As if running a dental practice isn’t difficult enough! Goodman Grant’s resident agony aunt, Hewi Ma, tackles some of the recent issues her clients have faced…
The price for my dream practice is out of my budget. What other options do I have?
Buying your first practice is a lot like buying your first house. You may need to take a step back and be a bit more realistic with your goals, and perhaps keep looking until you find the practice that is right for you and within your price range. However, if you really have your heart set on a particular practice, here are some of the options that might be available to you:
- Bank of Mum and Dad
Just like a lot of first-time home buyers, some dentists are also relying on funds from parents. If this is an option available to you, your kind parents will be asked to provide ID and proof of the source of funds. This is no different to the kind of checks you will be asked to comply with.
- Buying with a Friend
If you are considering this route, it is extremely important that you agree with your friend on how you will run the business. This can be in partnership, as a limited company, or even in an expense sharing arrangement. Regardless of how you wish to trade, my top piece of advice would be to have a written agreement in place. Every divorce starts with a marriage!
- Agreeing a Deferred Consideration with the Seller
Commonly used where the seller is remaining as an associate, this is where you would pay an amount upfront and the rest over a number of years. A turnover target would be set and payment would be made if the target is reached. For example, with an asking price of £1 million, you could agree to pay £800,000 immediately on handover of the practice with a further £100,000 in a year’s time, based on the practice hitting the turnover target and the remaining £100,000 being paid in two years’ time on hitting the target. Whilst some sellers will accept this, be prepared for some to refuse.
I am selling my dental practice and the buyer wants me to stay on as an associate. There’s a reason why I’m selling – I want to retire! Do I really have to help?!
It really depends on how you handle negotiations with the buyer. Make it clear from the outset that you intend to retire and want nothing to do with the practice once you’ve sold it. Your agent can help you with this by managing the buyer’s expectations.
A buyer will want a profitable practice to continue in very much the same way as before they take over, and this usually involves having the same team, including you. Quite often, corporate buyers will ask a seller to remain working at the practice once they have taken over. They can even make this a condition for completion of the sale.
If you feel very strongly that you don’t want to stay, then make it clear to the buyer early on and insist that this does not become a condition for your sale to go through. Be warned – you might lose your buyer if you refuse to play ball, but if it’s really not for you then it’s better to wait until you have found the right buyer.
I am buying a practice with an NHS contract and have noticed that urgent treatment needs to be provided during normal surgery hours. However, the hours stipulated in the contract differ to the practice’s actual opening hours. They are closed all day on Friday when the contract states they should be open. Is this going to be an issue?
In short, yes. This is technically a breach of the NHS contract and the LAT could issue a remedial notice, which would require the practice to open on Friday as per the contract. However, if the seller obtains a contract variation to change the hours, then this would solve the problem.
If the seller refuses to do this or the LAT won’t agree, then think about your options. You could refuse to continue with the purchase until this is resolved. Alternatively, you could consider what you can do once you are the owner. If you carried on as the seller did, you run the risk of the LAT serving a remedial notice on you, which could lead to them enforcing the opening hours. If you had to open again on Fridays, consider the additional costs and resources such as salaries and recruitment.
If ever you are unsure of how best to proceed with regard to your dental practice business, it may be worth seeking professional dento-legal support from an experienced team of solicitors.