Practice Acquisition: New Staff is Negotiating Benefits, What should I do?

“I acquired a practice this week, and inherited 4 employees. The previous owner did not offer any benefits besides PTO and a paycheck. I matched the compensation package and PTO offered to the staff, some who have been with the office for more than 30 years, but they are collectively trying to get more benefits from me that I did not expect to offer since the seller did not offer them. We are are going into week 2, and none of the staff have signed the new hire agreement and Employee Handbook. The offer letter expired. What should I do?”

Congratulations on acquiring a new practice! It’s an exciting journey filled with opportunities and challenges. One of the key challenges you might face as a new owner is handling employee expectations and demands that arise during the transition period. In your case, it seems you’ve inherited a team that is collectively seeking additional benefits beyond what was previously offered. This can be a tricky situation to navigate, but it’s essential to approach it with a clear and strategic mindset.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to handle these demands and ensure a smooth transition:

  1. Have Individual Conversations: The first step is to have individual conversations with each of your inherited employees. This allows you to understand their specific concerns, motivations, and expectations. It’s crucial to create an open and honest environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and concerns.
  2. Evaluate What’s Fair and Possible: After listening to their concerns, carefully evaluate what benefits you can offer while keeping the business’s financial stability in mind. Consider factors such as industry standards, your budget, and the overall health of the practice. It’s essential to strike a balance between employee satisfaction and the business’s viability.
  3. Negotiate Responsibly: You have the power to negotiate with your employees. While you should be willing to meet their reasonable requests, it’s also crucial to set clear boundaries. Negotiating doesn’t mean you have to agree to everything they ask for. Be prepared to explain your decisions and provide rationale for why certain benefits may not be feasible at this time.
  4. Consider the Power to Replace the Team: As the new owner, you have the authority to make changes to the team if necessary. If you believe that certain employees are leveraging the situation against you or demanding excessive benefits, you can consider replacing them with individuals who align better with your vision for the practice. However, exercise this option carefully and thoughtfully, as retaining experienced staff can be valuable.
  5. Time to Show Value: It’s essential to communicate with your employees about your vision for the practice and how you plan to add value over time. Encourage them to be patient and allow you the opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of your leadership. Building trust and demonstrating positive changes can help alleviate employee concerns.
  6. Be Mindful of Future Hires: When considering new hires, be aware that they may also have expectations regarding benefits and compensation. It’s vital to maintain consistency and fairness in your offers. Ensure that any benefits you extend to new employees are in line with what you’ve negotiated with your existing team. This consistency can help prevent future conflicts.
  7. Avoid Emotional Reactions: It’s natural to feel emotional when dealing with employee demands, especially when you’re adjusting to your new role as an owner. However, it’s crucial to remain calm and composed during discussions. Emotional reactions can escalate tensions and make it more challenging to find common ground.

In conclusion, handling employee demands after acquiring a business requires a careful and strategic approach. Individual conversations, fair evaluation of requests, responsible negotiation, and thoughtful consideration of future hires are all key factors in managing this situation. Remember that you have the authority to shape the team and the practice’s direction, but it’s essential to balance employee satisfaction with the overall success of your business. By following these steps, you can navigate this challenging transition and set the stage for a successful ownership experience.

Grace Rizza, CEO, Identity Dental Marketing
January 2024

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