With a direct focus on middle America, does Holiday Retirement have the market cornered?

By Steve Moran

Editors Note:  This interview was orginally done at the 2015 NIC Annual Conference in Washington DC.  Since that time, Holiday has annouced a new role for Kai and a new CEO.

With over 300 communities across 43 states, Holiday Retirement is considered the second largest senior housing operator in the country. I had the opportunity to speak with Kai Hsiao, the CEO of Holiday Retirement, who explained that the company was founded by Bill Colson and they still run it according to his vision.

As Kai stated, Bill always called Holiday sort of the Wal-Mart of retirement living, with a direct focus toward middle America. Some might think that calling yourself “the Wal-Mart of retirement living” wouldn’t exactly be a good thing; however, after speaking with Kai, it’s clear to see that they are definitely on to something here.

Middle America

With a company that large, I am always curious how they approach the 89% occupancy norm challenge. I asked Kai if he was worried about the increase in inventory and what that is going to do.

“I think this is a stat that if you take a look at the market that we’re in and you overlay what I call the dual-income households, our markets have more dual-income households in them, which means, hey look, if both the husband and wife are working they have less propensity to actually say ‘I’m going to stop working and take care of mom or dad.’ Kai goes on, “So there is a desire for them to find alternative housing for mom or dad than where they are so they can get some sense of security that where they’re staying they’re getting the full meals, and someone who knows they’re socializing with other people. So again, if you look at our markets and where we’re at that dual-income sort of metric is high in the markets we’re in.”

The Right Market

Kai pointed out some significant aspects associated with being in the right marketplace by focusing on Middle America. 

“As a company I’m well above 90 percent right now. In fact I think about 75 percent of our portfolio averages 95 percent. I think there’s a bunch of reasons behind why we are where we are.” Kai explains, “I tell my marketing folks our occupancy has grown, you get credit for half of it. The other half is just really no additional supply and the demand. So if you turn on your lights, you should be growing occupancy.”

Qualifying The Called

Another factor that plays into the success of Holiday Retirement seems to be how their communities are actually operated. Two-person teams are hired to manage the day to day operations for each community. Naturally, I wondered if this would be an obstacle, trying to find couples to take on that level of a management role.

“One of the areas that we’re finding a lot of folks coming to us are really ex-military folks. So you’ve got folks who are coming back, they’ve been serving the country and the wife traditionally doesn’t necessarily work. The husband comes back and they both want to work together. They’ve been separated for maybe 18 months because of the tour of duty. This is a great opportunity for them to work together and be together more often. And I think it also speaks to the fact that in the military there’s a sense of giving back to the country. When you work as a couple at a Holiday community there’s a sense of ‘I’m giving back to the seniors.’ There is a bit of a calling with that.”

Finally I would note that beyond the great content presentations NIC conferences offer, the best part of these events is the chance to chat with great leaders of great companies like Holiday Retirement.  The next NIC conference happens in Dalla Texas, March 9-11.  Here is the link.

To hear more of my conversation with Kai Hsiao and learn more about Holiday Retirement, listen to the full podcast below.