The foundation for Bloom Senior Living’s rebranding was laid with separate emails the operator received from two different family members of the same resident in one of its South Carolina communities.
If one complained that the food was too hot, the other complained that it was too cold, Bloom Acquisitions Director and General Counsel Bradley Dubin told Senior Housing News. One complained that the water pressure was too high, the other too low. Dubin dubbed these the “Julie and Tony emails.”
“We had two different types of experiences within the same communities, even though we’re doing things fairly the same,” he said.
From those emails, Bloom embarked on a rebranding strategy that took five years and over $1 million to complete, which Dubin believes positions the company for scalable growth, establishes uniform operations across a multi-state portfolio and building a positive workforce culture rooted in its beginnings as a family business going back to Dubin’s grandparents.
And the provider looked outside of senior living for inspiration in rebuilding its culture, particularly fashion e-retailer Zappos and mortgage lending company Quicken Loans.
Based in Birmingham, Michigan, Bloom Senior Living owns and operates nine communities in Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio and South Carolina, and offers independent living, assisted living, memory care and respite care.
A family business
Bloom’s portfolio consists of turnaround assets, some of which were acquired from larger operators, inheriting the staffs in every building.
“We had this mish-mash of buildings over a very short amount of time,” Dubin said.
Central leadership immediately recognized that building a brand started with having a uniform culture throughout the portfolio. Bloom decided to build that culture on the company’s roots as a family business. Dubin’s grandparents, Richard and Ruth Tischler, started the business in the 1950s and built a chain of nursing homes and mental health facilities.
Ruth Tischler took ill in her late 80s and progressed through the senior care continuum before passing away from Alzheimer’s Disease in 2012. The family’s experience with her progression inspired them to pivot to senior living. Richard Tischler continued working in the family business until his death in 2016, at age 101.
Leadership wanted to embed the Tischlers’ story into Bloom’s DNA, and decided to look at how successful companies in other industries created their cultures.
Dubin was immediately drawn to Zappos. The company’s core values of “be adventurous, creative and open minded” resonated with Bloom leadership. Later, Dubin had a chance to meet Robert Richman, co-creator of Zappos Insights, a think tank that educates companies on the secrets behind Zappos’ employee culture, which includes unique innovations such as encouraging employees to take naps during the workday, requiring managers to spend 20% of their time “goofing off,” and paying people who do not fit in to leave the company.
This approach resonated with Dubin at the time, and connected the dots between a solid employee culture and improved operational metrics such as census, revenue growth, occupancy and better marketing.
“You’re going to have a better reputation and you’re going to attract residents who want to be there, sort of consistent with this program that Where You Live Matters,” he said, referring to a campaign from the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA).
Richman also told Dubin that employees needed to have agency in building a better workplace culture. To that end, Bloom held retreats in Arizona with leaders to workshop the core values of the company.
Taking a page from Quicken Loans, the operator settled on five “Bloom Beliefs”: Do the right thing; make memories; be positive and deliver “wow”; earn trust; and be better each day. At the same time, the company changed its name from Bloomfield Senior Living to Bloom, creating a cohesive brand across its communities and symbolizing how the core beliefs are geared to help seniors “bloom” late in life.
“The [brand] imagery is a reflection of our operating style, which is this concept that’s aspirational. We want seniors to bloom, we want them to be able to do more,” Dubin said.
Another part of the rebranding strategy involved streamlining training and on-the-job education. For that, Bloom tapped one of its executive directors, Melissa Campbell, for the new role of director of education and development. She developed “Bloom U,” a comprehensive program detailing the provider’s origins and showing associates why Bloom does what it does on a daily basis.
Bloom U consists of a one-week orientation program, where new hires are immersed in a variety of different e-learning, live classroom and interactive activities. New associates also participate in scavenger hunts, and are given three separate tours of communities designed for a different aspect of operations: a welcome tour; one highlighting a community’s safety features; and a sales tour. When general orientation is completed, associates spend their second week in position-specific orientation.
“If we educate the associates well, they are going to be better equipped to do their jobs. It’s going to reduce turnover. It’s going to increase the trust that our families and our residents have [with associates]. And in the end, we’re going to have better outcomes for everybody,” Campbell said.
Profit sharing, financial education
While Bloom leaders that Bloom U will result in improved workforce recruitment and retention, they are committed to paying employees a living wage, with bonuses for key positions.
“Being a family business and not a large or a public company, we are not motivated to achieve the same margins as other for-profit operators. We believe that having the right people will solve everything,” Dubin said.
Bloom is exploring extending the bonus program beyond the management team to front line associates, as a means of reaping the rewards as a community meets or exceeds certain performance benchmarks. Dubin hopes to roll this out within the next 12 months.
Bloom is also bringing on board platforms to help its workforce achieve financial stability and security. The operator brought in the financial wellness platform, FinFit, to offer benefits for employees such as payroll advances of up to $500 on earned but unpaid wages. FinFit also offers benefit and financial planning services.
“We can get them healthier financially, offer benefits that allow them to plan for their future and look down the road,” Campbell said.
Bloom believes FinFit will help associates make better long-term financial decisions, which in turn will strengthen employee loyalty. Dubin recounted an instance where an employee owed $6,000 to a payday loan providers. Bloom paid off the debt — no strings attached.
“That’s the type of thing we’re trying to do all the time. It’s not consistent. But the associates know that if they get into a bind and they’re loyal to the company, we’re there for them,” he said.