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Want to sell your practice? No one plans for this... But you need to!

Updated: Jun 9, 2020

Have you ever seen one of those life change stress indexes? It ranks how stressful different life events are, and if you’ve never seen one, the most interesting thing about it is how stressful positive events rank on the scale. For example, on this version getting married (which ranks a 50) is nearly as stressful as the death of a close family member (a 63). And other “positive” events like pregnancy, graduation from school, and even a vacation all have a negative impact on your overall stress level.

Why? Because change is stressful. Even something we have worked like mad for, prayed desperately for, agonized over for days and nights on end… When the change finally comes, it adds stress as we adjust to a new way of living, thinking and doing.

And selling a practice is no different. I’ve certainly experienced this in my own life. I’ve sold three of my own practices over the last 11 years; After taking months to over a year to find a buyer, negotiate a deal, and bring everything to fruition, as sellers we expect to sail off into the sunset, tropical drink in hand, for a lifetime- or at least an extended period- of easy living. And this can happen- but you have to prepare first. Here are my tips for successfully navigating this emotional time, as well as a link to a great article on this same subject. Enjoy!

1. First off, you need to be prepared for the emotional avalanche that might be headed your way. How long have you owned this practice? How deep are your connections to the employees and patients? How much blood, sweat and tears have you poured into it? And when you meet someone new, how long is it before you bring it up?

As a small business owner- and particularly as a chiropractor- we tend to wrap our identity up in our practices. So be prepared to feel a sense of loss as you enter this time in your life. It is easy to experience this and get scared, think you are making the wrong decision- perhaps this is all a big mistake!! When you expect these emotions, it’s easier to interpret it as a normal reaction to huge life changes and move through them with grace and acceptance.

2. Second, be ready to deal with losing control. Especially during the transition, where the deal has closed but the seller is still in the office to answer questions and assist in a smooth changeover. Ideally nothing much would change during this time, but even small or cosmetic changes that don’t meet your standards or preferences can cause stress or discontent. And this will only increase as time goes on and the new owner makes the practice more and more their own, potentially moving further and further from the business you so carefully crafted.

Again, the key to this is understanding and expecting that dealing with a loss of control- particularly in an area where you were once the final word of authority- will be stressful.Then when you are hit with those emotions you can calmly evaluate them, ideally without acting upon them.

3. By far the best advice I have for you, the absolute most proactive thing you can do to prepare emotionally for this huge life change, is spend some quality time thinking about what is next, in vivid detail. Find some aspect of what is coming that is exciting, and spend a bit of time visualizing and planning that every day, especially at the end of the selling process.

There is quite a bit of research out there on changing bad habits, and it is quite clear that when we want to remove something negative from our lives, its not just enough to avoid the bad habit, we have to “fill the space” with something new and positive. While your old practice is not a bad habit by any means, your old patterns will become bad habits if you don’t actively work towards replacing them with something new.

If you want to learn even more, I thought this article had some really good insights.

Do you have ay strategies you’ve used for managing the emotional highs and lows of selling a practice? Share them in the comments below. And we love your feedback, so let us know what you think of the article, and what topics you’d like to see covered in the future!

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