Gathering clouds

A dental business is now offering £5.75 per UDA to associates, as quoted by Kevin Lewis in his excellent presentation on matters dento-legal at last Friday’s Stars of Dentistry conference.

Now I can see why the “apprentice dentist” concept (mentored in an independent private practice with a salary of £32,000) is attractive and generates 60-100 enquiries for every BDJ recruitment advert.

Add to that stories of dental hygienists working for £17.50 an hour.

Then there is the perennial problem of “getting the right staff” – there isn’t a week now in which I’m not listening to descriptions of team members who lack initiative, take sick days, gossip, don’t follow protocols, complain and refuse to get “on the bus”.

My zero tolerance grows stronger.

Not many days ago we were discussing new “highs” in practice goodwill valuations. Small independent private practices for sale at 8.5 times earnings.

Now are are discussing new “lows” in pay for qualified healthcare professionals and in team behaviours.

I’ve also been asked to help a number of dentists recently who have used family money to either buy or squat – and are in trouble because all the money has gone on the acquisition/launch and there is none left for marketing.

The numbers aren’t working.

People approach me at conferences and ask “how much do I need to spend on marketing when I buy or open a new practice?”

My answer has consistently been:

“A minimum investment of £50,000 per annum for each of the first 3 years, followed by 5% of sales each year thereafter.”

Many don’t like that answer and prefer to look for another consultant who will give them a less expensive formula for success.

Good luck with that.

Ask a successful Principal, growing a strong business, what she had to invest to get there.

The numbers in dentistry, the “highs” and “lows” are becoming more extreme.

Quite apart from the pressures of regulation and litigation, UK dentistry is mathematically broken.

Like a humid summer week, the pressure is building and, surely, there is going to be a thunderstorm.

Batten down the hatches.


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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.

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