I love hearing from new entrepreneurs who are planning to open their first assisted living facility. It takes me back in time. In fact, it’s very much like the entrepreneurial story of our family business that started with a single 8-bed assisted living facility way back in 1988!
I heard from two readers recently about a familiar situation, a situation that I know many of you have found yourselves in, too.
It’s a husband-wife team. She’s a registered nurse with experience in assisted living facilities, and he’s in construction. They both want to do their own thing, so they’d like to start up a small assisted living facility.
When they contacted me for advice about how to approach their planning, I responded with three quick ideas. And I wanted to share those with all of you in this post.
Be a Sponge!
If you currently work in an assisted living facility as a nurse spending your time on the healthcare side of the operation, do everything you can to learn about the business side of the operation. Facilities are different but they all have some things in common. You will learn a lot simply by making note of the systems for things like purchasing, payroll, scheduling, reporting, accounting – and other things that would be helpful to understand better as you create your own systems for these things. Obviously, you never copy anything that’s confidential or proprietary but you also don’t need to re-create the wheel when you see something that’s working. Be a sponge and soak up all the information available.
As soon as possible, get connected with local and state trade associations for assisted living providers. There are many good ones out there. (Need help finding them in your area – check out this post: http://seniorcaremike.com/assisted-living-trade-associations-by-state/(opens in a new tab).) Spending time with others doing what you want to do is invaluable – there are networking events (even online), conferences, training programs, and other opportunities – take advantage of all of them and start asking questions. In my experience, small business assisted living providers (while potentially competitors in some ways) are very helpful with each other – as the industry prospers, the individual owners prosper too so it’s important to help everyone succeed.
Keep an Open Mind
Many, like the reader this response was written for, want a small, low-overhead, high-touch facility. But make sure the numbers work for your area. Are fewer than 8 residents enough? Maybe. You might look at the revenue each month and think “yeah, it’s double or more than what I’m making in my job”. The expenses may eat up a lot more than you expect. Plus, even with a small facility, you’ll want to have staff helping you. One of the biggest risks that I see in small owner-operated facilities is burnout – you simply wear out working more hours than you think and never really “shutting off” on the weekends or other normal breaks. So go into your planning with eyes wide open and be ready to consider alternatives that might make your success more likely and the journey more enjoyable.
As I told this reader, I hope this helps you. And, please, stay in touch!