How to Buy a Practice
This is a very important decision and time for you and your family, so it’s critical to build your team of trusted advisors, such as veterinary specific broker (with a commercial real estate license), lender, CPA, attorney. These professionals have done many unique transitions, and often with each other, so they work well together and know how to provide you with a successful transition. You can use your relative or friend in these professions, but they can’t know the things veterinary specific advisors know. Experience and knowledge in a select niche are worth its weight in gold.
Can I afford a practice and associated real estate?
Veterinarian-specific lenders understand the veterinary industry and understand that you may have student loan debt in excess of $150,000. If the practice cash flows and provides you with the money to pay your practice and student debt, plus living expenses, you may be good to go. If you are thinking about a start-up, you will most likely need to work part-time somewhere else as you grow your new practice. Your trusted advisors can provide you with ideas to assist with your startup as well as potentially referring to a veterinary-specific marketing company. So, the answer is, typically, yes, you can afford a practice and associated real estate.
Sometimes, depending on the seller and your finances, you may rent a few years. The things to consider here are that if you rent, you may still have the seller “visiting” when they want and still act as though it’s their building and try to deter you from making your own decisions. It’s hard to make changes and you will someday understand this! If you rent, you will want your attorney to ensure there are solid details surrounding future purchases.
Some veterinarians prefer to own their own real estate and that can be beneficial for those with property ownership goals. Leasing in a commercial space or strip mall can be worth the potentially high rent if you have the opportunity to gain increased collections.
What do I need to know when looking at potential practices?
Where do you want to live and work? Once you determine the general location, look for a practice with a good and visible location and parking.
Work with your broker or buyer-representative to assist you to review the formal valuation or the following statistics.
Last 3 years financials to see collections and expenses. Some expenses may be backed out that would not pertain to the new veterinarian, such as “large” continuing education, cars, 401K, and family members on the payroll that may not have an active/necessary function in the practice.
I want multiple offices.
Having multiple offices can be profitable if done correctly. Ensure you have solid processes in place that can be replicated. Consider doing a demographic study to determine where you want your locations. If clients may be going to more than 1 location, ensure your veterinary software is capable of being accessed by all locations.
What do I need to know/do before starting my first day in my new practice?
Work with your CPA to set up your entity, accounting system, payroll, and tax payments. Plan to have a confident first conversation with your new team. They will be anxious about the transition so you will want to put your arms around them and help them understand you want to continue the quality care and any small changes will only be for the better for clients and team. Be prepared for difficult questions such as asking for a wage increase, change in schedule, or complaints about other team members. Guide the team on how you want them to discuss you to the clients and how your goal is to retain clients.
Become familiar with your veterinary software. Most veterinarians and teams do not maximize the reports and statistics available to you. Remember, your veterinary software and accounting system are the 2 biggest tools you have to run your practice.
Purchasing a practice, with your team of trusted advisors, should be a pleasant process that leads to a profitable and enjoyable career!