With 2021 a few weeks away, LCS is making moves among its executive leadership.
The Des Moines, Iowa-based company on Tuesday named Chris Bird as its new chief operating officer. He was most recently executive vice president of LCS’ rental portfolio. Prior to that, he served as president of the entry fee division for Brookdale Senior Living (NYSE: BKD), and his 25-year career in senior living and care includes stints at Sunrise Senior Living and Marriott Senior Living Services.
Bird believes his career arc and extensive experience with both rental senior housing and entrance fee model life plan campuses gives him a deep understanding of the business, and an ability to identify areas of opportunity, he told Senior Housing News.
The LCS Family of Companies, which includes operator Life Care Services, is the second-largest senior living provider in the United States, with 139 rental communities and life plan communities in over 30 states.
“We have a strong focus on both platforms. It’s been a great growth arm for us,” he said.
Bird is assuming his new role at a unique time for LCS. The company is launching Eversafe 360°, a comprehensive new initiative establishing new safety standards across the portfolio that address extreme events which can affect operations, such as natural disasters and mass viral outbreaks such as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The program will be a cultural shift for the company and will eventually change the way it operates once the pandemic subsides. Bird will work with LCS Executive Vice President/Senior Managing Director of Life Plan Communities Rick Exline to implement Eversafe 360° and the lessons learned in 2020 will inform the program’s direction in 2021.
“We’re taking all the lessons we’ve had from 2020 and putting together this program that will really change the way that we deliver our services to our residents, as well as creating a great environment for employees,” he said.
Bird identified strengthening LCS’ position as a developer in 2021 as another objective. The company’s real estate arm, LCS Real Estate, has robust pipelines with its partners, Delaney Communities and Ryan Companies, and wants to deliver two to three new buildings every year as part of a five-year plan.
LCS is looking for strategic acquisition opportunities for rentals and especially life plan communities, as signs of distress among smaller, poorly capitalized operators emerge.
“We do believe there are opportunities, and we’ll continue to be a buyer when we have the right situation,” he said.
Bird is also assuming his new role as pharmaceutical companies request emergency use authorization from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for coronavirus vaccines. Industry groups have lobbied federal officials for months for preferred access to a vaccine, and LCS established a business continuity team — headed by Vice President/Director of Post-Acute Services Blake Gillman — to put a plan in place for receiving vaccines and getting them to staff and residents once they are widely available.
“When [vaccines] cascade down to our communities is still up for question. But it is something that we’re working on behind the scenes with our partners,” he said.