How to run a care home

  • by Sarah Louise Dean
    Aged Care

    Aged care in 2015

Interview with a care-home buyer.


  • Stephanie West, owner of two care homes on the Isle of Wight specialising in caring for residents with dementia:Fairview and Fairhaven


  • Former doctor

Key tips:

  • A guaranteed growth sector due to demographic trends; but only venture into the sector if you’re prepared to work hard, enthusiastically and with resilience; be prepared for bureaucracy Stephanie, what kind of skills do you need to thrive in the care sector?

  • Stephanie West: You have to be very motivated and you have to be prepared to work hard. You should be resilient because it is going to be tough at various points. For me it has sometimes been tough, but you have to work through it.
  • You also have to accept that you’re going to make mistakes. But then you look at what you did and learn from that.
  • It’s also very important to keep an eye on the finances, as in the end that is what’s going to make it work. Plus you need a lot of enthusiasm!

BFS: What does a typical day or week involve?

  • SW: We split what we do so I spend more time doing the financial stuff, such as managing the bank accounts, whereas my colleagues will come in and visit the residents. They’ll have a cup of tea and a chat with them and catch up with the staff.
  • The residents are the most important thing, checking that everyone is happy and healthy.
  • I will have a chat with the manager about things like staffing issues and things that the manager needs to be aware of. I’ll also look at staff training and what we’re planning on doing next.
  • Also things are going to happen in the care sector, hopefully for the better, such as looking more specific things like helping residents who have dementia.
  • I’ll look to see if any rooms are empty and, if so, who is next coming in to the home. It is quite a varied day although our managers get to drink lots of tea with the residents!

BFS: Well you need lots of tea in any sector! 

  • SW: It’s a bit different being an owner, not a manager, as the managers manage the day-to-day running of the home. We as owners make sure everything is ticking along nicely and what projects are next.
  • For example we are making a lot of improvements to our first home, so I am reviewing what’s going on with the builders.

BFS: What would say are the attractions of your sector? 

  • SW: It is an expanding area, a lot more people are going to get a lot older. Everyone is always going to need some form of care.
  • Also things are going to happen in the care sector, hopefully for the better, such as looking more specific things like helping residents who have dementia.
  • For me, I would hope that when I’m older I would end up in a home like ours, as we make a difference to the quality of people’s lives.
  • Another attraction is that you can buy an existing business that is already running – a bit different to setting up a start-up. And later on you can sell it, as it is a business with premises, which is attractive to buyers.

BFS: What are the most difficult aspects of your role and why?

  • SW: The most challenging aspect is balancing the finances, particularly in the difficult times most recently because costs have gone up in social care, but money in social services hasn’t. So I have to manage that as well as managing our staff.
  • It is difficult when you have to let staff go, but it can be necessary. Unfortunately in this business you do have quite high staff turnover. Not every employee is going to be ideal for your home.

BFS: Has your background in the health business helped you run the business?

  • SW: It has helped in terms of understanding dealing with social services and also understanding our residents and their health needs. You can learn all of this, but if you haven’t dealt much with the bureaucracy of the health system and you’ve come straight from business you might find it irritating.
  • Having said that, it is possible to get to grips with it, there are lots of people that own care homes who haven’t previously worked in the health sector.

BFS: How lucrative is this sector?  

  • SW: To start with it was good, but it has been very difficult over the last few years because your margins start out relatively low and get eaten into by rising energy costs, cost of food etc. Your fixed and variable costs of your business are quite high.
  • Having said that, it’s a business that you go into for the long term and it is an expanding market. It will be interesting to see what the government is going to introduce in terms of funding. People are always going to need somewhere to live so in the long term it’s a profitable sector.

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