The appeal of assisted living is apparent--and so, in turn, is the market need. From a business perspective, however, assisted living can be as daunting as it is attractive.
This is not a business for the unskilled. In fact, skill is required at various levels--from the provision of care to the management of food services, from the nuts and bolts of real estate development to the understanding of health-care legislation. No one person is likely to possess all the skills necessary to run a facility well. But if you hope to jump into this arena, you should probably have demonstrated ability in at least one critical area, coupled with an aptitude for learning on the fly. Also, adds Thompson, "You have to know what you don't know and get the help you need.'
Meanwhile, competition is heating up. Although no one company dominates the market yet, several are expanding regionally and nationwide. "We're seeing more professional management than in the past,' says Klaassen. "Weaker models are closing.' Translation: Standards are high and climbing, both in terms of service and business savvy.
Some metropolitan areas may be approaching saturation--if not in terms of existing facilities, then certainly in terms of projects in development. Suzanne Perney, associate publisher of Briefings on Assisted Living, a monthly newsletter covering the assisted living industry, advises newcomers to look for niches in the marketplace. "You see a lot of companies developing large facilities, but I see a need for small facilities in smaller and rural communities,' Perney says. "Some operators are also specializing in areas such as Alzheimer's care.'