I just returned from a trip to Ohio, where I was born and raised until the age of 19 when I moved to Florida. Going home was bittersweet. The grass was vivid green and there were wheat and corn fields, farms, and large metal silos everywhere I looked. I kept thinking to myself, “You can take the girl out of Ohio, but you can’t take the Ohio out of the girl.” As much as I love Florida, there was something deep and moving about returning home to this incredible landscape.
What stood out most on this trip was the people I interacted with; new friendships created along with long-time relationships nourished. Turning 51 on this trip, I had a sense of awe and gratitude. On Monday I visited with my college roommate, Sandra, on Tuesday I met with one of my favorite clients Sevy Petras who invited me to participate in a C-Suite event at Tiffin University (the reason for my trip). Prior to the mastermind session at Tiffin, I met the amazing Dr. Lillian Schumacher, President of the university and her husband Ron Schumacher, President of Terra State Community College, what a duo! Dining in their home, it was as if I had known these people my entire life.
After our Tiffin event, I headed to Columbus to celebrate with friends I’ve been close to since kindergarten. Laughing until we cried, it was as if we were still teenagers cruising around in clunky cars, with not a care in the world. I ended my trip by visiting my family, some whom I had not seen in twenty years. With bonds that run deep, I couldn’t contain my tears as my uncle Bob came up to give me a hug. I get teary eyed just thinking about it. As he came toward me, I remembered summers spent at his home, prayers, and bible stories at bedtime with my aunt Carolyn and eating concord grapes off the vine behind their house.
Our lives are built on the foundation of relationships, and I’m so thankful to be able to revisit and make new ones last week. The more we invest in the people around us emotionally, the richer our lives become. This chapter of The Relationship Economy dives into how to put this concept in to action in the business world. While assisted living and skilled nursing is not a transactional business, it’s exactly what it feels like in the buyer experience. We go on to learn that when we invest in specific tactics that empower employees to build rich and meaningful interactions, it’s a complete game changer. I’ve found this to be true in both my personal and professional life. I’m excited to dive into this chapter with you.
I’ve spent my entire adult life training assisted living and skilled nursing employees how to move from order-takers to relationship builders. What I love about chapter six is the focus on execution and how you can make reliable, effective systems that enable employees to consistently work on the development of their relationships (and most importantly assess their progress).
DiJulius challenges us to create a Relationship Report Card that does the following:
1. Ranks the importance of each stakeholder group to your community’s success.
2. Rank those groups in order of importance; who can help you gain access to more qualified seniors?
3. Grade yourself on how well you intentionally build strong relationships with each of these stakeholder groups.
This exercise helps people realize how reliant each of us is on the other groups. This applies not only to customer relationships but also to a wide range of internal and external relationships, many of which you might take for granted. Most importantly it helps us to create a plan to build and measure our key relationships. Reminder: If you don’t have time to do this exercise, delegate it to someone in the organization who would be honored to take it on and report back on findings and next steps.
As I ponder this report card, I think about my own business relationships: Tim Regan with Senior Housing News who helps us continue to educate the senior living community on the importance of sales and marketing, Nicole Muller with Westminster Communities of Florida who is partnering with me on a riveting series titled Senior Living Candid Conversations, in an effort to educate seniors about the myths and realities of senior living, to our relationship with Billy Thompson with Lumegent who ensures our clients have the most effective direct mail strategies possible. All these relationships are vital to my company’s success.
The Relationship Capital Group found that 89% of executives believe that relationships are the most important factor in their success, year over year. Yet only 24% of those leaders do anything intentionally to promote relationship building. Less than 5% of organizations have specific strategies for helping their professionals develop and strengthen the relationships required to achieve their goals. Meaning, you must implement a tangible strategy that enables your employees to execute relationship building. Just saying, “personal connections or relationships come first,” isn’t enough. You must implement a system that allows team members to execute and then hold them accountable with consistent follow up and reporting that tracks progress toward specific goals.
Consider the following ideas as outlined in chapter six:
A spa launched an initiative to remind employees of the importance and benefits of focusing and tracking customers personal information. At the end of each day, management would check for additions and updates to their CRM for each customer interacted with that day. Each week, results were posted for everyone to see at each location and on the company’s social media pages. The person with the most detailed information received a $100 bonus.
Obsessing over customers gives employees more of a purpose in life as well as purpose in their jobs. I can’t help but think how successful this type of initiative would be in an assisted living or skilled nursing organization where employees work due to their passion for seniors, yet find themselves burnt out and stressed over the focus on NOI and pandemic recovery. The reality is that by hyper focusing on the customer, financial performance results historically produce far superior results- meaning it’s a dual effort that creates wins company-wide for all stakeholders.
We have seen an explosion in tech within the assisted living industry. What I love in this chapter is the idea to use a video signature in email; a quick video just 30-60 seconds in an email signature that serves as a more personal introduction. The goal being to put a face to a name; personalizing the buyer or customer experience. It also allows employees sending emails to share a bit about themselves; making them a real person with a family and hobbies.
If you have followed my musings, you know that I often share my personal life experiences and vulnerabilities with readers and podcast listeners because I feel it creates a connection. I’m not a CEO, professional speaker, and author; I’m a wife, mother, daughter, and sister. I’m a business owner who is incredibly driven to change lives and who values education as a tool to empower individuals and organizations. That’s probably why you’re still with me right now!
With assisted living and skilled nursing facing the lowest occupancy and census on record, scaling your network is one of the most important steps you can take to grow occupancy fast. At Bild & Co we refer to this as the Circle of Influence and it works, so pay attention and execute.
Influencers are anyone who is instrumental to growing your business: They can include: Key relationships, customers, potential customers, investors, specific employees, well-connected executives, mentors, and experts. Being that you are in seniors housing, these influencers are people that can directly refer prospective residents to you. An exercise we do with clients is to have them pull referral partners from their database to ascertain which ones have sent the most referrals that have moved in. Time and time again we find that who you think is referring and who actually is vastly differ.
Upon identifying the top 10-15 referral sources, or perhaps it’s just four to five, seek to replicate more of those exact types of individuals (referral persona) you can introduce your assisted living or skilled nursing facility to, that can also refer. For example, if you have an orthopedic specialist that refers one person per month to your assisted living, with 55% of those referrals moving in; be bold and ask that referring physician the following question:
“What other orthopedic specialist or rehab therapist do you collaborate with, that also serves seniors, that I can introduce myself to for future reference?” This allows that individual to sort contacts in his or her brain and extract that exact profile; in turn putting you in front of three to four similar people who also have the capability to refer one or more prospective residents each month. Duplicate and expand what’s working. Leads from referral sources close four times faster than non-referred leads. Our single most effective tactic when turning around an underperforming seniors housing asset.
Once you make that valuable referral list, dedicate at a minimum one hour per week networking your way into these people and create a plan that will build value and get influencers excited to work with you. Everyone needs new customers and it’s likely you have at least 100 or more residents that you could expose those valuable health experts to; creating a win-win symbiotic relationship.
This is a touchy subject because balance sheets are way off right now and the last thing an organization wants to do is spend more money. To improve the customer experience, something must be invested in the prospective buyers you connect with.
Consider building an allowance of just $25 per month per community into the marketing budget that employees must spend on prospective buyers or residents. Doing so, as we learn here, reminds employees to listen and recognize personal details and follow up with delightful surprises. You might think of this as the Bild One Extra; it’s the same concept and instills an immediate emotional connection with people because it makes them feel important. Sevy did this for me and Lillian when we had dinner in Tiffin; she surprised us with a small gift that was so incredibly meaningful. It was a beautiful hand painted oyster shell with a note that said, “The world is your oyster” I was floored! Being that the three of us were embarking on an incredible adventure together, to transform higher education, it was perfect and so thoughtful!
While most people believe the customer is the one who benefits from a personal connection, the reality is that employees do too. In this study, the radiologist who felt a personal connection to their patient did a better, more thorough job.
If you have ever engaged in an email conversation with me or any Bild & Co team member for that matter, you know that I have my headshot in my signature. I have always believed this allows me to make a personal rather than professional connection with my clients (we now know it’s true from this important study). When people see you, they are better able to connect and identify with you as a person, just like them. Consider adding your own photo to your email signature. A small tweak that can make a big impact.
So many great takeaways from this chapter. If you haven’t yet purchased a copy of The Relationship Economy, do so now. Read and follow along with us and continue to have a growth mindset that transforms not only your organization, but the employees, residents, and family members you serve.