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Attention veterinary practice owners: Buyers are lined up
If you've been afraid to sell, consider this: In most regions, consultants and brokers report a backlog of buyers waiting for practices. And some are growing sick of the wait.


The women and ownership myth

If there's one myth that Dave Gerber, DVM, AVA, a broker with Simmons & Associates, is ready to squelch, it's the idea that women won't buy practices. He says data from his region shows women do opt to own.

"We are finding that women have a slightly lower interest in ownership than men, and that might be partly because they have another full-time job to do when they get home," Gerber says. "But still, more than half of the transactions we're doing in the Northwest now are to women. And that's a huge thing."

From 2006 to 2012 in the Northwest region, which covers the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska, buyers were 36 percent men, 57 percent women, 6 percent married couples and 1 percent corporations, Gerber says.

National data offers more evidence that women veterinarians are nearly as interested in ownership today as their male counterparts. The 2012 dvm360 State of the Profession Survey shows 27 percent of women and 32 percent of men saying that veterinary practice ownership is one of their aspirations.

"I've been involved in a handful of transactions with working mothers who want to own practices in such a way as to form partnerships," Glassman says. "So you get two working mothers who are trying to split their time between home and work who will jointly own a practice and run it as a single-doctor practice, splitting the time there. There are creative and innovative ways to find practice ownership for those who are struggling with life balance issues."

The trouble with startups

In a market where buyers overwhelm sellers, buyers are growing impatient, Glassman and Gerber both say. A shortage of practices to buy coupled with a lending community willing to finance startups could offer another avenue for frustrated buyers. Glassman says he knows a lender who financed nearly 60 startups in the New York area in 2012.

"You only see that number because those are potential buyers who have no practice to purchase," he says. "The marketplace is looking at those startups as an alternative. And banks are willing to lend."

Gerber says he thinks that could potentially dilute the market. "It's not a healthy thing," he says. In areas where the market is already covered, a new veterinary practice coming in could make a significant impact.

"Buyers are frustrated," Glassman says. "And when buyers can't find practices to purchase, if they have that ownership or entrepreneurial drive, they'll consider a startup."

This trend could serve as a cautionary tale for sellers who've been trying to time the market just right. "If you're thinking of retirement, don't delay too long, because there are some other factors out there that could potentially hurt your value even more," Gerber says.


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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