A successful transition involves preparation and knowledge. There are numerous things you should do to get your practice ready to sell and making even one mistake can cost you. Here are five transition pitfalls and how to avoid them.
Letting your production and profitability go down prior to selling. We have seen many practices that were producing $300k to $500k a few years prior to contacting us, but collections and profit tanked when the veterinarians cut back on their hours and their associates didn’t make up the difference. This can result in hundreds of thousands in lost practice value. As you head closer to a transition, keep your production numbers, and your profit, up.
Counting on selling your practice to your associate. This always sounds like a great plan. But statistics show that over 70% of associate-to-own opportunities do not make it to a sale. What happens if your associate decides they want to practice in another town? Or your associate finds an opportunity in another practice? Protect yourself by getting everything in writing and using an intermediary if possible. In addition, consider having your associate put away money in a non-refundable escrow account.
Not evaluating all options. When we ask veterinarians if they are okay with selling to a corporate buyer, we often hear, “No way.” Here’s why you should keep an open mind. While an individual buyer may be limited to paying 2 to 4 times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), some corporations are willing to pay 5 to 10 times EBITDA, and sometimes even more. We have negotiated sales to corporate buyers that got the sellers $1M more than originally expected. That’s a million dollars to help pay for grandchildren’s education, give bonuses to hardworking staff and enjoy retirement.
Telling your staff too early. A common question we get asked is, “When should I tell my staff about the sale of the practice?” We suggest waiting until the agreements are signed. Telling staff too early may result in them leaving for another opportunity. For those who stay, it creates a fear of the unknown. Who’s the new buyer? Will my job stay intact? Will my pay be the same? What about my benefits and hours? Waiting may not seem like the right thing to do, but it really is.
Going it alone. Corporate buyers are throwing out offers to potential practice sellers left and right. Some are even hiring DVMs to tell you that you do not need representation, that they will handle everything. But is their offer the best one you can get? Without representation, how would you even know? A good practice transition broker knows all the different buyer types and what kind of terms and pricing they typically offer. If you try to sell your practice on your own, you could sell to the wrong buyer for the wrong price.
These are just a few of the many pitfalls you might encounter when selling your veterinary practice. With experts on your side, you can avoid them – and other costly mistakes.
Want to make your transition as smooth as possible? We can help. Contact us for a free consultation.Read More
Timing is everything. If you would have invested $1,000 in Nike stock at its initial public offering in 1980, your investment would be worth over $190,000 today. The same can be said for many other stocks or investments. You see, the tides of the economy ebb and flow. But how does that relate to your veterinary practice?
We have been experiencing a perfect storm of sorts over the past several years. The economy has been doing well, interest rates are at all-time lows, buyers are plentiful with both corporate and individual buyers and capital gains and income tax rates are relatively stable. We’ve been on the “flow” end of ebbing and flowing with practice values at an all-time high. But when do the tides start to recede?
We can’t predict the future. But there are several things we know with relative certainty. Corporates have been paying incredible prices for practices. How long will this last? According to an article in Entrepreneur magazine, corporates expect to own 25% of all veterinary practices by 2023. After that, they will slow down their purchasing of practices as fewer practices will generate enough revenue to peak their interest. Practice values will in turn go down.
We also know with a high level of certainty that both capital gains and income tax will be going up. President Joe Biden explicitly stated this during his campaign and is currently proposing this as we speak. This will affect practice sales as it’s not uncommon for a practice purchased by a corporate to sell for $2 million and higher. The proposed capital gains will be on amounts over $1 million. This will reduce the amount of funds that you take home after taxes. It could be by as much as 20% or more.
As I stated, we can’t predict the future, but we do know the present. If you are even considering selling your practice in the next 3 years, we believe it would be well worth a phone call to us for a free consultation. Selling in 2021 instead of waiting a year or two could earn you a significant amount of extra money. The cost of a phone call = $0. The cost of waiting = potentially $100,000+.
PS: If you have an offer from a corporate, call us anyways. We’ve helped a number of veterinarians get a much higher offer than their initial corporate offer.Read More
Thinking of selling your practice but don’t want to pay the broker’s commission? Think again. History shows that any time you sell your business and/or real estate yourself, the chance of failure of the transaction is over 50%. A commission will be much more digestible than the result if you try to do it yourself. We receive calls from senior veterinarians stating they sold their practices and took payments and it didn’t work out. After one year, they often must take the practice back and struggle to resurrect it to try and sell again. This is typically an experience that is new to both buyers and sellers. It takes time, marketing expertise, sales experience, buyer and advisor contacts, and lots of patience.
Your broker may spend hundreds of hours on your transition and your time is better spent at the clinic and planning your retirement agenda. Brokers do lots of specialized marketing which can be costly and time-consuming, and it includes many weekends and evenings meeting with potential buyers. When working with a broker, the average practice sells in about 6 months so selling it alone can be much longer. Your broker should have a list of qualified buyers and a commercial real estate license. If you own your space, it’s often critical to sell the building at the same time or get a solid agreement together for future purchase. Time and time again we see senior veterinarians sell the practice and lease the space with a loose agreement and lose their renter. The buyer decides they like a newer building down the street and leave you with an empty veterinary building.
A good broker will determine the value of your practice and there is much that goes into this process. It’s not just about collections. Everyone’s goal should be to sell at a fair price in a timely manner. If the price isn’t “right”, the banks won’t finance, and you certainly don’t want to carry the loan. If you get pressured to sell too low, which we often see, you can lose tens of thousands of dollars. Brokers spend a lot of time working with all the trusted advisors you need such as veterinary specific banks, CPAs, and attorneys to determine the value of your practice and facilitate a smooth and successful transition.
The Seller May Not Receive Full Practice Value
A broker can help their client to achieve full value for the money they’ve placed into their business over the long-term. They can then work to obtain viable selling opportunities and to locate qualified buyers within the marketplace. Without this type of guidance, the seller may find their selling opportunities restricted. They may discover that they can only achieve a small proportion of their total Veterinary practice value in the sale. With corporate buyers in the mix, this can mean losing out on potentially a million dollars or more.
Sellers are unable to Handle the Legal Aspects Alone
The legal aspect of a practice transition is often a critical element within the Veterinary practice sale process. Buyers will have their lawyers review the business’s paperwork and any issues they find must be analyzed closely by experts in the legal field. Brokers often have significant legal experience or have a legal team on their side and can help handle any challenges that arise during the transition process, while keeping the seller’s needs as the foremost consideration. The broker will be available at any time via phone or email to answer the seller’s or buyer’s questions and move the transaction process along. This can help prevent the seller from making poor choices and becoming embroiled in legal challenges.
The Seller Doesn’t Have Marketing Experience
When bringing a Veterinary practice to the marketplace, the seller must be able to highlight the advantages of their business in a way that attracts qualified buyers. Brokers are often experts in this area. They can use their experience to craft compelling marketing materials for the seller and use their experience in the marketplace to build target buyer lists and send out high-value content to these buyer lists.
Sellers Cannot Handle Mediation with Buyers Alone
The buyer will likely have a lawyer driving their purchase process. The lawyer will be negotiating with the seller on all elements of the transaction, including the final price. Having a broker on-hand during this process ensures the broker can handle all mediation, negotiating on the seller’s behalf to get the right price and the ideal structure for the purchase.
Working with a qualified broker can help Veterinary practice sellers reduce their transaction challenges and secure a seamless sale. To learn more, speak with our team at OMNI Veterinary Practice Group at 877.866.6053 or visit our business website at www.omnipg-vet.com.
Each year one of the largest corporate veterinary practice owners holds a one-day conference exclusively for veterinary practice brokers. At the conference, they discuss, amongst many other things, how their company is different than other corporates, how they value veterinary practices, and trends in corporate buying. It’s an interesting meeting to get the “state of the union” from a corporate buyers’ perspective. I wanted to share with you some of the notes I took and give you my thoughts on a few of their points.
- Corporates are continuing to expand. Not only in the U.S. and Canada, but this corporate buyer has begun acquiring practices in Australia and New Zealand.
- Some corporates have begun to do de novo practices. They are filling the gaps where they don’t have ownership of a practice with a startup practice. If you can’t buy it, build it!
- The DVM retention rate for the industry is 62%. A particular corporate claimed to retain DVMs at a rate of 82.5%. They said it’s due to how they treat the DVM and staff leaving everything as close to the same as possible. They also give the owners a piece of the pie.
- There currently is a shortage of DVM associates. They are putting a heavy effort towards recruiting DVMs at Veterinary Schools as well as the general public.
- This corporate has three commitments – Wellness Plans, Dentistry, and Fear-Free Clinics.
- They expect the current acquisition trend to continue for the next three to five years.
- Valuations are different among the various corporate buyers. Their add-back for DVM salaries is 20%. Another corporate buyer uses 22%. That can make a big difference in the purchase price on a large practice. Another example is adding back an office manager salary. That can vary significantly amongst corporate buyers. These are just two of ten examples of the differences they provided.
- Valuations have gone up over the past 5 years. Five years ago, they were buying practices at 4x to 5x EBITDA. They are now acquiring practices at a broader range of 6x to 9x EBITDA.
- They believe valuations are currently at their high peak with the expectation that they will start tapering back down to the 4x to 5x EBITDA range they saw five years ago.
- General Veterinary Practices that are in the sights of corporate acquisition teams represent 50% of all General Veterinary Practices. Corporates currently own 30% of all of these practices. The expectation is that once total corporate ownership hits 50%, the acquisitions will taper off dramatically. Corporates then may turn to specialty clinics. Note, we’re already seeing this in the marketplace. They also may focus on de novo practices.
In summary, the presentation confirmed what our thoughts have been:
- Corporates are here to stay.
- Corporate ownership will continue to grow.
- There are some good corporate buyers who treat their staff and DVMs well and there are others that do not.
- Corporates will go the de novo route when they can’t find a practice in an area they want to have a concentration.
- Valuations will begin to trend down in the not too distant future.
The number of corporate buyers in the market and the supply of practices corporates want all play into this. Whether good or bad, the corporate veterinary practice is here for the long haul.
This is just meant as an educational document and we are not promoting this or any other corporate buyer.