I wrote the first edition of Zero Lost Revenue Days well over a decade ago with a fresh, new edition update and print in 2015. It is indeed very strange as an author to go back and read your own book. What is most interesting to me is how history continues to repeat itself, over and over and over; literally.
When I wrote the second edition print in 2015 our country and industry was recovering from the Great Recession and seniors housing, to include independent and assisted living, came out a star. With financial returns outperforming every other real estate sector, investors flocked to senior living which lead to the development boom we were in prior to the pandemic.
Today, we find ourselves in a very different situation. COVID-19 has devastated our industry, with seniors being the most vulnerable population. An analysis of more than 114,000 COVID-19 associated deaths during May – August 2020, found that 78% of the people who died were aged 65 and older. From a business perspective, senior housing occupancy decreased in the fourth quarter of 2020 to 80.7 percent, a record low, according to new data from NIC MAP® Data Service.
Operators have found themselves in what feels like a war zone and while the vaccine is being rolled out, many are finding staff unwilling to take it; which will ultimately put residents at risk. There is also no guarantee that the vaccine will protect people against a second infection; meaning we will have to wait and see the impact on assisted living long-term.
Move ins came to a halt as states shut down visitation and still today, in January 2021 many senior living communities are under lockdown, unable to tour or move in new residents. Combined with resident attrition; the impact has ravaged revenue and cash flow with occupancy at a record low. Here at Bild & Co we have found within the scope of our consulting engagements that those communities that were in decline prior to the pandemic are in crisis, unable to cover debt service, and in violation of loan covenants. These are very real challenges, but they are repairable.
What is different today, in this crisis, compared to the Great Recession is that assisted living is at the center of it all. COVID-19 has affected every aspect of our business. We will bounce back, and I believe for certain, stronger than before. Every great challenge in my business has made it better in due time, so hang in there. What you must decide as we engage in this book club study is how you will respond.
Who could have ever imagined the following stock fluctuations at these three publicly traded seniors housing organizations over the course of five short years:
These trends demonstrate the devastation of the pandemic on our industry in 2020 compared to where we landed after the Great Recession. Now we must ask, where will the assisted living business find itself in 2025, just four short years from now? Well, I believe that’s up to you.
As I was contemplating what book to choose for the launch of 2021 and our Seniors Housing Executive Book Club, I kept having a recurring thought: “How can I focus on innovation, change management, or any other exciting topic when sales are so bad?”
Then it hit me, it’s time to go back to basics. I had to cover my own book for the first time in this book club series, Zero Lost Revenue Days. As I began to re-read chapter one, I realized it was the right decision for sure. While a lot has changed, the reality is not a lot has really changed in how we market and sell assisted living. There is incredible opportunity right now that operators are failing to seize.
In reading the foreword written by the legendary Jayne Sallerson, she said, “I needed a sales system for our rapidly growing organization that was simple, organized, and easy to manage.” At the time she oversaw the largest salesforce in the industry with communities in 47 states. Within just four short months of implementation, occupancy grew by 7.4% despite it being rolled out during the Great Recession. Even more interesting is that while her organization, Emeritus Senior Living, was incredibly large, today that portfolio size has become the norm!
What this taught me along with many other clients who experienced similar results is that a solid sales system, implemented properly and with strong accountability measures, is recession proof. We are now in the process of proving that it’s pandemic proof. Sales is not hard; people simply over complicate it. You need a great sales system to capture and convert leads into tours (in person or virtual) and to then advance those leads to close quickly at market rate rent. Most seniors housing operating companies lack these vital sales systems and it’s showing in our numbers.
In fact, the senior living buyer experience is worse than I’ve ever seen it; we are losing billions in revenue that should instead be captured. This is not an idea or a thought; its reality and we have thousands upon thousands of mystery shops and competitive analyses that are recorded to back it up. What’s worse is that our failure to properly train our salesforce on how to curate a positive buyer experience is negatively impacting people’s decision to make a move. We can and must do better.
My Goal is Two-Fold:
When objective number one and two are achieved, everyone wins- employees, residents, owners, and investors. The effort is worth the reward, I promise; you just need to come up alongside me, put one foot in front of the other, and act on each blog or podcast.
Let’s look at what is ahead as we tackle the book, Zero Lost Revenue Days. Here is what you can expect to learn:
1. Create a Sales-Driven Culture Where Execution and Accountability is Front and Center. Just because you have a training program, it doesn’t mean people are implementing it. No more checking the boxes, it’s time to get serious and inspect what you expect so you can drive the change you seek to see.
2. Eliminate Costly Mismanaged Inquiry Calls- Meaning Put a Stop to Lost Leads due to poor infrastructure, an antiquated phone system, bad hire, untrained salesperson, or disorganization in your assisted living community’s sales and marketing process.
3. Re-invent the Buyer Experience as a whole, starting with the inquiry process whether online or over the telephone. Simply put, if you can’t get a prospective buyer to tour, virtually or in person, they are not going to move in. You must master walking before you can run no matter how basic the process appears. The senior living industry is failing massively on this front.
4. Re-invent the Tour Experience; from curating a virtual or in-person tour that is personalized and purposeful to ensuring your salesforce moves from a pleaser to advisor mentality where next steps are locked down immediately, eliminating the need for time consuming follow up calls.
5. Fuel Purposeful Follow Up by moving prospective buyers forward in the sales process based on information that has been gathered in detail, tailored into a personal solution that makes sense to the buyer, and is simple to understand and act upon.
6. Close Prospective Buyers Who Want to Buy What You Have to Sell. Your salesforce will understand once and for all that people don’t buy because the building is beautiful or due to a great deal. They buy you and your promise to care for them or their loved ones through the end of life; they are buying the experience of living within the walls of your community.
7. Drive Occupancy and Revenue to Pre-Pandemic Levels to take the pressure off and then Hyper Focus on Selling Every Last Apartment or Bed in your independent or assisted living community, memory care, or skilled nursing facility. You will no longer focus on how many residents you have but how many you don’t and what that is costing your organization in both revenue and mission every day, month, and year. It’s time to change lives, in a big way.
You’re never going to look at the senior living business the same again. I’m going to transform your thinking and empower you to reach levels of success you never dreamed possible.
The hardest part of this entire process? Changing your habits and those of your employees. Don’t worry, I’ll show you how to hold people accountable. Including interviewing our team of senior living consultants at Bild & Co for actionable tips and strategies they use with hundreds of communities monthly to get people on board. Too much is at stake to sit back and wait this out. It’s time to get hungry, feed your mind, take ownership, and drive the business forward so you can change more lives now, not later.
In case you are wondering who needs to follow along with this executive book club study, let me be clear, every employee you have. Most importantly, Executive Directors, Sales Counselors, Regional Sales, Regional Operations, Directors of Nursing, the Executive team to include the CEO, COO, CFO, VPSM, VPO and any internal call center staff that handles your web or advertising leads. The more collaboration you have, the faster you will see results.
Now, the work begins, it’s time to hit the ground running!
No time to facilitate this book club study or training program? Our Bild & Co senior living consultant team can lead your organization through this study with our popular 6-Week Sales Academy Series where your team is live, on screen with a Bild trainer and accountability coach. Every academy is powered by an insightful dashboard and point system that creates competition, engagement, and buy in. Email us at email@example.com, text Traci at 813.390.3349, or call 1.800.640.0688 to schedule your own Sales Academy and bring this book to life within your organization. You can also click here to schedule an appointment directly on our calendar.