Long-term care leaders need self-awareness, partnerships to avoid the 'Founder's Trap,' CEO panel advises

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Participants in the CEO panel at LINK
Participants in the CEO panel at LINK

Strong leaders must be vigilant or they could stifle a company's innovation and growth, a CEO panel said Monday at the 2014 LINK LTC and Senior Living Conference in Chicago. 

The dilemma is a version of what entrepreneurial experts call the “Founder's Trap,” and the panelists offered their advice on how to avoid these pitfalls after years of experience. 

“Self-awareness is a key attribute. It helped me to think about where I am best utilized,” said Tom Grape, CEO of Benchmark Senior Living. “Skills that were great 17 years ago are none of the skills you need today.”

The panel also advised leaders to focus on building partnerships and relationships — both internally and externally.

The “disconnect” that often exists between executive leadership and staff members can hinder a company's quality and effectiveness, said Jay Moscowitz, CEO of Vivage Quality Health Partners.   
Whether it's taking five minutes to talk to a staff member or visiting facilities a few times a year, it's important to let employees know that they are part of the company's focus too, the panelists added.

This includes being an “open book” about new programs and changes in financial plans, said Mark Fritz, CEO of Remington Medical Resorts. About half of Remington staff has been there since its founding five years ago, which he attributes in part to this transparency and the work processes it enables.

Each year, employees from every department gather to discuss problems they've encountered. As a result, departments no longer point fingers at one another, but strive to help one another as a unified team, he said.

However, external partnerships are equally as important to the success of a company, Covenant Retirement Community CEO Rick Fisk noted. Building these relationships is something Covenant actively focuses on, because it's not necessarily ingrained in the culture.  

“With 128 years of history, we are relatively self-sufficient. It's a culture that comes out of being successful for a long time,” Fisk said.

The desire to be in control and the difficulty of working with other facilities can discourage companies from continuing to collaborate with one another; however, Fisk urged the room of leaders to carry on the purpose of the conference: to network, to connect and to build lasting, reliable partnerships.

The panel was moderated by David Ellis, president of Lincoln Healthcare Group.

Following the panel, winners of the inaugural LINK Innovation Showcase & Competition were announced. Dozens of companies serving the senior living sector entered innovative products and services for consideration. Walalight won for its LED lighting system.

Leaders from 90 long-term care and senior living companies are attending the event. LINK is scheduled to conclude Wednesday at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel.