Thursday, May 12, 2011

Wait too Long, and It is Old News

Sitting here sipping on a cup of coffee and reading the Atlanta Journal Constitution (“AJC”) at San Francisco Coffee House in the Virginia-Highland neighborhood of Atlanta.

The AJC is running a feature story about the aging population of Atlanta.

In fact, the AJC has been publishing a set of articles about the graying of the local boomer population.

The AJC cites the recently released 2010 US Census numbers that compare stats with the 2000 US Census stats.

I am not surprised at all with the numbers.

Over the last couple of years, I have completed a set of projects for assisted living care centers, hospitals, land developers and real estate planners citing the same trend.

In addition to working with ongoing US Census stats, we also have gone out and conducted more than two-dozen chat groups and about 50+ on-the-street interviews with boomers and empty nesters.

Oddly, just a couple of the clients believed what the interviews and stats are predicting.

About a month ago, one of the land developers set up a meeting with one of the largest assisted living center firms in the US, however, the firm had to close down a number of their facilities due to the real estate bust.

The firm is based out of the Northwest and is developing a new concept that focuses more on independent seniors seeking out a more holistic, healthy living environment.

There was no doubt that the Northwest environmentalist, natural living geeks were assisting in the development of the concept.

The CEO of the assisted living center traveled to Atlanta to see first hand the track of land available.

The real estate developer had sent a copy of an assessment report of the Atlanta area and their land tract specifically as it related to assisted senior living.

Even before I got up to present the stats, the CEO very quickly stated that he was not impressed by what he had seen in Atlanta.

I quickly asked him what had he assessed thus far.

He went on to say that his company had developed a model ten years ago that forecasted out potential based on the number of existing facilities, the number of beds, their current percentage occupancy and the number of people currently age 70+.

Okay.

He then said that his model rated the Atlanta metro area and the specific location of the development site as just average potential.

The location did not have hardly any competitive senior living centers and those there, were posting only 85% occupancy levels.

To be honest, we had heard a similar rationale voiced by another senior living developer earlier in the fall of 2010. The other guy just left his former employer after it posted some dramatic losses.

I already emailed the land developer this morning and suggested that he forward a couple of copies of the AJC to these guys.

When I got up to present to the CEO, I asked him directly, how did he define leading-edge insight and innovation.

He had difficulty answering the question.

His reply was a defensive one of his time-proven models that had been developed by statisticians and MBA business modelers.

Needless to say, when I made the presentation of the recent stats and highlighted the fact that opportunity was truly red-hot, he challenged the numbers and could not rationalize out why other developers had not already built senior housing developments.

Apparently, entrepreneur and innovator the CEO was not.

Yesterday afternoon I had a great conference call with marketing director at a hospital in the Midwest.

We talked about the brand and how to move it forward.

As I shared my approach to digging into the headsets of consumers and seeking out ways to deliver the experience they sought, he quickly replied that he saw the opportunity from the same perspective.

I told him that he was probably up against resistance internally at the hospital, but he needed to pride himself on how he viewed the challenge ahead.

I know this… the older I get, the more convinced I have become that the past business models are broke.

The walls of the business cocoon need to be torn down.

Management needs to get out from behind their desks and get out and talk with people.

Corporate mission statements that exalt what is seen in the mirror need to be scrapped and crafted instead around a true consumer need and experience sought.

As metro Atlanta ages and I age along with it, I have become more selective to partner with firms and brands that are willing to take the risk to embrace market change.

And if they elect to wait until it hits the front page of the metro newspapers… they will have to take a number and wait in line to capitalize on it.

CEO & Discovery Chief at EXPERIENCE Insight Group, Inc. In the business to discover and craft brand experiences that humans seek out and engage in.