Bringing on a new associate, making an associate a partial owner, selling out to an existing associate or bringing in an outside owner all will change the dynamics within a team.
Bringing on a new associate, making an associate a partial owner, selling out to an existing associate or bringing in an outside owner all will change the dynamics within a team. Veterinary teams, in truly well-managed practices, are a well-oiled machines with clear understanding of the skills needed for success and a well defined set of expectations for all members. Paraprofessionals can anticipate what the doctor will need even before he or she speaks. Doctors understand the strengths of each team member. So what can you do to help your team accept these changes? It isn't easy.
I remember when we brought our second child home. Brianna enjoyed having a baby sister for a week or two and then asked, 'when are you bringing her back to the hospital?" The honeymoon was over. The same can be said for a veterinary practice. Well, in a perfect world, you would get the input from all staff members on the "new addition" to again ensure team fit. But, we don't live in a perfect world, so, try to implement the S.M.A.R.T. program outlined in this column.
When the projected change is solidified, it is time to ensure the success of the change. Have a staff meeting (doors locked, phone turned over to service), introduce the planned change, and invite questions. Have a single topic meeting about your new team member. Who are they? What can they do? What are the skills that they have that will grow the practice? Delineate the transition period so everybody knows. And most importantly, work on the scripts or narratives for the clients that ask.
Use all your internal marketing tools to further introduce the changes. Send a "thank you" letter to all clients that make your practice successful, i.e. the top 50 percent or so. Produce a newsletter article, with bio and blurb of the new associate. Make the new hiring announcement in the exam and waiting rooms. Publish an advertisement in the local newspaper with a picture of you and the new associate shaking hands. Run the ad from one to four weeks to instill confidence among clients.
Your acceptance of the new team member will speak volumes to your clients. Of course, no matter who it is, they aren't you. But if you can give your "seal of approval" to the doctor, that will validate them immediately with your clients. Expound on the skills and attributes of the new doctor. Make statements like "If it were my pet, I'd be confident in her."
Recognize the challenging clients and staff who are resistent to the new doctor. You will need to do some one on one with them. Try to alleviate as many of their anxieties as you can.
Ensure the team that you wouldn't do anything to hurt them, your clients or pets. Discuss the decision process and how difficult it was to make the final decision. Most of your team will realize the need for an associate or partner, but few of them will understand why you want to sell. With your clients, take the time to be candid and speak from the heart about your reasons for selling and your plans for the future.
When making the monumental changes to add associates or sell your practice, take your time to plan. Be honest. And think how would you feel if you were a member of this team and somebody sprung something on them like this. How would you like to be informed? Most of all, think S.M.A.R.T.