Selling Your Dental Practice: When Should You Tell Your Staff?

In nearly every discussion about selling a dental practice,  one of the most common concerns is how to bring up the impending change to the staff and how they will deal with the news. Even though you may believe you are being discreet when thinking about retirement, remember that you have trained your staff to read your mood, anticipate your needs and support your direction. As you near the point in your career when you decide to fully or partially put down the handpiece, you should realize your staff can sense a change in your day-to-day behavior.

When is the right time to sit down and discuss selling your dental practice with the team, and how much information should be shared? Unfortunately, the answer is not universal and takes care, consideration, and diligence. No two dental practices are alike, because each has its own individual personality. Staff motivators or directives that work for your colleagues in their practices may or may not work for you.  

What Is the Personality of Your Dental Practice?

Do you feel that your office is more like a family? Maybe your staff has been together for years, and everybody knows each other’s personal families, their likes, dislikes and habits. In that atmosphere, anything can be discussed. Since ongoing conversations are the norm, the transition process of selling your dental practice can be as transparent as you desire.

On the other end of the spectrum, your staff may not be very integrated on a personal level, necessitating a process whereby it is best not to discuss anything until contracts are signed, money is in escrow, and the closing is all but finalized.

In between the two extremes, situations may vary whereby certain staff members are like family and can be brought in early, while others are unaware. There may be one staff member who requires extensive reassurance that things will be all right with a new dentist, that nothing major will be changing in the short term, and that everybody’s job is safe.

When you do have the discussion about selling your dental practice, it is extremely important to let your team know that they are very important in sustaining the continuity of the practice–regardless of the personality of your office. No matter how much you reassure them that their jobs are safe, some team members will inevitably feel they will lose their job when the new dentist takes over. That fear is farthest from the truth in almost every case.

The continuity of the staff remaining after you retire is critical to a smooth transition. Staff members are relied upon to introduce patients, educate about systems and protocols, and strengthen patient trust in the new dentist. In fact, having the staff become active participants and facilitators during the dental practice transition makes the purchaser more comfortable stepping into their new role. Since most purchasers have never owned a dental practice, having your experienced staff right there to show them the ropes is a priceless advantage of a successful dental practice transition.  

Timing Is Everything

As you can see, the timing of telling your staff about selling your dental practice depends on your relationship with them. It is important that they be informed in such a way and at such a time that suits their collective personality, a factor that is different for every transition.    Author: Greg Auerbach, MBA

Henry Schein Professional Practice Transitions, Inc. is a national leader in dental practice transitions. A subsidiary of Henry Schein, Inc. they provide expert guidance for dental practice management and fees, buying and selling a dental practice, assessing partnership and associateship opportunities, and performing dental practice appraisals and valuations.