The events of the past year have opened the door to changes in ownership across many practices, including specialties. The stresses of shutdowns and changes to patient care have sparked early retirement among some practice owners — and have motivated others to consider the transition to ownership as a way to gain greater control over their own destiny.

Whatever your reason for considering this milestone move, your first step is to surround yourself with a skilled transition team. Below, you’ll find details on the experts who can help you avoid financial pitfalls and set you up for success with your new practice. You can use this in conjunction with the practice acquisition worksheet (PDF), which provides guidelines on choosing the right people for each role.

1. Lender

Try not to think of this relationship as transactional: You want a lender with a great reputation for customer care after the loan is locked down. They can continue to be your partner in the years to come, providing options for practice growth, such as expansion needs, real estate purchases, equipment loans, and refinancing. A lender may play a role in:

  • Guiding you through a prequalification checklist (before even looking for a practice)
  • Helping you secure the funds needed for the acquisition
  • Calculating which for-sale practice fits your objectives
  • Helping with cash-flow projections

  Tip  

When comparing lenders, ask about their support services specifically for new practice owners. Some provide help tracking metrics, prioritizing improvements, and making long-term plans.

2. Attorney

After your lender, this is one of the most important members of your team. Consider hiring an attorney with specific experience in private practice acquisitions in your field. Specific ways they can help include:

  • Starting the negotiation correctly with a Letter of Intent (LOI)
  • Assessing the asking price and recommending counteroffers
  • Buffering you from the emotional side of valuation
  • Providing data needed to secure a loan
  • Reviewing documents, including contracts and employee handbooks
  • Providing tax advice

  Tip  

Many state bar associations provide referral services for a small fee. Your profession’s state medical association may also offer references.

3. Accountant

An accountant with practice acquisition experience can assist in evaluating the price of the practice, perform a review of historical tax returns and financials to ensure margins are in line, and offer projections for the near future. After the acquisition, they may continue to help by:

  • Suggesting ongoing tax strategies
  • Calculating ongoing expense averages to help with planning
  • Ensuring your business accounts are set up for efficiency

  Tip  

Once you find one trusted team member, ask for names of people they like to work with. If your team members know each other, the process may go more smoothly.

4. Commercial real estate broker

Your commercial real estate partner will ensure the location of the practice you are acquiring meets your needs now and in the future. Whether you are assuming a lease, writing a new lease, or being offered the opportunity to purchase the real estate with the practice, they will ensure your practice has market appropriate rates or values to set up your new practice for success. Your broker can also assist by: 

  • Supporting negotiations for the real estate lease or purchase
  • Providing feedback on future expansion needs or locations
  • Helping coordinate the real estate financing with your lender
  • Working with your attorney on agreements
  • Helping to structure the transition

  Tip  

Broker associations, such as the National Association of Practice Brokers, can be a good resource. Search online to find one focused on your specialty.

5. Insurance broker

You’ll need to make sure you’re adequately insured before taking on the responsibilities of ownership. A standard Business Owner’s Policy can be a good starting point, but you’ll likely need to add additional features. An insurance broker can offer guidance in:

  • General and professional liability insurance
  • Business property and income insurance
  • Employment practices liability insurance
  • Personal insurance options to support your financial planning

  Tip  

Ask about policies and add-ons that are unique to your practice. For example, vets might insure against clogging of sewers and drains by animal fur.

Acquiring a practice can be exciting, but the process can be complicated. The right team of professionals can help you move through it more easily.

Consider this: To decide who might be a good fit for each of these roles, take a look at this four-step worksheet (PDF) , with space for capturing names and contact information.

Sources: American Academy of Family Physicians, American Bar Association Lawyer Referral Directory, American Dental Association, The Hartford, National Association of Practice Brokers