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a blog by Chris Barrow

There at the beginning.

Striscione bandiera partenza, inizio

In conversation with friends over dinner, I was asked to share my involvement in business start-ups.

For years people who have either bought or decided to open new dental practices have asked me to comment on their imagination (in some cases that has been all there is), their business plan and finance proposal or their architect’s drawings.

Frequently, I get the call some months before the ribbon cutting for a sense check on the whole enterprise.

Others have asked me straight after the opening party to add practical systems and management training to their activity.

I’m paradoxically delighted that so many of my clients are now selling their practices and doing very well for themselves in the process.

On a grander scale, I have been asked:

  1. to provide customer service training for 47 practices in Boots Dentalcare (a business which failed in dental mythology but not in reality);

  2. to synchronise the activities of over 30 practices in the Private and Specialist Division of the corporate formerly known as IDH;

  3. to assist the team who founded Centres for Dentistry inside Sainsbury;

  4. to add my opinions to the creative team at Smilepod;

Even now, I’m in conversation about a project to open dental practices inside a major UK retailer and working with 3 separate independent private micro-corporates.

As my glittering CV and popularity (?) were explained to my faithful dinner companions, we simultaneously reached that point where the obvious question was:

so what have you got to show for it?

Experientially – a huge amount.

Financially – bugger all.

The fate of the good consultant is to be The Kingmaker (as my friend and Dutch dentist Quoc an Nguyen describes me).

My own business ownership has had mixed results.

Personally I have morphed from The Dental Business School to The Dental Business Club and Coach Barrow – each time generating lots of happy clients and a decent living but ultimately becoming either exhausted and/or commercially lonely, each time with a business capital value of zero.

My last foray into corporate dentistry, BKH, was a catastrophe (I certainly learned how to be there at the death) – perhaps one day the full story will be told but it would be churlish of me not to accept some responsibility for the demise of that debacle.

Thank goodness that 7connections, which I helped to co-create almost 3 years ago, is expanding and innovating beyond business coaching. I am able to enjoy my coaching practice within the 7connections structure (and very well supported by my founding partners and the team), whilst the company moves into new premises, products, services and vertical markets.

At 62 is it getting too late for me to expect future co-ownership of a business with a real capital value?

I think not – the mind, body and spirit are still willing and the opportunities abound.

My partners recently asked my timescale to retirement – my response was to request that the question be resubmitted in 15 years. I’m having too much fun.

At a future dinner however, I’m planning to describe what it felt like to be there at the finish line.

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