Sunrise Senior Living picks a new CEO with no industry experience. A great or foolish idea?

Today Sunrise Senior Living announced that Penny McIntyre will become their new CEO effective November 18. It is a fascinating choice because she comes to this position with deep experience in the world of consumer products but zero experience in senior living. “Most recently, McIntyre was the president of Penny McIntyreNewell RubberMaid Inc.’s consumer group, where she lead growth strategy for brands such as Rubbermaid and Sharpie. Previously, she also had long tenures in executive roles at The Coca-Cola Co. and S.C. Johnson & Son.” A Wave of Things to Come? I was fascinated to see this announcement because I am just finishing an article on the need for disruptive innovation in the senior living industry.   It is something we need and I think it is unlikely to come from inside the industry.

Outsider Challenges

Being an outsider means she will come to our world with some deficits that include the following:

  • This is a 24/7 business and when things go wrong at night or on the weekends they go really wrong and really wrong fast.  This is very different than consumer products.
  • The decisions and policies as determined by management have a profound impact on seniors’ quality of life and more importantly the safety and security of seniors.
  • Choosing to move into a senior living community is much more akin to getting married, having a spouse die, having your first child or losing your job than like figuring out which color and size of sharpie to purchase or which size and shape plastic container you need.

Outsider Benefits

My list of outsider challenges may make you believe I think this is a bad choice.  That is not true.  I think being an outsider, while bring challenges also brings some huge benefits including:

  • A fresh perspective on how we do things.  It is likely the consumer product world has some really important lessons we can learn from.
  • Most consumer product companies have very disciplined teams that explore what consumers are looking for and what they will actually spend money on and why they make those decisions.  This kind of exploration goes way beyond just looking at market demographics.  These are the kinds of disciplines that allow consumer product giants to create new rock star products.  This kind of discipline could yield amazing insights about our industry.
  • Because Penny is new to the industry she will be able to float crazy wild ideas without people thinking she is crazy.  She will be able to ask new questions; those that in our darkest recesses we know we should be asking and questions we maybe haven’t even thought to ask.

It will be very interesting to watch out it unfolds.  I predict it will go one of two ways, we will see some amazing new things or she will quickly find herself in over her head.  My hope is the first and not the second. What are your thoughts, good idea or bad idea?   If you like this article it would be a great honor to have you subscribe to our mailing list HERE.