Owners and managers have a natural fear of talking about money, cash flow and profitability.

By Steve Moran

You just never can tell when you will find a story . . .  

I am writing this article sitting on a flight from Salt Lake City to Denver, which will ultimately land me in Aspen, Colorado where I will be doing a talk for a select group of senior living interior designers and architects. Now I have a very hard time sitting and doing nothing, even for a few minutes, making that time between boarding an airplane and getting far enough off the ground to open my laptop a mild annoyance. While sitting in the airplane waiting for takeoff, I resolve that restlessness by trying to complete one of the airline magazine Sudoku puzzles.

On my first leg from Sacramento to Salt Lake City, I had settled into my standard routine and started working on my puzzle when a young woman slipped into the middle seat. I was struggling with my puzzle and she kept looking over my shoulder. I was amused and finally asked if she wanted to help. She was horribly embarrassed . . . as was I — to be honest — because I was doing so badly with my puzzle. However, we got to talking and it turned out that she used to work for a large senior living organization as a CNA until she hurt her back.  I was never quite able to get the whole story of what happened — and offer no judgment one way or another about the circumstances — but she was quite bitter about how she was treated subsequent to her injury. She eventually told me she ultimately “rage quit” after being treated so badly.  

Most Profitable Business in The World

I spent quite some time asking her about what she liked and what she didn’t. Because she was a serious “talker,” I got as much or more information than I anticipated. One of her recurring themes though was how much money senior living communities are making. This led to the idea they should be paying employee’s more and charging residents less. It was dry tinder fueling her bitterness (and I am 100% certain that this idea was deeply held before her injury took place).

I Know the Numbers

I know the numbers and when a community pushes above the 90% occupancy level the margins are indeed very nice. However, I also know it is a tough business and that to say it is one of the most profitable businesses in the world . . . well, that is a bit of a stretch.  

Talking About Finances

Owners and managers have a natural fear of talking about money, cash flow and profitability. There is an entirely reasonable fear that if the numbers are really good, team members will be resentful. If the numbers are not-so-good, team members will be fearful. Yet in truth, people mostly do better with transparency and straight talk.

When there is a lack of transparency it sends two signals. Team members either assume things are so good that you don’t want them to know, or things are so terrible that you don’t want them to know. In either case, team members will talk. They will assume things are worse than they are or better than they are . . . neither of which is good for culture.


The transparency needs to be done in a way that is helpful to both team members and culture, which means there are some details you will share and some you will not. It also must be done in context.