Open/Close: Pandemic Raging, BrightStar Owner Buys Anyway
Ari Tiktin forged ahead with the purchase of a BrightStar Care Agency in New Jersey on March 30, after much discussion with his wife.
Ari Tiktin, a New Jersey man with a media background, closed his purchase of a BrightStar Care agency on March 30, two weeks after a statewide stay-at-home order was issued. "If it's not difficult, I'm not interested," he joked about the timing. Third in a series called Open/Close.
In truth, forging ahead with the purchase required much discussion. "We made the commitment months before, that we were going in this direction. I had long conversations with my wife," and they concluded: "Even though the industry may have forever changed, we don't know how. It could be for the worse, it also could be for the better.
"We didn't go into this completely blind. We saved enough money. We're prepared to ride this out and hopefully build a strong business that helps serve the community."
The business is capitalized so he can start paying himself in "a year or two," he said. "The immediate sort of goal was to try to stop cash infusion in the business if I can. Thank god for the PPP loan, that helped," he said, referring to the Paycheck Protection Program. "But I'm tweaking the business to accommodate the challenges." If he doesn't need a fifth person on staff, he will go without. If he needs to take on more call responsibility, he will. "Just doing what it takes" to cut expenses is key.
A former product manager for NBC Universal, Tiktin helped steer digital operations for CNBC. "What drives you in that sort of profession is serving your consumers in the best way possible," he said. His BrightStar home healthcare agency seems similar to him, "because you're providing care to people who need it."
He continues to shift his agency's services based on community needs. "For example, initially people needed care in the home, but then people were scared of letting people into their house. At the same time, medical facilities were losing their staff," he said.
BrightStar also provides medical staffing, "so we started to provide our caregivers to facilities," he said. That type of service rose to about 15 to 20 percent of total revenue for a time; normally it's in the single digits.
By mid-July, he was working to provide care to military veterans, signing an agreement with the Veterans Administration. "It's things like that, where you always look for ways you can still provide care."
Tiktin is new to healthcare and small-business ownership, and said he has relied on "a very strong support network of people who are very experienced." That includes BrightStar corporate staff, especially the franchise support team and his business coach. Also, "I lean on the neighboring Jersey franchisees, I lean on staff. I hired a director of nursing and I have office staff that's clinically trained," he said. "I try to surround myself with people who are strong where I am weak."
He's been meeting with everyone he can, these days mostly virtually. "I'm trying to join Rotarys, networking groups. I'm trying to make my presence known."
He also is experimenting, as he did in his prior career: "You test and innovate. We try one marketing tactic, see how that does; try another."
The purchase price for a new BrightStar territory is $50,000; his was a resale and he negotiated a different entry price, which he did not disclose. "It did have a book of business, it already had field staff, an office. It was doing OK, sort of breaking even, maybe it was making a little bit of money."
To help him make strong decisions, he relies on one idea: "Let your promises guide you," he said. "Every decision I make around the business is fulfilling my promise to my clients and my employees. It tends to be somewhat easy thereafter." For example, should he spend thousands of dollars on protective equipment? "Yes, it's a no-brainer."
Read other stories in Open/Close, a new franchisetimes.com series reporting how franchisees are navigating as business starts and stops amid the COVID-19 pandemic.