When to Tell your Staff your Practice is For Sale
By Corey Young, MBA, CEPA, CVA, ABI
Congratulations, you just accepted an offer on your practice! With all the emotions associated with the transition, when to notify your staff is surely at the top of your “to-do” list. Telling employees that you are selling your practice is an extremely delicate process. Breaking the news too early can come with many risks, so best to wait until all final closing documents are signed by both parties and no more than one week before the new owner takes over.
So, what are some potential risks?
One of the primary risks is that employees will naturally be worried about their job security the moment you make your announcement. Oftentimes if they have too much of an advanced notice they may start searching for other opportunities. Staff leaving could negatively impact the transition and patient experience because of how instrumental they can be in helping the buyer and the patients adjust to new ownership.
The other major risk is that nothing is final until its final. Veterinary practice sales are extremely complex and can be delayed for a multitude of reasons or fall through completely. Making the announcement before the sale is complete will cause stress and heartache amongst your staff during a time that you will be preoccupied with navigating a significant professional milestone. If the staff were to find out before closing was final, you wouldn’t be able to offer any reassuring answers because of unforeseen changes to the closing timeline.
Finally, regardless of your views of your staff’s maturity level, gossip will ensue. I have seen it countless times where a veterinarian tries to provide honest reasons on why they are selling, only to have their words misconstrued. Comments such as, “I’m selling my practice to focus on my health” can quickly morph into, “S/he is selling because the practice is going under,” or lead to unfounded conclusions such as, “After the new guy starts, we will all be replaced.” This kind of fear and uncertainty will have a profound impact on staff morale during a time where they will be needed to ensure a great patient experience during the transition process.
In the end, you probably have a deep and meaningful relationship with your staff. They deserve to know about ownership changes as they will be impacted, but it is best for them (and for you) that they be kept out of the loop until you have concrete answers to provide them.