Are Dental Consulting Services and Dental Practice Management Software Worth the Money?
Dentists face tremendous pressure when starting, buying, or growing a dental practice. Unfortunately, too many dentists try to do it all themselves. They make decisions that are outside their areas of expertise. They spend all day handling patient care and stay up late to deal with business or operations issues. They carry on their shoulders all the pressures and responsibilities of running a business and caring for patients.
Many dentists invest in dental consulting, dental coaching, and dental software to make their lives easier. But is it worth the investment? Can those things really make practices more profitable? Can they make it less stressful? Can they make dentists’ lives more enjoyable?
3 Times Dentists Invest in Consultants, Coaches, and Practice Management Software
Here are three common situations where dentists can get help. If you find yourself in one of these situations, a consultant, coach, or software might help.
Starting a Dental Practice from Scratch
Starting a practice takes a lot of time and money. You need to pick a city, town, or neighborhood to open your office. You need to find property to buy or rent. You need to design your office. You need to find furniture, equipment, and team members. You need to market your new practice. You need to lead and manage people and projects along the way. You need to build an entire business from scratch. We don’t learn how to do that in dental school.
Think of all the questions that may arise when starting a practice from scratch. How do we design our office? Who can we hire to help? What equipment and supplies do we need to start? What furniture should we get? How do we pick a good neighborhood? What should we look for in an office location?
Who should we hire to build out the office? How much should we budget for the buildout? How do we generate buzz so we already have patients scheduled when we open? How many team members should we start with? What positions do we need filled? How much money should we budget for operating expenses? How can we finance the project? The list goes on.
All these issues (and more) need to get resolved before you even open the doors. In other words, you need to build an entire business before using anything you learned in school. That’s a lot of pressure.
Buying an Existing Dental Practice
When buying an existing practice, you need to understand dental office finances. You need to know how to read financial statements. You need to know what questions to ask about finances. You need to understand fair prices for practices. You need to identify opportunities for growth. You need to understand what parts of the practice are vulnerable. You need to know what parts of the practice might stop or slow down when the selling dentist leaves. You need to understand the existing practice culture. You need to know what specific challenges you face when you take over. You need to know what equipment will need to be replaced soon. You need to know what current inventory is worth. You need to understand financing options, such as owner financing or bank financing. You need to understand business-buying due diligence. You need to understand insurance relationships. Again, the list goes on.
Buying a dental practice is no different than buying any other business. You're buying a real business with teams, patients, assets, and liabilities. Buying a practice is much different than joining a practice as an associate. If you pay too much for the reality of the practice you’re buying, you could struggle for years. It could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars. You could lose key team members. You could lose a bulk of revenue if a large-enough practice area won’t be continued.
Growing or Changing the Direction of an Existing Practice
Growing or changing the direction of a practice you already run can be even more challenging. You face many of the same change-management issues as someone buying a practice. Those issues come with added complications with practices you’ve been running. Both situations involve teams used to working with an existing set of rules. But staff members generally expect change to occur when a new doctor takes over. Changing or growing a practice you’ve been running for years doesn’t come with that same expectation. This makes changes even more difficult to implement.
Deciding Whether to Hire Dental Consultants or Coaches
With so many decisions to make and so much at stake, dentists are wise to consider whether they want to go at it alone or get help. All these situations are challenging for even the most experienced business owners. They can be even more challenging for dentists because we don’t learn how to do these things in dental school.
We’re not trained in construction management. We’re not trained in change management for dental practices. We’re not trained to conduct legal or financial due diligence for dental practices. We’re dentists. We’re trained in dentistry. We learn how to care for patients.
We play many different roles in our practices. We’re owners, operators, and service providers. We need to build our businesses, run our businesses, and care for patients. We need to lead teams, direct marketing activities, and handle finances. Those responsibilities are stressful enough. And those responsibilities are only the ones we handle on a day-to-day basis. Buying, growing, or changing your practice add a whole additional layer of responsibilities on top of those.
Dentists can get help if they don’t want to shoulder all these responsibilities alone. They can get help starting, buying, growing, or changing a practice. They can even get help making sure their current operations are running smoothly and efficiently.
How Dental Consulting and Dental Coaching Can Help
You can find many different types of dental consultants or coaches available to help. No matter what you need, dental consulting or dental coaching can be highly valuable. Some of the advantages of working with a good coach or consultant include:
- Training you to improve a skill
- Introducing dental software to help your practice
- Having an outside pair of eyes that can see your practice objectively
- Bringing subject-matter expertise to evaluate a problem and suggest a solution
- Holding you accountable to improve your practice
- Learning from a coach’s or consultant’s other clients’ experiences
- Getting help making difficult decisions
- Identifying places to improve that you haven’t noticed
Many consultants and coaches offer slightly different services. That said, terms are often confused in the market and used interchangeably. I’ll briefly explain each type of dental consultant or coach but be sure to discuss your needs before hiring anyone. Make sure your expectations match theirs.
Dental consulting is one of the broadest terms used. Clarify specific areas of expertise from anyone saying they offer dental consulting services. The same will be true for companies who call themselves dental consulting companies. Some may work exclusively with startups. Others might help doctors buy practices. Others will help existing practices transition or grow.
Some dental consulting companies might differentiate themselves based on subject-matter expertise. These companies might work with all three types of practice situations but consult only on one area. They could offer dental office financial consulting services. They could offer dental practice management software consulting services. They could offer dental practice operations consulting services. The list goes on. With these types of consulting services, the type of practice doesn’t matter as much as the subject you need help with.
Dental consulting differentiates from dental coaching in two key areas. First, they tend to be hired on a project basis. For example, if you hire them to help you start a practice, your relationship generally ends shortly after your practice opens. If you hire them to help you improve your supply-management processes, your relationship will end after your process is improved.
Second, dental consultants tend to be subject-matter experts. They generally evaluate your current circumstances and goals and suggest solutions to help you. They give specific advice, such as recommending a process or software to help you.
Dental coaching operates slightly differently, which I’ll discuss below. Again, these terms are often used interchangeably in the market. Thus, be sure to discuss what you can expect with any dental consultant or coach you’re considering hiring.
Dental coaching is another broad term. Like the term dental consulting, dental coaching crosses practice situations and subject-matter areas.
As mentioned above, dental coaching differs from dental consulting in two key areas.
First, dental coaches generally don’t operate on a project basis. Dental coaches generally meet regularly with you to help you achieve your goals. They walk alongside you as you grow your business. Once you’re comfortable moving forward alone, you can end the relationship. That said, the most successful dentists often work with coaches. They might move on from one coach to another as their needs change, but they constantly work with a coach.
Second, dental coaches are not always subject-matter experts. Some are subject-matter experts, but not all of them are. For example, some dentists hire public-speaking coaches. That can help them communicate better in the office, on stage, or even on podcasts. Others might hire a marketing coach to help them make better marketing decisions. But well-trained or experienced coaches don’t need to be experienced dental office operators. That’s because the nature of a dental coaching relationship isn’t to give advice. It’s to help the dentist make better decisions. Thus, a coach can be effective by being talented in helping clients make good decisions.
In practice, many coaches cross back and forth between consulting and coaching. That’s why many dentists prefer to hire a dentist as their coach. A good dental coach can jump between giving advice and helping clients make their own decisions. This helps the client make sure they’re making informed decisions. It also makes sure the client doesn’t become reliant upon the coach. They may want to keep working with the coach, but a good coach makes sure their clients don’t need them to survive.
Other Terms to be Aware of:
- Dental Practice Consultants
- Dental Practice Management Consultants
- Dental Management Consultants
- Dental Management Coaches
Terms like these that are more specific suggest a subject-matter focus. For example, these subtle variations of each other suggest a focus on operations. Again, that’s not always the case. A dental practice consultant could focus on starting dental practices. Be sure to confirm a consultant or coach’s past experience to make sure they’re a good fit for what you need.
One Note About Dental Practice Management Companies
You may have heard these referred to by other terms, too. Common ones include dental service organizations, dental management service organizations, group dental organizations, and group practice organizations. Whatever they’re called, they usually indicate something other than consulting or coaching companies. They usually refer to companies that take over the branding and operations of your practice entirely.
Thus, these types of companies won’t typically be a fit for a dentist looking to grow an independent dental practice.
Getting Help From Dental Management Software
Some consultants come in on a project basis and leave when the project is complete. Others come on an as-needed basis or on a regular schedule, such as weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. Coaches usually operate on a regular schedule. None of them are with you all day every day.
That’s where different types of dental practice management software can help. Coaches and consultants don’t just guide you with their words. They can also share tools with you that can make your life easier on a daily basis. Dental consultants can help you identify and put in place software to make your life easier.
Be careful when selecting dental management software, though. Like the terms consultants and coaches, the term dental software means different things to different people. There are also several variations of the term that reference the same thing. Some people call it dental practice management software or dental management software. Other people just use dental software, dental office software, or dental clinic software. Any of these terms refer to dental software programs you can use to make your life easier.
When researching dental software options, don’t be too concerned with the term used to describe it. Pay more attention to the features each software program has and whether it will work on your system. Each will have different features. Some will work in the cloud. Some will need to be installed on your computers. Some will only work on PCs. Others work only on Macs. Some will work on both. Thus, be sure to know what’s needed to run software to confirm it can run on your computers.
A good dental consultant or coach can help you choose the right software for your needs. Some consultants could even help you implement the system into your practice. The right software can make your life easier when your consultant leaves or when you are between coaching calls. It can even help you deliver reports and information to your coach or consultant for further help. It can make your team more effective. It can help you grow. It can do many things for you. Here are many common features good dental software programs offer.
- Staff scheduling and time-clock management
- Managing calendars
- Financial reporting
- Dental billing
- Processing credit cards
- Collections help
- Managing claims and other insurance issues
- Treatment planning
- Clinical notes
- Patient health record management
- Electronic prescriptions
- Patient communications
- Backup data
- Multi-location coordination
No dental office software or dental clinic software will include every feature. Many include features not listed here. A good coach or consultant can help you find software with the most important features for you.
Do you need dental coaching, dental consulting, or dental management software help?
Between patient care and managing business and operations, dentists have a lot on their plates. That can cause even the most business-savvy dentists to make rushed decisions. There’s no reason to try to do everything yourself.
The good news is you have many options for help. You can bring in a dental consultant to guide and advise you. You can work with a dental coach to walk alongside you and help you make wise choices. And you can use dental software to make your daily life simpler and easier.
The most successful dentists use a combination of the three. For example, they might use a dental consultant to help them buy a practice, a coach to help them grow the practice, and software to make their life easier.
No matter what you’re looking to do, having a consultant, coach, and software can make your practice easier. And that can make your life easier.
If you want even more help growing, running, and marketing your practice, sign up for your 14-day trial to Delivering WOW U. In there, you’ll find my best training, systems, and strategies for building, growing, and marketing a dental practice.
You can also join my free Dental Marketing and Profits Facebook group, where thousands of dentists and I help each other build better practices. Finally, if you want even more personalized help, sign up for the next business bootcamp session, where I work with you and a small group of other dentists to implement these and more strategies into your practice.