By Susan Saldibar

If you are serious about getting perspective on what’s happening inside senior living communities, don’t ask the sales reps, don’t ask the CEOs, and please don’t ask the owners.

Ask operations.

The ops folks are the boots on the ground. And they talk to everybody. They are in that rare position of being in the middle of the action without being mired in it.

I know this. I’ve dealt with ops folks for years and never known one who didn’t impress me with their insights.

No one embodies the ops X factor like KARE’s Laura Cambria, senior vice president of operations. 

She and Rachel Hill sat down to chat at the recent Senior Living Executive Conference in New Orleans. (KARE is a Foresight partner.)

Maybe it was the comfy couch or Rachel’s knack of getting people to open up, or maybe just the N’awlins vibe. The conversation just flowed. You can watch the full interview here.

And Laura’s ops experience, background, and observations bubbled up into some great conversation worth hearing. I’ll cut to the chase.

Advice to women getting into senior living:

  • You don’t ask enough questions. Start asking. Consider everyone you come across a source of information.
  • Put yourself out there and meet as many people as you can. Then stay connected with them. That’s how you will learn the business — what works and what doesn’t.
  • You need a mentor early on. Identify one. They are there if you are open to them.
  • Be open-minded to new ideas. And be willing to adapt.
  • Stop being shy about getting up to that next level. Don’t cut yourself short and let impostor syndrome be a barrier.

Advice to leadership:

  • Get out from behind your desk, and go out and meet your heroes. Do it every day. Ask questions and listen. “What was the best part of your day? The worst? How can we make your days better?”
  • Stop thinking of culture as a weekly pizza party. Ops knows otherwise. Culture is a series of experiences. Culture happens every day. Every day is a chance to create a better culture.
  • There are no good short-term fixes. Don’t go looking for them.

Advice on staffing:

Centralize your recruitment activities. Turnover isn’t going away. You’re going to have to rehire sooner or later. By the way, that’s where the free KARE app can help. It’s so simple and so effective.

  • You download the app.
  • You post your opening, anytime, anywhere, whenever a need comes up.
  • You set your pay rate.
  • You choose who you want to fill the position.
  • If you like them, you can hire them. Nobody steps in, no fees.

But Laura wasn’t finished. A few parting words. 

To the new kids on the block: We hold our own future. But you have to be hungry for it and meet as many people as you can.

And to leadership: We can’t fix everything. But listen. Talk about pain points. People want to be heard. Sometimes that’s enough.

To learn more about KARE, click here.