Not settling for one path

Share this content:
Joe Steier
Joe Steier
If you ever find yourself in the company of Joe Steier, you might get lucky and be treated to a delicious meal at Bearno's, a Louisville, KY, favorite among locals for decades. It's a successful multistate restaurant chain Steier bought 10 years after he started working there delivering pizza. But the overseer of Signature HealthCARE likely will not finish his meal because he has taken you on an auditory journey tackling philosophy, politics, religion and business.

As Mike Littell, who profiled Steier in a recent issue of St. Xavier High School alumni magazine, observed, “When you sit across the desk from Joe Steier, you hear him describing one thing, but you see his mind working on five or six other burning ideas. I was wondering truly if smoke would start to emerge from his ears as he hit high gear.”

Although he's had a meteoric rise in the healthcare business world, Steier will tell you about the one thing that sent his soul and his passion soaring: the near death of his youngest son during birth in 2004 and subsequent recovery. That lead to a self-described mid-life spiritual pilgrimage to Israel in 2006 and publication of his first book, “My God! Our God?”

Today, Steier describes the for-profit nursing home chain as built on “three pillars”: “intra-preneurship” (collaborative idea sharing), learning and spirituality. Since acquiring Signature in 2007, Steier credits employee intra-preneurship with the formation of nine companies or ventures, including: the International Center for Long Term Care Innovation, which gets aging-care innovations to market (one recent invention is a bed that weighs patients without waking them).

Steier's passion has continued to be reignited through his career, particularly when his father received care at a Signature facility while suffering from pancreatic cancer.

“Being with him during this experience made me realize that our mission and vision is really about changing lives,” he says. “But I also found that positive changes needed to come faster, and that we cannot stop until the revolution is complete.

“For over a decade my team and I have charted a course to radically change how society perceives nursing homes in this country,” he says.

Steier, 45, manages to have an enriching personal life with his four children and wife Sony, partaking in “warrior” sports, golfing, boating, ocean fishing and weekly “date nights” with Sony. Cherishing family is especially dear to Steier, who was adopted with two other siblings and raised by a union bricklayer father and stay-at-home mom.

Retirement doesn't seem an option to Steier. But should that day come, he imagines anything from university teaching, writing more books, participating in a senior golf tour, opening a Catholic venture fund — even running for public office.

Writing in his July eulogy of long-time friend Clarence Clemons, the storied sax player for Bruce Springsteen's “E-Street Band,” Steier mused (as if to describe himself), “The gap between myth and man is larger than anyone likes ... In the end, we rarely get close to true greatness.”

Steier's friends would quickly point out a notable exception.

Resume

1989
Earns a B.S. degree in accounting from Bellarmine University

1996
Acquires successful Louisville, KY-based restaurant chain Bearno's, continues as chairman.

1999-2007
Becomes president and COO of Home Quality Management Inc.

2006
Earns MBA from University of Miami

2007
Acquires Home Quality Management, transforms it into Signature HealthCARE LLC, becoming president and CEO

2009
Publishes his first book, “My God! Our God?”

2010
Earns doctorate in education from University of Pennsylvania/Wharton