How To Prevent Staff From Leaving With Your Clients
22nd May 2017
I get asked about this all the time. And, yes, I have an horrendous story about what a staff member did to me— ask me about it next time we meet. There are some ways to minimise the risk of this happening, and I wish to spare all of our readers this pain.
Having a strong and legally correct and drawn contract of engagement. Yes there will be an upfront cost for this, but as your business grows, this document will be well used. Please seek legal advice. Be sure to include all the relevant restrictions to curtail their activities both during and after employment with your business. Cascading tiers, indicating time and geographic restraints are common. It is critical that you understand this and can clearly articulate it with new and current staff.
Protecting your Intellectual Property. Your contracts and “Policy and Procedure Manual” should contain information about your Intellectual Property and its use. Most practice management and computer systems have different levels of access you can set. You don’t want staff getting access to your full mailing or client list. It is quite OK to protect your information.
Talk to your staff. Make it clear that you are fair and reasonable, but that there is a line that can be crossed in terms of respectful and professional behaviour. Ask them what their intentions are, the moment they give notice its time to contact all their clients personally to assure that you are able to provide ongoing services with a new clinician. Manage the relationships with families, referrers, and schools assertively. During the exit conversations and exit interview remind them of their legal and professional obligations. Changing caseloads. Swapping clinicians to new schools and new caseloads each year will change their working relationships and perhaps dampen the inclination to solicit and swoop on your business’s clients.
Assertively manage relationships personally with all your current and new referrers. They need to know who you are, why you do what you do, and that you are the backbone of the business. Offer to assist them with the transition into their own private practice. I have heard of clinicians ‘purchasing’clients from the agency they are leaving. At times it is in the family’s best interest to stay with a particular clinician. Other managers have provided private practice training and mentoring to support clinicians leaving to start their own venture. Now there is a brave proactive rethink, one that I applaud, on the usual anxiety we have around clinicians leaving with ‘our’ clients.
It’s important to think out your position on staff leaving with clients. There are lots of ways to be right and, as the business owner, you need to decide, build appropriate policies, and uphold them. I would love to know what you think about all this.
This article featured in the March Edition of Paeds Biz.