By Susan Saldibar

As young as Andrew Smith is, he has somehow managed to pack more experience into ten years than many folks do in an entire career.

When I caught up with Andrew recently, he was hard at work inside one of HumanGood’s CCRCs overseeing health services in Skilled Nursing, Assisted Living, Homecare, and Wellness. He was managing, among other things, the many challenges presented by the COVID pandemic. And that’s fine by Andrew because the middle of the action is exactly where he wants to be. Pretty ironic, since ten years ago he hardly knew senior living existed.

“I had almost no awareness of senior living until a consulting project had me living in a memory care community to observe the sales team,” he tells me. “I just fell in love with the business. It was such a joy to see the staff bringing compassion to people many in society have written off.” So that was Andrew’s induction into what he refers to as a “Rubik’s Cube” of an industry with its combination of healthcare, hospitality, and real estate. In addition to customers who live with you and have a complex “buying unit” including family members and other stakeholders, all with different points of view.

Andrew has covered a lot of ground in ten years – HR as a performance consultant, operations, labor management, sales/marketing, and launching and leading the innovation team at Brookdale. “Now, with my role at HumanGood I am deep in the throes of managing team members and the day to day business. I have learned so much from each role. Especially this current role in the community working directly with residents and team members.”

Great Mentors, Wisdom Earned, and Some Lessons Learned

Andrew isn’t shy about attributing much of his success today to his Brookdale years and a few great mentors. “I have a huge heart for Brookdale,” Andrew says. “What I learned there is why I’m good at what I do.” But he acknowledges the challenges they have had to deal with in recent years. “Their story is the story of our industry,” he says. “How much scale can you achieve and still operate consistently well? Many operators struggle with that question. Brookdale may be a cautionary tale for some, but I’m not ready to give up on the vision that Brookdale represents. I’m not ready to give up on the idea that you can operate well at scale.”

The wise words of his Brookdale mentors remain in his head every day. “We do standard things in a standard way so that we have the resources to make special things happen” is one of his favorites. “There is so much value in having a core source system with standard protocols,” he explains. “So, if it’s standard, do it in a standard way so that you don’t waste time and have the resources to make special things happen in the way only high-touch team members can.”

If You’re Not Measuring Its Impact, Technology Is Just “Theater”

I asked Andrew to give us his take on what this industry should be doing with regards to using technology. A lot has to do with getting the foundation right. “Many communities are still missing some basic pieces, such as WiFi and strong security. Then there’s the need to integrate systems, make data visible and actionable, and, have a strong education platform. Too many are focused on the sexy stuff. So, despite our best efforts, too often we start a project, but can’t deliver.”

The pandemic, he feels, has illuminated many of these gaps. “COVID has been a catalyst to force improvement at a faster pace,” he says. But it can’t be done effectively without the foundational departmental digital tools – maintenance workflow, HR, EHR, and your CRM. And they all need to have some level of integration so leaders have the full picture.

Andrew also worries about communities creating a sense of “theater” with technology without focusing on its real impact. “You can do a great pilot with sexy technology and get all the publications to write about it. But if you’re not measuring its impact, it can’t be sustained. It’s just theater.” That’s why he urges communities to always start any project with the problem, and how the solution addresses the problem. 

Andrew’s Input Helped Build a Revolutionary New Kind of CRM

Andrew’s ability to bring a fresh perspective to the process of creating practical, scalable solutions is exactly what John Lariccia, CEO of WelcomeHome (a Senior Living Foresight partner), wanted to tap into as he and his team began their “listening tour” to create a new kind of CRM. 

John had worked with Andrew years before and knew he would bring valuable input to the project. “John told me that he was out to build a CRM that makes great salespeople more efficient and mediocre salespeople more effective,” Andrew says. And part of that was to create a CRM that would guide the sales director as to what to do next. “Part of the value of good regional sales leaders is coaching on next steps. The WelcomeHome CRM automates a lot of that,” Andrew explains. “It knows what happened, what’s next in the journey, and what sales needs to do next. That ‘recommending’ component was really innovative. Plus, they made it so easy to use.”

As for his role in the process, Andrew downplays it. “I was there to say, ‘my sales team says this really pisses them off’ or ‘why can’t the CRM do the stuff I’m paying for and managing three systems to do?’.” And, as it turned out, that’s exactly what John and the team wanted to know. And it has paid off in a highly successful CRM platform.

“Don’t Let COVID Win. We Should Be Thriving!”

Ultimately, like most of us, Andrew’s main focus these days has been on the pandemic. “What I really want to tell people is don’t let COVID win,” he says. “One of my team members wrote on a whiteboard ‘We will survive COVID’. And we will. This pandemic gives us the opportunity to demonstrate how senior living provides a much better living experience than being socially isolated in their houses. In the end, we will come out of this with a much stronger product and message. I’m confident of that.”

This is the first of a series of interviews with innovators in the senior living space, sponsored by WelcomeHome Software. Stay tuned for more in the coming months.

For more information about WelcomeHome, please visit their website.

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