As a dentist, you’ve poured thousands of hours into school, honing your skills and keeping up on the latest dental technology, all so you can make a difference in your patients’ lives.
But once you’re running your own practice, you’ll be surprised by how little time you spend treating patients. Suddenly, you need to be a human resources manager, accountant, business strategist, marketer, educator, and even workplace psychologist.
The pressure of running a business on top of providing quality dental care can leave practice owners feeling stressed and burnt out. But you don’t have to struggle if you know when and where to look for help.
A dental practice consultant could be a lifeline for your practice to help you grow your business, improve your culture, and reclaim your life.
What Exactly Does a Dental Practice Consultant Do?
A dental practice consultant provides advice and guidance to dentists to help them improve their practices in various ways.
Dental consultants aren’t doctors; they’re business people. So they look at your practice differently than you do. And because they’ve worked with dozens or hundreds of practices, they can bring expertise in practice management, financial planning, marketing, clinical procedures, and more.
The ultimate benefit a consultant brings to your practice is learning and industry expertise. They will help grow your practice and make it more efficient, allowing you to reduce your stress and find enjoyment in your life.
Should You Hire a Dental Practice Consultant?
If you’re reading this article, you probably have a problem you would like to solve in your practice. If that challenge looks like one of the issues below, a consultant might be able to help you:
Financial struggles: Are you struggling to manage the financial side of your practice, such as budgeting, forecasting, and cost control? Do you need help with billings and collections or purchasing and paying invoices on time? Or are you losing money and can’t figure out why?
Difficulty managing staff: Are your front desk and patient experience poorly organized? Do you spend too much time resolving conflicts or doing other people’s jobs? Is it hard to keep your staff focused, motivated, and on-task? Do you struggle with scheduling, hiring, or too much turnover?
Lack of patients: Do you have a clear marketing strategy to attract and retain new patients? Or do you struggle to keep your schedule full and worry about having enough cash flow to make payroll next month?
Keeping up with changes: Do you need to catch up on advances in dental technology? Or are your patient management systems outdated? What about regulatory changes and workplace compliance?
Professional burnout: Do you sometimes feel exhausted from the long hours, high stress, and endless problems that pop up? Are you tired of dealing with ALL the issues and would like to focus more energy on treating patients? If you answered yes to any of the questions above, chances are you’re already suffering from burnout, or it’s right around the corner.
A dental practice consultant can help you resolve most of these problems by introducing you to best practices, filling holes in your workflow, and helping your team and your office get organized.
How Can a Dental Consultant Help my Practice Be More Successful?
When you work with a dental consultant, they’ll help you address the most pressing issues first. Your consultant can help by listening to you and observing your practice to suggest the best plan of action to impact your lifestyle and bottom line.
Here are a few of the areas where they can help you achieve success:
Optimize Your Front Office
Most dental practices need help with day-to-day operations, such as staffing, scheduling, and billing. Unfortunately, these areas are a principal cause of headaches for dentists like you. But fortunately, most dental consultants are skilled at implementing efficient solutions to help your office functions run smoothly.
An experienced dental practice consultant will have deep knowledge of systems, processes, and technology solutions proven to work for dental practices like yours. They will be able to pinpoint the problems and suggest targeted solutions to accomplish things like:
- Improving the scheduling system
- Level up your patient experience
- Digitizing your record-keeping and patient management systems
- Ensuring compliance with necessary regulations
When your office runs smoothly, everyone benefits. Implementing new systems can be challenging, but fortunately, your consultant can help with that too…
Simplify Staff Management
Any business is only as good as the people that run it. If your team is under-trained or running inadequate systems, they can’t help take your practice to the next level.
A consultant can assess the current staff and address areas of improvement through training and development. Implementing new systems can multiply your efficiency and profits, but you’ll inevitably get resistance from your employees. Some people won’t embrace change.
Your consultant can help smooth the implementation process by working with and training your team on the new procedures, allowing you to focus on working with patients. They’ll work on things like:
- Establishing well-defined employee roles
- Boosting communication between team members
- Implementing repeatable staff management and hiring systems
Strengthen Financial Management
Financial governance is a big blind spot for many dental practices because dentists don’t know much about accounting and can’t invest in high-level financial professionals. But sound financial management is critical to any profitable business.
A dental consultant can help your practice with accurate financial planning, including setting realistic budgets, forecasting growth, and controlling expenses. They also can consult on complex insurance and billing issues and help you strategize ways to boost your revenue.
Grow Your Revenue
If you want to grow your practice, there are only paths to more sales:
- Attract new patients
- Retain existing patients and sell them more services
Dental practice consultants know what’s working to bring patients into dental practices today. They’ll help steer you in the right direction for building a marketing strategy that attracts attention in the local community. They can even help you find a marketing agency to partner with that has a proven track record of results for other dentists.
Beyond attracting new patients, a consultant will ensure you’re doing all you can to stay engaged with your existing patients to keep them returning to your office. Whether it’s simply reaching out from time to time to promote discounts on optional services, it’s easier to get growth from your existing patients than it is to attract new ones!
Keep You on Top of Your Game
You certainly do all you can to keep up with the latest advances in dentistry. But it’s a consultant’s job to be aware of everything that’s happening out there.
Because they see behind the scenes at so many practices, dental consultants have their finger on the pulse of what’s working when it comes to new tech, treatments, or procedures that could save you time, get better results, or bring in more revenue. They can also help you keep track of new federal or local regulations and workplace compliance issues from OSHA.
Overall, a consultant can help dentists succeed by providing expert guidance and assisting practices to overcome problems that hold them back.
How to Find a Dental Consultant for Your Practice
Every dental practice should work with a consultant at some point. They have access to a deep well of information and experience that will be nearly impossible for you to acquire on your own.
So when you’re ready to work with a dental consultant, take these steps to make sure you find the right one:
Ask for Help
First, when looking for a consultant, consider only consultants with a proven track record of growing dental practices. Much of the value of a consultant is specific industry knowledge, so even the best general small business consultant won’t get you the results you need.
If you’re searching for a dental consultant from scratch, start by asking around in your network. Maybe someone you knew from dental school or a colleague in a different city had a good experience with a consultant. There’s no replacement for an old-fashioned personal recommendation.
You can also search for dental consultants using Google or the Academy of Dental Management Consultants (ADMC) website. You can also check out various online rankings.
But before you get too deep into your search, you will want to define exactly what you’re looking for…
Define Your Needs
Many dental practice consultants excel at one or two things above everything else. So before picking a consulting firm, take a hard look at your practice to understand what problems you believe you need to solve.
Do you need better marketing? Better patient management systems? More accurate budgeting and financial planning?
Chances are you’ll need more than one of these things, but aligning your search with your most urgent needs is a great start.
Once you speak to a few consultants, they may see big problems or opportunities that you’ve overlooked. Of course, self-diagnosis isn’t always accurate, so be open to opinions from experienced professionals. But starting with an idea of what you need will help you narrow your search in the early stages.
Do Your Research
Please don’t take a consultant’s word for how great they are. Before you hire any consultant or consulting firm, check their credentials and areas of specific expertise.
Ask for references and call those references to ask probing questions about their experience. And search out any reviews or rankings you can find online to avoid any potential issues. Finally, ask your network if anyone has anything to say about working with them.
Consultants are often great marketers, so do your research to ensure that you’re buying a great consultant and not simply a great marketing campaign!
Explore Your Options
Never hire a dental practice consultant without interviewing at least 3-5 different options.
You want to be sure that you have a good feel for what options are available to you. Each consultant or firm will have their communication style, methodology, and plan of work. Listen to what they say, compare your options, and take your time making the right decision.
Believe in Your Decision
After all the research and comparisons, you must choose someone you’ll be comfortable with. You’re going to have to work with this person on an ongoing basis, so it’s crucial that you trust them and will be able to implement their recommendations.
That doesn’t mean they must be your best friend or won’t challenge you. In fact, if they’re too comfortable, they may not push you to make the hard decisions. But if you don’t believe 100% that they will help, you won’t do the necessary work to take your practice to the next level.
Is it Time to Hire a Consultant for Your Dental Practice?
Congratulations, you now have all the information you need to decide if the time is right to hire a dental consultant or consulting agency.
If you’re struggling with organizing your office, managing your finances, or attracting new patients, a consultant can probably help. And if you are unsure which of those issues you should tackle first, then a consultant can help you set priorities and take immediate action to help get your practice on track.
Growing a dental practice takes an organized effort on many different fronts, and a dental practice consultant can help you turn your practice into an efficient and profitable business.