:30, we will have our first Group Zoom call for owners and managers. I'll have to be careful, with the numbers involved, that we create the correct environment for Q&A and conversation.

Let me now return to this series, intended to encourage you to show up as a leader in the communities with whom you connect.

Today we consider the plight of your suppliers and the position of your lenders.


I'm going to focus here on dental trade suppliers.

Rumours circulate that some names may vanish from the landscape as routine dentistry has halted. That remains to be seen but there is little doubt that the supply landscape will be disrupted by current events.

It is also fair to pay tribute to some suppliers who have diverted their activity into supporting the battle against Covid-19. I am seeing some great stuff on social media about dental laboratories and others who have turned their resources towards helping.

The recurring theme through this series of posts is to stay connected and to take the initiative in opening channels of communication.

If, at lockdown, there were unfulfilled orders or unpaid bills, don't go silent. Enter into a dialogue with your suppliers so that both parties understand clearly the position right now.

I believe that approach will pay dividends when the all-clear is announced, as all dentists will be facing a backlog of work for patients and the chances are that the supply chain will be tested.

Cement friendships and make friends.


Much has been said about Government support for businesses during lockdown.

I'm hearing mainly positive stories from clients and from dental accountants like our friend Alan Suggett.

Some asset finance companies have taken the initiative and contacted their clients to initiate a three-month deferment on all payments.

Most of my clients who have contacted their banks to request deferment have been offered payment holidays up to 12 months in duration.

I'm going to conclude this post by reproducing in its entirety, the contents of an email sent to NatWest by Alan Suggett a few days ago. It has been slightly superseded by events but Alan's overview is, I believe, a useful and accurate analysis.

A dental accountant’s thoughts for healthcare bankers

After two weeks of working 12-hour days helping dental practice owners plan to financially survive the COVID crisis here are my thoughts to help you help them.

My most important thought/comment is that I haven’t yet come across a single dental practice which isn’t capable of financially weathering this storm – most importantly with the support of their bank.

In simple terms, a combination of postponement of loan capital repayments, and extra borrowings (by way of commercial loans or CBILS), together with employee furloughing (see below re NHS practices), will in EVERY case I’ve evaluated be sufficient to ensure survival, and continued positive cashflow when we return to normal.

More specifically:

  1. 1) Private practices – whilst they are shut they will receive at best a modest amount of income in respect of capitation scheme payments (e.g. Denplan). They will be furloughing employed staff (some are topping up from 80% to 100%), not paying their self-employed associates/hygienists and therapists, and will only have fixed costs to pay. Such net costs, accruing on a monthly basis, will either have to paid out of retained cash or extended borrowings.

  2. 2) NHS practices (i.e. purely NHS, or with very small amount of private income) – Last week NHS England, by way a letter to all NHS contract holders, informed that NHS contract income would continue to be paid (subject to a reduction for consumables) but in return practices must continue to pay all employees and self-employed contractors IN FULL! However, in return, the practices would not be able to take advantage of any Government support measures. As a consequence, NHS practices are likely to run at a cashflow surplus during the crisis, although almost certainly not sufficient cover loan capital repayments. They are unlikely to need other financial support (eg loans). However, the NHS still haven’t fully clarified certain very important elements of the 2020/21 NHS contract payment arrangements (e.g. what reduction in monthly payment will be made re consumables – this is likely to be around 15% to 20%).

  3. 3) Mixed practices (i.e. both NHS and Private income) – regrettably the financial position of mixed practices is very uncertain – but will be no worse than at of private practices. The BDA are currently pushing NHS England to agree to allow a pro rata basis in relation to Government support measures (most importantly employee furloughing). HMRC have indicated (but not in clear terms) that practices which are predominantly private will be able to furlough some staff. Hopefully NHS England will agree a pro rata basis (e.g. if the practice has say, 40% private and 60% NHS income, they will be allowed to furlough 40% of their employees).

In order to help dental practice owners obtain a very basic understanding of their monthly cash flow deficit (or surplus) position, Dental accountant UNW LLP have created two very simple but effective COVID VIABILITY PLANNING FORECAST TEMPLATES, one for Private practices , the other for NHS/MIXED practices

I am happy for this link and the Forecasts to be circulated to all practice owning customers of the bank.

Also we are producing regular COVID Dental financial e-bulletins covid19-updated-27march

if you would like to receive regular updates please email

Alan Suggett, Head of Dental Business Unit, UNW LLP, Chartered Accountants Tel: 07860 246718

As part of The Extreme Business Regeneration Programme, we will be guiding our clients on that communication with their suppliers and lenders during lockdown.

This morning we have 68 dental practices who have joined the Regeneration Programme and who will be working with me and helping each other over the next three months.

We begin our journey this morning 6th April 2020.

Come and join us - a community who are going to stay ahead of the curve during lockdown and emerge ready for the new normal.

Details are HERE.

In part 6 of this series, I'll consider how best to communicate with your local community - the post code in which your business is situated.

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