The first 3 steps to becoming an owner-leader (and falling back in love with your work)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – leaders lead people and managers manage systems.

You cannot lead systems, you can only manage them.

You cannot manage people, you can only lead them.

So here’s a thing – why do we keep using the term “owner-manager” to describe those folks who run their own small business?

Being an owner-manager is a recipe for disaster because by definition you are going to be too busy managing systems to lead people.

Which is why the worst offenders become owner-micro-managers, some of the most difficult people in the world to work for.

Ultimately, your objective when you set up or buy a business should be to become an “owner-leader”, leading the systems managers around you.

Michael Gerber and others have adequately described those systems:

  • lead generation systems (advertising and marketing);
  • lead conversion systems (the patient experience and treatment co-ordination);
  • financial systems;
  • operational systems;
  • team systems (your HR function);
  • compliance systems;
  • clinical systems.

Systems are systems – you can find out everything you need to know about how to run a successful dental business on-line, in a bookstore, at a conference or by hiring trainers, consultants and coaches.

Leadership is a little more problematic. A search for “leadership books” on Amazon UK will produce over 100,000 results but they will all say that leadership is what happens when:

  • you are the custodian of the vision;
  • you are the example of the required standards of performance and behaviour;
  • you are effective at delegating the systems work to your managers.

As I look back over 20+ years of coaching dental business owners, I see “owner-leaders”.

They are the ones whose production accounts for less than 20% of the total, who take real holidays and sabbaticals, who have well-balanced lives with low stress levels, who don’t need to sell to a corporate because they are enjoying True Success.

I also meet “owner-managers”.

They produce 40% or more of total sales, constantly complain that they never have the time to get things done, don’t trust their managers (or don’t hire them), always feel that the bigger future is beyond their reach, are exhausted and asking me to help them choose whether they should sell to BUPA, Portman or Dentex.

Just this week, I was reminded that a part of what I do is to mentor owner-managers who aspire to become owner-leaders.

Step 1 – recognise that you are an owner-manager.

Step 2 – decide to become an owner-leader.

Step 3 – email me and request a complimentary call.

Steps 4 to 12 will be how we get you there.


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.

3 thoughts on “The first 3 steps to becoming an owner-leader (and falling back in love with your work)”

  1. Hi Chris ,i would love to be Owner -Leader ,kindly guide what is the process towards it.

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