I sold my practice. Now what?
How can I get my staff as excited as I am?
Building your life legacy was a team effort. Deciding to sell or partner with a larger organization is a very personal decision, yet it also affects everyone who has helped make your business successful. Part of being a strong leader is concern for the receptionists, associate veterinarians, kennel staff, technicians, assistants, hospital managers and many other helping hands you’ve counted on through the years. How can you secure their futures? And how do you tell them the news in a way that eases their worries?
Choosing the right partner makes all the difference. You can assure your team that the culture you’ve built together will remain, while they gain access to new opportunities for career development and patient care.
Before You Sell
Research cultural fit. As you’re exploring partnership options for your practice, it’s important to learn about each prospect’s culture. Talking with previous sellers and their business development teams will give you a feel for whether you think your team will be a good fit. Will partnership flow naturally, or will your team have to make significant adjustments? Navigating uncertain politics on top of an already challenging job can create extra stress. The closer the cultural fit, the more comfortable and productive the new partnership will be—keeping valued team members satisfied and retention rates high.
Consider your personal goals. How much do you want to remain involved post-sale? What passions do you want to focus on, and where would you like to step back? If you could choose your hours, what would they be? Picturing what success looks like for you, then sharing your goals with your team, can help set their expectations. Transparency builds trust. Help them understand your journey, from building the business to your decision to transition away from it. That shows respect for their feelings and contributions, and brings them along on the adventure with you.
Explore leadership opportunities for your team. Your partnership decision could create the chance for new leaders to emerge. You know your colleagues: some may be ready to play a new role in the practice transition.
If you don’t have a hospital manager in place, is there someone who could step into that role to help drive consistency in the practice? They’ll enjoy growth while other team members get the reassurance of working with a familiar face.
Some team members may have shelved their dreams of owning a practice in today’s financial climate—what if they had financial assistance to make ownership viable while you scaled back or sold outright? Developing future leaders locally will be a key priority for organizations focused on long-term growth.
Telling The Team
Believe in your decision. You know that you’ve done everything you can to secure the legacy you’ve built. You’ve lost a little sleep playing out what will happen to your practice and your people. And still, your heart may pound when the day comes to share the news with the broader team.
When you look them in the eyes and share this significant change, you’ll see a range of emotions. Surprise, unease, nervousness, and excitement are all normal, and as the news is processed over time, some may experience the entire array. Happiness for your decision and your future can easily be overshadowed by personal uncertainties. You’ve led this group, and they’re still looking to you for direction during this moment. So take time to listen and answer questions. Understandably, you’ll hear many people asking, “What will happen to me?”
Start with why. Tell the team your story, sharing the thinking behind your decision. When you bring them along on your journey, you’re treating them with respect while offering them a chance to share in your excitement. Give them credit for supporting this new chapter in your life.
Address immediate concerns. Pre-emptively calm everyone’s nerves by addressing the elephants in the room. Individuals’ minds will quickly jump to job security, tenure, vacation, pay and schedules. Those are all fair and natural concerns, so be up front with the facts. Share appropriate information about leadership plans, including new joint venture partners, managing DVMs and hospital managers.
Help them envision an exciting future. Once you’ve soothed initial concerns, you also have an opportunity to share the positive impact this change will have on individual team members. While each partner may be different, most larger organizations may provide benefits the team didn’t previously have access to—both personal and professional. There may also be special perks for staff member pets, which is sure to excite anyone in veterinary care.
At the end of the day, no one knows your practice and team better than you do. Your intuition will guide you to any concerns you may need to address as you make this transition. Being as transparent as possible, telling your story, and focusing on the positive impacts will help keep your staff engaged. Because through it all, it’s important to provide continuity to the pets and people you’ve all been serving together. With your guidance, your team can see this change for what it is—an exciting new opportunity for everyone.
At NVA Canada, we’re creating a Canadian community dedicated to you. Our integrations team partners with the hospital from the first welcome meeting until many months after close to support the team. Lori Dunn, Integrations Manager based in Eastern Ontario and former manager of three NVA Canada hospitals, describes her role: “I’m a little bit like the tour-guide. My job is to be open, approachable and to find the answers for them so that their transition process goes smoothly.”
NVA Canada affords team members many new growth opportunities, plus personal and business-building benefits, including: DVM recruiting, IT support, medical/dental, CE, focus on well-being, student debt relief, mentorship, access to marketing tools (including online reputation, web design, social media, reminders, etc.), real estate expansion and capital equipment.