A successful ownership transition

December 15, 2020
Todd Petersen

Todd Petersen, CEO of VitalSkin Dermatology, discusses the last part of your transition journey – ensuring a smooth, successful transition for you, your team and your patients.

The deal is done. You’ve completed your diligence, gone through negotiations and are fully aligned with your buyer or partner. What’s next? Now’s the time to start thinking about transition. A successful transition is in your best interest, as well as the buyer, your team and your patients. This will ensure both you and the buyer get maximum consideration. It will also keep your team and patients from getting stuck in the middle of a bad transition, which could result in losing team members or patients.

A successful transition typically results from good planning, with both sides working together to create an actionable timeline (usually identified previously in the buy/sell agreement). The right communication to both your team and patients will also be an important component of the transition. Depending on if you’re exploring other options after selling or staying with the practice, your transition activities will be a little different. But regardless, you’ll need an actionable plan in place. What does that look like?

Plan Your Transition Strategy

Before your deal is closed, you should at least have some initial discussion with your buyer or partner on how the transition will work. But if you still need to flesh it out more, work with them to build a plan with set action items in a specific timeline.

The circumstances of your transition will help drive this. If you’re not staying with the practice after transition, your key focus points will be effectively communicating with your team and patients to help retain them after you’ve departed. If you are staying with the practice, communication will still be key. You’ll have to lead your team through this change and effectively explain the why behind your decision, so they’re on board and aligned with your plan. There are also many other things you may need to consider – are you rebranding your practice? Will you be implementing new systems and processes? Will new partners or team members be merging into your practice as a result? If necessary, those will all need to be thoroughly planned out with your buyer/partner.

Plan and Execute Your Communication Strategy

As mentioned above, the right communication approach will be needed regardless of your transition scenario. For your teams and patients, how much of an impact do you think this change will have? With your team, do you think they’ll adapt easy or will there be some that will resist? What will be the major reason or factor of resistance? If implementing new processes/systems, how much of a change will this be and what adjustments will be needed?

Thinking through these questions will help you plan and communicate more effectively. You can also seek out advice and feedback from key individuals you trust, whether it’s a colleague, mentor, senior team member, etc.

Once you’re fully prepared it’s time to communicate your decision effectively to your team (and patients as needed). This is especially important if you’re not staying on with the practice. Not only will your team be dealing with the upcoming transition and the accompanying changes, they’ll be losing a trusted leader. That could be a major loss for them in addition to the other stages of change they’ll go through. It could be a major loss for some of your patients too. If you’ve built strong, trusting relationships with them over many years, they may not want to continue their healthcare at the practice if you’re gone.

If you’re staying, communicate the big picture so everyone understands the rationale behind it. But don’t oversell the benefits, either. Talk about leading the transition plan with their input and involvement. It’s ok to acknowledge that change is always challenging and will take time to get used to. Your team will probably have fears and concerns. Be understanding when addressing these. Here are a few more tips:

  • Portray the right attitude. Be realistically optimistic. Show that you believe you’ll succeed, but also that you have to make success happen together. Emphasize things like effort, careful planning, persistence, and choosing the right strategies as one team. This will help unify your team in meeting the challenges of change.
  • Engage and partner with team members that have the highest positive energy. Leverage their help to orient others toward the change.
  • Listen to and acknowledge resistance. Make sure your team knows their opinions and thoughts are being heard.
  • Help your team members see the roles they can play in leading and implementing change.

Even after effective communication, there may still be some uncertainty and resistance. And that’s normal. It will take time for everyone to fully adjust. But communicating the transition the right way will kick that adjustment off in a strong way.

Start Your Transition Strong

You’ve planned and communicated your transition, but now day one is here. This could be day one of a new chapter in your life if you’re not staying with the practice. But essentially, it’s also a new chapter if you are staying. There will likely be changes and growing pains starting out, but if you planned accordingly, your day one transition should ideally go smooth. If you have outstanding obstacles or issues even as your transition is starting, rely on your buyer/partner to help support. That can make the difference in providing clarity on business decisions at stake, as well as the expertise needed to navigate any additional challenges that come up.

Once you’re up and running with your transition, hopefully any feelings of uncertainty or doubt start to fade, and you ca start to see the things you were looking for come to fruition. After all, you chose to transition your practice for a reason (or several), whether it was the need for business support, more work/life balance, more growth opportunities, more profitability, etc. Whatever your reasons were, best of luck in achieving the career you want!

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