I graduated from orthodontic residency in June 2004, bought a tiny, antiquated practice in August 2004 and we brought in our first consultant in November 2004. We would have had the consultant in earlier but it took a while between when we scheduled and when the visit occurred! We KNEW we didn’t know what we were doing and we wanted help ASAP!
Now, the first consultant we hired wasn’t very good… they were well known in dental and claimed to know ortho but we found out later that we were their very first ortho clients! Still, this consultant knew more than we did and we made massive changes and achieved massive growth during the two years we used them. Why? How? Because we did what they told us to do! You know those “To Do” lists that consultants give you at the end of visiting your office that no one follows through on? Well, we are very good at getting those lists done and this shocks every consultant we have ever used so I know we are outliers!
And that brings me to the central point of this piece – hiring consultants is great and orthodontists seem to have that part of the equation down, but the follow-through is neglected much more often than not so it is a WASTE OF TIME & MONEY!
Basically if you are happy with what you have then don’t hire a consultant – it’s a waste. If you’re unhappy with your results, hiring a consultant is a great idea but only if you’re willing to listen to what they say and do what they suggest. And I am talking full commitment, not picking and choosing as I so often see happen. If you are working on a recipe and only add half the ingredients, you cannot reasonably expect a good result! The only thing worse than just ignoring advice you pay for is complaining about the lack of results when you refuse to change or listen or when you simply know better than the consultant! I see this all the time and it usually goes along with the doctor who is defensive about his or her systems and who gets upset when anyone suggests that there is opportunity to change and improve by doing so! If you are less than 5 years out then just about any consultant knows something you don’t and can help you. If you’ve been out longer and aren’t getting the results you want then the same is probably true for you. Admitting we don’t know everything is hard. Being open to “criticism” and seeing our faults as opportunities is even harder but the rewards are astonishing. Having anyone come visit our practice can help because they can point out things we are used to and don’t see any more – friends, family, colleagues, even patients! But these people will only help us if they feel certain that we want the help and we won’t get defensive or upset. Try it for yourself. Make a deal with an old classmate or fellow resident to visit one another’s offices with a critical eye and see what happens. If the visitor hurts your feelings or you get hot and anxious then you’re probably making progress!
Once you get the hang of taking constructive criticism, it’s time to hire a professional consultant. I’ve used a ton of consultants and learned something from them all. Below is a list of the consultants I HAVE USED and would recommend. Embrace and try to enjoy the process knowing that every flaw a visiting consultant points out is an opportunity to do better!
Newsletters – these two are reasonably priced will keep you in the know. They are great places for finding industry standards, average salaries and trends. Follow the links to learn more and subscribe.
Magazines – I still love the magazine format and I love magazines that push me to think outside of the norm and improve!
The Progressive Orthodontist Magazine **I own and produce this magazine – you can follow the link to get a free subscription
Product Purchase Consultant – Mari will help you find what you want to buy at the best possible price.
Clinical Consultants – These ladies can help you with clinical systems, bonding technique, OSHA, HIPAA, etc. I’ve used them a couple times to get things straightened out in my offices. They can diagnose and fix your problems very quickly as they have seen many offices!
Practice Management Consultants – These ladies can help you grow your practice, become more efficient and achieve your goals… if you’ll listen to them. I have had Charlene and LeeAnn in my offices many times over the last 11 years and I’m amazed at how much my practice grew and improved each time we engaged their teams and followed through on the To Do list. It is painful when they come into the office and point out all we are doing wrong but compliments don’t get us anywhere and we need to know where we can improve. You’ll get used to the pain and it is definitely worth it!
Karen Mowad – Hummingbird **I haven’t used Hummingbird but I have several very close, very successful friends who have.
Practice Management Services – I’m often amazed that people will happily pay anywhere from 4.9 to 14.9 percent off the top of their case fee to get money early or collection services but don’t realize that for less than that they can get EVERYTHING! OrthoSynetics offers your practice all these services and more: HR, legal, Orthotrac software, in office consulting, marketing, graphic design, financial services, collections, insurance billing, demographic services, and on and on. OrthoSynetic’s marketing is particularly strong. Angela Weber and her team do all of the marketing and ad placement for my practices. Practice management is one of two options that will become wildly popular, if not necessary, for most practices in the future due to the changing landscape, increased competition and rising cost of doing business.
Study Groups – Online and in person study groups are a fantastic way to get consulting services from your friends and peers. I can’t think of a better way to spend your time and with the adoption of Facebook as the standard group platform it’s easier now than ever before.
** I will caution you against study groups where the participants are anonymous, as you need to know who is giving advice before blindly taking it.
 Being unhappy with one’s results but unwilling to change.