Because currently there are controls on opening new pharmacies you might decide to buy an existing business rather than start your own venture from scratch. Buying a going concern can mean that:
- the premises and equipment are already in place
- there are established customers
- the business can generate income immediately
- suppliers have been identified and relationships established with them
- the business has a track record which can help if you are looking for finance
- staff may already be in place
However, look critically at any business that you are interested in to make sure that the price you negotiate with the seller is a fair one. You should establish the amount of NHS and other income and try to find out why the business is for sale - for example, is the owner keen to retire or is there another personal reason for selling up.
Your market research into the pharmacy sector as a whole and the locality in particular will help you to establish whether or not the owner is selling because he or she can no longer generate enough income from the business. This may not necessarily deter you - many business people are confident that they can turn a failing business around. The important thing is to have established the current position so that the price you pay for the business is not too high.
Other matters to consider include:
- the state of the premises, equipment and so on. Will you have to spend money refurbishing or replacing assets. Remember that the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) - the regulator for the profession - has introduced standards for pharmacy premises. Pharmacies can only remain on the GPhC register if they achieve these standards
- the condition of any stock you are buying. Check this over carefully before agreeing a price
- existing staff rights
- how to retain key personnel once you've taken over
- does the business owe money that you will be responsible for
- if you are paying for goodwill, to what extent does this depend on the skills and personality of the seller
Ask your accountant to look critically at the business accounts for the past three years and discuss with him or her the selling price in the light of what the accounts reveal. Make sure you budget for other professional fees such as legal fees and valuation and survey costs.
Specialist business transfer agencies such as Christie & Co handle pharmacy sales around the country. You can use the Find a Pharmacy tool on the Christie & Co website to see details of pharmacy businesses for sale in your area.