The Future Leaders Awards program is brought to you in partnership with PointClickCare. The program is designed to recognize up-and-coming industry members who are shaping the next decade of senior housing, skilled nursing, home health and hospice care. To see this year’s future leaders, visit Future Leaders online.
Kari Onweller, vice president of partner relations and portfolio management at Invesque, has been named a 2020 Future Leader by Senior Housing News.
To become a Future Leader, an individual is nominated by their peers. The candidate must be a high-performing employee who is 40-years-old or younger, a passionate worker who knows how to put vision into action, and an advocate for seniors, and the committed professionals who ensure their well-being.
SHN sat down with Onweller to learn why she feels senior living is a relationship-driven industry, and how she believes there needs to be more awareness about the business in schools and universities across the country.
What drew you to the senior housing industry?
I knew I always wanted to do something in finance and real estate. And in high school, I was part of a student volunteer organization that actually volunteered at a local CCRC. We would go play bingo with the residents and decorate cookies around the holidays. It was just something that we all really loved and looked forward to. And at the time, I had no idea that there were even senior living job opportunities within finance and real estate, or that someone with a finance degree could work in an industry that dealt with seniors and could have an impact on their lives.
So after college, I did a finance rotational program at General Electric (GE). And while I was finishing that program, I was looking to move back to Chicago. So, I ended up taking a job with Ventas. And that was, at this point, eight years ago. So, it’s kind of the best of both worlds. For me, I didn’t even know this was an option. Obviously, I’m not interacting with residents day-to-day. But it’s cool to know that the real estate that we own at Invesque is home to a lot of them.
Looking back on your career so far, what’s the biggest lesson learned since you’ve joined this industry?
How critical relationships are. This is a pretty small industry, and having been in it now for years, you kind of come across the same people, again and again. So, I think taking the time to build relationships is important. In my role currently, I work closely with most of our joint-venture partners. I also work with operators on the triple-net lease side. Getting to know them and actually taking the time to build those relationships, I think, has made a pretty significant impact on my job day-to-day. It just makes work more fun when you actually know the people that you’re working with.
We also definitely have challenges that arise, and we have to work through tough scenarios sometimes. So, I think having a good relationship and being able to actually have tough conversations make things a lot easier to get done.
If you could change one thing with an eye towards the future of senior living, what would it be?
I would love to kind of make awareness of this industry more prevalent for people in college, or even high school, If you’re looking for a career in a compassionate industry that impacts the lives of people on a day-to-day basis, you don’t have to be a nurse, and you don’t have to be a doctor. You could be interested in development, or marketing, or IT or sales. And there is truly a place for everyone in senior living. So, I would love to just get awareness out about the industry.
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What are some of the biggest challenges that you see on the horizon for senior living in 2021?
I think occupancy is an unknown based on Covid-19, and the timing of getting a vaccine and how that plays into everyone being able to reopen their communities again. I know a lot of our operating partners are currently working through marketing strategies in terms of rebuilding census that has been lost over the last couple of months. So, I think occupancy is going to be tough. And staffing always, that just seems like it’s a challenge. And I don’t think, unfortunately, that’s going to be changing anytime soon.
In one word, how would you describe the future of senior living?
To learn more about the Future Leaders program, visit the Future Leaders homepage.