On or in

It was Michael Gerber who first explained the distinction between working ‘on’ your business and working ‘in’ your business.
In is about doing the work you get paid for.
For many of you that will be ‘doing’ clinical dentistry or helping to run a dental business in some way.
For me, working in my business was traditionally speaking, coaching or writing – because those were the activities I was paid for.
For all of us, working on our business is what happens when you put the drill, the scalpel, the scaler – or – the telephone, the keyboard, the flip-chart pen (etc etc) down and we float 35,000 feet above our businesses in an imaginary hot-air balloon and take a look down at the view.
My business partner, Dr Al Kwong Hing, invests 5 days a month in the UK, working on the business with our growing team.
Back home he delivers 12 days a month of clinical dentistry, averaging CDN$40,000 a day of productivity across his practices in Ontario and Nova Scotia.
When I first saw the production figures I could not believe them – over in the UK my implant clients can gross £4500 a day and the oral surgeons can reach £8500 a day. But CDN$40,000 a day – what the hell is that about? The answer, of course, is in effective use of surgery time and also working with other clinicians to deliver high-quality dentistry. By the way – this isn’t fancy-pants cosmetic dentistry for Hollywood stars.
Ontario and Nova Scotia are not natural places to seek out high-end work. But, just as in the UK, there are plenty of people who have the time and the money to invest in high-end work, you just have to find them (marketing), appeal to them (branding) and ethically sell what they want to buy (product mix). Oh, and don’t forget to offer them a customer service experience that enrols them as your unpaid sales force (word of mouth).
Remember I said that Al works 12 days a month in his Canadian practices (there are around 30 of them now). The rest of the time in Canadian dentistry he is working on them – thinking about how best to deploy his time, money and people to best effect.
When you are grossing CDN$40m as a dental corporation, you have time to think. When you have time to think, you can grow a CDN$40m corporation, run two dental labs, invest in property, invest in other medical devices manufacturers and even establish a vineyard and a micro-brewery in California. Oh – and then partner with Chris Barrow on the creation of a new corporation in the UK that aspires to match the Canadian turnover figures in the next 2.5 years.
It’s all about working on it some of the time and not in it all of the time.
Over dinner last night we reflected on the last 5 days. Al arrived in the UK on Friday morning and we were straight into Dentistry Live and back to back meetings with the BKH team, with suppliers, with strategic alliance partners, with prospective BKH Partners and BKH clients. You may also have seen that this coincided with the launch of our third BKH Bulletin, our video animation of the BKH Management Services, updates to our website and the arrival of Karl Taylor-Knight as our first Business Development Manager.
It has been a VERY hectic 5 days – but why does Al fly over from Canada every month to chair those meetings with me?
Because he has the ability to be a wet-fingered CEO – to be the most productive dentist (and ‘get’ dentists) as well as steer the overall strategy and tactics of the organisation.
With Al’s help, guidance, experience – we work on our business – reviewing:

  • events of the previous three weeks – what worked, what didn’t and what we are going to do about it
  • our current situation
    • finance
    • marketing
    • customer service
    • operations
    • people
    • pipeline
  • our next 30 days
    • targets
    • deadlines
    • accountability

It takes time to get all of this working.
On 31st December I was a one-man band with a superb personal assistant. After 5 months I find myself MD of a team of 14 highly talented and motivated people who aim to make a difference to UK dentistry. In the next 10 days, I will have some announcements to make about our first acquisitions and affiliations.
We are all working flat out and we are having the time of our lives. It’s the days that we are working on it that we make our greatest progress.
Al returns to Canada (via the French Open tennis) today and we will not see him again until the end of June.
It is time now for us all to reflect on the numerous conversations of the past few days and get back in to the business of delivery.
I will be focused back on my coaching clients now, on building the team and the company.
Until Al returns and we climb back in that balloon and float high into the sky.
Back in it.


Published by

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.