It seems time to offer a further comment on the “CB” thread that still has legs this morning.
Last week was a fantastic professional experience for me:

  • speaking to packed audiences alongside Brian Weatherly and the SOE team at marketing seminars in Belfast and Edinburgh, 
  • lecturing on “Irish marketing” to a group of dentists from Northern Ireland and Eire on Thursday night, 
  • attending a meeting with David Hudaly, Chief Executive of IDH to discuss the future strategy of the Private and Specialist Division, 
  • working with independent practice principals through the week who are building prosperous businesses, even in our current economic climate
  • presenting a lunchtime webinar to dentists and team members on “Personal Leadership in a Recession” with Dental Channel TV
  • advising and counselling with a long-standing friend and principal as he reached the conclusion that the proper solution to a significant downturn in his business was to instigate redundancy procedures in his practice – a decision that created the worst week of his professional life
  • and along the way, the numerous emails and phone calls that are makimg this one of the busiest quarters of my career for 4 years!

Over 10 years ago, I was kindly invited me to join the GDP-UK forum and refused on the grounds that, as a consultant selling professional services to dentistry, it seemed inappropriate to be eavesdropping on the conversation – and unethical to use the forum as a platform for self-promotion.
However, the suggestion that GDP-UK is a private forum is mistaken.
During my travels I have been supplied with a steady flow of information on the CB thread. 
Members of the forum have either sent me emails with comments that have been “cut and pasted” – or have handed me their laptops, macbooks, blackberrys and iphones and allowed me to read for myself.
As I commented earlier in the week, there are some golden rules when this type of negative conversation springs up (and that can include hecklers at a conference as well as outraged public critics):

  1. Rule 1 – to repeat my earlier blog post – all publicity is good for business – and this has been great – thank you!
  2. Rule 2 – let the hecklers keep heckling – because after a while, they talk themselves into a knot, they sound increasingly out of touch and, perhaps most important, the rest of the audience get sick of them and want to get on with the show;
  3. Rule 3 – respond but don’t react – don’t give the debate oxygen by getting emotional and, finally
  4. in the words of my late father “don’t wrestle with pigs in sh*t, because the sh*t smells – and the pig loves it!”

I am myself a member of a number of on-line forums, in dentistry, in coaching and in the general business world. There is no bigger fan of viral communication and social networking than I (223 Facebook friends and counting, 110 Twitter followers, 500+ blog and ezine readers).
My first forum membership dates back to the late 90’s.
Forums operate well when there are moderators in place who moderate.
What that means is that they allow the debate to flourish and evolve – but observe some general guidelines and rules as to what constitutes professional, ethical and appropriate comment.
It seems that effective moderation has been absent from this conversation.
Over the last week I have followed the thread with interest, with humour, with warm appreciation for the many forum members who have defended either me personally, my business philosophy or the results I have achieved for my clients and, sadly, with a growing sense that the forum has been left as an uncontrolled sandpit where extremists are allowed to “make stuff up” in order to support their increasingly untenable position.
I’m all for a healthy debate on the business of dentistry – and I have no expectation that 100% of my audience will agree or that my clients will implement 100% of my ideas – that’s fine.
What really saddens me is that the forum members have been allowed to post what appear to be unmoderated comments that cross the boundaries of professionalism, ethics, respect for privacy and common decency.
GDP-UK  and all of it’s members are culpable when the following occurs:

  • suggestions that my financial modelling systems are “crap” by individuals who have never used them
  • references to my personal appearance – which dilute the quality of the debate and the forum to the playground
  • references to my private and domestic life which are misinformed, out of context and deeply personally hurtful
  • suggestions that I have recommended “Chinese labs” – rather ironic in that I had a healthy correspondence with my good friend and co-author Dr Phil Newsome last year (a Director of Southern Cross Dental Labs), when another dentist told him that I was recommending clients to NOT use Chinese labs. Neither allegation has any substance
  • putting words in my mouth – suggestions that in a given clinical situation I would disagree with the diagnosis of a dentist I have never worked with
  • passing the opinion in a public forum that my philosophy and practices are “totally against GDC guidelines”
  • “too much self-promotional bullshit” – need I say more?
  • the inference that I am more concerned with the size of a patient’s cheque book than with their dental needs and requirements
  • that I have plagiarised the material of my good friend and strategic alliance partner Paddi Lund – grossly insulting to both of us

The regrettable truth is that if you delete all that personal invective, the debate on the thread is actually quite interesting and informative.
Its hard to believe that this all started with

Chris Barrow says plan for a 30% drop in turnover for 2009…how many businesses could stand this?

Remember? Back on Monday Feb 9th at 8:48pm.
I am appalled that the use of the language of hate has been published without any comment – when an individual writes in a public area that he “despises” another – then as far as I am concerned the adult conversation is over.
How much energy has been wasted since then, by a few individuals who, like an angry couple at a marriage counsellor’s office, are becoming more and more isolated, extreme and silly as they try so hard to “be right”?
A final comment from me.
Please understand that I’m not trying to take any moral high ground here – that would be a cheap and obvious ploy.
When you speak in front of over 2500 people a year, as I do, as Ashley Latter does, as Paddi does – and a few others – you are going to make mistakes.
A few years ago I made a sarcastic reference to Polish associates at a Faculty meeting in Glasgow and members of the audience didn’t like it – I was hauled over the coals by the conference organisers, by the Faculty and by my own horrified support staff at the back of the room. I just got carried away with the buzz at the event and stepped over the line and into that horrible Bernard Manning place.
I was “moderated”, I apologised and made restitution.
Having written an ezine for over 10 years and attended hundreds of practice visits and conferences, I have done the same there every now and then.
Again – an unconditional apology is always forthcoming and my team and loved ones are always my best moderators.
When you are a change agent that stuff happens – my good friend Ashley Latter was telling me this week that a recent gig at the BDA was his worst night in 18 years, made so by one heckler at the front of the room who believed that “selling” had no part in dentistry (makes you wonder why he was there?).
Ashley is still the best trainer in dentistry, has positively influenced over 4000 people and speaks sense.
When you put your head over the parapet – you have to have a thick skin.
But you know what?
GDP-UK is weakened and cheapened by the personal comments I have read this week.
Tony – I admire and respect you – you know that – but step into the playground and blow the whistle mate – some of the children are getting out of control and it’s a good job I’m not the litigious kind. So far…


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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.