We believe that adding an associate to a practice is a very exciting and complex process that requires customized planning if maximum success is desired.
We believe that most associates are added to a practice with the presumption that they will assume an equity position in the practice at some future point in time.
We believe that personal and professional planning and clarification by the host dentist absolutely essential as the first step in the process. No practice changes should be made unless they are congruent with the host dentist’s clarified vision and personal philosophy.
We believe that the behavioral aspects of this process are the most important part. Bringing an inappropriate associate into your practice and then having the relationship fail will involve substantial financial loss to the host dentist and the practice.
We believe that the team members should be involved very early in the transition process as they will be the ones called upon to implement the transition plan.
We believe the practice appraisal needs to be completed prior to the associate’s entrance into the practice.
We believe all the cards need to be on the table regarding the details of any future equity position prior to the associate’s entrance into the practice.
We believe the host dentist must be willing to devote additional time and energy in the early going to bring the associate through a carefully designed developmental role. We believe the host dentist must continue to serve as a mentor in the creation of the success of the associate.
We believe each practice is unique and the transition plan must be tailored to that uniqueness.
We believe anything worth doing is worth doing well.
When should team members be informed of a pending Practice Transition?
When you are planning a practice transition such as adding another dentist to the practice or selling your practice as you prepare to move into retirement or to relocate, the question always comes up about when to tell your team about your plans. Fully 90% of the dental practice brokers in America advise their clients not to tell the team anything about it until the entire deal is done. In almost all cases, this is horrible advice.
The philosophy of The Sletten Group is that team members should become involved in the transition process once the dentist is clear about the transition plans and will implement them in the near future. This is especially true when the transition plan calls for the practice to be sold, a new owner to take over and the previous owner to retire.
At the point of sale, the new owner must rely heavily on the clout of the prior owner’s introduction and endorsement because retention of the patient base (or the referral base in the case of an endodontist or oral surgeon) is extremely important as the seller attempts to fully transfer the goodwill to the buyer. While the seller’s endorsement is crucial to the buyer’s success, the subsequent endorsement of the team members, individually and collectively, is of equal importance and those authentic endorsements cannot be there for the new owner unless the team has been involved in the process and is excited about future prospects with the new owner.
We are first going to walk you through the thoughts that can go through the minds of team members when they have NOT been involved in the planning process and then we will explain how The Sletten Group functions.
When team members have not been informed and included, they know something is going on but are not sure how it will affect them. With a last minute revelation approach, they are left to consider the following questions:
- How will I be personally impacted by this transition?
- Will I still be considered a valued and respected team member?
- What does the new owner know about me? Will he/she appreciate me and understand my relationship with the patients?
- How will the new owner treat our patients?
- Will the new owner have the same value system and core philosophies as my current employer?
- Will the quality of clinical services be offered at the same high standards that we are used to?
- Will we continue to offer our patients the same behavioral experiences they are accustomed to receiving?
- Will there continue to be a strong emphasis on periodontal health for our patients?
- Will the team members continue to be able to attend and participate in exceptional continuing education experiences?
- Will my salary and benefits remain the same?
- Will we produce at the same levels so that our team bonus plan can remain in effect?
- Why didn’t my long-time employer trust me enough to let me know what was happening and ask me to maintain confidentiality until the time came to announce the new plans to our patients and the community?
- How will I respond when my patients ask me what I think about the new owner? What can I say if I don’t know the person? They are really asking me if they will be “OK” being in the care of the new dentist. How do I know?
- Who convinced by employer to do it this way?
- Should I start seeking other employment?
- You can imagine the chaos and turmoil this creates with the team – the very team members who are being called upon to support the transition plan and support the incoming dentist. The chances of success for a transition conducted in this manner are greatly reduced.
When team members have been empowered and fully engaged in the transition process, they are able to easily and naturally share anecdotes about the new dentist, both personally and professionally. They can relate their own experiences in getting to know that person and are in a strong position to ease the anxiety of any patient who asks them about the new person through their personal contact and the personal relationship they have begun to develop. They are not required to follow a script, but simply to speak from their heart with conviction.
During our on-site visit to the practice, we typically conduct a team meeting where the plans are disclosed. They are then asked to describe the qualities they would like to see in a new dentist candidate. Patients relate to hygienists and assistants on a personal basis and often share feelings with then that they do not share with the owner dentist. Therefore, the team members have insights that are unavailable to the dentist unless the team has been included in the planning process. We also include the team in the recruiting and screening of candidates. We ask for their help in structuring new schedules. We ask for their input on the mentoring time that will be required for the host dentist to spend with the new dentist. We discuss creating more opportunities for new patient growth. We want each team member to commit to the success of the transition in every way.
We also advise the clients who are buying practices to gain access to interviewing the team members and learning more about the practice prior to making a final offer. If the seller is unwilling to grant this important access, we feel strongly that the prospective buyer should move on and look at other opportunities.
The outcome of this approach is greater patient retention post-transition and, most importantly, greater team member retention as well. The concerns about losing your team members if they find out too early or about whether they will tell patients about your pending plans (especially if the plans include retirement) are unfounded, provided you have based your relationship with your team on trust and integrity.