John O’Connor

Unless you have actually attended NIC conferences, it’s hard to appreciate just how unique and helpful these events are.

Of course, it’s not like the various payoffs are a well-kept secret. A record 3,200-plus attendees were in Chicago last week for the organization’s most recent meeting.

Why do they come, and keep coming back? The reasons are plentiful. But first among equals is the unsurpassed deal-making opportunities that the event affords.

Somewhat related are the unmatched networking options. A conversational hum seems to permeate the whole event.

Attendees also have the opportunity to learn more about market developments, to see the latest data and gain insight into what what’s probable and possible.

But what does it for me is the rare opportunity to chat with the people who make the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care run. People like Brian Jurutka, Beth Mace and Chuck Harry, to name just a few. And then there’s they guy who helped start it all, Robert G. Kramer.

I had the good fortune last week to catch up with Bob. So I asked what advice he would give to operators facing strong headwinds. In typical Bob fashion, he thought about the question for a few seconds, and quickly replied with an answer that was helpful, insightful and elegant. Luckily, my tape recorder was handy at the time.

“I think the most important thing is to stay focused on what you are good at and do it well. Don’t let the latest fear thing that comes down the road cause you to lose your focus,” he began.

Of course, with Bob, he is usually willing to give you your money’s worth, and then some, in an answer. So he quickly expanded:

“Operators have to prepare for value-based care and taking risks — while remembering they are still primarily being paid in a fee-for-service-based system. So if you pivot too quickly, you are going to struggle financially. But at the same time, you have got to be preparing for the future. And in the future, either you yourself or your partners are going to be at risk. You’ve also got to be able to demonstrate quality, which means you are going to have to have adequate staffing, and at the same time you’ve got to have the data to prove it.”

And as far as Job One goes, he wrapped up with this:

“The last thing I would say is that investing in your staff is critical, because without trained staff, you are not going to be able to deliver to anybody.”

Not bad for an off-the-cuff reply.

In a sector full of questions, it’s nice to know that NIC is working to provide meaningful answers.

John O’Connor is McKnight’s Editorial Director.