Lake City Counseling

Local therapy practice changes hands without a hitch

Therapist Michaela Voeck purchases her practice and keeps it running smoothly

In 2017, therapist Michaela Voeck left a large healthcare organization to enter private practice at Lake City Counseling, a small business in Madison.

LCCHeadShots-Michaela credit Claire Staley Photography

“It was such a wonderful change to go to private practice from working in a big organization,” she says. Voeck had spent five years in the practice when the owner, with whom Voeck had a warm relationship, expressed interest in retirement. Voeck jumped at the opportunity to buy the business and keep it running smoothly. “My main motivation was a desire to keep it as a small, family-run feel,” she says. “There’s a trend right now where larger investment companies buy small practices and turn them into part of a larger organization, and I didn’t want that to happen to us.”

The owner, a sole proprietor, had completed an evaluation of the business as a starting point and was delighted to sell to Voeck. “It worked out well that we had been working together and knew each other so well,” Voeck says. When Voeck started talking to banks in the spring of 2022 about securing funding to purchase the business, one of them suggested approaching the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center at the Wisconsin School of Business at UW – Madison (SBDC). Voeck immediately reached out to the SBDC that spring and was paired with business consultant Amy Bruner Zimmerman.

“She was so wonderful,” Voeck enthuses. “She was instrumental in me getting that loan–she did so much for me.” Voeck and Zimmerman met multiple times over Zoom. A thoroughly trained and experienced therapist, Voeck didn’t have any business training to rely on, so Zimmerman provided resources and taught Voeck how to understand financial statements and how to evaluate the health of the practice. Zimmerman walked Voeck through pulling and reviewing reports, as well as the process of crafting a business plan that could be submitted to the bank.

Voeck also took the SBDC’s business valuation seminar early in the vetting process, before she and the owner settled on a purchase price. “I had the information from the valuation that had been done on the practice, so that seminar was really helpful because it explained the valuation process to me,” Voeck says. “Our industry is unique, so I was trying to get a handle on whether that valuation and suggested purchase price felt like it fit and which other factors to take into account.”

Late that spring, Voeck took the SBDC’s Financial Management – Sprint! course (now titled Introduction to Financial Management). “We had settled on the purchase, but I hadn’t taken over yet, and I was trying to understand how to do that,” Voeck says. “Now, a year later, it would be helpful to go back through that or do a more extensive course.” Voeck has always had strong leadership skills and continues to learn the financial information to augment that expertise as a business owner.

“I learned a lot about running a therapy practice from the previous owner, and I’ve learned to love accounting,” says Voeck. “I feel like I’m doing a good job managing financial reports, and I have the resources I need, like a good accountant, who’s very helpful.”

The SBDC has been able to support Voeck through the entire process of becoming a business owner. “The first part of it was laying out a plan and Amy giving me a list of the documents and information I’d need, as well as a starting point and a roadmap for how to secure the funding to purchase the business,” Voeck says. “I also learned how to look at the numbers and make sure it was a good investment that would pay off in the end.” Lake City Counseling has consistently been a busy practice committed to growing sustainably, so marketing efforts have focused more on refining existing resources, like revamping the website. “We’re growing a little bit–we just added a new provider this month, so now there’s eleven of us,” says Voeck. “We moved into a beautiful new office space and started using electronic records, so we’re still getting settled in and getting used to what we have.” Lake City’s providers work both in-person and remotely, depending on what works best for them and their clients.

“All our clinicians are wonderful people and do really good work,” says Voeck. “I’m grateful that the therapists who were at Lake City when we transitioned ownership have all stayed, and everybody is really happy. My main priority is that they feel like they’ve got the tools they need and the support they need to do their work.”