There seems to be many dental practices changing hands right now. As with anything in life there is a good way to have a practice transition and there is the way that is setting up the new owner for trouble with the team and patients right from the beginning.
Here are some tips to ensure that you enter a purchase with the best possible chance for success once you have ownership.
- If possible, have the previous owner stay on at least part time for a pre-determined amount of time. This will provide continuity for the team and the patients to get “used to” the idea of new leadership. The worst-case scenario for a transition is the owner telling their team on a Friday that as of Monday they will have a new owner, the previous owner won’t be there anymore, and an email goes out to the patients at the same time. This scenario will make for a very difficult transition in every case. Give the team as much notice as possible to alert them that there may be change (two to three weeks is likely enough, deals don’t usually fail at that point.)
- People sometimes think that telling a team that there will be a transiition will create an unstable work environment and staff will leave if they feel unsure about change. When you let team know that there will be a new owner provide as much information as you can about the owner, the more knowledge you give the team the more they will feel very comfortable and may even be looking forward to change. When there is a change in callers to the office, items being moved on weekends, closed door discussions etc. the team will already feel that something is going on, it’s better to keep them in the loop then let them worry about what could be happening.
- When communicating with patients, the previous owner will be sending an eblast that is thanking the patients for their trust and loyalty over the years but will also be welcoming the new owner with phrases like confidence in their ability to continue care, they are looking forward to co-treating patients together and perhaps the new owner is even bringing in skills for services that weren’t available in the office previously.
- When the team are notified of the change of ownership, have a printout ready to tell them about the new owner both in a professional capacity as well as in a social capacity. Let the team get to “know” the new owner before they even meet them. Include some “fun” photos of the new owner along with the professional ones when talking to the team. For the patients, send a bulk email blast from the previous owner also in key spots in the practice hang a printout with photos of the new owner as well as some information about themselves.
- When the team speak with the patients in the office about the new owner, they must feel like they know the new owner and need to feel confident saying, “patients seem to love them”, “they have a very gentle hand,” “Dr. _________(previous owner) hand chose Dr. _________ (new owner) to buy the practice.” The more confidence that comes from the existing team, the better the chances of success will be.”
- As a new owner you come in with lots of ideas of how to change the practice and you want to put them in place immediately. Take your time, meet with each team member individually get to know them professionally and personally as well. The connections you make with your team will help determine the success moving forward of the changes. Get to know the existing systems before you make change, perhaps they need tweaking and not a complete overhaul. When you feel ready to make a change explain, how and why you are making the change without being negative about the current system.
Buying a dental practice is likely the largest purchase you will ever make in your lifetime, ensure that your transition into the practice goes smoothly so that you can continue to grow what you have purchased instead of having to rebuild from the ground up.