AS A LAWYER who represents dentists in practice transitions, my fundamental message is, “Dr. Seller, view your
job in this transition as doing whatever you can to ensure
your buyer’s success.” First, you owe this to Dr. Buyer, who
is paying you a substantial sum for your practice and good-will. Second, by ensuring your buyer’s success, you will
provide an ongoing viable practice for your former patients
and employees, thereby building a wonderful legacy. To do
this well, you must come to grips with transferring your
beloved practice to someone else. Do it willingly and happily. Build up Dr. Buyer at every opportunity, and never
undermine him or her, especially around patients and staff.
As for specifics, the introduction letter to patients and
referring doctors is standard. The costs are usually split
50/50, and the letter should be mailed to too many recipients as opposed to too few recipients. The general rule for
this letter is that the more sentimental it is, the better. Both
doctors should collaborate on it.
Also, Dr. Seller should agree to stay on for a transition
period of about six months in order to make personal in-
troductions to patients and referring doctors, and to teach
Dr. Buyer how to manage the office. This is included in the
goodwill price, so there is no additional consideration. Dr.
Seller’s working hours can be reduced over time. Dr. Seller
might host an open house to welcome friends of the practice
or organize lunches with the major referral sources to help
cement those relationships.
One last point: Dr. Buyer has a responsibility here as
well. Dr. Buyer’s greatest asset going forward will be Dr.
Seller’s goodwill and cooperation. Far too often we see Dr.
Buyer blow it, either due to immaturity or insecurity. Dr.
Buyer should be respectful of Dr. Seller, praise him or her
as a good person and clinician, and welcome Dr. Seller
back from time to time as a friend of the practice.
It’s all pretty simple. If you treat the other person the
same way you would like to be treated, the practice transition should be a success for both sides.
SELLING YOUR PRACTICE can be a stressful time for
both your patients and staff. In the excitement of taking
the next step in your professional life, it can be easy to
underestimate the strength of the bond your patients and
practice team may feel toward you.
It’s therefore critical to take measures to reassure your
patients and staff well before your departure in order to
preserve goodwill and ensure the ongoing success of your
practice. Mailing a transition announcement two to three
months before you leave is fundamental. Here are several
more steps you can take to help keep patients in the
• Plan a meet and greet event at the practice for patients
and staff to get to know the buying practitioner before
he or she comes on board. The face-to-face interaction
will help patients feel more relaxed with the new doctor
and assure them that their care will continue to be in
• Have the new dentist work alongside you for a month
or two before your departure, conducting routine examinations and scheduling follow-up appointments.
This will give patients time to become accustomed to
the idea of working with someone new in your office.
• Introduce all staff members to the buying dentist as
soon as possible so they feel comfortable and confident
that they will be valued members of the transition team.
Try to keep existing staff members on board throughout
the transition period as they are vital links to the success
of the transition and retention of current patients.
Clearly, the primary elements of a successful transition are
full transparency with staff and open communication with
your team and patients. By following these guidelines, you
can help ease the process and ensure a positive transition
for all concerned.
We ask two experts the same question
on a complex issue.
Other than a standard letter, what are the
best ways for a selling dentist to protect
goodwill and keep patients in the practice
throughout a transition?
is the west region business
development manager for
Wells Fargo Practice
Finance. He helps doctors
successfully transition into
ownership roles by
solutions and leveraging
his experience in the
health-care market to help
ensure a smooth and
Contact him at andrew.
COLLIER, JD, LLM, is
an attorney who provides
tax and business planning
services to the dental
profession through Collier
& Associates Inc., a law
and consulting firm
representing doctors in all
phases of practice
transitions and appraisals,
retirement plan services,
and tax-deductible CE
seminars. He is the editor
of the biweekly Collier &
Newsletter, which provides
thousands of doctors with
timely and practical
business, tax, and
wealth-building advice. For
more information, visit
call (216) 765-1199.