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a blog by Chris Barrow

The point when you need a Phillippa

Looking back to 20th September 2008

I had just started working 4 days a week as Director of Private Sector Development with Integrated Dental Holdings Ltd.

In May of that year, the CEO David Hudaly spoke to me at the Manchester BDA conference and explained that IDH had acquired around 35 private practices along with (then) around 250+ overall – and that these private practices were acting independently (of the group and each other), with no common systems.

My brief was to get in there and homogenise business systems and the patient journey.

That project took a very challenging but enjoyable 2 years, after which my work was done, I politely declined an offer to get stuck into NHS dentistry, and we parted ways amicably.

I learned a lot about corporate dentistry – what works, what doesn’t – and also became involved in around 70+ potential acquisitions during my time there. Invaluable experience.

I was also still working 1 day a week as a freelance dental business coach.

Anyway, I need to get on with the point of this post – which is nothing to do with corporate life (I just couldn’t resist the reminisce and the speculation as to where I would be now had I decided to accept the offer of further work inside IDH?).

Let’s get back to the point – here is a blog post written on the above date, from my home office in Cornwall:

I arrived back in Falmouth last night after 4 days on the road and had a few drinks and a wind down last night at my local after an enormously successful week. Saturday morning I’m sat at my desk (6.30am) looking at 65 emails in my “in box”, follow up from this week’s meetings, an on-going project list with deadlines approaching and an ominously large pile of mail in my “in tray”. Is this part of becoming assimilated into the IDH Borg? No – I have to say that the vast majority of transactions are concerned with “domestics” and also professional stuff outside of IDH. I’m still being asked to give presentations, write articles, discuss ideas with strategic alliance partners and even offer opinion, experience and advice to my circle of professional friends inside dentistry and in the wider world of business. Problem is – overwhelm. Even though I am a devotee and sometimes client of Dan Sullivan, Stephen Covey, David Allen and other gurus of the time management field – I’ve organised myself and my time very well over the years – but I’m not supposed to spend my Saturday morning at the desk. So I have to get help – in the form of a personal assistant to help me run my private and professional life outside of IDH. A lot of it is important personal administration – I have 3 domestic properties, one in Falmouth and two in Manchester. There are a number of cars knocking about. I have 5 children who are either teenagers or young adults in full/part-time education. I have professional activities outside of IDH as mentioned above, which seem to have accelerated during September. I have a busy diary that needs managing, including travel and accommodation requirements that have to be planned carefully. The role could be filled virtually (the candidate doesn’t have to live in Cornwall) but we would be in constant communication by email and phone. I want to sign letters of authority so that I can pass ALL the paper across and also hire someone who can make calls for me to service providers, arrange telephone and physical meetings and manage where I am and who I am in conversation with. I suppose I’m looking for an all-round assistant, concierge and super-efficient sidekick who can just take all of this away and give me my Saturday back.

And thus began a search that led me (through a word of mouth recommendation) to Phillippa Goodwin and her virtual PA business, Essential PA.

It seems incredible too me that Phillippa and I are about to celebrate 8 years of working together, through some very thick, thicks and equally very thin, thins!

My life has simplified considerably since those days – the properties and cars have all gone, along with the children (as dependents) and my professional life has emerged from the roller coaster ride since then, as a happy, balanced and less confusing, complex and stressful place.

I truly love my job, the the people I work with and the time it takes and my personal life is getting more interesting and adventurous as I get older.

Through it all, the decision to take on a virtual PA has been mission critical.

Most of you will know that Phillippa handles all of my client management, my calendar , travel and accommodation – which means that when I arrive at client meetings, airports, hotels, rail stations, restaurants and taxi ranks, it is all done before I get there. Behind the scenes, she involves herself in collections and IT/admin support where necessary.

Phillippa allows me to focus on my unique abilities – coaching, speaking and writing, 80% of the time, she allows me to plan and prepare the other 20% – most importantly of all – she allows me to focus on activity that funds my hourly rate and not hers.

99% of time she gets stuff done with a smile and 1% of the time she tells me I’m being stupid and making the wrong decision.

If you run your own business, you need a Phillippa, either virtual or actual – someone you can trust, respect, like and allows you to go to work without having to look over your shoulder.

8 years – and I genuinely hope for 8 more before we think about “what next”.

I asked Phillippa for permission to comment and she replied:

Well, I feel kind of good because I asked my sister in law about you in 2008 (before I applied for the job with a “weekends for sale” pitch). She was the only dentist I knew then. She said “he doesn’t suffer fools” so I consider that although I’ve done a few foolish/accidental things since 2008 I’m still taking care of the Coach! Can’t be that bad!
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