NIC is one of my favorite events to attend, but I think it has a lot in common with high school.

Because occasionally people get worked-up by my article titles, I feel like I have to start with this. . . . I had a great time at the National Investment Center annual conference (NIC).  I connected with a bunch of people I already knew and made a bunch of new connections.   Bob Kramer and his gang do a great job and I am already looking forward to the next one. This article will be the first in a series about disruption and innovation in senior housing that will touch the following areas:

  • NIC is just like high school –  this article
  • What if you had a big pot of money and were starting a new enterprise serving seniors, would you really still be doing what you are doing the way you are doing it? (A huge thanks to John Cochrane the president and CEO of the BE.Group.)
  • Why we are so slow to innovate  –  It is largely the fault of capital providers
  • Why we are so slow to innovate – It is the fault of developers and operators . . . but even more the fault of capital providers
  • Are there still great market opportunities across the country or are we heading into an era  where there is danger of over saturation? –  Yes – No –  Maybe – Are there really any experts?

The series starts with how NIC is just like high school.

While this article is partly tongue in cheek, it raises some interesting questions which will be addressed in subsequent articles.  And many of these points apply to me as much as anyone. “Everyone else has one . . .” NIC is one big fashion show, if you consider dark suits to be fashion.  Sure, some people have argyle socks and loud ties, but that’s about it. . . . well not quite true . . . there were a few people who appeared to go out of their way to do it a little different.  I saw a one or two light colored suits, but I am not sure I saw any of the guys without ties.  It is all about looking successful, competent and confident.

“Our school does not have a single hot guy/girl”

This is a high stakes game. Providers of capital are looking for the next great deal to fund, that has a high yield and great rate of return; Lenders are looking to build relationships with fiscally strong developers and operators. Operators and developers are looking for capital providers who won’t charge too much or take too long to fund.  In particular, if what they are doing is not quite the “usual” deal, these are the folks who really need to work the room.  At the end of the event many people come away having put deals in progress but others will go away disappointed and frustrated.

“Won’t anyone be my friend?”

Vendors wander around looking for operators who will have a conversation with them, but mostly only find capital providers (the unattractive or out of their league guys or girls). Because operators are mostly there to meet capital providers, vendors often end up being the third wheel.

“Does he/she know I am interested in her?”

I want to start by saying that this may well be my worst trait at NIC.  You come to realize that as you are having a conversation with someone their eyes are never quite totally focused on you.  They are always looking over their shoulder for the next great or perhaps better opportunity.

“I am too cool to even notice you”

In every high school there are a few students who think they are too good for the rest of the world and this is true also with NIC.  That being said, the number of snobs at NIC is very low. I can only remember two or three people who were just plain rude.  What is even more refreshing is that consistently, those who are most rude tend to be minor players.  I would say consistently, my interactions with top tier developers, operators and capital providers have been nothing short of kind and gracious.

“What, my pocket protector isn’t cool?”

The Geeks at NIC are people who are trying to innovate in senior housing.  Their projects don’t fit the standard model(s) and so they have a difficult time being taken seriously.   The good news is that at least in our current society geeks often prevail. What do you think? Do you have anything to add? Finally as I work through this series, if you have some thoughts on this, I would be delighted to have a guest article or three.