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a blog by Chris Barrow


The Dental Business School has presented a 12-month business coaching programme to over 400 UK practices in the last 9 years.During that time, one of the greatest insights we have been able to give to our dental principals is the distinction between management and leadership. I’d like to share with you my definitions of each of these terms: Management is about:

  1. Systems;

  2. Systems and

  3. Systems

Leadership is about:

  1. Creating a compelling vision for the whole team to follow;

  2. Setting an example through one’s own personal behaviour and

  3. Letting go of management to a senior support team!

So let’s consider my definition of management first. The most successful business model on Planet Earth (measured by return on capital invested) is the franchise. Whether it’s a very simple franchise (flip the burger) or a complex variety (Federal Express), franchises are profitable because they are a system by which to operate a business. By way of example, I have what’s left of my hair cut at the Toni & Guy franchise in Falmouth, Cornwall. The salon is just 2 years old and was opened by 22-year old Ross Jackson with a family loan and no previous business experience whatsoever, either personally or in the family that backed him. After 2 years he still enjoys his 5-a-side football and a pint with the lads but operates one of the most profitable salons in the South West. Why? Because he follows the system to the letter. Whether it’s financial controls, marketing, customer service, cutting hair or recruitment — it’s all done by the book — and it works well enough for him to have evolved a strong customer loyalty in a notoriously fickle industry. You might argue that cutting hair is less skilled than dentistry but what we are thinking about here is the business of cutting hair — which I have to tell you is little different from the business of dentistry. After 9 years I have yet to see systems in dental practice that are as watertight as a franchise — in fact the historical inability for dentists to incorporate has probably been the main reasons that a dental franchise has not been seen in the UK profession. But in fact you don’t need to wait for a Branson or a Dyson to arrive — systems already exist that can allow you to manage your own practice as if it were the first of 1000 franchises nationwide — and then not bother to open the other 999 (unless you want to). Isoplan provide such a system — taking the operational control of your dental practice to a level that will allow your senior team to run things without your need to be a control freak and lose your work/life balance. I’ve noticed that practices that use Isoplan are better managed per se but also have allowed the owners to concentrate on leadership (as defined above). So either because you’d like a more profitable and well managed practice, because you’d like more time off, because you’d like to focus on your dentistry and leadership, or because you think (like me) that it’s only a matter of time before a large company opens a dental franchise across the road — it’s time to look at systems — and there is no better place to start than Isoplan. Â

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