By SARAH FARRIER
Dentist Sarah Farrier bought Arden House Dental Practice in Cheltenham this year after working as an associate in private practices, lecturing at Cardiff University and completing several post-grad qualifications.
Here she shares her top tips on buying the right dental practice:
- Be open-minded: I was not looking for an outright purchase to be a sole owner and never envisaged purchasing a practice in which I had never worked. My accountant put me and the seller in touch – he was aware they wanted to sell and at the time wasn’t convinced about the prospective purchasers. My accountant knew, after many years of working together, of the capability and desire I had to have my own business.
- Check the seller’s reputation: My husband, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, knew the seller through his work on the Local Dental Committee in Cheltenham and I had some knowledge of him and the reputation of the practice from the close knit dental community, namely the CPD circuit Gloucester Independent Dentists, where I am a committee member. It was reassuring that Breathe, who were running the deal, knew the seller too.
- Go with your gut: Introductions were made and I had a walk round and a chat, a look at the figures and it just felt right! So I didn’t really search – it kind of found me. It was now or never – I’ve had the children, they are both now at school and there’s enough energy left to go for it – hence I decided to go it alone. My mind set is that it doesn’t have to be forever – let’s see how I go and what life throws at me.
- Get a good accountant: The first and most important pile of paperwork was bank money to be loaned – my accountant was instrumental in getting this approved.
- Find a solicitor you get on with: This purchase was slightly unique since it was a stock purchase agreement, where company shares, title to assets, and title to liabilities are sold as well as assets. This meant there was a lot of involvement with solicitors on both sides and an extra solicitor check was required by the bank. My solicitor was recommended to me by my accountant as they had worked together and he had good knowledge of SPA sales. Following a meeting with him I was happy to proceed with this team – I felt being able to really talk (at a basic, humorous level) to the solicitor was paramount to getting through the process and really understanding what I needed to understand, influence the decisions I needed to and accept those which were just part of the process.
- Voice your concerns: There were some hurdles towards the end of the agreement. These were mostly based around the unusual factor of the past owner now staying on and my (limited) knowledge of cash flow forecasts and the assumptions these were based on. At that point I sought advice from my father – a former business owner, and had another meeting with the accountant. Having clarified my concerns I then discussed these with the seller and we agreed to a format of working we could stick to together.
- Accept advice and support: Having the seller stay on was in my case critical to the success of the purchase. I am fortunate he only wanted to sell if he could stay as I would only buy if he was staying! Having not worked at the practice and it having such a high turnover it is imperative the plates keep spinning. The knowledge and support the seller continues to give me is second to none and I would feel less empowered and confident without his presence. We have a good working relationship, we are open to discussions and concerns – and of course he knows his team – which will help drive us all forward together.
- Bring the team on board: The impact on the team was one the seller and I tried to manage as best we could – they were obviously quite shocked at the news of a buy-out and they all took the information in different ways; thankfully they all seem to be on board but I’m not sure it would have been so seamless if the seller wasn’t staying because I am to them an unknown quantity. I would strongly advise having the seller stay on for a period to ease the transition, especially when there are financial pressures and business performance can’t be jeopardised. Throughout this process I was working part-time elsewhere as an associate and it was most difficult to remain quiet about my plans. Emotionally I think this was the hardest part of it all.
- Make time for yourself to learn the ropes: I did not give myself any time off to manage this process. I worked notice of an agreed period of six weeks in my old practice. There is currently insufficient chairside time for me to occupy and so this has freed up some admin time to get to grips with some of the bread and butter running of the business. Inevitably this will and has to change but to date it’s been OK. There is a lot of desk work, management and meetings to do, especially with the existing team to ensure they are confident in my presence and the business. I guess there is never really enough time!
If you’d like to buy a practice but don’t know where to start give us a call on 0845 299 7209 or write a message at www.breathebusiness.co.uk/contact-us/
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