Business and management profitability

Aug 07, 2019

The long run

It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Chris Barrow looks at how to grow your profits by 50% in one year by slowing it down

I’ve just finished reading Primal Endurance – a book by Paleo nutrition expert, Mark Sissons, on how endurance athletes can excel in what they do, whilst staying on low-carb intake.

A significant message in the book is that gains are made when athletes are engaged in aerobic training as opposed to anaerobic training.

For the lay person, a simplistic explanation: aerobic is within a comfortable heart rate (180-age) and slowly burns the fat in the body over long time periods.

Anaerobic is over that heart rate, when the body starts to burn glucose – a limited supply.

That’s why, if you head off too fast, you ‘bonk’ when the glucose runs out.

The marathon runner’s mantra is ‘pace not race’ – that’s why I delivered my best 2017 marathon finishing time so far in Florence last November, by slowing down, even though other runners were passing me and the temptation was to ‘go for it’.

My clients are doing the same – they are operating their business at an aerobic rate, pacing themselves, focusing on quality, not quantity, burning slow-release fat reserves and not fast-release sugar.

Time out

After 12 months of coaching an Irish client, we took the time out to review the progress made during our time together.

I have to report my own feelings of exultation when they shared with me the performance results of their last year:

• Increase in sales: 10%

• Increase in net profit before tax: 50%.

This wasn’t a case of starting from an exceptionally poor profitability – the business was already doing well.

After a moment of congratulation, my inquisitive mind immediately wanted to explore why – how had this happened?

What became evident as we ran through their list of achievements in 2017 was that the focus was on qualitative and not quantitative gains.

They are not working harder – I know it’s a cliché – they are working smarter.

Every aspect of their business has been analysed and acted upon – there has been no hiding place as far as systems, protocols, performance and behaviour are concerned.

The finishing line

In terms of clinical care and customer service, they have looked at what exactly has to happen to provide top clinical care and customer service, and have then doggedly pursued the end result.

Business is booming and their new patients are arriving almost exclusively as a result of internal marketing – word-of-mouth and the maintenance of thriving social media channels, an engaging website and a monthly email patient newsletter.

There is very little spend on external marketing – all the investment has been focused on time with the team and patients.

The increase in profitability has been achieved whilst remaining unhurried – nobody is sprinting in this business, everyone is walking purposefully in the right direction.

Taking a breather

There is absolutely no reason why you cannot do the same. Slow down and think about what you are doing.

Your business is a marathon, not a sprint, and if you focus on the quality of everything that you do (and everyone that you hire – big point) then the rewards will flow.


A few things that will help your practice increase its profits:

• Flexible opening times

• Enhancing the patient experience with critical non-essentials, those little ‘extras’ that make a difference

• An in-house treatment coordinator

• Embracing digital dentistry and investing in technology and training

• A daily morning huddle to review the day’s plans

• A detailed end-of-treatment protocol that ensures all patients are enrolled as ambassadors

• Exemplary treatment plan presentation

• Patient communications, both print media and digital, are friendly and easy to follow

• Impression-free dentistry

• Sedation for nervous patients

• Digital smile design software

• Dental health reviews (instead of routine check-ups)

• Therapist-led maintenance programme

• Cloud-based accounting for instant access to financial data

• Measuring everything financial, including the average daily production of all fee-earners and the operating costs of each surgery.



Chris Barrow

Chris has been a business coach specialising in the business of dentistry for more than 20 years. Chris created The Dental Business School in 1997, an innovative (for its time) 12-month programme for dental practice owners and teams, which was delivered to more than 1,000 UK practices in the subsequent 10 years. Chris is a well-known public speaker and has also co-authored two books on the business of dentistry – Profitable Dental Practice and The E-Myth Dentist. In 2014, he appeared as a castaway on Channel 4’s The Island with Bear Grylls.