Dr Jan Smerke discusses the highs and lows of selling a dental practice, which he did recently with the support of Dental Elite.
Which consultant in Dental Elite did you work with?
Initially, I worked with Leah Turner for the valuation, negotiation and then later in completing the deal. I also worked with Sue Humphreys on a day-to-day basis as she is more office based. Working with different people can often lead to a slight disconnect, but I was impressed that this never occurred in my situation. Sue was continually up-to-date and monitoring discussions with the buyer, solicitors and CQC. Both Leah and Sue were also in regular contact with me throughout the process, so I always knew what was going on.
Have you stayed on in the practice?
I have remained at the practice post completion and one should expect to do this when planning a sale. This is an important reason to plan your sale early on. The ‘retention period’ can vary significantly and will often influence your sale value. This aspect will be a point for negotiation, but a sale in later years may restrict your options. The new practice owner in my situation has been flexible so I am retained on a part time basis, which suits me well.
On reflection, what was the most challenging time in your sale?
This is a difficult question as there were plenty of moments! The sale process took a year, so overall it was probably the delay that would take over every aspect. I felt like my solicitor was on top of the situation, however, the buyer’s solicitor appeared to be less efficient. Our requests would go unanswered for weeks on end, despite prompting from our team. At one stage the buyer’s solicitor would be submitting just one query per month for several months. These could probably all have been answered by return in 48 hours, but instead it took four months, so these delays may well have caused frustration. These could probably have all been answered by return but instead it took several months, so be prepared for drawn out negotiations and delays.
How did you find the agent buffer between solicitors, buyer and seller?
The agents were very supportive throughout the whole process and seemed to grasp exactly what was going on all the time. There are situations when the best action is to pick up the phone and have a discussion to sort issues out. Dental Elite were never afraid to do this and I found them proactive throughout. Leah, in particular, I found to be a tireless worker!
How was the CQC changeover process?
It was very efficient. We were lucky that our appointed CQC officer was a very kind gentleman who genuinely seemed to be concerned for our several previously aborted sales. Despite widespread grumbles about the CQC, Mark Fell – who handled our case – was exemplary.
What advice would you give to other practitioners in a similar situation?
Start the process early – much earlier than you might initially think! I would say start in your early 50’s to give you more options and less stress. It’s important not to under-estimate the time and complexity of the process. It’s also beneficial to get yourself a good agent and to take their advice. I have only used two but they did vary in quality! Be polite but firm with the buyer and set meaningful deadlines. I would also say, don’t be afraid to walk away from the deal if the buyer will not/cannot cooperate.
Would you recommend Dental Elite to others?
Most certainly. The agent in this situation is potentially of enormous value to you in many ways – but only if they are prepared to do the work. I found the whole team at Dental Elite to be driven, tireless, entirely professional and with a good sense of humour when it matters. This can definitely help!