Novel program matching retirees with new owners

Published on October 01, 2014
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As retirement loomed, Dr. Casey Thomas (Kansas State ’81) knew he would eventually have to sell his animal hospital of more than 30 years. He spent seven years preparing to sell his business without an inkling of who would actually buy the Junction City, Kansas, veterinary practice.

“My wife and I knew we were entering the latter days of my practice,” Dr. Thomas said, “and we knew we wanted to keep the business strong until we sold it.” They updated equipment and technology, and modernized procedures and capabilities, all in preparation for a mystery successor.

But Dr. Thomas didn’t make his desire to retire known until he received a postcard from the University of Kansas RedTire Program. “It was exactly what we were looking for—exactly what we needed at the right time,” he said.

After months of due diligence and negotiations, RedTire brokered its first official match this past February, closing the sale of Flint Hills Veterinary Hospital to Dr. Julie Ebert (Kansas State ’96).

“Vets are well-trained in medicine and surgery and, to a certain extent, business management,” Dr. Thomas said, “but most of us rarely sell a practice until we’re ready to retire.” RedTire provided not only an introduction to a willing buyer but also gave him a structure to begin negotiations, he said.

The Redefining Retirement program, known as RedTire, matches graduates of Kansas Regents institutions with business owners who are looking for a successor. The initiative, operated by the KU School of Business and its Center for Entrepreneurship, focuses on small- and medium-sized businesses in rural Kansas.

“You hope that when you nurture a business for 30 years, you’ll find a successor who will come in and provide clients the level of care that they’re used to, and I’m sure Dr. Ebert will do that,” Dr. Thomas said.

Since 2012, RedTire has addressed a major challenge for small businesses in rural America by matching businesses needing replacement management with qualified candidates. The program helps both parties navigate the transaction and provides business counseling as new owners grow the business and create jobs.

RedTire is currently assisting eight veterinary practice owners across Kansas. The program is a free service and is financed by the KU School of Business and a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.