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 Steve Kikikis, Vice President, Broker
Money Pit or Cash Cow?
On occasion when a doctor purchases a practice there is also an option to purchase the real estate. Historically, real estate has been a good investment over time, but owning a commercial building has its own nuances.
There are a lot of similarities between owning a commercial building and a residential house. As the building owner or homeowner, you are responsible for paying the insurance, maintenance, and property taxes. Be sure to understand what your out-of-pocket costs are before you take on the responsibility of purchasing a property. Investing in a building or home inspection conducted by a reputable building inspector is always worth it.
Before you purchase a commercial building, know your demographics, and do your research. If a building is a steal, make sure you do some research to find out why. A commercial real estate broker that specializes in your industry can assist you in looking at the demographic information to fully understand the value of the real estate.
After you’ve purchased the practice, you are now the king of your castle and if you are business savvy, you can make a profit from owning your building. Having some knowledge of what to expect and what the pitfalls are of owning a building can save a lot of headaches down the road. For this article, we will consider that you are the owner and sole tenant of your building.
Maintenance – You’re now responsible for everything from the leaky roof, sweeping the parking lot, HVAC systems, lighting, ADA compliance, security systems, plumbing, and possibly the water and sewer mains underneath the property. The best advice is to adhere to a schedule with regular and preventive maintenance. Don’t skimp on issues that may seem small but that can turn into a bigger safety issue (both expensive and potential lawsuit if hazardous) in the long run.
A lot of potential challenges are dependent on the age of the building and how the previous owner took care of the property. You can hire a property manager to be the point of contact so you’re not distracted and can concentrate on your work. Some owners like to be involved in every decision, while others don’t want the hassle of being contacted for leaky pipes, clogged toilets, etc.
Insurance – a commercial building policy will differ from a residential homeowner’s policy on your home. A commercial policy will also have coverage for the business operations, its products, and operations liability. Much like homeowner’s insurance, the age and construction type of the commercial property will determine the premiums. Commercial insurance is also based on the neighborhood where the building is located.
Although chances are slim, some policies cover loss of income in the event of a fire or other loss of the building. These are usually additional policies that can provide peace of mind.
City ordinances – Although you may own the building, ownership doesn’t necessarily mean you can do anything you want. An example is a new building owner who wanted to utilize a specific size of a sign for his business, but the city ordinances stated a sign can be no bigger than 30 square feet. Be sure to reach out to the city before you decide to change or update the signage on your building and also verify if there are any restrictions for the exterior of your building such as signage, color, material, etc.
Taxes – There are two points on the taxes. First, for the building taxes, make sure your ownership is properly transferred to you during the purchase, and make sure that you keep up-to-date on your taxes. Set up an account directly within the municipality you are located or make sure your loan program is paying it directly. For your business taxes, owning your own commercial real estate has many tax advantages. Connect with your CPA, make sure you’re paying your real estate entity as a business expense, and more.
Money Pit or Cash Cow? There will be costs to owning your own commercial real estate, but taking the proper steps and working with an experienced commercial real estate broker that specializes in medical/dental purchases will save you time and a lot of money. Just think, if you are leasing a space, after 10 years you will be signing up for paying the landlord another 5 years of income. If you own, after 10 years, you will be working towards paying that building off and have the equity in the building.Read More