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a blog by Chris Barrow

Time, money and people

Have you ever noticed how there never seems to be enough of the three resources? In just one week I’ll be ending 22 years of self-employment and have been reflecting on my time as a soloprenuer. There has never been a moment during those 8,000-odd days that I haven’t bemoaned the fact that:

  1. I never had enough money to allow my business vision to reach its full potential. I started in 1987 with a £10,000 unsecured overdraft facility with HSBC and, by 2007, that had grown to a £30,000 facility for The Dental Business School.

  2. The businesses that I operated had good and bad years, just like everybody else, but even in the good years, although I usually reinvested some of the “fat” in the business, mostly I just went shopping;

  3. In the bad years (and there some very bad years), I battened down the hatches, stopped shopping and borrowed extra money to tide me through – but had to repay those loans with sheer effort on my own part – often selling time and thus damaging my work/life balance;

  4. My support team were always talented, loyal, fun people – who were in a constant state of overwhelm with the sheer quantity of transactions they had to deal with – just to keep the status quo – never to expand. That’s why nobody ever stayed longer then 4 years – I burned them out;

So I spent years dreaming a dream of a “proper” super-sized company – one in which I wasn’t responsible for 80% – 100% of the income generation PLUS all the duties of finance, marketing, sales, operations and H.R., head cook and bottle-washer.

But I never managed to build the dream into a reality.

Because I never had enough money, enough people and enough time.

Now, I have relinquished my “independence” to become part of a £500m (?) company, working with a very talented leader and team of Executive Directors.

I spent yesterday with them, agreeing the 3-year vision, 12-month plan and 90-day goals for the Private Sector Division.

I have had the pleasure to join forces with an Operations Director who has until recently been running the national sales division of one of the world’s top computer companies.

I have interviewed for acquisitions manager and enjoyed meeting some very talented people.

We are building a team that is going to create a unique and pioneering new dental corporate.

I can see the money, the people and the time coming together.

It is very exciting.

And there is a moral here for all readers of this blog.

Don’t spend 22 years waiting for a self-employed miracle. Expecting you can somehow build a proper business from sheer effort and humungous sales.

It won’t happen.

Think deeply about what has to happen to get your business properly capitalised – supported by either private equity, institutional investors or private investors to get you operating at the right level.

I’m beginning to realise that its going to be simpler to run a £50m company than it was to run a £500,000 company.

And the real crunch moment is when you also understand that the market values a £500,000 business at 3 times earnings, a £2 million business at maybe 6 times earnings and a £50 million business at perhaps 10 times earnings.


Because there is more money, there are more people and they have the time.

I rest my case.

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