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Voice of Experience

Voice of Experience: April 2023 | Transition

Where Have All the Providers Gone?

Anthony C Musto


  • Planning for your trusted professionals transitions is a wise and proactive approach to ensure continued access to quality services such as dental, medical, financial, and legal.
  • Ask them for referrals or from your family or friends.
Where Have All the Providers Gone?

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The 60-something year old retired lawyer settled into the dentist’s chair, a bit uneasy.  Not about the looming examination, but about her orthodontist. 

She was very happy with the services he had provided her over the years and the way he coordinated matters with her dentist.  She was very unhappy about the fact that he had just retired and sold his practice to another practitioner.  She wanted to hear what her dentist had learned about the replacement.

The dentist arrived and informed the lawyer that the retiring orthodontist had no idea whatsoever about the abilities of the new orthodontist.  The only thing that he had been concerned with had been the ability to meet the asking price for the practice.  This information was not comforting to the lawyer.

A chatty fellow, the dentist went on to tell the lawyer about a recent experience.  A potential patient well into her 70’s inquired about the age of the dentist.  Upon learning that he was in his late 40’s, she embraced his services. 

The dentist assumed that she had been concerned about his level of experience and asked if her concerns had been put to rest.  She disabused him of his notion and informed him that the dentist she had gone to for years had retired and she wanted to make sure that she was going to die before her new dentist stopped practicing as well. 

The experience of the lawyer being shifted from one orthodontist to another, coupled with the dentist’s anecdote, brings to light a very real concern.  Just as we are reaching the age of retirement, so too are the professionals we have dealt with.

Not only dentists and orthodontists.  Doctors, accountants, veterinarians, you name it.  Even lawyers who represent us in areas foreign to our practices.  If they are getting to a certain age, there is a reasonable chance that you may not be able to avail yourself of their services for too much longer.

Yet we seldom think of this fact until we are hit in the face with one of our trusted providers moving to a warmer climate to sip pina coladas under the palms. 

Waiting for the predicament to arise is not a good approach.  It makes much more sense to plan ahead.  Otherwise, you will find yourself without anyone to turn to or in the situation the lawyer found herself, as a patient or client of someone not known to you. 

Sometimes that works out fine.  But you don’t know what is in store when a transition is thrust upon you.  So, you should think in terms of being prepared for such a situation.  If it arises, you can still evaluate the new provider, but it would be far better to do so with some knowledge as to your alternatives.

Talk to family, friends, neighbors, and other acquaintances now.  Find out who they use and whether they are happy with the services they are receiving.  When you get several people recommending the same person, that is a good sign that may direct you if a change is needed.

Ask your professionals who they and their families use for services related to their fields.  Your financial advisor can probably give you the name of a good accountant.  Your family doctor, a good ophthalmologist or podiatrist.  Your bookie, a good loan shark.

Also, talk to the professionals you have been using and find out if they are thinking about their futures.  You may get, “I love what I am doing so much I will never stop until I die,“ or you may get, “Another year or two and I’m riding off into the sunset.”  This way, you have an idea of when, if ever, you will need to make decisions.  (If they tell you they will work until they die, but are in their 90’s, you might still consider thinking about a transition possibly coming up soon.)

If your professionals aren’t near the point of retirement, but indicate that it will be coming up in the reasonably foreseeable future, assure them of your intent to stay with them until the end. But ask them about their recommendations as to whom you should shift to when the day comes.  One way to approach the issue is to ask them what you may have already asked about providers of services within their field.  Who do they personally use?  That answer will say a lot.

Don’t wait to ask that question.  When they get close to retirement, they will be thinking in terms of transitioning their businesses.  They will see you as an asset that will increase the value of the practice they plan to sell and will be reluctant to have you prepared to jump ship.  If you ask in advance, you are much more likely to get a real answer. 

Of course, when professionals are part of offices with other practitioners, they will want you to transition to another member of the firm.  In such situations, professionals often have their designated successors work with them before they leave. 

If that is occurring, be sure to meet the on-deck practitioners, get to know them, and gauge your comfort level with them as professionals and personally.  If you have confidence in and feel comfortable with them, your transition may be seamless.  If not, having given the matter thought in advance will enable you to move to a different provider with confidence.

Things worked out for the lawyer.  She is very pleased with her new orthodontist, and he works quite well with her dentist.  Her new eye doctor is in his 30’s, her new gynecologist, maybe 50.  She is hoping that they, and her other providers, will do such a good job that she will live to 100 and she won’t have to replace them until decades from now.