Profile — A fresh perspective: Ron Silva, CEO, Fillmore Capital Partners
Chances are good you probably haven't heard of Ron Silva. And you're not alone. The new owner of the former Beverly Enterprises Inc. is still a relative unknown in long-term care circles, and he knows it.
"In one breath, you'd say it's daunting," said Silva, 51, speaking of his role heading up one of the nation's largest chains. "In another breath, you would say it's a wonderful opportunity. In another you'd say I have this very skillful team that is actually operating the company, and I have the absolute delight to try to fine-tune it and to add programs that make people work together better."
It's not as if he has no experience running companies – just long-term care ones. While working at Lowe Enterprises Inc., a national real estate firm based in Los Angeles, he financed, owned, operated and bought hotel and resort acquisitions for the firm's international hospitality portfolio.
Ted Leary, who worked with Silva at Lowe, is not surprised that Silva migrated from hospitality to healthcare, especially since both are high service industries.
"My guess is he will bring a level of energy to that industry that they may not have seen before," Leary says.
That energy could come from his fresh perspective.
Companies such as Southwest Airlines and JetBlue are Silva's role models for Beverly. Why? They are profitable, they make customer service a priority, and each instills a sense of employee ownership. Silva's admiration for the way JetBlue employees and customers pitch in to clean up the airline is a telling characteristic.
"When the pilot puts on the blue gloves and helps clean the airplane, that mans a lot," Silva says. "It's not just symbolic. It's a great business model."
He said his first move to bring ownership to employees at Beverly is to re-work their 401K plan so it grows from a meager 10.5% participation rate. He said he also is selling the company jet. "Not a good symbol," he says. This is a man who looks down on bosses who take the premium parking spot from the employee of the month.
So far, Tom Manskey, president of the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce is impressed.
"We found him quite engaging," Manskey said of a recent reception hosted in Silva's honor in Fort Smith, AR, Beverly's home base. "We think that his ideas and what he does with BEI are going to be a great addition to our community."
While Silva is still mum on the issue of whether he will move headquarters from Fort Smith, he's outspoken on plenty of other topics. He doesn't like recent hefty lawsuit settlements in Arkansas and he wants better government reimbursements. He also is a firm believer in asset-transfer laws that make it harder for people to shift assets so they can leave something to their heirs.
Silva is particularly sensitive about this issue because of his experience with his parents, both of whom benefited from long-term care.
"I said, in my case, my parents would never be a ward of the state," he recalled.
Both Marines during World War II, Silva's parents were a huge influence on his value system.
"We should learn from that generation," says the self-described health nut who is married and has a 7-year-old daughter. "They did their jobs without fanfare."
His parents also helped teach him about long-term care.
"What I learned is you've got to really, really cherish the small victories," he says. "The wound closes up a quarter of an inch or she walks two more steps or she got her appetite back for two days ... it's the small things."
He's also picked up some hands-on experience along the way. Listen up, nurses: Silva may be able to teach you a thing or two about dressing wounds and making beds.
"I can make a bed like nobody can," he says. "I can square those corners."
Getting to know Ron Silva is liable to be an eye-opening experience, indeed.
Ron Silva's Resume
1976— Graduates with B.S. in organic chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley
1979 — Receives law degree with honors from the John F. Kennedy University Law School
1983 — Joins Wells Fargo as vice president of real estate
1990 — Hired as executive vice president at Lowe Enterprises
Founds Fillmore Capital Partners
2006 — Purchases Beverly Enterprises Inc. through Fillmore affiliate Pearl Senior Care; renames the company Golden Gate National Senior Care