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a blog by Chris Barrow

This story makes me angry and sad

I spoke to a dentist the other day whose business is failing.

There are a number of reasons.

Firstly, she paid too much money for a "pig in a poke".

Had the due diligence been done properly, she would have discovered that the practice she was buying was on its last legs, with an ageing and indifferent patient base unaware of their supervised neglect, two unusable surgeries out of three, a hopelessly out of date team, manual systems, failing equipment - you name it.

It begs the question "why wasn't the due diligence done properly?

My own opinion is that, not only did the vendor see her coming a mile off - but so did the vendor's professional advisors - and her own advisors (none of whom were dental specialists) were either too busy or too inexperienced to spot the sting.

To add a further twist to the tale, her family stumped up most of the cash for the purchase and also agreed to be guarantors on a lease.

Secondly, in the absence of a decent existing patient list or any clue as to how to generate internal marketing via word of mouth and digital recommendation, over the last few years she has hired two seperate "dental marketing agencies" to improve SEO (on a crappy website) and drive paid-for leads for cut price Invisalign.

The first agency were paid £3,000 pcm before she gave up on them (she tells me that the business generated just about covered the costs of the agency - break even after a year). The replacement agency are currently charging £4,000 pcm for the same service. They have altered the web site and the phones have stopped ringing, the leads (for what they were) have dried up and the appointment book is getting more and more gappy.

By the way, the agencies are not entirely to blame as she admits that her receptionist is "next to useless", so I'm assuming that even the paltry leads generated are failing at the first call.

It's a complete, unmitigated sh!t show.

Then I get the call - "can you help?"

Listen - I'm an optimist by nature - lemons into lemonade and all that.

She and her family are £200,000 in and with a further £120,000 on the lease.

There's no more money to invest in the business, the team, the equipment or the marketing.

She hasn't taken any drawings from the business (ever) and is living off her savings - which run out in the next few months.

My heart says that I want to round up all the so called professionals who advised her into this mess and shoot them before I take her money back.

My heart also wants to tell her that sometimes we learn our lessons the hard way - that I've lost my shirt in business (as a result of my own stupidity) and had to build it all back again.

She's young enough to start again but tells me that the losses could break her family.

My head hears the phrase alleged to originate in Native American mythology - "when the horse is dead - it's time to get off."

Close it - sell it at a loss - try and find an investment partner?

My soul wants to help - I'm a compulsive helper - and I'm worrying about her, even though we have never met face to face, I don't know much about her and she's not a client.

Am I missing anything?

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