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Staff Transition and Retention Tips

The comfort and continuity of a transition begins and ends with one word - COMMUNICATION.

How you communicate the benefits and advantages of the merger or sales of your practice to staff and clients will produce a ripple effect that cannot be stopped. If the communication is done poorly or is incomplete the staff will become concerned and unsure of their job stability. Clients will detect this. If clients are sensing something is wrong or are not comfortable, retention and continuity of their relationship with you comes into question. Lack of retention produces a declining financial value for all involved in an affiliation.

Transition Advisors, LLC has created a transition document for use with staff and clients. The transition document identifies talking points that should be covered when announcing the change to your staff. Before making the announcement you should consider:

  • Whether to announce to a group or individually
  • If in a group, consider what should be said to the group and what should be said in the individual follow-up sessions
  • What you should or should not tell the staff about the new firm
  • Whether or not you should have members/partner(s) of the new firm at the meeting
  • When staff should be notified

A botched transition strategy guarantees everyone will lose, which is not a good situation for anyone - you, the clients, staff or successor firm - at such an important time. The timeless phrase, "You only have one chance to make a good first impression" particularly holds true for a merger or succession announcement.

At a minimum the following retention points should be clearly planned and communicated:

  • Plan the transition as far in advance as possible. Most clients assume that even though changes have occurred, such as name, location and size, if the people they have been dealing with in the past aren't changing, there won't be any detrimental effects to the way they are being served.

So the key to introducing a transition from one firm to another firm is when key people, normally the partners, will be around during the transition to maximize the advantage of having that person involved. (Many clients are only seen once a year with a face-to-face interaction. If a key person is five years from slowing down, that's only five visits with these clients so start the transition quickly to guide and manage it properly.)

Consider any pending loss of key staff that has a deep relationship with clients and transition those clients with the staff members that will be their replacement.

  • Set the stage for a transition with key players. Most firms do not consult with clients prior to making a transition as they assume that clients will go along with the change. High-level clients may appreciate being told in advance about the new affiliation before actual closing. The same would hold true for key staff. Be careful that the news is kept confidential and continue to keep these key clients and staff informed as the process moves forward or breaks up. There are risks in sharing this information too soon that need to be considered as well.

 

  • Communicate the change clearly to everyone involved. Keep in mind what is important to clients and staff. Emphasize what won't change and minimize the impact of what needs to change. Paint a picture of why they will benefit from what is new. Don't make the mistake of assuming clients will know what is and isn't changing. Important points to be properly delivered include (1) who they will be working with in the future (2) fee structure (3) new location (4) capabilities and services.

If staff is being retained they need to be assured that their compensation, benefits and role will remain unchanged and their future prospects are brighter. If adjustments in compensation and benefits are needed, consider making that change over time. Be quick, honest and open in your communication with staff. Let them know the playing field - tell them how they fill an important role in the successor firm's goals.

For more information on client and staff issues in a transition:

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If you have a question about your practice, its value or are seeking information about merger or merging, please use the Ask the Advisors program. There is no fee or obligation for this service. This is a confidential service. Please ensure the email address or telephone number you provide is secure or private.