One wants to find meaning in retirement. I think that David brings the point home that he made a new life for himself that is very meaningful to him. David, you deserve congratulations for making all the discoveries that you have, finding a new life in retirement.  And Alfred, you too are making a difference by donating your time to your community while making your family a priority.

Peter, you went into this with all good intentions and unfortunately those good intentions did not resolve in the direction that you had hoped.  I hope and anticipate that even though the practice transition has not gone as you have expected, that you find an avenue upon which you can share your considerable talents.

I am not retired, but am making transitions for a number of reasons.  So far, through good fortune, I am finding a way to transition in the way that I would like. That transition has everything to do with the profession that I’ve always loved, periodontics. And besides the things that most of you have seen both on this forum and elsewhere, there are some factors that I have only referred to briefly. David, thanks for the opportunity to expound upon them a bit more.

In my search for an associate, I had some criteria which may have been difficult for some to swallow. But I established criteria before I made the search.  Here they are:

  1. I wanted to continue to maintain contact with my practice.
  2. I wanted to teach in a particular direction.
  3. I felt that a practice that I created with the help of my wife, my office manager, and my staff could not be easily transitioned into without instruction and seasoning.
  4. I felt, hopefully not arrogantly, that the practice that I created still benefited from my being the “face of the practice.”
  5. I wanted the practice to grow to a point where it could be self-sustaining.
  6. I wanted a practice where all doctors would see and appreciate the benefits that they might find in my being there.  That includes my son, who is a general dentist and practices under my roof.
  7. I felt that if I were to create a Director of Dentistry model, that I should therefore be a Director of Dentistry myself, directing the business as well as the clinical portion of the practice without necessarily doing the clinical work myself.
  8. Doing surgery was taxing to my physical being. Yet I still had abilities in that area that a good periodontist might be want to learn and be able to benefit from.

I therefore wanted an associate that would appreciate the above, that would not necessarily need to buy in right away, and that could see the bigger picture in the future.

There was quite a search for the right periodontal associate. And to some degree, I understand that the above criteria may have been too stringent for many that I interviewed.  I’m very happy that I did find the right associate who was happy with the above criteria.

Now for the lecture part of this:

For the senior doctor:

You have created a practice that has thrived for many years. You, as Peter expressed, have filtered out the bad staff, and nurtured the good staff. They like being with you and like the environment that you created.  They’d love to have you continue being in that environment, continuing to direct that environment.

Your patients also see you as the face of the practice. They want to know that you are there. They want your judgment as much as if not more than your surgical skill. You can continue to make a difference in their lives, whether you do the surgical procedure or not.

You have created a business model that works.  You should write up, in detail, every part of that business model, so that you can easily turn over your hat to your successor  when that successor is ready to receive that hat.

There is no need for you to leave the practice unless you really want to.  You can continue and you don’t have to do the surgery to continue. You can do the examinations, the consultations, the “selling” if you will, and the junior doctor can do the surgical treatment.  You can show the new doctor what you do, and then gradually transition out of the full time surgery mode in favor of running the rest of the practice.  Even while you are running the rest of the practice, you can check upon the surgery at critical points, glove up when you feel the need or when there is a teaching moment, without feeling the need to do the whole thing unless you want to.

By doing so, you will transmit your history to a new doctor who knows that he or she will benefit from that history. While you and the new associate are doing that, you have great opportunities to discuss cases, discuss your business model, discuss staff training, and gradually allow the new doctor to take the reins, item by item.

For the junior doctor:

You have excelled in your dental and periodontal studies. You wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t. You bring good training and skill to the table.  And now, it is time to learn, time to learn all the skills that the senior doctor brings to the table as described above. There is a certain finesse that can only be transmitted slowly and assimilated and learned slowly.  When you decide to move into an existing practice, there is so much more to that practice than the numbers. Those numbers reflect as much communication skill as surgical skill. Those numbers reflect the affinity and the team that has been created under that roof.  Those numbers reflect the confidence of referring doctors and patients. Those numbers reflect all of the strategies that have been tried and failed, as well as the few strategies that you are now seeing that succeed.

The skills are what you bring to the table and those skills will continue to improve. But the rest, the rest is experience. You senior doctor will be able to transmit that experience only as quickly as you are able to receive it.  Your senior doctor has to have the patience to transmit it in bite-sized chunks that you can play with, until you get it.  And because the senior doctor was there to create it, and because the senior doctor already rejected those ideas that don’t work, you will be able to learn those ideas in a fraction of the time that it took for him or her to create them.

By following the above, we can continue to benefit all concerned, we can continue to be productive, and we can continue to hone the profession that we chose so many years ago. We can still retain that foundation from which we found so many ancillary benefits to the community and to ourselves.  We don’t have to leave that foundation that we created, and the younger doctor doesn’t have to be in a hurry to see the senior doctor go.

It’s called “transition” for a reason. —“the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.”  Oxford American Dictionary. Speed is not necessarily a factor in transition unless you want it to be. Too much speed without control can produce a car wreck.

I have been fortunate to find a great associate who has the willingness to transition as described above. And such has given me the freedom to grow in the directions that I have chosen.

You can do it too.