Buying in Management - an Alternative to Selling
Dr Damian Tominey and Mr Peter Jackson, the owners of Verulam Care Home for the Elderly in St Albans, Hertfordshire, relate how engaging a care home management company has proved an attractive alternative to selling their care home especially in this economic climate.
We have been care home owners since 1996 and have devoted the last 16 years of our working lives to constantly improving standards in our care home by extending it and making it more comfortable. Our most important objective has always been to provide high quality care for our residents. We are proud that we had always maintained good working relationships with our staff, residents, their relatives and the Registration Authorities. We took pride in the fact that we had built an excellent reputation in the area for our home and, as any hands on home owner understand, we always felt that things wouldn’t be the same if we weren’t there and we found it difficult to let go, even to take holidays!
We were fast approaching retiring age and were becoming increasingly tired and were beginning to feel the strain of running our own home 24 hours a day 7 days a week. We wanted to take a rest and retire but couldn’t work out the best way to achieve this.
We gave very serious thought to selling our home but we were in two minds. Selling the business that we had developed over a number of years and leaving the staff and residents, of whom we had grown fond of, would not be an easy decision to take. We felt extremely proud of the business that we had built up and felt that by selling we would be losing part of ourselves. The release of capital would at first seem attractive but the home was still making good profits and we wondered if there was a way of keeping our capital base intact and enjoying the continued profits. We were also deeply concerned that selling the home in the current economic climate with rapidly falling property values was not such an attractive proposition.
We considered other options. We had thought about employing a company to manage our home, but the trouble was that we did not have any experience of such companies, did not know how to select one, had no idea how much they would charge and most importantly, didn’t know whether we could trust a company to look after our home properly.
We came across Care Home Management Limited who had viewed our home on behalf of prospective purchasers and we were impressed by their professionalism, we therefore decided to find out more about the services that they offered to home owners. They are a small company who have wide experience of running care homes on behalf of individuals and are only too aware of the day-to-day problems of managing residential and nursing homes.
We liked what we had heard about them and invited them to meet us. The two directors, Ian Kimberley and Mike Donegan, met with us on a number of occasions and explained how they manage homes for other people. From our discussions, it was obvious that they knew what they were talking about, were very pleasant to deal with and they were only interested in managing homes to a good standard where the residents and staff are treated with respect and care. This appealed to us and we really felt that we could trust them, something that was extremely important to us.
We also discussed who would have the authority to spend the homes money and they suggested particular areas of expenditure where they should be given limited authority, which we accepted. They did not want to be involved in matters affecting our bank account but would, as a part of their service, process all the homes paperwork (including the production of accounts and payroll) and would prepare supporting papers for all suppliers, which we would authorise and they would make the payments. We liked this and still felt that we had control.
We also liked their detailed contract that was written in simple terms. Although we accepted that they would want a contract for a defined period there was a clause that allowed us to terminate it with immediate effect if we were of the view that they had not acted professionally or had not met their responsibilities. We recognised that this could always be a difficult issue but in all things in life there is no watertight solution even if we paid a lawyer a lot of money to prepare contracts.
We decided to go ahead with CHM on the condition we appointed a manager to take over the day to day management issues previously handled by ourselves. CHM were involved in preparing the advert, selecting suitable applicants, carrying out interviews and finally appointing our new manager. All this input was provided by CHM at no cost to us.
The contract started and we were very pleased with the approach and attitude of Ian and Mike from Care Home Management. They were always personally involved and visited the home on a regular basis as well as making themselves available seven days a week by phone to deal with any problems. They also attend all meetings with Inspectors and have been quite prepared to discuss any issues that may arise with them on our behalf.
We like the way that they are totally flexible in their approach to our business. They made it clear right from the start that they would work with our existing systems and would only make changes after discussing any proposals for improvement with us. We have found with their extensive experience in running care homes they have been able to introduce good working practices, which are well established in the other homes they manage, which we had not previously thought of.
They have met the staff and residents on numerous occasions and have been accepted by them. They are working with our manager developing and improving procedures, they have already improved expenditure having reviewed service contracts and have re marketed the home within St Albans and by reviewing our charging structure have increased our average weekly fee, this they have done without any additional costs.
We now look forward to our regular meetings with Ian and Mike and our manager and are looking forward to renewing our contract with them. They have certainly lifted the burden from our shoulders and we both feel much relieved. Since they started we feel much more relaxed and we both have had three holidays this year – something we never had time to do before!