Director's Message: Are real consultants being sabotaged?

April 28, 2006
Are imitation hygiene consultants sabotaging real hygiene consultants?

By Kristine A. Hodsdon RDH, BS
Director, RDH eVillage

This month, in two separate, non-industry publications, I read articles about consultants. One was geared toward the business industry, and the other was geared toward consultants, encouraging them to develop appropriate skills and knowledge.

The article, "Are you a real or imitation consultant?" by Aldonna Ambler, CMC, CSP, appeared in the April 2006 issue of the Professional Speakers magazine, the official magazine of the National Speaker's Association. I found it particularly thought provoking. Ambler writes that she is shocked by the number of people who refer to themselves as consultants. Yet these people:
• Expect business to be handed to them

• Lack higher education in the topical expertise of their industry

• Think they can learn enough from a few seminars

• Do not walk the talk

• Do not want to read any books, do any research, or attend any major conventions

• Have never learned techniques to objectively analyze a client's situation and needs

• Lack facilitation and project management skills

• Have never learned how to provide advice

• Lack credibility and have not demonstrated success

• Lack depth and breadth of experience

Wow! It seems like the author woke up on the wrong side of the bed in regard to consultants. Yet all this brings me to the question — are imitation hygiene consultants sabotaging real hygiene consultants?

I am very familiar with some of the well-established hygiene consulting companies that require candidates to complete a training program. These organizations have strict eligibility requirements for their curriculum and ensure that before the hygiene consultant is allowed to serve clients, he/she is well versed and skilled in the consulting arena. Bravo to those companies who acknowledge consulting as a separate discipline and require trainee hygiene consultants to pay their dues, so to speak. This skill development can take nearly two years, depending on how aggressive the trainee is and on the company standards.

But what if a hygienist doesn't want to make the time and money commitment often required by these top tier companies? Can he/she wake up one day, print out some business cards and build a Web site? Does this qualify him/her to work with manufacturers and dental offices?

Perhaps yes, perhaps no. I'm not the judge or jury.

Yet, I would like to have each consultant or wannabe turn the proverbial mirror inward to look at his or her current skills. Why? Because if they pitch expertise in a certain area and come up short, the consequences may be felt by their more qualified colleagues. This means that the next time a dental office or company thinks about partnering with a "hygiene consultant," the next unsuspecting consultant may have to work much harder to prove his or her value and credentials. Ambler refers to this as "damage control" caused by imitation consultants.

Clinical practice hygienists adhere to a code of ethics. I believe that in hygiene consulting we should also adhere to a professional code of ethics. Let's not pursue or guarantee what is beyond our abilities.

All Is Not Lost

If you do not choose to align yourself with a well-established company, and you still want to be a consultant, I suggest you begin your training in your own office. Ask yourself some important questions, such as are you tracking your hygiene numbers, do you know the percentages of prophies vs. periodontal therapies, are you practicing all your legal duties within your state, have you developed and are you following a non-surgical protocol, and are you tracking your successes and failures? If you can begin learning in your own backyard, then you can provide yourself with some foundational information and material to expand your consulting. Next, approach another local office and show them your plan, then work with them to achieve success. One step at a time can lead to success.

What about the corporate side of dental hygiene? Begin by developing your area of expertise. Do you have a passion for perio, esthetics, mouth/body connection, aromatherapy, or seniors? Whatever your passion, become the expert of your own mind. Become an endless student.

I suggest branching out by writing articles. Speaking is another opportunity to get your name out in the industry, (but learning how to deliver a good presentation from the podium will be saved for another column). Another way to become a corporate consultant is to have worked for a corporation. By working on the other side of the exhibitor's booth, you will gain a lot of experience and professional business growth. I also suggest finding a mentor, someone who has developed expertise and is willing to share with you the good, the bad and the sometimes ugly side of consulting.

So to all of the real consultants who are doing the exact opposite of Ambler's list, I salute you. You are the ones who:

• Don't expect business to be handed to you, you earn it

• Have an expanded level of expertise and perhaps an advanced degree

• Have been around the industry more than a few years and have built content and advanced skills

• Walk the talk, and if you can't deliver, you partner with someone who can

• Read and attend numerous continuing education programs and major meetings

• Have mastered techniques to analyze their results

• Have credibility, excellent reputations, and the depth and breadth of experience

If you are not there yet, don't despair or settle for being an "imitation." To take a line from an Irish rock band, be "even better than the real thing."

Thank you for reading this issue of RDH eVillage. Look for your next issue on May 26, 2006. If you have a comment you would like to share, please e-mail me at [email protected]. I appreciate hearing how this newsletter is influencing your personal and/or professional lives. Invite a friend or colleague who would enjoy reading the RDH eVillage to subscribe.