Consultants…. does that word send shivers down your spine? We have all heard the horror stories about consultants taking over practices, and Teresa gives us some great tips and explains that they aren’t all so bad.
Teresa Duncan, MS is such a wealth of knowledge. Please visit her website and enjoy her awesome resources! For more info from Teresa, see below!
Teresa Duncan: Speaker on insurance and management, Podcaster, Author of a book and contributes to several magazines and the ADA’s publications!
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For your viewing pleasure this TIPisode has been transcribed:
A Tale of Two Hygienists presents this week’s TIPisode: Quick and easy tips to keep you up to date, and presented by the experts in the profession. Now, get ready for your unofficial TIPisode.
Teresa Duncan: Hi. This is Teresa Duncan with Odyssey Management and also the host of the podcast Nobody Told Me That!. I’m here again with another TIPisode for all of you A Tale of Two Hygienists listeners, and I wanted to peel back the curtain a little bit on what happens with consulting. What I mean by that is at some point in your career, you’re going to have a consulting company come into the office either on an emergency basis like something’s gone wrong, or as just an improvement basis, which is actually really good. I think it’s really brave for dentists and owners to want to make sure that the culture is kept very clean and positive. There are so many out there that don’t do that, so if you have somebody who’s very proactive about that, you’re in a company like that, then you’re in a good place. And I hope that that’s something that continues throughout your career.
So I wanted to — what I mean by peel back the curtain — I wanted to give you a heads-up on how to really work best with a consulting company when they come in. Full disclosure, I am not a consultant anymore. I don’t do it anymore. I gave that up because the speaking has picked up so much, and so I have no interest in being hired by your office. This is why I feel very comfortable telling you the best way to work with consulting companies. So here’s my unbiased and based on years and hundreds of clients that I’ve worked with — a lot of them hygienists — here’s my tips for working with them.
First of all, when you hear about a consultant coming in, don’t be upset. Try not to be upset. Try not to think of, “Oh, they’re going to find this. They’re going to want so much change. They’re going to want to do this.” You have different types of consultants coming in. Now, if it’s a full-practice management consultant, then yes, some things are going to have to change because chances are there’s a reason that there can be improvement in your systems. And it’s been very, very rare — I can only think of one time where I was brought into an office and the assistants were actually really, really good and we just had to work on making sure that those management muscles stayed in shape, that we were continuing to do the right things. Most offices there is definitely room for improvement. That doesn’t mean that you’re in a bad office or a badly setup office. It just means there’s room for improvement. And, with technology, new people coming on board, it makes sense to me.
So I want you to introduce yourself. I want you to send an email or ask for the phone number of the consultant that’s coming in and just let them know that you’re available to talk and if they have any questions. You will probably have to fill out some sort of survey or form to get your opinion on the office. Be honest on that. If you sugarcoat that, then you’re not going to get the results. I myself had a survey that we sent out ahead of time, and I could tell the ones who were being very, very careful with their answers. So, if that’s you and you’re not sure if this is going to be read by any of the other staff members, then just simply put on there, “Too much to write out. I would really rather talk to you in person. Could we schedule a 15 minute call or something small like that?”
But just sending an email that says, “Hey, Teresa, I hear you’re coming into our office. I want you to know I’m available to answer any questions. I’m excited to work with you.” Now, you may not be excited to work with me, but pretend a little bit. I just want you to give the benefit of the doubt to the consultant because hopefully they can do a good job and hopefully your boss did a lot of research before bringing this on. So be yourself, introduce yourself, and don’t be afraid.
Let’s move to the second part, which is what are your personal goals? So you may — this consultant’s coming in, and the goal of the office is probably to improve. Maybe the owner has some system in particular they want to focus on, but here is your chance to set a personal goal for yourself, which is, “When this consultant comes in, I would like to see this changed. I would like to see this improved.” And identify one or two of your own — what do you expect? What are your personal goals with this consulting? Convey that to not only the consultant but the manger, the owner, whomever is the point person for working with this consultant.
What that does from my point of view is it tells me that you are open to new things, to improvements, to feedback, and that makes me really happy. The amount of hygienist’s assistants that came to me and said, “Here’s what I would like to see done,” was very, very small, tiny, tiny percentage. What I mostly heard was, “Here’s what’s wrong, and here’s what needs to change, and this is what drives me crazy.” I know all that because I’m going to figure that out on my first couple visits. Believe me. Stuff like that is really, really hard to hide. But what I don’t hear and what I don’t see is what’s going on inside your head and how I can best help you. So set your personal goal or goals and let me know because as a consultant — any good consultant is going to want the whole team to improve, not just one or two people.
The third is put in the work. Put in the work meaning there’s going to be assignments. There’s going to be changes. There’s going to be tasks. There’s going to be some extra work. Change is hard. Change is very, very uncomfortable, and it’s very easy to reject change in favor of status quo, which is really just the same old, same old. I wish we would stop calling it “status quo” because that sounds a little fancy. Status quo is just the same old, same old. It’s nothing new; pretty boring; it works, don’t fix it. But many companies have moved on past the status quo because they want to innovate. They want to get better. And I think that is what the goal of the consultant is to come in and help you.
So put in the work and make sure that you give feedback along the way because here’s a secret about consulting: what works really well in one office is not going to work really well in every office. It’s going to be up to the quality of your consultant to adjust for each individual office personality. Every office has a personality, and I’ve seen so many of them. Some are very quick to change, some are very quick to shut you down, some are very harmonious, and some are very acrimonious. It is not a good thing to be in those situations, but I can’t help you if I don’t know what’s going on inside your head.
And, if I don’t see you putting in the work, I have to assume that all my suggestions aren’t landing or there’s something going on where you just don’t want to change. And the worst thing is to be that one employee where everybody wants to move ahead and you’re the one holding them back. I’ve seen it not just in the hygiene department but I’ve also seen it in the queen bees. There’s a lot of queen bees out there at the front desk — I know. I used to be one for a very short period of time — and it’s hard to get rid of those queen bees or change their minds, but we have to. We have to make sure that we move forward.
The fourth thing is sort of what I’ve been telling you, but I want you to speak up. Along the way if you really see that there’s something wrong with the process, you don’t need to discuss it in a big manner, make a grandiose gesture. Pull your manager aside, pull your boss aside, or ask for a consultant call. I’ve had many clients where the hygien — there was a free rein. If the hygienist need to talk to me and bounce some things off me, that’s what I was there for. I may not have been able to return their call within an hour because I was either on-site or traveling, but I did get to that person within 24 hours, and we discussed the concern. So it’s possible to do that.
Nowadays, many consultants are quite fine with receiving texts from clients. In fact, I had very many people — very many clients who would — that’s all the wanted to do was to text. They did not want to be on the phone for a long period of time with me, and that was okay.
So feel free to speak up. Again, your feedback is what’s going to help move the team long, and we can’t do it without every member of the team.
Then I want to tell you the fifth step, which I hope you won’t need. So let’s just make fifth as the optional step. The optional step is if you think you have a clunker consultant or you just don’t see that it’s jelling with the team, I need you to speak up again. I need you to let them know that it’s not working. You’re trying. It’s not working. This happens more than most consultants want to — they don’t want to talk about it. I get it. I was one too. But this happens a lot. Some teams just don’t jell. The culture of the team is just so strong that what the consultant is brining into play does not work.
Perhaps you need a different type of consultant. Consultants have all these different personalities too. Maybe you need more of a taskmaster. Maybe you need more of a touchy-feely person. Maybe you need more of the therapist type. Not every consultant is going to automatically fit every office, and thank God because you need to be able to see the different personalities that are out there so that you can see if it’s worth putting into your office.
That’s why it’s a good idea to go to a few management classes when you see them. Most of the practice management speakers out there do have consulting companies. Listen to the webinars. Get a feel for their style. I mean, honestly, if you can’t stand somebody’s voice in the lecture hall, what makes you think you’re going to be able to listen to them in your own office? So do a little bit of research if you need to. But, at the end of the day, if it’s not working for you and it’s not working for your office, sometimes it’s best to pull the plug and just move onto the next one.
So I gave you some tips on how to make it work best with your consultant. The first one is to make yourself know, introduce yourself. Second one, set your personal goals, let them know what it is, and hold yourself accountable. Hold yourself accountable to meet those goals. Third, put in the work because we need to see it. I need to see it, your employer needs to see it, and most importantly, that’s how you’re going to grow as an employee and as a hygienist. Fourth, speak up. Let your preferences be known. Don’t let other people in the office railroad you and run over our ideas. You’re an important part of the office, and so you need to speak up. And then the optional fifth is to throw in the towel and get a new consultant and start all over again.
So I hope this has been helpful to you. I know getting a consultant is one of the most stressful things an office can go through because it is so hard to get everybody on the same page. But I tell you what, when you do, it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me at teresa — no “h” — firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow my Instagram @treeduncan, and you can also listen to my podcast if you’re interested in more dental insurance and also dental management tips, and that’s the Nobody Told Me That! podcast.
Until the next TIPisode, thank you so much for listening.