What Are The Qualifications To Run An Assisted Living Home?

I received a great question today from our “how to open an assisted living facility” page,  which has always been our most popular, most visited page on our site for the past 8 years or so (it even gets more views than our homepage).

“What Are The Qualifications To Run An Assisted Living Home?”

Obviously, this is an industry and field that is very appealing to a lot of people.  It allows for entrepreneurship, creativity, a feeling of doing good for people, and so much more.

But, what are the qualifications a person needs to run an assisted living home?   I am sure that’s crossed most people’s minds who have considered this profession and field.

I have interviewed, videotaped and visited with a lot of assisted living and residential care homeowners over the years (check out our YouTube channel to see them), and each of them come from unique, and widely varied backgrounds, each bringing to the table their own set of skills, knowledge and qualifications.

Competent for running an assisted living home

Often times, professional caregivers, CNA’s or RN’s who have worked in the industry for a while have the “a-ha” moment that says, “Hey, I can do this on my own” instead of working for someone else.

However, what they may lack are the business skills to get the capital, budgeting, marketing and staffing to usher their dream to reality.

I’ve had many comments on our How To page from very business-saavy folks who declare that they have the finances, or perhaps the physical ALF-ready home in their possession, but they need someone with the caregiving experience to come in and handle the day-to-day operations.

Point being, care home owners and operators come from many walks of life, bringing to the table unique skill sets and levels of competency.

So, what are the qualifications?

Each state is usually very, very different from others in terms of what they “require” from a legal/licensing standpoint to open an assisted living home.   One of your first steps is to visit your state’s department of health, or licensing, or aging (it is usually under one of these departments) and often times they will have a licensing section with forms, .pdf documents with rules, regulations and licensing requirements, fees and all the rest.   It’s your job to get your head around what this process entails.  If you don’t have the time or knack for this sort of thing, you’ll need to hire someone who does.

Or, as I have always suggested, see if you can network with other facility owners, and offer them lunch to pick their brain a little about how they went through the process.  I’ve had pretty good luck with getting face-time with facility owners, and believe it or not, many of them love to network and talk about what they do.

Naturally, making sure they understand that you won’t end up being a direct competitor of theirs will help.   If you live in a big city, this usually wouldn’t be much of a problem.

Beyond this, the self-assessment (to me) comes in by asking yourself 1) Do I have enough experience to take this on, and 2) Can I hire people to fill in the gaps where I don’t have the expertise.

I’ll make the analogy of working in the hospitality industry, which I did for about 20 years (or more).   I went from busboy, to washing dishes, to waiting tables, to hosting, to helping in the kitchen, to eventually being a manager for various places.

Early on, if someone had asked me if I was qualified to run my own business…oh my would that have been a disaster.

But, as I entered my 30’s, I had the experience, and confidence that, had the opportunity come about, I probably could have done it.

I knew what I new, mostly front-of-the-house stuff, but more importantly, my ego and experience let me be comfortable with what I did not know – things that I would need to have expert help, staffing and guidance with.

I could fold every type of elegant napkin in the book, but making a soup from scratch – nope.

Same thing with running an assisted living or residential care home.  If you come from a caregiving background, you’ll likely be able to manage medications or change bedding in a flash, but can you balance the books, or draft up a business plan?

Additionally, having the stamina to work long hours and weeks; the willingness to put family and personal life 2nd, 3rd or 4th, a stomach for handling “sensory-challenging” things (soiled beds, death etc); willingness to take personal and financial risk; a willingness to continually adapt and learn; the ability to be prepared for and please the state with their annual and random inspections or complaint follow-ups; an extreme attention to detail; an ability to read, digest and understand the lengthy, complicated state regulations and licensure requirements; ability to work with others; marketing-saavy (this is a highly competitive industry);

I had always been told in the hospitality industry that your success as an owner or manager does not really come from the skills you bring to the table, but by surrounding yourself with the best, most talented people that you possibly can (which is actually a skill in itself) to help your dream come to life, and stay alive day in and day out.

Almost nobody can do all of this alone.   If you can, I’d recommend that you start wearing a cape – you deserve it.

It’s scary, expensive and there’s no guarantee for success, which is why this is such a hot topic on our site.

I’d love to hear what you have to say!  Thoughts?