I will tell you that those words invariably come up pretty early in any pre-sale consultation or listing agreement conference. Since a retirement aged seller has worked with some members of his team for a long time (often decades), they have often developed into members of an extended family as opposed to a strictly employer/employee relationship. Consequently, our advice on the subject often seems counterintuitive as keeping secrets in such close quarters is difficult. Maybe a little coaching is in order.
While his very successful book, Managing Transitions, appears more oriented toward larger companies or organizations, William Bridges teaches lessons to be learned, even in the world of Mom and Pop dental practices. Bridges describes three stages in a transition. The first is “Letting Go”, or in our world, the “Big Reveal”. Next comes the “Neutral Zone” and lastly, the “New Beginning” or what we refer to as The “New Normal”.
The Transition clock starts with the Big Reveal. Even if your plans fall through or change, the staff is now on notice and moves into the Neutral Zone. The toothpaste has now been squeezed out of the tube and it is very hard to get it back inside. Bridges uses the example of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. Moses will tell you that they were not particularly happy campers. While your people may love the office culture and find the work to be meaningful and rewarding, the primary reason they come to work is to be paid for their time. Anything that threatens that is upsetting. Formerly focused team members may now lack direction and can be very insecure. You may suffer attrition as they take matters into their own hands and find other employment. They may find themselves in uncomfortable and disingenuous conversations with patients over future treatment or plans with the doctor. Maintaining confidentiality is hard as they will find it difficult to not share the news.
As you might imagine, it is generally in the seller’s best interest to keep this waiting period as short as possible. Meeting the new owner will help, especially if the new doc has received some coaching before the meeting BUT that meeting cannot happen until there is agreement in principle to a Purchase and Sale agreement, the financing has been secured and the closing date has been set. Hmmmm. Not the way you planned it?
Stay tuned for Part Two. . . .
Dr. Steve Wolff – UMKC Class of 1977