I love blogging about professionals who are applying the strategies in my latest book, Endorphinomics: The Science of Human Flourishing. In this post, we look at how one financial professional, Rick Helbing, applies research from positive psychology to help his clients plan for a healthier, wealthier, and happier future. — Steve
Dr. Julie Beltran*, a board-certified dermatologist, had been a solo practitioner for over 25 years. During her career, Dr. Beltran watched as Medicare, and medical insurance industries went through constant, disruptive changes. Mounting administrative, management, and regulatory requirements were increasing her stress and eating into her valuable time with patients. She liked practicing medicine, but her business was getting more complicated and less fulfilling every day. Her positivity ratio was heading on a downward spiral.
At the end of one particularly frustrating day, a voice in her head said, “I didn’t become a doctor to do administrative work.”
When Dr. Beltran celebrated her 60th birthday with her husband, she shared her dream of only seeing patients and reducing the stressors in her life. They discussed the challenges of running a solo practice and the likely future of the industry.
She was thinking about bringing in a younger dermatologist who would become a partner and eventually buy out the practice. She was also considering hiring a Medical or Physician’s Assistant to do some of the simple medical procedures and time-consuming administrative tasks.
Dr. Beltran knew other doctors who had joined a larger medical group, but valued her autonomy and wanted to keep her staff and brand. So, they decided she would continue running her practice but stay open to new possibilities.
An Unexpected Offer
Then, one day over lunch, a colleague introduced her to the president of a unique and innovative group that purchases dermatology practices. Her colleague, who sold her practice to this group, asked if she had ever considered selling her practice. She answered, “I haven’t thought much about it, but I’m interested in how it worked for you.”
He smiled and said, “My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.”
The president of the group explained that all the administration, HR, billing, purchasing, and book keeping is done from a centralized office, but the doctors keep their current office, staff, and brand. You run the medical side and his team runs the business side, which includes helping their doctors recruit and train team members and junior partners.
“Your salary drops a bit, but you’re monetizing your practice, improving your quality of life, and planning for your eventual retirement. Most importantly, you practice medicine 40 hours a week and can pursue the areas of your specialty that interest you most,” he concluded.
Then he said, “We’re looking for a few more doctors for our group. If you’d like to explore the opportunity, please give me a call.” The structure he proposed captured Dr. Beltran’s attention.
That evening, she discussed the offer with her husband. They realized that selling her practice and joining a group of dermatologists would be one of the biggest decisions of their lives. Weighing the financial and personal costs against the potential benefits was virtually impossible. Additionally, she wasn’t convinced she’d like giving up control of her business and staff.
So, their lack of clarity prompted them to put the offer on hold and focus on improving the practice.
Over the next few months, Dr. Beltran met with two other groups that offered to buy her practice. Each of the three groups offered completely different business models and compensation packages. There were lots of details to consider. The more people she spoke with, the more confused she got.
Defining the Issues
When she mentioned her challenges to her CPA, he asked her if her investment advisor could run some projections to determine which option would be most profitable. She answered, “It’s not just a financial decision; it’s also about enjoying my work for the next 10 years or so. He’s just a numbers guy. So, I don’t think he can help me.”
Her accountant answered, “If you want help evaluating different business and personal opportunities, you may want to meet with Rick Helbing, a local practice management consultant and financial advisor.”
So, Dr. Beltran and her husband met with Rick to see if he could help them sort through their various opportunities. He explained that he helped doctors optimize their practices, set up and manage their retirement plans, and evaluate the best options for selling their practices. They discovered that he took a comprehensive approach that integrated both financial and personal well-being. Rick emphasized the importance of understanding each client’s values, goals, personality traits, concerns, and priorities – before he made any recommendations.
As they talked, Rick helped them identify six key questions they needed to answer before they could determine their best path forward:
- Should she upgrade her solo practice or sell it to a larger medical group?
- How could they get the maximum, after-tax value for her practice?
- What were her other options for optimizing her income, net worth, and quality of life before she retires in ten years?
- If they sold the practice, could she afford to take a lower salary for 2 or 3 years until she increased her revenue and recruited a physician’s assistant and another physician?
- How long would they both have to work to make sure they will have enough money for a comfortable retirement?
- What would have to happen, both personally and professionally for them to feel that they had made the right decisions?
These were complex, interrelated questions that combined objective, retirement and succession planning issues with personal, quality of life factors. They required clarifying goals, priorities and concerns and then trying to understand the likely future financial and personal consequences of different options.
Rick explained that. “My goal is help you simplify complex financial and personal decisions so you have the confidence to move forward.” He explained that his five-step Life and Practice Optimization process would ensure they made their decisions only after establishing clear goals and a careful analysis of their options. He said, “We want to take our time to avoid mistakes and to make sure the changes you make will upgrade both your financial and personal well-being.”
They decided to hire Rick to help them evaluate their options and determine their best path forward.
Selecting the Best Options
Rick started by guiding them through a “guided discovery” interview to clarify their vision, goals, priorities, and concerns. He also had them complete a Behavioral DNA profile. That profile helps him understand his clients’ behavioral style which helps him guide their decision-making process.
In addition to reviewing their current financial situation, future income needs, and personal payoffs from work, Rick thoroughly evaluated the current practice and each of the three buyout offers. He read all the contracts, conducted in depth due diligence on each of them, and checked the companies’ reputations with doctors who worked with them. He also found out what would happen to the practice if the acquiring company went out of business.
Rick then worked closely with the Beltran’s CPA to clarify tax consequences of each purchase offer. By discussing the options, evaluating various future financial scenarios, and clarifying their priorities, they all agreed on the best plan; sell the practice to the company that made the first offer. It fit all their “personal and financial success criteria” and had a strong endorsement from a good friend who worked there.
A Better Life and Brighter Future
Dr. Beltran was delighted with her new role as an employee instead of a solo practitioner. She maintained her office and business name, but no longer had to deal with HR, administrative or operational activities. She’s now spending most of her time seeing patients. When a few members of her staff resigned, the medical group’s HR people quickly replaced them. Then, they trained and managed the new staff members.
To ease the transition to the lower salary for the first few years, the Beltran’s worked with Rick to minimize expenses that weren’t adding to their quality of life. Then, she and Rick put together a plan to help her earn bonuses by recruiting a Physician’s Assistant and a junior partner.
After a year in her new role, Dr. Beltran has fallen in love with her profession again. She’s reconnected with her passion of dermatology. Most of the stress of running the business is behind her. If she needs help, she has a team of professionals at the home office to help her. She is encouraged to take more vacation time and the company pays for her to attend medical conferences.
Dr. Beltran successfully repositioned her assets, lowered her stress and arranged for a painless succession of her practice, all while preparing for a comfortable retirement.
Although her income is a bit less, her quality of life has improved tremendously, she looks forward to going to work every day, and she’s excited about the future. With Rick’s caring and guidance, Dr. Beltran made the critical transition from the stress zone to the Endorphin Zone!
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*Not her real name.
Steve Moeller is an author, management consultant, and expert on the science of human flourishing. He helps entrepreneurs and self-employed professionals build profitable, low-stress businesses that support a high quality of life. He has written two books and hundreds of articles. His latest book, Endorphinomics: The Science of Human Flourishing, has earned rave reviews and five stars on Amazon.com.