Selling multiple practice during a pandemic

Selling a dental practice – let alone several practices – can be difficult enough without the added challenges of a pandemic. Success depends on having the right team supporting you throughout the process. Dan Freshwater, Chief Executive of the Social Care in Action Group, explains how he managed the sale of six practices during the COVID-19 crisis.

What was your motivation for exiting the market?

We are a charity that provides social care, counselling, wellbeing and other community-related services. We got into dentistry at a time when it was difficult for people from disadvantaged areas to access NHS dental care. For the last 15 years, this has been part of the various services we provide. However, we decided to sell our six dental practices in order to restructure and refocus on other health and wellbeing services.

Which consultant at Dental Elite did you work with?

Once we decided to sell, we researched potential agencies to help and Dental Elite was one of many that we spoke to. From the get go, we were really impressed by Luke Moore’s approach, which made it an easy decision to work with Dental Elite to find the right buyer for our practices.

How important was it to find the right buyer?

As a charity, it was really important that the buyer aligned with our values and ethics. We wanted to be sure that our practice staff were going to be looked after moving forward with the support of a buyer we had faith in. Luke understood this and introduced us to many potential buyers, helping us make a decision and agree on a deal with Smile Dental Care.

How did you find the CQC aspect of the sale?

Dental Elite helped us understand the CQC’s requirements, making this aspect of the sale quite easy and straightforward. It was a boon to have experts on hand that could guide us through the process.

What was the most challenging time during the sale?

It took longer to reach completion than we had originally anticipated, particularly due to COVID-19 and the fact we were selling six practices simultaneously. Our business is structured in such a way that we have charitable vehicles known as registered societies, which cannot be sold. Therefore, we had to establish a company vehicle that could be sold and shift all of our NHS contracts to that vehicle. Although this was a long process, Luke always supported us and provided advice on the best way to achieve what we set out to do, despite the atypical situation.

How did your completion price compare to your original valuation?

Luke was really helpful in making sure that we got the right price for our business. I absolutely needed his industry knowledge to achieve a sale price that was very similar to our heads of terms agreement. There was a huge amount of due diligence involved in the process and although the lion’s share of that work fell on my team and I, Dental Elite answered any queries we had if we ran into challenges.

How did you find the agent buffer between solicitors, buyer and seller?

Luke knew the buyer and their lenders and legal team well, so he was able to ensure a really smooth transaction. I spoke to the buyer recently and we both remarked what a pleasure it had been doing business with each other. As the transaction progressed over 18 months, we’d had many phone calls and virtual meetings over Zoom, and Luke played an essential role in ensuring cohesive interactions. I also can’t think of any instance where I couldn’t reach out to him or the team for information. It was a win-win for everyone involved.

What advice would you give to future sellers of multiple practices?

Be prepared for a substantial amount of due diligence and work with a good agency like Dental Elite. We’d considered leading the sale ourselves, but Dental Elite’s support was helpful throughout the transaction. There were certainly tense and stressful times, but I knew I would get answers and an opportunity to discuss any concerns with Luke and his team. They were consistently excellent.

Would you recommend Dental Elite?

Yes. Overall, the expertise that Luke brought to the process was incredibly valuable and helped us achieve the sale price we wanted. It was our goal to find a home for our practice staff with a buyer we had complete confidence in. Ultimately, we wouldn’t have found this buyer without Dental Elite.