Selling Your Dental Practice? It’s Not As Easy As It Looks
I’m sure many of you have sold a car, boat, or a house by yourself. For the most part, cars and boats are pretty simple to sell. Even selling a house only involves a couple of pieces of paper, an escrow agent, and a few other steps. But selling your practice is another ballgame. Emotions get involved as you are attached to your patients, staff, and heck, you built this baby! There is a valuation to do – how do you do that? Additionally, there is due diligence, lease assignment, document preparation, letter of intent, renegotiating after due diligence, closing process, CPA’s and on and on. It’s hundreds of hours of doing a lot of different things.
ARE YOU READY?
You might be saying, “This practice has been my baby and my life for many years,” Or, “I still want to treat patients a couple of days a week after I sell my practice.” Before you make any decisions, ask yourself some questions:
- Am I emotionally and financially ready to step away from the practice where I’ve invested so much of my time and resources?
- What do I want to do after I sell? Will I retire from dentistry, work part-time, or volunteer my services?
- How do I want to sell my practice? For example, should I sell to an associate and immediately retire, or should I transition to another dentist and gradually step aside? Should I sell to a corporate?
It’s understandable you want to preserve your practice legacy while ensuring the ongoing care of your patients and staff meets your high standards. That’s why it’s important you find the right buyer to entrust your “baby.” It’s one thing to be financially prepared for retirement. It’s a whole other ballgame to emotionally handle walking away from your practice.
READY, SET… GO!
After taking stock of your personal finances, retirement, and practice transition goals, it’s time to call in the experts to help you prepare for the sale. Your team of professionals should include a CPA, wealth management advisor, practice transition specialist, and an attorney.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA): A CPA will compile and review all your financials. Be upfront about anything that might be considered outside the normal scope of dental practice business, i.e., expenses above industry averages, any non-cash benefits, or family members on the payroll who don’t work in the office. This allows your CPA to do a thorough analysis and advise any necessary adjustments.
Wealth management advisor: The sale of your practice could be the single biggest contribution to your retirement fund. Consult an expert wealth management advisor to help you plan for any related tax consequences and long-term investment strategies.
Practice transition specialist: A good practice transition specialist will review market prices in your area, establish a practice sale timeline, conduct a comprehensive practice analysis, and have a pool of financially viable buyers. Get recommendations from colleagues and interview each one to find the best match for your needs.
Attorney: Attorneys provide much-needed protection and attention to practice sale transaction details. Due diligence and sound legal advice benefits you, your practice transition specialist, and the buyer. Find an attorney who is well-versed in dental practice transitions. This will save you time and money, and potentially add tens of thousands of dollars to the purchase price of your practice.
Be sure to have all of your financial statements in order to accurately show the fiscal health of your practice. Make sure you prepare and review monthly and quarterly profit and loss statements with your accountant. If you have not done that, start doing so immediately. Review each line item to manage revenue fluctuations, expenses, and ancillary accounting issues.
The ADA, a member of the Academy of Dental CPAs, or a transition specialist can give you current industry averages for revenues, expenses, new patient flow, fee schedules, and much more.
Buyers will look at your profit and loss statements to compare each line item to industry averages. Make sure your CPA explains any noted differences upfront, otherwise you could lose significant value to your practice. It also puts to question the integrity of your practice financial information.
Due diligence: Potential buyers will want to review your production against industry averages. Carefully analyze the following key reports generated by your practice management system:
Provider summary report: This report actualizes productivity by provider and type of procedure. When reviewing this report, make sure your hygiene production numbers are within industry averages. Also, if you offer specialties such as orthodontics or sleep apnea, you need to make sure any potential buyer can replicate those procedures. If they can’t, it could negatively impact the purchase price of your practice because that revenue would be deducted from the valuation.
Accounts receivable report: Buyers pay close attention to the percentage of receivables based on the delinquency bucket. Be forewarned: most buyers will not pay for balances over 90 days. Large account receivable balances are a red flag for any potential buyer. It usually signifies a lack of controls for effective practice collections and cash flow management. Carefully analyze each account and make necessary adjustments to non-collectables.
Fee schedules: Review your current fee schedule and adjust fees to the minimum 80th percentile for your area.
- Carefully vet all potential buyers. If they don’t have a clear understanding of the market and how it relates to the value of your practice, move on.
- Establish relationships with industry professionals. Their expertise and support will be an invaluable resource.
- Determine a specific date of sale with a realistic timeline. Communicate clearly when you want to stop practicing dentistry.
- Plan early and anticipate delays. Your location, mix of procedures, and practice revenue trends can impact the pace of your practice sale.