How to Minimize Patient Drop-off After Buying a Practice
Everyone has experienced Buyer’s Remorse. That sinking pit in your stomach, that feeling of wasted money and ‘the-grass-is-greener’ thoughts about the ones that got away… This is a bummer when you dropped some cash on a pair of shoes, but it is devastating when it comes to buying a practice, where you have invested a huge sum of money and are in it for the long haul.
We like to consider ourselves the Buyer’s Remorse anti-venom, if you will. With careful preparation you can minimize the situations that lead to big-time regret. And one of such situations that MUST be carefully managed in a practice acquisition is the transition.
We consider the transition period the first 90 days after the practice sale closes. The selling doctor may or may not be in the clinic this long after the sale, but the new owner, the staff and of course the patients will all be adjusting to the change for about this long before the new normal becomes established.
We work closely with our buyers to ensure a smooth transition, and it involves so much more than could ever fit into a blog post. But here are some powerful ideas to get everything off on the right foot.
Get on the Same Page
First, you need a plan. If you do not work with a broker you will need to make your own list of everything that needs to be accomplished, WITH DEADLINES. This starts with letting the patients know about the change via transition letters from both doctors. The new doctor needs to have already established the business structure (solo/ partnership/ corporation), filed everything with the state and opened the correct bank and merchant services accounts. Then there are accounts to switch over, like utilities, supplement and supply sources. There are other accounts to be closed and reopened in the new doctor’s name, like insurance and payroll. This is no one’s favorite thing to do, thus the need for specific deadlines to make sure it all stays on track. Trust me, I learned this one from experience.
Set up a trial run
Second, as the new doctor, you need to make sure you are ready to run this office. A great idea is to build a window of 1-2 weeks into the transition where the former owner is not in the office but is not out of the picture yet. The new owner will run the office and treat all the patients while the former owner takes a small vacation or enjoys some downtime. Both the staff and the new doctor monitor patient feedback on the change, as well as note where additional training is needed. Then the former owner provides needed training and support, including additional time in the office treating patients if necessary, for the duration of the transition.
Embrace the status quo
Don’t change a thing for at least the first 90 days. This will be hard. This is now your business. You want to put your mark on it. And you have so many good ideas!!!
But the truth is, even if this is not your first practice, you don’t know enough about this particular business to make any changes just yet. And even if the changes you make are solidly for the best, you are going to freak out patients and staff who are change-resistant (aka 90% of the general population.) You just made a HUGE change- you replaced their beloved doctor/employer. Let them adjust to this while you take this time to learn EVERYTHING about the business.
Take the time to meet with all the employees and patients. Build rapport with them. Reassure them that you aren’t planning any major changes. Ask what improvements they would eventually like to see. And really listen, ask follow up questions, try to get to the underlying reason they think this change would be awesome. You may or may not implement their idea, but oh how people love to be listened to. And you will learn so, so much about your new business.
Transition planning is critical for the success of the succession (say that ten times fast!) And that is something in which buyers and sellers alike have a vested interest. If you are hungry for more on this oh-so-very-important topic, you can read a great article here that has a few interesting case studies on effective transition strategies. Until next time!