How to transition your practice forward.
Are you a doctor purchasing a practice and stepping into ownership of an already existing business? Or are you an owner seeking to make big shifts or a stronger stance on your expectations and vision for where you are going? If so it is important to take the time, do the work, and clarify your purpose, your vision, and your plan to move that practice transition forward.
When my husband Jess and I purchased Jameson and officially became owners of The Jameson Group in January of 2012, the company was 22 years old. We had been working within the company as employees for 13 of those 22 years. Led by powerful leaders and visionaries that were truly figureheads of the brand with team members that had been employees much longer than us, taking over as the owners was in some ways a daunting task. In the end, we knew we were tasked with moving this business into the future. With that identified, we also knew there was a great deal of work to be done to make it a sustainable business through owner transition. We also had work to do to turn this company into a representation and reflection of us and what we wanted out of our professional journey.
Identify your path.
Does this story sound like yours? Are you stepping into ownership or leadership of a business/practice that has a great deal of history long before you? Patients that have entrusted their care to the previous owner for years and years? A reputation in the community—good, bad or indifferent? Legacy team members that may or may not be married to the culture of the practice as it was in previous ownership? Does the practice have great potential but at the same time is bogged down with glitches, broken systems and old habits that must be addressed and changed to fit your vision? The sooner you get to work on identifying the best way to transition your practice forward, the better.
Before we signed the papers, before we stood before the team, Jess and I sat together, away from home, away from the office, away from the usual and customary distractions. With the help of a business coach, we worked through what was to be our Purpose, Our Vision and Our Plan Forward for the business. We considered and celebrated the things that we loved about the company and the things we did well. We also identified and clarified the things we were not willing to do for the company that had historically been a habit. We determined the things we weren’t willing to sacrifice—looked at the reality of the company that we felt we could sustain while also keeping a happy marriage and life outside of work. This was important to us—especially as we identified our driving purpose for our work and what we were going to present to the team as the ongoing driving purpose of the business.
“Your purpose is your why.”
Jess always says, “Your vision for your business can and most likely will change over time, but your Purpose stays the same.” The purpose is your why. If we couldn’t come to clarity on that, it would be quite difficult to build a strong strategic plan and to cast vision forward for the future. So, as Simon Sinek states in his bestselling book—you must start with why. Sit, think about the moments, the historical determining factors, the emotional drives and cues, the reasons that led you to the career and the craft that you have chosen. What motivates you to do the work? What motivates you to keep doing the work? What does right look like in your career? How would it ideally be accomplished? How does your work impact and influence your family, friendships, team members, patients, extracurricular activities, contributions to your community, etc? Write it all down. What you will find is that a theme will start to arise and you will begin to settle into a clear idea of what your true purpose is.
A question Jess often asks clients he works with on vision creation and casting is this, “If you weren’t a dentist (insert your profession here if you are not a dentist), and you could be anything you wanted, what would you be?” More often than not, there is a quick answer—right at the front of mind and the tip of the tongue. The second part of this question is the realization that whatever attracts you to your alternative career is what also led you to the career you have now. The attributes of the career coincide with your inner core values and purpose. What you get from the work or what attracted you to the idea of the work, in some way, shape, or form, tapped into your inner purpose. Live in that. Work up a simplified statement that revolves around the driving forces that light you up about the work, get you out of bed and to the office every Monday morning, and especially cause you to do the work when the work is extraordinarily hard.
This is your Purpose.
Refine your plan.
Next, based upon your identified business Purpose, start looking forward. What is your ideal vision for your business in the next year, three years, five years? In your mind’s eye, what does right look like in all aspects of the practice? What kind of dentistry are you providing? How many team members do you have and how do they perform in the work? What are your patients like? Facility? Marketing? Reputation in the community? Systems and processes in your practice? Technology? Now, go deeper. How much are you producing? Collecting? Taking home? How many days a week do you work? How much vacation time do you take every year? Paint the total picture. Refine. Refine. Refine. Keep working it out until the moment comes when you read through your statements on each aspect of the business, you light up, you get excited and you respond yes, this is it! When you hit that moment, you are ready.
Begin building the plan forward. You’ve done the work to clarify the who you are in work and the why you do what you do. You have looked into the future and put onto paper in a clear and concise way what your ideal vision is for your business. You are already halfway to success in your practice transition.
Now, we have to do some hard, self-check time. We have to ask the question that you must be honest about: where are you now?
If we don’t know where we are right now as clearly as possible, how will we be able to effectively move ourselves and our teams forward in positive progress toward the vision that you have created of where you want to be? This can be a hang-up point because no one really likes to get real about our warts and ugly spots. Perhaps you don’t have any! Perhaps this practice you are purchasing and transitioning into is perfect! I doubt it. Sorry. If we can be honest about where we are going to have to focus our energy, we can strategically plan our way to solutions and that will make all the difference.
Look at all aspects of your business or practice—just like you did in your vision work. Each system, each position, each aspect of marketing, each portion of the facility, etc. Rank it high or low in terms of how close to ideal it is. Run the numbers. If you don’t know your key performance indicators—those integral practice numbers that tell the story of how the practice is truly performing—this is a habit I encourage you to get into. Set goals for your numbers and monitor them regularly. This will help you get a visual radar on the health of the business and it will also help you to prioritize where to focus your energy.
Go into the details of your business.
Here’s a start for you. Jameson’s Rate Your Practice exercise will walk you through 25 Systems of your practice that are pillars to the overall health and well-being of the business.
Begin to set goals based upon the work of this exercise. Here’s a sheet that can help you get better at goal setting. Remember to be specific and to be timely—this helps you gain a greater level of clarity and also keeps you from procrastinating on important steps forward.
Take your team with you.
The final step: casting this vision to your team. You may be stepping into leading a team that was there before you. You may be adding new team members to the mix and combining new team members and legacy team members. You may be starting from scratch. Whatever the case may be, the key to the success or this practice transition is the setting of expectations, the clarity of where you are going and how you are going to get there, and the invitation for your team members to join you in that journey…or not.
Don’t be afraid of losing team members in this process. When would we want to know that these team members have no interest in working and practicing the way you have identified is ideal to you? Now is good. Give them the chance to privately exit, wish them well, and then be about the business of finding team members that embody and are interested in your purpose, your vision and your plan forward. Make the communication of these three entities a primary piece of the hiring conversation.
The only way you will successfully transition your practice forward into your vision and version of that it is by having a team that knows the vision, believes in the vision, and is willing to help you achieve that vision. There is never a time that would feel ideal to implement and introduce something new. If you are asking yourself the question of when to begin, the answer is now. Start with where you are and what you have and begin to build your way forward in the direction you want to go.
Keep moving forward.
This is the path forward that Jess and I took in the transition into business ownership for our own business. We believe wholeheartedly that it made a difference in us fast-tracking toward making very difficult and important changes so that we came closer to what ideal was for us more quickly.
I have conversations regularly with doctors stepping into ownership of existing practices and the decision of where to even start can be consuming. Remember to work as focused as you can to get clarity of your purpose and vision for the practice. Involve your team in the goal-setting process. And the simplest piece of advice is this: Start with the first next step. It’s that simple. Keep moving forward.
Here’s to starting the journey to your ideal vision of professional fulfillment. If you need help working through this process for yourself, contact us to discuss Jameson Vision Sessions for you and your practice or business. We are here to help make that practice transition as smooth and as valuable as possible.