A need to plan for crisis

Nov. 1, 2002
"Dad, there's been a terrible accident!" My daughter, Kerri — who coordinates the transition of buying and selling practices — shouted out these words rather than taking the time to use the office intercom.

Rich Seims, DDS

"Dad, there's been a terrible accident!" My daughter, Kerri — who coordinates the transition of buying and selling practices — shouted out these words rather than taking the time to use the office intercom. There was emotion in her voice when she walked into my office in the adjacent room and announced: "Dad, you need to take the call on line one."

The caller gave me the disturbing news that a local specialist had been fatally injured in a car accident. The revered, popular, and respected doctor had a wonderful reputation as a capable surgeon who did implant placement and ridge augmentation.

As is so often the case, the doctor had not adequately planned for a crisis. But, with the help of many of his colleagues, we were able to successfully transition the practice in a timely manner. We were lucky in this case, because many difficulties can be associated with transitioning the practice of a deceased or disabled doctor, particularly a specialist.

It would be impossible in this short article to delineate completely the transition-planning in such an event; however, the following is a brief summary of the events that transpired.

A plan of action

Kerri rescheduled my appointments for that day. We were able to avoid disrupting the family during the initial difficult time because they had appointed a friend and professional colleague to represent the practice. We met and reassured the staff. With their help, we implemented a plan of action. We notified the practice referral base and the patients scheduled for treatment. Fortunately, the doctor had been affiliated with a local mutual assistance group, which coordinated a reduced, but effective, clinical treatment schedule.

Kerri sent notices to our current list of periodontists who had expressed an interest in buying a practice. She also faxed information to every nationally recognized periodontal program, and called the periodontal graduate programs located on the West Coast. I reviewed the necessary data and completed a thorough practice valuation.

We pursued the interested periodontists who would be able to transition to this practice within a "short" period of time and who had the necessary experience to continue the practice disciplines. We encouraged potential buyers to employ experienced agents and advisors who could help make the transition easier. Fortunately, before long, we were able to identify an enthusiastic and skilled periodontist to buy the practice. He was a calming influence on the family and dental staff. We then executed a "Letter of Intent To Purchase" and initiated the closing process, which included lending, leasing negotiations, accounting details, and the completion of purchase and sale documents. The practice sale closed, and a recent telephone call confirmed that all is well.

Preplanning eases transition

This story is not unusual. To ease the stress on family in cases of unexpected need to sell a practice, we recommend that doctors plan for the unforeseen future. We feel it is important to implement a document that advises personal representatives and family to engage a particular transition specialist if they become incapacitated during their professional careers. We have been very fortunate to transition practices of many disabled or deceased dentists. From our experiences, we have learned that when the doctor preplans the transition, the process is much easier and smoother for everyone involved.

After practicing dentistry for 30 years, Dr. Rich Seims founded Seims & Associates, specializing in dent practice mergers and acquisitiions. His company provides management consulting and brokerate services for dental practices in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Dr. Seims can be reached by phone at (888) 720-7220 or by email at [email protected]. Visit the company's Web site at www.seims.com.

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