THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow

Week end

Friday morning in a cold a frosty Yorkshire and my last day of a week of travel to Bolton, Stoke, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Wetherby and Leeds (again) before I drive back to Cornwall tonight. It will be a long drive home and a late finish but I’ll be smiling inside after a fascinating series of conversations. Some reflections: Â

  1. Its always a pleasure to see a new practice “born” – and this week saw the arrival of 45 Dental – the brainchild of Matthew and Liz Ogden. Congratulations on a beautifully designed interior and a good starter web site. I know that the planning for this practice began at least two years ago but I still applaud Matt and Liz for their focus, determination and perhaps even courage to go ahead in these troubled times;

  2. And “goodbye Woolworth” – although I must admit to a sense of inevitability that when a business fails to evolve it must surely die? Isn’t that just a combination of simple mathematics, a free market economy and the absence of leadership? There seem to be many crocodile tears around from those who bemoan the demise of 30,000 jobs at this time of year – and then complain yesterday that the bargains in the store were not cheap enough? Woolworth was a retail museum, not a thriving business – and we don’t have a world that can support museums any more. I clearly remember all of the Lancashire cotton mills closing in the 60’s and the wailing and gnashing of teeth that took place about “tradition” – but there was no bail out, the industrial landscape in the North West was a desert for 20 years – and then the region regenerated itself – because the human spirit of endeavor ultimately prevails;

  3. What annoys me is that the banks have been bailed out after failing so spectacularly. As Will Self said so eruditely on Question Time last night, the executives should all be fired and replaced – even if that means nationalization. Capitalism has failed us in banking and the regulators ought to be publicly executed and hung out on Tower Hill (something to watch after the Strictly final);

  4. Which brings me nicely to a few dental museums that I’ve visited this week. Quite apart from the horrible “decor” that I have witnessed in two practices (all that blu-tak!), there have also been the antiquated dialogues that I have overheard as I sit quietly in reception waiting for a dentist who has run 6 minutes late for the last 14 years. Witness the following exchange (which I wish I could record as an audio for you)

Patient returns to reception desk after check up. Receptionist says “so that’ll be another appointment in 6 months then?” Patient “aye” Receptionist “do you want to book a hygiene or are you not bothered?” Patient “aye – I might as well” Receptionist ” morning or afternoon?” Patient “afternoon” Receptionist “2 or 4?” Patient “4” Receptionist “that’ll be 10th June” Patient “oh – right” Patient is handed appointment card. Receptionist “thanks very much then love” Patient wanders out of door.

I must remember to drop a line to Ashley Latter and share with him the new sales question I learned this week: “Do you want to book a hygiene or are you not bothered?” Priceless. Poor lady on reception is doing her best, of course, in the absence of a system.

  1. I’m equally cheered by the beautiful practices I visited in Newcastle and Yorkshire this week – no names no pack drill (I have to be careful nowadays) but it lifted my spirit to see that there are principals out there who are thriving and reinvesting in their teams and their practices – with full appointment books!

This afternoon my last assignment of the week will be a guest spot at The North of England Implant Academy, where I hope to give a market review and marketing lesson to dentists who think they have a bigger future. A nice way to round things off before a 350 mile drive home.

My sense this week is that the “downturn” (which is what we call it this month – it was a credit crunch in September, a recession in November and its a downturn now) is beginning to manifest itself in private dentistry.

BUT

Only in the sense that those who have avoided marketing as a robust activity are now suffering the consequencies.

I hate to say “I told you so” and advised that “you dig a well when its raining not in a drought” but I TOLD YOU SO!

Its never too late to start marketing though.

And marketing IS, IS, IS the way through recession – not penny-pinching cost savings.

Vision, Passion, Customer Service, Marketing, Innovation, Rapid Response, a belief in Human Capital – a message Woollies might have listened to a little earlier?

I’m happy to say that I’m in a place where all of those attributes are in evidence – and that’s why I feel very confident about 2009.

I will not be at the Dentistry dinner in Leicester tonight – simply because I am just too tired to get there (I need the coastal air and to be with Annie for a few days) – but I offer my congratulations to all those shortlisted and my praise in advance for the winners. Everybody there tonight is a winner and I congratulate Julian and the team at Dentistry for giving us all something to smile about.

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