By Steve Moran

During the Senior Living Innovation (Almost) Live event a few weeks ago, one of the speakers was Mark King, the CEO of Taco Bell. His talk “What Matters Now” really hit home. He talked about 5 key elements they have been thinking about in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Every single one applies to senior living.

What Do Your Customers Want?

The easy and right first answer is that they want to be safe. They don’t want senior living to be part of the problem. If we can be blunt, they don’t want senior living to make them sick or kill them (or in the case of families, their loved ones).

But what else do they want? I would propose that protecting them is not enough. We need to create opportunities for them to live out their best last chapters. If all we do is protect them, they will not come to our communities until they need to, which effectively turns senior living into junior nursing homes.

Use Your Core Competencies to Deliver What They Want

This is so good. I think often we actually miss how good we are at so much of what we do. While there is a lot of room for improvement, we are actually really good at providing care for residents. We are good at protecting them. We are good at the food part of senior living.

These core competencies are the base we work from to go to greater heights.

Have the Courage to Pivot

We are beginning to see the early signs of financial distress in senior living. Capital Senior Living has a bunch of properties they are losing to another operator, as is true with Senior Lifestyle Corporation. It is certain that more are coming, and that many smaller transactions will happen below the radar.

With the courage to pivot comes tremendous opportunities.

Speed Wins: You Don’t Have to Be Perfect

Too often organizations are slow to act and ultimately that slowness is about making sure they “get it right”. The problem is that getting it 100% right is an impossible goal. And even if you execute to perfection (as you define it), you will find it was not as perfect as you hoped.

We will see this play out as some operators imperfectly pivot and win while others strive for perfection and fail.

Invest in the Transition

Bob Kramer and Kelsey Melard alluded to this in the October 30, 2020 episode of Foresight TV. I have great fear that way too many operators are trying to hold their breath waiting for a vaccine or some other miracle cure that will allow us to get back to normal. I promise, this is a losing strategy.

The really exciting question is this: Given a new reality, will residents need to hear a better story, a new story, a different story that includes safety, but goes far beyond safety to create a crazy cool, compelling reason to move into senior living today?