Here, Paul Edels, Director at Goodman Grant, discusses some of the important considerations you must take into account when you buy a new practice…
Buying a new dental practice is likely to be one of the defining moments of your career, but – and this is by no means intended to put you off – it also has the potential to be one of the most stressful. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, of course; after all, buying a new house and moving in is widely regarded as one of the most stressful processes we are likely to go through – and this pales in comparison to buying a dental practice!
However, while in all likelihood this undertaking is going to give you a headache, there are many things you can do to mitigate some of the stress. First and foremost, you must remain aware of any potential pitfalls and plan accordingly. Thinking ahead and making sure you are prepared to handle any problems in the future will really help you sleep easily that first night after completion. Indeed, it can be easy to get caught up in the purchasing process – there are a lot of things that you will need to stay on top of after all. But you need to be aware of what could happen after you’ve signed all the documents.
Post-purchase complications are not uncommon, unfortunately – and will generally arise if a buyer has not thought far enough ahead. At best, these problems can be frustrating, at worst they can be costly – and can even result in litigation in extreme cases.
One of the most obvious examples would be long-term patient care. If you are purchasing a practice from a dentist who has not provided particularly effective care to their patients, you are likely to run into trouble further down the line. And who is going to be responsible for failed treatments or wilful neglect? You will be responsible for the patient’s wellbeing. This means you might have to simply offer a free remedy – which, obviously, is a drain on your time and resources – or you may be held liable for any reparation.
The best defence against this sort of problem is to ensure that adequate protection is provided for in your sale and purchase agreement. Where patient care is of particular concern, you can either manage the problem before it becomes your problem – or, if it looks like too unmanageable a task, you can simply walk away from the purchase before you get in too deep.
This also applies to the maintenance of equipment. Imagine settling down into your new practice and, within the first month, your autoclave breaks down and your X-ray system starts making a funny noise. Having to buy new equipment (expensive equipment) can be a huge drain on your resources, especially just after you have spent so much just purchasing the practice in the first place. As such, it’s important that the seller warrants all equipment is in good working order. Examine the maintenance records, visit the practice and watch the team use and look after the equipment to get a sense of best practice. Don’t just take the seller’s word for it when they say their CBCT machine is in top condition: if it breaks once they’re out the door, they won’t be the ones liable for the repair bill – you will be.
It is vital to include clauses that will oblige the selling dentist to come back to rectify any failed treatments they have performed (or pay you for performing these treatments instead), and to make them responsible for any equipment that breaks down once they’ve shipped off to Antigua with all your money!
If you’re buying an NHS practice, all this applies to the UDA performance too. Just because the seller has said one thing, it might actually be that the LAT has a different figure in mind – which could affect the valuation of the practice and end up costing you.
Fortunately, all of this can be avoided. All you need to do is know what to look for in advance. For help with this, you should enlist the services of a dental specific solicitor. Take note: this is imperative. It doesn’t matter if your best friend is a solicitor, or your brother’s wife – if they don’t have expert knowledge of the dental sector you could be setting yourself up for a lot of problems in the future. A dental specific lawyer will know exactly what to look for during the due diligence process and what protection needs to negotiated in the sale and purchase agreement. This will ensure that you are adequately protected once the purchase has been completed.
The lawyers at Goodman Grant Solicitors are the perfect choice. With an intimate knowledge of the ins and outs of dentistry, they are well prepared to put your best interests into every contract – and can make sure you remain protected even after you’ve put your name on the door.