Team members respond to a demonstration of appreciation! David Clement, Chief Financial Officer at Retirement Center Management, shares about the importance of having a mentor and how 25 years of leading teams in the senior living industry was impacted by a challenge to focus on personal growth.
Welcome to Bridge the Gap podcast. This senior living podcast with Josh and Lucas. We’re at Houston doing some thought leadership discussions here, and we’ve got a great guy. We wanna welcome David Clement he’s with RCM out of Houston. There we go. I can get it out. Welcome to the show.
Thanks. Thanks for having me.
Me. Yeah, absolutely. Well, great pre-discussion. You’ve been at this a little while. You’ve seen a few things and we want to pick your brain about that.
Talk to us about your background, introduce our audience to how you got into senior housing.
Okay. So after college I got married right after college, went to work for a CPA firm, worked there about six years. Went to work for a software company, and I loved my job. We were located on the water, had a great office, great people I worked with. We expanded internationally. And so we opened offices in Europe and life couldn’t be better, got to travel every quarter. And I said, how lucky am I? And then the company gets sold to a public company which didn’t need a CFO. So this was the dinosaur age where there was no internet yet. And so back in the 95, I looked in the paper and I looked in a small town called Friendswood and I looked and someone was hiring, and it didn’t say what position it said CFO, but it didn’t say what for. Who hires in Friendswood?
There’s nothing here, but the school district and the city. So I go, and then after a long story short I got hired and it was a senior housing company. And so a gentleman had built one and it was very, very successful and decided he wanted to build some more. He talked to some money people and they said, “let’s go build one. And there’s why don’t you build a company?” And that’s when I got hired. And so I started and there was one property had been built in 1986, an independent living one and went to work there, we had an office out there. And so you were there every day to learn. I knew nothing about senior housing. And so you sat there and you watched and observed. I went to our marketing meeting, every dietary meeting, and then we had just purchased land and we started to build.
So we built 11. And you learn a lot, you know, when you’re a startup, you make it, you don’t make it try being the CFO of a company that bounces payroll twice. I mean, that’s how tough times were. We had four under construction at any one time and there weren’t least nothing we’re supposed to. And it’s all hands on deck. It’s shuffling money. There was no such thing as treasury management online. So it’s all, you know, “hey we gotta, don’t hand up payroll to 4:00 PM on Friday.” I mean, that’s literally, that’s how you learn. You learn what you it takes to make it. And so any of these successful of people out there, they’ll tell you, you gotta endure. That’s all part of it. And so it just kind of helps you now, when you have say the pandemic comes along and you’re like, “well, it’s just another thing,.” It’s something you Wade through. You’re going to make it to the end, learn what you can. And so that’s kind of how I ended up where I am today. It’s been a great ride.
Well, let’s talk a little bit about that because you went over a lot of history in a short amount of time and your company is obviously like a lot of us going through some difficult times right now in our industry, we’re coming out of pandemic. We’ve got some labor challenges. There’s been occupancy challenges. There’s been all of those kind of things. So when you’re talking to your teams, which I understand now you’re talking a lot more, you were telling us in, in the the pre-interview that you’re actually getting some opportunities to speak when you used to do that all the time, but when you’re giving the message to people and your teams and leading people, kind of what, what are you encouraging them through these difficult times right now?
A lot of it is about personal growth. I’m a big believer in personal growth and in remaining positive and just encouraging people to endure. I mean our team’s got a lot of experience. And so we’ve all kind of been through a lot of different ups and downs and cycles in this industry. Talking to our groups you really, it’s kind of funny. We just had all of our executive directors in for budget meetings. We have 35 communities under management. Literally I tried to empathize with myself. I know it’s tough. I’ve been there. You know, I told them the funny story about bouncing payroll, which is not funny at the time, but I told them, “I know what it’s like to have tough times and I’m still here today.”
You can make it, and then you kind of tell ’em, “we appreciate everything you’ve done for us” I mean, I know it’s hard and you stuck with us and they’ll be reward at the end. Some of you believe in the righteous win in the end. That’s kind how I end that, just do the right thing, continue pressing on and just try to encourage them and people respond to that. It’s kind of funny. It’s like, “wow,” they they’re listening to me or whatever the case is. So it’s kind of what I try to tell people.
That’s awesome. As we’re talking through personal growth and growth in our industry, there’s a lot of changes happening right now, even with the demographic that’s starting to change that we’re starting begin to see the transitions between that greatest generation moving into the boomer generation. When you look at your company’s outlook, how are you guys positioning from labor force and from just operationally to kind of be ready to change as the industry’s changing.
That’s a great question. And you’re right. I started were serving the greatest generation, read the book and we actually developed training in the greatest generation to teach the staff. You didn’t realize but this is the people that started little league and they did this and they did that. And they just grew eight people. And they never asked to be thankful for all these things and tried to give them a sense of who they’re serving. And you’re right now, you’ve kind of come out of that group, the baby boomers. And so knowing they have different expectations. We’re developing still. So we talk a lot to our teams. It’s funny I’m a certain age and most everybody on our team’s about my age, but we all think we’re young. We’re not ready for this, but we try to think what we would like in 10 or 20 years.
When we built way back when there was no such thing as wifi. There’s just so many things now. We’re doing a job now. And the cable company wants do a long term contract, I go, “who says they’re gonna be watching cable in five years?” There’s something else. It may be out there that no one’s doing. I’ve been in this long time, so you don’t want to get stuck in a rut, “this is the way we’ve always done it.” You can’t be like that. What you do too, is there’s so much information like these podcasts. There’s so many things out there now that I get your hands on, that can spark you to go, “oh, wow. I never thought about this. This is cool.” I like to read all the industry information that’s out there and try to be creative.
And now it’s interesting about the workforce, we’re all facing that challenge. That’s tough, especially when you’re the financial guy. “We’re just have to raise everybody up to $15 an hour.” And I’m like, “whoa, whoa, whoa, it’s not how it works, but maybe this is how it works?” We’re were really having to work through all those things. And how do you pass it on to the resident? And you have competition, Some locations you can’t just raise the rates. And so it’s challenging times. And but I think it’s fun. But my mom lived at a location for seven years and she passed away last April, but you kind of get a feel. You’re there a lot, what they like, what they don’t like. And so you learn a lot from the residents too. And so, I dunno, it’s always evolving and it’s never boring. And I can see me doing this for a long, I mean, I’m older, but I think I’m young. So I don’t see me retiring time soon. So it gets fun doing this, figuring these things out.
That’s awesome. So what do you see as for you guys, as you have your current footprint of communities and your product type, independent, assistant, memory care, what is the avenue that you’re going in that you’re looking like, “this is where senior housing is going.” Do you see it being the same kind of traditional services and products, or do you see it being a lot of different things coming out, or your focus is going in different areas as you look to develop?
Well we have a focus in one areas. So when I started, we did independent living only, and in a perfect world, that’s all you would do. It’s a lot easier. And so we could sell against people who did healthcare. We’re like, “well, you don’t want to be that,” This is how we do. And this is independent active and that’s a nursing home. So you know how to sell against these different things. But really when we sold the company in 2011, what we have focused on going forward is kind of a luxury product or it’s an urban infill, where you have all three levels of care. And that’s what I think people want to one residence for the rest of their life, deliver all those services in one building we think is the optimal way to go. We’re building right now in North Carolina and so we’re looking at creating a home healthcare company to help there. But that’s kind of our footprint, what we like doing, what we’ve had success with. And we enjoy doing that and its workforce and our invest like it. So right now that’s what our focus is. Urban in fill.
So talk to us, to switch gears here a little bit, you touched on it just in the beginning about personal growth and our listeners didn’t get to hear the story that you were sharing with us of your first mentor and the cassette tape. And we started aging ourselves a little bit talking about the cassette tape on how to negotiate with. How is personal growth for you on a daily basis for some of our young leaders out there that are just getting into senior housing or some tips that you could give to them?
So that is a great question. And I’ve said this multiple times, had someone spoke life into me like he did when I was eighteen, no telling where I be today. And so try to raise my kids that way, right. But he said, “what do you do to get better every day? Like, I dunno what you’re talking about. And I’ve never worked for anybody that said something like that. Well, he said, “go read to book on success.” So I went, bought a John Maxwell book, The Journey of Success and it literally blew my mind. I was like, “wow, this is revelatory.” He had all these stories about Abraham Lincoln and Abraham Lincoln had lost seven elections, but he never gave up. And he went down one of the greatest presidents. I mean just all these motivational things I had never heard and what it did.
And, and we really focused on excellence. And so I went from just regular guy to guy who was pretty fanatical about excellence and self improvement. And so what I would tell young people, it affected me, affected my wife and affected my kids. And so my kids were raised, they’d say we would do things. I’d go well, “we’re raising the future leaders of America.” That’s what I’m doing. I mean because every time your kids doing this and like, “no, my kids are doing this,” and this is why that’s what I expect out of it. And it’s kind of funny if you’re a father, a new father, the kids do what you expect them to do. I expected my kids to behave and they pretty much did. My son got a little crazy at the end. But as a young person, all I could say is begin today by reading and listen. This is kind of funny,
listen to some Tony Robbins, the guy’s super motivational. I listen to him 20 something years ago and he got me fired up. But once you start down that pathway of daily reading, daily improving, it literally it changes your life. We used to use the term “internalize.” So once you read it enough, you begin to internalize these things and it becomes a part of who you are. And you know, you can read these great stories and you remember, I mean, it’s funny because I’m the story guy, it’s kind of like well, when we’re talking in the discussion, “you got a story?” “Yeah. I got a story.” But it’s because I read so much and, and you begin to think like they think read what successful people do. So just a couple years ago, I said, what is Bill Gates reading?
David Clement 13:00
So he said, I read a book that changed my life this year it’s called “Why We Sleep” Oh, okay. I downloaded the book, blew my mind that convinced me, I’ve got to start sleeping and things like that. But there’s so many things out there that you may not be aware of that can help you and move you forward. And so I was young, I have kids in their twenties and and I tell them, my son, “what are you reading?” He doesn’t say it, but what he reads is Twitter. He doesn’t read a book. But if I was a young professional, start reading books on success and personal growth and excellence and things. What you need to do is read things that’s going to not just technical. Because people say, “oh, you realize technical…” I don’t read accounting stuff. That’s boring. I read things that’s going help me with my family, with my job. I used to run a youth organization, truth is truth and a skill is a skill. You can use it anywhere. So I would encourage people to read books on success and things like that.
Love that. So my last question, before I know we have to wrap up the conversation and get you back to your busy schedule of meetings, but what is the number one thing you’re most passionate about right now?
You should have prepped me.
Yeah. Got you on the spot right there.
That’s not the answer you’re looking for. I have a passion to be the best. Now. I may not be the best, but literally when I interview people, it’s kind of funny. I have to laugh when I interview people, I literally will say, I’m gonna laugh when I’m saying, now, “I’m looking for a win. I’m going to win. And if you don’t think you got to take to be a winner, you probably can’t work here.” I say a lot. This is my career. I don’t want to do halfway anything I’m all in or I’m all out. So I’m all in. I’m kind of fanatic about it. You can ask anybody who works directly for me, I tell them that And the thing is what’s interesting is America loves a winner.
Everybody wants to be part of the best. Everybody can buy into that. I heard Horst Schultz speak years ago, one of the founders of Ritz Carlton. And he said, “hey, I hire the same people you do.” I hire housekeepers dishwashers. I don’t pay them any different. What we do is ask them to be part of the best team. We are the best and everybody knows. And he goes, “it just draws people in.” “I’ll work for 10 bucks an hour if I can be part of the best.”
I’m passionate about it right now. I just I want to be the best. I’m a nice guy, you know, I probably too nice, but I don’t have tolerance for people who don’t want to be the best. You know what I’m saying?
We’re not here to halfway do anything. So my poor kids grew up like that and that’s how they were raised. But it’s funny is these skills you can learn now, if you’re a young professional listening and you’re not married, you don’t have kids yet. These are all skills you can pass on your kids someday and to make their life better. We say this a lot. And I’m grateful to the mentor that I had. Because he doesn’t know it, but he had a massive effect on my kid’s life for what he did with me. And so a young person what I’d do is I’d go find a mentor, find someone that’s successful. And, and what’s interesting, the last thing, I know we’re running long, Horst Shultz will tell you the same thing. Successful people love to tell you how they did it. They want share their success. And so because someone asked, I did a talk and someone says, “how can we find someone to be a mentor?” If you find a successful person they would love to help you. Just ask them, “would you mind mentor me? Would you help me?” And people love to share. So be one of my last worth.
I love it. So 25 years in the industry, tons of great experience, just touching the surface of that in this interview. I know our audience will love to connect with you and pick your brain and be able to learn. Thank you for the striving to be the best and the personal growth. I know our listeners can be motivated by that wherever they are.
Yeah, no doubt. I know I learned a lot from this conversation. I feel motivated myself and we’re here in Houston. We’ve got a lot to accomplish and so let’s go out and win. Thanks to all of our listeners that are out there. You can go to BTGvoice.com and connect with us there. We’ll put David’s information and the show notes. You can connect with him on LinkedIn and check them out. And thanks for listening to another great episode of Bridge the Gap.