Finding the Right Dental Practice Consultant
Dentists are often hesitant when it comes to hiring a dental practice consultant. Perhaps they have done so in the past and weren’t satisfied with the end result. Those that haven’t may feel embarrassed or uncomfortable about the current state of their practice. In any case, it’s important to find the right dental consultant for you and your practice.
One of the problems with dental practice consultant companies is the fact that they only offer a “one-size-fits-all” consulting package. Last time we checked, dental practices are unique, with different challenges and strengths. Using a standard approach is superficial and largely ineffective for long-term success. Finding a dental practice consultant that customizes the information and recommendations based on the unique needs of your dental office can lead to lasting benefits.
This article will help you determine how to find consulting that will work for your dental practice.
When should a dental practice hire a consultant?
How do dentists determine the difference between normal office challenges and harmful behaviors or habits? Now, it’s important to note that every dental practice has challenges. So, you may not need a consultant for every problem that comes your way. However, here is a list of indicators that signal the need for a dental practice consultant.
If you are dealing with drama and find yourself spending more time putting out fires than doing dentistry, a dental consultant knowledgeable in group dynamics and individual psychology would be a tremendous support to you.
With so many personalities, beliefs, backgrounds, and opinions in the world, we’re bound to have conflict. But how we manage this conflict can guide a dental practice toward a healthy and sustainable team.
Lack of New Patients
If new patient flow is lagging, a dental practice consultant can help you find where the kinks are in the patient flow pipeline. Often times, it’s the little things done consistently over time that have the biggest impact on new patient flow. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as an example:
- Is your dental marketing insufficient?
- Does your website deter people from choosing you?
- Are new patients calling but your receptionist isn’t capturing those new patient opportunities?
A good dental consultant will help you pinpoint the problem and get the new patients flowing to you.
Patient Retention Challenges
One thing dentists need to be tracking is patient retention. Many dental practices have what we call “The Revolving Door Syndrome”. They may be bringing in great new patient numbers, but they don’t realize that they are losing just as many or more on the back end. They are not retaining their patients!
One good way to know if you are not retaining patients is if you are consistently adding new patients month after month but your hygiene workload is remaining consistent or declining. The best way to know how your practice is doing with patient retention is to have good reports each month measuring this statistic. A good dental practice consultant can provide you with this and much more important data to help you manage your practice efficiently.
In Dr. Scott Craven’s dissertation research, he found that one of the biggest challenges a dentist struggles with is juggling the role of clinician with that of a manager as well. If you own your own practice, you are what we call a clinician manager.
Well, the research shows that the cards are stacked against you. Why? Because as you focus on one role it only detracts from the other. It’s a balancing act that few are successful at. Dental consultants can help you establish systems and accountabilities in your practice so that you can focus more on what you were trained to do—dentistry.
Lack of Practice Management Structure
As alluded to before, establishing an effective management structure that provides support in business administration, practice growth, and culture development are key to practice success, and quite frankly, your sanity. As a dental consultants, we find that most of your headaches come from faulty systems in one or more of these critical areas.
The Right Consulting for Dental Practices
Now that you know some of the symptoms of a dental practice in need of consulting, let’s discuss how to find the right dental practice consultant for you. Some consultants will have a long list of academic achievements to prove their worth. Others will laud their own success as a dentist and claim to know how to help your practice.
With that said, here are three MUSTS when it comes to finding the right fit for your practice:
Find a dental consultant that has extensive knowledge in dentistry. It’s amazing how many accountants, financial planners, or corporate businessmen are out there who think that because they can provide financial reporting in your practice that they are a dental practice consultant. We know that it is much more than that. Find someone that really knows and has been in the trenches like you are.
In addition, they should have credentials that support the systems and structure for practice success. For instance, Dr. Craven is a DDS with a master’s degree in Psychology and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. This level of knowledge is critical to adapting to the needs and circumstances of each dental practice.
2. Hands-on Experience
Experience comes down to two things: dentistry and business. Has the consultant been a practicing dentist, and do they have experience running a successful practice? It’s easy to tell other people what to do, but until they’ve lived it, they won’t truly understand what it takes to make a dental practice successful. They will only regurgitate a template of information and hope it sticks.
If you can find a dental practice consultant that has hands-on experience in running a dental practice or who has navigated the rigors of being a clinician manager like you are, you will have found someone of great value.
3. Proven Results
At the end of the day words and promises are hollow. What has consulting done for other practices they’ve worked with? Ask your dental consultant to provide information on the results they have achieved. If they have helped others do what you need to do then they will likely be able to do it with you too.
What is your dental practice score?
Practice Vitality Assessment
What is the Cost of a Dental Practice Consultant?
Costs for dental consulting varies widely. This is probably part of the reason dentists become hesitant about hiring consultants in the first place. They don’t know what it will cost and more importantly, they don’t know if the cost will be worth what is received. In our experience, we have seen dental consultants charge upfront fees, monthly fees with 1-5 years engagement contracts, a percentage of income growth of the practice, or a combination of these.
The important thing is that you get very clear on what the fees are and what the dental consultant is promising to do. Are they taking any risk or are you shouldering it all? Ensure there is some accountability for the dental consultant to follow through on those promises.
We have seen some dental consultants make guarantees for their clients to double, triple, even five times the revenues of their practice over a given period of time. It’s possible, but these guarantees usually come with a requirement to relinquish some level of (if not all) management decision-making and implementation. In other words, they need to remove the ever-present variable of whether you or the team will implement their tried and tested systems. This works only if you are certain that you and the dental consultant are on the same page and that you are comfortable with what is to be implemented.
What are the Benefits of Dental Consulting?
This is what it boils down to. How will your practice see positive change and growth as a result of your investment into a consultant? We’ve created a list of potential advantages dental consulting can have for your practice:
1. Outside Perspective to Pinpoint Hidden Challenges
Sometimes it’s difficult to see a problem while in the middle of it. Think of it like being zoomed in on a Google Map. You might be able to see the streets and some signs, but without proper perspective, it’s difficult to determine the right direction you should be going. Dental practice consultants can see things in a “birds-eye” view to help get you where you need to be.
2. Detailed Reporting to Show Revenue Potential
Most dentist are surprised when we provide our “Hidden Potential Report” and show how much potential income they are losing out on, much of which require simple tweaks to recognize significant increases. These data dives into your practice management software with your dental practice consultant provides a treasure trove of information that leads to data driven decisions as opposed to emotionally derived decisions. This data provides the foundation for the strategies you will implement to grow your practice.
3. Friendly and Constructive Feedback
At times we are reluctant to take feedback. You may have had situations where that feedback was hurtful or demeaning. A good dental consultant will direct and sometimes blunt but will always treat you with respect and with the motive of helping you and your team. When you start looking at feedback simply as information and take the emotion out of it, you can then receive vital knowledge that can transform you and your practice for the better.
4. Leadership and Team Development
Your leadership has a significant effect on your practice, your team, and your patients. Your dental consultant can be a great resource in providing both directly observed and assessment driven data regarding your leadership style. Leading a team toward the practice vision can be a challenge. Your dental consultant can help you determine your vision, create goals, and help enroll the team in that vision. A dental consultant that understands team dynamics can help you to develop a more cohesive team that all pull together in the same direction.
5. Reducing Your Stress
Do you ever feel like you are all alone? Does the stress get to you more often than not? It’s a challenging prospect to run and dental business and having the support of a consultant to guide you along will reduce the pressure you feel and give you a mentor to look to when things come up. No amount of money spent on a consultant can compare to having greater peace of mind and less stress.
6. Increasing Your Profitability
We all want to see more profit in our practices. The more successful you are financially the more you can do for yourself, your families, your team, and your patients. It’s hard to be generous with your team when you are barely covering your overhead. Increased profitability opens many doors for you and your dental consultant can help you get there.
7. Creating a Foundation of Success with Processes and Systems
Most dentists did not get much, if any, business management training in dental school. You may have come into an established practice that had some systems in place that have helped you get this far. Do you know if they are the best practices and systems for success? Are there better ways of doing things? Always. Your dental practice consultant can help create that foundation based on tried systems that have shown results.
8. Growing and Improving Yourself, Your Team, and Your Practice
The most important role of a dental consultant, in our minds, is grow you, your team, and your practice. When you invest in yourself your team and patients benefit. When you invest in your team you benefit exponentially and so do your patients. When you invest in your practice it will pay dividends back to you in many ways. A good dental consultant will always have this in the forefront of his or her mind. After all, isn’t that what consulting if for—to help you grow and improve?
About Synergize Dental
At Synergize Dental, we provide tiered levels of engagement with our dental consultants. Depending on your practice’s needs we can customize the services provided. For example, you may opt for any of the following:
- Business Administration support including supply cost reduction, payroll, accounts payable and other accounting support, reports on key metrics, and your own practice success manager to help facilitate your success.
- Customized training in practice systems supporting the key success areas of practice growth systems, leadership, and cultural development. Systems are provided and it’s up to you and your team to implement them.
- Implementation and accountability support. Many of you would prefer to be chairside doing dentistry. In this case, Synergize Dental can take the management burden for a period of time until the agreed upon systems and processes are in place and being followed by all team members.
Dr. Craven, CEO of Synergize Dental, is a practicing dentist for over 26 years, has helped grow solo and group practices, and has built an independent network of dental practices nationwide. In addition to his dental degree, he has a master’s degree in mental health counseling and a PhD in industrial/organizational psychology.
Reach out today to see how Synergize Dental can support your dental practice growth and success.