Greg Fickert is experienced in buying and selling practices. Here he shares some hard-earned wisdom and how he found working with Dental Elite.
Anyone who has bought or sold property or businesses knows that it can be a bit of a minefield. Over the years I have opened, bought, closed, merged and sold many dental practices using various agents along the way. I even tried doing the job myself, learning the hard way that the process is even more complex than it seems from the outside.
Choose your agents carefully
A good agent can make a world of difference. Simply listing a property and hoping for the best isn’t good enough, and many agents fall short when it comes to communication and looking after your interests.
Prior to selling my final six practices I used a well-known agent to sell off another practice. While they did find me a buyer, they then more or less disappeared into the ether – calling me only to find out a completion date.
I first approached Dental Elite years ahead of selling my practices – initially as a buyer. I was acquiring a little contract nearby and Dental Elite fully managed the CQC side of the transaction on mine and the seller’s behalf, keeping things rolling even with some frustratingly slow lawyers involved.
By far the best agent I have ever used is Luke Moore of Dental Elite. So often an agent believes their job is just to find a buyer but in the modern dental sale this is little more than 10-20% of the job.
He really took the time to understand the numbers in the business – this is imperative for valuations in the corporate world. Whilst at times I found the constant queries frustrating, I learned how just small amounts of money when selling for multiples of EBITDA can make enormous differences. With a solid understanding of the numbers, Luke was able to advise me that closing one of my then six practices and merging the contract into one of my other sites would make the portfolio stronger. A fresh pair of eyes, coupled with a good grasp of the business and the market, will serve you well – they can see possibilities that aren’t obvious while you are in the thick of it.
Of course, a successful transaction is only possible with an equally good legal team looking after your affairs. Once more, I have used a number of local lawyers and so called ‘dental specialist lawyers’ and found that the process, on occasion, has dragged on beyond all reason. I worked with Clare Emery and her team at Harrison Clark Rickerbys in this instance and found their commercialism, expertise and tenacity exceeded any previous experiences.
Don’t check out
Just because you are selling, doesn’t mean you should stop developing your business.
Following Luke’s advice, nearly a year later I had a stronger platform to sell. Over that period, I had taken the time to continue working on the business and to push my associates to grow the income. By the time things were ready to sell, it was a very attractive offering, with a commensurately strong result. Some people may be tempted to let things go fallow while they are focused on selling, but spending years developing a business then dropping the ball at the end can see you getting less than you could from it.
This period also gave Luke the time to put together a group of interested parties, and arrange a meeting with them at a hotel in Central Birmingham. From there we shortlisted buyers, who were subsequently shown around the sites before going through a second final offer process, enabling me to make my decision.
Legal and CQC processes – do your homework
My advice is to get going with this well ahead of time, particularly your due diligence. Although some of this paperwork is time-sensitive and so you may end up repeating some tasks, it is still well-worth ensuring that everything you are responsible for is checked and completed as early as possible.
Be prepared because you will have to juggle all this extra work while continuing to run a business. Maintaining this attention to detail and minutia, on top of your regular commitments can be a real challenge. In a bigger deal you also have to keep a constant eye on income levels, NHS performance and staff levels. Even small slip-ups can have big consequences. Luckily because Dental Elite understood the numbers we continued sense checking this throughout the process.
I have no regrets in using Dental Elite, they are by far the best agent out there selling dental practices.
Dr Greg Fickert qualified in 1987 with distinction, receiving three undergraduate prizes. He has since undertaken further training and gained several additional qualifications, and become a registered Specialist in Orthodontics. He is a member of various associations, including the BDA, Midland Orthodontic Society, Orthodontic Specialist Group of the British Orthodontic Society and the Confederation of Dental Employers. Dr Fickert also sat on the Birmingham East and North PCT Commissioning panels, is a Foundation Dentist and Foundation Therapist Trainer and a Dental Practice Accreditation Scheme inspector and a Tutor for the Royal College of Surgeons.