No! Don’t look!

By Steve Moran

At least 4 times over the last six or eight weeks I have encountered this very weird phenomena of senior living operators having figured out how to do something new and cool but wanting to hide it from other operators.   

Here is a fairly recent example from when I did a presentation on lessons learned from touring senior living communities. Often when I speak I like to have some audience engagement since they are the real experts. I asked them to spend a few minutes talking together in small groups about what it is that makes their communities, their companies, special, and then to share their thinking with the whole group.   

There were several great comments but I was a little surprised there were not more. My initial thinking was that maybe they really didn’t know what it was that made them special in their marketplace. After the presentation I was talking to a friend who was in the audience and he told me about a conversation he overheard, where after identifying what their “special sauce” was, one group chose not to share it for competitive reasons.

Two Observations

  1. There are hardly ever any revolutionary ideas that no one has ever thought of before. Even the Apple iPhone and iPad were derivative ideas. There is no question that Steve Jobs and the Apple team took these ideas and turned them into revolutionary products. But curiously enough, even though many companies are now making competing Android and Windows-based smartphones, no one has come close to matching Apple’s success.

    As importantly, because those competing products are in the marketplace, it has pushed Apple to get even better.  This is good for Apple and good for the consumer.

  1. Every time some company comes up with an idea that works or, for that matter, an idea that doesn’t work, sharing would benefit everyone . . . including those who are sharing their secret sauce. When we share our successes and failures it puts us into a 1+1 = 3 or 6 or 12 or 18. It never equals 2.  

What Makes Us Unique

When Senior Housing Forum was just gaining some traction in the marketplace, someone reached out to see if I would meet with them at one of the national trade shows. We set a time and place and essentially the first thing out of his mouth was this: “The reason I wanted to meet you was so I could learn how to start my own blog, sort of like yours.”   

I was taken aback by the request and, while I was externally polite, I was seething inside at the request. He had no idea how hard I worked, how much physical time I put into “my baby,” how much emotional agony went into the publication of each new article while I waited to see if anyone would read it. How could he dare to so boldly ask to steal my secret sauce?

I was nice and sort of answered his question, but on reflection realized my outrage was stupid.  

I could tell him every single thing I did . . . The hours spent each week making connections on LinkedIn, the conferences I attended, the Twitter feeds I used to find article ideas, how I managed my WordPress site . . . the whole constellation of what i did . . .  he would not be me.

At the beginning of the day we all start with the same ingredients: buildings, people, residents, family members. We then have policies, ideas, campaigns, programs and . . . on and on. There are really just two things that make us unique:

  1. How we mix all that stuff together to do the very best we can

  2. How we tell our stories

When we share with each other we make things better for ourselves. We make our product more appealing to elders and their families. We make working in senior living more appealing for line staff and leaders. I am proud to say that there are many senior living companies and professionals who share like crazy. You can find their stories here at Senior Housing Forum. There will be many more in the coming months.  

I challenge you to share your successes with the industry. I challenge you to share your failures with the industry. You will be better for it. The people we serve will be better for it.