Why 2018 will be a year of consolidation for most of my clients

About a week ago I started asking my clients to think about their “Top 6 goals for 2018”.

The answers have been enlightening because, without fail, they have been qualitative and not quantitative.


  • Better health;
  • More relaxation;
  • Time for family adventures;
  • A reduction in clinical days;
  • An easier workload;
  • Decisiveness.

In fact, so far I haven’t been given one single number or date.

The only reference made to business performance has been a consistent aim to “achieve the same profit in 2018 as we did in 2017”.

I didn’t force that response. It seems that growth is off the agenda at the moment for a lot of people.

Perhaps all the talk of uncertainty on the macro-economic front is encouraging independent business owners to “batten the hatches” and prepare for a stormy crossing in the next year?

That’s perfectly fine – sometimes the job of a business coach is to help clients to not fail.

If, as seems to be the case, we are heading towards a period of lower consumer and business confidence, there are some basics that you had best remember:

  • Cash flow is everything – keep a VERY watchful eye out and make sure that your budgets and cash flow forecasts are well maintained;
  • Debt is a burden – try and keep your borrowing low – pay loans and asset finance off as soon as you can – don’t get too highly geared;
  • Stay true to your values – remember that, during a recession, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and the bottom drops out of the middle. The middle is the most dangerous place to be. Stand for something, whether that’s “cheap as chips” or “we do business class”.

I prefer to work with the business class practices and I’ll be encouraging them to maintain their pricing strategy, avoid any discounting and focus on internal marketing, primarily through digital recommendation and word of mouth, for high-value treatments.

Right now, I’m advising most of my clients to CONSOLIDATE and, in fact, have voted specifically against some expansion plans on which I’ve been asked to comment.

I did say “most” – I’m working with clients who are buying, opening and expanding practices – but we are taking extra care to make sure that the plans are laid well, due diligence is done thoroughly and detailed (and realistic) Capital Expenditures, Cash Flows and Sales Forecasts are completed and discussed before commitments are made.

I’m going to go for an 80/20 rules here – that 80% of my clients will consolidate in 2018 and 20% will carefully expand.

Given that my little “Top 6” survey is revealing a deeply held desire to achieve a better balance between personal and professional time, maybe consolidation is becoming the new measure of success?


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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.