Questions Frequently Asked by Veterinarians Who Are Thinking About Selling Their Practice
By Rod Johnston & Jim Vander Mey
- When should I start thinking about and preparing to sell my practice?
The earlier the better, but no later than 3 years prior to selling your practice in order to optimize your sales price and find a good buyer match. Practice values are typically based on 3 to 5 years of financial information with the numbers weighted heavier towards the most recent years. If you focus your last 3 years in your practice on maximizing collections, overhead and updating your practice, you will come out money and time ahead.
- Will I get a higher price if I ramp up production for another year?
Typically, no. Since values are based on up to 5 years of production and net income, simply ramping up numbers for one year will not increase the value a whole lot. In fact, if it goes up too much in one year, a potential buyer and banks may even question why the production all of a sudden went up in one year.
- Should I buy new equipment or remodel before I sell my practice?
If you are 5 to 10 years away from selling your practice and your practice is looking dated, then you should update the practice. That can range from simply painting the practice and installing new carpet, up to replacing tables, adding new x-rays and other technology. If you spend a lot of money too close to the sale, you will not get the depreciation write-off that you would get if you had done it much earlier. The exception to this rule (there’s always an exception, isn’t there?) would be digital x-rays and computers. If you are not digital, don’t have computers, or your computers are 10 years old, you should consider adding those before selling.
- What are buyers looking for in a practice?
Individual buyers like to see a well-run practice with a decent amount of production, typically over $500,000 per year, average to low overhead (below 75% is good), somewhat up to date look and feel to the practice and a good location.Corporate buyers like to see similar things, but also want the seller to stay on and work in the practice for another 1 to 3 years (depends on which corporate buyer). They also want the seller to carry-back approximately 20% or more of the purchase price of the practice. This means you get 80% of the purchase price upfront and then you receive the rest of it – 20% after you’ve completed your 1 to 3-years work requirement and have met established production, and other targets in the practice. If you don’t reach those targets, you may not receive the final 20%.
- I have an offer from several corporate buyers, why do I need a broker?
It’s been said that “the man who represents himself has a fool for a client”. A broker wears many hats in a transition. Finding a buyer is only one small role they play. The broker also takes a look at the offer and looks out for the clients’ best interest. Corporate offers are all not alike, so brokers also play the role of analyst by looking at each offer. They have to understand accounting, finance, the law, contracts, and even human resources. If you try to do this all yourself, you will end up costing yourself, your family, your staff and patients more time, money and grief than if you just hired a broker in the beginning. We have case studies where we have caught things in the offer that would have cost clients hundreds of thousands of dollars. We have helped negotiate and solicit more offers that have put hundreds of thousands and even one million dollars more than what the clients first offer was.
- The person representing a corporate buyer told us they prefer us (seller) to not work with a broker. Why is that?
They don’t want you to use a broker because it weighs the negotiations in their favor and gives them an upper hand. They have powerful attorneys, CPAs, and professional negotiators to pit against you. They may first knock on your door with a friendly neighborhood veterinarian as their representative, but behind that friendly veterinarian lurks the professionals hoping you don’t have anyone helping you out. They’re able to get lower prices, better terms and corporate favored contracts if the seller doesn’t have a broker.
- I own my building, should I keep it as a rental for future retirement income?
In the current real estate market, the short answer is “no”, especially if you’re considering a corporate buyer. We have pictures and case studies of sellers who kept their building only to have the veterinary corporate buyer move out of the building two years later to a new building they built down the street. The seller is left with an empty building that was a veterinary practice and will be difficult to find a tenant. The exception could be if you have an extraordinary building in a fantastic location on a busy street with great visibility and the building is in pristine condition – these practices make up less than 10% of all veterinary buildings.
- I want to do an associate to own transition. Can you help me with that?
Absolutely. We can help with pretty much any type of sale. Whether you want to do an associate to own transition, a straight sale to an individual, a corporate sale, or anything in between, we can help. We will show you all the options and scenarios to help you make the right decision. Often times, doctors think they want an associate to own transition and not sell to a corporate. But, when we show them that they can make $500,000, $1,000,000, or more by selling to a corporate, they change their mind. We’ll help walk you through each scenario to do what’s best for you and your family.
- I want to continue working in the practice after I sell, is that possible?
It depends. If you sell to an individual and your practice isn’t large enough to support multiple doctors, then the answer is probably not. But we can help identify the right buyer for you who will allow you to do what you want to do. In fact, one of the questions we ask is “What is your dream transition scenario?” We then go from there and do our best to make your dreams come true.
- I want to make sure my staff and clients are taken care of. How do we make sure that happens?
We like to call ourselves matchmakers. We spend time getting to know you as a veterinarian, practice owner, family person, etc. We ask a lot of questions to find out what your needs, wants, and dreams are in a transition. We then go out and find a perfect match — whether it’s an associate, individual buyer, or a corporate. Even corporate buyers have their own unique personality, culture, philosophy, and terms. We make sure that the buyers who will want to buy your practice are a good match for both you and your practice.
Do you have more questions? Attend one of our upcoming Practice Transition Seminars this fall, where we will go into all of the above in more detail, and you’ll get a chance to discuss your situation with a panel of experts – broker, banker, attorney, CPA, etc. – all in one place.
What Owning a Veterinary Practice is Really Like
Many of you have recognized the power and need to delegate. You have people you can trust – your knowledgeable service rep now fixes your equipment, a skilled plumber who fixes the leaky sink, and an expert commercial broker who takes care of your lease. By delegating you have freed up your time, reduced your stress, and let the experts use their skills to do what they do best.
When it comes time for your veterinary transition, you can try doing it yourself, but that’s like giving the patient a sharp veterinary instrument to spay their own pet. They don’t have the knowledge, experience, or skills to do it right and may end up bleeding in the end. Or, you can entrust your veterinary transition to the people at OMNI Veterinary Practice Group who have the experience, knowledge, and track record to help you achieve your goal giving you peace of mind, freedom, and more happiness. Contact us today for a free consultation – 877-866-6053 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Selling Your Practice Does Not Mean You Have To Stop Practicing
Whether you have owned your practice for 40 years, or owned it for 5 years, selling your practice does not mean you are done practicing. We often meet with veterinarians who are sick and tired of managing their staff, doing the bookkeeping, dealing with the ups and downs of the economy, and on and on. The veterinarians are about to crack, but think they cannot yet sell their practice because, according to their CPA or financial advisor, they are not yet financially ready to retire,
We counter this by asking them, “Who said you need to retire?” You can harvest your equity and either work back in the practice or go work for another veterinary hospital. What the CPAs and financial advisors may not see is that your practice collections numbers are going down, or that your blood pressure is skyrocketing due to the above-mentioned challenges of managing your practice to the point of a heart attack coming right around the corner.
If you have a good amount of equity in your practice, we can sell your practice and you can put the cash in the bank and work as an employee until you are ready to retire in 5, 10, 20 years, or as long as your heart desires. Transitioning out of your practice may be the way to enjoy your profession again.
If you think you might want to sell, we are happy to talk you through the process. Just give us a call at 877-866-6053 or email email@example.com to set up a free consultation.
Current Trends For Veterinary Practice Buyers
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
The Short List Before Selling Your Veterinary Practice
There are many steps to selling your veterinary practice and your trusted advisors are here to help. Right now, we want to address just a few items that many veterinarians don’t think about and that can lead to surprises.
Contact your CPA and/or Financial Planner regarding the following items:
- Are you financially prepared to retire? Your transition specialist (broker) can assist you in determining the potential price of your practice and your real estate (if any).
- Depending on your entity structure and past depreciation, what taxes will you owe?
- Depending on your state, what taxes will you owe?
- If you have any debt against your practice or real estate the debt will be paid at closing from your sales proceeds.
- What will you do with the final funds? Do you have a retirement plan to maximize or does a 1031 exchange on the real estate make sense for you?
Again, there are many steps to selling your practice, but please address the above items to help reduce surprises.Read More