Case Study: An Oral Surgeon Sells Practice to Younger Surgeon; Lessons Learned as Non-Compete Invoked

Setting:

Regrettably, we were engaged after the sale of this oral surgeon’s practice. For the selling oral surgeon, the transaction became a "lesson learned” in the importance of engaging objective, trained counsel before consummating such an important business deal. Being a trusting soul and not wanting to incur “unnecessary” costs, the selling doctor trusted that the purchasing doctor (who had worked for him for a number of years) would honor the understanding they had about the terms of the deal – importantly, that the senior doctor was to remain under contract for work for the next three years as he wound down his full-time work-life.

When a disagreement about execution of the written terms caused friction, the purchasing doctor terminated the selling doctor’s three-year contract and enforced a non-compete clause he’d included in the purchase agreement. Had we or legal counsel reviewed the contract for him, we would have had terms included to protect against such an occurrence, e.g. a guaranteed employment contract to offset the non-compete clause; or compensation should the non-compete be invoked. Instead, the selling surgeon was left without his practice, without an income, and with hard feelings.

How Did We Help?

While the selling doctor could have sued, he chose not to pursue that approach because of the cost and the emotional stress which would ensue – the “emotions” trumped the “equations.” Having made that choice, we had to help make lemonade out of lemons…

So, we ran multiple scenarios to determine the impact of the change on their desired plan’s overall Probability of Success (POS). Because the doctor and his wife had been prodigious savers and were not “spenders,” it turned out the impact was not material. The bigger issue was that the doctor was not yet ready to quit working.

The notion of “retirement” as many of us grew up thinking of it has significantly (and, thankfully) evolved. As such, the focus of our overall planning effort is helping clients achieve “financial freedom” – being able to do what they want to do when they want to do it and be fulfilled by doing so. This requires a much more dynamic planning process dependent upon more than just the financial “condition” of the client. Instead, physical/mental abilities and an understanding of what makes our clients feel valued are integral aspects of our planning partnership.

Result:

Ultimately, in working through alternative possibilities to channel his passion for helping people, our client was able to find a position at a non-for-profit clinic. He continues to have a fulfilled work life, without the pressure and responsibility of owning a practice.

This turned out to be a “win/win” solution - the clinic gained an experienced, skilled oral surgeon, the patients at the clinic received quality, competent care, and the doctor was able to continue to help people, utilizing his accumulated wisdom of 35 years of practical experience. The result was an extraordinarily satisfying and rewarding alternative solution to his original plan. Being able to aid our client in adapting their plan to the unplanned/unexpected “life happens” events is a rewarding aspect of our partnership which extends beyond the traditional basics of financial planning to all aspects of “financial freedom” – financial, physical, social and emotional.

As an update, our client is now successfully cutting back on his hours at a comfortable, desired pace while his wife continues a similar “wind-down” in her profession.