1. Tell us who you are, what you do, and how you got here.

My name is Wes Lavender and I’m the Executive Director of Atria La Jolla in San Diego, California. I am a relative neophyte to senior living having assumed my current role in August 2018. I was a hotelier for the last 20+ years and most recently oversaw the operations of the Westin and Sheraton Carlsbad. I was excited about the opportunity to transition to senior living as there’s a lot of overlap with my hospitality skillset. But obviously the personal connections with residents and families are more lasting and meaningful.

2. What’s the most inspiring interaction you’ve had with a resident?

Working in this industry I have amazing moments daily!  With that said, what springs to mind happened today. We host a monthly men’s breakfast with the goal of bringing the men in the community closer together and to have some “iron sharpens iron” moments. This month’s topic was “What was the biggest risk you have taken in your life?” These gentlemen have done amazing things for their families and country! Our residents’ wisdom and accomplishments inspire me each day.

3. What’s the marketing or business challenge that keeps you awake at night?

The greatest opportunity our community and industry face is finding a way to penetrate further into the other 93+% of seniors who could benefit from joining a senior living community, but choose to remain at home. This is a complex challenge that involves a myriad of components including getting usable data on our potential residents, overall marketing strategy, service offerings, how best to reach family member influencers, and overcoming  generational stigmas related to moving into a community.

4. So what keeps you coming into work every day…even without a full night’s sleep?

I’m delighted to come to work every day because of the continual opportunity to be of service to the residents of our community and their families in meaningful ways. No two days are the same, and I am humbled to be a part of a team who are entrusted to provide for those who have paved the way for us!

5. What’s the most valuable piece of advice you can give newcomers to the field?

Find ways to say YES always. I find that in our industry we have challenges with fitting policies with the needs of the residents and families. If someone has a request that stretches our normal operating procedure, think outside the box to deliver on the promise of service. 

6. Tell us about the best marketing move/decision you’ve made to date.

While not a single move or decision, I believe that curiosity is the most important behavioral trait to adopt to be a success. Best practice sharing with others in our industry is a great place to start, and there are also opportunities to learn more via podcasts and trade publications.    

7. What’s the trend you see coming up in senior living that you think marketers can take advantage of?

I think someone has to come up with a way to measure meaningful market conditions accurately like what  is available in hospitality. In the end, our industry is not complex when it comes to measuring how you stack up versus competitors. Occupancy and rate combine to provide RevPAR (and yes there is the care component as well). This will aid in providing guidance on pricing, will give owners or potential investors information on market conditions, and will allow for the creation of relevant goals for operators of communities.

And the added eighth question from Christy Van Der Westhuizen of MBK Senior Living, featured in August:

If you weren’t in senior living, what would you be doing?

I’d be a competitive triathlete!  Work and family commitments limit my training time to 10-15 hours a week currently (often early mornings), but I enjoy the idea of doing something that I can measure success undeniably!