Dental business coach Chris Barrow’s direct manner has earned him comparisons to a certain divisive fermented yeast spread.

In this week’s episode, Chris looks back candidly on a long career as one of dentistry’s proto-coaches and best-recognised speakers, reflecting on the profound personal transformation taking place as he approaches his seventh decade.

Chris also chats about dealing with practice politics and resistance to change and what coaches can learn from the stories of religious prophets. 

Plus, stay tuned to hear Chris give the most concise rapid-fire summary of the current state of play in UK dentistry you’ll ever hear!



In This Episode

02.21 – Marmite

19.25 – Self-actualisation

26.48 – Darkest moments

38.31 – Discovering dentistry

50.24 – Practice politics

01.03.34 – Getting results

01.14.13 – Key skills

01.24.23 – Blackbox thinking

01.28.56 – Coaching and karma

01.33.27 – Two Reds

01.40.15 – Public speaking

01.42.26 – State of the Nation address

01.50.02 – Health, wellness and longevity

01.55.30 – Last days and legacy

01.56.46 – Fantasy dinner party


About Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow is a prolific speaker and the founder and director of the Extreme Business Academy coaching and consultancy programme. 

Over a career spanning almost three decades, he has worked with some of the UK’s leading dental practices and organisations 

Chris is also the host of the dental business development podcast, Two Reds are Better Than One.

Over a 70 year lifespan. There have been innumerable mountain moments where I’ve just been so glad to be me, glad to be alive, glad to be in the world, so grateful. And just like everybody else. You know, a lot of those moments are around family and children and grandchildren and relationships. Some of those moments are about having the opportunity to visit some amazing places in the world. Some of those moments are about meeting some amazing people in the world. And then you look at the valleys and you say, Well, actually it’s the same thing. It’s places that you went to that were shitholes, but it’s places that you’ve been to and it’s people that you’ve met and it’s situations that you’ve found yourself in that have left you feeling very dark or isolated or let down.

This is Dental Leaders, the podcast where you get to go one on one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your hosts, Payman, Langroudi and Prav Solanki.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome Chris Barrow onto the podcast. Chris could be probably the first business coach in dentistry in the UK. Definitely the first one I ever came across. One of the guys who I remember as a young dentist thinking, God, is this. Is this what dentistry is all about? You know, badly run practices that didn’t look great and poor customer service. And I remember the first time I saw Chris lecture, it almost was like a glimmer of hope. There was. There was. There was. There were new words mentioned, words that we now take for granted. Things like patient journey, things like ethical selling, words that loads and loads of people use now without even thinking about them. But Chris was definitely the the first one to bring a lot of those words to the vernacular, the sort of the the day to day of dentistry. And I don’t think enough young, young dentists know that Chris has spent most of his career helping dentists in one shape or another. And we’ll get to all the different things that you’ve done. Chris. Massive pleasure to have you.

Thank you. Thank you for asking me. I really appreciate it.

Chris. Normally we start with where were you born and how did you grow up and all that. But sometimes the question I want to ask actually gets lost before we get to it. And I’ve got this new way of now go straight to the question I want to ask and then and then we’ll get to the rest as well. So you used to call yourself Marmite. I remember. And I remember even at the time thinking, you know, why, why, why, why is why is he describing himself as Marmite? But at the time, marketing was sort of a dirty word in dentistry. So there was a group of people who, you know, as soon as the word marketing or sales or anything like that was mentioned would immediately be turned off. Would you say that’s changed now for you or are you more peanut butter now?

No. Do you know what?

I didn’t start calling myself Mr. Marmite. It was somebody else out there in dentistry that coined that phrase, first of all. And and I don’t know whether my memory is playing tricks with me, but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion it might have been Nigel Jones at practice plan who may have been the first person to actually use that terminology. And we’re going back about 20 years now. And the interesting thing about that was, was that the very, very first time I heard that expression used about me, I actually took it as a form of flattery. And and I adopted it straight away because what I was trying to find out was a way that I could actually make sure that the clients that I was working with were the clients that I would enjoy working with and also the clients that would get the best benefit from the type of work that I do, but also the style with which I do it. And so having this Marmite tag was actually fantastic. It was a great way of triaging people. Um, because this accolade badge, call it what you will, has got everything to do with the fact that I’m a bit like Jim Carrey in the movie Liar, Liar. Which is that I just can’t help myself.

But telling what I perceive to be the truth about a situation that presents itself to me, or for that matter, tell him what I perceive to be the truth about the way that people perform and behave. And I would like to think that that hasn’t changed, that I’m still very, very, you might say, transparent and honest in the feedback that I give. I think that the only thing that has changed is that I look at recordings of myself 20 years ago and cringe with embarrassment because I was an arrogant, egotistical prick. 20 years ago. And nowadays I would like to think that I have mellowed. And I don’t believe that I’m as arrogant as I used to do, although I may have disproved that in the last 60s. Um, I’d like to think that I’m not as arrogant as I used to be. I certainly like to think that I’m not as egotistical as I used to be, and I would hope to say that I’m not as much of a prick as I used to be all those years ago. And I would like to apologise to everybody that knew me 20 years ago and and also say a huge thank you for having tolerated that guy.

Chris, can you just add some colour to that, please? So why do so? It’s very easy to say, well that was a bit of a knob back in the day. I can definitely hold my hands up to that. Um, and I’d be happy to talk about that, but. But what is it? You look back at yourself, you look back at your former self 20 years ago. Maybe there’s videos of you speaking or interactions that you had. What is it? Why do you look back at yourself and say, I was a bit of an arrogant prick back then? How did the ego manifest itself externally that makes you make that statement today?

Well, I suppose that I might be talking here about a journey that many, many human beings go on. And, you know, we go through various stages of life and one of the stages of life that we go through, I think, is that we become very committed to material gain. When you build a young family in a capitalist environment, then there’s a whole thing going on there about keeping up with the Joneses. I’ve always lived or I’ve spent most of my life living in the postcode where they film the real Cheshire housewives. And anybody who knows that part of the world kind of southeast Manchester, Northeast Cheshire will know that it’s a very, very materialistic postcode. And I’m a working class lad who was raised by relatively simple parents in a very simple postcode, and I managed to escape from the council estate that we lived on and managed to carve out a bit of a life for myself. So I suppose I’ve always had a bit of a chip on my shoulder about growing up as a working class Manchester lad, and funny enough, somebody asked me a question the other day. I was down at the Dentistry show the other day and I was having a cup of coffee with somebody who said, What’s the what’s the driver? What is it that has kept you going and keeps you going all of these years? And I told a little bit of a story, which is unfortunately a long time ago now, which is when I took my GCSEs and before that, when I took my what used to be called the 11 plus exam.

Do you remember that from the 1960s? Yeah. And when you took your 11 plus, they decided whether you were going to go into a grammar school stream or whether you were going to go into a secondary school stream that was the one below the grammar school stream. I can’t remember what they used to call it in the 60s. And this is before comprehensive education was launched by the Harold Wilson Labour Government. So as a ten year old, I took my 11 plus exam and what I didn’t know at the time and, and my parents subsequently discovered later was that the grades I got as an 11 plus candidate were high enough for of me to have got a scholarship at Manchester Grammar School. And anybody in the north west of England knows that Manchester Grammar School is the premier grammar school in the north west of England. So I got the grades and my teacher didn’t put me through and my parents found out about this and I’ve got vague memories of being dragged along to a meeting by an irate father who sat down in front of my teacher and said, Why didn’t you put through my son for Manchester Grammar? And the teacher basically saying, I didn’t think that you were the right class of family to be going to Manchester Grammar because of where you lived and where you came from.

Now, probably not in so many words, but that was the message. And my dad was Apapa hectic with rage at the fact that this had happened and gave that teacher, who has long since drifted into the mists of time, a piece of his mind. And I have to say that I was very, very fortunate to be able to get a scholarship to go to Burnage Grammar School. Now, Prav all know that. But nobody else outside of Manchester, well, it doesn’t even exist anymore. But I got I got a scholarship to go to Burnage Grammar School, which was kind of second division grammar in the day. And thankfully I have to say credit where it’s due to those teachers who gave me a bloody good grammar school education, which kind of got me out of the stereotypical postcode that I’d been posted into. And it might well be that the whole of the rest of my life has been driven inadvertently by that teacher who didn’t put me forward to Manchester Grammar. And I’m still trying to. When to get it back. But also and I’m going to go off on a tangent here. I also know that my father spent the whole of his life feeling that he’d never escape from that trap. And I know that my father, who sadly passed away in 1998, but my father lived his life vicariously through my achievements as a teenager. He lived his life vicariously through my exam results as a 20 year old or as somebody in my 20s.

He was living his life vicariously through the fun that I was getting up to. And in my 30s he was living his life vicariously through me, getting married and starting to raise a family. And so a lot of what I was doing was trying to achieve material success. So that could prove to that teacher that I was better than he thought, but also so that I could prove to my dad that his faith in me, bearing in mind I was an only child, that his faith in me was justified and that I could actually achieve the things that he wasn’t able to achieve in his own life. So let’s get back to the arrogant prick. As a child of the 50s a baby boomer, as a teenager of the 60s, as a young man of the of the 70s and as a young family man of the 80s, I was all about the house. I was all about the car. I was all about the suit. I was all about living in Hale. I was all about putting my kids into Hale schools. I was all about having a Cheshire housewife and I was all about doing all the things, all the badges of materialism and capitalism of the 80s and the 90s that were the way of proving yourself to the world that you’ve made it. And that was the arrogant prick.

So, Chris, just really interesting. I’d like to pick up on on what you said about your dad actually buy.

Can I just say very quickly one thing, by the way. Go for it. Had it existed, I probably would have had an amazing Instagram account.

Brilliant. Chris. So you mentioned earlier on sort of your relationship with your father and him sort of living his life through your achievements or at least sort of being, shall we say, proud. And you mentioned that you wanted to prove to him that I guess he was he was right in his, um, you know, in what he was saying. Maybe he was telling his mates or, you know, my son Chris has done this, that and the other and whatnot. Was it to prove to him or was it more of a you wanted to make him proud, You wanted to do dad proud and that was driving you. And just the second part of that question, Chris, was there ever an overarching message from your dad that, look, I want you to do what I couldn’t do. I want you to whether it’s educated or anything, nothing like that.

There No.

My father never said anything.

Remotely like that to me, ever. And I think it’s important, perhaps, to make the point that there was never a moment where I ever felt that my father was putting any demands or pressure on me to achieve vicariously for him. That wasn’t the conversation. I was doing this all off my absolute own back. And you know what? It’s not as if I woke up every morning thinking, Oh my God, what can I do today to make my dad, you know, these these were thoughts that occasionally popped into your mind when you suddenly thought, Why am I doing this? You know? But there weren’t thoughts that were there all day, every day, all day, every day. You were just getting on. And, you know, as a child of those decades, you’ve got to put this in context. You know, I’m a baby boomer, but born between 1947 and 1957, and that’s the biggest explosion in the birth rate that’s ever been seen in the modern world. And US baby boomers have had a disproportionate effect on every decade that we’ve lived through. So in the 60s, we created a youth culture movement. We created rock music, we created the Beatles and the Stones, and we created the Beach Boys. We created Flower Power because there were more of us in the 70s. We created house price inflation because we were told that we could go out and buy a house for the first time. You know, as a working class lad, I bought my first house in 1975. It was almost incredible that somebody from my background could do that, but so was everybody else.

In the 80s, Margaret Thatcher told us that we could go out and spend money on credit cards and pay it back later. And so Thatcher was one of the principal driving forces between the rise of consumer, behind the rise of consumerism in the 80s and and behind the rise of consumer debt in the 80s, and then in the 90s realising that the materialism on which we’d built our lives wasn’t actually making us happy. We started looking for alternative ways of becoming happy. And in the 90s, US baby boomers, some of us started dropping materialism and looking for other ways to self-actualize. Abraham Maslow and others of us just decided that because we weren’t happy with our materialism, we were going to become alcoholics or we were going to become sex addicts, or we were going to drive even bigger cars even faster and so on and so forth. And a lot of baby boomers, a lot of people like me, burned ourselves out in the 90s. And when we entered the early 2000, we really realised that actually our lives, our materialistic lives were very, very shallow and that we had to start a search. And, and we, we started searching for the real meaning of life. And when I look back at the first decade of this century, it was a period where I was building my Dental business. It was going from strength to strength, but I was kind of weaning myself off materialism and I was starting to look for different qualities in my life, raising a family, taking on exercise, taking on activities outside of work, and looking for a more holistic existence.

And, you know, I’m looking from the perspective of being 70 years old in a few months time and I’m now looking back over those decades. And and I do look back with a with a cringing embarrassment at the of the versions of Chris Barrow that have turned up in those previous decades. But it’s been a journey and it’s been a journey of understanding where as life has gone on. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my work hugely. And don’t get me wrong, I enjoy making a good living at the work that I do. But what I’m doing now is I’ve found a lot more meaning in the last 10 or 15 years than I ever did before. And I actually, with the benefit of hindsight, I actually grew up when I was about 60. Mm. And it was, and it was Chris Barrow aged 60 onwards. That was there’s a wonderful poem that’s written by a Canadian lady called Ariah Mountain Dreamer, and she’s written a poem in a book called The Invitation, which is one of my favourites. And I’m going to paraphrase Spoiler alert, I’m going to paraphrase a couple of lines right at the very end of the poem and the lines read. Are you happy with the company that you keep when you’re alone? And I had to reach the age of 60 before I was happy with the company that I kept when I was alone. And I’ve really enjoyed that guy’s company for the last ten years. But I wasn’t overly keen on that guy’s company in the first 60.

What does that actually mean? So happy with yourself as a human being and what you achieve or what or when you were sat in silence doing nothing. Chris By himself in isolation. You weren’t content and happy. Your brain was always buzzing away. Whereas now you can go and do a solo retreat or something and be What does that actually mean translating in your world?

Well, I think Prav you sum that up quite well, which is, which is that I look at the guy before age 60 and I think that I was always in some way kind of tormented by the need to achieve and tormented by the need to be a man tormented by the need to be a successful business person, tormented by the need to get the applause of the audience, tormented in the way that clearly some people are now tormented by the need to get likes and followers. And long before social media came along, I was searching for likes and followers, and sometimes it was the applause of an audience or, you know, the the the acknowledgement of an individual client. So I think that was it. Henry Thoreau, who said Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.

And that was me.

I was leading a life of quiet desperation on the outside, super successful businessman on the outside, successful family, five kids doing all the things that you need to do, running marathons, giving great talks at shows, building businesses, doing everything that we’re supposed to do in modern life. But on the inside, living a life of quiet desperation going, Is this it? What am I. Am I some kind of performing horse that’s supposed to get out there and prance around the ring every day for everybody’s benefit so that I can pay the school fees so that I can pay the mortgage so that I can change my car every now and then so that I can get the applause of the audience at the show. And you know what? If if everybody listening to this podcast is thinking what a plonker. Well, good luck to them. If anybody’s listening to this podcast thinking that sounds a bit like me and then I want you to know that you’re not alone. And I also want you to know that there comes a point in your life where you realise all this. You do realise that you’ve been tormented by this need to be the artist formerly known as Chris Barrow or whatever, and there comes a point in time where you can actually get to a stage where you say, Okay, I’ve got nothing to prove anymore. And a bit like that’s a bit like where the Marmite comes from, which is that, you know, if you like me and if you like my style and if you like the stuff that I do, I’m hugely, hugely appreciative that I can make a positive difference in your life. But if you don’t like me and if you think that my opinions are shit, and if you think that my ideas are shit and you think the way I communicate is shit, well, that’s fine. There’s plenty of room.

But Chris, I mean, it’s a brilliant story, right? I mean, this this sort of social mobility thing that you went through, which a lot of people didn’t go through. Yeah. I mean, back then there was there was a lot of, you know, do what my dad does kind of stuff going on. And Manchester was a totally different place in the 50s and 60s than it is than it is now. Yeah. But I think it comes down to a lot of times your biggest strength is your biggest weakness, you know, because, you know, you might say, Oh, you were on the stage for the for the adoration of the crowd or whatever, but you’re gifted on the stage. Gifted. Like, you really are very, very good at it. And so when you say I don’t mind when people don’t don’t like me, do you really mean that? Because that doesn’t that doesn’t tally with with what you just said before, that, you know, you were doing it all for the adoration.

What you what you learn is to turn the daggers into icicles and and in early life, when the daggers go in, whether it’s front or back, it hurts and it leaves a scar and it hurts for for ages. And then as you get a little bit older and a little bit wiser, you realise that it’s not a dagger, it’s an icicle and it still hurts like fuck when it goes in. But you go to bed, you have a good night’s sleep, you wake up the next morning and it’s melted and you get on with it and the Native Americans have a wonderful phrase that wisdom enters through the wound. And, you know, there are people I’m going to say like us, because I think I could say this about all three of us on this conversation that have got the scars to show that there have been plenty of daggers and icicles over the years and that that makes us really useful to other people. And I think, you know, that I get some really kind comments that people suggesting that I might be kind of at the top of my game at the moment after all these years. And and the reason for that is because of all of the scars. You know, I’ve had businesses that have gone under.

I’ve been bankrupt. I’ve had to give my house back to the mortgage company. I’ve had to walk around the supermarket with my wife counting backwards on an an old fashioned electronic calculator from the cash that we had in her purse to zero, knowing that when we got to zero, we had to go to the checkout. I’ve seen my car lifted onto the back of a truck and driven away because it’s been repossessed. I’ve been involved in business with villains who have stolen money and have lied and cheated. And I’ve done it all. And I’ve seen it all. And above all, I’ve survived. And you know what? The fact that I’ve lost businesses and lost my shirt and the fact that I’ve ended up in business with villains is probably an indicator of my own naivete that I’ve been taken in by people. I’ve been I’ve been seduced by serpents over the years who have promised me riches that have not materialised. And and I’ve been so desperate to get on and so desperate to win that sometimes I’ve been beguiled by serpents into businesses that have that have just been rubbish. And it’s cost me, you know, a lot of pain and suffering and money to learn from my own mistakes.

Chris During that those years of torment, the, shall we say the first 60 years and, and sounds really crappy.

Doesn’t it?

Um, what were your really, really deepest, darkest, melting down moments, would you say? You’ve just described a whole lot of situations where bankruptcy car being lifted off, walking round, whatever supermarket it was just counting the change down and whatnot. But, but if we were to just take all of those, there’s often one moment that just sort of strikes out as what was Chris’s darkest moment over those years, whether it was business, whether it was life, whether it was. Narration Whatever happened in your life, what would you say was the the darkest moment for Chris?

Gosh, that is such a tough question. Um. And we might have to kind of pause while I kind of think of an answer to that, because there are two things that I want to say. The first reason I’m finding it difficult to answer that question is because of the bewildering choices I’ve got. It’s like, you know, which one of these 101 moments would you would you would you choose? I’ve always had a bit of a catchphrase that I’ve used over the years, which is that life is a series of mountains, valleys and missiles. And the mountains are the moments when you feel on top of the world and the valleys are the moments when you feel that it’s black and it’s never going to get light again. And the missiles are the unexpected things that just when you’re either at the top of a mountain or in the bottom of a valley, another missile comes along that you weren’t expecting and it knocks you right off your feet. Now, over the years I’ve come to realise actually that that is the human condition and that if you’re not experiencing mountains and valleys and missiles, you probably need to ring for an ambulance because there’s something seriously wrong. So the first way that I want to respond to that question is by saying that over a 70 year lifespan, there have been innumerable mountain moments where I’ve just been so glad to be me, glad to be alive, glad to be in the world, so grateful.

And just like everybody else. You know, a lot of those moments are around family and children and grandchildren and relationships. Some of those moments about are about having the opportunity to visit some amazing places in the world. Some of those moments are about meeting some amazing people in the world. And then you look at the valleys and you say, well, actually it’s the same thing. It’s places that you went to that were shitholes, and some of them might have been holiday destinations, you know, but it’s places that you’ve been to and it’s people that you’ve met and it’s situations that you’ve found yourself in that have that have left you feeling very dark or isolated or let down. And there are so many of them I can’t actually pick. But but if I had to, I would go. And it’s very interesting how this is going to Segway. If you really, really forced me on the dark moments, I can tell you what it is. I can tell you, being on holiday in Barcelona with my wife and five children in 1998, having been given clearance by a doctor to say, I know your dad’s in hospital with cancer, but you’re going to take your holiday because you need it.

He’s going to be fine for another six months at least. And then talking to my dad and saying, is it okay if we go and my dad saying yes and then getting a phone call in Barcelona from my mum to say, you need to get home, he’s going. And I remember that getting that phone call at 2:00 in the afternoon and piling pizza into my kids and then piling the five kids and my wife into a car and leaving Barcelona at about 4:00 in the afternoon to drive to Calais in a Warner arriving at Calais at about five in the morning and driving up to a ferry terminal and saying, I don’t have a ticket, but I’ve got to get back to Manchester because my dad’s dying. And the girl on the booth saying, Drive onto the boat and I’ll never forget that. And then parking the car, getting out and walking up on deck. And as we pulled out of Calais, getting a phone call from my mum to say my dad had died. That was the darkest moment. And I will never forget driving the car from Dover to Manchester. I’ll never forget that. And getting back too late. So that will probably do.

Yeah, that works, mate. Yeah. Jeez.

But let me tell you another.

Story about that. Which is that precisely one year before that and before we knew that my dad had cancer, before he was hospitalised, I was working with my then business coach, a lady called Marlene Elliott. And she asked me a question which anybody who’s ever done any personal coaching will know is kind of a it’s out there, which is that if you had 12 months to live, how would you live your life? And if you had one month to live, how would you live that month? But if you had one day to live. Who would you call and what would you say? And I was asked that question in a coaching session in 1997 with Molly and Elliott. And my answer is was.

I would ring my dad and I would tell him that I loved him. And she said, Why did you choose that? And I said, Because I’ve never told him. And she said, make the call. And I said, What? And she said, make the call now. So I picked up the phone and I called home. And as had happened every day for the last 25 years, my mom answered the phone. Because my dad was a man of very few words and my mum said, I love. What you want. And I said, Can I speak to my dad? And she said, Why? What’s wrong? And I said nothing. And I heard her put a hand.

Over the mouthpiece of the phone, but she didn’t quite cover it.

And I heard her saying, It’s our Chris, he wants to talk to you. And I heard my dad’s saying, What about? And my mom saying, I don’t know. And my dad said, You better put him on.

And then I heard this rustling.

And this voice said. Hello. And I said. I need you to know I’m not drunk. And I need you to know. I’m not ill. But I also need you to know that I love you. And I’ve never told you before. And I thought I ought to. And he said. Well, I love you, too. And that’s very nice. And I said. Can you put my mum back on? And he said, okay. And she picked the phone up and went, What’s wrong? What’s wrong? What’s wrong? And I said, There’s nothing wrong.

I’ve just told my dad I loved him.

Why? What’s wrong?

I said, I just wanted to tell him.

And she went, Oh. Now, I wish I could tell you that the next time he came.

Round to our house, we kind of.

Ran in slow.

Motion down the garden towards.

Each other. But we didn’t.

Because when all them blokes.

And so say, all right. I said, Yeah, I’m all right. And not a word was spoken about that conversation. But I made the call. And a year later, he was dead and I missed it. So it leads me to a very important conclusion, and it’s one that I quite often share with people. Which is that if there’s any calls you need to make, get them made. For sure.

Thanks, Chris. Thanks for sharing. Thanks for sharing that one. Chris, do you end up overcompensating with your own kids and telling them you love them every day? And, um.

Quite the opposite.

My my kids.

Would tell you that I don’t see enough.

Of them.

And I’ve now actually.

I’m learning a new job at the moment, which is that I’m replacing guilty parent with guilty grandparent.

And, you know, the reason for.

That is that I am and always have been married to the job. I absolutely love it. I’m not a workaholic. I take 12 weeks vacation every year without fail. I have plenty of time off, but I’m absolutely shit at keeping in touch with my family. And you know, part of the reason for that is that when I when I get to the end of a day looking after my clients, to be honest, I’m usually pretty spent. And you know, the idea of finishing a day sat at my desk at home or the idea of finishing a day of delivering a workshop in a hotel somewhere and then getting back to my hotel room and 7:00 at night, 8:00 at night, jumping on FaceTime and talking about how the day went. I’m really rubbish at that.


Do I feel guilty about it? Yes, I.

Do. Is that the complete.

Contradiction of everything I’ve just told you about me and my dad?

Yes, it is.

Does it mean that I’m a gigantic hypocrite and I don’t take my own advice? Yes, it does.

You know, there’s a great thing about coaches were.

Brilliant at giving everybody else advice and pretty.

Crap at taking it.

And that’s why, you know, I see all these wannabe coaches and consultants who are up there on the Internet telling you that if we could all if you could all just be more like me, the world would be a better place. You know, get up at 4:00 and bake bread for the poor and then run a half marathon before I go to mass. And and I look at that stuff and I think, what a load of bullshit. We’re all in. We’re all dealing with the same challenges. And my particular style of coaching is to be very, very transparent about my.

Own strengths and weaknesses.

And hope that that in some way can help my clients to focus on their strengths and to actually accept and try and eliminate their weaknesses as well.

Wait. It’s amazing. With 39 minutes in and nobody said.

The word.

Dentist. Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

We’re just getting warmed up.

Let’s go there. When was the first time you heard, you know, you thought you’re going to work with dentists? Up to that point, you were in financial services, weren’t you?

Yeah, I a couple of observations, by.

The way, about the introduction credit, where it’s due that I wasn’t the first Dental business coach in the UK. And when I arrived in the marketplace, Kevin Lewis was doing a lot of.

Of coaching.

But it might not have been called that, but it was. And I am also acknowledging or should acknowledge the fact that one of my best friends, Sheila Scott, was already doing plenty of coaching for dentists when I arrived, and Sheila and I have become very, very close, lifelong friends. But back in the day I was the new kid on the block. I was Luke Skywalker, Sheila Scott was Obi-Wan Kenobi and Kevin Lewis was Yoda. And I was definitely the new kid on the block. But to answer your question, as a financial planner, what nowadays would be called an independent financial adviser? And if I had clients in the business sector who were butchers, bakers and candlestick makers and in amongst them, I actually had a few dental laboratories. And because I’ve always grown business through word of mouth, whether it’s been financial services or Dental business coaching, one dental laboratory owner had led to another. And by the end of the 1980s, I had quite a lot of lab owners as clients, but no dentists. And in the early 90s, my very, very, very first dentist and I will not name names for reasons that will quickly become obvious is that I had a lab owner as a client who said, and this conversation is 1993.

And my client, my lab.

Owner said, I’ve got a dentist who owes me £30,000 in unpaid lab bills. 1993. And if he goes down, I go down as well. And I’ve told him that he’s got two choices. I’m either going to put the debt collectors in or he’s got to see you. And want you to go in and reorganise his finances so that I get paid and he survives. So the first time I stood on the doorstep of a dental practice in 1993 was as a pseudo debt collector. And I walked into this guy who was old school, white, middle class professional, and I quickly realised that not only did he owe the lab fees, I owe tax. He hadn’t paid his kids school fees and he owed everybody else in town. And he was one of those stereotypical English middle class professionals that thought that tradespeople should be should speak when they were spoken to and be paid when he thought it was appropriate. Perfect victim for a working class lad with a chip on his shoulder.

Well, as it happened.

I did help him to restructure his finances. I did help him to improve his business and I did help him not only to pay my lab honoree’s fees, but also helped him to pay the revenue and the school and all the other people that he owned. And I well remember getting no thanks for it from him whatsoever, because that was the type of person he was. There we go. But a few more lab owners started asking me to deal with a few more dentists who weren’t in as much trouble. And slowly and surely, between about 1993 and 1996, one became two, became four, became eight. It was it just grew organically. And then there were two turning points, one of them and credit where it’s due in 1996. On a Saturday morning, I got a call at home from a fella who said, You don’t know me, but my name is Paul Tipton and my lab owner has told me that you would be a good guy to meet. And I went over to Paul’s house, who lived literally less than a mile away from me, and we had a bit of a chat. And Paul, God bless him, hired me as a business coach. And I started working with Paul in those days, helping him with the clinic that he used to have in Saint Ann’s Square in Manchester, and also helping him on what was the early prototype version of the Tipton Training Academy, because back in the day he was he was doing his restorative courses and that was the big break.

Because Tipton said to me, Will you come in and do the Friday afternoon session on my restorative course? And I think it might have been so he could piss off home early on a Friday. But nonetheless, it gave me a platform and over a period of about two years I lectured to Paul’s courses and that was a turning turning point number one. Turning point number two. One of the attendees at that course said, We’re running a faculty meeting down in Birmingham. Will you come and do a Friday afternoon session? We’ve got David Cohen on Endo in the morning and Phil Green on Perio. And so we need you to come in in the afternoon and liven it up a bit. And I said, fine. And little did I know I was driving down to the motorcycle museum to walk in a room with 750 people in it because they’d not told me it was a regional faculty meeting for the whole of the Midlands. And so there’s every man, it’s every man’s 15 minutes of fame because I wasn’t fazed by the audience. And so I just walked out and did what I do and that and Typekit was the turning point. That’s what got me started. And the only other one I’ll I’ll make mention to because I wouldn’t want to miss him was the late, great Roy Morris, who used to sorry, Roy Higson, I should say the late great Roy Higson, who used to run talking points in dentistry.

If you remember in the late 90s, early 2000. And I remember Roy coming to a talk of mine and standing at the back of the room and anybody who knows Roy or knew Roy Higson knew that he was a he was a sardonic bugger. And I remember him coming over to me at the end of a talk about 1998, 99, and he said, very good talk that if you still here in four years I’ll have you on talking points. And to his word, he turned up four years later and he said, you’re on talking points now. Of course. Isn’t it sad in a way that talking points in dentistry is now history? Yeah, but those of us that are old enough to remember will remember that it was a huge gig. It was. And I think we had about 11 dates around the country. We had absolutely full houses and I think I did talking points. It was either zero 3 or 4, something like that. And and as if I’d needed another platform and another catapult, that was it. That was it. That really took off in a big way. So there you go.

That’s how tallies that tallies with what I said because I qualified in 95. And I think I must have seen you in 97, around around that time when you used to go into a practice back then, Was it different to now? I mean, I know the basics are the same in in all businesses, in human relations, but my sense of it was totally unprofessional back then. From the business perspective, is it better now or is that not the case?

Obviously, the business of dentistry has become far more complex than it was in the mid 90s. In the mid 90s. You qualified, you did some years as a whatever it was in those days, I can’t remember now. And if you had the entrepreneurial itch, then maybe you went along to the bank. The bank gave you 100% unsecured finance because you were a dentist and you went off and bought a practice and probably from a retiree. And can we just make a point, by the way, that when I arrived in, dentistry practices were changing hands at one times EBITDA? Or to put it another way, because we didn’t even know what EBITDA was in those days, the asking price for a dental practice in 19. 1996, 97 was 35% of turnover. Wow. So so £1 million practice make in 200 grand profit. In those days, you could buy it for £350,000. That same practice now would be valued at 1.6 million. And we haven’t got the time or the inclination to explain why the prices have gone up so much. But it isn’t that an incredible differential. Yeah. So a lot of young dentists could afford to buy £1 million practice for 350 grand and the banks will lend in a 100% unsecured to do it. So there was a lot of ownership, but when you bought it in 96, 97, you put your brass plaque on the wall. You took your box advert in the Yellow Pages. And you printed your trifold information leaflet and that was it. And then what happened.

Is you showed up.

At 9:00 on the first Monday and the and the great unwashed beat a path to your door for the rest of your career.

We didn’t have any websites.

We didn’t have any external marketing other than the Yellow Pages advert. And by the way, the number of procedures that you are delivering in an average day was very, very limited. We didn’t have any clear aligners We didn’t you know, there was only the hoi polloi were doing implants in those days. And of course your average patient was coming in for preventative maintenance and occasional filling. And once in a blue moon, a crown or a bridge.

And that was it.

Now, the interesting thing is.


20% of dental practice owners way back then got it absolutely right and made a bloody good living at it and 80% of them fucked it up.

And that’s what’s not changed. The only thing that has changed.

Is that is that it’s just become ridiculously more complex. But actually the same 80 over 20 rule is still in operation, which is that 20% of Dental practice owners out there would even ever consider using a coach, whether it would be me or Ashley or Laura Horton or any of the other coaches or consultants out there. That and for that matter, you know, Prav only 20% would would consider using the kind of marketing support services that you provide. Payman only 20% would get involved with your businesses because they’re the enlightened ones and 80% of them just want to bitch and moan on GDP UK all day and then go and sit in the shed with a bottle of beer watching YouTube videos of Dental procedures. So nothing’s changed in terms of the 8020 rule. The only thing that’s changed is that is that the business has become more complex, but hasn’t life become more complex than it was in 1997?

Yeah. Yeah, bit a bit. So, so, Chris, look, as a consultant, so I know a lot of management consultants, right? And they have to go into businesses and effect change. And when I speak to them, they say the biggest challenge in that is the personalities and, you know, trying to trying to work out the politics of a of a of a particular business. And, you know, you’ve got the actual, you know, the organisational structure and then they’re trying to find out what’s where’s the actual power in, in the practice. And it resonates with me. When I go into a practice. I’m often thinking that too, you know, And it’s almost like it’s a very simple thing of practice, isn’t it? Your principle, the associates and then those other key people. I’m very focussed on the receptionist myself for, for my purposes. And often, you know, you get, you you can’t within a day, you can’t tell exactly what’s going on. But as a coach who’s having to go in and actually change things, how do you handle the politics of it? I mean, you know, Prav has similar similar, but I should actually ask the same question from both of you because both of you have had these similar issues to get through.

Well, I’m in the very fortunate position of not having to play politics because Mr. Marmite doesn’t have to. And so, you know, quite honestly, please, please understand that it is never my intention to be ignorant or rude or intimidating with people. And and I will, as it were. You know, I’ve got a kind of an accelerator pedal and a brake pedal in life. And what I’m doing is I’m constantly working the pedals in order to make sure that the message and the messenger don’t offend anybody. It is not my intention to get up in the morning and go out and offend people or intimidate people. I really try hard not to do those things, but but it is my intention to get up in the morning and to be a catalyst for change, given that that change is going to be for the benefit of the people that are hiring me. And given that change is also going to be for the benefit of the people that they employ and ultimately, of course, for the benefit of the people they serve as patients. So I’m trying to do no harm in a Hippocratic way, but I’m also trying to be very, very direct in the way that I communicate. So with that in mind, I will drive a coach and horses through the politics that you’ve just described, the power politics that you’ve just described. If I see it within a practice and if I see somebody in a practice who is a terrorist or if I see somebody in a practice who is a saboteur, then I will use every weapon in my armoury in order to deal with the threat that those people represent.

Let’s give some examples. So, Chris. Uh, well, let me give you an example. Young guy. Young guy buys a practice. The team are still from the old guy. And, you know, the young guys are too impatient to get things changed. And, you know, there’s there’s a few people, the manager and the receptionist who not on side yet. What do you do?

What I will do in the first instance is that I will paint a very, very, very clear picture of the benefits to everybody of change. All right. So even if I’ve got somebody who is resistant to change and of course, a lot of human beings.

Have everybody and.

Our default position is resistance to change. We are creatures of habit. We’re hunter gatherers. We don’t like innovation. We like to know that we can go out, kill the bear, drag the bear back to the cave, skin it, cook it, eat it, and wrap it around us. We like that certainty. So any, any agent for change is is pushing against evolution in many ways. But nonetheless, when I’m presented with that situation, I’m going into a team. Their practice has decided they’re going to convert from NHS to private practice, has decided they’re going to implement a plan. Practice has decided that they’re going to change from an associate led maintenance model to a therapy led maintenance model. Practice decides that they’re going to bring in digital workflow for the first time. Practice decides they’re going to put the prices up 25%, anything like that. I’m going to go in there. And what I want to do, first of all, is to be very, very, very clear that the only.


That is sustainable in business is one which involves the formula win, win, win. Actually, I’m going to say win, win, win, win. So what do I mean by that? Win number one is for the owner. Win number two is for the self-employed. Clinicians win. Number three is for the employees and win number four is for the patients. So when I’m looking at anything, whether it’s a conversion, whether it’s implementation of new workflows, whether it’s embracing digital technology, whatever it is, whether it’s putting the prices up.

I’m asking myself.

The question is, is it a win for ways and putting your prices up by an appropriate amount in order to maintain the solvency and success of the business is still a win for ways because the patients don’t win. If the practice doesn’t put the prices up and goes bust, as some BUPA patients now realise. So provided we’ve got the four wins in place.

I believe that what.

I’m saying is right for everybody. I will explain that in the clearest possible terms. And I will then ask people to get on the bus.

Individually or do you make you do a little performance for the whole team?

It would normally be a performance for the team, and at that stage, people then have a choice to make. The self-employed. First of all, the owners got to make a choice, which is, do I want to follow Chris Barrows advice? Not every owner does.

And, you know, people fire me.

Because they don’t want to take my advice, and that’s okay. The self-employed clinicians have got to be the winners in all of this. They’ve got to have better remuneration and better working conditions. And I have never and will never suggest that a pay cut for self employed clinicians is a good business idea. It’s nonsense. The team have got to be winners because they’ve got to have better remuneration and they’ve got to have a better career pathway and they’ve got to have a better working environment. And ultimately the patients have got to be winners. They’ve got to get the best possible clinical care and the best possible customer service. So we’ve got all those wins in place. And then I’ve got somebody at the back saying, I’m not on this bus, so get off the bus. And I’m not in negotiation mode at that stage. I’m just asking the person politely to leave the bus. Because there is no other answer, is there? And as you know, as my friend Neil Harris famously says, it’s better to have a gap in your team than tolerate the continued performance and behaviour of somebody who is not on the bus. Lucy Simich has got that great pneumonic f i f o which is fit in. Or you can work the rest out for yourself.

But okay. I mean, practically. You say you talk for an hour, let’s say some, some, some. Someone’s just looking down and pissed off. The principal says, I don’t think she’s on the bus. And then you advise advise the principal to lose that person, right? Is that right?

That’s exactly right. And what I would advise that what I advise my client to do is to get the best possible HR advice in order to facilitate a legal, timely exit of that person from the business. Yeah.

Prav You’ve been in this situation.

Plenty of times, mate. Um, and I think would you, would you do.

The same approach?

Similar. So if I go into a practice, the first thing is my priority is the people who’ve hired me, right. And what they want. And if we come to a mutual understanding of, you know, this is the way we all want to grow together, whether it’s a new practice takeover, whether it’s an existing practice, where there’s a bit of cancer in there and whatnot, the first thing that I do is and this you’ve got to bear in mind, this is quite recent and I think I’ll I’ll reflect back on what Chris was saying earlier, which is he’s done a lot of growing up in the last proportion of his life. And for me, I would say the evolution of Prav as a business person has happened like that, which is which is, you know, really steep post COVID. And it’s one we flipped over to Zoom and it was possible for me. Now as I go into a practice to say to the say to the practice owners, right, I’m going to do a 1 to 1 with every team member and I’m going to talk to them about change. I’m going to talk to them about the exciting opportunity that lies ahead. And we’re going to talk to them about what, you know, either the partners or the business owners want to do and ask them how they feel about that. Ask them how they feel about the role now, where they’d like to go in the future, what they love about their boss, what they hate about their boss and their job.

So I get a real understanding of, I think in Chris’s terms, who’s on or off the bus. I get a really clear idea and then I will have a catch up with the practice owners and I will pretty much tell them, in my opinion, this one’s a keeper. These ones are the other ones we need to tell them to F0, so to speak. I will never dish out HR advice though. I will tell them, you know, have a good, you know, most most have some kind of HR company on some kind of retainer, whether it’s your peninsulas or your citations and so on and so forth. And then then we’ll put a plan in place. And the number one goal is whatever that is, the growth objective, whether it’s the patient journey and creating that experience, embracing technology. And, you know, some team members may be resistant to, you know, speaking to patients in a certain way or embracing new treatments or whatever it is, we just push forward in that direction. And so I don’t tend to go in and do the thing that Chris does, which is in front of the whole team and say, you know, this is it. If you’re on, you’re on, if you’re off, you’re off sort of thing, but tend to be more one on one, I will address the team, but then I’ll put a plan in place with the with the principals. But you know, different but similar approach.

Yeah. And I think.

Just to clarify, I’m never going to stand in front of a team and say you’re either on the bus or off the bus. Make your mind up. I’m never going to do that on the team.


You’d love to sometimes, but. But I don’t think the owner would want you to know. But what I will do is that I won’t want to leave until I’ve made it 100% abundantly clear of the benefit of the change that we are proposing so that there’s nobody left in any doubt that it is. As I’ve said, it’s it’s a four times win.

Um, and.

Then leave people remember I’m not press ganging people onto the bus. I’m saying this is where we need to go in order to get the four wins and, and therefore.

I’m then.

Going to leave it hanging out there because it’s blatantly obvious at that stage that this is the way the business is going and we’re looking for I was going to use the word passengers for the bus. Well, of course, the last thing we need is passengers. But we need a crew. We need a crew for the bus because this is where we’re going. Now, of course, people don’t at that point put their hands up and say, I don’t agree with anything you said, because the saboteurs and the terrorists don’t do their work in team meetings. They do their work in the staff room at 5:10 when the owner’s gone home. They do their work on WhatsApp that evening. They do their work in the wine bar after work and so on and so forth. And so that’s when you then need to warn, as it were, the owners and the managers that that saboteur work will take place off the radar and out of office hours and you’ve got to be ready for it the next morning when you come back in.

So Chris, then the follow up process from that. I’ve just hired you. You’ve had a conversation with me, I guess one on one, and then you’ve had the conversation with the team. You’ve now got to follow up on all that to to make sure this change happening. Right.

So, no. Do you know? No, I’m a coach.

It’s not my responsibility to do the homework, you know. I was taught to be a coach by the late, great Thomas Leonard, who is considered by many to be the founder of modern day coaching. And there was one absolute key phrase that Thomas Leonard drilled into us in the early 90s, and that is that the client does the work. The coach doesn’t do the work. And if you as a coach, go home at night with homework, it’s a sure sign of the fact that you’ve got it horribly wrong.


So when I drive away from a client’s premises, I do so with no homework.

Okay, perfect. So then then that leads me nicely to the next question of how much is like how much difference does it make when the client is on message, on on it. You know, you put in processes and systems, right?


It’s more it’s it’s it’s mission critical. It’s not about making a difference. You can’t work. Well, I can’t work with a client who isn’t totally and utterly committed to the change process. Somebody once described the difference between a good client and a bad client being best illustrated by a plate of egg and bacon because the chicken is involved, but the pig is totally committed. And I need to work with the pigs who are totally committed. I don’t need to work with the chickens that are laying eggs.

But you know what I’m what I’m alluding to, Prav, is, you know, in your business, right, you have to bring leads to the practice. Then they have to convert those leads. And it’s a weird sort of tension between, you know, good leads and bad leads. And, you know, someone saying to you, oh, the leads are weak. And, you know, we’ve talked about it a million times on this pod that some practices follow up properly, some practices don’t. You know, all of that. And so in your world, it’s very clear that that you get blamed for the practices problems sometimes.

Sometimes we used to and we still do. And I think the thing is this me and Chris spoke about this at length on a on a trip to on a train journey. Yeah. We were on our way to central London and it was serendipity that brought us together because my seat was opposite Chris’s and I never travelled first class, but I just happened to be that day because apparently, according to my PR it was cheaper, so there’s no way I’d have been sat in the same carriage as Chris. Right. So anyway, anyway, we were sat opposite each other and we both flipped our laptops open and we knew we had a we knew we both had a plan when we got on that train and it wasn’t talking to each other, it was to blast through a shitload of admin before we got to London. And that’s what me and Chris would do when we’re on the train. But it did buddy up and did it because we just gasped all the way. Um, anyway, one one of the, one of the conversations, one of the talking points was about lead generation and sort of blame or shit leads, good leads, whatever. Right? And you know, I mentioned to Chris at that point was that we’ve evolved in that sense that I feel as agencies and look, this doesn’t necessarily have to be the way that every agency runs their business is that we need to take a degree of responsibility. 80 of what happens to that lead. And so I would say our values and our approach changed where we say to the client, if you’re not willing to invest in the follow up and if you’re not willing to invest in that process, then we will not help you.

And the reason for that is that I’m all about building longer term relationships with our marketing clients. Otherwise we become like a lot of agencies that will take a retainer to for 6 to 9 months and they’ll be having the same conversation with the next agency because something didn’t work. And so we like to figure out, you know, what is working, what’s not, who’s having the conversations? Are we recording the calls? Can we tap into 3 or 4 of those calls? Oh, shit. Right. Okay. This is why some somebody offered composite bonding instead of all on four implants. As an alternative, somebody needs some education and so, yes, payment. What used to happen as a marketing agency, we used to say you stuck a grand in the pot. We generated inquiries at £20 a conversion. What’s the conversion? It’s a name, email address, a phone number. And what the hell is wrong with you? Or It’s a phone call that lasted longer than X number of seconds. Right? There’s our stats We generated you. An ROI isn’t really an ROI. It’s just it’s not translated to money into your into your practice. And that changed for us. And it was only because I just wanted to sleep at night and, and, and I wanted to have a measurable impact on, on the clients that we worked with. So we do take responsibility for that now payment and obviously, as you know, we developed a piece of software that drives that whole process and makes that life sort of easier for our clients. But yeah, I think there comes a point where you’ve just got to at whatever point take some kind of responsibility for for what does.

It happen to you? Does it happen to you where you get blamed or I don’t know, you worry about someone says, Oh yeah, I got Chris Barrow in and my practice didn’t do what it was supposed to do. And it was, you know, their fault. They didn’t do the work. Is it? I think it must come up.

It Oh God, it’s going to sound really false when.

I say it doesn’t.

Come up. But now, but but it just doesn’t come up. And and, you.

Know, I think I’m in I’m in a very.

Fortunate position.

That that.

Coaching is about giving.

The clients the tools to get on with the job and then asking the client to get on with the job. It’s not my job to take the client from 3 million to 5 million in sales or from half 1 million to 1 million in profitability. It’s not my job. It’s it’s my job to explain to the client how to do that. And so I’m not delivering a commodity. What I’m doing is I’m delivering a system and it’s up to the client to use the system. So I don’t have that same degree of black and white accountability that Prav is talking about in the work that he’s involved in here, where the client’s turning round and say, I paid you for x Leaders I got X leads, but I haven’t got Y sales. And of course what Prav has done is he said, Well, actually if the client buys X leads and gets zero sales, I’m going to get fired. So I’ve got to give. If the client buys X leads, I’ve got to give them X leads and then miraculously turn into a coach and turn them. How to turn X leads into Y sales.

So do you see what’s happening? Is that at the front end of his business, Prav is being a commodity salesman, but at the back end of his business he’s learned that he needs to become a coach in order to teach the client how to turn the X leads into the Y sales. Now I don’t do the front end. I don’t deliver a commodity. What I do is I say I’m going to turn up and I’m going to work with you and your team to show you the systems and tactics and procedures and habits that you need to have in place in order to get the result. But getting the result, Mr. Client or Mrs. client is your responsibility, not mine. The coach doesn’t do the work. The client does the work. You could say that’s a get out clause. It’s not a get out clause because I’m very transparent about that. At the beginning of the relationship, I will show you what to do and how to do it. Whether or not you do it, I cannot influence or control. Now, getting back to the clients. People tend not to hire.


Unless they are ready to do the work.

But the interesting.

Thing is that sometimes people hire me in the expectation that I’m going to do the work for them and then get a nasty surprise and they leave within three months.

Yeah, Yeah. And I’m really I’m dead happy when that happens.

Because the client thought that Chris Barrow was going to be the next system. The client thought that Chris Barrow was going to be the next lead generation system or the next employee happiness system or the next associate development system. And all that they needed to do was to buy Chris Barrow. Chris Barrow was going to become their bitch. They could go home and watch the telly and Chris Barrow was going to make everything work. And they suddenly.


That that.

Isn’t going to happen. Yeah, and.

They’re the ones that leave and.

They always leave really, really quickly.

If they ever sign up in the first place, because you only have to go and have a look at my website or whatever else to realise that I am. The only thing I’m promising you is is a lot of hard work, but you’ll be doing the right work with me.

So, of course, we’ve had several of our guests mention you and the changes that they made with you helping them recently. James Hamill was one. And for instance, I remember him saying, you know, you used to come and listen to the two of them, husband and wife, fighting about, you know, fighting about their day. There’s a lot of husband and wife teams in in dentistry. And, you know, it’s an interesting question, right, that you’ve you’ve worked with corporates as well. Right. I remember when Boots were setting up, you were you were very involved in that. And you’re very involved in with practice plans. Is that right? Or were you?

I am still.

A practice planner, is still my number one strategic alliance partner. I do lots and lots of lecturing for them. Yeah.

Yeah. So. So the combination of skills that you need to to talk to a husband and wife who are fighting and, and then deal with a, you know, like a behemoth, like boots and, you know, the management structures and how, how slow they are sometimes to move in those big companies. Yeah. If someone wants to get into your area, what would you say is your key skill?

You mean get into my area as a coach?

Yeah. What? What is your key skill as a coach? What is your key skill?

Well, first things first.

Boots is the only significant corporate that I’ve ever worked with. And that was over 20 years ago now.

Have you not.

Worked with any other.

And I don’t I don’t work with corporates anymore, thank God, because even the boots experience, it was it was huge fun and it paid the deposit on a holiday home in Florida. I was at one stage considering having the Boots logo in the bottom of the swimming pool in ceramic tiles, but we never got around to it.

Um, but I.

Also realised that that experience working with Boots Dental Care was, was a great wake up call to the frustration of dealing with corporate clients and the bureaucracy and middle management and job preservation and inability to make decisions and aversion to entrepreneurial entrepreneurial ism that exists within those organisations. I’ve had ditched the corporates there. Um, so let’s move on. So, you know, the, the, all of my clients are owner managed businesses and many of them are family run owner managed businesses. Quite a few of them are man and wife teams as well. And sounding a bit like Bruce Forsyth, when I say that working with the man and wife teams might be my favourites because the the such great fun to work with.

And I have.

To say that James and Sonya Hamel, who I love dearly, are not the only married couple who have sat at either end of the dining table shouting at each other while I’ve been in the middle with my fingers. Um, you know, that’s a fairly common.

Scenario, really. Um, but I love it.

I love it because I’m working with decision makers and because there isn’t the bureaucracy of middle management and chain of command and, and all of that type of thing as well. I forgot what your question was.

You know, the key skills for for a coach.

Oh, thank you. Yes. So, um.

These are skills which I have developed over the years and may not have been apparent at the start of my career. Just want to put that marker in. The coach listens first and I have a golden rule, which is that whenever I’m talking to either a potential new client or an existing client, and whether it’s a Zoom call or a face to face, I always begin the conversation exactly the same way. In fact, I’m famous for it.

I’ve had today.

I’ve spoken to about 3 or 4 clients on Zoom, and every conversation has started exactly the same way. How can I help? And once you’ve once you’ve asked that question, you then need to remember the mnemonic STFU. Shut the fuck up.

And say absolutely.

Nothing about what you do.

How you do it.

Where you.

Do it, when you do it.

How much it’s going to cost, all the technology that you’ve got. Forget it. Ask the question, How can I help you? And then let the client start talking and do not interrupt until the client has stopped talking. And I actually call it the an another thing section of the conversation because the client you say, how can I help? And the client.

Goes blah.

And vomits all over you. And when they.


You then say, Is there anything else? And most people will then.

Back again.

And give you the secondary vomit about an another thing you’ll never guess. And another thing you’ll never guess what happened next. And another thing you’ll never guess what they’ve done to me now. And another thing. You’ll never guess what’s happened and then say, Is there anything else? Is there anything else? Is there anything else? And when the client has finally stopped talking and on average for me, that would be between 20 to 40 minutes into the conversation.

At that point.

Having perhaps made notes of the things that the client have said, you then respond with the following phrase and here’s me giving my trade secrets away. I’ve listened very carefully to what you’ve told me, and I’m very confident that I’m going to be able to help. And then start telling them how you’re going to help them. There you have it.

The key skill is listening.

The key skill is listening.


And by the way, by the way, any.

Rational, intelligent, reasonably well educated, numerate, literate human being with the power of reasoning can be a coach.

I like that. I mean, you know, Chris, you’ve done a few different businesses, right? You did that thing with the practices you were going to do and you did the thing with boots and all that. But I think, you know that your ikigai is it is that turnaround sort of going into a practice listening to people and and putting some common sense and, you know, things that come naturally to you might not come naturally to the next man here. Like when James Hamill said when he was selling the practice, you told him it would be like a triathlon. Yeah. And he was a triathlon runner as well. Yeah. Yeah. So, you know. You know what I mean? That to you, that might seem like like a very obvious thing. Um, but then you’ve been around a long time, and I think you’re sort of to you, you’re not. You don’t realise what you’re actually doing. It’s so natural for you, you know, it’s your ikigai.

One of the things.

That I realised, I think possibly quite early on I realised I’m not a particularly religious person. I do regard myself as a spiritual person. I don’t regard myself as a as a religious person, but I was brought up Church of England and I’ve had the wonderful opportunity I would regard myself if somebody said, What religion are you? I would say stoic, recognising the fact that stoicism is actually a philosophy. But but you know, if any anything to do with stoicism I regard as being a complete description of the person I want to be at this stage in my life. Nonetheless, I have spent hours and hours and hours in conversation with clients and friends over the years about comparative religions because it’s a subject that absolutely fascinates me. And whether it’s Islam or whether it’s Hinduism or Buddhism or anything else. I’ve talked to people in in East Africa about religion. I’ve talked to people all over the world about religion. And what I’ve discovered is that there is there are some common themes in religion. And one of one common theme in religion is that prophets use parables. Simple as.




You know, and.

Moses wasn’t.

Overly popular because he came down with Ten Commandments and it’s like, who.

The fuck are you.

Giving us? Ten commandments. Who do you think you are?

And how many more rules do we need? All right. But actually other.

Prophets and of course, I’m very familiar with Jesus Christ because I grew up in the church that revolves around him or one of the churches, I should say, that revolves around him. And what I realised earlier on was that Jesus Christ didn’t say, Well, here’s commandments 11 through 23 to add to the first ten. What Jesus Christ did was say.

I’m going to tell you a story.

And what I’m going to do is I’m going to use a parable to make a point. And hopefully if you enjoy.

The parable.

You might get the point. So when James Hamill says, I’m going to sell my practice and I’m going to have the money in the bank in three months, I sit down with him and I say, James, you’re a triathlete. You know what goes into training for a triathlete? And even more than that, you know what goes into delivering a triathlon? And what I need you to know is that this experience is going to leave you as tired, exhausted and knackered as a triathlon does. It was just a parable. And then the client goes right, because they get it. So whether it was deliberate or inadvertent, I’m not quite sure. But I’ve always been a storyteller, and that’s something that I’ve been since a relatively young age. And what that means is that I’ve always found it very easy to do public speaking because public speaking for me has just been about telling stories. Yeah. And actually, you.

Know, when.

I get to the bit in the talk where I have to talk about the practice and the system and all the rest of it, I don’t enjoy that as much as saying I work with a client in Glasgow and he was in this situation and this is what we did and this is how we solved it. And you know, it’s joyful to be able to do that. And of course, the great thing about parable tellers is that the older they get, the more useful they become because they’ve got more stories. Yeah.

We talked about some dark days before Croatia, but I’d like to know what you would consider your biggest mistakes because we ask all the all the guests, their biggest clinical errors because, you know, dentists don’t tend to talk about that. What comes to mind when I say that? What were your what were your errors?

My first and.

Biggest mistake was was failing my GCSEs when I was 16 years old because I’d discovered Player’s number six Bulmers Woodpecker, Cider and Girls and I flunked my GCSEs. And what that meant was that I wasn’t able to submit my application form to become a helicopter pilot in the Fleet Air Arm and to follow my dad’s early career in the Royal Navy. That was a massive mistake. But then again, I could have been shot down in the Falklands.

My second.

The second mistake or let me say my second of a million mistakes know if I was going to pick out another major mistake. It’s one that I’ve repeated three times in my career.

Now, many.

People say that making a mistake once is a mistake. Making a mistake twice is an unfortunate series of events. Making the same mistake three times means you’re an idiot.

So I’m clearly an.

Idiot because three times I have gone into business as a robin to somebody else’s Batman. And the reason I’ve done that is because the Batman has been rich and powerful and successful. And I thought that by becoming their Robin, I was going to become a little bit rich and a little bit powerful and a little bit successful. And each time those Batman shat upon me.

And yet.

I didn’t learn the first two times and I went ahead and did it a third time. But fortunately, I’m now cured.

So you wouldn’t. So if if if an opportunity came along now, you and the guy seemed okay and was powerful and rich and had an idea you wouldn’t do it again.

Not a bloody chance.

And when you say Batman and Robin, you literally mean, you know, a senior partner. Basically someone who’s calling the shots. Yeah.

And I thought that that would be my way to riches and power and glory.


And what I’ve discovered about that.


Is that the reason that they get to be Batman is that quite often they just shit on everybody else.

Chris When you went through those, those episodes and I’m pretty sure I know what they were and I don’t know whether you want to talk about them or not. What impact do you think that had on your reputation? And did you was there anything that you had to do after the event or time period to sort of, shall we say, redeem yourself or gain that reputation back?

One of the greatest.

Joys of my life is that even though that’s happened to me three times and it happened once in financial services back in the 80s and it happened twice in dentistry.

Oh, okay.

Even though that’s happened every single time, my reputation has bounced back within a nanosecond. And I’ve got nothing but gratitude for the people that reached out and said, We know you. We know who you are. We know what you are. We know you’ve made a bad choice. But we also know that you’ve got a heart of gold and that you’ll be back. And it’s been one of the most uplifting experiences of my life to have that feedback. Probably. I like to think that in some respects that’s payback for never doing harm. Yeah.

Absolutely right, man. Chris You know, when when you’ve got people who really believe in you and they you affected change in their business and now the business is doing really well. Yeah, there’s there’s one one branch of coaching that kind of is like a funnel that ends up now now trying to get more money out of them. And I’ve noticed you’ve never been that guy. Yeah. Um, look, I don’t. I don’t know. I’m not saying it’s necessarily the wrong way to go because, you know, someone else will sit here and say it’s the wrong way to go in the first place to pay a coach at all. Yeah. So, you know, who am I to judge what’s what? But coaching has that sort of reputation in itself, hasn’t it? You know, so I don’t want to call it like cult. I don’t mean cult. Cult is the wrong word. Yeah, but but that that notion where you’ve got the coach at the top and then the guys below and everyone’s kind of feeding into this, what are your reflections on on, on that? Do you, do you recognise what I’m, what I’m talking about?

I think that there are people in life who game the system and some of those people are dentists. Some of those people are accountants, lawyers. Some of those people are coaches. They’re just gaming the system and the gaming people. And and you know, there are plenty of people on this call that will know how a dentist can game the system and can take advantage either of the government or can take advantage of the patient. And those those people who game the system.

Where it’s a win.

Lose. Yeah, sometimes it’s a win, lose, lose, lose. Um.

That I just.

Believe in karma. I believe that those people end up sat on a pile of gold coins with no friends. Um, and I do genuinely believe in, in the power of karma to, to, to find a way of ensuring that those people meet their just deserts.

In a supernatural way. You believe in karma.

Well, can’t think of any other way.

Well, no, practically.

There’s a version of karma that is supernatural, and that’s the one I believe in. There’s another version of karma which is getting a few blokes from Salford and giving them £250 and saying.

Go and beat his brains out.

That’s not very supernatural.

But look, there’s being a good guy is practical. Sometimes. Yeah. You’re not always. Yeah. You put your trust in this, Batman, and sometimes that can mess it up, right? But being being a good person is a practical thing, right? Me and you’ve known each other 25 years. We’ve. You’ve always been a good guy to me. And, you know, somewhere along the line that might come back to you because you’re a good guy. I might tell someone, Hey, go see Chris. So what I’m saying is that it’s practical, but but the super sort of supernatural idea is like, you know, the world is conspiring to. And I don’t know that that’s real. I don’t know. I don’t know. Do you believe that? Is that the spiritual part of you think that?

Well, no. You know.

I’ve always my top subject at school is mathematics. And and, you know, I did recover from my exam failure in order to achieve some degree of academic success. And and and my core subject was maths. And again, in another life, I might have ended up as an actuary. You never know. But perhaps what I should say to you is that there is a statistical inevitability that somebody who is consistently bad is going to end up experiencing bad themselves. And I also believe that there’s a statistical inevitability that somebody who is consistently good will end up experiencing good themselves.

Now, I said statistical.

Okay, so a good person can get struck by lightning and a bad person can win the lottery. But statistically the balance of probabilities is that the bad people will end up having a bad life. That’s my karma. And it’s nothing other than mathematics.

Yeah, I’ve got two more things I definitely want to discuss. Your podcast. Again, one of the earliest podcasts, a bit of an early adopter. Chris I remember when Facebook first came out, you were definitely the big guy, like you were one of the biggest voices on on social media at the beginning. Yeah, coaching itself, you might say you weren’t the first, but you’re definitely very early on that. A bit of an early adopter. But tell me, number one, I want to talk about the pod and then later on I do want to also talk about the pandemic where I thought you really sort of came into your own at that point with those daily briefings and like something around when the going gets tough, the tough get going kind of feeling about you. Chris Am I getting that right?

Well well.

I am probably one of the most resilient people that I’ve ever met. And, you know, some some people call me Mr. Weeble because I just I don’t fall down. I just keep bouncing back up again. And when the history books are written.


About Chris Barrow, not that I think they will be, but if a history book was ever written about Chris Barrow, I think that that I would certainly be able to claim a title as a bounce back kid and forgive the pun, given we’re going to talk about COVID in a minute. But you understand bounce back in the sense that you can’t knock me down or just bounce back up again. So that that’s certainly true. And this business of being of being an innovator or what we’re going to reference is, is the lockdown lunchtime briefings. I’m going to go back to the question that I ask every human being that I ever meet in a professional context, and that is, how can I help? And the lockdown lunchtime briefings came out of me waking up on the morning of Tuesday after Boris did his stay at home speech. On the Monday night, I came down and I sat exactly where I am now, in the same office, in front of the same computer at the same desk. And let’s bear in mind that that night before my business had driven off a cliff like everybody else’s because I was all over the bloody map. I was doing workshops in the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, India and was starting to get invites to go to all the places in the world as well. I had a global, potentially global coaching business, COVID stay at home, so and my business was predominantly based upon either delivering workshops or in practice physics. So I came down here the Tuesday morning and I sat here with a cup of coffee and asked myself a question How can I help? And that was all there was to it. And people frequently say to me, Oh my God, you were the guy.

You got the Facebook lunchtime.

You got lunchtime. Facebook Live broadcast. You got the business confidence forum going on the Thursday night. You were there. You were all over bloody Zoom. My kids were saying his Uncle Chris coming on the telly tonight, blah.

Blah, blah and and and and I.

Have absolutely no compulsion in saying that that 12 week period catapulted my business. Catapulted my business by an order of about 300% in terms of reach, turnover, profitability, purely that one event. And please God and thank God I haven’t come back down from that level.

But all I did.

Was the same thing that I do every day, which was to ask a question, How can I help? I just asked the question to the mirror in the bathroom.

That’s all there was to it. And it was, to me, total.

Utter, bloody crushing logic that everybody in dentistry was sat at home with fuck all to do. So why wouldn’t you jump onto Facebook, live at lunchtime and reach out to every other key opinion leader in dentistry who was sat at home doing fuck all and say to Jason Smithson or say to Martin Woodrow or say to my clients or say to Laura or Ash or anybody else, Come and join my lunchtime broadcast and let’s talk to people about what the hell’s going on and give them a bit of solace.

Yeah, it was a brilliant execution, though. A brilliant execution, because every day is not a joking matter. And it also at the time made me realise how connected you are to so many different people, you know?

Well, yeah. And that, you.

Know, that’s nothing other than, as I was remarking down in Birmingham over the weekend, you know, my first Dental trade show was.


And I turned up a bit like you turned up at every bloody show. And so you end up and so you end up knowing everybody. Yeah. So it was the easiest thing in the world to reach out to those people and say, Do you fancy coming on the live broadcast? They had nothing else to do. And and I will again, I’ve used go to my grave too many times tonight. I hope this isn’t kind of like, you know, John Lennon’s last interview.

But it was shot by an NHS dentist the day after.

But to my grave, I will. The thing that perplexes me. Why wasn’t every other consultant, why wasn’t every other trainer? Why wasn’t every dental supply company? Why wasn’t the acquisitions manager of every dental corporate? Why weren’t they all doing Facebook Live broadcasts and me having to compete with them? Everybody else sat on their arse and did nothing?

No, there was. There was some stuff, dude. Yeah, but yours was just strong. It was strong, that’s why. Because it’s difficult. But it’s difficult Things you take for granted, man.

So, you know, maybe the moral of the.

Story is, is that what you. What we all need to be doing.

More of.

Is asking ourselves a very simple question, which is, how best can I help?

And that is the secret.

Of the success that I’ve enjoyed.

And every time I talk.


I’ve replaced the question, How can I help.

With the question? How can I make a shitload of money?

And every time I’ve asked.

Myself that.


It’s gone so bloody. Pete Tong. You wouldn’t believe it.

Do you know what it’s. I know the answer to this question, but I want Chris to I want Chris to say it, which is your first gig with Paul Tipton. He asked you to turn up and give a talk and you probably knew very little in comparison to today. What on earth did you talk about? What did you say and what did you deliver on that day?

All right. Well, the.

First answer to the question is a fabulous quotation from Rudyard Kipling, who said that in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king. And in 1996, I was the one eyed man. Perhaps to some extent, still am. But the second part of your question is that with back in those very first talks, I systematically said with the appropriate attribution, this is what Steve Covey says about the seven Habits of Highly Effective people. I wonder how much of that applies in dentistry. This is what Dave Allen said about getting things done. I wonder how much of this applies in dentistry. This is what Robert Kiyosaki said about rich dads.

And poor dads.

I wonder how much of this applies in dentistry. This is what Dan Sullivan at Strategic Coach in Toronto says about the entrepreneurial time system. I wonder how much this. So basically my speaking career in dentistry began by repurposing other you know, the Isaac Newton shoulders of giants comment. I sat on the shoulders of those giants. I repurposed that material into dentistry with the appropriate attribution. I never said this is my idea. I said, This is these ideas from giants that got me through about the first 2 or 3 years. And still until I started picking up some of the rackets that go on in dentistry on a day by day basis. And now what I do is I’m still talking about the Giants, I’m still repurposing that material. But I’m also saying and this is what Chris Barrow has observed over his 26 years.

Chris, what are the trends? What are what are you seeing out there now that’s new and what’s surprising you?

Well, that’s a different question. Let me answer the first question first. What’s trending? What’s trending on the 15th of May 2023 is that the corporates are tanking because the private equity boys are running scared. What’s happening is that the BBC are doing the best marketing job for private dentists. That’s been done in my lifetime by talking about dental deserts. What’s happening is that digital workflow is revolutionising not only the delivery of dentistry, but it’s also revolutionising the financial model for dentistry as well. What’s happening is a is a welcome return of the young dentist who wants to open their own private squat and doesn’t want to buy something off a retiree. And I predict a proliferation of private squats over the over the months and years ahead. What’s happening is that dental therapists have slowly been given access to their full scope of practice as defined by the GDC, and a few dentists are getting out of their own way and realising that BDS doesn’t actually spell God and that if they can train therapists to do the work properly, it’s a fabulous business model for them. I think that’ll do for a few trends. Yeah, that’ll that’ll do for now. What surprises me fuck all, mate.

Seen it all.

There is nothing that could surprise me.

Okay. Because it’s a bit unfair. I’m going to have to reference Stuart Campbell, but I’m going to say it because you were the one who who told him to do his podcast. Yeah. If if his famous Rishi Sunak. If you were Rishi Sunak, do you think what do you think the NHS is fixable? If so, what would you do to fix the NHS?

The the NHS.

Is eminently fixable and it’s about to be fixed and it’s about to be fixed by importing dentists from Kerala in southern India. And it’s about to be fixed by increasing the scope of practice for dental care professionals. And that’s entirely the right way to fix it. So all this dead language is is complete and utter bloody nonsense.

So you would keep it the same, keep the system as it is. As far as payments, for instance, I would means test access to NHS dentistry.

Well, you know, people have been talking.

About means testing access to dentistry as long as they’ve been talking about IR35 investigations of associates. And it’s all bollocks. You know, the revenue are never going to get round to testing associate tax status. There’s not enough revenue in it and there’s not enough people working at HMRC to have the time to do it. And similarly, I have to say that I think that the system needs to be replaced. I think that’s fundamentally broken. We need to run to we need to revert back probably to the system that was in place back in 1996 when I turned up.

But, you know, having.

Said that, there’s no reason why the system shouldn’t carry on in a similar format to that which it does, and means testing. Health care is is a political football that no party is ever going to take on board.

You’re not playing the game. The game is you’re the you’re the emperor of the world. So you can just do whatever you want.

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