Why Start Ups don’t

In conversation with an associate dentist the other day who is determined that she wants to open her own private squat.

The determination is a good start – I still have associates approaching me at conferences and asking:

“do you think I should open my own practice?”

My answer is always “not if you have to ask the question”.

This lady expressed to me the view that an investment of c.£150,000 would be sufficient to get her ambitions into reality.

I suggested that a figure of £300,000 (excluding any freehold property) over the next three years might be closer to the mark.

I did suggest a reading list that might be of help as she pushes her plans forward – the usual books – The E-Myth Revisited, The E-Myth Dentist and Profitable Dental Practice.

It occurs to me that nobody has written:

“Opening a Private Squat Dental Practice in the UK”

(note to self)

Why the difference between her estimate of cost and mine?

She (and her advisors) are missing £50,000 of marketing investment in each of the first 3 years.

The wannabe owner is usually having fun in a world of chairs, cabinetry, equipment, software, branding, print media, websites, recruitment, and goodness knows what else – and (in my experience) nobody really tackling the subject of getting strangers in through the door.

There is still a belief that the mere opening of the beautiful new facility will generate enquiries sufficient to provide the owner with a living.

That was 1993.

The Start Ups location is critical nowadays – the leafy cul-de-sac in suburbia will no longer prove viable. Nor the first floor “over the shop” on the high street.

You need VISIBILITY, both physically and online and ACCESS, plenty of free parking. You need as much walk-by and drive-by as possible, as well as a massive investment in ATTRACTION (that’s the £50k per annum, correctly deployed).

There is no such thing as a bad post code – I have seen practices succeed and fail in rural, suburban, cosmopolitan and urban locations – people have teeth, gums, wallets and a desire for better lifestyles.

Practices fail because they don’t get their marketing, patient experience and communication skills right – not because their location, equipment or clinical skills are below par.

Open a squat – go ahead, be a hero – but don’t start your journey with too little capital – you will never get off the ground.

The chances are that the associate I spoke with will not hire me as a business coach, preferring to listen to the advice of her friends, family, colleagues, accountant, banker – who say “come on – lets do it with the £150k”.


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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.