A Senior Living Investor’s Views on Occupancy And Sales

Julie Podewitz, CEO and Founder of Grow Your Occupancy, had the opportunity recently to sit down with special guest Rick Shamberg on the Grow Your Occupancy Podcast and hear some of his stories and insights from twenty years in the Senior Living business. 

Today, Rick is the Managing Director of Scarp Ridge Capital Partners, a private real estate investment firm focused on distressed, opportunistic, and value-add investing across the U.S. Previously, he served for 11 years as a co-managing partner of Cerulean Partners, a senior living investment and advisory firm.   

But back in the mid-2000s, Rick was immersed in the often-grueling process of learning the business from the ground up as a consultant working to rehabilitate troubled properties.  

Living onsite at fifteen different properties in the course of three years, moving in nearly a thousand families as a leasing counselor, serving coffee in the dining room, cleaning the community toilets….Rick earned his “second MBA” and gained invaluable experience in what it takes to make the challenging, complex business of running senior living communities a success. 

Collaborating for Success 

The credibility Rick has earned over the years through his in-depth operational and sales experience makes Scarp Ridge more than just a holding company concerned with the operators’ bottom line. “Given our background, operators know that we can be a part of the solution, that we can brainstorm ideas and roll up our sleeves together.” 

As prospective residents and their families explore a community for the first time, credibility also plays a crucial role. Community operators must strive to create “The Place to Be,” and that can mean spending money, even what Rick calls “investing into a loss” to shore up weak areas, such as quality of dining, staff shortages, or maintenance of the physical plant.  

Support and Cooperation from Operations 

Marketing and sales is a team effort that involves a community’s operations as well. Rick tells a great story in the podcast about Mrs. Jones’ baking class, and how you often need to come up with an individual sales campaign and an individual marketing plan for each individual prospect. What works for one may not work for another. As a senior living sales professional, you need to have outstanding communication within your community and advocate for the support you need. 

Operations has to support the community’s sales and marketing efforts. The brochure has to match the reality of the building. Outstanding operations allow the sales team to do their job with confidence and conviction. The end goal is not just full occupancy, but grateful families after move-in because the care experience matches or exceeds the sales pitch. 

Exercising Empathy  

Senior living is a gratifying but tough business. When a prospective resident is reluctant and has their defensive walls up, asking questions from an empathetic perspective can be the key that unlocks the reasons why a move is necessary. An example Rick gives is asking the prospect on a visit to their home, “You have such a beautiful home–why would you want to move?” Their answers will reveal the challenges they are facing staying in their home, and help you build a bridge from your home to their community. 

The “One Thing” You Need to Learn 

As Rick’s mentor told him back when he was starting out in 2003, “If you want to learn the senior living business, you have to learn one thing, and that is how to move families into senior housing. If you can do that, then you can be successful in this business.”  

Are you ready to master the “One Thing?” Grow Your Occupancy provides sales coaching, accountability coaching, and sales-skill coaching to translate your team’s credibility and empathy into measurable success. Learn more about Grow Your Occupancy’s sales coaching and training here. Or book your free 30-minute consultation today.