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a blog by Chris Barrow

The Acquisitions Incubator – why hiring me might identify you as a target

One of my prouder possessions is an email from Portman Dental acknowledging that they love buying practices that I’ve been involved with because they know that a “Barrowed-up” business is going to be a good target.

It’s paradoxically flattering to know that my work is appreciated that way and that I can never take my eye off the marketing so as to replace the clients who move into new ownership.

Post-acquisition, corporates tend not to hire business coaches, preferring to build internal development systems – it seems counter-intuitive, given my opening comments, but that’s internal politics for you. I just get a note that says “goodbye and thanks for all the fish” although my friend Gary Chapman does take me out for a splendid lunch every December.

Of course, I’ve worked with others who have sold to alternative corporates or private buyers and I have no doubt that trend will continue for some time to come.

It remains to be seen what happens to goodwill values as we enter Dark Ages II.

Earlier in the week I was chatting to a client who mentioned that they had suddenly started getting letters from a few corporates, asking if they would be interested in selling. Portman seem to mail that kind of letter regularly but this flurry of interest included some of the newer names on the acquisitions scene.

As I listened, something rather obvious occurred to me.

I wonder if those same corporates are following me around surreptitiously on Facebook, to see where I’m checking in every day, and then targeting my clients?

The thought does rather amuse me and before I get too carried away with this, it would make absolute sense to identify the other trainers, consultants and coaches in the dental landscape and do exactly the same thing.

The simple truth is that any Principal who is prepared to invest in training and mentoring probably IS a good target for an approach.

So perhaps us consultants have all unwittingly become acquisition incubators?

I quite like that idea – “work with me, I’ll check in every time I visit and the chances are you will eventually get THAT letter, asking if you would like to discuss selling.”

On a similar theme, I’ve had two approaches in the last three months, both from Private Equity people who have found me on Linkedin, surmised that I know a lot of things about and people in dentistry and asking me to become a Non-Executive Director in their proposed new dental corporate.

In the past, conversations with these people over a lunch or dinner in Marylebone have been a flattering and interesting diversion from the daily routine but I’ve had enough free steak now to keep me going and, frankly, the conversation is becoming somewhat repetitive.

  1. we’ve had a look at statistics for the sector;

  2. we can see opportunity;

  3. we are putting a board together;

  4. we are going to go and raise some capital;

  5. we are going to buy;

  6. we are going to sell in 4 to 7 years and get the hell out of Dodge

Blah, blah.

I’ve developed the habit of asking said individuals searching questions like “what do you think the effect of GDC regulation will be on the overall confidence of the sector in the next 10 years?” or “how do you think digital dentistry will effect the economic model you are proposing?”

The blank looks are a picture to cherish.

These people generally know very little about the reality and their Powerpoints for investors are a joke.

I’ve no doubt that, as we enter 2018, there will be some City slickers who will continue to part fools from their money.

Personally, I want no part of it. It’s a “no thanks” to the Non-Exec offers.

I’ll just continue to travel the length and breadth of the UK and Ireland, meeting lovely people, helping them to grow their independent businesses and acting as a targeting drone for the serious players in corporate dentistry.

Thanks for reading this blog in 2017 and I wish you and yours a very Happy Christmas.

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