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Over the past several months, we have heard a great deal about change. Change in any aspect of our life often creates some level of stress. However, some of us actually look forward to change and view it as an opportunity. One thing that is an absolute certainty is that change will happen in all facets of life. What about your dental practice, Doctor? Will it change in the months and years to come?
One of the most significant changes a practice will experience is undergoing any type of transition. It is worthwhile for each of us to spend time thinking about future transitions in our practices, because every last one of our practices will undergo some type of transition, sooner or later, whether we plan it or not. This is as certain as death and taxes.
The stress of change
The stress cycle happens when we change jobs, churches, schools, neighborhoods, and especially dental practice ownership. Most of us wonder what will happen to the practice when we change ownership. I know I certainly did when I began my own practice transition several years ago.
Ironically and surprisingly, one of the easiest changes to make in a practice ownership transition is that of the face of the doctor providing the dental treatment. Whenever a doctor sells or leaves the practice, for whatever reason, every patient in the practice will absolutely have a change in his or her dentist.
If your transition has been planned and carried out properly, your patient base will not feel that anything bad has fallen upon them. Instead, patients will feel that you have considered them in your decisions and have done something very kind and considerate on their behalf.
As a consequence of a well–planned transition, the face of the dentist will change with minimal stress to the patients, staff, and new owner. In many cases the new doctor brings a level of excitement and enthusiasm to the office that it may not have experienced in years. This in itself may be a welcome change.
How does a change in practice ownership affect the staff? It is important to understand that most staff members do not want to change their place of employment when a practice transitions occurs. As a rule, the staff likes what they do, where they work, and with whom they work. Changing jobs is almost always a major stress creator, so why do such a thing when it is in everyone's best interests to keep the staff intact?
This stability greatly benefits the transition process because the staff members are the nurturers in the practice, the dear souls our patients look to for comfort and reassurance regarding their dental care. If, for whatever reason, some members of the staff don't remain with the practice during and after the transition, patients will notice their absence.
Suddenly, in the mind's eye of patients, this will not be the practice where they once felt so at home. It is a wise new practice owner who understands the worth of existing staff, and who does all he or she can to assure them of their importance and value to the new practice.
New owner doctors often ask me, “What about changing the décor of the office when I take ownership?” Purchasing doctors will be wise to leave the “old digs” alone for at least two recall periods. Let the patients become used to you, surrounded by staff they know and trust, in surroundings they are used to and in which they feel comfortable.
After this initial period of transition, you may want to redecorate or re–equip the office. Let 'er rip! You can even generate excitement and enthusiasm if you share the news of a pending office facelift with patients through a newsletter or e–mail.
Remember that transitioning a dental office effectively, efficiently, and successfully requires the skills, advice, and experience of a seasoned transition specialist. Don't sell your most valuable asset without professional assistance. A qualified broker can lead you through the process and provide you with a practice transition made perfect.
Max Wilson, DDS, is the founder of ADS Professional Practices, a full–service practice brokerage firm doing business in Oklahoma and Arkansas. He is a member of American Dental Sales, American Academy of Dental Practice Administration, American Dental Association, and Oklahoma Dental Association. He may be reached at (405) 359–8784 or mwilson@ppa–brokers.com.