by Jim Vander Mey
Practice Transition Advisor
People love benchmarks. They want to know how many glasses of water we should drink each day. How much we should work out every week. Or, how many miles per gallon our cars can achieve. There are benchmarks to look at when you are buying a practice. They may not necessarily be deal-breakers, but they help determine what you will need to do to right the ship if the benchmarks are a little out of whack. Here are some of the benchmarks you should look at and calculate when buying a practice:
- Staff overhead as a percentage of collections – 20% to 25%. If it’s higher, the practice is overpaying staff, underperforming collections, or too many staff.
- Facilities Expense – 7% to 9% of collections – Too high and the practice is either paying high rent, space is underutilized or production is too low.
- Supplies – 5% to 7% of collections – If this is too high, it could be that the practice is using high-end supplies, or the supplies inventory (or vendor) is not managed properly.
- Marketing expense – 3% to 5% depending on the growth stage. A practice that is looking to grow will have a high percentage. A static practice may not spend much on marketing at all.
- Collection Rate – Minimum of 98% for a well-run practice. A low rate means the front desk is not keeping up or managing the accounts receivables very well.
- Total Overhead (all expenses less owner and associate pay) – Ideally should be less than 65%.
These are just a few benchmarks to analyze when looking at a practice. Again, these are benchmarks and if the practice you are analyzing does not meet or exceed these benchmarks, it does not mean it’s a bad practice. It simply means you have work to do in those specific areas.
Contact me if you would like more information – email@example.com.
There are a number of things to look out for when buying a veterinary practice. If you’re not careful, you could end up with a bag of tricks. Here are some of the top pitfalls to avoid when buying a practice:
1. Not understanding the numbers. Be sure and know what normal veterinary expenses are and what may be extraneous.
2. Assume the staff are all on board and will be staying with the practice. Know who the staff is and what their relationship is with the seller, and how good they are…
3. Embezzlement – hire an accountant to look for any irregularities. Statistics show there are a high number of practices that are embezzled by their employees each year. Are courtesy credits high? How about patient refunds?
4. Does the procedures the selling doctor perform match the procedures that you do? Make sure a large amount of the procedures you don’t do are not currently being performed by the seller. You don’t want to have an immediate drop in production right from the start.
5. Understand the lease. How many years are there left on the lease? Are there more options to extend? Is there a loan form the landlord build into the lease? Which expenses are covered in the lease? Is it triple new or a gross lease?
These are only a few of the pitfalls to make sure you don’t get tricked. Spend as much time in due diligence as you need and bring on experts to help you along the journey.
-Jim Vander Mey, CPA. ABI
I meet hundreds of veterinarians each year who are looking to buy an existing veterinary practice. Of those, I would estimate that 30% have done any research on what is involved in buying a practice. Of that 30%, none know the beginning to end process of buying a veterinary practice. While all the steps cannot be covered in this article, here is some guidance on where to start and what steps to take before buying a practice.
- Contact a bank that finances veterinary practice acquisitions and makes sure you can qualify for a good loan. Banks can require decent credit scores, cash in the bank, that you are two years out of school, and show production from your current employer. Every situation is a little bit different. Try to avoid SBA loans if you can, as they can be expensive with early payment penalties. However, if that is the only avenue to ownership, do not pass it up.
- The next step is to understand a little bit about veterinary practice valuations. You don’t want to go into a sale not knowing if the practice is worth the price listed or not. If you are looking at a practice that a corporate entity is also looking at, the rule of thumb is that valuations are out the window. Practices grossing 1 million or less could be worth between 65% and 75% of its’ last 12 months’ production. Remember, that’s a rule of thumb – I’ve seen practices go for as high as 160% of production and as low as 30% of production.
- Think about where you want to practice. You’re probably going to be there a while, so you might as well like the area. Research demographics – there are excellent demographic services that sell great Veterinary demographic information for about $500. It will tell you where the best locations to practice are located. Also, do not ignore the smaller, older, and not-state-of-the-art-equipped practices. These can be the best opportunities allowing a higher return on your investment.
- Put together a good team. Get referrals for a good veterinary broker, attorney, banker, and accountant. They’ll help you analyze the veterinary practice, do the legal work, and help you find a practice.
- Get an understanding of the true cash flow of the practice and if expenses are above industry averages. For example, is the staff expense greater than 25% of production? Is the reason because one employee is overpaid and will be retiring at the same time as the seller, or is there an over-staffing issue? Be an informed buyer.
- Be prepared for your due diligence. You need to know what to look for when you do get to the point of buying a veterinary practice. Does the practice have a website? As the practice should be valued on current performance, not future potential, there could be real opportunities for immediate growth. Know how to spot these things.
- Finally, spend some time with a veterinary broker before you go look at the practice. Understand what the practice you are looking at is all about. Does the broker think it’s honestly a good practice? Why? Does the explanation make sense? Once you’re comfortable with the numbers, then go take a look at the practice.
By being an informed buyer, you will avoid a lot of headaches and potential problems down the road. There are practices that are hidden gold mines and practices that you should not touch. Being educated and knowing the difference is critical in your veterinary practice acquisition success.
Since Omni started in 2004, we have sold well over 300 practices. Prior to approximately seven years ago, the majority of the practices had been sold to individual veterinarians buying their own practices. The past seven years, most of our sales have been to corporations. They have been paying big bucks to acquire practices. They have been paying associates handsomely to work in those practices. But is the trend flipping again back to individual buyers?
Corporate buyers have always told us that they want to acquire large practices with two or more doctors working in the practice. They have been doing that successfully. So well, that it’s hard to find a multi-doctor practice that isn’t owned by a corporation. I know, there still are some, but a lot of them have been gobbled up by the big guys. And they’ve paid a multiple of EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization) ranging from a low of 6 to as high as 20 (or more) in certain cases. One of the requirements for the sellers is that they stay in the practice and commit to work for anywhere from 2 to 5 years in their practice after it’s sold depending on what’s been negotiated. Here’s where the corporates are now realizing what happens when the doctors are done with their commitment. The selling doctor may retire completely. The corporate then needs to get another associate. Associate veterinarians are not easy to find these days. Thus, the rush to open up a few more veterinary schools. So, that leaves them with a practice with one less doctor if they can’t find an associate.
Here’s another trend we are seeing. Some of the smart, entrepreneurial younger veterinarians, in their 40’s and 50’s for example, who sold their practices and have fulfilled their commitment to a corporation are now back on the market looking for a practice. They got tired of some of the corporates telling them which supplies and equipment to use and, in some cases, even which procedures to perform. (Yes, I know, they’re not supposed to dictate clinical work, but some do).
As I previously stated, corporations have been passing up on acquiring the majority of the solo doctor practices. We see lots of practices with only one veterinarian collecting a million dollars or more, booked out a month or two, working six days per week and they just can’t find, or afford an associate. Some of these practices, if they had two doctors, would quickly grow to collect $1.5 to $2.0 million. Those practices are prime acquisition targets for the solo doctor who sold to the corporate, has practice management skills, can retain the selling doctor, and quickly grow the practice. They can potentially then sell the practice in a year or two to a corporate as they now have a multi-doctor practice if the seller stays on. Or, they can hold onto the practice and reap the cash flow from the now two-doctor practice.
Note to the young buyers out there that have been out of veterinary school for 3 to 5 years, you can do this too! The seller has the experience of running a practice. Many that we speak with are willing and want to stay on to mentor the buyer and help run the practice, they’re just getting tired and want to cut back a few days. Most love being a veterinarian and want to continue the clinical aspect of veterinary work. They just want to pass on the management to the buyer and work less days. So, the opportunity is ripe for veterinarians who are tired of working for a corporation and want to own your own practice. You don’t even have to sell to a corporate. You can hold onto it and make it your own practice for years to come and be proud of what you’ve built, or the legacy you’ve carried on.
There are a lot of great solo-doctor practices out there waiting for a buyer to come along. The potential is both lucrative and gratifying to the buyer and the seller. You don’t need to work in a corporate environment the rest of your life. You can enjoy your freedom and work in your own practice. The choice is yours.
We’re always just a free phone call away and happy to help in any way we can.Read More
By Corey Young, MBA, Practice Transition Specialist
What defines entrepreneurial energy? According to David Lyons PhD,
“Entrepreneurial energy is the force that sustains the momentum and velocity of progression in the venture. Energy can rise through excitation/agitation and fall through decay of the energy as a result of predicaments or failures.
Entrepreneurial energy is an endogenous force that fuels motivation and sustains entrepreneurial action and momentum. Encapsulating hope, optimism and obsessiveness, the nature and experience of the entrepreneurial energy provides meaning to the entrepreneurial pursuit and venture. Entrepreneurial energy is a motivational construct characterized by positive intense feeling, emotional arousal and internal drive and engagement in the pursuit that is salient to the self-identify of the entrepreneur. The positive affective state also generates positivity in the cognitive state fostering creativity and recognition of new patterns of information critical to opportunity recognition and exploitation in the external environment.
Entrepreneurship, after all, is a science of turbulence and change, not continuity. Turbulence is caused by certain force. Such is the force in entrepreneurship, like the wind is felt but not seen; or seen through the ruffle of the leaves but not the wind itself.”
Most of you reading this article can relate to those attributes, especially early in your career. Remember talking to your friends in veterinary school and making plans for your practice? Remember the excitement of updating your new practice? Remember the hours put in behind the scenes to get the practice where you wanted it?
Do you still have that energy in you? If you do, this is a great time to be a veterinarian entrepreneur. Consolidation is happening and it will favor the big and the bold.
What if you don’t? That is okay also, but the time to consider harvesting your practice asset is now.
In my exit-planning training, coaching our clients to either grow or sell their businesses was absolutely paramount. Stasis really is an illusion. Equipment gets older. Technology becomes dated. Marketing plans become obsolete. Business values decline.
So ask yourself, grow or sell?Read More