Selling a veterinary practice: Retirement boom or bust?

Veterinary owners looking to sell in the next decade face unprecedented levels of market competition from fellow baby boomers. Here's how to position your practice to sell to a new generation of buyers.
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Apr 01, 2014

The demographic impact of the post-World War II "baby boom" has been well-chronicled over the years. This generation constitutes an enormous population peak—or wave, actually—that has taken on a life of its own in the U.S. culture and economy. The baby boom introduced into the marketplace a large group of individuals, each with similar objectives, all around the same time.


GETTY IMAGES/KUTAY TANIR
This demographic tidal wave that is the baby boom generation will dramatically impact veterinarians who want to sell their practices in the next decade. My office gets calls from practitioners trying to sell their offices all the time, and the vast majority are in that renowned group born between 1946 and 1964.

Boomers are changing the market

Most people—veterinarians included—don't want to work until they become incapacitated or pass away. Consequently, an increasing number of private practices are coming on the market for sale. And practice owners who haven't committed to selling are seriously considering it. If you haven't cultivated a family member or favored associate as part of an exit strategy, you have to go to the public marketplace.

When it comes to the baby boom generation and the veterinary practice market, it's all about supply and demand. With an increase in supply of any commodity and no corresponding increase in demand, prices for that commodity fall. That means veterinary practice sellers compete against each other for a finite number of potential buyers. And with a glut of practices available for purchase, sellers become increasingly willing to lower their asking price. Thoughts of retirement create in these practice sellers a laser-like focus on doing whatever is necessary to ensure a sale. This is especially true when sale revenue is key to providing a retirement income.