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Your doctor is selling the practice. Now what?

July 26, 2021
How office managers handle a practice transition can make or break the entire outcome. Author Jennifer Steadman explains.

Your doctor has mentioned that they’re looking to retire or sell the business; what does this mean for you and your team? The thought of your doctor selling the practice can incite many emotions, from anxiety and concern to excitement. It’s perfectly okay to feel all of these things, but keep in mind that what you show your team will affect the outcome of the transition.

I have been on both sides of the process and understand the feelings involved. Early on in my journey, I was a dental hygienist and transitioned into practice management. My boss had aspirations of growing our dental family and having a place where professionals could work, provide outstanding care to our patients, have fun, and go home at the end of the day and not be stressed. We grew from one practice to two, then three. After two years, he sold the third practice, affiliated with an existing practice and built one in the same month! We set goals and were attaining them. We had a great team and had worked diligently on building a solid culture of positivity, communication, and transparency.

After a few years with four practices, he let me know that we had been presented with an opportunity to grow and become part of another group of practices. Yes, I had questions, but he did something that helped mold the outcome of the transition: he was honest and transparent. He gave me the opportunity to ask questions, and together we determined next steps.

Ask questions

Not every group is created equal. In the example I mentioned above, our team culture and values were extremely important to us, and we didn’t want to lose anything we’d worked so hard for. We met with the leaders of the new group and asked about their culture, how they did things, and what their expectations were. We determined that many of our values were aligned.

Think about what’s important to your team. If that’s education, you may want to ask if continuing education will be reimbursed. Maybe your team has special office hours—will that change after affiliating? What other benefits do they provide? Make a list of questions, then ask. It’s important that all your questions are answered, and that you have the opportunity learn more about what it will be like after affiliating with a new group.

Support your team

How do you know when it’s the right time to tell your team? Throughout the years, I have seen this part of the affiliation process go many ways. Some doctors will wait and tell their team close to or on affiliation day. Others will tell their team early in the process or about a month before. Once you know everything is moving forward, and due diligence has been completed, I highly suggest you tell your team. Most of your team has probably been with you for a long time, and they would want to support you and help make the transition smooth for the team and your patients.

When telling your team about the opportunity, show your excitement and that you feel the experience will be positive. Tell them about everything you researched and introduce them to the new team. Give your team the opportunity to ask questions and allow them to form their own opinions based on their experiences.

As the practice manager, your actions have a direct impact on how the entire process will go. I was fortunate to have a boss that communicated with me during the transition, and it allowed us to work together and made everything go smoothly. Whether your doctor is going to continue to work for a while or is retiring, the next phase in your career is going to be great and your team will be there to learn and grow with you!

Jennifer Steadman, BSDH, RDH, MAADOM, is the director of operations at New England Dental Partners. She specializes in business operations, team development, and communication. Her career has evolved from dental assisting to hygiene, practice manager, and now to her current role. In 2020 she was named AADOM’s Practice Administrator of the Year! Her goal is to empower dental professionals to home in on their strengths and become a positive light in the dental community.