NIC Chats

Gaurie Rodman - Episode 4

July 20, 2021 National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care
NIC Chats
Gaurie Rodman - Episode 4
Show Notes Transcript

Host Beth Mace sits down with Gaurie Rodman, Director of Development Services at Aptura, a Direct Supply Company to learn her vision for the future of senior housing design, including meeting the needs of the ‘forgotten middle,’ and evolving the senior living built environment post-pandemic. You’ll also hear about Rodman’s emigration to Milwaukee from Sri Lanka with two suitcases and $20, her first business, her host moms, and her connection to the world of rock and roll!  

Speaker 1:

Welcome to NIC Chats, ideas and inspiration from senior living leaders with hosts, Beth mace , next chief economist, and director of outreach. Get to know some of the people influencing senior living today and perhaps learn a thing or two from their experiences.

Beth:

Hello, and welcome to the NIC chats podcast. My name is Beth mace and I am the chief economist and director of the research and analytics team here at NIC . I am so happy that you can join us today. The focus of the NIC chats podcast is talking to people that I find interesting with ideas that I think you'd like to hear as you listen today. I hope that you will find some humor, insights, inspiration, and hopefully what I call an aha moment when something pithy or insightful is said, and a light bulb may go off for you. Now, let me tell you a bit more about the NIC map podcast series. Each podcast has a standard structure. First, I will tell you three statements about my guests and two are true throughout the podcast you'll learn, which is true in which is false. Second. There are three standard questions within each podcast for each speaker. The first is what's the largest challenge facing our industry. Second, what is one thing we can do to grow talent in our industry? And third, what is one innovative way or idea to strengthen our industry? Now, before I begin, I also want to let you know that Nick is having an in-person conference in November, November 1st, second, and third in Houston. And it will be one of our standard NIC fall conferences. So we hope that you will register and we'll see you there now, as I say on with the show, so I'm delighted that our fourth NIC Chats podcast is with Gaurie Rodman. Gaurie is the director of planning services at apertura a direct supply company. Gaurie, thank you for joining us today.

Gaurie:

Thanks Beth. I'm very excited to be here.

Beth:

Great. So as I mentioned, I have three statements about Gaurie. One is true and two are not. So these statements that will reveal to you during the course of our discussion today are that Gaurie can speak three languages. That gory has three host moms. And the third is that she went on tour with a violent femmes in concert. So stay tuned and we'll find out more, which of those is true. So gory , you are the director of planning services at Aptura direct supply company. Can you tell listeners about app tour?

Gaurie:

Sure. Um, so do understand aptura you had the first time understand , send direct supply. So direct supply, many of you know, it, we are a product company focusing singularly on the seniors housing and now tangentially on the acute care world. Um, we started off as a product business employee owned 35 years in the making. Um, it's an amazing place as , um, our founder and CEO is Bob Hillis. When he, the company, one of the things he's talked about was trying to find work within one singular industry. So we're focused on seniors housing, and as we brought product to the marketplace, if clients asked us for support, one of the things they came to us was needing support on the real estate side of it. How do we design, how do we position? What do we do? We have the product, but have product has to sit in a building that was a Genesis of apertura after has been around for about 20 plus years. And we do everything from planning through design and construction for the seniors housing industry. Um, one of the things about direct supply and apertura is, is we do, we work in the product business. We work in the real estate piece of it. We don't finance projects and we don't operate seniors housing. It gives us a really interesting place to work from, and that's what AFTRA does.

Beth:

And what about you? What did , what do you do specifically at up tour?

Gaurie:

So me, I lead our strategic planning and kind of real estate solutions component of the projects. So I get engaged very early on with, and my clients. It's fascinating. It's operators, it's the funders. It's trying to figure out as we put capital into real estate and as real estate tries to adapt itself to the needs of the operators and the residents, how do we balance all of those pieces together and more so than any other industry in seniors housing? I believe that planning is essential because first of all, we don't have the luxury of making mistakes. We have to be adaptive. We need to meet current needs and future needs in order to balance all of those sometimes opposing and contradictory needs a plan is essential. So that's really my place. And in more so now than ever, we have to also bring innovation and technology into the mix as we'll talk about as you move forward.

Beth:

So how did the pandemic affect your business or how do you think it's going to affect your business going forward? Well, a couple

Gaurie:

Of different ways. So last year when the pandemic hit, as we all know, you know , uh , Bob hill says this all the time, direct supplies , um, we, we S we are successful when our operators access exfil and we know how challenging last year was for the operators . So one of the things that as a company we did is we did three big things. Number one was we sat and listened to many operators across the industry, all spec set segments of the industry, all different levels, the high-end , uh , operators to the affordable, moderate income to the middle-income and try to understand how we can help. We also have a international supply chain. So we quickly pivoted and brought and worked with our operators to get PPE over to our operators. That was one of the first big things we did. Second thing we did was recognize that there are going to be big challenges around , um, the fi the financial aspects of the industry occupancy was dropping cost of service rising. So Bob Hillis and his daughter, Genevieve, who leads our government affairs work very closely, Washington DC to get the billions of dollars that came to the industry. It was the second thing we did internally for us. What we did was Bob hill has also made a commitment to all of our owner partners, that we are not going to let anybody go. So as a company of over 1200 employees, we pivoted quickly to work remotely. We also kept everyone in place. We transitioned and worked in different segments of the company to support what are our, what our clients needed in after particular. You know, obviously many projects went on hold because we couldn't get into the buildings to do the work and capital needed to be , uh , deployed for other areas. Having said that we had a lot of clients who decided to spend the time and , um, leverage the fact that we had designers who had capacity and availability and get documents and drawings completed so that when not if, when the market changes, they're ready to hit the market with approvals and bidding and starting the construction. So that was really good. Um, the other thing we did was we pulled together all of our designers, and we really started to say, as we're hearing more and more from our operators, this is a pivotal moment for the industry. And I actually think it's a pivotal moment in general that we absolutely need to figure out how our real estate could better support operations and the needs of our residents, right? Because our operators that yeoman services around the infrastructure they had, but our buildings can do a lot, lot better. And so we did a lot of research, a lot of studies, a lot of collaboration and work around trying to figure out, you know, how do we, how do we create environments that are better suited fundamentally to the needs and something like a pandemic while COVID, you know, it's going through its ampersand flows , the idea of a contagion disease hitting a frail population is going to come up. And so what

Beth:

Would be one example of the, of an idea that came out of that?

Gaurie:

Oh my gosh. So the, one of the biggest ideas is the idea of taking , uh , taking these larger projects and breaking them into smaller component pieces. So creating kind of environments within environments, marrying the best of the household models with what we need as larger congregate model, because there's the economics that we have to balance, right? Like we talked about that before. So one of the things we've done is could we take a building that's 160 units and actually create 10, 16 unit households. And if those households, and when I talk households, it's not only around the care and the amenity spaces, but air quality access to the outdoors visitation rooms, like literally be able to break that building, imagine in a world like that, how much better it would have been for those residents based on where their frailties and their illnesses are and where their needs are, how we can work. And I think that in terms of an ongoing strategy, this entire fear of people coming into our industry around, I don't want to live with my hundred unknown best friends. Now we can break it into smaller households, right? Like we can be more creative as operators and providers to say, you know, like for like, let's, let's build smaller communities that are much more tangible and approachable. So I think that was a really good idea that came from it. Great.

Beth:

Thank you. So , um, let me switch a little bit. So during this last year, increasingly we're hearing more about focus on ESG in DEI, diversity, equity, inclusion, environmental, and social governance. So are you seeing any of that at up tour or direct supply or even with your clients?

Gaurie:

Absolutely. And at all levels. So with ESG, you know, we were, we were very much ahead of that. So one of the things that , um , we did a direct supply is we developed a long list of all the products that currently meet ESG just on the product side of it. Right. And we actually have been working with a lot of the REITs sharing that information and those products, that's one component of it. Like, do we have the right products out there? One of the things that we also brought to market is NPBI, which is needle point bipolar ionization , which is a technology that ionizes the air and removes 99% of pathogens. We've done it. We've actually believe in it so much across our campuses, all of our buildings we have NDPI. Um, so we're starting to integrate that. When I talked about the research, we did, ESG is inherently built into that. The other side of it that we looked at is the entire financing model, right? Because when we talk about ESG and bringing them into buildings, there's a cost factor too , but there is a social cost factor to it that I think more and more funders are bringing options and strategies that we talk about pace, right? Like different funding mechanisms. The interesting thing is, is CDN housing rarely takes advantage of those kinds of funds. We're not an industry that, that particularly looks at TIF money or any kind of TIF money is tech tax, incremental financing, the government kind of subsidy funding. I actually believe to , especially to meet the middle market need. We have to be far more creative. Historically. I have done a lot of work with leveraging all of those because we have to find ways to reduce the cost of capital and to be able to bring capital into cover some of the ad-ons per se , that actually have huge social consequences, but come at a cost.

Beth:

So, you know, let me, let me switch , um, in 2019, so you and I have known each other for a pretty long time and in 2019, you and I were on a panel discussing the , then released results on NIC's forgotten middle study, which estimated that the size of the middle income seniors market would double by the year 20, 29 to more than 14 million persons. The research concluded that more than half of this group would not have the financial resources for seniors housing and show that this group would have significant care and mobility needs. So what are your thoughts on servicing this underserved market, especially in the context of what you were just talking about in terms of ESG?

Gaurie:

Oh my gosh. So lots of thoughts about that. I think that , um, the solution for middle-market is multi-layered and I think it begins with actually looking at where we place our product and what our product is. Right. I don't think the middle market, if we , we have squeezed in every different way, assisted living memory care, skilled nursing, to try to bring costs out of that, to make it more affordable, but we keep trying to do it with the same operating model, the same piece of real estate. Right. I think that fundamentally has to change. And I do think one of the things good consequences of what we went through in 2020 is that we're more adapt to change. Like there's more agile, more agile, right? Like we recognize, and our consumer is on board with us. So part of, part of the struggle, and I think we kind of forget about this is that we keep looking internally to ourselves as an industry saying , how do we change? How do we change? But the conversation has to change amongst our potential residents and their adult children. Also, I think 2020 change the land conversation. So with the middle market, the idea of a product that's somewhat different. Um, I keep envisioning technology enabled real estate environments that are almost like apartment buildings that can do the monitoring of somebody's safety and security and their connection to clinical needs in, in an environment that can take on a lot of that, taking out a little bit of the staffing challenges we have and the staffing costs that we have. So if we can and creating environments where somebody has the ability to age in place, we're at apertura, we kind of look at, when we look at planning for seniors housing, we look at it under three pathways. We talk at number one is a clinical pathway, right? Like for every resident, as you're getting frailer and older, the clinical pathways are really important thing. That's a need, right? Like it's not a want, it is, it is a need. You have to have that. You have to have that, right. So what does that clinical pathway and how do we engage it ? Innovation technology, real estate location, real estate partnerships, all play a huge role in that. The second pathway is health and wellness. So once you're in a community, how does that environment be the best environment for you to be healthy? And I'm only talking about the health component. So this is where ESG and the idea of healthy buildings, natural light, good ventilation, connectivity to act access to , um, amenities, spaces, easily. All of that is under the health and wellness pathway. The third pathways lifestyle is social engagement, again, location technology, those connectivities, and the right people at the right spot. So how do we leverage, we know we're coming into a precipice around staffing, right? We're already beginning to see it coming out of this today. What is it? There are for every potential Cedar resident there , seven caregivers right out in the marketplace. That's by 2030, that drops down to what, four, four to one, four to one, right? So the need doesn't change. The number is growing. So what is the intervention? And I think one of the biggest interventions is technology enabled environments now. And can

Beth:

You do that in a cost-effective way that would service the forgotten middle?

Gaurie:

I think you can, as long as the technologies and innovations you bring to the play marketplace are totally closely tied to operating model. You can't have one or the other and technology can't be just like hanging a piece of artwork. It's gotta be an integrated technology that, that leverage his expertise. So , um, one example, I'm going to sort of pull one out of the safe . You we've talked about that, right? Like, so they are a technology that has visual cameras on residents, watches falls, right? It is fundamentally a simple thing with AI behind it, the beauty

Speaker 4:

Of it, artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence. Thank you.

Gaurie:

Um , is that it is backed up by a group of experts that can technology allows us to monitor the event quickly, get that information, but it gets into the hands of somebody that knows what they're talking about. That gets to the operations team. The operation intervention is done not only to deal with that issue, but to systemically change how we serve that particular resident. So the outcomes are phenomenal, right? So here's the middle-market thing. If the outcomes are that we reduced falls by 40%, if we've decreased, ER admits by almost 80% and we've increased length of stay by nine months. Now we're talking about something that significantly impacts cost to serve, which is begins to translate into what we can say .

Beth:

It's a, win win all the way. Okay. So, so let me, let me, let me switch subjects a little bit. Um, I want to talk a little bit more about you for a moment. So tell us a little bit about your career path and any lessons that you've learned that you may want to share with , um , our listeners. Uh , what obstacles did you have to overcome to become that , you know, in the position that you're in today? Oh

Gaurie:

God, that's a very long-winded conversation. So I'm kind of an odd duck. I , um , I , I'm kind of a global citizen. I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin my first 10 years, because both my parents came here in the sixties as Fulbright scholars to do their masters and PhDs. I lend , went back to Sri Lanka, which is where I'm from and did middle school, high school and college there. I studied architecture and structural engineering of all things. Um, in 1990 in the middle of a war, I turned up in Milwaukee because my family had lived here and had friends here. So I have these host moms , um, they're friends of my mom and dad's and , um, I turned up in Milwaukee with two suitcases and $20 cash. Oh yeah . That's all the government would allow my parents to give me to come here and I didn't fall flat on my face. I just did great. I , um, ended up getting a , uh, my undergrad completing my undergraduate in architecture and then did architecture and urban planning. One of the things about me is that I , I have a really good sense of who I am and what drives me. I'm also, I have a very entrepreneurial spirit. So when I graduated from college and started my first job as an architect, I did a lot of historic preservation work and our catch-all work, but I also realized that I wanted something more. So I ended up actually investing in buying my own student housing portfolio with , um, he did, I did well. Um, so I went from, you know , uh , zero to 50 units at about three to four years. And then after that started my own real estate development company with my , this is with my now ex husband. We did , um, info , sustainable , um, moderate income housing in partnership. We did the first public , um , green subdivision in the city of Milwaukee. And I also, in order for me to do that, we also, I also joined the Milwaukee school of engineering faculty. So I taught there for 10 years while I was working in a consulting, planning, consulting, as well as doing my real estate. Um,

Beth:

So that's pretty busy and you have two children. You have, you have, you have some children, we're not going to tell exactly how many of you have some children. So how do you balance that? I think we , you and I have talked about, we were talking as prepping for this call and it was really interesting how you, how you figured out how to balance this all in your life.

Gaurie:

So a couple things like again, and this kind of goes to the inclusion and diversity thing, because I also, I firmly believe that , um, we've been having lots of conversations in direct supply about I N D M R and D council. I'm at the women's initiative network. I and D is inclusion and diversity. Thank you . Um, and then also on the women's initiative network, which I led a couple of years ago, and now I'm part of the executive team for direct supply. And one of the things that we also always found about, and I'm a huge proponent of is the notion of authenticity. So when we talk about how I navigated all of the crazy busy life and, and my children and all of their extracurricular activities, while having my own company I'm working is that I had a really good sense of what are priorities to me. You know, once I decided to have children, that was a huge priority. At the same time, I had spent a lot of time made a lot of sacrifices to become who I am professionally. And what I also realized is that sometimes when we talk about balance and being like an even kill, everything has too many compromises in that, and I'm not a very compromising person, so no, I'm not like I expect and demand a lot from everybody during myself. So what I found is is that at times I had to pivot based on what w what needed me more, whether it was my children, my career, or whatever other thing I was engaged in. And so it was more like a teeter-totter. So at certain times my kids could go on kind of autopilot. Things are good. And then sometimes I had to intervene, same thing with my career. I also leaped , like I never was fearful about leaping off and going to something. So when I ended up at direct supply, I , I, for me, the idea that the set of architecture planning and having done real estate development, that financial piece of it in a, such a purpose driven industry was just beautiful. And that's why I find so much passion around this industry.

Beth:

So, so I would say I had promised our listeners that we didn't have like an aha moment. So one of the ones would be the balance. So the idea that you prioritize the different times to be able to do it all well, but you , but you, but you can sort of hyper-focus on something at a given time and sort of leverage that. So I think that's really important. And then also you're in a purpose industry. Right. Right . So that sort of empowers you and sort of reinvigorates you. Yeah . Talk about that a little bit. Yeah.

Gaurie:

And so, and I, and I do this with my children and with a lot of the women and men, I mentor also is the idea of, you know, when you find something that you're really passionate about, you find that it's not a job anymore. Right. It's, it's my passion and the job flows out of it. And I think that for all of us, as we navigate all our differences and who we are, it becomes a lot easier when we are very self-aware of what drives us and what's important to us. So to me, I think with I and D with inclusion and diversity, and especially in our industry, right, where we really are not very colorful, that's one way of saying it, right? How do we embrace more people that feel comfortable coming in and not feeling like be left out? Like, I look at how I do it, and it's because I'm very comfortable in my skin. So it is a little bit intimidating sometimes. I mean , it's intimidating walking into an , a conference because it's a lot of people that are very homogenous, but if you know who you are and you stand where you are, I think you can navigate all of those.

Beth:

So one of my standard questions I ask speakers on the NIC podcasts are what is one way to grow talent in our sector. So let's talk about that for a second. So, based on what you've just said, how , how do we, how do we infiltrate that and get more people involved in it ?

Gaurie:

I think we have to , and I, a couple years ago at Argentum, we had the chief marketing officer, I think for Coca-Cola and now he runs Airbnb I'm talking, and he was talking about how you market an industry. And we don't do a great job marketing industry. In fact, we took a huge hit obviously last year, but we forget, we try to keep talking about, come to us, wear this, wear that, but we don't talk about the heart and soul of it. And he talked about the fact that, you know, how do you bring Coca-Cola sugary drink and make it be about like, be the best life that you can. So I think we have to change the dialogue around what we bring to the marketplace, the value we bring around creating quality of life. And I think when we do that, I , one of the advantages we have is the next generation of potential staff that we have, or employees that are coming to us are going to be driven by the need for purposeful work. If nothing else, senior housing is purposeful work, right? For sure. The mundane, if we can take the Monday now by in innovation technology, into our environments, and we give people the opportunity to actually have meaningful relationships with our seniors. I think that begins to attract more people to it. Actually, we're just in with Scott in Milwaukee, through with the UWM and a couple of our other partners, architects and operators, where , and the university we're launching something called the living world Institute. And the idea is, is how do we infer trade into colleges and universities and reframe what senior housing and our industry is. We have to start there, that's our employee pool, right. Um, it's the same way. So

Beth:

If people wanted to find out more about that, they could look at living well and living well Institute

Gaurie:

In the school of architecture and urban planning at UWM.

Beth:

Great. Um, so I want to go back at the beginning. We talked about that three, three statements, two are true, and I think I've given away a few of the hints here, but , um, is this a true or false that you have three that , excuse me, that you have , uh , three children

Gaurie:

That's false. I actually have only two boys.

Beth:

Okay. True or false. You speak three languages.

Gaurie:

I speak two languages. Ah , okay.

Beth:

So now we'll wait for a minute to hear about the other ones. I actually though, let me go to that one. So you talked about having host moms when you came over from Sri Lanka and that helped you when you came over with what twenty-five dollars in your wallet. Um, so how many host moms do you have? Do you have three

Gaurie:

Or four moms ? And these are friends of my mother's , um, they're all in their eighties and with my mother and these three, I have this kind of tribe of craziest behind me. Right. And so to me , um , they're kind of my touchstone and they have been a huge part of my life. And part of it is because they're the ones that taught me about being uncompromising about what I need life to take, get out of life, because each of them, including my mother have just lived spectacular lives. So one of them is she was married, had children, but really decided, wanted to do stuff with , um, environment . So other one humanistic psychologist , other one, a poet, right. Like, and they've always lived this kind of very engaged life. So

Beth:

Those are big influences in your life. So that's really interesting. So you had your had your own biological family, but you also had these, these other significant women in your life. That's great. Um, so what are the , um, what do you think was one of the bigger challenges facing our industry? So we talked about talent and then we'd learned about how you were inspired to sort of grow into the woman that you've become. So what would be another industry challenge facing our , um, facing our sector in addition to the labor and the shortages that we've talked about?

Gaurie:

I think the, I did , the biggest challenge is going to be balancing the economics of our industry, because everything that we talked about, the labor challenges, the added me , the cost is the cost of construction. The cost of serve what we have today. We have to break that process and reassemble it in a way that makes financial sense. Um, and I think that that's going to be a challenge. I think that we are , um, I'm a little bit afraid that we're slipping back into our norms. I think we were at a place where coming out of 20, 20, we were ready to embrace transformational change, not incremental change. I think our challenge is that we are, as an industry, we have to start looking at transformational change, how we operate, what, what the value coming out of that for every component piece of it is , um, how we look at what we do. I think that all has to shift. I don't think we can be everything to everybody. So like, if you look at a senior living community today, they do everything internally within those walls. I think that that has to be turned inside out. We have to have more partnerships. Our residents are going to be more used to having on-call services. How do we accommodate all of that and still add value to the proposition and actually all be viable businesses, right? From our funders that own our buildings, our operators that operate a building to our outside partners and our residents and their families. So I think, I think the challenge is going to be the ability to completely transform ourselves. All right . So that's,

Beth:

That's the big challenge. And, and we've talked a lot about some of the innovative ideas that your adopter are putting forth. Is there any single , um, uh, innovative idea that you want to share with our audience that we haven't talked about yet?

Gaurie:

I think so. I don't think I was going to say this a lot. I do think that if you start looking at, if you , if one of the big innovations is our way of thinking about what we're going to do, not just about a simple technology. I think if we can start looking at innovation from a different lens, starting from what do we do today? Like, again, it's going to that authentic self and what is an operator as an industry? Are we doing? And then how do we then start wrapping innovation around every component of it, from the funding to the location, to the building, to the technology in the building to how does the building become part of how disability become a caregiver? What does that mean to operations? So I think innovation that about our internal innovation, we keep wanting the outside world to innovate for us, right? Like, let's start innovating inside ourselves. We have a really strong platform as operators, your man services. And we look at what this industry did this last year. Right. Amazing. Isn't it? Yeah, absolutely amazing. Well, let's, let's look at that and own that. Like, I can't tell you how many people I talk to that just don't see their value. It's the same thing. It's always like we have an inferiority complex. We were a little apologetic for being senior housing operators. I'm like, you know, for that. Right. And let's start looking at it a lot more strongly and we know what we need to do. And we know where our pinch points are. Let's leverage that to drive innovation from the inside out. That's great.

Beth:

Thank you. So I do have one more question for you. So in that three statements we've talked about, so we've concluded you have two children, you speak two languages, you have three host moms, plus your parent post your mom. Um, did you actually go on a tour with the femmes and content? Tell us about that for a minute. That's that's a little bit out of the box.

Gaurie:

Oh yeah. Um, so if you , if anyone knows me, you know, that I'm one of those people that if there's an opportunity I jumped , like if anyone says they want to do something crazy, I will find a way to go do it. Second of all, I love food and I love feeding people. So it just so happens in a very random way. Violent femmes started at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and a friend of mine bumped into the lead bass guitarist on the , in the band, Brian Ritchie turns out his wife is from Sri Lanka. Of course I had to become her best friend. Um , turns out our younger sisters went to college, high school together in Sri Lanka. So instantaneous. And we would just hang out together. And one time they were like, oh, you guys should come on tour with us. And I'm like, wow. So where'd you go? Well , you were saying, go to Kansas. I'm like, I don't think so . So we went to Spain and did four concerts and , um, it was, you know, I get to say I got to live the rockstar lifestyle. Wow. That's awesome.

Beth:

Wow. That's, that's great. You know, we had , uh , Bob Kramer on Nick chat a while ago and he had a little bit of a rockstar influences in his life too. So there you go.

Gaurie:

I think it's a personality thing. Like people that just want to do crazy stuff, that's outside the norm.

Beth:

That's great. So thanks so much for taking time today to do participate on our , um, Nick chat podcast. And I really appreciate it and I hope I already am so enjoyed it. And you know, you're just, you're so authentic and real, and you've done such raising things into your life so far, so tinted to be so, so I really appreciate your time.

Gaurie:

Thank you so much bet that I am all signed up for the fall conference. So I'm very excited to see all my friends in person.

Beth:

That sounds great. All right . Thanks very much. Thank you.