Meeting Your New Staff: What Dentists Should—and Shouldn’t—Do

After finding a practice to buy and having your offer accepted, I STRONGLY recommend you meet the staff if at all possible. They are an integral part of the practice and your success.

In fact, I often say that if you’re worried about keeping patients after the transition, your focus should be on the staff. As the doctor and business owner, you’re the final say on most things in the practice—but your staff are the front lines, the people your patients will have the most interaction with. Patients don’t know you yet, but they know the hygienists and front desk staff, and they (presumably) trust them.

When to meet the staff

Get to know the staff as early in the buying process as possible. Once your offer is accepted and negotiations are underway (and going well), ask the seller if you can visit the practice in-person during or just before/after business hours for a chance to introduce yourself to the staff.

You’re likely to hit a snag here. Most sellers have heard the terrible advice that they should keep the sale a secret. They think that their employees will immediately run for the hills, and then if your deal falls through, they’re up a creek. And look, I get it. Sellers and brokers are not crazy for having this concern.

My counter to that is simple, though. You, the buyer, are about to shell out hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of dollars on this practice. You’re taking on the risks and stress of ownership, and you deserve to have a good look at the practice, including the staff. Unfortunately, my argument doesn’t always win the day.

If you can’t meet the staff until after closing, so be it. If that happens, gather as much information as you can from afar. How long have they been there? Who asked for a raise last? How do the latest performance evaluations look? You can even ask around on facebook groups or staff at other nearby offices to find out the reputation of this practice.

What to do when you meet the staff

If you do get a chance to meet the staff, be warm and curious, and remember that a box of donuts never goes wrong. Ask lots of professional questions and fewer personal ones (those will come later).

Who are they? How long have they worked there? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What do they like or dislike about the practice? Do they have any career goals?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you get to know the practice culture quickly, identify key staff members, and—eventually—make appropriate changes.

On that note, I also strongly recommend that you NOT make any immediate changes to the staff, their normal routines and procedures, pay and benefits, and so on. Take notes on the changes you think are appropriate, and wait at least 60-90 days after the sale to implement them. A smooth transition will benefit you more in the long run than any sweeping changes that seem like they need to happen now.