Jim Vander Mey, CPA, ABI, and licensed commercial broker with OMNI Practice Group, explains to veterinarians the cost of waiting to own a practice and how buying a practice now should pay off.Read More
By Corey Young, DDS, MBA, AVI
I know. Running a business seems daunting. You just want to be a doctor and not have to worry about the rest. I understand. That said, it is wise to consider what is left on the table by being a career employee, or by waiting for that perfect practice to show up.
Let us consider a fictitious practice:
- Overhead: 60%
- Gross: $550,000
- Net: $220,000
- Acquisition price today, due to COVID environment: $300,000
- Interest rate: 4%
- Loan of $330,000 (acquisition price plus one month of working capital) over ten years: $3,341 monthly payment/$40,000 annually/$400,930 over life of loan
Let us assume 10% growth in the first two years and 5% growth in the next eight, all while maintaining overhead percentages.
- Total income over those ten years $2,600,000
- Estimate of practice value in ten years $700,000
Sum of income and asset value $3,300,000
As an associate, how does this compare your compensation package over the next decade?
How many years you should have under your belt before you own a practice? Typically, the number is five years, but that the number really depends on the doctor. We’ve had doctors who were able to purchase a practice after three years and do quite well. A lot depends on your comfort level, skill set and experience.
Here are some things to consider before you buy:
- Are you comfortable with your clinical skills? If you have been out of veterinary school 3 to 5 years, you should have a feel for where you are with your skills. A lot depends on the clinic(s) or hospital(s) you’ve been working. Some may limit what you’re doing and others just may not be busy. If you’re in a location that’s given you a variety and volume of experience, you should be getting a good amount of experience.
- Have you seen a good practice in operation? Sure, you’ve been working in one or more clinics, but are they well run? Or, if they’re not, you know the difference. If you are in a well-run practice, you should be observing how the doctor and/or office manager treat the staff. Whether a veterinary assistant, office manager, or veterinary technician, they should all be treated well. How about the patients and clients? They should be given good, Nordstrom-like treatment. They pay your rent and you want them coming back.
- Do you know how to read financial statements? Most veterinarians in the early stages of their career don’t know what a financial statement is let alone how to read one. There are on-line courses such as accounting for non-accountants and other courses on financial statements and bookkeeping that can fairly quickly teach you what the financial statements are and how to read them. Understanding them is imperative in running any business.
- Now that you know how to read a financial statement, do you know what the numbers should be? What percentage of collections should your payroll numbers be? What about rent? Etc., If you don’t know, there are resources you can look at on-line where you can learn. Watch all of the White-Board Wednesday videos from Joel Parker, DVM that are on line. They are great in teaching you numbers as well as other aspects.
- Practice Management – Learn as much as you can with the free stuff on-line. From the White-Board Wednesday videos to other on-line courses, you can learn a lot for no cost to minimal cost. This will quickly help you grasp the key concepts of managing a practice.
These are just a few things you can do to prepare you to own a practice. Keep in mind that practice owners typically make 20% to 25% more than an associate veterinarian. In addition, the equity you build in a practice is a great source of retirement.
If you’d like to talk to us about your individual situation, contact us and we can help!
OMNI Practice Group
A lot of “experts” have been giving their own predictions on the Covid-19 Pandemic. The truth of the matter is, no one has a crystal ball and knows what tomorrow will bring. So far, most experts have been off on their predictions. What we do know is that there will be a “post-Covid” and life will get back to some form of normal in the relatively near future.
We as a society have historically been through pandemics such as the Spanish Flu, HIV/Aids, Hong Kong Flu, and others. Pandemics are definitely game changers and force us to look at how we live, work, educate, etc., This pandemic will be no different. Some states are beginning to open up as I write this article. Some veterinary clinics and hospitals have already made some changes. Dropping off animals outside the office, taking patients directly into exam rooms, using telemedicine, etc. are just a few examples of changes made in some practices. Some of those changes will be short lived but some will be permanent. But the truth is there will be changes.
One thing that I promise you will not change is that animals will continue to exist and people will still have pets. I’m 100% certain of that. As such, animals will continue to need care. Unless plumbers start doing veterinary work, that means they will need to see a veterinarian in a veterinary hospital! It will just be a matter of how the new game of veterinary practice will play out with new rules in place. In sports, rules change all the time. Players and coaches just adapt to those rules and adjust to playing under those new rules.
Another rule that may change is valuations on practices in the near term. I have heard a gamut of theories from brokers, bankers, veterinarians and the grocery store clerk. But they are just that… theories. My advice would be to stop listening to your friends, relatives and others who don’t have any more knowledge than you do about the future of practice valuation. Here’s what I know for sure, good practices with good margins pre-Covid will be good practices with good margins post-Covid. They will sell for a normal value, even post-Covid. I also know patients will come back to the veterinary hospitals. This will be true for most all offices. I’ve spoken to several veterinarians who have told me they have full schedules already in the immediate future. For those practices that are below average to average practices, there may be some adjustments to values in the near term. Banks have told us that they may adjust their valuations as well. I don’t expect huge discounts, but perhaps a discount to account for some of the new expenses or reduction in production.
As a potential buyer of a veterinary practice, you should look at the practice as if it was pre-Covid. In the long-run, that practice will get back to “normal”. If you find a practice that has been what you’re looking for, you need to do your due diligence and be confident that normal will happen again. Those who do will be ahead of the game.
What a crazy time we are in. At least to me, this is a sober reminder that major disruptors are almost impossible to predict. I am reassured that our nation seems to be taking the situation seriously and I do firmly believe we can weather this storm. Most of you reading this have had your professional world rocked. You’ve probably had your hours cut. Some of you may even have been laid off. Fortunately, there is a strong support system in this industry ready to help. Don’t hesitate to reach out. I think you will find all of us willing to go the extra mile right now to help you keep your ship afloat.
Most of you have thought about buying a practice at some point, some of you have been seriously pursuing ownership. There is going to be a lot of advice out there right now saying that it is far too risky to buy a practice and it is better to get/keep a nice safe, secure job. I am going to give you four reasons why you should do exactly the opposite.
One, financing. Interest rates are at an all-time low. Most banks are willing to defer principal payments or even the entire payment for months. Some have even said a year. I’m not going out on much of a limb to say these are the best lending conditions you will see in your career. Historically, there have been periods of higher interest rates. When I was a kid in the early eighties, they were fourteen percent. There have been many times when banks weren’t as generous on the amounts they would lend. One hundred percent financing is not a given.
Two, taxes. The government is going to spend a fortune to deal with this crisis, we have an aging population, new social safety nets will probably be put in place, etc… It is hard to imagine a scenario where taxes don’t go up, maybe way up. Nobody gets hit in a tax hike as hard as a non-business owning high wage earner. As a professional, this is you.
Three, working for a corporation in a down economy. Corporations aren’t inherently bad entities. Many are fabulous. That said, unless they are a non-profit, they aren’t set up to be a charity. The shareholders and private equity backers are going to demand performance once this crisis is over. If clients hold off on elective treatment, keeping revenue up will require a high volume. You could be expected to see many more patients, in less time, than you currently do. It happened to physicians, it happened to pharmacists, it could happen to you.
Four, time. Odds are you have more free time than normal. No one, especially the bank, is going to expect you to complete a practice purchase before this crisis is over. That said, doing the work now could put you in a position to complete the purchase when the restrictions are lifted and capitalize on the built-up demand, which inevitably will occur.
In the words of Rahm Emanuel, “Never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”