NIC Chats

John Moore - Episode 5

August 17, 2021 National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care Season 1 Episode 5
NIC Chats
John Moore - Episode 5
Show Notes Transcript
Get to know some of the leading voices and business leaders influencing seniors housing and skilled nursing today. Expect a little more humor, a few good stories from the frontlines, and perhaps a priceless insight gained from deep experience.   

You may know that with the recent acquisition of Holiday Retirement, Atria Senior Living has expanded to 447 communities across 45 states and seven Canadian provinces. But did you know that Atria’s Chairman and CEO, John Moore, owns a restaurant in Louisville that serves best-in-class bourbon, whiskey, and scotch? And would you like to know what the “B-52 of senior living” is? Listen to NIC Chief Economist Beth Mace’s conversation with Mr. Moore, for some ‘aha’ moments on the future of senior living – and a few insights of a more personal nature from a leader who is driving that future today. 

Speaker 1:

Welcome to Nick 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.

Speaker 2:

Oh , and welcome to the Nick chats podcast. My name is Beth bass 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 Nick chats podcast is talking to interesting people that have ideas that I think you'd like to hear about as you listen today, I hope you will find some humor, insights, inspiration, and hopefully what I call an aha moment when something pithy or insightful has said, the light bulb may go off for you. Now, let me tell you a bit more about the Nick podcast series. Each podcast has a standard structure. First, I'm going to tell you three statements about my guests and two of those are true. And throughout the podcast you're learning, which is true and which is false. Second, there are three standard questions with each , each within each podcast for each speaker. The first is what's the largest challenge facing our industry. Second, what's one thing we can do to grow talent in our industry. And third, what is one innovative way or idea to strengthen our industry before I begin, I also want to remind you that Nick , um , has recently announced about our 2021 fall conference that will be held in person in Houston from November 1st to third at the Marriott Marquis . If you're interested in more information, you can go to our website to find out. Now, as I say, I'm with the show, I'm delighted that our fifth Nick chats podcast is with John Moore. John Ward is the chairman and CEO of atria senior living. John, thank you for joining us today.

Speaker 3:

It's a pleasure to be here. Great .

Speaker 2:

So , um, as I mentioned, I'm going to say three statements about John two are true and one will not be true. And during the podcast we'll find out, which is which so one is that when John was at Yale, that he played the position of quarterback. Second is that John owns a restaurant in Louisville that says best in class bourbon, whiskey and scotch third. So John likes speed and competition, and he has an avid interest in racetracks cars and horses. Now let's begin with the formal part of the podcast.

Speaker 3:

It sounds like, you know, if any of those are true, I might be interesting, but we'll have to wait to see now what we have before we get started. I just, it's the, yeah . So Beth and I go back a , the way with Nick. I don't remember the year, but we came on the board together. We were the two board inductees, you know, sometime before, you know , the millennials were the workforce, I think, but , but anyway, so it's good. It's good to, it's good to do this. It's going to be new age with an old friend.

Speaker 2:

Thank you. I appreciate to be great. So John , you are, as I said, you're the chairman and CEO of atria senior living and with the recent acquisition of holiday retirement, you have helped atria expand to 447 communities across 45 states in seven Canadian provinces. Clearly you're building a diverse portfolio serving in both middle income and higher income seniors. Can you tell us our listeners, how you decided trying to serve these two cohorts and what distinguishes atria products from others?

Speaker 3:

Well, you know , the one thing I want to say, and it's what we're doing, the, the , the vision buying , what we're doing is trying to look forward through the twenties and focus on the types of residents , the type of types of customers that we want to serve. Um , holiday acquisition, even though we're the second largest, that certainly wasn't the goal to be one of the largest operators. It's not, he who dies with the most rooms. When's, it's , he who dies with the company that makes money and, and delivers on promises and wins. Um , but it's, you know, our we're gravitating towards , uh , you know, the two ends of the spectrum. So I'm in New York and part of the reason I'm here, I'm checking on our development. Uh , we're in a partnership with , um, related at Hudson yards , um, heading towards opening later next year. Uh , you know what I think we'll , we'll set the standard for, you know , the , the highest quality senior housing. Um , also doing that. I was in San Francisco last week, seeing our building there that's joint venture with , uh, with the , um , with related , um , as well. And there's , uh , a vision to deliver at the very, very top end . So , um , apartment size rooms, washer, dryer, very personalized staffing , um, you know , lots of technology, full kitchens, you know, the, the interior, just lots of built-in finishes that are condo. Like , um , so everybody uses the word luxury. Um , you know, we're going to meet it in , in , uh , in these communities, a London-based interior designer, you know , doing the interior design work. So, you know, that is a underserved, you know , so , um , I'm probably talking too much, but it's a long answer. And, you know, the, you know, the vision is, is to go it's , uh , I guess it was Yogi Berra who said hit it, where they ate and , you know, it's to go where , um , it's it , the barriers to entry are high and at the very high end, it's just hard to execute. And we have experienced in urban areas , um , more than most, and have partnerships with, have the partnership with related and that's then that puts us in a position to compete there. The other end of the spectrum, where holiday is, you know, it's my firm view that the, you know, the bill Colson design , uh , holiday building, it's , it's the B 52 of senior housing. Um , you know, it's it , uh , if we put new engines on it, it can fly for another 50 years and , and, you know, and serve its purpose. And that's the business where, you know, you know, I think scale can really help you deliver, you know, quality and consistency. And so the idea, if you're going to get in at that part of the business, the idea of doing it in scale, which was most appealing. And so that's that sort of gave rise to the holiday direction. We're kind of drifting out of , um, you know, what I'll call the middle, which really isn't the middle. It's really it , you know, it's , it's sort of classic suburban, higher end senior housing, you know, and I think it's, it's in for a great run as well through the twenties. Um, uh, you know, but it's also lower barrier to entry and, and there , you know, our, our , um, our bet is if we can go where we can use our scale technology and sophistication to create efficiency at one end and then use it to create products that are where you can really drive top line at the other end, you know, that that's a , that's a worthwhile strategy. And one last thing, sorry, go ahead.

Speaker 2:

So I was just gonna say that really plays well into , um, last year, you remember when you were still chair, we were doing a study when you were chair at Nick poster , don't know that you were also a chair at Nick for a long time. We did a study of the forgotten middle, and that was looking at this sort of untapped group of people that are more than school teachers and the firefighters that , that cohort of people that need , uh, they need senior housing. And so your , your holiday sort of platform where your new holiday platform will address that need.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, absolutely. It's, you know, the typical, you know , and , and one of the things that happened in, in this country is private companies , um , went away from defined benefit pension plans in , in the eighties and nineties, but their usage exploded at , for state local civil servants , um, you know , teachers, city workers , um , you know , cops, firemen , and the, you know, the customer that we want to figure out how to serve efficiently and with quality it's, you know , my mom who taught fifth grade in Hampton, Virginia for 30 years , um, you know, my dad worked for McDonnell Douglas, and then, and then Boeing , um , you know, she's, she's , uh, she gets $1,200 a month from her pension from Hampton, Virginia. She gets $900 from my dad's five minutes benefits, and then there's social security and you add all that up. You know, there's a solid, fixed income for the rest of her life. If she , she lives with my brother, if she were to want to move into senior housing, she would be, you know , it would be very important to her to be able to do it in out of her cashflow perfect product. And there are more and more people, you know, the growth in at city, government, state government, the , the, you know, the pensions for, for , uh, um, you know , for city workers and , and, and state workers, how it evolved over the last 20 years, it's going to create, you know , a population looking for quality and, and , uh, that's , uh, that's, that's part of the idea.

Speaker 2:

Okay. So , um , John, I remember a couple of years ago, touring your Louisville headquarters , um, and remembering, seeing a lot of space that was set aside for expansion purposes. Can you tell listeners that a little bit about you then mentioned why you had all that empty space , um, and then your current vision

Speaker 3:

For atria? Well, we still have a bunch of, I mean, the , you know, I, again, I want to say that it's not about , um, it's not about getting bigger, it's about getting better. And part of, you know, a little sales pitch for Louisville Louisville is a great place. Um, you know , some people don't like me describing this way, it's a great place to have a white collar factory. Um, you know, real estate is affordable. Um , you know, we stumbled into a great deal on a brand new building and to have plenty of space and gifts that gives us lots of options. We'll leave those also a town. You have Humana, you have the main ups logistics sub , you have all the distillers, you have yum brands. So can Sue people that businesses, that support centers, that support businesses that face customers all over the country and all over the world. And so that makes Louisville a great place to build a business like ours. It's also as far east, as you can go, I'm sorry, as far west, as you can go in the Eastern time zone. So your New York time, but it's close to California if you're trying to be. And by coastal , um, you know, our vision for growth , um , was, you know, we want to, we're, we're, you know, we're a management services business , um, but we want to do it with a plan again, it's not just to get bigger. Um , and you know, we, we actually are shrinking at the same time that we're growing. And there's, there's a peak that out of senior housing in the middle of the pandemic, and when asked, would we rather stay on or work with them to get the right guest price , best price and best execution. We said, you know, you know, this is, these are the sort of your classic suburban senior living buildings. We just assumed focus on other parts of our business. Um, you know, there's another portfolio that's, that's , uh, you know , that's for sale now it's owned by Ventas that sort of fits that description. So the holiday deal is a , is a bit about taking advantage of the fact that we've created a business that can operate, you know , at scale is scaled , um , is as back office support that is , uh , you know, can add capacity without much cost, you know, the other thing. And I , and I got to , I left out of the strategy. Um , you know, we've just kicked off our software , um, you know, SAS software as a service business Glenys , which provides it, you know, we we've over the last 20 years, we've spent a lot of money on, on technology for , for atria. Um, and , um , have what we think is the only end-to-end front of house , um , in an app solution kit for senior housing, from CRM to revenue, rent-roll management to care management, to activities management, to resident, family communication, to, you know, to , to , to EMR. Um, and so that business is , uh, is, is going to support everything we do. Um, but we also think, you know, the sort of broader middle it's sort of being involved with that , uh , you know, that service is , uh , is , is a good thing to do. Yeah.

Speaker 2:

I'm glad you brought that up because I really consider you our visionary for the role of technologies in all aspects of business for eighth grade . And I can remember you were certainly an early adopter for example, of an operations dashboard and your smartphone, because he used to be able to show me that, oh, I want to know what's going on in the property. It could pop it right up on your phone and show me what was going on in terms of movements , move outs falls, anything that you would like wanted to know on that dashboard. So , um, it's exciting to hear that you're , you know , with Glenys that you're doing that first , and I think a lot of businesses will benefit from that. We're excited about it. Yeah. So let's , um, let me, I'm just going to switch a little bit, me a little bit of your career path. So this is for the younger listeners on our call. Um, any, any, any insights or anything in terms that you would want to share with younger listeners about, so your career development, how you got into seniors , housing, why you got into seniors housing with all the different careers and opportunities,

Speaker 3:

You know, it's , um, I'm a little, eh , you know , I don't think people necessarily think this way anymore, but , um, you know, when I, when I got out of college, it started in the workforce, it was about, you know, finding things that were interesting and following the path and seeing where they lead . And , um , it wasn't about picking. This is what I want to be when I grew up, when I grow up, I still haven't figured out what I want to be when I grow up. Um , you know, but , but it's, you know, I got to , um , Adrian senior housing kind of accidentally. Um , I went to work for Lazard and , uh , the alternatives asset management business, and a fond , a real estate fund that made a big investment in senior housing, including atria. And frankly, it was a, well-known a failed deal. Um, it was very , uh , at the time, you know, pretty , uh, pretty well known the troubles that was ARD head . And I, I kinda , I had a restructuring background before I came. Those are kind of , they kinda didn't tell me that they thought they had a restructuring coming and, you know , atria has been a , um, a project that's been going on for now 23 years for me. It , you know, it's , it's the, as you get into it, I was a finance guy , um, and an office finance big office finance guy , um, in, in New York and, you know, used to doing in literally building financing that their billion dollar buildings, even, even back in the eighties that , um, you know, that , that we worked on and you get into senior housing and some of the, you know, the , the financing that gets done in senior housing on smaller buildings, just as complicated. Um , and you sort of, you can get stuck in worrying about how things are financed, capitalized , and dealing with that. Or you can realize that really, you know, the best way to solve any financial problem is to fix the operations. And so learned that , um , early on and, you know, and sort of became passionate about how do you create sustainable , uh , you know , quality, repeatable , um, operations, and, you know, and , and the, and the, you know , financial, you know, financial results and, or ability to sort of deal with raising capital and managing capital will follow if , if you, if you think that way. And I think having a real hardcore finance background coming to operations , um, and, and sort of, and again, I , I still , um, I'm the CEO, I I'm the fancy title. I really don't have to get involved in operations, but knowing people who can deliver on the details and knowing what all that means, and, and being able to decide to push what's important operationally, you know , but having a really solid finance background, it's, it's , uh, it , you know, it's important because this is an industry, this is an industry that's not, you know, it's not rocket biology as , as , as they say, but it's very complex and lots of moving

Speaker 2:

Parts in case during the pandemic. Cause I know you gotta be like Johnny on the spot too , to be able to get all the adjust to all the changes that were coming at you rapid in rapid fire .

Speaker 3:

Yeah. It's, it's , uh , very proud of the , the, you know, the atria team is very process minded, very, you know , it's takes on it, creates projects and completes projects and moves on to the next. And, you know, we were able to acquire all the PPP PPE we needed. We actually bought PP for the state of Kentucky. I think we supplied PP to 10 other operators, but the state of Kentucky had limitations on who they could buy from. And so we could buy from distributors that they, we could vet quickly and they couldn't, and then we could turn around and, and , uh, you know, and , and, and sell to them and , uh, you know, provided thermometers and , and some other things to the state of Kentucky that , um , that they needed and weren't able to, weren't able to get to get them. So the purchasing team is, is , uh , um , you know, it was great. We were able to put in place. So there were 500,000 COVID tests in the atrium world during the pandemic 500,000, 300,000 of them done , um, as if the 200,000 done sort of by others that we tracked , um , 300,000 done by us through the relationship with Mayo clinic labs. And we had , uh , put together a testing program that, you know, with Mayo, you know , we were in the 45 to 50,000 tests per month in December, in January. And it was, we could, from the time that a test was administered to actionable data. And , um , our trackers was an average of 2.4 days pandemic on 300,000 tests. Um, it was a pretty , uh , uh , I think a pretty impressive show ,

Speaker 2:

Uh , technology. So I'm going to go back now to , um , earlier I had said that there are three comments, three statements about yourself and , um, two are true and one wasn't. So let's go to the one about that. You like speed and competition and have an avid interest in racetracks cars and horses true or false, or a little bit of true ,

Speaker 3:

Um, mostly true courses. You know, it's not as much even though I live in Louisville and , uh, um, you know, my wife is from Saratoga, but , uh, but cars . Yes. It's, it's uh, yeah , I have , uh , uh, somebody that worked with me, it Lazard , um, and I have a little sports car business that's based in Florida. Um , and , uh, it's , uh , quietly a pretty successful professional sports car racing business , um , car modification, stuff like that. And there was a time when I was a weekend warrior. It was a great thing. Um , you know, so almost midlife in my thirties and I found myself single again, looking for things to do. Um, and this is , uh , my dad lives , my mom and dad lived in Atlanta. Um, and I was in New York, you know , I bought a race car for sports car club of America weekend, you know , sort of the , the weekend warrior club racing set, and my dad took care of it and he would meet me and I'd fly from New York to racetracks around the south. And, you know, for, to have that kind of experience it , you know, it with in the, well , you don't plan on becoming single again in your thirties, he had to have the opportunity to do something like that with your dad. Um, you know, was, was a great fund that turned into a sports car racing is a very small community. It turned into, you know , meeting people and knowing people and opportunities and, you know, the next thing you know,

Speaker 2:

There you go. Got it . Great. Okay. So , um, staffing is a huge issue in our industry, so that's a big issue for you as well. It wasn't a very big issue during the pandemic. So , um, sort of, what, what do you think is one way to grow talent in our industry? Or how do you keep staff engaged? What have been some of the secrets to your success in terms of labor?

Speaker 3:

Well, you know, one thing you could do is pay them, you know, it's , uh , you know, it's a , it's a very competitive market and, you know, there's a, there's a, there's a really difficult balance. You have to strike , um , you know , between paying well. Um , and when you have to pay well, but you know, how, how you keep people, you know, so keep people take care of them , uh, you know, programs , um , training, you know , opportunities .

Speaker 2:

We're pretty loyal staff. Yeah ,

Speaker 3:

We do. And it's look at, you know, I get questions like this, and it's, there's, there's an , I struggle for a specific answer because there's no secret, it's just do the things you need to do. Train people, I'll give them opportunities, get, you know, give them, you know , give them growth. We have, you know, EDS who started out is , is, is , uh, you know, as a receptionist , um, you know, we have four . Yeah . I think we've done about 600,000 in , we have a scholarship program for children and frontline staff for children of hourly staff. And, you know, we do five or six a year. And I think we're up to about $600,000 , um, you know, be , uh , with, with , uh , that kind of investment over the years. I mean, the normal things, tuition, reimbursement, encouraging that , um, you know, we also have, we started , uh, things of that sort of make the staff understand that they're important to you. So, and we started a program called atria cares . It's a 5 0 1 C3 sole purposes at making grants, you know , not in a , not loans at grants to atria, hourly workers, have you , you know , some kind of financial need. So , um, you know, we've had staff members who've, who've had their, their house burned down, or it started with canes in Florida in 2004. When we saw in a staff that would work, we do our straight , um, with , uh , with a tree on their car, in the driveway and , uh , either big deductible or , or, or, or, or uninsured medical needs that , that are, that go well beyond, you know, that are , that are special or somehow , um, you know, not insured enough in the, in parent . And we had a community in paradise when paradise burned down, you know, and I'll, I'll brag on that a little bit too. It's a forecast of high winds the night before nobody expected the fire to come to paradise. We had residents pack go bags , um, the night before and had them on notice, right to leave. And we got all our residents out of paradise before the evacuation started before the , uh , the roads jammed. Um, but through atria cares, we also , uh, you know, gave about $600,000 to staff to help them , uh , you know, recover and, and , and, and move on and move on. So there are things like that you do, there's, you know, our quality enhancement program, you know, there's staff, and , you know, you , you get a little bonuses. If employees satisfied action or resident satisfaction goes up to a certain level or quality , um, quality scores that are internal, you know , quality audit teams come up with, you know, go up. But you, you, you create loyalty, you know , by saying what you're going to do and, and, and , and, and doing it. Um, uh , you know, I'll keep talking about the, in our vaccine mandate where we're, you know, rounding right . Well , the one decimal point we're effectively a hundred percent staff vaccinated and, you know, 10,000 employees, just the legacy atria employees. Yeah . But, but the, you know, what feeling that staff have, you know, mandate can be controversial doing it earlier, doing it conviction with conviction, giving the yeah . You know, it's, it's, it's the right thing to do because residents deserve to live in a vaccine environment. Staff deserve to work in a vaccinated environment and we had special access to the vaccine. So, you know, there's a larger responsibility to be responsible with that, that the buy-in that you got, you know, your , your people that you, you know, that the vast majority of the team says, you know , wow, this is, you know, I'm working for the , I'm working for people that , that I feel good about working with. And so it's all those sorts of things, but it's just tougher and tougher to, to, to , uh , define people. And it's , uh , you know, it's, it's going to be a battle for, for, I think part of the rest of our careers.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. Give me the demographics and the, how the demographics play out. I agree. So we only have a little bit of time left so quickly. Um, one innovative idea on how to strengthen our industry. It can be related to financing. It can be related to operations technology.

Speaker 3:

Like I , I think the industry has been great in terms of how we've come together to work together, to deal with the pandemic and be smart about it. And I hope we learn more. Um, you know, as you know, when I was chairman of Nick , I was an advocate for it. You know, it's the industry figuring out how to have one voice and, you know, work together more. And we don't need, you know, three or four healthy organizations where we all come together and , you know, maybe, maybe we need one really solid. You're

Speaker 2:

Talking about like the nonprofit trade association

Speaker 3:

Or even the mean it's it's or, or two or whatever, or it's, it's how everything. And everybody works together, you know, as we get it , you know, more important than more, I mean, it was , uh , it was a struggle, as everybody knows, it was struggling for senior housing to get access to the provider relief fund. We were last behind the dentist . Um, and, and so just finding a way for us to get sort of better organized , uh , you know, share information, work together , um, you know, there, there are different parts of that, you know, there's advocacy, there's, you know, there's what Nick does, but it's all, it's all related. And, you know, just finding, finding a way for the industry to work together smarter will be really important as we go through, you know, the 2020s, you know, art will be, you know, the seniors decade in , in , uh, in this country,

Speaker 2:

The demographics again. So that's is answer about no , a challenge facing industry. So now back to direct to you for another minute. So , um, how about, what, what did you do at what on you were on the football team where you were quarterback, where were the center? What position did you play?

Speaker 3:

Well , um , I didn't play quarterback, but yeah, I handed the quarterback the ball, cause I played, I played, I played center and , uh , you know, I didn't, I played freshman year, you know , the, the, the, it's the, one of the sort of contrary proudest moments of my life. Um, know I grew up in Virginia, didn't visit Yale before I got dropped off. Yeah . But I was recruited to play football and, you know , when I got there and I saw that I was fourth on the depth chart, you know, I was excited because it means admit that I didn't, I , you know, I didn't get into play football. So , um, so, or, or maybe who knows, maybe they expected more of me than, than, than , uh , that I , you know, that I turned out, but it's, it's that, you know, you in that kind of situation, you know, those guys, even though he didn't play with them all four years, it's a great experience to have, you know , those friends and , uh, you know, a way to, a way to learn a new environment , um , as you go.

Speaker 2:

Okay. Now last, last question about yourself in terms of the true or false , um, do you own a restaurant in Louisville? And , um, if you do I hear that it has class , uh , bourbon, whiskey and scotch true , false ,

Speaker 3:

Um, mostly true. Uh , we don't really we're in Louisville, so, you know, there's good scotch and , uh, we don't work hard on the scotch. We work hard at the bourbon because, you know, some of the most famous names in bourbon, either the restaurant, just because that's , that's, you know , that's , that's where they live. It's unfortunately, am sputtering not open yet. Um, uh, you know, and we're, we're, we're figuring out what to do it's because of COVID. Yeah . And, and , uh, but , um, you know, my wife accuses me of, you know, she was busy, you know , traveling , uh, you know, working with her sister's time. And she accuses me of , of not wanting to eat alone every night. And so I bought a restaurant. Yeah . Yeah. Well, yeah. It's uh , but it's a look, it's a day, it's a thousand feet from our house, so it's a fun, cool. It's . Yes ,

Speaker 2:

But I haven't been a visit. We hope so. So John, this has been great. Thanks so much for your time. Is there anything you want to wrap up with ?

Speaker 3:

Thanks. And these are, this is a good, this is a great fun , um, you know, format it's , uh , you know, it's, you're, you're the, you're the, you're the Howard stern of senior housing

Speaker 2:

Howard stern, but okay. We'll leave it at that. Thanks very much for your time. I appreciate it. All right .

Speaker 1:

[inaudible] .