This practice won't sell ... easily!

March 1, 2003
A lot of little things can make the difference between a quick and profitable sale and a long, drawn-out process, during which the practice seems to lose value to a prospective buyer

Alan A. Clemens

You're happy with your practice. It has given you a good living. Your patients are happy, too. You've given them the best dental care that you possibly could. Now, maybe it's time to look forward to retiring. Maybe this is the time to contact that broker you've heard about and ask about putting your practice on the market.

After an initial consultation — and even before a formal appraisal has begun — an astute broker might see several things about your practice that you might not notice after being so close to it for such a long time. A lot of little things can make the difference between a quick and profitable sale and a long, drawn-out process, during which the practice seems to lose value to a prospective buyer.

What are some of these "little things" that can have such a negative affect on the sale of your practice? Here are five areas that you need to re-examine with fresh eyes:

Your physical premises — What would the office look like to someone who doesn't see it every day the way you do? Is your office clean and modern? Are the carpets clean and in good shape? Is the furniture inviting, or does it look like standard-issue, waiting room furniture? What does your receptionist's desk look like? Is it orderly ... or are patient charts scattered everywhere? Is reading material current and neatly stacked? Do you have current health-care brochures, attractively arranged for patient browsing?

Your operatories — How do your operatories look? Is the equipment kept clean and polished? Are the patient chairs comfortable and inviting? Obviously, everything is clean, but does it look as clean as it actually is? Are there pictures and other decorations within sight of the patient?

Your records — Is the office computerized? How effective is your computer system? Is it being used as well as it could be for scheduling patients, keeping track of recall dates, and maintaining financial records?

Your staff expenses — Are your salaries for chairside assistants, hygienists, and office staff in line with similar practices? What kind of benefits are you providing for your staff? Are staff members contented and do they pull together with you as a team? Do you think a prospective buyer would appreciate your team members and hope to keep them on?

Your relationships — What do your patients think of you? Are they happy to return when you send out reminders, or do many of them delay a visit because they don't think of you as a friend? Are you active in civic groups like Kiwanis, Rotary, and other community organizations, and are you active in your church or synagogue? Visibility in groups can be an excellent source of new patients, and you will want to to introduce the purchaser of your practice to them.

Deficiencies in any of the above areas can lessen the value of your practice to a prospective buyer, even though you may not have given some of them much thought due to your familiarity with the practice. But the experienced eye of your broker will certainly notice them — hopefully in time for you to correct any problems before they become major obstacles to a sale. With these areas in good order, that practice can sell!

Alan Clemens is president of The Clemens Group, a firm with 34 years of experience specializing in dental practice-transition services in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. He specializes in appraisals, partnership buy-outs, buy/sell agreements, and practice sales in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Clemens also is a founding member of American Dental Sales, and can be reached at (212) 370-1169 or email him at [email protected].

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