CIG Capital Advisors’ managing director Yusuf Hai authored a recent article for Fierce Healthcare where he discusses how physician-owners can assess growth metrics in their medical practice and make adjustments that may affect the practice’s value with an eye toward a future sale:
The average primary care physician sees more than 20 patients a day, according to a 2018 survey of nearly 9,000 doctors by the Physicians Foundation.
That, along with the 11 hours they devote every week, on average, to paperwork, helps explain why 78% of those same physicians told surveyors they feel burned out at least some of the time.
Often times this adds up to physicians being too busy with day-to-day responsibilities to have time left over for running the business end of their medical practice, let alone for crafting strategies to drive long-term practice growth, or to consider their legacy as they chart a course toward future retirement.
Ask most physicians about their hopes for the future and they might say that, of course, they want to grow their practice and increase revenue.
It’s one thing to set that as a goal. It’s quite another to determine how and what kind of growth—and how much—will best suit a particular medical practice and its individual members.
Difficult as it may be, the reality is that growth won’t just result from hard work and hopes. Physicians who are truly serious about strategic growth or maximizing the practice’s value with an eye toward a future sale have to invest in the process—possibly even setting aside an entire day or more for business building.
Either way, the process always begins with something already familiar to doctors: diagnostics.
Given the physical and emotional demands of their profession, it’s little wonder that some physicians look forward to retirement. However, many other doctors nearing retirement age are reluctant to turn their backs completely on their profession and would rather find a way to ease into retirement.
What should you do if retirement is on the horizon but you would prefer to transition gradually into retirement by working part-time? Here are some things to consider if you are thinking of cutting back on your work hours:
1. Review Your Finances
First off, determine if you can afford the reduction in earnings that reducing your work hours will entail. Pay particular attention to any debt you are carrying (mortgages, etc.). Ideally, you don’t want to be overly burdened with debt once you are no longer practicing full-time.
A review of your current net worth can give you a clearer picture of your overall financial standing. Net worth takes into account the value of all your assets as well as your outstanding liabilities.
If you’ve been funding a tax-favored retirement plan, hopefully you have accumulated sufficient assets to provide a steady stream of income for all the years you may be retired. If you still haven’t met your goal, you’ll want to determine if your earnings from part-time work will allow you to comfortably continue adding contributions to your retirement plan. You’ll also want to determine when you can start taking penalty-free withdrawals from your plan(s) and project what your tax situation will look like. These are all issues we can help you assess.
2. Look at Your Options
If you are part of a multi-physician practice, talk to your colleagues about what arrangements can be made for you to start cutting back your hours. You may need to revise your practice agreement to incorporate a new compensation arrangement. Typically, such arrangements are based on the productivity of the part-time physician less a share of practice overhead expenses.
If you are a solo practitioner, you may find it hard to practice part-time without creating problems with your current patient base. Patients may feel that you can’t deliver the type of patient care they expect if you are practicing part-time. Bringing in a physician assistant may be helpful. However, recruiting another physician who would eventually take over the practice may be the most effective route for solo practitioners.
Give careful consideration to the financial arrangements you make with the new physician. When it comes time to sell, you’ll want to have a formal purchase agreement that outlines all of the rights, obligations, and responsibilities of the buyer(s) and the seller. It should also include a valuation of the practice.
3. Consider Malpractice Insurance
Don’t ignore the issue of malpractice insurance when you are weighing the pros and cons of going part-time. You need to be certain you will be covered during your part-time years and after you stop practicing completely. “Tail coverage” can protect you against any malpractice claims that may be filed against you after you retire.
CIG Capital Advisors Can Help with Retirement Planning
Whether you are serious about transitioning to part-time work or are simply exploring your options, be sure to consult with us. We can help evaluate your personal financial preparedness for retirement and assess the need for other steps, like medical practice valuation or a partnership exit strategy. Schedule a complimentary consultation with a CIG Capital Advisors professional to discuss your specific situation at www.calendly.com/yhai.
Lay the Groundwork
Start by taking a critical look at your practice’s current financial condition. Identify areas of weakness. For example, does your medical practice experience poor collections or weak cash flow? How do your staffing levels compare to those of similar practices? Issues such as these can reduce the appeal of your practice. It’s to your benefit to deal with them well before you put your practice on the market.
You’ll want to have a realistic appraisal of your practice’s potential worth before you put it up for sale. Tangible assets, such as medical equipment, computers, and furniture, are relatively easy to value, though they generally make up only a small part of a medical practice’s total value. Goodwill is an intangible asset that can be difficult to value. But there are methods that can be used to establish a reasonable estimate.
Identify Potential Buyers
You may receive an unsolicited offer. If you don’t, consider reaching out locally or contacting a broker who specializes in selling medical practices. An experienced broker can identify and contact qualified potential buyers.
The speed with which a sale may occur may largely depend on the deal you’re seeking. Do you want a buy-out that will let you continue to practice as an employee? In that case, looking for a group practice, hospital, or other corporate buyer may be the best route. If the sale goes through to one of these entities, you will be able to continue to work in medicine without the responsibilities of ownership.
If retirement is your goal, you may opt for a gradual buy-in by a physician who will take over your practice. Typically, this arrangement requires you to employ the prospective buyer and, under the terms of the deal, after a trial period of a year or two, offer a partnership with a documented exit arrangement for you. This arrangement could be in the form of a severance package.
Review All Offers Carefully
If you receive an offer, your focus should be on the would-be buyer’s financial condition and the payment terms if you plan on retiring. If you plan to continue working at the practice with the individual or entity who may buy it, you should carefully review all ramifications, including transfer expenses and malpractice terms involved in the sale.
Apart from satisfying yourself about the financial and legal issues involved in the sale, you should also feel that you will be able to fit into the potential buyer’s organization and that your advice and input will be welcomed. Remember, whatever way your medical practice’s sale is structured, there will be tax implications.
The business advisory team at CIG Capital Advisors can help you evaluate potential medical practice sale offers and determine the terms which might make it the right deal for you. Schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our business advisory professionals today.