New COO Joins MorningStar in ‘High-Energy Growth Mode’

Though it’s just his second week on the job, MorningStar Senior Living’s new COO, Jim Parker, is already thinking about the next decade of growth and development. MorningStar currently is in expansion mode, and Parker is focused on keeping the company’s culture and mission strong while adding scale.

Parker, who last served as senior vice president of development and capital markets for Spectrum Retirement Communities, started his new role with MorningStar on Nov. 27. The Denver-based senior living operator has 22 operating communities, with six under development slated to open in 2018, and three more scheduled to open early 2019.

“This company might be the same size as Spectrum was about five or six years ago, and with similar kinds of growth plans,” Parker told Senior Housing News. “They just need someone to guide them through that entrepreneurial-type atmosphere that happens when you have smaller organizations growing up to a mid-size organization.”

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MorningStar’s previous COO, Kimberly Erickson, left the role in July.

Graceful growth

Part of Parker’s goal in the months ahead will be to keep the senior living operator focused on its three-fold mission as it expands. The company, founded in 2003, is grounded in honoring God, valuing seniors and investing in workers’ ability to serve its residents, according to its website.

“My intent is to grow gracefully, paying particular attention to not forgetting who we are and doing the right thing for the communities that already exist,” Parker told Senior Housing News.

One big way MorningStar prioritizes its mission is through its Radiance customer service training program, which emulates Ritz-Carlton’s Gold Standards. The program is introduced to employees soon after they’re hired and teaches the company’s core values and mission.

“The greatest challenge is to manage the culture and the vision, maintain that, instill it for new folks, and not get lost in the excitement of new development,” he said. “People lose sight of the mission sometimes during high-energy growth mode.”

Another looming challenge lies in age-related demographic shifts that are expected to put new pressures on the senior living industry over the next decade. Senior living operators should be prepared to take on residents who are sicker and more frail than in the past.

Staffing is also vitally important—doubly so in states such as Colorado, where unemployment lies well below the national average, he added.

“You’ve got this massive wave of baby boomers that are going to need services 10 to 15 years down the road,” Parker explained. “We need to make sure our staff is trained up and can actually do what we’re going to be asked to do in the future.”

MorningStar’s strategy for success lies in treading carefully regarding overbuilt cities, figuring out the right mix of services and building communities that appeal to seniors not only now, but in the years ahead, as well.

Soonest to open in MorningStar’s pipeline is an 85-unit community in Des Moines and a 141-unit in Arvada, Colorado, with additional properties planned in Glendale, Arizona; Beaverton, Oregon; and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“We’ve invested a lot of time to understanding what people are going to want in 10 to 15 years,” Parker said. “They need to be in the right place with the right service offerings with the right amenities.”

Written by Tim Regan

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