2 + 2 = ?

I’ve been a scribbler of sorts since my first personal and private journalling back in 1978, when as an administrative assistant in the pension office of a Blackburn IFA’s office, I used to write in the evenings about the events of the day – goodness knows where those handwritten notes are nowadays.
In the 1980’s I kept a personal journal for years.
In the 1990’s I began to write about professional matters in a printed, weekly newsletter that was posted to a readership of 100 business-owner clients.
Along came “t’internet” and back in the late 90’s my ezine grew to a readership of over 2000 people in dentistry.
Nowadays I concentrate my professional writing in this blog – but still continue to scribble on my Facebook site and in various dental journals on and off-line.
All of that amounts to literally thousands of words per annum, none of which will have J K Rowling worried about her sales – but they have been invaluable in building my professional visibility and as a catharsis for each day’s events.
However (and its the “however” that prompts me to write this morning before I start my real duties of the day)…..
However – every now and then what you mean when you write and what someone thinks when they read can be different – simply because of a genuine misinterpretation of a few innocent words.
Let me share with you a quite bizarre case in point.
On 24th September I wrote a blog post called “Time, Money and People” in which I described a Director’s meeting at IDH that I had been privileged to attend the day before – and I used the following phrase to describe the purpose of the meeting

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

Can you see where I said “yesterday” – that’s the 23rd September 2008?
OK – so let’s move on.
On Tuesday this week I wrote a separate blog post, describing the events that had taken place the day before – that’s Monday this week, when I attended a follow up meeting with the principals and business manager of a privately owned and independent dental practice.
To set the post in context, I described what had happened at a meeting over three months earlier – that’s in June this year.

Three months ago I was privileged to attend a planning meeting in which a vision was established for the next 3 years, a plan for the next 12 months and goals for the next 90 days.
Standard stuff – and this is a world-class business.

June this year.
I then went on to describe my surprise at finding the partners of the private practice in dispute – because they hadn’t been communicating effectively during my absence – and what we did to repair the situation, which I described as an “elephant in the room”.
I also reminded my readers that the “3-year vision, 12-month plan and 90-day goals” is “standard stuff” – its what I’ve done as a business consultant in dentistry for 11 years and will continue to do as a Director of IDH.
Can you guess where this is going?
After a superb day of meetings with potential acquisition candidates yesterday, I jumped into my car last night, checked my messages on the iphone – and found, to my horror, that I had both emails and voice mails asking me whether the reference to the “smelly elephant” was referring to my co-Directors in IDH!
Not an overly good start for the new kid on the block – you are all smelly elephants and I’m going to bust you publicly?
Needless to say – a few quick phone calls set the record straight – and I’m setting it straight again here:

  1. Smelly elephant = private practice clients falling out of respect for each other – elephant successfully led back to pen on Tuesday;
  2. IDH = great meeting on 23rd September – in fact a major attractor for me has been the breath of fresh air, working with a management team that are ego-less, vastly experienced at the right level and speak authentically and professionally at all times.

But the reason I’m dedicating some of my precious early-morning time to this post is to consider the wider ramifications of that mis-reading.
I will have to be careful going forward because I’m no longer a lone maverick consultant, used to speaking his mind on matters general and specific.
Even though this blog carries a disclaimer that the views expressed are my own and not those of any company or business I have worked with – I’m operating on a much bigger stage now.
That means there are those who could take a position that this blog will become “the voice of IDH” and offer a candid camera inside the company.
So can I set that record straight also – and state here and now that my intention going forward is to use this blog to record four experiences:

  • my personal and professional reflections on the progress of “Dentistry UK” as a profession;
  • my observations of the decisions that principals get right and wrong as they evolve their practices – passing on good and bad ideas;
  • The delightful and disappointing customer service experiences I observe;
  • my personal life – there seems (in this age of celebrity) to be a market for telling you what I’m reading, listening to and watching and what I’m up to with my private life

And let me clarify what I will NOT be writing about:

  • the internal operations, the people, intellectual property and strategy of IDH other than general observations on my progress in building the division – focused on good ideas that its harmless to pass on;
  • the private and confidential negotiations I am party to with potential acquisition candidates.

I find myself very fortunate that this “hiccup” has occurred so early on – because it has encouraged me to write this post.
No matter how many times I re-read my earlier endeavors, I cannot see how the connection could have been made.
But you know what?
It was.
So here’s a moral for any would-be scribblers.
You may write thousands of words a year – and 99% of them will be understood and appreciated – but the 1% that are misinterpreted will take some fixing.
Don’t get precious about your artistic integrity – just fix it.


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Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.