Transcript – Jenni Bost, VP of Marketing for Radiant Senior Living
[00:00:00] Michael Mahoney: Hello, Jenny, and welcome.
[00:00:05] Jenni Bost: Hi, thank you for having me.
[00:00:10] Michael Mahoney: I’m so excited to talk with you this morning and talk about Radiant Senior Living. To start us off, can you tell us about the founding of Radiant Senior Living? What’s the story?
[00:00:23] Jenni Bost: Sure. I love our story. Radiant Senior Living, even though it says in all of our stuff that we started in 2011, it really started in the seventies. My owner, Jodi Guffee and her husband, James Guffee, are our owners and operators. They actually bought the company from Jody’s family who started it in the seventies. Jody grew up under the desk of her father who ran skilled nursing communities and then, throughout the years, she tried to get out of the business, but her heart kept coming back to it where she was volunteering and ended up going to school for it and worked outside of the family business for many years, and then came back. James and Jody took over in 2011.
[00:01:17] Michael Mahoney: Wow. That’s quite a story. This is really in Jodi’s blood. It’s in her DNA.
[00:01:22] Jenni Bost: It really is.
[00:01:24] Michael Mahoney: Wow. Roughly what size is Radiant Senior Living now?
[00:01:32] Jenni Bost: Radiant Senior Living has communities in six different states. We have around 800 residents at this moment, and the same amount for staff. We have been slowly growing throughout the years. I’ve started many years ago, and so it’s been really impressive to see the growth and how many lives we’ve been able to touch over the years.
[00:02:01] Michael Mahoney: Well, you’ve been there for nine years, so you’ve been there for a good part of the life of the company, at least the modern iteration.
[00:02:10] Jenni Bost: Yes. I got to come in a couple years after they had really started growing and becoming radiant, as we like to say, and I’ve been privy to seeing all of the different people come in and out and influence the company and help it grow. The management staff, many of us have been there for the life of the company in different iterations, of course. Our HR director just celebrated her 30th year at the company and she started as a part-time caregiver many years ago.
[00:02:48] Michael Mahoney: That’s impressive.
[00:02:50] Jenni Bost: It is.
[00:02:51] Michael Mahoney: What we love talking about on this show is brand, and how brand drives growth. Our definition of a brand promise is a value or an experience your company’s customers can expect to receive every time they interact with your company. What is the brand promise of Radiant Senior Living and how does it differentiate you?
[00:03:23] Jenni Bost: We like to keep our brand promise front and center. Our name, Radiant Senior Living, and our tagline, Live Radiantly, really speak to our overall brand promise. If you ask our owners, we want to be the light in the lives of the people we engage with. We want to be a ray of hope in moments of darkness. We want those who interact with our brand to feel as if they’ve received the care they needed, the education they saw, and the comfort they craved. When it comes down to it though, the overall feeling that the brand promise leads to is we want our residents, family, and staff to feel like part of our family. It sounds like a line, but it really does start at the top with it being a company that is family-owned and operated with how James and Jodi treat our resident staff and family. I think that it really makes a difference.
[00:04:14] Michael Mahoney: What do you think inspired this concept of radiance and being the light. What inspired that in James and Jodi?
[00:04:27] Jenni Bost: I know that the inspiration came actually from the Bible and where they felt their lives needed to lead, but for me, seeing and working with them, it’s just the way that their hearts are. They have a heart for people, and I feel like that really inspires each of the moves and decisions that they make going forward. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to watch each of them and different staff members really champion all of our stakeholders, our staff, our residents, our families, and those who also invest in the company. One of my favorite things that my owner James has said to me, which I keep coming back to and share with all new staff members is that he wants to be a good steward of the company. I think that really is evident in the way that they treat people and the way that they make business decisions.
[00:05:28] Michael Mahoney: That’s an interesting way of putting it. He wants to be a good steward of the company, which the way I hear it is that he’s thinking of the company and the community around it as being larger and more important and maybe longer lasting than him. It’s something that’s intergenerational and it’s his turn to take care of it and hopefully leave it better than he found it. I haven’t heard anyone describe their role as the founder and CEO as a steward. That’s a beautiful perspective.
[00:06:02] Jenni Bost: It was new for me whenever I heard it too, which is why I share it on high. I think probably sometimes he gets tired of hearing it. I’m sure. It definitely made an impact. I don’t know if you know about my generation but my generation, which is a millennial generation, is not used to company loyalty in a way. My first job out of college was mass layoffs, because I graduated right in that zone of 2007. That’s happened to so many of my peers. Not having a place to grow up like some of our parents did. My dad was at a company for 35 plus years, so that was the expectation I had. Then right out of college, it was definitely a splash of cold water. I think that a lot of my generation doesn’t really get to experience a company who is dedicated to their employees and their customers in the way that I have been privy to in my position at this company. I think it makes a big difference. When we talk about brand promise, that comes back to me over and over again, that feeling of family. It’s something that you hear people say a lot when we talk about differentiating ourselves. The words of family and maximum independence and comfort and care. All of those things are things that all senior living companies will say about themselves, and I think that the words themselves don’t really differentiate us, but when I go through our customer reviews and whenever I read about staff members who have grown within the company, and then of course, my own experience, I really feel that our differentiator is the fact that we actually live that brand promise.
[00:08:16] Michael Mahoney: Talk more about that, Jenni. Tell us how you and your team integrate your brand in this concept of being the light in people’s lives. How do you integrate that brand promise into your culture, both employees and residents?
[00:08:38] Jenni Bost: I’ve said this many times, but it really starts at the top. James and Jodi have surrounded themselves with a group of individuals who’ve worked many years in the industry and who will just get down alongside our staff members and work alongside them. There are many ways that we incorporate our culture into our processes. From the fact that we start every day with the question, “What’s going well?” We are starting the day off with a good note and a positive step forward, reflecting on the things that are going well, and focusing on those to the fact that we allow our team members to grow within our company and become part of that family. The resident part of it is somewhat my favorite because our whole goal with bringing on new prospects and helping them through the process is that it we are going to always look for their best intentions. It’s one of our radiant commandments is what we call them. We’re going to help those prospects through the process, whether they end up at our community or not, whether we’re the best fit or not. We’re going to help lead them through the process. Senior living is such a difficult thing. I remember whenever I stepped into my role, I had no senior living experience and was just learning, it took me months of learning the ins and outs and I’m still learning. When somebody’s going through a moment of need, it’s very difficult to go through that, so part of our jobs is being educators, and I think that’s important to us.
[00:10:36] Michael Mahoney: When residents or prospective residents come to you, what kind of condition or mental state are they typically in?
[00:10:46] Jenni Bost: It’s across the board because we have everything from independent living to memory care. Some people who are coming into the independent living side are looking for change. They’re looking for less on their plates. They want some people to be around in case anything happens, and so that whenever they’re coming into the process, it’s a little bit lighter and easier to step them through that process and see what’s going forward. What we serve a lot in many of our communities is the assisted and memory care resident who this may not be a change that they are looking forward to. It may be something that is difficult for them. It’s one of the biggest purchases of our lives. Moving into a new home and getting the care that is necessary. It can be stressful. There are a lot of people involved, usually family members, the resident themselves, and sometimes other entities that are going to help make this decision. There can be a lot of stress involved with this decision, so we get people sometimes in our communities crying or upset, and our team members have to really lead them through that and recognize what they’re going through.
[00:12:19] Michael Mahoney: Wow. What you just said takes me back to the importance of what you said a few moments ago about starting every day with this question, “What’s going well?” It sounds like there can be times of a stressful process even for the employees to be managing this process with new residents and their families coming in. You’re going back to the idea of thinking positive, “What’s going well?” Also, as you said, their purpose is to be the light for those people. To be a light of positivity for them and a beacon of hope as you said, is like drawing the employees back to the core values and the mission and the brand promise. What you’re bringing probably helps them to sustain and to do a better job and deliver for these people when they’re coming in.
[00:13:20] Jenni Bost: I really think so. It’s one of the pleasures of my job. Sometimes, I get to listen to our team members talk through the process with prospective residents and hear how much of themselves they put into it, and how much of their own experiences and lives while they listen to the prospective resident and help guide them through the process. I do think that that starts again from the very beginning, from that first step of what’s going well and making sure that we are treating them in a similar fashion as we expect them to treat our perspective residents.
[00:14:08] Michael Mahoney: Jenni, let’s shift gears and talk about some of the challenges that Radiant Senior Living faces in keeping the brand consistent across your locations. What kind of challenges do you run into with keeping the brand consistent?
[00:14:25] Jenni Bost: For many who works in marketing and branding, the hardest challenge I felt I’ve had to deal with over the years is the fact that our company is an umbrella company to many well-known brands. Radiant Senior Living is that umbrella company and have communities underneath that with different names, logos, brand, colors, and identities. It would be so much easier from a branding standpoint to just have everything named the same, but the reason that we made that decision goes back to that brand promise and what’s important to us. Our company really loves the history and local identity that each of our communities have in their respective locations. When we gain new communities, our desire isn’t to just wipe out their old identity and rubber stamp a new one on top of it. It’s to really blend our support and experience and that radiant promise into a community that’s rich with local history and dedicated staff and families. It’s been interesting, although the Meta transition with Facebook and Instagram makes me feel that it’s totally worth it.
[00:15:33] Michael Mahoney: What do you mean by that?
[00:15:34] Jenni Bost: Well, they have different brands as well. Facebook decided to have all of their different brands, their own identities, and Meta is the parent company and, they’re doing whole different brand identities with each of them. That kind of speaks to the importance of this is that while it’s extra work and extra effort, it’s well worth it.
[00:15:59] Michael Mahoney: That makes sense. To be clear, Radiant Senior Living has grown to this point through acquiring and taking over the operations of existing communities, which is why you’re saying that you want to retain the history and the rich traditions of these organizations in these communities versus rebranding them.
[00:16:22] Jenni Bost: Absolutely, yes. So far, at least in my time, I know that the company before my time had built many and, and had those type of things, but in my time we’ve done really strategic growth where we are finding opportunities that works well with our current communities, so assisted memory care, and our favorite taglines over the years were “Small Enough to Care a Little More.” We’ve been able to find these wonderful communities who have such a presence in their local areas and have history and just be able to not come in and override them but take those really great things and then support them up with our infrastructure and our overall promise. It’s really helpful.
[00:17:30] Michael Mahoney: Can you share a story or two about how your brand promise has positively impacted a resident or an employee?
[00:17:40] Jenni Bost: Sure. After nine years, I probably have more stories, and it would take us many hours to go through this, especially because I get to see every review that comes in for our company. Every note from a family member who was touched by our services and helped through end-of-life, I get the privilege of responding to each of those. But when I’m really coming down to it, I think that for me, and again, this may come back to the fact that I find it so unique for a company to have such growth within its ranks and a dedicated employee base. For me, the big example of our brand promise is in our staff. It’s from that 30-year HR director. It’s from our environmental services director who started as a part-time landscaper many years ago, or in myself, when I started nine years ago, and came on as a social media marketing specialist. Back when my first year of training people, it was just on the importance of social media and content marketing, which of course now we know it’s very important, but that start and the fact that over the years, I’ve received a lot of dedicated growth opportunities. I’ve had people invest their time in me and in the people around me, of course. In all of that I’ve also been able to go through my life with their support. Not just company support in my role and how well I’m doing for the company, but I’ve gone through a cancer diagnosis. I’ve had my second child. I’ve gone through many moves. I’ve had many creative endeavors in my personal life take off, and this company has supported me throughout that. That is such a reflection of how our brand promise really invests in the people that we serve. How that promise to be a good steward of the company didn’t stop at investors or didn’t stop at the customers, but also bled into the people who are serving our customers and our investors. I think it’s important.
[00:20:24] Michael Mahoney: Sounds like Radiant Senior Living has been that brand promise in your life, this beacon of light and of hope, and it sounds like you really take that to heart in a deep and meaningful way.
[00:20:39] Jenni Bost: I do, and if it just stopped at me, I’d be like, “Wow. I’m just really lucky.” But I’ve seen them also do the same thing in so many different lives. We have staff members that have been here 16 plus years, and we have many executive directors that started off as housekeepers or life enrichment or people who have started at our company and started to grow and then moved on to other companies and in the end come back to us with all of the new experiences that they have created. I think that one time is a fluke, but many people who have been in invested in. And loved on through this company makes a real difference in the lives of the people that we serve.
[00:20:32] Michael Mahoney: Take us to the future then. I know on your website that you say that it’s the vision of Radiant Senior Living to be recognized as an innovative provider of quality of lifestyle choices for seniors. What do you think is the vision for your future as a brand?
[00:21:57] Jenni Bost: We’re going to continue with strategic growth and finding those local communities that we can help serve and reach the most seniors as possible. The really great part of being in my position and getting to have the ear of the owners and operators is that I get the opportunity to bring these innovations to them and they’re always bringing new things to the table as well. Over the many years, we’ve integrated different technologies to help us better serve our team members and our residents from touchscreen engagement systems for all of our residents to having a health record system that can be done from an iPad as we’re going throughout the day just to make the lives of our staff easier. All of these innovations and technologies have been taken on with a lot of research and planning and strategic moves, and those things will help continue to set us apart from our competitors and continue to serve our residents and staff in a better way. I just can’t wait to see it grow.
[00:23:18] Michael Mahoney: What a beautiful thing. This has really been a remarkable discussion. I’ve enjoyed talking with you and I think that you’ve delivered some original thoughts and ideas and inspirations to our listeners. I particularly like the line that you had. We’re small enough to care a little more. I love that. It makes a lot of sense. I would say that today, you have been a really strong ambassador. Your company, Radiant Senior Livings’ brand promise is bringing a very positive force and a beacon of light and inspiration to all of us listening. This has been a lot of fun and I commend you for being just a great steward of the brand and sharing your story with us today. Hopefully, you’ve inspired some others.
[00:24:13] Jenni Bost: Thank you. I do hope so. I think that we have the opportunity to help many people. The more the merrier.
[00:24:25] Michael Mahoney: Thanks so much Jenni, and I hope our paths will cross again soon. That’s all for today. Bye bye, everybody.