During my years as a practice owner, I’ve noticed a pattern. When someone near my office sells his or her practice, I get an influx of new patients. Believe me—I made no effort to market to these patients. It’s just that I know when someone near me has retired: His or her patients tell me about it during their first visit to my office.
Why does this happen? Why do patients leave the new practice owner?
There are some practice transition mistakes that I’ve noticed. I avoided these mistakes when I bought my practice. But don’t worry, I made plenty of others along the way, but that is the subject of a different blog.
I realize that when you purchase a practice the temptation is to go in and update the equipment, completely remodel the office, etc. DO NOT DO THIS.
When you purchase a practice, the patients are already going through a seismic change—you. People do not like change. In fact, people hate change. That is why they are not happy about the fact that the face they will be staring up at during their appointments is a different one.
If you want to lose patients, then change things in the office. Change the wall colors, carpeting, and staff; introduce new high-tech equipment that they’ve never seen before. These changes will chase them away.
Think about this: If you go in and change the doctor, carpeting, equipment, and more, what is the difference to the patient between that and going to a different practice altogether? Either way, the patient experiences many changes. Patients would like to be able to come into the new owner’s practice and think to themselves: “Well, at least everything LOOKS the same.”
When can you begin making the changes you want? Wait until you’ve been there a year. This allows most patients to see you twice before seeing other changes in the practice. If they only come in every six months, it will take a year before they have cycled through you twice. At that point they will no longer see it as the previous dentist’s office. They will see it as your office. As you introduce slow change, they’ll be happy for you. I try to make changes in my practice once or twice a year. Slow changes are best.
Do you hate the lime green color on the walls? After a year, you’ve earned the right to change the color. But leave the ugly carpeting in place. You’ll get to that in six months.
Andy Alas, DDS