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Conversations with Chris
Stories from people who fascinate me.
Feb 25, 2020
#5 From the tuck shop to Business Angel (wearing four hats all the time) - an interview with Tim Thackrah
It’s an absolute pleasure to engage in conversation with a best friend about his life. Most people in the profession would recognise Tim as the owner of Elmsleigh House Dental Clinic (EHDC) - a specialist referral practice in Farnham, Surrey - one of a decreasing number that are still owner-managed and not gobbled up by a dental corporate. Tim has built from next to nothing one of the best in it’s breed - but there is more to him than that. I haven’t met many people who I could confidently describe as a serial entrepreneur but Tim fits the title well. Tim’s business life begins at age 12, when he runs the school tuck shop and takes the product line somewhat beyond the approved list - early signs of a budding speculator. We follow him into dentistry and his early career as a dental associate who was sacked from an NHS practice for being too good at his job. Borrowing every penny he muster, he bought the original practice in it's current location and literally had to sleep on the floor in the practice to make ends meet whilst he grew the business. Later, he borrowed again to gut and refurbish the property, surviving 18% interest rates and recessions along the way, as well as a moment when 70% of his team had to be replaced in one hit. A journey of 30 years through thick and thin to become a jewel in the crown of specialist practices. Along the way, many diversions into other non-dental businesses, resulting in successes, failures and a deep understanding of what works. There are, however, two key messages that the listener will recall long after the fun we have during our chat: * The Four Hats principle of business ownership - and how most dentists fail to pay themselves adequately for the work they do - ending up with lifestyle, rather than proper, businesses; * How Tim has reduced from 200 to 60 clinical days a year and less than 12 days working ON the business - by creating a self-managing dental business and a superb senior management team. Tim now invests the majority of his time as a Business Angel and helps young tech businesses to get off the runway - he has experienced some spectacular success in this area and shares with me his tips for investors in other people’s start ups. For all of that - he’s a best mate and one of the most generous men I know with his time and his money.
Jan 21, 2020
#4 - Living The E-Myth for real and putting wells on wheels - an interview with Shaz Memon
This month’s fascinating conversation began at a 2019 dental trade show, when I made the time to sit down with Shaz and find out more about his company. I quickly discovered that Shaz isn’t a showman or a salesman, in fact 7/8ths of the person I met spends most of the time below the surface. The more I listened to Shaz’s story, the more I liked him. Here we join him on his journey from 17-year old graphic designer in the bedroom of his parent’s home to an “office” in the garage where he spent the first years of his post-graduate life. A classic “E-Myth” solopreneur, Shaz transitioned from graphic to web design in the early 2000’s and we learn how his first job for a dentist ended in a potential disaster that he was able to turn into opportunity. After 3 years in the garage, working late nights and barely seeing the outside world, Shaz was burned out and demoralised but he did something about it and took the first brave step of hiring a part-time employee and pitching for bigger clients. That grew to offices in Marylebone and a team of 23 - a real business! In 2017 Shaz as a new father, Shaz realised that his balance could only be maintained by focus - hence the decision to concentrate on the dental market exclusively. His team now limit themselves to no more than 5 new web sites per month and have a waiting list, born out of word of mouth recommendations. The Digimax Dental mission is simply put - “to build the best web sites in the world for dentists” and during our conversation we explore what that means in real terms and Shaz’s predictions for how web sites will have to evolve in the next 3 years. There’s more. In the latter part of our conversation we take a look at the story of “Wells on Wheels” a charity formed by Shaz following a visit to India during which he witnessed young children and mothers walking for miles each day to carry water in harsh conditions. Having resourced the manufacturer of a barrel that can easily be rolled, Shaz now finances the purchase and distribution of his “Wells on Wheels” and, since May 2019, has been able to help over 5,000 families. He intends to help many more. The charity has just been granted registered status and there are plans to grow. Join me in the company of a quiet leader and hero. Find out more about Wells on Wheels here - https://wellsonwheels.co.uk/ Find out more about Digimax Dental here - https://digimax.dental/
Dec 10, 2019
#3 - Back from the brink - how a young introverted dental entrepreneur turned his business and his life around - an interview with Dr Chris Burton
Chris Burton is, by his own admission, a good dentist but reluctant businessman. We travel with Chris from school in Bolton to university in Newcastle (an experience he did not enjoy) and on to the practice he owns now as a newly qualified Vocational Trainee. The journey from VT to associate to owner should have been an upward climb but events conspired to reverse the direction. Yet at age 37 he is the owner of a beautiful private practice in rural North East England, with an enviable post-graduate education record, the latest in digital workflow and very profitable accounts. Little did he think he would be in that situation when, just 5 years ago, he bought the controlling share in the practice. Soon after he came close to throwing the towel in following the end of a personal relationship, the acquisition of a struggling business and a real sense of failure and isolation. What fascinates me about the turnaround that has taken place is not just HOW Chris did it but WHO were the guiding influencers as he began the long and difficult climb out of the darkness. This he shares with us very openly and honestly. Chris, by his own admission, is an introvert and finds other people an effort to deal with - but in spite of this and the dire straits he found himself in - he has triumphed. His story can inspire any listener and is deeply moving (with a happy ending).
Nov 3, 2019
#2 Sunbathe by the pool or attend another course? The decisions that can change your life - with Ashley Latter
There are some people in the dental landscape who really need no introduction. Even more reason, in my opinion, to get behind the scenes with Ash and find out where he comes from and how his extraordinary career developed as THE go to guy for communication skills training in dentistry. I’m going to let you into a secret - back in the summer, Ash cycled the 26 miles each way from his house to mine, so that we could record the first version of this interview. Can you imagine my horror when I realised that the technology had let me down and our conversation was lost? I offered to travel over to Ash’s training centre in North Manchester to start again - he graciously combined a personal trip to South Manchester to arrive back in The Barrow Bunker for take-two and here we have it. Ash shares with us his career pathway from humble beginnings selling on a market stall in Liverpool to taking a leap of faith by enrolling on a sales training programme, after he had walked into the trainer's office to complain that delegates were parking outside his house. From there, the pupil became a teacher and achieved #1 ranking in his organisation for UK sales and top 5 globally. Along the way, Ash developed a lifelong appetite for learning and shares with us how and why that happened by a swimming pool in the USA. A defining moment. Eventually, the call of independence enticed him into setting up his own business, then a series of equally chance encounters produced just 2 dentists who attended one of his courses in 1998. The rest is history and (as we say) after 20+ years of hard work, he has become an overnight and international success. This isn’t just the story of one lad from Manchester who did well for himself, it’s also how Ash has literally changed the lives of thousands of people along the way - a story that will inspire every business owner. Enjoy listening to me chatting with one of my best mates in business.
Sep 30, 2019
#1 The Design Student who became an Owner/Practice Manager (and the lessons learned along the way) - with Louise Spry
Louise Spry is one half of the man and wife team who opened a private squat in Maidstone back in 2008 (exactly one month after the global banking collapse). Louise as Practice Manager and Marcus as Principal Dentist have built Fresh Implant + Dental Care to over £1m per annum of sales in a beautifully branded and presented location that occupies a secluded (but very pretty) office complex on the outskirts of the town. There is little or no drive by or walk by - only neighbouring small business offices - but they have succeeded in creating a thriving practice offering high end treatment in a business class environment. As well as sharing a detailed explanation of “how we did it”, Louise begins her story as a London student studying 3-dimensional design and explains how her early graduate education has formed the bedrock of everything that has been invested into the business. As you might expect, the journey hasn’t been an easy one. Marcus & Louise found themselves owners of a predominantly NHS practice in the Medway towns and, realising that their business wasn’t making them happy, they sold it to their associates. They took some time (and a few false starts) to identify a new location and style for their business - far enough away from their first location that the term “squat” was very relevant. Louise shares a detailed account of how much money it took to get started, what their projected J-curve on funding looked like - and how the reality compared with the projections. This is a classic tale of a married couple making a success of the business of dentistry - and of one strong woman’s determination to bring her vision to reality.