Personal Development
∙ May 15, 2023

Announcing Retirement

“Dear Friends” is the salutation I used to inform my patients of the sale of my practice.  You see, my patients were my friends and were among the finest 1800 people I knew.  It was a difficult decision to transition to retirement, but, selling my practice to a local practitioner with high integrity and excellent clinical skills made it just a little bit easier.

I recently enjoyed a conversation with Tim Brown, president and CEO of the ROI Corporation whose expertise is brokering Canadian dental practices.  Much of what we discussed pertained to the “notice of sale” sent to patients of record.  It seems that a promising young dentist Tim knew handled the process poorly, and he asked me how I had handled the situation.  The letter I wrote took weeks to edit and refine and included numerous elements:

  1. A sincere opening: “Because you are a valued member of my professional family, and the quality of your care is always important to me….”
  2. My promise to remain with the practice for two years “to ensure a seamless transition…”
  3. Introduction of the buying dentist, including information regarding his family and his commitment to the community in addition to his credentials.
  4. Advising them that the dental hygiene staff that they loved would remain intact.
  5. That we shared similar practice philosophies, so little would change regarding their care.
  6. That the practice would be open five days per week and that more services would be available “in house,” including oral surgery and endodontics.
  7. That the office location would remain the same.
  8. A sincere closing: “With sincere appreciation and best wishes for your wellness and success,”

Although it’s a legal requirement to inform patients of the sale of a dental practice, it’s also a marketing opportunity for the buyer and an expression of good will by the seller.  Each element was included to fully inform patients of what to expect and to assure them that the quality of care they had enjoyed would continue.  And, since every professional communication, electronic or print, reflects upon the quality of the practice, my letter was commercially printed on high quality stationery and sent by first class mail.

Regardless of how well a “notice of sale” letter is written, it’s rarely received with enthusiasm for it notes the “beginning of the end” of a professional relationship, many of which may be decades long.  Indeed, some of the recipients of my letter focused only on the fact that I would be retiring and missed much of the critical information I was providing them.  That’s just human nature, and sadly can’t be overcome.

The pandemic caused many practitioners to reevaluate whether they wished to continue to practice.  Many, close to retirement, finding that they could not acquire the necessary personal protective equipment or keep their current staff, simply closed.  Others, realizing that the future of patient care might require more effort and expense than they were willing to assume, called people like my friend Tim, and said, “I’m done.”

At the end of the day, all that is important is that “patients of record” everywhere continue to receive the quality care they need, want, and deserve.  And, for those who elected to transition or retire, inform those for whom you cared with a letter that reflects the fact that you did, indeed, care for them.

Wayne Kerr, DDS, MAGD

Mountaintop Moments: “Change before you have to.” Jack Welch

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