Former Merrill Gardens Execs Launch New Senior Housing Startup

2Ten Consulting is a new name in senior housing, but it boasts an impressive pedigree and already is quietly making an impact on the sector.

In March, 2Ten launched with Tana Gall and Jason Childers at the helm as co-founders and principals. Both are prominent figures in senior living, with more than 35 years of combined experience and former C-suite roles in some of the nation’s top senior living companies.

Gall ascended the ranks of LeisureCare Retirement Communities to become president, a position she also filled at Merrill Gardens Senior Living from June 2013 to February 2015. As a senior vice president, Childers worked with Gall at both LeisureCare and Merrill Gardens. Both companies are based in Seattle, with communities in multiple states offering independent and assisted living, among other senior living options.

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The name of the new company reflects the longstanding professional bond between Gall and Childers. There are two founding partners, of course, and the number 10 has cropped up repeatedly in their working lives — they both joined LeisureCare and Merrill Gardens on the 10th of the month, and they also have been promoted on the 10th and have had other notable events associated with that particular date.

The company name is just one of the aspects of the new venture that Childers recently discussed with SHN, in a conversation that touched on 2Ten’s project with a notable senior living investor, the strategy to grow the business, and innovative operational models he sees gaining ground.

SHN: What inspired you and Tana to transition from being leaders of a major provider to starting up a consulting firm?

Childers: In our positions, we worked with multiple senior housing developers and investment groups, and we were starting to see a lot of new developers who have been in multifamily or other verticals. We were doing more consulting work for them. We always enjoyed that consulting. They had good innovations, things they brought from multifamily. For us, it was a way to stay on top of the industry. As we were looking at what we wanted to do next, it seemed like a natural progression for us to work with existing partners and some of these new development companies.

SHN: So you’re targeting these developers just entering senior housing as clients?

Childers: I think the profile of the partners we’re looking for is pretty varied. The group we’re working with now has a lot of experience in the industry. They’ve been around, we love working with them, but we also want to be a resource for developers just entering, to guide them through what’s worked, what hasn’t, what’s the best operator for this type of product.

SHN: You mentioned the group you’re working with now. I understand it’s a large senior housing investor?

Childers: I can’t say who they are just yet, but it’s a group we’ve been working with for several years. They have a number of communities, and we’re helping them grow their West Coast business. It’s a large institutional investor that owns a number of communities nationwide, spread throughout the country. They have a few assets on the West Coast now, but it’s an area of growth for them.

SHN: So for these established senior housing companies, the bread and butter for 2Ten will be operational consulting for existing communities and locating good acquisition prospects?

Childers: Absolutely. We’re able to consult on the day-to-day operations, provide sales training, market research, feasability studies, and try our best to ensure success. The other side of it is, there are a lot of communities that would benefit from new capital, from upgrades, enhancements, so on that side it’s looking for acquisitions — communities that are good today but could be great with a little capital and love. We’re making calls to management companies now. We want to find the best management companies for acquisitions.

SHN: Would 2Ten itself ever handle operations?

Childers: Not now, but maybe it’s something we grow into. Right now we’re doing asset management, working with management companies as a second set of eyes.

SHN: How about investing in communities, is that a possibility for 2Ten?

Childers: Right now, the business model is fee-based consulting. We’ve talked about it, and if there’s an opportunity to invest in a community and it makes sense for us, we’ll definitely take a look at that. We’ll be a good partner to groups we’re working with on the acquisitions side.

SHN: Let’s get back to the multifamily developers. You’ve seen an uptick in the number entering senior housing?

Childers: We’ve been providing consulting services to some of these groups, and we’ve seen that pick up in the last few years. There’s a lot more interest in the category, developers looking for people to help them understand the industry. They may not want to jump into a management agreement just yet, but they want to learn more.

SHN: What’s driving these developers to enter the space? Demographics?

Childers: Demographics is the biggest piece of it, but it’s a maturing industry, and I think groups recognize there’s a need for more product diversity. There are companies bringing new concepts. They’re looking to bring something more innovative and different from what’s available today.

SHN: What are some of these innovations you see?

Childers: A lot of it is driven around technology. You’re seeing groups come in and they’re putting the tech in the buildings from the get-go. The industry has been slow to adopt new tech. There are groups trying to figure out how to bring a more moderately priced product into the industry, like in the multifamily world where apartments are nice but there are great amenities in the building. You’re seeing that in some of the 55-plus style communities. They’re putting in indoor pools, woodwork shops, really great entertaining spaces. And then there’s the opposite end, as well, the more boutique communities.

SHN: Are the well-entrenched, big players like LeisureCare and Merrill Gardens at a disadvantage? Can they offer something competitive with these new models?

Childers: No, I think companies like LeisureCare and Merrill Gardens do a great job with their model. There’s always going to be a market for them. What I see happening, and what’s needed in the industry, is new ideas and new products that can hopefully break into that 85% of people who don’t consider senior housing today. If we’re going to grow senior housing, we’re going to need to tear down the stereotypes of senior housing.

Written by Tim Mullaney

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