When a practice is sold, a letter of introduction and announcement is a very important part of the transition process. In my opinion, it is not always necessary for the past owner to continue to practice with the new owner. However, the letter of introduction is a key instrument to encourage the patients to return to the practice. Do not underestimate the importance of this simple process and how it will affect the patients’ acceptance of the change of ownership. Our experience, in over 600 sales, is that the letter is probably one of the most valuable tools to announce the new owner and encourage the patients to return to the practice. The letter could be signed by a spouse in the unfortunate instance of death or disability.
Key points that should be included in the letter
- Will the past owner still be working? If so, what days/hours? See Tom Schramm’s article, Transitions – Are They Always Necessary?, in the May 1998 issue of Ontario Dentist to learn more about transitions.
- The new owner should be mentioned with a brief description of his/her experience. It is important to display a sense of confidence in his/her ability in this paragraph with a sentence such as: “I have every confidence that he/she will continue to treat you with the same care as I have in the past…”
- Will the staff remain the same? If so, mention their names. All staff should be retained by the new owner, as they are well known by the patients and offer a sense of familiarity.
- I suggest that the new owner not make any major changes to hours and policies, but if they are going to do so, now is the time to mention them.
Things to consider before generating the letters
If you are computerized, the process may be a little easier. If you do not have a computer, most of the following points still apply but the process if different.
- Can your computer generate a mail merge? This means that each printed letter has the patient’s name and address printed directly onto your letterhead. Envelopes can usually be merged as well.
- Remember that it is only necessary to send a letter to the head of each household, not to every patient in the system. This will reduce costs substantially as there is no point in sending a letter to children. The parent(s) is all you need to contact.
- Each letter should be personally signed, in blue ink, by the departing doctor. This demonstrates that you have taken the time to sign each letter. Do not photocopy your signature; it lacks personal attention.
- If the letter has been merged with a salutation such as “Dear Mrs. Brown,” and you know the patient well, cross it out and change it to read: “Dear Sally,” with the blue ink. This is another nice personal touch.
- If your computer cannot generate a mail merge, print or photocopy the letters onto your letterhead with the salutation “Dear Patient,” then cross out those you know well and hand write their names as above. Again, I stress the attention to detail and the patients will notice that you took the time to address them individually.
- You may have the new dentist sign the letter as well, but I suggest it is best to have just the past owner sign. The new owner can do another mailing in the first year with his/her own message if so desired.
- The letters should never be mailed until the deal has closed. Do not be too eager to make the introductions until the transaction is finalized.
- There are a few guidelines about the content of a letter of introduction that are published by most provincial colleges. Check with your regulatory body if you have any questions about what must be said with regard to notifications.
- If you do not have a computer, things will be a little more labour intensive. First of all, you must identify the head of each household and then personally address a letter to each of them by hand or typewriter. Use your own letterhead. It will be more work for you or your staff, but the letters should NOT include photocopies of your signature. Personally signed letters are far superior to copied ones.