Q&A on Covid’s Effect on Practice Values and Sales
By Rod Johnston, CMA, MBA, OMNI Practice Group
As dentists start going back to work and opening their offices, they have a lot of questions on their minds. The questions range from Human Resources related questions to questions on selling their dental practice. While I am not an HR expert, I can answer the questions on practice values and sales. Or, at least, I can give my thoughts and opinions like everyone else. Below are some questions that I have received with the answers I provided. Disclaimer – the answers I provided are my own only and are based on my opinion, the opinions of other “experts” and past history.
Question #1 – How are COVID and the mandatory shutdown going to affect the value of my practice?
Answer #1 – Good practices in good locations are going to sell for a good value in the short and long term. Practices that are in a good area with good cash flow and profitability, good patient base with great staff will sell for a price similar to that of prices pre-COVID shutdown. Buyers reps and consultants will argue that there should be a “COVID Discount” because we don’t know if patients and numbers are going to come back. I call cow-pucky on their argument. For these good practices, there is a reason they are good practices. The goodwill – location, staff, reputation, even the selling doctor is still there. Patients will need work done and the numbers will follow. I’ve spoken with several doctors in the past two days who have nice practices and they reported that their schedule is filling up into the end of June already. There is pent-up demand.
Now, for those practices performing below average of under $450,000 per year with not great margins, older equipment, and transient patient base, they may need to take a discount to sell. They probably would pre-COVID as well, but its even more firm now. The discount can be 10% to 20% depending on the practice.
Question #2 – Are Buyers still Buying Practices?
Answer #2 – In short, yes. We have been marketing our practice listings continuously throughout the shutdown. We have received a number of calls and e-mails with interest in practices. The high demand metropolitan areas are getting the most interest, but we are still getting interest in other areas as well.
Question #3 – Can Buyers get Bank Financing?
Answer #3 – As President of the National Association of Practice Brokers, I have been in contact with many banks across the country. There are some banks that provide practice financing that have completely stopped lending on practices at the moment. They reported that they will start lending again when everyone is back up and running. There are others who have been continuing to lend. Practice sales have occurred even during the shutdown.
Question #4 – Are Banks changing the way they are approving and structuring the transaction?
Answer #4 – Most of the banks have told us that they want to see 60 to 90 days of productivity after the practice has opened. They would like the production to be a minimum of 75% to 85% of pre-COVID production before they’ll approve the loan. For example, a practice producing $100,000 per month pre-COVID will be expected to produce a minimum of $75,000 per month for the two or three months after re-opening. This depends on the bank and there may be exceptions to the rule.
On deal structures, some banks are saying they are lowering their loan amounts to 75% of the production and some will remain at the pre-COVID number of 85%. If the price of the practice is above 75%, the seller will be asked to “carry-back” a portion of the loan. For example, a seller with a practice valued at 85% of collections that is being purchased by a buyer who is using Bank X which has a loan to gross collections of 75% will be asked to carry a note for the last 10% of the value of the practice over a period of time. The term or length of time of the carryback can be negotiated to some degree.
Question #5 – What are the most important things to do if I’m thinking about selling my practice in the near term?
Answer #5 – As “they” say, Cash Flow is King. You need to get your collection numbers back to near where they were pre-Covid as quickly as reasonably possible. You should also evaluate the profitability of your practice and see where you stand compared to where you should be. Ratio analysis will tell you if your payroll, supply, lab expense, etc., is too high, or where it should be. If you need help with the analysis, give Omni a call.
If you have any other questions related to selling your practice either now, or in the future, please feel free to call us anytime. We are always here to give you any guidance and advice that we can. Stay safe and be healthy.