Are you fooling yourself or are you truly the next big thing?

By Steve Moran

I have been thinking about all these sort of jumbly pieces of financial data:

  • All 31 senior living markets followed by NIC are seeing a decrease in occupancy rates.

  • Everyone is building more and more stuff. You know it is true. Just about every day my friends at Senior Housing News publish a story about some senior living company, new or old, that is investing hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars in new development.

  • The Stock Market is crazy and unstable.

  • I am continuing to devour the book Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull in which he talks about how after the success of Toy Story and Bugs Life, they had a deluded view of their brilliance (my paraphrase).

Delusional Thinking

On March 10, 2000, the NASDAQ peaked at 5,132.52 and the whole world thought every technology company founder and investor was brilliant . . . even those whose companies were not making profits. Someone would come along and purchase it or even, if it didn’t make it, there was so much money chasing the next big thing, they would just go start a new company.

The most deluded of all of course were the leaders of these companies. Because they had massive stock options and inflated stock prices, they saw themselves as brilliant. Today we of course know that a few were brilliant and a few of those companies exist and are thriving today. The rest were just lucky until they weren’t anymore.

Senior Living Delusion

I find myself wondering if those of us in the senior living industry are going to see a mini version of this same scenario. People are building like crazy and they are being successful, which leads to feeling brilliant when perhaps they are just lucky.

As I talk to senior living providers I often ask what makes them, their organization, their communities better than or different than the competition . . . I get lame answers. Maybe they just don’t know how to articulate what it is, but I am fearful for them that the real answer is . . . 


As the development continues to gallop along and we see occupancies soften, thinking about this question will become increasingly important. It will be the thing that determines who wins and who loses.

The Good News

Thinking about this question is mostly good news because, at the end of the day, the thing that makes a difference between an average or great community mostly has to do with programming. While it is possible the physical plant makes programming easier, it is rarely the deciding factor that makes or breaks a community.  

There are dozens of ways to differentiate, but they are not things like “We put our residents first” because no one says “We don’t put our residents first.” It needs to be more than that. Maybe it is as simple as this:

When I look at your three closest competitors why should my family choose your community above the other options?

Maybe the starting point is to ask residents and families that very question.

Take our one question quiz about what makes your community or your organizations communities special.