Some of you are sinking, and you need a lot of help. Go get it!

By Kent Mulkey

How do you raise a sunken ship, and fast? In a 1949 story called “The Sunken Yacht,” Donald Duck and his nephews — Huey, Dewey and Louie — raised a sunken yacht by pumping ping pong balls into the hull of the boat on the bottom of the sea. It worked. Well of course it worked; it was a cartoon! In 2004 the Discovery Channel TV show “Mythbusters” set out to recreate what Donald and the nephews accomplished by attempting to raise a sunken boat using yes, ping pong balls. It worked, using 27,000 ping pong balls to raise the “Mythantic,” proving Donald Duck a genius!

Sinking Your Own Ship

I’ve talked with many of you over the years about the sinking feeling you have that you are out of ideas, money and energy to produce the kind of results your community needs to succeed. As much as it is rewarding to serve older adults, the business of operating the business of it can be brutal.

Some of you are sinking, and you need a lot of help. Go get it. Your company, the well-being of your residents and the credibility of our industry count on you to do so.

Others of you are bailing water like mad and are barely holding your own. You are treading water. This is no time to quit. You have plenty of company in this bewildering struggle.

Nobody Succeeds Until We All Do

A few of you are on top – you are buoyant, which means a high level of confidence and success. My first boss in my seniors housing career, Dwayne Clark from Aegis Living would say, “Nobody succeeds until we all do.”  If you are on top, you have a responsibility to help your colleagues, and your competitors, be more successful. Throw some folks a lifeline. A rising tide lifts all ships.

Here are five critical behaviors that will help you R.A.I.S.E. the occupancy of your community as you develop referral relationships with health and business professionals in your market area and keep it from sinking in a sea of increasing competition and brand dilution.

  1. RESEARCH – Do your homework. Be prepared. Learn all you can about the hospital, for example, with whom you would like to do business and garner referrals. With Facebook, LinkedIn, company websites, blogs, print media, et. al., there is a plethora of information you can put together. Don’t try to wing it.
  2. APPOINTMENT – Ask for an appointment with the person you want to meet with. When you ask for the appointment, state a clear reason for the meeting. Prepare a 30-second elevator pitch, just in case.
  3. INQUIRE – This is the heart of the matter. Learn to ask great questions. Stay curious. If you do this part well, you will rise above the rest. Think about it; when you are at a social gathering, how many people take time to ask you a few questions about yourself? Exactly none.  
  4. SOLUTION – In the course of your conversation, you may have something to offer them. A tip, another person to talk to, a resource, or a piece of your own expertise. Remember, you don’t have to give it all in one meeting.
  5. EXIT – Honor the time you asked for and stick to it. Allow the person you are meeting with to ask you to stay around awhile longer, if they are so inclined. Shock your host by asking, “How can I help you?” The first time someone asked me this question, I was speechless, which is really hard to do.

You are the captain of your ship. It is you who is charged with the task of guiding your team through rough waters, perilous storms and an uncertain destination. Hold on tight to your crew, navigate carefully and never lose hope.