You Are Not The Business
It is dangerous for a company to consider anyone irreplaceable. Whether you are talking about Apple or Dr. Zed’s dental practice and everything in between, the best companies continue to be successful after any change in personnel. I was recently reminded of this fact in my own dental practice.
The very first employee I hired nearly 12 years ago worked in the front office. She has been a terrific member of our growing team over the years and a favorite of our patients. Late this summer, through a series of questionable events, she approached me to say she had an offer to become the office manager at the practice down the road but she did not want to leave our practice. I suppressed the initial shock long enough to say we would do what was necessary to keep her and we began the process of creating a new position with new responsibilities to address her desire for change. I announced this change at our monthly team meeting the following month. In the interim she told me that she turned down the offer and was happy to stay.
During the next two months, we were swept into the hustle of year-end and our office was closed for most of the holidays at the end of the year. Upon our return on Friday, January 4th, she gave me her two weeks’ notice with the explanation that she was tired of waiting for the transition and had taken that job offer after all. I was certainly caught a bit by surprise as this is not the best way to start the New Year and upon further reflection, I had an understanding of what happened.
Looking back at our initial meeting, I was most bothered at that time that she did not come to me first to say, “I have a desire to modify my position and responsibilities into an office manager role, are you interested?” When she sought this option outside our practice prior to speaking with me, her eyes were already looking to the other side of the fence. During the final months of the year she did not mention the new position or follow up with questions about a specific time line. While this was as much my responsibility as hers, I would expect someone seeking a leadership position in our practice to be more of a self-starter. Lastly, when she went back and took the position prior to the holidays and used the excuse that I was taking too long – I realized that if she stayed she probably would have always wondered about the other opportunity. She finished her last two weeks with a smile and our team gave her a great send-off. On her last day we shared a tearful good bye and I thanked her one more time for 11+ great years.
While I have personally learned many lessons from this experience, the message I shared with my team and the message for those reading, is this: great businesses do not lose momentum with the departure of a teammate, rather they rally around each other and rely on the great systems in place to continue on the path of prosperity. I would be happy to know that when I’m gone, the practice I leave behind continues to provide a living for the people working there and great service to the people in my community.