Purchasing your first dental practice is one of the most exciting endeavors you will experience as a businessperson. After completing years of education, training, and supervised work, you will finally be able to live your dream of owning your own dental practice.
What are some challenges you may face as you move to your new practice?
As you approach your transition to your new practice, it is important to have a plan in place to handle some of the challenges that may arise. A key dilemma you will face is how to handle existing staff members employed by the practice you are buying. One possibility is to start fresh by hiring your own team of employees. While this approach may seem tempting, it is important to consider the benefits of keeping some or all of the original staff intact as you adjust to life as a business owner.
What steps can you take to transition existing team members?
By keeping existing team members on board for at least a few months, you can enjoy a smooth, pleasant transition into your new role as practice owner. Patients will appreciate seeing familiar faces and you can gain valuable insight regarding the practice's strengths and opportunities for improvement. Below are seven tips to help you manage team members after a dental practice purchase and the single best way to ensure a smooth practice transition.
1) Arrange to spend a few days onsite
The path to a smooth transition begins with an understanding of how the existing staff interact with each other and with patients. The best way to achieve this goal is to arrange to spend a few days at your new practice. By shadowing current staff, you will also gain valuable insight into employees' work ethic and behaviors. Be sure to request permission from the current owner or operator before you schedule your visit.
2) Schedule a transitional meeting with the outgoing owners and staff
It is natural for employees who work for an outgoing practice owner to be worried about their jobs and fearful of impending changes that may lie on the horizon. One of the most effective ways to get ahead of these concerns is to schedule a meeting that includes the outgoing practice owner as well as the existing team members. You can greatly reduce fear and worry simply by meeting face to face with team members and letting them know that you are not currently planning to make any immediate terminations.
3) Seek feedback from existing team members
During your onsite visit and transitional meetings with staff, carve out some time to meet individually with team members and ask them about their jobs. Their responses to your questions will help you determine whether they will be a good match for you as a prospective employer. Here are a few questions that will help shed light on the strengths and opportunities for improvement among existing practice operations:
- "What are the three things that you like best about working for Dr. X?"
- "If you had the power to do three things to improve this dental practice, what would they be?"
- "What are the three greatest challenges associated with your job?"
- "How do you feel about working for a practice that values (insert your core practice values)?"
4) Retain team members who seem to be a good fit with your practice philosophy
Between your site visit and your individual meetings with team members, you should have a fairly good idea which team members you should keep on board as you assume your new role as practice owner. Once you identify these individuals, let them know that you value their contributions and wish to keep them on board as long as they continue to work hard, collaborate with others, and support your practice philosophy.
5) Clearly define your goals and expectations
The key to starting off on the right foot with your new team is to clearly outline shared goals and the expectations you have of each team member. Take time to review existing job descriptions for each team member and update them according to your practice goals. Then, once you have updated job descriptions in writing, carve out some time to meet with each employee and review any key changes. If you detect any marked resistance, you may wish to explore an external hire.
6) Plan to evaluate employee performance in 90 days
Ideally, the team of employees that you put together will flourish and work well together moving forward. However, it is always a good idea to evaluate how well each employee is performing after 90 days of work for you. Prior to your first full day of work with your new team, let employees know that in approximately 90 days, you will conduct 30-60 minute performance reviews with each employee to discuss the following:
- Attendance and professionalism
- Adaptation to the practice transition
- Completion of job duties
- Employee strengths
- Opportunities for improvement
If the employee is struggling in any of the areas above, you can choose to implement a performance improvement plan or consider termination. If you have any questions regarding termination of your employees, you can contact an HR expert or other employment specialist. Be sure to keep a written copy of each employee's performance review on file.
7) Introduce a company handbook that documents your policies and expectations
Implementing a company handbook that references any proposed changes is essential to helping to establish your authority. Additionally, a handbook will help ensure that original team members are fully aware of your policies and expectations. Even if your proposed changes are minor, a company handbook will prove to be a useful tool in helping both original team members and future new hires understand how they will need to adapt to meet shared goals and expectations.
What is the single best way to ensure a smooth transition to your new practice?
As outlined above, transitioning to your new dental practice requires careful planning - especially when determining how to handle current staff. While the tips discussed above can help you map out a plan of action with existing team members, the single best way to ensure a smooth practice transition is to seek the guidance of an experienced dental attorney.
With the help of an employment law specialist, you will be better equipped to handle potential terminations and other staffing-related challenges that you may face with a dental practice purchase. We encourage you to contact us at Dental & Medical Counsel, PC to schedule a complimentary consultation with a skilled dental attorney. We look forward to helping you enjoy a smooth transition to your new practice!