A recent and insightful Forbes article, “Study Shows Why Many Business Owners Can’t Sell When They Want To” penned by Mary Ellen Biery, generates some thought-provoking ideas. The article discusses an Exit Planning Institute (EPI) study that outlined the reality that many business owners can’t control when they are able to sell. Many business owners expect to be able to sell whenever they like. However, the reality, as outlined by the EPI study, revealed that the truth is that for business owners, selling is often easier said than done.
In the article, Christopher Snider, President and CEO of EPI, noted that a large percentage of business owners have no exit planning in place. This fact is made all the more striking by the revelation that most owners have up to 90% of their assets tied up in their businesses. Snider’s view is that most business owners will have to sell within the next 10 to 15 years, and yet, are unprepared to do so. According to the EPI only 20% to 30% of businesses that go on the market will actually sell. Snider believes that at the heart of the problem is there are not enough good businesses available for sell. In short, the problem is one of quality.
As of 2016, Baby Boomer business owners, who were expected to begin selling in record numbers, are waiting to sell. As Snider stated in Biery’s Fortune article, “Baby Boomers don’t really want to leave their businesses, and they’re not going to move the business until they have to, which is probably when they are in their early 70s.”
The EPI survey of 200+ San Diego business owners found that 53% had given little or no attention to their transition plan, 88% had no written transition to transition to the next owner, and a whopping 80% had never even sought professional advice regarding their transition. Further, a mere 58% currently had handled any form of estate planning.
Adding to the concern was the fact that most surveyed business owners don’t know the value of their business. Summed up another way, a large percentage of the business owners who will be selling their businesses are Baby Boomers who plan on holding onto their businesses until they are older. They have not charted out an exit strategy or transition plan and have no tangible idea as to the true worth of their respective businesses.
In Snider’s view, the survey indicates that many business owners are not “maximizing the transferable value of their business,” and added that they are not “in a position to transfer successfully so that they can harvest the wealth locked in their business.”
All practice owners should be thinking about the day when they will have to sell their practice. Now is the time to begin working with a broker to formulate your strategy so as to maximize your business’s value.Read More
We see embezzlement in the veterinary office all too often. The average embezzlement amount REPORTED is over $100,000 in a veterinary practice, and we know most is not reported or ever discovered. Please review the following tips to avoid embezzlement, as well as signs from employees to be aware of.
-Limit access to practice management software to make adjustments, and format software to disallow deletions or changes after the close of each month. Assign passwords to each employee. Ensure the software company understands that you are the only person that can make changes to the software.
-Clearly set expectations and protocol for making adjustments.
-Review daily reports for adjustments, provider production (ensure there are no “zero” charges), collections, over-the-counter collections, and audit/deletion. Ask questions and research as appropriate.
-Review and confirm the accuracy of daily reconciliation of deposit, petty cash, and cash drawer. Confirm monthly bank reconciliations.
-Review accounts receivable aging reports each month and research any accounts as appropriate.
-Do not allow team members to purchase things for the office and be reimbursed.
-Match up all accounts payable checks with statements and confirm accuracy. Watch for vendors or names you don’t recognize or come up frequently.
-Confirm all bills and credit card statements are accurate.
-Never sign a blank check for a team member, client, or vendor.
-Ensure checks are in numeric order and keep all voided checks.
-Look for trends, such as missing checks, incorrect deposits, missing charts, increased adjustments, and patient complaints.
-Review the details of each team member’s paycheck and year-to-date numbers.
-Perform background checks according to state law.
-Have your veterinary-focused CPA involved with your bookkeeping
-Implement a comprehensive written Office Policy and Employee Manual
Potential Employee Warning Signs
- Resistance to change or having your veterinary CPA or consultant view additional practice information
- Collections have slowed with no justified reason
- Daily deposit reconciliation is not being done timely or is inaccurate
- Adjustments increase with no justified reason
- Team member refuses to take a vacation, wants to take work home, has a financial crisis, and/or resents your income and lifestyle
By Corey Young, MBA, CEPA, CVA, ABI
Congratulations, you just accepted an offer on your practice! With all the emotions associated with the transition, when to notify your staff is surely at the top of your “to-do” list. Telling employees that you are selling your practice is an extremely delicate process. Breaking the news too early can come with many risks, so best to wait until all final closing documents are signed by both parties and no more than one week before the new owner takes over.
So, what are some potential risks?
One of the primary risks is that employees will naturally be worried about their job security the moment you make your announcement. Oftentimes if they have too much of an advanced notice they may start searching for other opportunities. Staff leaving could negatively impact the transition and patient experience because of how instrumental they can be in helping the buyer and the patients adjust to new ownership.
The other major risk is that nothing is final until its final. Veterinary practice sales are extremely complex and can be delayed for a multitude of reasons or fall through completely. Making the announcement before the sale is complete will cause stress and heartache amongst your staff during a time that you will be preoccupied with navigating a significant professional milestone. If the staff were to find out before closing was final, you wouldn’t be able to offer any reassuring answers because of unforeseen changes to the closing timeline.
Finally, regardless of your views of your staff’s maturity level, gossip will ensue. I have seen it countless times where a veterinarian tries to provide honest reasons on why they are selling, only to have their words misconstrued. Comments such as, “I’m selling my practice to focus on my health” can quickly morph into, “S/he is selling because the practice is going under,” or lead to unfounded conclusions such as, “After the new guy starts, we will all be replaced.” This kind of fear and uncertainty will have a profound impact on staff morale during a time where they will be needed to ensure a great patient experience during the transition process.
In the end, you probably have a deep and meaningful relationship with your staff. They deserve to know about ownership changes as they will be impacted, but it is best for them (and for you) that they be kept out of the loop until you have concrete answers to provide them.
Jim Vander Mey, CPA, ABI, and Certified Practice Transition Broker with OMNI Practice Group, helps veterinarians analyze whether or not it is the right time to sell.Read More
Are you ready to transition?
Is your practice ready to transition?
What is the market like?
These are all key questions to ask yourself. When is a good time to start thinking about all of this? The real answer is as soon as you buy or start your practice, but the more practical answer is dependent on you. If there any chance you will want to transition in the next five years, you should start working on your transition today.Personal readiness and practice readiness are both more important than current market conditions; however, considering the COVID crisis, I am going to focus on market timing.
If any of the following sounds even slightly familiar, raise your hand:
I was ready personally, and my practice was ready in August 2019. I choose to wait because (pick one or more):
- I have a kid with one year left in college
- I have one year until I can draw Medicare
- There is one more room in the house I would like to finish
- My spouse retires in a year
- I pay off my house in a year
- I turn (insert round number like 60 or 70) next year and I would like to wait until then
Now, for those of you that raised your hand, consider the reality of August 2020. How does that August 2019 decision to wait look? Questionable at best.
My intent is not to beat up on those of you that this struck a chord. Rather, I want to emphasize the need for starting early and getting help.
Transitioning is a difficult process. Do not go it alone. Contact an experienced, qualified transition specialist and get the ball rolling. We are here to help.