Kisco Senior Living: Andrew Kohlberg, Founder/President/CEO

by HCE Exchange on September 15, 2011

When Andrew Kohlberg purchased his first retirement community in 1990, his plan of action was simple. He asked himself where he would want his own parents to spend their retirement years. He thought about the services and setting they would want.

Twenty years later, Kisco Senior Living has more than 3,000 residents living in 18 communities in six states–Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, California, Nevada and Texas. A new senior living community is currently under development in Hawaii. In spite of the recession, Kisco has experienced success in recent years in three key measurement areas–financial performance, resident satisfaction and associate engagement.

“We have our principles, values and beliefs that we use to run the organization,” Kohlberg, founder of Kisco Senior Living, president and CEO, said. “We use them as a road map to make decisions as an organization.”

Kisco communities include a variety of resources and levels of care. The communities include IL, AL and a few memory-care apartments, all of which are located on the same campus. Communities may also house wellness centers, social and service clubs, scenic gardens and walking trails, dining halls, and various other amenities. The new development in Hawaii will include a Main Street with shops, restaurants offices and services.

Six Dimensions of Wellness

Kisco looks at its communities as supporting wellness on multiple levels.

“We look at the whole person and really try to engage the residents,” Kohlberg said, citing the emotional, intellectual, physical, social, spiritual and vocational dimensions of wellness.

The key to Kisco’s success is their focus on welcoming and engaging new residents immediately. Resident ambassadors greet new community members and help facilitate the welcome process. Associates are well-versed in a welcoming routine, as well.

“The transition to a senior community can be a difficult time,” Kohlberg said. “We have found we have the most impact to their long-lasting health and stay at the community if they are welcomed well in the first 30 days or so. They tend to do better in the community long-term, and they become more engaged. They are less likely to retreat and become reclusive and sit in their apartments and watch TV all day.”

Kohlberg’s vision for Kisco is community in which residents become participants and  engage in social programs and other opportunities that suit their needs.

“It really starts with a warm and friendly environment from design to the way we select staff and who we hire,” Kohlberg said.

More than Upscale Living

Though buildings and amenities are part of the equation, the atmosphere of warmth and family-like community is the greater emphasis for Kisco. Expansion of services that cover the continuum of needs is high on the list for the future.

“That’s what we think most customers, residents and their families want,” Kohlberg said. “The customer wants more choices and a greater spectrum of care on the same campus, because if they are happy, they don’t want to move when their needs change.”

The challenge is making additional services cost effective. Through a technology upgrade that is expected to take 12 to 18 months, Kisco’s goal is to build a platform so that services offered can be unbundled. Rather than including all services and amenities with standard rent rates, for instance, a resident will be able to pick and choose what best suits their lifestyle.

“Let’s say one person wants one meal a day and another person wants three meals a day,” says Kohlberg. “Or the option of massages, therapy or other services on an a la carte basis. You really need a strong technology platform to manage all that information and billing.”

As well as an expansion of services offered, efforts will be concentrated on developing future sites in states they currently serve. The most recent state they have moved into, Texas, has several locations where Kohlberg sees Kisco Senior Living fitting well. They are the largest independent provider in North Carolina at the moment, and he views North Carolina and Virginia as ripe for expansion.

Always Think in Terms of What the Customer Wants

“We’ve always managed the business for the long term,” says Kohlberg. “From a customer perspective, we always think, ‘What does the customer want?’ For example, we want to invest in larger campus projects because we think that’s what the residents want and that’s what their families want. Choice. We’ve always purchased communities based on the long term perspective of what we think is best to develop and maintain a sustainable, long-term organization over the next 10 or 20 years.

“It takes a long time to build up a management team and a reputation in a community where you can deliver great care year after year after year, and that’s what it takes to become a really viable, sustainable business model.”

-by T.M. Simmons

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