Our industry can learn from the highly celebrated turnaround of Harley-Davidson Motorcycles.

By Steve Moran

My favorite senior living conference is the Senior Living Innovation Forum where an intimate group of senior living leaders gathers for a near-perfect mix of content, conversation, and collaboration. One of the keynote speakers was Ken Schmidt, the former Communications Director of Harley Davidson. He was intimately involved in the highly celebrated turnaround of Harley-Davidson Motorcycles.

When You’re on the Verge of Bankruptcy . . .

When your organization is on the verge of bankruptcy, brutal honesty and self-assessment coupled with a willingness to completely change up how you are doing business is the only path to salvation. It turns out that being willing to take these steps is actually not such a bad thing to do . . . even when you are not on the verge of bankruptcy.

Ken came up with three critical questions that Harley asked about themselves. They are great questions for every senior living organization and for our whole industry sector:

  1. What are they saying about us?

  2. What do we want them to say about us?

  3. How do we get them to say those things?

What Are They Saying About Us?

This is likely the most painful of the three questions. The answer is mostly either, NOTHING or “I hope I never have to move into one of those places.” The nothing is all on us. The “I hope I never have to move in” is partly on us and partly on the media, except that the media publishes the negative stories because the negative stories get eyeballs.

Other than being realistic about what is currently being said, there is not much we can do about what has already happened.

What Do We Want Them to Say About Us?

I love this question. I think we all sort of know that we want people to say outstanding things about us, but that is not really specific enough. How about this:

I want them to say…

“We are the best assisted living community in our town.”

“We have the friendliest team members.”

“We always seem to know just what residents need.”

“We are the best place to work in town.”

“We are the most referred senior living community.”

“I would never want my mom or dad to move anyplace else.”

“When I need senior living that is the place I want to go.”

How Do We Get Them to Say Those Things?

This is the easiest and hardest part. It is easy because we simply need to do the things we want them to say about us. The hard part is that to be great is hard work because we have to get it right almost every single time.

The second thing we need to do is to prompt people to say those things about us. If we tell them we are the best (and we are) they will be more likely to tell others that.

How about you? How would you answer those three questions for your organization?

If you are interested in finding out more about the Senior Living Innovation Forum check out this article on their site.