I’m encouraged by the calls and emails I receive from people who want to start their own assisted living facility. There are many people who want to serve older adults and enjoy the benefits of owning their own business. They call me full of enthusiasm and questions.
Sometimes I’m a bit of a wet blanket. People new to assisted living ownership often don’t consider some tough questions. When I ask those questions, their enthusiasm wanes a bit. I’m not trying to ruin their day, but just trying to help them avoid some unnecessary pain and suffering when starting their business.
The conversation with potential assisted living facility owners often ends up with three bits of advice.
#1 – Get a Job
You might be surprised how many people want to buy and operate an assisted living facility but have never worked in one. An investment in a facility managed by someone else is one thing. But to be an owner-operator is quite another.
Whether a would-be owner operator is a registered nurse or an accomplished business person, I always recommend that they find a job at the best assisted living facility they can find. There are two obvious reasons: (A) make sure you really want this type of business and (B) learn as much as you can from someone who does it well. Of course, get a job outside your intended market so you’re not later competing with someone who helped you learn the ropes.
#2 – Get Training and Get Involved
There are many opportunities for training. The Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) and its state affiliates across the U.S. are a great source of training for assisted living providers. Visit their websites and look for training opportunities near you.
The classroom is one place to learn but you can also learn through informal networking opportunities offered by these associations. I lost count years ago of the ways that my colleagues in asssisted living helped me with ideas to overcome an obstacle or with encouragement to take a next step. The people involved in assisted living are caring, and they care for each other when you’re willing to get involved.
#3 – Start With a Good Product
As an advisor that helps owners buy and sell facilities, this might sound a bit self-serving. But there is normally no better way to ensure a successful start-up than purchasing a successful facility to start with.
Is it your own creation? Something you developed from scratch? No. But don’t let idealism or ego get in the way of reducing risk and drastically flattening your learning curve. When you purchase a successful facility you have many benefits including cash flow from day one and, potentially, training and support from the prior owner during transition. These assets are almost always worth the price. Purchasing a successful facility can be a springboard to even bigger and better things in your future.
There is so much more involved in starting your assisted living facility. But keep these three steps in mind at the beginning.
Do you have years of experience? What do you wish you’d know when you started?
Are you thinking about starting a facility? What’s your greatest fear or challenge?