We’ve all heard the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” and the corresponding answer, “One bite at a time.” Tackling a large-scale development project can be a similarly daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be if broken into the rightseries of smaller projects.
We should first accept the basic premise that project development is not a core competency for the majority of owners or sponsors of long-term care communities. Owners and sponsors are in the “care business,” not the business of development. It is important to engage the right experts to ensure that a project accomplishes what it is intended to achieve.
DEVELOPMENT: A ‘STATE OF MIND’
Although long-term care is a service business, owners are heavily invested in bricks and mortar. Facilities, often financed with long-term debt, can challenge ones’ ability to be flexible and adapt quickly to market changes. For many LTC facilities, this is likely to demand changing a brand's status in comparison to that of the competing brands. This is known as repositioning. Typically, one of the biggest challenges to the thought of repositioning a business is a lack of resources, namely available land and funding.
To have longstanding success, organizations need to view repositioning as a “state of mind,” not an event. Repositioning should take a holistic approach that focuses on the entire organization and its future, resulting in the examination of the organization’s strategic direction and goals.
It is reasonable to assume that firms will need to reposition their campuses several times during their expected useful lives just to maintain—not necessarily grow—market share and occupancy. Waiting until market, financial and operational pressures force us to rebrand is too late.
When faced with the challenges and opportunity to develop or reposition, initial questions include: What resources do I have? What additional services do I need? How do I fill the voids?
‘WHAT IF’ THINKING
The “What if ___?” stage of a project allows senior leaders to consider how new or renovated facilities can strengthen their vision for the future, providing new opportunities and addressing concerns with current operational issues.
A development team should be assembled that includes planning, design and construction experts; financial consultants; and other specialists. This team should engage with focus groups, administrators, staff, and others who should have input and insight. A spirit of cooperation becomes evident early on in projects that embrace a heightened level of communication, taking diverse ideas and melding them into a successful building project.
Strategic decisions that will have an impact for the life of the building start instantly. For example, properly siting the building on the land is vital to the project and can reduce impact to the site and costs later on. By the same token, placement of the building will impact many future decisions such as access, lighting and landscaping. These are all critical decisions that influence important issues such as comfort, resident safety and energy usage.