The misery of money

After 41 years in work this year, 31 years in consultancy and 15 years full-time working with dentists, I can confirm that there is absolutely NOTHING in business that is more miserable and energy draining than “not being able to pay the bills”.
An economic upturn can often act as a cloaking device for financial naivety, mismanagement or irresponsibility – but an economic downturn quickly exposes any weaknesses.
As the year unfolds, I am seeing the re-appearance of calls for help from the dental community.
Principals, often (but not exclusively) single-handed, who ask me to take a look at their finances and offer help, guidance or maybe even a rescue package.
They usually leave it very late before asking for assistance – a combination of pride and shame – rather like a patient with lousy teeth, who doesn’t want to show up because they expect a row and pain.
There are three kinds of people who get into difficulty:
* The Blame Merchants – who roar up to the meetings in their fancy car and tell me that its “everybody else’s” fault – the patients, the team, the associates, the Government, their bank, their other professional advisors, their family, their business partners. They are often quite happy to use their lab (and sometimes staff) as an unsecured source of secondary finance, whilst preparing for a “much needed” family holiday
* The Clueless – who don’t understand accounting, book-keeping, monitoring, spreadsheets – and are running their finances by looking at the internet bank balance on a Friday and spending what’s there
* The Overwhelmed – who know the numbers but are just drowning in “stuff” – business, family, friends, projects, diversifications – often control freaks who are afraid to delegate – burned out and losing steadily more sleep. As Gerber would say – “doing it, doing it, doing it”
I avoid The Blame Merchants like a plague (I’ve been bitten) – whatever you do for them they don’t appreciate it – and eventually I will be the latest addition to their list of incompetents.
For The Clueless – its about creating a small team of advisors who can firstly, educate and then coach them into financial knowledgeability.
For The Overwhelmed – first explain that they are not “failed” and that there is a solution. Second, teaching them to focus, simplify, delegate and create a team and a plan of action that will lead them back into normality.
For me, The Blame Merchants can go bust – the profession is better off without them (of course, they don’t – they just find the next sucker to lend them the time or money for business models that will never work because of their behaviour).
But I do enjoy (if it can be described that way) bringing The Clueless and The Overwhelmed into the light.
Some times I get paid – sometimes I don’t ask – either way – it’s soul food.
Why? Because I’ve been there myself on more then one occasion over 41 years – and I know just how it feels – truth is, when I look back, I’ve been all three of the above at various times and I’m not proud of my years as a Blame Merchant (thankfully a long time ago, in a land far away).
When you’ve been in the crap financially – and survived – it becomes a calling to “pay it forward” to those who ask for help.
My advice – if you are Clueless or Overwhelmed and wondering how the hell you are going to pay your bills?
1. Recognise that you have a problem
2. Decide to change
3. Get help – always from somebody who has been there and survived


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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.