Avanti Senior Living is preparing to open its latest community, Avanti Senior Living at Flower Mound, in the first quarter of next year. The company previously opened communities in the The Woodlands and Cypress, and plans to open communities in Louisiana and Arizona are also in the works. The cofounders of Avanti have a combined 50 years of experience in senior living, and they agree that opening a new community is like adjusting to a new house. There are tweaks that need to be made along the way, and every new development presents unique challenges. However, the most critical pieces are selecting the right market and then choosing the right people to turn the vision into a reality once the community opens.
“Knowing the market and its culture, desires and values will help companies determine if their product is a good fit for the market,” said Lori Alford, COO of Avanti Senior Living. “You can offer a striking new community with amenities that are trending and unique, and you can furnish your model suites with the chicest furniture, but if what you offer is not a good fit – or if you do not have a team that establishes the right tone for your community – you could be setting yourself up for failure. We also found that having a unique model and philosophy can be difficult to convey when people are used to thinking of senior living in a certain way. This applies to both the team you bring on and the market in which you establish your brand.”
To help achieve a successful launch, the company’s vision must be communicated to every person responsible for helping you build and launch the community – from the architect to the developer to the interior design firm. Many times companies have a vision, and when it unfolds it is somewhat close to the initial vision that was cast. In a situation like this, the trick is to keep communicating the original vision to all parties involved, and in time team members will successfully bring it to life. It’s also important to hire people whose goals for themselves in their role at a new company align with the overall mission and vision.
“As an innovative company offering a truly differentiated lifestyle, it’s easy for people to say they want to be change-agents and an integral part of the Avanti experience, but in reality many people do not accept change easily and cannot fully embrace a new way of doing things,” said Tim Hekker, CEO of Avanti Senior Living. “When we ask candidates what change looks like, we want to make sure the people we bring on board like true, genuine change and are willing to step outside of their comfort zones.”
As a company, it is important to find team members who share the same philosophy as the leadership team, people who share similar values and fit in well with the company’s culture. Once hired, continuing to communicate the company’s values, vision and expectations will assist in fusing your team together, helping everyone work toward the same mission. Since co-founding Avanti, Alford has been asking herself, “Why not? Why don’t we do it this way? Why don’t we try it that way?” This mentality is what she hopes to instill in the community’s team members. She works diligently to communicate that just because they’ve done a certain thing one way for a couple decades in the industry doesn’t mean they have to keep doing it that way. Avanti looks for people who are okay with stepping outside of the box and challenging themselves each and every day.
“Anytime you open a new business or place of service or offer a new product, it’s nerve-racking wondering if the nuts and bolts of everything you worked diligently to piece together will flow the way you imagined in your mind,” said Hekker. “The biggest challenge in all this is finding the right people. They are the most important part of the puzzle because the right people set the correct expectations and help you deliver the very best version of what you have in mind. I’d like to reiterate that leading up to the launch of a new community, it’s imperative to communicate the company’s vision and philosophy to the new team members. Many times when you bring people into a company with an innovative and different culture, you have to work really hard to ‘de-slime’ them of their previous habits and way of doing things.”
Sometimes when companies have a different way of doing things and bring people onto their team, the new team members come with habits instilled from their previous work experience. While they may seem to learn the company’s unique way of doing things, they may revert back to their old habits after a few months. It’s vital to assist them in shaping and building new habits to uphold the community’s vision and culture. A positive sign that the launch of your new community was a success is when you look around and see happy team members with smiles on their faces, touching the lives of residents and showing them that senior living is a better lifestyle than they could have imagined.
“It’s a rewarding feeling when you know you showed someone something different – team members and residents alike,” said Alford. “For me, it’s fulfilling to see that I’ve touched all their lives in a meaningful way. However, launching a new community doesn’t stop once you open your doors. It’s imperative to have a marketing plan in place to bring people into your community to experience what you’ve created. At first this part is easy, as you are the shiny new penny in town, everyone wants to see if you really differentiate yourself and live up to your claims. Incorporating public relations and community relations into your marketing plan will help you build a solid reputation past the grand opening and will further communicate the culture to keep you top of mind in the market. The biggest compliment is when these efforts pay off and new residents come from other communities, as that speaks volumes about the services, lifestyle and culture that attracted them to your community. We are passionate about raising the bar of what seniors expect from our communities. Don’t let your passion escape you after you’re open.”