When I was starting my journey toward practice ownership (good lord does that sound pretentious . . .) I constantly searched the web for information. I didn’t know how to do the things. I desperately wanted to know how to do the things. Who, for the love of God, would tell me how to do the things???
Occasionally I would run across a website from a lending institution that was actually helpful. It might have information on financing. How much down, interest rates, that sort of thing. Or maybe I got reallllyyyy lucky and stumbled upon one that mentioned what kinds of things lenders were looking for in borrowers. And, I swear to you, the ones I found that had steps and checklists are STILL saved in my Google drive.
And that’s what brings us here today. If I can give you even a morsel of help in finding out what you need to know before buying a practice, I wanna do that. And there’s farrrrr too much involved to do this in just one or two posts, so I’m going to start with this general article about who you need to have on your team as a practice owner.
Oh, I can hear the objections now: Whaaa? A team, you say? Psshhhhh . . . I know how to balance a checkbook and I’ve had a car loan. I’m pretty sure I’ve got this . . .
Oh, sweetie. You’re cute. But no. You don’t got this.
Buying a veterinary practice (and then running it successfully) is like *nothing* you’ve ever done. Which is cool and exciting and totally terrifying. I mean, why else would we do it???
So here’s a short list of the team you want to start assembling like rightthisveryminute, because you do not want to be playing catch-up on this.
1. A veterinary-specific attorney
Listen, insert all the jokes you want here. (No, please do. My ex is an attorney and I always enjoy humor at his expense . . .) But there is no way you have the time or legal expertise to navigate a practice purchase without a lawyer representing you. In my case, the attorney more than earned his fee by just dealing with the other side when I just couldn’t with them anymore. For whatever reason, the seller and his attorney were more reasonable when they dealt with my attorney. I think there was a fair amount of straight up old white guy misogyny there, but who knows? The point is, my expert helped keep the deal on track when the other side wanted to take their ball and go home.
2. A veterinary-specific CPA
These financial gurus picked through P&Ls for me, which was super helpful when the numbers started swimming, Buzby Berkley style, right before my eyes. They also asked all the questions I didn’t even know to ask. And don’t even get me started on the wizardry they bring to tax season . . . The key here is not just the financial help, but the fact that because they work exclusively in the veterinary industry they know the language. They also know the benchmarks and help keep me on track with my costs. Genius.
3. A good group of lenders
Listen, I’m gonna tell ya a little secret: I was rejected by multiple lenders when I started this little adventure. Like, so many lenders. So. Many. Lenders. As I often say, I’m not for everybody! In this case, it was just a numbers game. I had to be persistent and keep applying, knowing that this was actually a good business move and that someone, somewhere would eventually see that.
4. Superstar employees
You’re not even an owner yet! What are you even thinking about employees for?? Oh, but you will need them. And you will need them before you know it. Hiring is hard, y’all. Assuming you buy an existing practice, you will likely inherit some employees. That’s great and everything, but they probably won’t all fit the new culture. They may need to be shuffled around, or even liberated to find employment elsewhere. If you’ve worked with someone amazing before, make sure they know you’ll soon be looking for someone JUST LIKE THEM. Great team members are few and far between, so if you already know someone who really gets your vibe, make a spot for them. I always knew the rock star tech I worked with would be an incredible asset–and I made sure she knew it. When it came time, I grabbed her before I could really afford her. And boy, has it paid off!
5. A banker
This is a different team member than your lender. You’re going to need someone who can keep your money in a few easily accessible accounts, provide merchant services like credit card processing, checks, credit cards, and all that good stuff. I went with the same bank where I have my personal accounts, partly because it’s easy to look at all my accounts in one place, but also because they have good rates on a line of credit and are competitive on credit card fees. It’s a good idea to check around with other vets, either in person or on social media groups to see what kinds of terms they get for these services.
6. A bookkeeper
Payroll? More like Painintheass-roll, amirite?? But seriously, folks. No one wants to be poring over AAHA Chart of Accounts minutiae to categorize expenditures, or leafing through your state’s voluminous guidelines on sick leave and taxes . . . Throw some money at this problem and get it done RIGHT.
7. A BFF vet clinic
You would not believe how many times you will need to phone a friend in this biz. I’ve had surgeries that didn’t turn out the way I wanted, and it was awfully nice to have another, trusted vet put eyes on that animal and see what needed to be done. And you will run out of something that you really need. Like that day. Right effing now. It pays to know that the clinic down the road can spare a bottle of dexdomitor because yours is stuck on a truck somewhere.
This is not an exhaustive list, by any means. But it’s enough to get ya started. And trust me, you want to get started sooner rather than later!