The Vital Role of Staff Post Sale
02 Aug 2016 - Simon Palmer - Buyer: Post-Sale Staff

When a new owner buys an existing business, the staff will often play a crucial role in ensuring a smooth transition. In many ways, the staff are more important to the owners than ever before. While the new owners are still getting to know the area, practice and patients, the staff:

  • know the supply reps and local businesses
  • know where everything is kept
  • have existing relationships with patients

Patients of the practice and the community at large may ask the staff of the practice about the new owners: “What they are like/what is their background/are they nice/are they any good?”

Unfortunately, it can come at a time when staff confidence and morale can be at its lowest. When a new owner takes over, staff are often:

  • Worried about their jobs: “what if the new owner has someone else in mind for my job?”
  • Worried that the new owner will not like them: “I had a great rapport with my old boss; I wonder if it’ll be the same.”
  • Worried about shifting goalposts, in terms of how things should be done.
  • Suspicious of changes: “Dr Old always said that serious dentists didn’t need to advertise…” or ”Dr Old didn’t feel comfortable doing this specialised clinical work…”

The new owner will often have an uphill battle on their hands to get the staff onside. And yet many new owners will enter their new practice and start work after only a brief introduction, hoping that everything will just fall into place.

Here are some Best Practice tips to ensure that things go as smoothly as possible:

  1. Have a lunch with all the staff members as close to the first day as possible. At the lunch, take a minute to:
  • Acknowledge their reasonable concerns during a transition like this.
  • Let them know about you, your background, and your experience in the field - that you aren’t an ogre, and they will find you to be a reasonable person.
  • Tell them what you like about the practice, area and community.
  • Acknowledge the great foundation that the previous owner has laid.
  • Acknowledge that there will be differences in practice, preferences and leadership style, and that the first few months will be an adjustment for everyone.
  • Tell them you’re confident that you will work through this difficult period together, and come out the other side as a strong team.
  • Tell them you are looking forward to getting to know each of them; appreciate that they have a view of the practice that you don’t, and that you value their perspective and hope for their best efforts, feedback and input as to what will make the practice a success.
  1. Take the time to have a coffee or lunch with each of the team individually in the first month. Get to know a bit about them personally.
  2. Help the front desk answer the questions that they will get asked about you by the patients, by preparing a cheat sheet of bullet points for them about your age, experience, background, history, clinical strengths, etc.
  3. If possible, get them to sit in the chair with you as the dentist. Offer to do a Prophylaxis on their teeth, or whiten them at no cost. Patients are going to ask them what they think of you. It is best if they can speak from experience, telling patients that they have seen you personally, and ‘sat in your chair’.
  4. You may see a lot of things that aren’t ideal when you take over. It may be tempting to make a clean sweep through the practice and change anything that you don’t feel is right straight away. Resist this temptation as much as possible for the first month or two. Try to change as few policies as possible at first, to give them chance to get to know you and give them a sense of continuity. Once they know and trust you, you’ll encounter far less resistance to any changes – major or minor – that you want to make.
  5. Schedule weekly meetings with the team at least for the first month, so that you can give and get some course correction on how things could be integrating more smoothly. This isn’t an opportunity for you to unload on everyone whose work or attitude you find unsatisfactory. It is a time to acknowledge things that are working well, things that could be working better, and to get some feedback and input from the team on some ideas about how things could be going better.

Being the new boss will always involve a period of adjustment and stress, for all parties involved. While the business purchaser has a huge learning curve it’s important to realise that the staff can usually be the best possible tool to mitigate this stress early on.

There will always be things you want to change immediately, but if you are able to wait until you win the staff over, they will be your greatest advocates. Keeping them onside during this unpredictable period will help to ensure that the transition is an easy one for you, your staff and your patients. 

For more Post-Sale articles for a dental practice buyer click here: