Difference of Training vs. Consulting

I am a dental office manager and a dental trainer, both of which I just love. I can’t believe I get to do what I love, which doesn’t make it feel like work but more like a hobby every single day. Did I always know this is what I wanted to do? No! I was lucky enough to marry my husband a year before he went to dental school and to watch him grow into the amazing dentist that he is today.

There is no question that his four years of education prepared him to be an excellent dentist. However, in his entire four years of dental school, no one taught him how to manage a business, hire and fire, market for new patients, handle staff drama, train staff at their jobs, etc.

They taught him all he needed to know to be a great dental clinician, not a private practice owner, and at graduation, they patted him on the back and wished him well. Sound familiar to any other dentists out there reading this?

Now that being said, this article is not about trying to convince the dental schools that they need to add business training to their curriculum, though I am all for that.

This article addresses the missing link with most dental offices.

The typical office is run by an owner who (more than likely) has not had business and management training. That’s why many dentists and practice managers reach out for advice and guidance to help their offices grow.

Let me explain. I am a trainer at heart, and I honestly feel that the majority of dental offices do not have good, well-structured training programs, especially at the front desk. I also feel that I am one of the first real front office trainers out there that specifically focus on training and does not have any interest in consulting.

That is where this article originated from – many years of people asking me to be a consultant and my having to explain that I am not a consultant and that my passion and focus is training. Having said that, I think that there is an enormous value in consulting and think that dentists should incorporate consulting in their mix, if it will help them reach their goals.

Dentists look to consultants for help in leadership, team management, staying aligned with the mission of the practice, and zeroing in on areas of needed growth. There’s a huge value in that.

I know tons of great consultants in our industry who work wonders with dentists and teams across the country, helping them get systems in place and achieve the goals that they are trying to reach.

So, how is training different than consulting?

In essence, consulting takes a big picture view of your practice, while training is task-focused. Training focuses on making improvements on a job-duty level.

Many times dentists or practice managers tell an employee to make something happen, such as filling tomorrow’s schedule.

The problem is that when the dentist tells the employee to do that task, the dentist may not necessarily understand how to accomplish it and therefore cannot show the employee how to do it. The employee might have the best intention while trying to accomplish the task but may not be successful in getting it done correctly. This is where training comes in.

Training is the action of teaching a person how to do the task so they can accomplish the goal.

It is the step-by-step “how to” of what needs to be done, the reason why it is important, and the outcome of what is expected when it is finished.

In some cases, training is important even when your office is using a consultant. The consultant looks from the high level, big picture view and helps the doctor and team to become the best they can. However, the consultant is not there 24/7. This is where training comes into play. Training helps the employees on an individual level learn how to do day-to-day tasks and job duties so that they can help accomplish the big picture goals. The thing is, just providing training isn’t enough.

The right type of training is vital to make sure that the employee and team are working at the highest level possible.

Many times, training happens where one employee shows the new employee how to do things, based off their experiences and knowledge, not necessarily based off policy or procedure. It’s like that old adage, “We do it this way because it always has been done this way.” Plus, each employee tends to evolve their processes of how things are done over time, and sometimes that evolution leads to an off-track variation of what was taught to them in the beginning.

And here’s the other problem with allowing new employees to be trained by existing staff; you’re going to see something get half-done, in this case, because it’s impossible for someone to provide thorough training while also performing their job duties effectively. Either the new employee will be half-trained because the existing staff was distracted by present job duties, or the existing staff will be meeting the bare minimum in daily job duties because of placing so much attention on training the new employee.

The other issue is that just because someone is good at doing their job does not always make them a good trainer. It takes a certain kind of personality to train well, and not everyone on the team may have those skills. Having a structured training plan will help with this.

When everyone is taught from day one the same way, there is a consistency of what everyone learns as they join an organization. This allows the new employee to learn the right way from the start and be able to implement their duties correctly from the beginning.

In conclusion, there is a value in both consulting and training, but they are very different.

As a manager or business owner, you need to clearly distinguish what needs to be accomplished. When you are trying to get employees up to speed and effective in their duties, having a strong consistent training program is the way to go.

Good training will help your organization grow and achieve goals by empowering your team to be the best they can be.

Laura Nelson

Laura Nelson, BS, MS, FAADOM is the founder and driving force behind Front Office Rocks, and the leading provider of on-demand virtual training and resources for dental practices.