By Nicole Bowman
Reggie Hartsfield grew up in a spiritual home. He spent many mealtimes listening to his parents talk about the voice of God and refers to his mother, Margaret, as a prayer warrior. Every night, Margaret would pray on her knees before bed. Hartsfield curiously watched her, wondering what she was asking for — until he realized she was praying for his safety.
“As a young African-American boy growing up in the streets of Detroit, that made an impact on me,” he remembers.
So when Hartsfield was eight years into the executive track at IBM and had the gut feeling it was time to leave, he took it as a spiritual sign. A logical thinker by nature, he was skeptical about leaving such a steady job. But when he called his mother, her advice was to listen to that voice of God, and go.
Hartsfield listened, embarking on a transformative journey toward a career as co-owner and president of one of the nation’s few Black-owned nursing home chains. Today, he supports the work of more than 2,000 team members across 12 skilled nursing and senior living facilities and uses his business sense to lead the organization through acquisitions, negotiations and strategic planning. But he relies on his listening skills and intuition to lead his team through compassion, grace and service.
Around the time he left IBM, Hartsfield was listening to the stories of his close friend, Nina, a hair stylist. Working in a big salon, she had to pay a high percentage of her proceeds to the owners even though her clients were coming in to see her.
He asked Nina a lot of questions and used her answers to help her create a business plan for an upscale salon in Detroit. Together, they opened Harbortown Salon in 1992.
“That’s the first day I ever felt alive in a job,” Hartsfield recalls. “That’s when I realized I was an entrepreneur.”
One day his current partner at Advantage Living, Kelsey Hastings, came in for a manicure. She and Hartsfield got to talking about her career as a nursing home consultant. It was the first time he considered eldercare as a career, and he was intrigued. Soon after that chance meeting, Advantage Living was created as a consulting firm. Seven years later, in 2003, it bought its first nursing homes. Most acquired across the Detroit area since then were found through relationships with local hospitals, good timing and Hartsfield’s knack for listening to the market.
Single, he has been a father figure to six godchildren who needed full-time parenting for various reasons. He also is a COVID long-hauler who almost died of the virus in spring 2020,
He spoke emotionally of his lasting personal health struggles at the American Health Care Association’s 2021 annual convention in October. He identifies with empathy about what the entire profession has gone through since March 2020. Compassion keeps his drive alive.
“If I hadn’t followed that inner spirit — or listened to my mom — and left IBM all those years ago, I would have missed my calling,” he reflects. “Your calling is right in front of you most of the time. You’re going to get there eventually, but if you can just listen, you’ll get there faster.”
Resume: 1984, Graduates from Western Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration; 1984, Joins IBM as territory manager; 1992, Leaves IBM and opens Harbortown Salon in Detroit; 1996, Opens Advantage Living Centers/Advantage Management Group with Kelsey Hastings; 2003, Purchases first two skilled nursing facilities; 2008, Joins Health Care Association of Michigan board; 2014-2016, Chairs Health Care Association of Michigan; 2015, Selected to Michigan Chronicle’s Men of Excellence; 2021. Joins AHCA national board