Whether you are a first-time buyer of a dental practice or have previously been involved in a purchase, there comes a time in the due diligence process for you to make an in-person visit to the seller. Some buyers have said this meeting can seem somewhat like a first date. They say they are nervous about saying the wrong thing and making a bad first impression.
Remember that the purpose of this first meeting is not to conduct in depth due diligence but for you to form an impression about the practice. It’s true that you want the seller to like you; to think you are the very best dentist to purchase the practice.
You also have some questions to ask, but do not want to come across as a police detective questioning a witness. Your goal is not to be confrontational, but to have your questions presented in a way that inspires the seller to want you to be the one dentist to whom he or she wants to sell the practice.
There are ways to get the answers you need while, at the same time, generating a positive feeling. It is a good idea to have your counsel who is assisting you with the purchase and who has either completed the legal and financial due diligence or who is in the process of performing those due diligence tasks, go over the questions with you. Also, write them down and take a pen and paper with you to the visit/interview so you can make notes while you are discussing your questions with the seller.
Perhaps divide questions into broad categories that appear positive while you delve into the “meat and potatoes” so to speak of the dental practice. Here are some questions to consider asking.
This polite opening can set the tone for the visit. It is an open-ended question which gives the seller a chance to tout the benefits of owning the practice and perhaps volunteer some red flags. The question indicates you are there to listen and learn, not to confront.
Be a sincere listener and listen carefully. Not only are you there to assess the practice, but you are also there to create a rapport between you and the seller. The seller will be giving you clues as to what he or she is looking for in a buyer. While you are assessing whether you want to buy this practice, the seller is assessing whether you are the one they want to sell it to.
When you ask the question, “To what do you contribute the success of the practice,” you are being sincere. The seller must have done something right or you would not be considering purchasing the practice. Apparently, the dentist has attracted patients, has a team, and has kept the practice running long enough so that he or she is now selling it.
Some specific questions that may follow include:
Be sure to ask these questions with a genuine interest. You must be sincere and listen carefully so you are ready to ask follow-up questions when indicated and to make it a focused discussion, not like an interview required so you can write a college paper or like a drill sergeant barking commands.
Of course, there may be things that annoyed you as you looked around the office and met the team. Maybe you are highly organized and noticed there are boxes stacked up behind the receptionist’s desk and the pencils are not sharpened to your satisfaction. You can deal with those things later. Your focus is still on the moment, building rapport, and fostering communication.
There must be some things that impressed you. Some suggestions might include:
If the layout of the dental practice is particularly effective, you may want to ask if the dentist was involved in the layout and design. If so, you may want to ask how much input they had and is the entire layout of the dentist’s design.
This broad, encompassing question should engage the seller in an open-ended discussion about the patients, community, associates, and the team. Some specific questions you can include in the discussion might be:
This is another open-ended question giving the seller the opportunity to tell you why he or she is selling the practice. Is it to retire? Are they moving to another city, state, or country? Moving to be nearer children or grandchildren? Or is the seller just burned out of dentistry and wants to quit. Is there any bitterness?
These are not just questions you have so you can snoop but are important things for you to know during the transition process. The transition will be different depending on whether the seller is leaving town or will still be close by. It will be different depending on whether the seller wants to hand over the keys at the end of the sale and be done with it or will be around for a time after the sale and available to you for a while if questions arise. Also, it would be interesting to know if the seller plans on seeking employment elsewhere, though the seller might not be as forthcoming.
Some ways these questions can be phrased include something like:
This question provides an opportunity for the seller to really open up and provide you with information you may not get in response to any other question. It only requires you to listen. You can tell by the tone and what is said whether the advice is coming from one who enjoyed the practice and who is upbeat in general or is coming from someone who is burned out. Make notes. You may find this question unleashes a lot of helpful information.
At Dental and Medical Counsel we are proud to be one of the most trusted law firms for dentists. We work with you and are actively involved in every aspect of the purchasing process.
We will assist you in learning how you can go about assuring the seller that you want to maintain his or her good reputation in the community and maintaining confidentiality about the sale until the seller is ready to release that information to their team members and the community itself. Your goal at the interview is to obtain important information for your evaluation of the practice while at the same time, creating a favorable impression so the seller wants you to be the buyer.
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