So you’ve just successfully closed on your new practice and you’re excited…but you’re also nervous about how the new patients will react to you. In this blog post, I’d like to share one of the most important…and most overlooked…aspects of patient retention after a sale.
Meeting the Team
Winning over your new dental team is perhaps the most important way to preserve the goodwill of your new practice and a crucial aspect to any successful transition.
The basic fact is this: most patients will be happy to work with you if the team believes in you.
Your new team will set the tone for your patients as they introduce you as a new doctor. If they express confidence and talk about how great a dentist you are, it will go a long way in building a lasting relationship with the patient. Conversely, an eye roll or critical word can damage that relationship in a way that is difficult to overcome.
For these reasons, it’s more important to win over the team than the patients. The patients almost always follow the team. I discovered this when I sold my wonderful practice and knew my wonderful patients would be weeping at my doorstep begging me to come back to the office … and they didn’t! My ego was bruised, but I saw how much the patients loved my team.
When you first meet the staff, it is crucial that you listen. Ask them what they think about the practice and how it could be improved. Ask them what they are looking for in you and how you can contribute to the continued smooth operation of the practice. Ask them about the patients. They’ve all been at this office for longer than you – don’t forget to listen!
Re-Hiring Your New Team
On the day you purchase your new practice the seller is required to terminate all of the employees so that you can hire them. This is normal and typical, but it needs to be presented to the team very carefully for obvious reasons! The team needs to be reassured that their jobs are secure (assuming this is true) and that this is a required formality. The seller must pay each employee, in their final check, for all of their unused vacation and sick days, personal time off days, bonuses, etc., according to their employment manual, as well as ensuring that any retirement plans are funded with the required amount up to the date of the sale. You will be rehiring the employees immediately after they are terminated (again, assuming this is your plan and you don’t have an employee that will be retiring, moving, or a problem employee that really shouldn’t be there).
I suggest you give your new employees the same hourly pay rate and benefits as the seller gave them, with the possible exception of retirement benefits that might be re-implemented once the practice is solidly established with the new owner. By now you should know from your due diligence what percent of collections are going towards the team, which will help determine how generous your employment offer can be, but again, it’s best to at least keep the same hourly rate.
Important Note: Some long-established practices have their employees on salary rather than hourly pay. In California, it’s very difficult to use salary pay for dental employees. Be sure to consult with an employment attorney and/or use the free resources provided to CDA members to create your Employment Manual (CDA has one that members can download) and a hiring letter that is compliant with California Law.
Winning over the team puts you on the path to a successful future with your new practice!