THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow

Reputation management

Any organisation whether it’s a dental practice, a consultancy business or a dental corporate has a responsibility to manage its own reputation in the market place. In fact, in the absence of self-management you simply leave the door open for other people to manage your reputation. That’s why corporates have got such bad press in the UK dental profession – I can’t think of a single one of them that has made anything remotely like a decent job of managing their own reputation. In fact, I go as far as to say that some of them have completely abdicated from this responsibility. So what happens when you don’t manage your own reputation? Somebody else does. And in the United Kingdom that’s a very dangerous game to play because the reality is that most people who have any opinion in this country have a negative one. “What’s the catch?” “That will never work” “It failed once so that proves it will never work again” “People will never change” “It can’t be done” “They are all out to get us” It’s hardly surprising therefore that forums are populated by people who are bad mouthing the role of corporates whether or not they know what they are talking about and interestingly whether or not they have actually worked inside them. In my opinion it’s far too late for the existing corporates to do anything about that – the scene has been set and it would take an enormous job to shift them. There’s a very interesting similarity here with Microsoft. For years and years individual team members in the company were threatened on pain of expulsion that they should not write any blog posts or other comments about what was going on inside the company. As a result of which the rest of the world managed the reputation of Microsoft and “imagineered” them into a big brother organisation that ruthlessly eliminated its competition. It was only when Gates/Walmer and the Board decided to allow open blogging for all Microsoft employees that the reputation began to shift. Slowly but surely individual employees within the organisation started to tell a story that was more balanced. Don’t get me wrong. Microsoft were and are a very commercial organisation but, in the same way as dental corporates, they were often populated by unsung heroes who were trying their level best to do the right thing on a day to day basis. As the internal bloggers began to tell the story of what was really happening within the organisation then slowly the reputation began to soften. I don’t thing they are ever going to be regarded as a “kind” organisation (even in spite of the amazing work that the Gates family have done personally) but at least they are not quite the big brother that they used to be. I think the dental corporates should have and could have taken a leaf out of that book many years ago but perhaps now it’s simply too late. For any new corporate coming onto the scene (and I’m involved in two of them) then reputation management is going to be absolutely critical to success and the best way to do that is to allow the people inside your organisation to have a voice and to tell the truth about what’s actually going on on a day to day basis. On the day that David Cameron speaks about “responsible capitalism” – I would like to promote a conversation about “responsible dental corporates” – and what they would look like?

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