Focus on the Dental Team During a Transition

One of the most significant contributors to highly successful practices is a dentist’s ability to lead and manage a great dental team. We always see prosperous dentists who are willing to spend time working “on” as well as “in” their practices. Using this mindset, practices often have team members who stay with the practice for many years, becoming part of the practice legacy along with the dentist — even after a dental practice transition.

Be considerate of “legacy” dental team members

When an established practice is ready to be transitioned, the working relationship that has developed between long-term “legacy” dental team members and the selling doctor can present an obstacle if not carefully managed in advance. One major factor in the transfer of patient loyalty (goodwill) from the selling doctor to the new dentist during a dental practice transition is the relationship the dental team has with the patients. This relationship partially originates from a dental team member’s loyalty to the selling doctor. In some cases, the selling doctor is the only dentist that individual has worked for, so over time, the dentist’s practice philosophy and work style become as much of a part of the “legacy” employee’s philosophy and work style. Additionally, the way the doctor, as an employer, interacts with a long-standing team member develops from years of knowing and trusting that individual and the confidence of consistently being able to rely on them.

During a dental practice transition, ensure goodwill by communicating openly

The team’s role in the sale of a practice and the subsequent dental practice transition is a major factor that can significantly influence the goodwill of the transition. When patients perceive that the team fully supports the new doctor, they tend to transfer their trust to the new doctor, which often leads to them staying on as patients. Once the selling doctor is no longer present, patients will rely on their long-term relationship with the “legacy” dental team members for guidance. Both the buyer and seller have a responsibility in the successful transition of the staff as part of the overall dental practice transition. The selling dentist has a responsibility to assist the new doctor with transferring patient loyalty, and therefore, goodwill and should communicate to the team how significant their role is in the dental practice transition. Once the team is aware of the pending transition, the seller must plan ample time for the team to meet the new doctor prior to the first day of becoming that doctor’s employee. The seller should help prepare the new doctor for the inevitable concerns the team will have; the most common of those concerns is the status of their jobs, compensation, or some other individual perk that the seller has allowed such as having a certain week off each year.

Begin conversations early in the dental practice transition process

As the new dentist, you have the responsibility to enter the practice with a planned strategy to address the uncertainties and anxieties the team will have. Prior to taking over the practice, you and the seller should discuss how to meet with and communicate with each person on the dental team. This gives you a chance to communicate your goals and expectations to them. We always suggest that at the first meeting the purchaser ask the staff for their help in the transition process since most purchasers do not yet understand the internal practice routines. This also gives the team an opportunity to express their concerns to you. Establishing an open line of communication in which their ideas and concerns are valued will be paramount during the dental practice transition and to your continued success as the practice owner.