How can updating the branding give you a fresh feel to an existing practice? Can the previous owner assist you in the transition? What did the process look like for people who have bought an existing practice?
In part 2 of this 2 part podcast, Alison Pidgeon speaks with Kami and Porter Macey about the benefits and challenges of buying an existing group practice.
Kami and Porter Macey are the owners of Amber Creek Counseling & Psychiatry in Sandy, UT. They purchased the business a little over a year ago. They have been married for almost 15 years and have 3 children.
In This Podcast
- Process of purchasing the practice
- Updating the look
There are different challenges that new practice owners face when they purchase an existing practice instead of building one from the ground up. There are new admin challenges, such as moving all the information from the previous owner’s name to your name; the wifi, the office space, the rental, the email addresses, and so forth.
As much as there is the general admin of managing a practice, there is this admin-intensive transitional period that lasts some time until everything is set out the way the new owners would prefer it to be.
Process of purchasing the practice
- Got the business evaluated.
- Gathered some loans together as well as their own money to save on interest.
- Paid the owner all at once.
Updating the look
They worked with the name Amber Creek to update and change their branding, giving their practice a new vision and giving it a new breath of life under new leadership.
- The Benefits and Challenges of Buying an Existing Group Practice, with Kami and Porter Macey – Part 1 | GP 43
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Meet Alison Pidgeon
Alison is a serial entrepreneur with four businesses, one of which is a 15 clinician group practice. She’s also a mom to three boys, wife, coffee drinker, and loves to travel. She started her practice in 2015 and, four years later, has two locations. With a specialization in women’s issues, the practices have made a positive impact on the community by offering different types of specialties not being offered anywhere else in the area.
Alison has been working with Practice of the Practice since 2016. She has helped over 70 therapist entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, through mastermind groups and individual consulting.
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Hi, and welcome to the Grow a Group Practice podcast. I’m Alison Pidgeon, your host. I’m excited that you are joining me today. I have the second half of an interview that I did with Porter and Kami Macey, they are a husband and wife who purchased a practice called Amber Creek Counseling in Sandy, Utah. And Porter is a clinician and Kami helps to run the business. So they talk a lot about what the process was like, of buying the business and taking over something that was already existing, changes they made, things that they did to make it their own. If you’re interested in hearing more, we actually did two parts to this episode. So today is the second part. And so if you’re interested in hearing the first part of the interview, just go back to the previous episode and start there, listening to the interview. And so without further ado, I give you Porter and Kami Macey.
Yeah, so you had mentioned about our work together, we did some consulting over the past year, and just curious what changes you made as a result of that, and how was that helpful for you? [KAMI]:
So it was super helpful in that, and you said this either to me or in one of the podcasts you had done with Joe, but, uh, you know, these are changes that we may have made ourselves eventually, but it would have been a lot harder to get there and taken a lot longer. And, you know, there was a lot that you offered us that if I even had more of my stuff together, I could have taken even more advantage and gotten, you know, you can kind of get what you want out of it. But you sped up the process for us. It was so great to just have somebody that you trusted, because you know, it has worked for them. And you like what they say, like I had listened to you on, I’d listened to Joe, off and on for a while when there was time, and one of the podcasts I listened to was an interview with you. And it just was like, I need to talk to this person, you know. And so it made that decision easy once I knew I wanted consulting, to call and I knew I kind of wanted to do a lot of things along the lines of what you had done. And so it was just easy to be like, Well, what do you do for this? And then you tell me what you did and it’s like, hey Porter, what do you think? You know, is that what we want to do? And, and it made it quick to make those kinds of changes, you know, and that’s one reason we did make a lot of changes on our clinicians is because we came in and then we talked to you and we knew what we wanted more, and we knew how to get there faster. [PORTER]:
Yeah, and I think I think it helped with everything, everything we’ve done. I know that you are asking for some specific things, but it’s hard to really pinpoint, like, oh, this was the change. It was how we managed our clinicians, what we offered them in terms of like, you know, money and benefits, and how we branded, and what we did for marketing, and it was so many things that we know that we needed to do. We just got to eliminate a lot of trial and error, which was very nice. [KAMI]:
Yeah, exactly. And, and, you know, on top of what Porter’s saying, the confidence, you know, because someone else has done it and they liked this thing. It worked for them. And it’s going okay for them. It’s working in their practice, ya know, and so some of those things, I’m trying to think of a specific example, you know, maybe like… [PORTER]:
W-2 versus 10-99 was something that we’ve talked a lot about. What were you gonna say? [KAMI]:
Yeah, talking about benefits with our clinicians. You know, that’s a scary thing to offer, because it’s really expensive. But we want the kind of practice that does attract full time people, and how are we going to get full time people if we don’t have any benefits? You know, and so that whole thing, that whole concept, you know, I don’t know when we would have approached that. And when we would have tried to do something like that, because that’s a really scary step to take. But talking with you and having that, even though we don’t have someone full time yet, we have a contract for it, it’s in our contract, we have the benefits set up. And, you know, we’re becoming more, we’re financially prepared for that. And we know that once we have someone who is full time, you know, we can provide them those benefits, because you’ve also helped us set up a fee structure that can include benefits, you know, that like… [PORTER]:
Yeah, sustainable. [KAMI]:
Yeah, sustainable. So. [ALISON]:
Right. Yeah, I appreciate that. Yeah, that’s awesome. But you, you know, found so much value in it. And I think that’s very true that, you know, I see that over and over again, like, you may have arrived at that outcome, but it may just have taken you way longer, and you may have may have just made a whole bunch of more mistakes along the way that, you know, because I myself and or my other consulting clients have made those mistakes, so I can tell you what to avoid. And, yeah, I think it was fun for me to work with you, because I think you were one of the first clients I worked with that had bought a practice and not sort of started it from scratch. So that was interesting to me to like, think through, okay, what are the unique challenges that you’re facing because you sort of like, took this thing that was already functioning, and already had employees and all of that? And, you know, how do you make it work for you and your family and your style of therapy? And, you know, all of those considerations. So I’m glad that it’s working out for you. [KAMI]:
Yeah, it is, it’s definitely a leap of faith, you know, and the logistics, you don’t really know before it’s happening [unclear] comes to buying a practice, there’s, instead of, you know, instead of getting your own internet, you’re taking over the internet, you’re taking over… [ALISON]:
The space. [KAMI]:
Yeah. You’re transferring all the accounts they already set up, their security system, their phone system, all of that. And so, you know, it’s definitely one part that’s logistics, you know, of actually running the practice how it is, and then logistics of changing how the practice is run to how we want it. You know, a big change is when we took over, there was no electronic health records that were being used, it was still all by paper. And we came in and we’re like, no, we don’t want this this way. And that was a big change for our clinicians because yeah, I don’t know. For some, they still were using paper. And, you know, we were having to upload it until just recently, we’re like, we’re getting rid of our file cabinets, we’re putting all the things online. So, you know, some big changes for them. [PORTER]:
Well, here’s something too that’s kind of a good example of what it means to take over everybody else’s stuff, is we just bought a new router to make our internet faster and it took us like four hours to set it up because there’s these cords that we’re not familiar with. And it was just, it was wild, like, something that should take 20 minutes. [KAMI]:
Yeah, because we pulled out the old modem and there was like, a whole bunch of different chords that we’re like, are these important? [Unclear], you know, we just changed over the Comcast Internet into our names. We didn’t actually pull out the router and it was really, really old and so our internet, it’s funny, because once we were all doing Zoom appointments, you know, our internet was terrible. And so we had to upgrade that and yeah, it should not have taken that long. I had to call, you know, the internet people and we had to reset things and it was just kind of funny. You know? Yeah, that’s a good example, Porter. That just happened yesterday, so. [ALISON]:
Yeah, it reminds me of like, when you buy a house, obviously, you’re getting all the stuff that they had in the house. And then it’s like, you’re, you know, like, I know, when we moved, we moved last year and we, for the longest time couldn’t figure out what light switches belong to what and like some things were like on a timer. And we were just like, why are these lights not turning on? [KAMI]:
That’s a perfect example. [Unclear] like that. Yeah, that’s great. [ALISON]:
Yeah, so I just wanted to kind of circle back to what we were talking about in the beginning, which was like the process of buying a practice. Because I know for me, that’s something that I think a lot of people don’t really understand what that actually looks like, or if that’s even, like possible for them. So if you don’t mind sharing, kind of like, what were the steps that you went through in terms of like, you know, did somebody evaluate the business? And then like, do you set up a contract? Do you get a loan from a bank? Or like, how does that all work? [PORTER]:
Yeah, so the seller got the business evaluated. Now, if I hadn’t had a relationship with him and if me and Kami hadn’t known him, and trusted him, we would have done the same. But it was just already there. We were just very confident we weren’t going to get scammed by this guy. [KAMI]:
Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do that, even if you’re confident. Those are the things I’m saying you know, you would do again. [PORTER]:
Yeah, we probably should have. But it worked out well. And so we were lucky enough that we were able to get a loan from like three family members. So we got a loan, like chunks of loans, and then we put in a bunch of our money. And so we had to pay very little interest, which is very lucky. But what we were planning on doing and what we were prepared to do is just go to the bank and just get the best loan possible, and just pay it off as soon as possible. And so once we did that, we just gave him a big giant check. And yeah, I can’t really remember what else. [ALISON]:
So you paid for it all at once, basically. [PORTER]:
Cuz I know sometimes in a sale of a business, they’ll set up something where you would almost pay like a mortgage payment, like every month, you’d pay X amount of dollars until you paid off the amount that they wanted for the business. [PORTER]:
You know what, I think, I’m trying to remember back to then, there was an option to pay it in in chunks, but it was more. To pay it in one some, then then it was less. So, that is why we did that option. And, you know, it was because for him, he was taking a big leap of faith and moving to another state and not knowing what was going to be set up for him yet there. And, and so, um, you know, it was mutually agreed on, you know, to do it that way. And that would be beneficial for both of us. And, yeah, so there were both options now that you bring that up. But we did pay one lump sum. [PORTER]:
When he stayed on for a while, he was getting kind of a special rate as he was seeing clients. And so that was also part of the deal. And it balanced out nicely because he was helping us transition. So he was putting in work beyond just being a therapist. [ALISON]:
So now, whenever we have questions, he’s there for us as soon as he can be. So you know, that has been really valuable to us, to continue that relationship, that’s meant a lot to us. [PORTER]:
Yeah. Yeah. That’s great. Yeah, that’s actually common too for the owner to stay for a period of time as part of the transition and be paid some type of salary for helping with the whole process. Yeah, so how long did he stay on? [PORTER]:
Four months, three months. It wasn’t super long. [ALISON]:
Okay. Was that weird to have him like, be an employee, even though he was the like past owner? [PORTER]:
Yeah. Yeah, it was weird to just one day go from employee to boss. That felt uncomfortable. [KAMI]:
That was, and I just counted up, he was there for five months. And I think the other part that was weird is I didn’t want to do anything or make any changes that would make him feel bad in some way. I know that sounds kind of funny. But, you know, he built this up from the ground and he cared about it. [PORTER]:
And he did a good job. [KAMI]:
Yeah. And so, exactly, he did a good job. But if we’re changing things the way we want it, you know, there was this little bit of I don’t want to hurt his feelings, that it meant that he did something that we didn’t like, or, you know. But he didn’t make it, he, he didn’t make us feel that way. It’s just the way it is, when you like somebody and you appreciate their work, and you take over and you’re changing something that they did, while they’re there, you know. [ALISON]:
Just feels a little awkward, probably. [KAMI]:
Well, like the electronic health record, you know, that change. One thing that we changed was he was really, really lenient with no shows and late cancellations. And that was really hard on the business. And for him, he’s so compassionate, and that’s a great thing. But it can be really bad for business when you wave too many fees, and you don’t collect them. You know, probably 90% were waived to zero or collected at a low amount. And so, you know, that was an interesting thing, because we made the change and we told everyone, and he did reach out and say, I’m afraid that this is going to be bad for you guys, and people will stop coming. But doing consulting with you, and doing a lot of research, we were really, we put a lot of thought into that change. And we knew that we could be compassionate and successful with that, and that, using that no show fee, and doing that, would be good for the clients as well. You know, because it makes sure that they come and they get the treatment that they need. And it also means that the clinician can rely on having their clients come. And you know, because if we don’t do that, it’s not really a reliable work environment for the clinician. And so it’s just, it’s better for everybody, but it still gives us an opportunity to be compassionate, and, you know, show flexibility with our clients. But yeah, [unclear] interesting change. And it was really kind of hard, because he did come back and say, I don’t think this is gonna be good. You know, it was kind of scary to be like, sorry, this is what we’re gonna do. You know, he supported that, though. He was good about it. [ALISON]:
Yeah, that’s good. Yeah, I think having a good prior relationship with him probably really helped. And then obviously, it sounds like you maintained a good relationship, during the whole process, and after the fact. So that probably made it a little easier, even though it’s always tough to have all those changes happening. And, yeah. [KAMI]:
If he didn’t care about Amber Creek, if he didn’t care about it, he probably wouldn’t have reached out in the first place. And so that made it easier for us is knowing he was coming from a place of wanting us to do well and to succeed. [ALISON]:
Right. Right. Did you think about changing the name at all? [KAMI]:
I didn’t. [KAMI]:
I did. A lot. [ALISON]:
Yeah. And Amber Creek was the original name, right? [PORTER]:
Yeah. So I never liked the name. It didn’t make sense to me. And Porter didn’t care. [PORTER]:
Well, I thought that he had developed a good reputation and they were known with a lot of aspects of the community. And I just wanted to keep that as flowy as possible, just maintain the relationships and all that stuff. [KAMI]:
Yeah. So this, and so this is what we ended up doing. And I’m glad you brought it up, because I didn’t like the name. But it was important to keep because we were, you know, we were popping up as one of the first places because we’d been along… [PORTER]:
On Google. [KAMI]:
On Google, we’ve been around for a long time. And, you know, I kind of had to accept that it would be better for us to keep the name. And so instead, and working with you, we rebranded the name, and that was awesome. So we did a new website, and we did a new logo. And for me, it was really important, this is some of the work that we did together, I’m forgetting the word, but I guess it might just be branding. [PORTER]:
Well, we started to create a specialty, like a niche. [KAMI]:
Yeah, the niche and finding meaning in the name was really important to me because I wanted the name to be meaningful. And I was able to do that through branding, you know, Amber Creek, and then I thought of water and the symbolism of water. And for me that made, that changed the name for me completely. And now I really love the name Amber Creek, because of the rebranding we did and putting meaning in the name. That was huge. So yeah, [unclear] name in another situation, but rebranding was just as good. I feel like keeping the name and branding it the way we wanted it really worked for me. And, you know, Porter already liked the name. So it wasn’t as important to him. [PORTER]:
Yeah. No, I think that’s great. Because like you said, you, you get this business that you didn’t get to make those choices, right, you didn’t get to name it and do all of those things. And it sounds like you kind of found that happy medium of like, you kept the name, which obviously had value, because it was known in the community, but then you were able to kind of like, do all these different things to make it feel more like your own. So I think that’s a really nice, like, example of if somebody was in a position to buy a practice, like, how do you make it feel like, even though you didn’t necessarily pick out all those things from the beginning, how do you make it feel like it still fits with you and you know, the image you want to convey to the community and that type of thing? [KAMI]:
And one other thing we have been doing along the rebranding and to make it feel like ours, is redecorating. And so, started saving early on for as soon as we bought it, I knew I wanted it to look different. That was another difference between Porter and I. He didn’t care as much, you know. [PORTER]:
This is why we’re a good combo, though. [KAMI]:
It’s not like I’m not caring because it’s not important. [ALISON]:
It’s just maybe not your main priority. [PORTER]:
Yeah, it’s just hard for me to think about it. [KAMI]:
Yeah. And so, um, but I wanted it to look lighter inside and to go along with the new logo that we had. And, you know, you talked about your practice and how you put arrows, and you know, the move forward and how it all ties together. And I wanted to do the same. So we’re actually not done. We’ve been in the process. It’s been easier since people are doing a lot of video appointments. That’s been a good reason for us to work right now, trying to make everything the way we want it on the inside. So yeah. [ALISON]:
Nice. That’s great. Well, I want to say thank you so much for talking with me today about the whole process of buying a practice. I hope it’s been helpful for anybody listening who is thinking about doing the same thing. And if people have questions, or they want to check out your website, where can they find you? [KAMI]:
Yeah, I would love to answer any questions, but our website is ambercreekcounseling.com. [PORTER]:
I mean, feel free to just email me. I know that I don’t care. It’s just firstname.lastname@example.org. [KAMI]:
Yeah, email@example.com. Maybe we could send you our email so you know, there’s a link for it or something [unclear]. [ALISON]:
Yeah. We’ll put it in the show notes. [PORTER]:
Yeah, cuz I’d love to help anyone who needs it. [KAMI]:
Yeah, it’s been really fun to make these changes. And, you know, if we can help someone else we’re glad to. [ALISON]:
Okay, awesome. Well, thank you so much. It was great talking with you today. [PORTER]:
You too, Alison. [KAMI]:
Yeah. Good to talk with you, too.
I think it was really cool that Porter and Kami were willing to come on the podcast and talk about the process of buying a practice and, you know, giving some tips related to that if other people are in the same situation. I really hope to continue to keep in touch with them and hear how their practice grows over the years. They’re a really cool couple and I really enjoyed working with them.
We are actually going to be launching another cohort of Group Practice Boss at the end of December. So if you haven’t heard of Group Practice Boss, it’s a membership community that Whitney Owens and I run, where we work with established group practice owners, helping them with the, you know, unique challenges that come with owning a group practice and scaling it up and all of those kinds of things. Every month we have a different theme. And we opened the membership community at the beginning of October and we’re really pleasantly surprised at the number of people who joined. It’s a great group. It’s cool to see everybody supporting each other in the Facebook group. And then we have a Teachable platform where we have tons of different resources specifically for group practice owners. So if that’s something you’re interested in, get your name on the email list so you can get a notification when the doors open again, that link is www.practiceofthepractice.com/grouppracticeboss, and I will see all of you next time.
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