Ask an expert: Starting or buying your own practice
This month, Susan Shulist, Regional Sales Manager, Scotiabank, offers advice to professionals seeking to start their own practice.
Whether you are a new graduate, an experienced professional seeking to set out as an independent practitioner or a seasoned veteran seeking to start a ‘‘post-retirement’ independent practice, there are a number of essential steps to follow that will help set you on a path for success.
In order to start and operate an independent practice, you will need to develop skills beyond what your professional training has provided. On top of being a lawyer, doctor, veterinarian or whatever your vocation, you will also have to take on the skill set of an independent businessperson. That means you will need to become familiar with financial planning, capital raising, office management and more.
For most service-based enterprises, location can be an essential factor for success. Looking into potential areas for your practice will give you an idea about its viability and a good indication of what financial support you may require. You will need to do market research, look at demographics, population, competition, size of premises, and decide whether you will seek to buy, build or lease. These estimates will be among the essential inputs needed for your business plan.
Your business plan will be the roadmap for your practice. It should include an executive summary, overview of your planned practice, a discussion of the business environment, your business objectives, strategy, financial projections and action plan. Refer to the Scotia Plan Writer for business for a comprehensive overview and tips on how to craft your business plan.
What does a business plan do for you? It focuses on who will buy your services, lays out exactly where and when and how revenue will be generated, details what competition you are up against, and outlines costs for equipment, leasehold improvements and other items. Your business plan will help you get funding, allow you to gauge your progress and prepare you for the unexpected.
As well as setting up your own practice, you may consider purchasing an existing practice or buying into a practice/partnership. As with starting your own practice, you will still need to research the enterprise’s viability and develop a business plan.
For buying a practice, after you develop your business plan and agree on terms with the seller, you should review an appraisal of the practice done by a bank-approved appraiser. You may have to submit a Letter of Intent to the seller conditionally on getting financing. Present this information to your bank along with your personal financial information, a short business plan and financial projections. The bank can then seek out an approval within 48 hours and you will then be able to go back and negotiate your offer.
If you are buying into a partnership or existing practice and are seeking funding for the share purchase, most financial institutions will require a "General Security Agreement" to be pledged, and they will need to be in first position. This means you may need to bank at the same financial institution that the practice is using.
Whether you choose to start your own practice, buy an existing one or join a partnership, be sure to consult your Scotiabank Small Business advisor for advice on each step of the process.