John F. Taylor: CEO, StoneGate Senior Living

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John F. Taylor is an industry advocate for senior wellness and care, and the president and chief executive officer of StoneGate Senior Living, a leading provider of rehabilitation, skilled nursing, assisted living, and memory care services. StoneGate operates 43 communities spanning Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado.

How did you get into the industry?

I saw a tremendous opportunity. In the first part of my career, I developed, owned, and managed medical office space. In the ‘80s, I became increasingly aware of the “aging of America” and its potential to be a major economic force. My first venture into the industry was a skilled nursing facility, opened in 1990 with several business partners. We continued to develop assisted living facilities throughout the ‘90s. In 2001, StoneGate Senior Living was launched – with the goal of providing a full spectrum of senior care and housing services. 

Any emerging industry trends?

Simply stated, the trend today is cost control. We’re experiencing the most significant healthcare transformation in the history of our country. Healthcare as a percentage of gross domestic product continues to surge because Baby Boomers are starting to be heavier users of healthcare services. All of us in the industry need to find the best ways to control costs while continuing to improve the quality of the services we deliver.  

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

The challenge is that healthcare is local. While providers are being incented to work together to control healthcare costs, they have different approaches in each market. The opportunity is, this diversity of approaches spurs improvement. We’re seeing a range of industry advancements, from innovative technologies to unique collaborations between providers and payers. These innovations are designed to achieve not only lower costs, but better outcomes and an enhanced customer experience.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the business?

The inspiration is the dynamic nature of senior care and housing as a service business. The demand for senior living services continues to surge, expanding opportunities for innovation. Our vision is to help seniors achieve the highest quality of life they can enjoy in the remaining years of their lives.

What's next for the business in the near future?

Over the last 12 months, we opened four new properties.  We’ve grown exponentially, but now we’re taking a pause. For now, we’re not starting any new developments or making any more acquisitions. With so much uncertainty in the reimbursement equation, we think it’s best to focus on our existing portfolio – and wait and see what direction the government takes moving forward.

Your key initiatives for the success of the business?

We’ve invested in new technology to ensure better patient outcomes, more efficient workflow, and enhanced customer satisfaction. We’ve partnered with a leading company to deliver wellness and recreation services to our residents. We’ve also partnered with a company that provides memory care services and with two providers of diabetes care to educate and support our residents who are living with diabetes. And, we’ve made a major change in our marketing leadership. We brought in two clinicians to head up our marketing department. They are strategically directing our outreach to the provider and payer communities, with an emphasis on quality outcomes.

Your most difficult moment at the business? (and what did you learn?)

Fortunately, I haven’t yet had any “bellwether moments.” That said, senior living is one of the nation’s most challenging industries – and one of the most regulated. We have to be ever vigilant in making sure we’re following regulations. It’s also an industry whose financial model is in flux. For the past three years, we’ve been preparing the company to do business in a pay-for-performance environment, where healthcare organizations are paid not for the volume of services they provide, but for the quality of care they deliver. This shift will likely create difficult moments, but we’re ready for them.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Our customers are not only our residents and their families; they’re also our hospital, physician, and payer partners. We want to assure them that those they serve are receiving the best of care. Our goal is for every customer to experience the personal touch of our care team – from clinicians and case managers to housekeepers, dining service, and maintenance staff. Several StoneGate facilities have launched a customer service program called “WOW!” As the name implies, it enables our staff to deliver a WOW! experience in every customer interaction.

How do you motivate others?

We motivate our 5,000-plus employees through continuous acknowledgement. We’re always on the lookout to recognize staff who go above and beyond. On the flip side, if they’re struggling, we strive to coach and mentor them. Our employee intranet site provides a daily connection point throughout the company.

Career advice to those in your industry?

Senior living is an excellent career choice. Regardless of economic fluctuations, we continue to thrive because healthcare is financed primarily by the government and private insurers. We don’t have layoffs, salaries are good, and demand for services continues to grow. And – employees can enjoy the greatest reward of all: knowing they’re truly making a difference in the lives of seniors, who are such a valued asset in our world.