Five Dental Consulting Biases

The dental consultant’s advice sounds good and the case studies are impressive. Yet you feel a sense of “too good to be true” and disconnection from the realities you face in your practice. If only you could put your finger on it. Dental consultants potentially suffer from biases associated with the way they market themselves and get paid.

Short-term bias

Dental consultants have a bias toward short-term profit boosters: fee increases, more aggressive treatment planning, higher pressure treatment selling, and lower overhead. While these changes almost surely boost short-term profit, the long-term impact can be negative.

Dramatic change bias

The more change the consultant recommends, the easier the consultant can justify the fees. Nobody wants to pay $40,000 to hear, “You’re pretty much on target, let’s just focus on a few areas,” even when that’s the right or most productive answer.

One size fits all bias

The one or two week “in and out” consulting model leaves little time for learning about the unique features and personality of a client’s practice. Further, it is easier and cheaper for the consulting firm to hire someone to offer pre-packaged recommendations than collect, synthesize, and analyze information about the client’s unique situation and create customized recommendations.

Smart sounding answer bias

The more intelligent sounding the consultant’s answers, the easier the consultant can justify the fees. Nobody wants to pay $40,000 to hear “I don’t know,” or “it depends,” or “let’s try an experiment.” Yet, sometimes these are the right or most productive answers.

Rule of thumb crutch

Over simplistic interpretation of the numbers can be misleading and counterproductive. For example, some consultants prescribe that ALL practices should collect at least 98%, spend less than 20% of production on staff wages, and spend less than 5% of production on rent. But optimizing the practice with respect to arbitrary target ratios does not always coincide with optimizing practice value or cash flow.