Only read this if you are struggling to fill beds . . . I find myself in a state of wonder at how frequently research tells us the way we have always done things is sub-optimal. . . or how often something that seems intuitively like the right thing to do is really the wrong thing to do. I tour a lot of buildings and mostly when I go in those buildings I identify myself as either someone from Vigil Health Solutions or with Senior Housing Forum. One of the questions I always ask the executive director is how things are going, and depending on how they respond, I will probe a little deeper about occupancy. Once in awhile I will be told they are full or that they are really hurting and I assume that in those cases they are telling the truth. More typically they will say something like this. “We are not doing too bad . . . we have a couple of available units.” Sometimes that is a true statement, but often it is cover for the truth which looks more like this: “We have a bunch of empty units, and I don’t know what to do about it. I am terrified to admit it. The vacancies are blowing my budget and making me look bad to my management.”
I would like to offer you a counter intuitive scary way to make it better. If you are hurting for residents, tell everyone. Tell your residents, tell you family members, tell your vendors, tell your referral sources. Then ask them for help.
The obvious fear is that people are afraid of being associated with something that is failing and that in telling people that you have vacancies is like telling them you are a failure which will make things even worse.
The truth is that while we all love to be on a winning team or fans of a winning team, we seem to be hardwired to help and root for the underdog. Telling your customers . . . really everyone, will get them thinking, talking and working to help you fill your building. They will not want you to fail.
This technique will only work if the following things are true:
- You have to have a nice, well kept community
- Your staff have to be well liked
- You have to be well liked
- You must be willing to accept suggestions, without making excuses for why you are not already doing whatever it is that is being suggested. – This does not mean you have to do everything suggested, but you need to take it in.
- If people point out problems that are legitimate you need to fix them and fix them fast.
I would love to hear from you to see if you have tried this and how well it worked. If you take it on, and would like to report back in a few months, It would be great to do a success story.
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