Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2016 03 Consultant 1

Some dental consultants don’t have a clue: Are you one of them?

March 23, 2016
Being a dental consultant means tuning into the neds of the practice you're assisting. The dental team needs to be open to new ideas. But sometimes things don't go so smoothly. Lisa Newburger explains.

Consultants. The word strikes dread in the hearts of many dental team members. Why does this happen, when consultants often do so much good for dental practices? It’s give and take on the part of both the team members and consultant. Read on to see how Lisa Newburger tackles this tough topic.

In dentistry, just like in the rest of the world, people have the opportunity to work with “the consultant.” Unfortunately, some people dread this opportunity. Why? Because some consultants don’thave a clue about how things are run in some practices. I see heads nodding in agreement. (Or maybe this is the calm before the storm and I will hear all about it in my emails.) But I have the guts to say it like it is. So why am I writing about this? Because I’ve been on the consulting side of the chair. I’ve been the consultant going in to tackle practice problems and fix what might be broken. And I think we need them. So let’s look at this first from their perspective.

As a consultant, I’ve seen it all. (Yep, all.) There are the glaring mistakes that businesses make, as well as the most outstanding best practices. Yes, I have stolen ideas regarding what works in one business and shared it with the next business. (And no, I don’t claim them as my brilliant ideas. I simply share what I’ve seen that works.) So, what do I think stands out in a practice? Two things—teamwork and competence. (Harsh but truthful words.)
  • Teamwork—Isn’t this the ability to work together, the ability to communicate what you need, when you need it, and why it needs to get done? Sometimes managers, consultants, and colleagues forget to explain the “why.” If you don’t know why you’re doing something, what usually happens? Sabotage! You unconsciously (or consciously) sabotage the work being done. I don’t say this to be difficult or obnoxious. It’s the truth. One practice had a consultant who kept telling me I had a new form to complete. We already had a form similar to it, and it was a waste of time. Instead of the consultant listening to my concerns, I was told, “Just do it.” (It felt like someone saying “Talk to the hand.”) Where is the buy-in with that? I’ll do what I’m told, but seriously, consultants will get better results if they just take the time to explain why something it needs to be done. Instead, they might create a hostile or passive-aggressive “team player” who will resent having one more thing added to their tower of responsibilities.
  • Competence—Are all members of your team strong in their area of expertise? If not, that’s a problem. Sometimes people get hired or promoted into a position they shouldn’t be in. Think about this. How much time is given to onboarding employees? Is there someone teaching them their job? Or do you just hire people and throw them to the wolves?” (I can’t tell you how many jobs I have had where that was the case.) The key is to hire the right people and train them so they’ll be successful. A welltrained and happy employee is a critical part of the team.

Now let’s look at this from your perspective. What do you see when you get a consultant? And don’t get me wrong. Consultants do a lot of good things. They bring in new ideas, new technologies, and new ways to solve problems. But consultants can also confuse the heck out of dental team members. Some contradict the work the last consultant did, so now the team feels that money is being thrown away on another “expert."

The key to a good consultant is to really listen to what the dental staff is saying. I consulted in 40 businesses over nine years, in a different industry, but the results were the same. Many times staff members already know many of the solutions to the problems. But they feel like the consultants didn’t really listen to their ideas and pain points. This causes a real barrier to true consultant/staff teamwork. Does a consultant claim ideas as his or her own when it actually came from the staff? This is one surefire way to turn off the team members. Consultants need to be thought leaders, but also great listeners. They really do have a great bag of tricks they use to identify problems and implement solutions. The secret is using that bag in the right way.

However, if the team members don’t tell the consultant what the issues are and aren’t open to new ideas, the practice will not move forward. There will just be bitter and annoyed feelings that consultants don’t know anything. Most dentists, specialists, and office managers are ready to listen because they’ve decided to pay the big bucks for a consultant. They’re open to change. Consultants need to use this to their advantage.

For the team members to make effective change, they need to listen, be open to change, and let the consultant know what really happens in the dental practice. They consultant is capable of bettering the practice, which is the team’s second home. Yes, it’s true. Sometimes consultants don’t have a clue. But they do have expertise in their specialty. It’s a two-way street. Speak up to let a consultant know when he or she is clueless. (But of course, do it in a tactful manner.)

If you’ve had experiences with consultants, both good and bad, let me know about them. You can reach me at [email protected].

ALSO BY LISA NEWBURGER:How much money do you make in your position in the dental practice?An open letter to Dr. Palmer from a 'patient'A plea to fire that awful dental office employee!
Lisa Newburger, LISW-S, aka Diana Directive, is not afraid to tackle difficult topics for dental professionals with humor and aplomb. Her entertaining workshops are available for conferences and association meetings. Writing for DIQ since 2010, her “in-your-face” style of presentation and writing will make you smile, or perhaps shock you into taking action. Check out her website at

This article first appeared in Dental Assisting & Office Manager Digest. To receive enlightening and helpful articles for assistants and office managers in this monthly e-newsletter, visit