ASK THE EXPERT: How to prepare your care home for sale

Jo Thornley, Head of Brand and Partnerships at Dynamis, partner of BusinessesForSale.com, FranchiseSales.com and PropertySales.com, offers tips on how sellers can get the best deal for your care home

Running a care home can be rewarding in many ways, but as with any business there will eventually come a time when it no longer suits your career, lifestyle or future plans.

And just as with any business asset, you will achieve a better return for all your hard work and effort building up the business if you are able to arrange a timely exit which suits your future plans.

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So, here are some important issues to consider to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible:

When should you prepare?

If at all possible, you should prepare your care home business for sale early. That means thinking in years, not months, and will give you every chance to get your business in order. There are many aspects to consider, but only a few can be addressed with just a lick of paint.

For example, are you are heavily involved in running the day-to-day business? Or are you the key person regularly consulted on health and care issues, or about regulatory concerns?

If so, this may be an issue for a prospective buyer. If you are critical to the smooth running of your establishment, when you leave, a large part of the inherent ‘value’ of the business will disappear.

The solution to this risk is to put a knowledgeable and efficient management structure in place which does not depend on your presence and expertise.

The direct result of such a strategy will be to increase the market value of your care home. But, of course, the reality is that such measures cannot be put in place overnight.

What should you prepare?

Like any business, you must keep financial records, and any interested purchaser will expect to view such detail. Your books and paperwork – which should go back a minimum of three years – will show the historic performance of your business and allow any buyer and their team to assess the future profitability of the business.

Beyond this, your reputation within the health industry is likely to depend on the knowledge and experience of your staff, the condition of your facilities, reports from industry inspectors and regulators, reviews from clients and their families, and much more.

To take staff qualifications, some care providers may accept minimal standards – and pay little heed to the finer points of cultural issues such as ‘person-centred practice’, for example. Yet on the other hand, some care establishments may offer the highest standards of training, regulatory compliance and institutional ethos.

So, it is clear that such disparities would also be reflected in an eventual market selling price.

In a worst-case scenario, if standards of care are minimal or in decline, then a Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection may rate the overall performance as poor. Not only will this assessment reduce your asking price for the business and diminish your chances of finding a new owner, you may even run the risk of having your care home shut down altogether.

A well-run business

A healthy business with a good CQC performance rating will always be a more attractive proposition for interested buyers.

Above all, you should aim to show that such performance has been sustained over a good period of time. In essence, that means you should continue to run your business so it performs as profitably as possible, even though you soon plan to sell.

A knowledgeable sales team

When valuing your business, it is always wise to use a valuation expert who understands your industry. For instance, there are a variety of different ways a business valuation can be prepared but each sector tends to have a preferred format. And beyond those considerations, an experienced and knowledgeable valuer will also appreciate, and highlight, specific features which prospective industry buyers will find desirable.

Once your preparations are complete, you can approach the market with confidence. Using a proficient business broker to market your business should pay dividends. A competent industry ‘insider’ will market your establishment properly to the right audience, understand the nuances and implications of the current regulatory framework, and therefore give you every chance of closing a sale on the best possible terms.

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