How far in advance should you plan to sell your veterinary practice? Experts say it is almost never too early to make these plans. Recommendations for planning range from three to as many as nine years, but in general, understanding what you need to do and what needs to be in place before selling can help you maximize the situation. You may not want to sell until you are ready to retire, but people sell their veterinary businesses for a number of other reasons as well including burnout, a desire for a career change or illness.
One advantage of planning years in advance is that once the business has been appraised, you have the opportunity to work toward better profits and a more attractive sales package if needed. These can both be achieved but not overnight. A practice would need to show this improvement over a period of years.
An accountant may be helpful with issues such as taxes. A financial planner may help you in understanding the overall picture of how selling the business and what you get from that sale fits in with the rest of your life. A broker may be useful in working with both corporate and individual buyers and in evaluating the market. The market itself is generally strong at the moment for practices that want to sell.
There may be a number of potential buyers. Other veterinarians, corporate buyers and others who are working at the practice could be interested in buying it. If you want to sell your business but feel anxious about leaving a job you love, keep in mind that some owners prefer for veterinarians to begin working there for some time. You might want to consider a co-ownership arrangement. You could sell part of your practice, and this allows you to continue practicing without all the stresses of being the sole owner.
Whether you are choosing co-ownership or selling the practice outright, you should discuss your decision to do so with your colleagues and employees. You should also think about the details of the transition. For example, it is important for a veterinary practice to have a reliable answering service for after-hours calls. How will you make sure a critical service like this remains in place for your clients and their pets?
If you know you want to sell your business in the next few years, you might also want to change how you file your taxes. You may want to decrease the number of deductions you take to get a lower bottom line.