A topic came up during our Anchored Leadership training that is a challenge faced by many small businesses. It’s something every business owner with a team will face sooner or later. What to do when a key member of your team leaves? Regardless of whether that person is going away temporarily, on an extended vacation or maternity leave, or they’ll be gone permanently, they got a new job or moved cities, losing a member of your team that you rely heavily on is a blow that’s difficult to overcome. So I’m going to talk about being proactive.

People are transitional, they follow opportunities, ideals, and family decisions. The days of choosing one job and staying there until retirement are long gone. But just because a phenomenal person indicates they may only be with you for a short while, never shy away from hiring them. Even a short time with a phenomenal person will benefit your business. Instead, get proactive about preparing for inevitable departures. Think ahead. There are choices you can make that set your business up to do well even when someone leaves.

Ask yourself if there is cross-coverage for every team member’s job. If somebody takes care of a vital aspect of your business and nobody else knows how to do it, that is a gap you need to fill. Cross-training is essential and that goes for your role as well. It’s the ability to assess what your business needs and will need in the future, and how best to alleviate client and customer concerns about team member departures that will set you up for client retention and behind-the-scenes success. How do you do that now, when things are going well? I’ll lay out key points to consider so you can think about the future needs of your business today.

Key Moments

02:06 Why you should hire that phenomenal talent even if their time in your business may be short

03:26 All the reasons for cross-training team members

07:49 Why you should encourage relationships between clients and other staff

  • There are ways to prepare for client retention when providers leave healthcare jobs
  • When you should introduce new hires to your team and clients
  • How you deal with team member departures will be closely watched by the rest of the staff

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Resources mentioned in this episode:

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Contact Kari Lotzien | Be the Anchor: 

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Transcript:

Kari Lotzien: [00:00:01] Welcome to Be the Anchor, the podcast. I’m your host, business and leadership coach Kari Lotzien. When the seas of life get stormy, and they always will, it is not up to us to captain anyone else’s ship or to try to calm the waters of the ocean. It’s up to us to set our own destination for what we really want, and to learn how to navigate those waves of life together while finding that place of security and stability with others. I call this being an anchor. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:00:38] Hello my friends. I’m so glad you’re here. Today, I want to share a topic that came up during our anchored leadership training, and I recognized pretty quickly that this is a challenge that is faced by many small businesses. It’s when a key member of your team leaves. Now, this can come in so many different forms. It may be that someone is going on maternity leave or taking a leave of absence due to illness or to be a caregiver for a family member. Or maybe they’re leaving permanently, they got transferred or they’re moving to a new community. Regardless, having to deal with transitioning employees is an inevitable part of business. And I think that we aim or we hope that we will get to a point in our business where we have a really strong, solid team where everyone knows what they’re doing, they’re well connected and that we’ll live happily ever after. But the truth is, this is a moving target, and people have lives that are always changing. And the days of staying in a job for decades and then retiring in that said job are really something we’re seeing less and less of. People are more transitional, and they will follow new opportunities. And you might have a phenomenal employee who stays with you for a very short period of time. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:02:05] Number one, I don’t want you to ever shy away from hiring a phenomenal team member just because you think that they may not be with you that long. If they have a love of travelling or they mention that they may end up having a new opportunity, I don’t think that it is ever worth not taking a chance on people, because I can tell you some of my best hires, and the people that really moved my business forward, were people that didn’t stay with me long. The benefit they had to my business, I wouldn’t take it back for anything. I think that there are ways that we can be proactive in how we manage this very real challenge that many small business owners face. We want to be proactive. Don’t ever assume that by offering people more money, or by making them feel like they’re irreplaceable, or that you’re so dependent on them and you don’t know what you would do without them, that is not the way to retain staff. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:03:08] We want them to have freedom. And there’s a way that you can love on people, ensure that they feel respected and valued in your business, while still really appreciating that they always have opportunities that may be available to them elsewhere and that you don’t own them. I think we really need to consciously cross-train your team. If you have one team member that holds a key role in your company and no one else knows how to do that skill or that task, even to cover for a short period of time, say that person got sick, we need to make sure that every task in your business can be covered by someone else. If you have gaps, then you need to go in and be consciously filling those in and cross-training your team. Even if they don’t do that skill or that task all the time, to make sure that you’ve got someone who could step in if needed. And I’m going to highlight, this goes for you too. Look at all of the roles you hold in your business and if you needed to step away, could you? And hopefully at least the majority of the tasks that you do in your business could be covered by someone else.

Kari Lotzien: [00:04:22] I think proactively another thing that we can do is encourage coverage. So I want to lean in and talk about specifically service-based businesses and maybe even leaning further into talking about healthcare businesses. Therapists. Whether you are a physiotherapist, speech therapist, chiropractor, psychologist, counselor, massage therapist, I think there are patterns that we hold in these types of industries, where a client will form a really solid, long term relationship with one single person in your team, and that puts you at risk. Because if that person leaves or goes even to your competitor, that client is at risk for following them, or they will start to look around at other businesses, at your competitors, and there is a chance that you can lose that customer. So to encourage that customer to develop a relationship with more people than just their one service provider on your team. So this could be a way of providing coverage. So if one of your employees is sick, maybe another one fills in for a couple of sessions or you consciously talk about specialty areas of practice. So if you’re a massage therapist, but maybe one of your colleagues, a different member of your team, has a specialty in how they manage a certain type of injury or a certain type of pain. What you want to do is encourage your team to be referring to each other. So you might be the primary service provider, but if that person has a really specialized piece or you’re getting feedback, you might have a team member that’s really not open to going and having a service provided by that other professional. One way that you can kind of bridge this gap is to have your team members talk about each other. Hey, I was talking about you with my colleague because they went to this new course or they’ve really specialized in this certain technique and I had them consult about how I might approach this certain challenge. So what you’re doing is you’re giving credit to other members of your team. Your client is then hearing their name. They’re getting to know them a little bit. They’re getting a little bit familiar with what they do, which kind of creates a safety net that if this therapist left, they know that there’s someone on your team who may be able to step in and provide this high level of care that they’ve heard about, or they know that that’s a part of your system. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:07:02] One of the best things I did last year was launch the Anchored Leadership Academy training program. We had our first group go through in the fall of this year, and let me tell you, it was incredible. We gathered a group of established entrepreneurs who really wanted to move forward in their leadership skills; developing their teams, being able to feel confident in giving great feedback, and delegating well to move to that next stage of their business. The next cohort will be starting in March 2024. The doors are open now for applications. All you need to do, if you want to check out the link in the show notes, have a read, and if it feels like a good fit, book an inquiry call. That’s it. Hope to see you there. All right, back to the show. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:07:49] The other thing is you want to consciously develop relationships with different members of your team. If you have, or every patient, every client, has a relationship with the receptionist, and far beyond just checking them in. But does that receptionist know their name? Do they ask how their trip was or do they make kind of light chit-chat? These things again, help to develop the relationship not just with the service provider, but also with your business as a whole. They have that relationship, they have that connection. And when the receptionist says, oh, you know, did you hear or I know that you’ve heard that your service provider is leaving, but I know that this other person is just going to be amazing, their clients just rave about them too. What happens is when the receptionist says that, there’s already this sense of trust, there’s already a sense of relationship, and they’ll trust what they share and that they’re being looked after in the business as an entirety. So you want to make sure that you’re consciously developing those relationships across your practice. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:09:03] Now. Let’s talk about when you’re in the situation. So you’ve heard that maybe someone is going on leave. I think there are best practices when it comes to how do we do this with our clients so that we minimize the risk of them losing the connection with our business and losing them as a customer? We don’t want that. I feel that any time you have information to share where you anticipate that someone is not going to be happy with what you are telling them, so whether that is I’m moving away, I’m taking a leave, I’m changing my hours, I’m going part-time, any reason that someone is leaving and you anticipate that their customers aren’t going to be thrilled about it, get closer. I do not think that people who have invested their time and their money with you, and as a service provider especially in the healthcare industry, sometimes these people, they have disclosed really difficult information to you, they’ve gone through hard times and they really do have that close, connected relationship. If they suddenly see on a website or they get a really impersonal email that announces your departure, it doesn’t honor the relationship you have. So I think the closer you can get in letting people know that that’s what’s happening, ideally, the service provider themselves is telling that customer up front, this is what’s happening, here’s my plan and we’ve got some time to plan the transition. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:10:37] I think it helps our clients, our patients, to feel like we truly care about their service and that we’re invested in the transition with them. Ideally, we then want to give them an option. So you could talk to them that as you’re coaching your team member, to then talk to their clients to introduce them to who’s taking over their caseload for them, and then you plan. So I could introduce you to them, we can set up a joint visit. Now I’m actually a big fan of doing joint visits. And yes, I know that it costs the business owner significant money to pay two staff members to see one client. I personally feel the investment is worth it. When we would transition team members amongst our team, when we’d have maternity leaves or long holidays or people were leaving permanently, I would typically allow them 2 to 3 visits where they would overlap, even if it was maybe even for a portion of the visit, because I wanted the relationship to develop and transition from the person they knew to someone new. So that the likelihood of losing that client, they never felt like we dropped them. They never felt like they had to take it over and then the person leaves, they then have to decide, am I going to try again? Who am I going to reach out to? What is their schedule like? And they need to call the office. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:12:02] Ideally, I want to keep that client on the same schedule, and I just want to transition them to a new team member, but I want it to be seamless. I want them to feel held as they are transitioning from one team member to the other. Then I want to get ahead of it. I want to ask or answer all of their questions for them. So if you anticipate that those clients, patients, customers are going to have questions about, well, what is this new team member’s experience, do they know how to deal with my particular issue or my challenge? So you want to answer that ahead of time. You want to be able to speak to the credentials of the receiving team member, even if it’s someone who’s new to your team. I’m making sure that my front line team member ideally knows who’s going to cover for them, they know who’s going to take over, and I can pass them over seamlessly. If you’re in a situation where maybe you don’t have that, you have a team member that’s leaving but maybe your new person that’s taking over that caseload isn’t starting for a certain amount of time. I’m still going to try and backfill it so that I’m talking about them as if I’m assuming that they’re going to take over. I’m talking about when they’re coming. I’m talking about, you know, when they will be in contact or when they’ll reach out, or will the receptionist be reaching out once they’re up and ready to take on that new client, that then we’re creating that transition. So ideally you’re doing the overlap. And if you can’t, you’re still speaking to how that transition is going to happen. And you’re really speaking positively about the receiving team member and what’s happening there. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:13:41] Give them all of the information they need. So they might also wonder, well, how are they going to know all the things that we’ve done already? How are they going to know what I’ve already worked through so that, you know, if you tried a certain technique and it didn’t work for that client or they really didn’t like it, is this new person going to know that, or am I going to have to repeat all of my stuff all over again? So you might then tell them about this is our transition plan, here’s how we communicate. If you know that you’re going to plan to transition to this new team member, we will do a review. So I go through with my team members, they will have access to my files, whatever the idea is so that that patient feels held and cared for. If there’s going to be a change in schedule, so will they still be available for my typical 8 p.m. appointment on a Thursday? Do I still get my time? Whether they do or they don’t, don’t make false promises, but lean in and if the schedule is going to change, you let them know. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:14:43] Any place where you feel like there is a potential place where we could lose service. So whether it’s credentials, whether it’s background information, whether it’s scheduling, anything that you can think of, that might be a reason why this customer that you’ve worked so hard to get into your business, we want to make sure that we’re answering their questions ahead of time so that we don’t risk losing them. And then we always want to close the door by making sure that your customers hear how grateful you were for that team member that they had the relationship with. Even if that team member leaves for reasons outside of maybe what you think was best service, you never want to be bringing team complaints or if there was issues in your team or that person left because they weren’t satisfied, you don’t bring that to the front line of your clients. You never want to highlight any sort of, oh, this person is so much better, or it was time for that person to go. You never want to give a sense of they left begrudgingly. You want to keep that cohesion in your business. If they had a great relationship with that person, you really want to honor that and you want to be speaking respectfully all through that engagement, especially as someone leaves. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:16:06] We want people to, when they transition, we want to be giving them the message as well that we are grateful for the service that they’ve provided, no matter how long that was. I think sometimes it’s difficult as an owner when especially a key team member leaves, or someone who’s a really high performer who is just so good, we do feel grief and loss and anxiety when they leave our team. Own it. Own it yourself. Don’t put it onto that person. Be really intentional about how you want them to be leaving your business. If you want to make sure that they’re leaving feeling your gratitude, your respect, and your really good wishes that whatever they’re choosing next in their life, they’re going with support. I think sometimes inadvertently, we will share, Oh, I don’t know what I’m going to do without you or this really leaves us in a difficult situation, we’re in a hard hiring time and it’s just really hard to find new people, with all due respect, that is not your team member’s problem. That’s yours. And it’s kind of an expected part of business and a risk that we take as we go through these transitions. So today I just wanted to share with you a few ideas on what to do when you find out that a team member is leaving for any reason to really minimize the risk that you lose clients. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:17:32] And I’m going to seal it up that when a team member leaves your business, never forget that the team members who are staying, who are on your team, they’re watching to know how you deal with this departure. And this is a time where you really need to have high levels of integrity because you don’t want someone to see a negative impression or, you know, that you’re talking badly about someone or that, you know, you’re really making them feel horrible about leaving your business because the people that are still there, they know that well, that’s what might happen when I announce that I want an extended vacation, or when I’ve decided to start my family. You don’t ever want your current team members to feel like them living their lives and doing what they want to do is jeopardizing how you feel about them. You always want to create that sense of safety and connection and all of that. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:18:34] So, a few ideas today. I hope it helps as you transition into building your team, building strong, connected teams, and maintaining just phenomenal businesses that really look after clients well. Thanks so much for being here. We’ll see you next week. 

Kari Lotzien: [00:18:51] Please know that this podcast is meant for entertainment purposes only. It is not a substitution for medical or professional mental health advice. If you require support, please do reach out. Thanks so much.