AgeWell Solvere Living is undergoing another growth spurt this year.
The North Palm Beach, Florida-based company on Tuesday announced the acquisition of Sonata Senior Living, another Florida-based senior living operator. AgeWell Solvere is slated to take ownership of the operating companies that manage Sonata’s 14 communities starting Nov. 1. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The newly combined company will continue to operate out of North Palm Beach as AgeWell Solvere, though it will retain Sonata’s offices in Orlando, according to a press release.
Sonata Managing Director Stuart Beebe is joining the new company’s leadership team, along with a dozen other members of the Sonata corporate office. The company’s communities will continue to operate under Sonata’s branding.
With the transaction, AgeWell Solvere will now manage 34 communities in seven states. The company also has four communities slated to open in the coming months, with potentially more to come after that.
The transaction with Sonata is AgeWell Solvere’s latest scale-up. The company’s last significant growth milestone came in January, when the companies formerly known as Solvere Living and AgeWell Living joined forces, becoming AgeWell Solvere.
Taking on Sonata fit into AgeWell Solvere’s regional growth strategy as the company grows ever larger, according to Kristin Kutac Ward, who leads the company as co-CEO along with Mark Lichtenwalner.
As Kutac Ward alluded, AgeWell Solvere’s strategy when bringing on new communities is to connect them with new resources and support to help improve operational performance.
She noted that many of the Sonata communities joining the company’s portfolio are below occupancy stabilization levels, and thus can benefit from additional corporate resources including help with human resources, culinary services and sales and marketing.
“They will benefit overall from the additional resources to support their operations and sales folks on the ground,” Kutac Ward told SHN. “The combined strength gives us more manpower.”
The company has already improved operating results at certain communities using that approach.
AgeWell Solvere operates communities as though they are their own individual companies. The company creates unique semi-annual business plans for each community based on several factors, including their position in their local market.
The company also holds monthly business meetings for community leaders to re-up on goals and strategies. Kutac Ward, formerly CEO of senior living consultancy Solutions Advisors Group, said that her experience as a consultant is a plus when helping communities in that regard.
“We really look at the communities holistically and individually to put a plan in place that meets what they need to be successful,” she said.
The company’s signature programs include Salus, which is centered on four elements of wellness; and Valeo, a memory care program rooted in person-centered care. Under the newly combined company, that will likely remain in place, although Kutac Ward noted that they may borrow aspects of programs from Sonata if they work especially well.
Kutac Ward pointed to the example of a former Atria community in Richardson, Texas, that is 20 years old. AgeWell Solvere took management of the community, rebranded and renovated it, a move that Kutac Ward said has grown occupancy to 100% with a waiting list.
One program in particular that helped move the needle was Solvere’s MVP award, which stands for mission, values and purpose and is meant to recognize and celebrate the company’s employees.
“That’s a great program that has new life now, going into the end of this year and starting with next year, for all communities across the portfolio,” Kutac Ward said.
Another key to the company’s success are its executive directors, who enjoy a level of autonomy under the direction of AgeWell Solvere’s home office and its support.
“It takes an executive director who is truly, from a mentality standpoint, the owner of their community,” she added.
The meeting that led to the creation of AgeWell Solvere occurred at an industry event, and the decision to acquire Sonata came about in a similar fashion, Kutac Ward said. Kutac Ward and Beebe first met over the summer at the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA) mid-year meeting in Park City, Utah. The two later discussed joining forces.
“He started sharing with me some challenges that he was having,” she said. “I shared with him a bit of my experience and talked about the benefits of a merger, what that looks like and why it was the best thing for us. And that really started the conversation.”
Beebe said he was attracted to AgeWell Solvere’s “entrepreneurial spirit, culture, and strong work ethic.”
“Their expertise, experience and demonstrated hands-on approach to getting the job done day-in and day-out gave me confidence that this merger made sense,” he said.
Striving for 40 to 60 communities
With Sonata now integrating into the AgeWell Solvere family of communities, Kutac Ward and the rest of the management team are looking ahead to the future with more growth in mind.
The goal, at least for the next 18 months, is to grow to a size of about 40 to 60 communities — small enough to quickly make decisions while being large enough to leverage resources at scale, Kutac Ward said.
“We don’t want to have hundreds of communities because we like that entrepreneurial spirit,” she said. “We want to stay fairly flat.”
Looking ahead, AgeWell Solvere is targeting growth in geographic regions including the East Coast. And in fact, Kutac Ward mentioned the company has a deal in the works that will take it to the Mid-Atlantic region.
Outside of the East Coast, AgeWell Solvere is also looking to grow throughout the U.S. South and West regions. Regions not in the company’s crosshairs, at least for now, include the Pacific Northwest.
Looking ahead, Kutac Ward sees a host of challenges for operators on the horizon, including paying debt service. But one thing Kutac Ward is not currently contemplating is an exit strategy.
“The last year has been fun, and this is going to be even more fun with more resources,” she said.