In today’s world, there are a lot of life coaches, business consultants, and industry experts to help you grow as a person or a business. In the dental industry there are two specific advisors that are most common: dental coaches and dental consultants. Both are great resources with years of experience in the industry, but what's the difference between the two? We had the opportunity to ask Jonathan Miller, Coach and Director of Business Development at Fortune Management, a few questions about the differences. As a business professional working in the dental industry for years and being a member of the Fortune Management team, we found his answers very insightful!
What is the difference between a coach and a consultant?
While the terms coach and consultant often get used interchangeably, there are distinct differences in the approach each of them take and what aspects of a dentist’s life they focus on.
Jonathan Miller explains that,
“A coach is someone who is trying to understand where you want to go, your vision, and why you want to get there. From that point [a coach] can use their experience and knowledge to make sure that you get what YOU want out of the relationship. As a result, they make sure to keep you focused on why you wanted to get there in the first place."
Jonathan emphasizes that it’s important to have your team onboard. Without their buy-in, you won’t have as much success and the journey will not be as enjoyable. He goes on to say,
“A coach has a unique focus on asking questions like: ‘Is that destination really good for you, your practice, and your family in the first place?’ ‘What happens if we lose team members on the way?’ ‘What about if we lose patients?’”
These are key questions that a coach will ask...to make sure that you have considered all the effects of your decisions including the impacts on your family and life goals.
On the flip side, “A consultant is a different approach that usually looks more like ‘I know what you want' and 'Go do this to get there.’ They focus on how to get you to a destination.” He shares that,
“Both are results focused. However, one is more comprehensive in the approach and the other is very narrow.”
How does each grow your dental practice?
Both a coach and a consultant have the goal of helping you grow your practice. They have different strategies on how to do that.
Jonathan explains, “A coach is more about the leadership process in relationship to the growth. They focus on three components, believing that building a great culture leads to great structure, which yields great strategies for growth. A consultant usually leaves out the culture part, believing that leadership is more of an “I say and you do” method of leading. Therefore, they focus on the structure part of the practice.”
Which is more focused on the practice and which is more focused on the dentist?
The general consensus in the dental industry is that a consultant is more focused on the business side of a practice while a coach is all-encompassing with the dentist, their life goals, family, and dental practice.
Jonathan adds, “Both can be focused on the dentist and the practice. A consultant is usually hired for more specificity and a coach is there to look at all the angles, and to ensure that all decisions made improve the practice instead of making a decision that improves one part and hurts another part. A coach is there to ask you what you want and hold you accountable to the results.”
Each consulting or coach group has a different strategy for how to help a dental practice. Jonathon gave us some valuable insight into the strategy that Fortune Management uses.
“At Fortune, we are trained to understand three areas of helping a doctor in professional and personal growth. Those areas are:
1. Key Business Strategist
2. Practice Management Specialist
3. Executive Coach
By looking at those three areas we then do a deep dive to impact real change for the doctor, the team, and the practice.”
Can you have both a coach and a consultant?
We asked Jonathan if it's common to have both a coach and a consultant. While we found that it’s not common, it is, however, not completely unheard of. There needs to be specific reasons to have each one and each needs to know their objective and have a clear understanding of each other’s roles and tasks.
“Assuming the doctor believes that they need both and both can get along, then I guess you can have both. Just not for the same reasons. A doctor can have a personal coach for their own leadership skills and development as a business owner. They could also have a practice consultant that dives into the marketing aspects of the practice or dives into training the front desk of the practice.”
When there isn’t a clear definition of roles, conflict can ensue. Jonathon continues, “...that conflict comes down to what the coach and consultant believe. If one of them has a need to be “right” above having a great relationship, then, in the end, the doctor is doing a disservice to himself and the team in having both. If the two understand the reasons why they are there and can stay in their lanes, then the doctor could have something great.”
Should a dentist hire a coach or a consultant? Why?
A dentist needs to have clear goals and reasons for who they are hiring and why. This will help the coach or consultant drive change and ultimately help the practice grow. Jonathan gives his recommendation, “Honestly, I recommend whatever is best for the doctor. Some believe they need a consultant and some believe they need a coach. It really comes down to understanding their vision for the practice, fully, and the direction they want the practice to go.”
Fortune Management chooses to call themselves coaches because they focus on the big picture and not just a specific aspect of a dental practice that may be needing help. They believe in finding the root cause by looking at the entire structure to help bring a solution. Jonathan goes on to explain why:
“We call ourselves coaches because we see driving real change in any practice starts with the often murky, emotional, waters of culture in a practice. Once we know we have that coming into focus, that's when we can add in the structure and strategy pieces necessary for growth. We have a belief at Fortune and that is: 'you can’t grow a practice without growing the people working in that practice first.' That’s when we see real, long-lasting results that go much higher than originally thought possible. In the end, we don’t see it working by just focusing on any one particular area. We get requests to do just that all the time. Our response is usually, ‘you can’t go to the gym and just work out your arms, or legs, or just run on the treadmill to get in peak physical shape.’ Therefore we can’t just silo our focus on one thing expecting all other things to come inline.”
Both dental coaches and consultants are helpful assets to you and your practice. Knowing what you're looking for will help you in your process to find the right fit. A dental consultant would be a great fit when you want one area of your dental practice focused on, because you feel you have all the other necessary parts in order. If you have no idea where to start and you can't seem to pinpoint why you aren’t growing, then a dental coach can help search through all aspects of your practice (and even your family life) to help bring you and your practice success. Work/life balance is important and often times something at home could be affecting work and vice versa. A coach can help determine that. Either way, you would benefit greatly by having a coach or consultant for your dental practice!