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The senior living industry has made great strides to regain margins lost during the pandemic over the last three years, and rate growth has been among operators’ primary tools for doing so.
Although many senior living companies are still mulling how much to raise rates in the year ahead, Atlas Senior Living Co-Founder and President Scott Goldberg believes another year of between 8% and 10% rent growth will be necessary to stay on the offensive with regard to margins.
As the company’s leaders think about rate increases in 2024, they are also keeping value and execution at the front of their minds.
“It’s a daily battle and it’s a daily balance,” Goldberg said during an appearance on SHN+ TALKS this week. “We have got to continue to try to execute and deliver … all while trying to also be sensitive to margin and budget.”
We are pleased to share the recording and this transcript of the SHN+ TALKS conversation with SHN+ members. Read on to learn about:
- How Atlas is balancing margins and expenses
- Why Goldberg is a proponent of another big year of rate growth in 2024
- Atlas’ growth strategy in the coming months and years
[00:00:05] Tim Regan: Good morning, everyone. I’m Tim Regan with Senior Housing News. Welcome to SHN+ TALKS. If you have joined us before, then you know that these are live interactive, and honest discussions with the people who are shaping the senior living industry today. I am very excited to be joined by Scott Goldberg. Scott is president and co-founder of Atlas Senior Living in Birmingham, Alabama. They’re an operator on the move.
They’ve got some new growth plans. We’re going to talk hopefully about that today. Also interesting, Atlas just had its first disposition in its 10-year history. It’s an exciting time for the company milestone. Scott, welcome. I’m very excited to talk with you.
Let’s start with just a state of play. We’re talking now in the third quarter. What are you seeing right now with regard to things like demand, move-ins, occupancy, et cetera?
[00:01:50] Scott Goldberg: Well, first of all, Tim, thank you, guys, for inviting me to join on behalf of Atlas. We appreciate all you guys do for the industry. Thanks for thinking of us. I don’t think Atlas is any different right now than what the rest of the industry is seeing with occupancy trends. It’s all positive and exciting. For example, if you look at our Q2 growth from Q1, in our portfolio — obviously excluding new communities — it was 4% growth.
I’m very happy about that. As we stand here, now, I had my last update with all the teams late last week. It looks like we’re tracking, knock on wood, to end July and commence Q3 with that momentum going forward. Again, excluding communities that are in that lease-up mode, it looks like we’re going to have the largest move-in [month] in the history of Atlas.
It’s, again, a positive trajectory with move-ins. It’s not just for us, thankfully. As I spend a lot of time talking to counterparts in the industry, they’re seeing this as well. I like to say that we’re great and we’re different, but I’m glad it’s great for the industry. Everyone’s seeing these positive move-in velocities. It makes me happy.
[00:03:58] Tim: Yes, me as well. Looking ahead to the rest of the year, it sounds like you’re feeling pretty optimistic?
[00:04:24] Scott: Very optimistic on the move-in side.
I’m sure we’ll get into this in a minute so I might be beating you to it. We’re still trying to figure out margin erosion from Covid. What’s the right balance? You’re trying to gain momentum and improve overall census but you can’t just give away the farm because you’re also trying to protect margins.
It’s the greatest example of a balancing act. As I said, we’re seeing really good things. But also don’t want to lose focus and make it all rainbows and unicorns, as they say, because we definitely as a company, as an industry, have our work cut out for us in trying to get margin under control.
[00:05:32] Tim: I actually wanted to ask you where you are seeing the biggest challenges right now. Is that the big one for you guys? Is there anything else in there?
[00:05:48] Scott: I think it’s fair at this point when you ask that question to not go to the de facto staffing answer. Of course, staffing is a challenge and I’m sure we’ll talk about that later too but to spare the listeners and to spare you guys from just the easy answer of staffing I would say the two big expenses that continue to increase as a line item that we’re seeing right now is utilities. Year-to-date, for example, utilities right now, 19% increase, 19%.
Then of course I’d say second place to staffing your ultimate response is insurance. Insurance, we’re seeing anywhere from 25% to 30% so it’s definitely a lot of challenges.
[00:07:12] Tim: I don’t want to put you on the spot, but as you were talking, these are two relatively uncontrollable expense items — especially insurance. Is there anything that you can do about that, or is this just something you have to make up in your operations somewhere?
[00:07:33] Scott: I’m going to be honest and open. I’m not sure those at Atlas that might potentially be listening might not be happy that I’m letting the cat out of the bag. One thing that we’re going to do — and we’re starting to prepare for that now — is, come October, we’re going to have an 8% to 10% portfolio-wide increase. I know it’s not going to be very popular. But, for example, we just talked about utilities being a 19% increase. We’re talking about anywhere from 8% to 10% increase.
If you were living at home, if you were in a single-family dwelling, you would be subject to a much higher increase, just looking at utilities. That’s before we even get into whatever your grocery habits would be in those increases, et cetera, et cetera. It’s all how you handle it.
We’ve got a great team and we’re going to make sure we do our job at the corporate office, and provide them with as much support and as many tools as we can. But to answer your question, that’s one thing we’re going to do to combat those expenses.
[00:08:59] Tim: We’ve talked about some of the items that have been stubbornly high in cost. Is there anything that was once high in cost that has fallen, or an area where you’re seeing relief?
[00:09:22] Scott: Yes, great question. I’m going to speak out of both sides of my mouth a little bit because I avoided giving you the de facto staffing answer to your question earlier about pressures.
Portfolio-wide, we have zero agency in our buildings. I could not have answered that and told you that this time last year. We were getting better last year at this time with removing agency but, knock on wood, as it stands right now, we have zero agency in our buildings and are working hard on cutting down on overtime as well. Of course that continues to be an item that we’ve got to try to smooth out a little bit.
[00:10:15] Tim: As you’re hiring folks, do you feel like you’re just basically building back your workforce and you’re just filling your lost roles?
[00:11:21] Scott: Yes and no. It’s interesting. Where we feel we have an MVP as the captain of our ship, the executive director, it seems like all of those factors with staffing, from A to Z, are significantly less. Where we do not have that MVP, that rockstar executive director, it feels like we hear more about staffing issues, et cetera, et cetera. It’s so leadership-specific. It really is. Overall no, I’m not prepared to say I feel like it’s going to be normal anytime soon when it comes to staffing, but it’s definitely getting better.
[00:12:33] Tim: Not at the crisis levels, it sounds like for sure.
[00:12:36] Scott: If I had a senior housing magic wand, I would wave it and just get more young people straight out of college into senior housing. I think we could significantly combat our staffing issue if we as an industry do a better job of recruiting and attracting those that are just leaving college.
[00:13:16] Tim: Do you agree with me that the perception of the industry needs to change among younger workers?
[00:13:49] Scott: Absolutely, it starts and ends with that. I would love to just go show up on a college campus. I feel I’d get kicked out for being some weirdo, but if you went to a college campus and polled 20 kids, I bet it would be a significantly high percentage who, if you talked to them about our industry, would immediately just assume we’re in skilled care.
They would use the word facility versus community. It’s a nursing home. It’s a bad place to be versus what it really is. Absolutely. I think that is one of the biggest challenges.
[00:14:36] Tim: What do you think the industry can do to help change that perception?
[00:14:47] Scott: I wish I had the answer to that. I do think, naturally though, it’s getting better. One good positive about all this development growth — although it slowed down — is that heading into 2019 people were getting way more educated on what senior housing really is or could be by seeing these new large buildings where people looked like they were having a good time.
I do think it is natural that our industry just by its growth has helped mold that perception a little bit but look, we all probably as an industry should spend more time and energy talking about that topic. Is there something we can collectively try to do? Rightfully so, we always get together and we’re talking about everything that we talked about when we started this interview. It was we’re talking about the census and then we’re talking about expenses, so anyways.
[00:16:06] Tim: One last thing on the staffing front. I don’t remember who I was talking with but I had a conversation a little bit ago about job fairs specifically, and there was a senior living operator — again, I don’t actually remember which — but they were talking about showing up at job fairs and how consistently they were the only senior living operator at any job fair that they signed up for. I found it really interesting, it seems like an opportunity to stand out.
[00:16:29] Scott: Oh, yes.
[00:16:30] Tim: All right, let’s talk about sales and marketing. As you’re preparing to raise rates, how do you also think about the value proposition so that it is clear during that discussion with prospects?
[00:17:41] Scott: If you’re not making a resident feel that value or experience that value, raising rates is going to be the ultimate test. You’re going to know quickly. Look, it’s a daily battle and it’s a daily balance. We have got to continue to try to execute and deliver what we are trying to accomplish in a community all while trying to also be sensitive to margin and budget. Look, that’s the daily grind right there.
[00:18:33] Tim: We had an audience question come in here while you were talking. This is a tack-on to the staffing question that we had a little bit ago. You mentioned recent college graduates and youth in the industry. The question is, has Atlas had any success with the younger demographic? And to provide examples for that.
[00:18:58] Scott: In a lot of our communities where independent living is the majority and dining is a little bit more full-scale, our executive directors and dining directors and the rest of their team, they have done an amazing job of showing them what an independent living atmosphere is, and it’s very flexible with their schedule.
Don’t shy away from going to recruit those youngsters and showing them, because they do not know what the environment really is, and it’s amazing. Not only is it flexible for their hours but genuinely, once they get in there, they enjoy the interaction with the residents and obviously vice versa. It becomes a huge win-win.
But the challenge is, it’s hard to sell that to someone. You’ve really got to bring them in because it’s an atmosphere that you have to see and experience before you really know what it is.
[00:20:25] Tim: Yes, totally. Great question from our audience. We had a conversation at NIC before the pandemic about, I think, Ralph Lauren-themed spaces. That fits into my next question: Can you describe what you think the boomers are going to want and how you’re preparing for that at Atlas?
[00:21:24] Scott: I do remember that conversation. It felt like 100 years ago.
First off, I would say the whole Ralph Lauren theme, that is not something we’ve done as a cookie-cutter throughout all of our developments. The Ralph Lauren theme came because we were specifically talking about our Lexington project, which has a whole equestrian feel to it. Of course, we didn’t want to go too overboard with the equestrian theme. We wanted to make the space very social. We got our liquor license at the time, which was what, eight or nine years ago now?
I think we were probably one of the first few in senior housing that actually went through the process to get a liquor license. That’s where the Ralph Lauren theme came from. It was really to fit that Lexington, Kentucky, market and play a little bit off the equestrian theme. As we continued to roll out those types of projects, what I think we’ve done a really good job of and what we’ve been extremely sensitive to. One thing that I’m very proud of is we’ve not done cookie-cutter designs.
We have been very purposed in our design and build based on the market that we’re actually going into. What you want your social bar area to look like in Columbus, Georgia is very different from what we did in Lexington, Kentucky, and Venice, Florida; and what we’re doing in Texas right now — and so on. Having that awareness and trying to avoid the rinse-and-repeat mentality and design is one thing. Making those spaces as socially functional as possible. I think we were right in our mindset with what we did.
Also, we were very purposeful in utilizing spaces and buildings that were less traveled. For example, we will have main street and do all the design and bells and whistles and functionality for main street, but this specific bar, social area, we would always try to put on the second floor in an area that was typically quiet and less traveled.
Those are things that we did. It sounds simple, but you have to go do it. We really believe by doing that, as our resident population is becoming increasingly more of the boomers, we’re having success with it.
I can tell you, it’s a hell of a time when you go visit these communities. Now, happy hour starts early, but going to these happy hours and being with the teams and being with the residents and enjoying that space with them, it’s awesome. It’s fun.
[00:25:00] Tim: I remember I had a conversation with a leader at an operator a while ago who had this interesting view of senior living in the future: Older adults chomping on cigars at the cigar bar, swiping on their dating apps, sipping bourbon neat, something like that. Are you looking to conjure something a little similar for your incoming residents from that boomer generation? Do you think they will want something like that?
[00:25:28] Scott: Absolutely. That’s the goal. Getting those to gather, whatever their habits are, whether it’s bourbon, wine, cigars, playing shuffleboard, shooting pool, or just sitting there talking, congregating, and socializing all before dinner — which is the typical trend — and seeing them come back after dinner. That’s the goal. That’s socialization. It’s simple but if you can build space, create that environment, I think that’s half the battle with what we’re trying to do, right?
[00:26:19] Tim: Absolutely. I mentioned a little bit ago, our BRAIN event in D.C.. We heard all kinds of interesting trends in memory care. I actually just wrote a story about this. This is fresh in my mind, but one of the panels that I hosted was about luxury in memory care specifically. Atlas focuses also on some of the finer things in life. How do you extend those to more clinical settings like AL memory care? Do you feel you can do that easily?
[00:27:14] Scott: Look, it’s difficult. Let’s talk about memory care, for example. Let’s talk about memory care in the setting of an AL-memory care community. Often memory care it’s a little forgotten about, if I’m being honest, from a design standpoint. That’s sad. I can’t say that we’re perfect in that sense but I can tell you some things that we’ve done to be mindful of it. It’s really making sure it’s getting the same amount of attention and design and functionality.
You’re getting that same input that you get from them as you design the IL and the AL. It’s really just making it part of the conversation like everything else. Again, you have to be careful and obviously sensitive to putting a design in to be fancy or a luxury that creates a potential risk for a memory care resident. You’ve got to balance it all, of course. That’s my answer from a design standpoint.
It’s similar in programming as well. We at Atlas created a whole program around memory care, and it’s called SPIRIT programming. I won’t bore you with all the details but we gave it a brand, put programming around it, and gave it structure just like everything else. It still comes down to the execution.
Implementing technology is obviously a big buzzword in senior housing. Making sure you’re implementing all that new great technology and memory care as well whether it’s virtual reality and so on. Those are things that we’re doing. I hate to be vanilla but it’s really just blocking and tackling and just making sure memory care is part of that.
[00:30:04] Tim: Absolutely. We’re about halfway through our discussion here.
As you look out on the market, is there any technology, in particular that you think shows a lot of promise or something that’s on the horizon that you’re particularly excited about?
[00:30:48] Scott: Yes, I’m not going to get in trouble and slip up and drop a vendor’s name, so I’m going to be careful with that.
Look, it’s a joke around our office. It’s every day. Whether it’s someone on the clinical side or someone on the sales side, there’s a new technology outside of their budget bucket and they’re coming to us to try to get approval for. It is a category that’s tough to navigate. Look, all the virtual reality, of course, that’s front and center of telemedicine. That’s huge, I have to figure out what’s the right fit on that front.
Then the biggest thing that we’re seeing that is specifically in our AL and memory care is the fall prevention. The way that has gotten so specific, it’s changing by the day. I’m just waiting for someone to come up with a senior housing app that collects it all and tells you which ones. I’m not sure what’s trickier — I was trying to figure out the best fit for senior housing technology, or which streaming devices are best. It’s ever-changing. It’s important. We definitely are utilizing it and definitely focused on it.
[00:32:42] Tim: I’m going to throw you a follow-up. As you were talking earlier, I think you’d mentioned a little bit about how you budget for new technology. That to me is a fascinating process. How do you decide where you put your money? How does that process work?
[00:33:16] Scott: [laughs] We’re still trying to figure that one out. Look, you’ve got to lean on your people and listen to them, and make them very conscious and aware that when they come to you because in the technology budget, I promise you, it has gone quickly. Being able to allow them the open door and make sure they’re prepared to come show you why and how.
You definitely have to allocate the time because of the learning curve. As leaders and gatekeepers of the company, you also don’t want to be flippant just because you’re annoyed, and it’s the 15th request for the latest greatest technology. You do have to balance those emotions and try to get educated on whatever is being presented and give that energy and time.
[00:34:36] Tim: One more quick one on tech, just because I feel like this is a question that I ask people in almost every TALKS. What do you make of these robots we see going around communities? On the one hand, they’re very cool. On the other hand, other than bussing food and maybe helping with telehealth visits, I still don’t know what the use case is. Do you have any thoughts specifically on the robots that we see in communities now?
[00:35:00] Scott: Maybe we’re going to be last and miss out on this, but we’re going to observe and watch all the other smart and innovative people in the senior housing operational world. As I said, we might be last, but we’re going to observe them and watch them and see how it plays out, because I don’t have an opinion on that. There’s some challenges there as well.
[00:35:33] Tim: In 2020 you opened up a lab related to testing. I thought that was always a cool effort and it was forward-thinking. I remember we had talked about this before the call, but you guys said you were among the only senior living companies in the country at the time that were doing this. Can you tell us more about those efforts, what you did there, and then link it to anything that you’re doing now, if you can link it to that?
[00:36:14] Scott: For timeline purposes, it was literally at the very beginning of Covid. It was April, call it April 2020. I can’t pretend it was just a light switch and we decided we need to figure out this whole Covid testing thing. That was not the case. It was just dumb luck. We were literally in the middle with a diagnostics company that was locally here, just going back and forth and trying to figure out some synergies and how we could do business, because obviously, diagnostics is a huge need among our resident population.
This specific lab had started — at the time I had no clue what it meant — but PCR testing. Some of those conversations had already started. Obviously, they had not been concluded. Then this thing called Covid happened. Then it clicked where we were like, “Ah, PCR testing.” This was when the supply chain was starting to become an issue, but the bigger issue was lab turnaround. In our office, we were literally watching one of the Covid updates from the White House. A question was asked or directed to, at the time, Vice President Pence. He literally dropped the name of the lab. He said, there are five labs in America that have been approved for PCR testing that did not have to send those results to the CDC.
If you remember, early on, all those results had to go there, which created a time lag and had nothing to do with supply chain. We were like, “We’ve got to pick up those conversations again.” Long story short, we picked up those conversations, and I want to say by early May, Atlas and this lab had joined forces and created a company. They were going to start directing their testing more towards what we were doing in our communities, and of course, others in the industry that I had close relationships with, we opened it up to them as well.
It allowed us to, first and most importantly, get our regional support teams back in the communities. A lot of companies, no disrespect, but they were leading their community managers from their sofa.
We took about a month off and figured out a way to safely get those people back in the community. We did that through obviously the lab. We could get results back in 24, 48 hours. That was the first thing, getting that support, getting that regional support back into the community so the managers didn’t feel like they were on an island.
Then, obviously, next to that and equally as important, is how we could continue to move in new residents safely. Instead of new resident Mr. Smith, for example, instead of him moving into a unit and waiting two weeks to get the results back before he could go about the community, you had to get those two negative PCR, so we could get it back in 24, max 48 hours. We could remove the isolation piece. Then, of course, it was a method to also try to help keep the staff safe and also our existing residents. It was a big deal. We were popular for a week during that time. Those were interesting times. Thank you for bringing that up. It was an important piece in Atlas’s history, for sure.
[00:41:00] Tim: I’m curious, is there any collaboration with that lab now or have you moved on?
[00:41:06] Scott: Absolutely. We’re still using them for a lot of our diagnostics, where it makes sense and based on geography in our communities. That relationship is still there from A to Z, with testing and all. Absolutely.
[00:41:28] Tim: I want to spend the last part of our discussion here talking about the future. One part of that is growth. I know that you’re always thinking about growth.
I want to actually get your take on an opportunity that I think is among the biggest opportunities for growth right now. It’s probably also the hardest, which is the middle-market.
It seems like if you are an active adult, maybe on IL, that’s a little bit of an easier thing to do. It seems like, though, AL memory care, especially in the middle market is like, “How do we make this math work?”
Taking into account that there’s still probably a lot of this still needs to be figured out, what do you make of this middle market opportunity? The millions of people who are going to want senior living but might not be able to afford it.
[00:42:40] Scott: I’m going to be specific. I disagree with the definition of middle-market. I really do. I think that is who our resident population is in our IL, AL. It is that middle-market and above. I think we’re serving the middle market. I think we view the middle-market differently, perhaps.
How are they going to be able to enter these communities? Obviously, I don’t have an answer for that. I think it’s a tough issue for our society. I think it’s a hard egg to crack and it’s even getting harder for obvious reasons of everything we talked about earlier. I think we are servicing the middle market and servicing them well. I think that’s another one of those misunderstood stereotypes, that to live in a private-pay senior housing environment, you have to be wealthy.
A lot of our residents are getting subsidies from all sources if it’s not their own, whether it’s VA benefits, long-term care, adult children subsidizing. Their own economic bracket is not as high as you think. Our industry/society, to your point, does have a huge issue. I just think it’s more along those that are living in affordable housing right now as they become of age.
[00:45:00] Tim: I don’t want to put you on the spot with this one either, but we’ve heard a lot of people in the AL memory care space, a lot more than I’ve ever heard in the past, talking now about maybe, “Are federal reimbursements part of the picture?” I don’t know if you have any opinion on that.
[00:45:24] Scott: I’m not getting into that. It’s a fair question and a topic that I think a lot want to talk about. I think it’s a topic that a lot do not want to talk about in our space. I’m not going to get into value-based care, but that’s another hot topic. I think they, in a way, go hand in hand, because you could easily see one coming after the other. I’m not going to touch that topic right now, sorry.
[00:46:13] Tim: Something that was important to me to get to today was talking about this disposition that you guys just had. I read over some of the specifications from, I think it was like a broker’s email. The community seemed like it was doing fairly well. It was highly occupied, so it seemed like this was a good opportunity for you guys.
Tell me more about that and what made now the right time to make your first disposition as a company, given all of these other challenges with pricing and things of that nature.
[00:46:48] Scott: Yes, it was our first disposition, and yes, one would assume there was a lot of happiness. I’ll say, I had a lot of anxiety selling our first community.
[00:47:07] Tim: I can imagine.
[00:47:08] Scott: I had some sleepless nights on whether we were doing the right or wrong thing. I don’t know how to better compare. I felt like I was selling one of my kids. It was very, very, very tough for me. Luckily, it was strategic on many fronts, and I’ll talk about who we sold it to, which is Kirco, a great group out of the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. That was a huge reason that we were open to selling it, as we saw them as someone that we see the senior housing world similar and bullish on our industry and felt like this was not a one-off deal with them.
Obviously, we stayed in it, not just as Atlas as the operating company, but the principles of Atlas are still part of the new group that owns it. We didn’t totally lose our baby. We’re just sharing them right now. It was a win-win. It really was. It’s a great community. Stayed full during Covid, maintained rate. It’s just an amazing community.
Our capital stack is, as you’ve heard before, very different from your traditional equity and senior housing. It’s the principles of Atlas and a few friends and family. Some people call it steak dinner capital. We were hitting that year-eight with them. We had gone through a few economic life cycles of the community with bridge and refi and everything.
We just felt like we had very attractive fixed-agency debt. You put all that together and we were at year-eight and wanted to move that original group on so they could recycle. There was not one specific reason, it’s just one of those unique deals. It was really one of those unique deals where I truly feel like everybody got what they wanted and left the table feeling good about it. Big shout out to Blueprint for handling that transaction. It went about as you would want it to go, as seamless as possible, and so big shout out to them.
[00:50:24] Tim: Given that milestone now immediately behind you, what other avenues of growth do you see ahead for Atlas, this year and beyond this year?
[00:50:48] Scott: Growth is [laughs] an interesting topic right now.
Look, it’s tough times right now, if you’re trying to build. If this was us 10 years ago when we started Atlas, oh my God, it would be so hard for us. The debt market, your banks are pretty much on the sideline, right? They’re monitoring and managing their existing commercial real estate portfolio. They’re not allocating time and resources, and then just the pricing alone. It’s so hard to model a deal right now. How do you even forecast debt conservatively? You can’t, so it’s hard. Everybody says it’s hard.
It’s really almost a standstill, right? The good news is, and what I’m excited about is, right now, if you’ve got good buildings, if you’ve got good markets, and even more importantly, you’ve got great people, you’re poised to have tremendous success. You’ve had pretty much a moratorium on shovels. While growth is not a fun topic right now in senior housing, although there’s a lot of opportunity, it’s also, there’s a reset.
You can be a pessimist and look at it that way, or you can be an optimist and focus on your good buildings, your good markets. If you don’t have good people, get great people. The opportunity that’s coming is our philosophy and how we’re looking at it — we’re still looking at deals. It’s just hard to make them pencil.
[00:52:49] Tim: Forgive me if you just mentioned this, but are you looking at more things on the development side right now, or more on the acquisition side?
[00:52:56] Scott: Acquisition side. We are very positioned well. We feel like we’re still going to be crazy conservative, but buildings that might just be in a horrible debt place, I feel like we’ve done a good job of keeping powder dry. And more importantly, we have our regional operational human capital we’ve invested in to be able to strategically take on more communities. What I mean by that is we do feel like it’s started, but it’s going to come in spades more at the end of this year.
Of course, next year where you’ve got, as I mentioned earlier, buildings that have debt issues, whether it’s a maturity this year or just a loan on an arm that no one could have kept up with. That’s two, three, four years vintage, little to no CapEx. I don’t want to use the word ‘excited’, but we are definitely, from a business standpoint, have positioned ourselves to take on those opportunities.
[00:54:24] Tim: As you look ahead for the rest of this year and into the beginning of next year, what are you excited about right now? What gives you hope? Then, what is still on your ‘I’m worried about this’ list?
[00:55:13] Scott: Yes, good question. I hate to be repetitive, but what I’m most excited about is what I just talked about, which is good buildings, good markets, good staff. Wow, the future has the potential to be pretty damn good, right? That’s what I’m most excited about.
I’m also excited that we’re continuing — and I’m not trying to be the eternal optimist here — but we truly are, as an industry, continuing to move out of the margin compression that we’ve been in. Staffing’s getting better, the perception of our industry’s getting better.
It’s like everyday that goes by, all of those categories are improving. We can’t forget how we felt and where we were two years ago, right? It was like, “Let’s fast forward. Let’s get through this.” It’s so encouraging every day that goes by, a lot of those– whether it’s the stereotypes or the staffing, all of that is getting so much better.
[00:56:41] Tim: As I said, we just had this event in D.C., and a lot of the folks I talk with, when I would ask them, “How’s business?” The thing that they would say was, “Well, it’s not where we want it to be, but it’s better than it was a year ago. For that, we are very thankful.”
[00:57:01] Scott: Yes, I got the best advice and if he’s on here, he is going to get a plug as well. I remember talking to the godfather of senior housing when Covid first started and we were on lock, we were going through all the stuff we were going through, [Chicago Pacific Co-Founder] Mr. John Rijos, he gave me the best advice, and it was simple. And it was from old Churchill, but still. He said, “When you’re going through hell, keep going.” As an industry, I feel like we’ve kept going and here we are and you can see the sunshine coming out. It’s exciting.
[00:57:42] Tim: Yes. Absolutely. I want to talk about something I feel passionately and that is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Obviously, this is something that I think the industry has made its strides on. It’s also something that I think a lot of operators could do a heck of a lot better with. How do you turn DEI words into action at Atlas?
[00:58:22] Scott: You’ve had a million great questions. That was your best one. I would invite you to join a call we do every Friday morning with all of our regionals — from clinical to ops to sales, all of the leadership from all of our regions. It’s about 20 people.
To answer your DEI question, which I’m passionate about, and share your same view, I would encourage you to come, hop on that Zoom call with us and you can see DEI, you can see our actions. We are a minority-led company. The individuals that are in the leadership and management that they are in that fit the DEI category conversation, they were the most qualified candidate for those positions. I just think it’s an extra advantage and benefit when you have people of different walks of life, regardless of their skillset. What those individuals can bring to a company is unmeasured.
You’re looking at the melting pot of America when you’re on that call and that touches my heart, makes me so happy. You know what? It’s good business, too. Not the optics of it, it is the substance, the functionality. It’s those perspectives that are brought. I can go on and on and on and talk about it, but come look at our actions. I would love for you to come join our call.
[01:00:39] Tim: I’m sure we could spend another hour talking, but we’ll have to wrap it up here. Thank you for coming on SHN+ Talks. Thank you for sharing all this with our audience. It was a great time. I really had fun.
[01:01:00] Scott: Likewise. Thank you.