A new leader will take the helm at one of the largest U.S. senior living providers this week, as Jack Callison officially starts as CEO of Sunrise Senior Living on April 1.
Callison will launch a “CEO Listening Tour” during his first 100 days, to visit Sunrise communities and hear “unfiltered feedback” directly from leadership, frontline team members and residents, he told Senior Housing News in written comments.
“I know the best way to fully experience and soak up our culture is to spend boots-on-the-ground time in our communities to learn what is working, where our biggest opportunities are, and what motivates our team to come to work every day,” he said. “I want to listen and learn. I want to see our care in action, with my own eyes.”
McLean, Virginia-based Sunrise operates a portfolio of about 270 U.S. communities, with about 60 communities across the U.K. and Canada. Callison — who succeeds outgoing CEO Chris Winkle — has been chief executive of large senior living providers before. He comes to Sunrise from Chicago-based Enlivant, which operates about 230 communities. And he previously was CEO of Holiday Retirement, the largest U.S. independent living provider, with a current portfolio of about 260 communities.
At Enlivant, Callison was involved in efforts to increase diversity, inclusion and belonging, and engaging in dialogue on these topics will be a “priority agenda item” on his listening tour.
“I firmly believe larger companies like ours increasingly play a critical role in speaking out and standing against societal injustices, when we see or experience it,” he said. “Being complacent is being complicit, which is unacceptable.”
Callison stressed that he will be able to conduct his listening tour because he is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, and he emphasized the importance of vaccination in Sunrise communities.
The company recently joined a growing list of senior living providers to mandate vaccination for its workforce. About 90% of Sunrise residents are vaccinated.
“We have been entrusted with the safety and well-being of a vulnerable elderly population and believe a vaccinated workforce will help us serve them in a safer environment,” Callison said. “These vaccines are already bringing us great hope to return to Covid-free, brighter days in our communities.”
While Callison is used to leading large organizations, Sunrise is different in some respects from other companies on his resumé.
For instance, Holiday and Enlivant generally target a more middle-income consumer, with a substantial number of communities in secondary and tertiary markets. Sunrise serves a more affluent clientele, with communities in many of the largest primary markets in the country. For instance, Sunrise will operate a new community slated to open in Manhattan, with projected monthly rates as high as $20,000.
Callison and Sunrise’s owners — Welltower (NYSE: WELL) and Revera — are not yet commenting in detail on potential future strategies for the company, such as whether targeting the large middle-market opportunity in senior living is a goal.
However, it is obvious that a key focus for Callison will be leading Sunrise out of the pandemic.
Like other senior living providers, Sunrise needs to rebuild occupancy and NOI. Out of 598 properties in Welltower’s senior housing operating (SHO) portfolio, 173 are operated by Sunrise, making it the largest operator in the portfolio. Q42020 occupancy for the SHO portfolio sat at 77.6%, down from 86.5% in Q42019. Same-store NOI for the portfolio was down 33.8% year-over-year.
Callison praised Sunrise’s team members for their work during the pandemic, and cited the “extraordinary tenure” of many team members as a competitive differentiator for Sunrise.
“The cohesive, community level culture behind the Sunrise brand is something I expect to invest in heavily,” he said.
The “core values” of the Sunrise culture also appealed to him personally; he said their alignment with his own life goals and values was a motivating factor in his decision to take the CEO job.
“My priorities at Sunrise are to further enhance the organization’s deep family culture, continue to build upon the high standards of care we deliver, and to welcome even more families to this impressive portfolio of Sunrise communities,” he said. “I am truly passionate about building cohesive cultures, strong teams, and highly scalable operating platforms in mission-driven organizations.”