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At a point in every a dentist’s career the time will arrive to devise and implement a transition strategy to ensure the practice built over 20-40 years will continue on. This can be one of the most rewarding times in a professional’s career for both buyer and seller if performed properly.
But how do you know when you are ready for the sale of a dental practice?
If you can answer the three following questions affirmatively, chances are you are at the point where you should consider the selling.
You should begin by appraising all of your assets, including your practice, and review them with your financial advisor. Your advisor will be able to assist you determine your current financial position and your needs and wants in retirement. You will then have the ability to analyze whether or not your investments will support your retirement plans. Once you find that you are approaching the point of financial freedom, it is important to properly diversify your assets so that fluctuations in markets will not significantly derail your efforts once you have committed to a transition strategy.
It is useful to have a plan in place of what you would do with the newfound time and freedom of retirement: Travel, golf, sail the world’s oceans, or spend time with your family. Part of determining the “when” and “how” of a transition is planning for life after practice ownership. If you find there is nothing you would rather do each morning when you wake up than go to the office and yet you have reached financial freedom, you may want to explore a pre-retirement sale. This option will provide increased freedom, a cash-out of your equity, and allow you to continue to enjoy practicing with your successor. However, if your answer to the financial question is no, a pre-retirement sale is generally not an acceptable option.
First and foremost as a healthcare provider you have a duty to provide the quality of care your patients expect. If the quality of your care declines, you will find yourself with a rapidly deteriorating practice and quite possibly a lawsuit.
Having answered these questions, you should be able to determine that you are either ready to design and execute a transition strategy or ready to identify a target date in the future that you will be able to. Once you have that date, you can begin to work backwards to identify the time frame that you will need to begin to formalize your plans and begin the search for a candidate.
The transition time of a sale can take anywhere from up to a year or two for a traditional retirement sale to a minimum of 10 years required for a partnership buy-in/out. Often dentists desire to obtain an associate for period of time prior to the transition, grooming a purchaser. This strategy requires a minimum of five years to properly accomplish. If the target date determined above is less than five years the only feasible options are a traditional retirement sale or, if a practice is large enough, a retirement sale with the continued employment of the seller post closing.
Peter J. Ackerman, CPA, is a certified public accountant, licensed real estate and business broker and national speaker on business issues affecting dentists. For more information, email Mr. Ackerman or visit www.adsmidwest.com.
Suggestions? Email suggestions for topics to be covered, or any comments on this column, to Chicago Dental Society.
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A tradition of working for the dental profession. The Chicago Dental Society was organized in 1864 and incorporated in 1878. The objective of the Chicago Dental Society is to encourage the improvement of the health of the public, to promote the art and science of dentistry and to represent the intrest of the members of the profession and the public that it serves.
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