EPHRATA, Wash.–When a healthcare provider in a small town retires, patients are often left scrambling for care, either doing without or traveling long distances to find new providers.
Business transition trifecta
Fortunately, when Dr. Bill Davis, one of three chiropractors in Ephrata, retired after 36 years in practice, Dr. Tashauna Devine was able to take over the practice without disruption.
That’s a testament to Dr. Davis’ concern for his patients, Dr. Devine’s training and temperament and the value of the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) working in partnership with the Grant County Economic Development Council.
Davis and his wife and office manager, Sandy, had put off decisions about retirement exactly because they were concerned about the future care of their patients, some of whom he had been seeing for more than 30 years.
But in early 2019, while meeting with a longtime colleague who started under him, Davis was introduced to Devine, a chiropractic intern who was finishing up her preceptorship at a Moses Lake practice.
After talking together, Davis told her he wanted to retire and thought she might be a good fit. “He said he’d always wanted to find a female chiropractor to replace him some day,” Devine said.
Of course, it wasn’t just that Devine was a woman. She also had the skills, temperament and patient-care philosophy he was looking for and she had ties to the community. From Davis’ perspective, it was a trifecta.
“I was scared out of my mind,” Devine said. “I wasn’t even graduated.”
But the opportunity seemed heaven sent.
Devine was born and raised just a few miles outside of Ephrata on the outskirts of Moses Lake. She attended Washington State University where she earned her first undergraduate degree in Movement Studies and then decided to pursue a career in chiropractic while working at a chiropractor’s office in Moses Lake.
She was accepted at the University of Western States in Portland, Oregon, in fall of 2015 but ended up delaying her admission so she could be with her mother who passed away in October 2015 after a 3-year battle with breast cancer.
She started chiropractic school in January 2016 and by the time she graduated in March 2019 she had earned a second bachelor of science degree in biology and a master’s degree in sports medicine along with her doctorate in chiropractic.
Taking over Davis’ practice would bring Devine back to Ephrata where her grandparents raised her father working their family farm and where other relatives still live.
Making it work
Then the problem was how to make the deal work. Devine already had student loan debt and few assets, so she knew it would not be easy. A loan broker connected her to a bank in Texas that was willing to consider a loan, but they needed a business plan and financials.
Devine did her best using templates she’d picked up at chiropractic school. Twenty pages in, she got stuck and a patient suggested she go talk to Allan Peterson, the SBDC advisor in Moses Lake.
The Washington SBDC has a staff of Certified Business Advisors located across the state, providing one-to-one confidential business advising, demand driven training and market research to both new and established small business owners at no cost to the client.
SBDC services are funded in part by Congress through a grant to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), but at least half of SBDC funding must be raised from local and state funding partners, including institutions of higher education, economic development agencies and public and private business and civic organizations. The SBDC office in Moses Lake is co-located with and supported by the Grant County EDC.
Peterson and Devine started meeting in late March. “He took everything I wrote and made it better,” Devine said. “He made sure it sounded professional and he added research on demographics and other market research.” Together she and Peterson worked on both her loan application and the process of buying the business.
“If I didn’t have Allan, I don’t think the bank would have given me the loan,” she said. But getting the loan was only part of it.
The final drive to victory
The Texas bank required that her father, Kurt Devine, co-sign the loan, which he was happy to do, but which added exponentially to her stress. If she couldn’t make loan payments, her father could lose a lot, so it was essential that she succeed.
Going through financial data with Peterson, an objective, expert advisor, gave her confidence that she’d thought through worst-case scenarios and had a solid plan. Emily Smith, the EDC recruitment specialist, jumped in to provide much needed technical assistance to ensure documents got submitted on time.
Devine got the loan in July 2019 and after a month of she and Davis working side by side, she took over the practice by herself, along with her staff, in August.
Devine and her two-person staff are already seeing about 110 patients every week, down slightly from Dr. Davis’ 140 patients per week, but ahead of the conservative projections she’d used in her business plan.
In any case, she is busy. Along with building her practice to include a focus on sports medicine, she’s been active in the business community and civic events.
Peterson, who has known Devine since the days his children shared the same piano teacher, is happy to see her practice her thrive and knows she’ll be an outstanding business woman and member of the small business community.
“This was a real victory,” he said.
For more about Davis Chiropractic and Wellness Center, go to https://devine-chiropractic.com/
For more about the Washington SBDC, go to www.WSBDC.org