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Selling Your ALF – Preparing to Say Goodbye

By May 13, 20222 Comments

This is the fifth post in the series on Selling Your Assisted Living Facility.  You’re reading from the first chapter about Deciding To Sell.

The answers to some questions aren’t always so clear, such as:

“Do you want to sell your assisted living facility?” 

Over the years, I’ve asked many assisted living owners that question.  They might have come to me because they thought they wanted to sell but answering my question wasn’t that simple.

Here’s the thing.  If you’re a small business owner of an assisted living facility, or if you’re an owner-operator, or if you built the facility yourself, then leaving that business isn’t just leaving the business.  It’s leaving your team and your residents.  And, as crazy as they might make you some days, you’re probably close to some of them, if not all of them.

And another thing.  Many owners of assisted living facilities rely on that business for their livelihood.  They draw a paycheck for their efforts.  They collect profits for a return on their investment of both dollars and sweat.  And when the business is sold, that income normally needs to be replaced with something else.

Deciding to sell your assisted living facility requires you to deal with those two issues: leaving the people and leaving the paycheck.  

In past posts, we’ve covered the signs you’re ready to sell, alternatives to selling, and knowing the costs of selling your assisted living facility.  This week, we’re talking about the people and the emotional side of selling your assisted living facility.  Next week, we’ll cover preparing to replace your paycheck after the sale.

Be Prepared For A Variety of Emotions

I may not know you.  But I’ve met enough small business owners of assisted living facilities to have a pretty good idea of what you may be feeling if you’re making the decision to sell your facility.  There are many common emotions sellers experience.  And, yes, it can be emotional.

First, there is anxiety, a desire to have it over yesterday, to be done now, to close your sale as soon as humanly possible.  Realistically, it takes time, especially if you want it done right and done with the best outcome possible.  And with that time, you have the opportunity to prepare to deal with another emotion.  Fear.

Second, sellers who are honest with themselves will admit to fearing several things when selling.  There is the fear of a misstep that costs them money.  There is the fear of what comes next.  And possibly the biggest fear goes back to the people – the fear of telling residents and staff that you’re leaving or that they find out before you tell them yourself.  

How and when you tell staff and residents about your sale is a whole subject on its own.  And I’ll be writing about that one in the weeks ahead.  For now, recognize that the fear of that conversation with staff and residents is real but manageable – see Be Prepared to Say Goodbye below.

As long as I’ve been coaching sellers through sales of assisted living facilities, I’ve seen all of these emotions and more.  They manifest themselves in a variety of ways.  My job was to help you sell your assisted living facility.  

But one of my duties, whether you knew it or not, was to help you manage the emotional side of the process.  To listen.  To calm.  To point to the goal.  To remind you that others have traveled this road too, and they’ve made it to the other side.  And the payoff for me wasn’t just a commission but to see your relief and happiness after the sale was complete.

If you’re hiring an agent or a coach to go through the sale of your assisted living facility, make sure you hire someone you can talk with, someone you can relate to.  Because you’ll probably spend many hours on the phone talking with your agent on those days when emotions run high.  Make sure they understand you and that they are as good at listening as they are at speaking.

Be Prepared to Say Goodbye

The fear of telling staff, residents, and others about your sale is real, as I mentioned above.  It can become so much of a concern that it may make you question your decision to sell at all.  

As you go through the sale process, this fear may come and go depending on how the sale is progressing, how your days or weeks are going as you continue to work in your assisted living facility, and how clear your path ahead looks.

For those days when you can’t imagine how you’ll tell others that you’re selling and you second guess the idea of selling, it helps to go through an exercise that will ground you to the reason you decided to sell in the first place.

That exercise is writing your goodbye letter.

Now, this isn’t a letter you’ll ever send to anyone.  You may never print this letter or send it to anyone.  It will sit on your computer or in your journal or wherever you write down personal, private stuff.  But it should be in a place where you can find it and read it to yourself often.  

That’s the point.  This letter is written to your staff and residents but it’s only for you to read.  It will be a daily (more or less) reminder of why you’re selling.  It will keep you on track toward your goal of an exit from your assisted living facility, even when you question whether you’re doing the right thing and even when you’re fearful about actually telling others about the sale.

Everyone will have a very personal and unique version of their letter.  But most every letter could go something like this:

“I started My Assisted Living Facility (insert your facility’s name) many years ago because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of people.  I wanted to provide residents with an exceptional assisted living facility that was like their home, where I knew them and they knew me.  I wanted to work with a dedicated team that was just as committed to serving residents as I was.  I wanted to create an environment where residents and staff felt connected to each other in a way that reminded them of family and home.  Thanks to all of you, I think we’ve accomplished all of that and more.

After X years of doing what I love, I’ve realized that it’s time for me to make some changes in my life.  I’m ready [ to slow down / to retire/ to chase another dream that’s been on my mind / to move closer to my grandkids / you pick the reason ].  And so I’ve decided that I’ll no longer be the owner of My Assisted Living Facility.  It’s time for a new owner to step into my role and become the leader that I hope I was for all of you.

That’s why I’m writing you today.  To let you know that as of [pick a date you hope to close your sale], I’ll be selling My Assisted Facility.  I will have more details soon, including a time when you can meet the new owner, who I think you’ll like very much.  It’s been a wonderful experience having you in my life.  I’m thankful for the opportunity we had to spend this season of life together, and I wish you all the best in the seasons to come.”

As I quickly drafted the letter above, I thought of many clients who said similar things to staff and residents in the days leading up to the sale of their assisted living facility.  And I thought of my own mother and our family business and the meetings I had with our staff as we said goodbye and introduced the new owners.  It wasn’t easy but it was easier than we expected – our fears were real but they were overblown, too.

Once you’ve written your goodbye letter, take it out and read it every day that you question how you’ll talk to staff and residents about the sale and what you’ll say.  It will remind you why you’re going through with the sale and it will give you confidence that you’ll have the words to say when the time is right to share.

Selling your assisted living facility may be an emotional roller coaster.  It’s good to recognize this in advance.  And it’s important to take steps to manage the ups and downs so you have more peace of mind during the process and confidence in the decisions you make along the way.

Do you have a question or thought about something in this article?  Leave a comment below.  Thanks.


  • Jan Schumacher says:

    The ALF where my mother-in-law has lived in Florida for 12 years has been bought and sold 5 times in that period. Staff changes occur and sometimes there are policy and procedure changes. Since the last purchase in May 2923 my MIL has fallen twice and has had 2 trips to the hospital. We don’t live nearby so we’re unable to be eyes and ears on the ground. Should I be concerned? Perhaps you could suggest some things to look for. Thank you. Jan

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