Understanding the Art of Selling Your Medical Practice

Part Two of Medical Practice Valuation

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko, MBA, CMP

By Prof. Hope Rachel Hetico, RN, MHA, CMP

www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

In Part 1, we discussed how to establish fair market value (FMV) for a medical practice in the article, “Establish Your Practice’s Fair Market Value.” This time, we’ll review important terms and conditions for the sale transaction.

Valuation Types

Unfortunately, as a general rule, medical practice worth is presently deteriorating. A good medical practice is no longer a good business necessarily, and selling doctors can no longer automatically expect to extract a premium sale price. Nevertheless, appraising your medical practice on a periodic basis can play a key role in obtaining maximum value for it.

Competent practice valuation specialists typically charge a retainer to cover out-of-pocket expenses. Fees should not be based on a percentage of practice value, and may take 30-45 days to complete. Flat fees should be the norm because a sliding scale or percentage fee may be biased toward over-valuation in a declining marketplace. Fees range from $7,500-$50,000 for the small to large medical practice or clinic.

Expect to pay a retainer and sign a formal, professional engagement letter. Seek an unbiased and independent viewpoint. Buyer and sellers should each have their own independent appraisal done, using similar statistics, accounting measures, and economic assumptions.

At the Institute of Medical Business Advisors, Inc www.MedicalBusinessAdvisors.com we use three engagement levels that vary in intensity, purpose, and cost:

1. A comprehensive valuation provides an unambiguous value range. It is supported by most all procedures that valuators deem relevant, with mandatory onsite review. This gold standard is suitable for contentious situations. A written “opinion of value” is applicable for litigation support activities like depositions and trial. It is also useful for external reporting to bankers, investors, the public, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), etc.

2. A limited valuation lacks additional suggested Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) procedures. It is considered to be an “agreed upon engagement,” when the client is the only user. For example, it may be used when updating a buy/sell agreement, or when putting together a practice buy-in for a valued associate. This limited valuation would not be for external purposes, so no onsite visit is necessary and a formal opinion of value is not rendered.

3. An ad-hoc valuation is a low level engagement that provides a gross non-specific approximation of value based on limited parameters or concerns involved parties. Neither a written report nor an opinion of value is rendered. It is often used periodically as an internal organic growth/decline gauge.

Structure Sales Transactions

When the practice price has been determined and agreed on, the actual sales deal can be structured in a couple of ways:

(1) Stock Purchase v. Asset Purchase

In an asset transaction, the buyer will receive a tax amortization benefit associated with the intangible value of the business. This tax amortization represents a non-cash expense benefiting the buyer. In this case, the present value of those future tax benefits is added to the business enterprise value.

(2) Corporate Transactions

Typical private deals in the past involved some multiple (ratio) of earning before income taxes (EBIT)—usually a combination of cash, restricted stock, notes receivable, and possibly assumption of liabilities. For some physician hospital organizations, and public deals, the receipt of common stock can increase the practice price by as much as 40-50 percent (to accept the corresponding business risk, in lieu of cash).

Complete the Deal

The deal structure will vary depending on whether the likely buyer is a private practitioner, health system or a corporate partner. Some key issues to consider in the “art of the deal” include:

  • Working capital (in or out?): Including working capital in the transaction will increase the sale price.
  • Stock vs. asset transaction: Structuring the deal as an asset purchase will increase practice value due to the tax amortization benefits received by the buyer for intangible assets of the practice.
  • Common stock premium: The total sale price can be significantly higher than a cash equivalent price for accepting the risk and relative illiquidity of common stock as part of the payment.
  • Physician compensation: If your goal is to maximize practice value, take home a lower salary to increase practice sale price. The reverse is also true.

Understand Private Deal Structure

Assuming a practice sale is a private transaction, deal negotiations are based on the following pricing methodologies:

Seller financing: Many transactions involve an earn-out arrangement where the buyer puts money down and pays the balance under a formula based on future revenues, or gives the seller a promissory note under similar terms. Seller financing decreases a buyer’s risks (the longer the terms, the lower the risk). Longer terms demand premiums, while shorter terms demand discounts. Premiums that buyers pay for a typical seller-financed practice are usually more than what you would expect from a simple time value of money calculation, as a result of buyer risk reduction from paying over time, rather than up front with a bank loan or all cash. Remember to obtain a life insurance policy on the buyer.

Down payment: The greater the down payment for acquisition of a medical practice, the greater the risk is to the buyer. Consequently, sellers who will take less money up front can command a higher than average price for their practice, while sellers who want more down usually receive less in the end.

Taxation: Tax consequences can have a major impact on the price of a medical practice. For instance, a seller who obtains the majority of the sales price as capital gains can often afford to sell for a much lower price and still pocket as much or more than if the sales price were paid as ordinary income. Value attributed to the seller’s patient list, medical records, name brand, good will, and files qualifies for capital gains treatment. Value paid for the selling doctor’s continuing assistance after the sale and value attributed to a non-compete agreement are taxed at ordinary income. A buyer willing to allocate more for items with capital gains treatment, or a seller willing to take more in ordinary income, can frequently negotiate a better price. This is the essence of economically prudent practice transition planning.

Sidestep Common Buyer Blunders

Here are 10 blunders to avoid, as a buyer:

1. Believing the selling doctor’s attestations. Always verify data through an independent appraisal.

2. Wanting to change the culture of the practice. Be careful: Patients may not adjust quickly to change.

3. Using all available cash without keeping a reserve for potential contingencies.

4. Creating a conflict with the seller by recognizing a weakness and continually focusing on it for a bargain price.

5. Failing to realize that managed care plan contracts can be lost quickly or may not be always transferable.

6. Suffering from analysis paralysis. Money cannot be made by continually checking out a medical practice, only by actually running one.

7. Not appreciating the uniqueness of each practice, and using inaccurate “rules of thumb” from the golden age of medicine.

8. Not realizing that practice worth and goodwill value have plummeted lately and continue to decline in most parts of the country.

9. Not understanding that practice brokers may play both sides of the buy/sell equation for profit. Brokers usually are not obligated to disclose conflicts of interest, are not fiduciaries, and do not provide testimony as a court-approved expert witness.

10. Not hiring an appraisal professional who will testify in court, if need be, using the IRS-approved USPAP methods of valuation. Always assume that the appraisal will be contested (many times, it is).

After pricing and contracting due diligence has been performed, the next step in the medical practice sale process—as Donald Trump might say—is just good, old-fashioned negotiation.

Electronic Downloads

Part I: Part I

Part II: Part II

Additional Reading:

Cimasi, R.J., A.P. Sharamitaro, T.A. Zigrang, L.A.Haynes. Valuation of Hospitals in a Changing Reimbursement and Regulatory Environment. Edited by David E. Marcinko. Healthcare Organizations: Financial Management Strategies. Specialty Technical Publishers, 2008.

Marcinko, D.E. “Getting it Right: How much is a plastic surgery practice really worth?” Plastic Surgery Practice, August 2006.

Marcinko, D.E., H.R. Hetico. The Business of Medical Practice (3rd ed). Springer Publishing,New York,N.Y., 2011.

Marcinko, D.E. and H.R. Hetico. Risk Management and Insurance Planning for Physicians and Advisors. Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Sudbury, Mass., 2007.

Marcinko, D.E. and H.R. Hetico. Financial Planning for Physicians and Advisors. Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Sudbury, Mass., 2007.

Marcinko, D.E. and H.R. Hetico. Dictionary of Health Insurance and Managed Care. Springer Publishers, New York, N.Y., 2007.

Marcinko, D.E. and H.R. Hetico. Dictionary of Health Economics and Finance. Springer Publishers,New York,N.Y., 2007.

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