We ended our discussion in Part One with the timing of making the “Big Reveal” to your staff. Again, while instincts might suggest that you let everyone in on your plans early in the game, our advice is to minimize the time spent in the “Neutral Zone.” Treading water is hard work and it isn’t fair to make it more difficult than necessary. It is important that everything now go smoothly and according to plan.
The new doctor should be introduced so as to put a face with a name. The buyer should have received instruction on reassurances they can make to their prospective employees along with some things that for now are best left unsaid. We recommend that the buyer initially plan as few changes as possible – including work days, business hours, office décor and financial policies. Evolution – not revolution – seems to be better accepted by both staff and patients.
While one of my broker colleagues once described this phase as akin to “cheating on your wife and then asking her to help pick out a birthday present for your girlfriend,” the fact is that the transition now needs the assistance of the team. Among other things, announcement letters will need to be sent to patients of record on the day of closing, and staff members can be very helpful in the production and mailing of those letters. Making them part of the process seems to begin the move toward the new normal.
Confidentiality needs to be maintained with regard to patients and the dental community. While our closing rate is better than 98%, lightning can strike: what a mess you will have if the deal falls through and your retirement has already been announced.
By the date of closing, the staff will begin to move toward the New Normal. Tears may still be shed (by both doctor and staff), but they will soon adjust and will perhaps come to realize that by extending the life of the practice, their jobs may be more secure than ever. In our experience, if properly coached, counseled and implemented, staff losses are very small. You can take some comfort in knowing that even the Israelites eventually made it to the Promised Land.
A final thought from Dr. Bridges: in the chapter of Managing Transitions on dealing with nonstop change, he states that “People have to understand that the point of change is to preserve that which does not change.” Assuming that the core mission of the practice is to provide quality dentistry, changing the doctor may be the one thing that most assures that care will be available into the future.
Dr. Steve Wolff – UMKC Class of 1977