Selling Your Practice: Part 3
Do you remember your awkward first dates? Once your office is on the market, you will again go on many first dates. You will be contacted by many prospective buyers. You will set up times for them to visit your office. You will be asked countless questions about your practice. But, just as importantly, you will have the opportunity to determine if you want any of these prospective buyers to continue your legacy. You will need to decide if any of them deserve a second date.
I met each prospective buyer after work or on the weekends without staff present. There is no need to add to your staff's anxiety by introducing them to multiple new faces. Your staff will only need to meet the person you ultimately choose.
It is important to have your questions ready. Ask yourself what you want in the new dentist.
For example, ask prospective buyers:
- Is this your first practice?
- Is this going to be your only practice or a satellite office?
- Are you going to be the primary dentist, or are you hiring associates to work at the practice?
- Are any partners involved?
- Are you bringing in staff, or are you keeping my staff?
- Will your spouse or family be involved in this practice?
Immediately after each meeting, make notes. After interviewing candidates over several days, it all starts to become a blur. Those notes will prove invaluable.
Another important point to remember is that the first date goes both ways. You may think you have found the right person, only to later find they didn’t place an offer. Remember, everyone you interview is also looking at other offices, not just yours. Do not take it personally if your practice is not chosen. There are many factors that go into a buyer's decision. Does their spouse like the area? Does their family live relatively close to your office? How far would their commute be? There are many things over which you have no control.
Your decision then narrows to those who actually place an offer on your practice. In my case, I received five full-price offers. I chose among those five and held the rest as backup offers. After all of those first dates, I had found the right person.
Once you find your buyer, all goes quiet for a while. At this point, the buyer is now busy securing financing. As previously discussed, they now take all of the paperwork that you collected during the past several months and present it to bank. The bank will decide if your practice and the buyer are worth lending money to. For the seller, this is a frustrating phase, and you are ready to move on. You've decided to sell your practice and have found a buyer. Yet, you are months from actually working your last day. You are ready to slow down and start taking time off. Yet, you are not allowed to just yet. The buyer may be unable to secure financing; you might have to move on to a backup offer. But that second dentist (and their bank) want to know that the office is still firing on all cylinders. How long before your last day? No one knows.
Additionally, the new buyer needs to secure a lease with the landlord. How fast will the landlord work on this? How fast will your accountant and their accountant work on analyzing the numbers? What do each of your attorneys say? In short, this process is frustrating because so many people are involved, and each one works at their own pace — not your pace. Each day you go to work, you have no idea how much longer you will be practicing. In my case, I did not know which day would be my last until the day before. The practice is not officially sold until the money is transferred. However, which exact day the bank will release the funds is difficult to predict more than a day or two ahead of time.
This is a good time to begin communicating with your new dentist. Believe me, this communication will continue far past your last working day. Communicate at least once a week. Check in to see how things are going. They may be as frustrated as you are. They too want to know when to quit their current position. Just as you are ready to get on with the next phase of your life, they are equally excited about starting the next phase of theirs. No one knows precisely when this will be.
As things start looking like they may actually materialize, it will be time to introduce them to your staff. The worst thing that can happen is for everyone to meet on the new doctor's first day. It is best to alleviate some fear your staff may have about their future ahead of time. Set aside some quiet time without any patients in the office. It will just be you, the buyer and the staff. Introduce each person, and let them all ask questions. It is time for their first date.
Eventually the big day will arrive. You will both be happy. When the sale was official, I felt as if I had just graduated, while the new dentist felt as if this was her first day of dental school.