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242: Marcus Van Ameringen

Industry veteran Marcus Van Ameringen, Vice President of Business Development at 12 Oaks Senior Living, shares his thoughts on regional operations and the power of culture for recruiting, retention and occupancy. 

Marcus discusses culture-focused management, high touch model of operations, the future of the industry, as well as shares highlights of the conference. 

Recorded at the NIC Fall Conference where BTG is a proud Media Sponsor.

Listen to 12 Oaks CEO Greg Puklicz on Ep. 204.

Lucas 

Welcome to Bridge to Gap podcast, This senior living podcast with Josh and Lucas. We’re in DC finishing up our thought leadership discussions here at the NIC conference. We’ve got a great friend on the program today. Many of you have seen him on panels before, and you know Marcus Van Ameringen. He’s the Vice President of Business Development at 12 Oakes. Welcome to the show.

Marcus Van Ameringen 

Thank you Lucas and Josh. And Sarah. It’s great to be here. I appreciate the invitation. 

Lucas 

Yes, absolutely. Our listeners know that our faithful producer, Sarah, she’s behind the camera. Making sure that we’re hitting all our points, and making sure that we’re looking good and sounding good. So big thanks to our producer, Sarah just as you gave her that shout out right there. Well, today what we’re going to be talking about is your role in seniors housing because you have been on the forefront of these discussions for many years. You’ve spent a lot of time developing strong relationships with investors on the real estate side, and have really made an impact in the industry at the various stages of your career. So we’re excited to have you on walk us through a little bit of your origin story of how you transitioned into seniors housing.

Marcus Van Ameringen 

Right. I’ll try and give you the cliff notes here.

Lucas

Sure.

Marcus Van Ameringen 

It was a career change for me when I got out of, I did an MBA at Vanderbilt, and I was looking to go into the Proctor and Gamble route for a marketing and then an opportunity opened up at Life Care Centers America with Forest Prestons Group [Yeah.] To be the Director of Market Research. I interviewed there and I thought this could be great to be in an area where it’s more of a people orientation, direct impact on the lives of individuals. It was a growing company, very, very aggressive growth. So I got hired there and spent five years with them. Great experience. Everything from doing economic feasibility studies, CONs in the early years. I was on the heavily interfacing with our the company’s new developments on the skilled nursing.

Marcus Van Ameringen 02:57

Sure. And a lot of very innovative designs, I must say. I mean, they the company was building sniffs that actually looked like a lot of assisted livings. And we are talking about the late eighties, early nineties. So that was innovative. We got a great experience there. They moved to the senior housing division, American Lifestyles, and ended up doing economic feasibility studies for external clients, consulting, internal consulting group consulting to external clients. Worked on a number of developments. So yeah, so I just, you know, stayed in the industry. Ended up focusing on the marketing piece, both for skilled nursing and the senior housing piece. And then moved to Atlanta. And the rest is history. I’m not gonna get into the details, but yea. 

 

Lucas

No problem. Yeah. Well, and we’ve enjoyed seeing you. You’ve moderated panels in the industry. You’ve been around these thought leaders and so now this week at the Knit Conference would’ve been your primary objectives here?

Marcus Van Ameringen 04:05

We have a very large slate of clients that we’ve met with, and you were actually in on one of the meetings with a client out of New York that we’re looking to manage for. This was a broken bond deal. So a lot of it is just getting to meet people face to face. I think it’s one of the beauties of the NIC conferences, you can be very efficient with your time and actually have people in a face to face meeting as opposed to everything on a video conference. And that we’ve done a lot of that, that’s essential for prep work. But so that’s one of the goals is to meet with our investors on specific projects that were in the works. Also, just to be around decision makers and people who are making things happen in the industry.

Marcus Van Ameringen 04:56

You pick up ideas, motivations from the strangest places. I’ll have to tell this little story. Just even today, I ran into Brian Preston, who he and I shared offices together at Life Care in 1988,  when we were both brand new and green in the industry. He’s the son of the chairman. And I ran into him today with his son And he gave me a big bear hug. We hadn’t seen each other in what, 30-some years. [Wow.] And he’s done very well with his own companies. So that’s kind of neat, those serendipitous type experiences. 

Josh 05:38 

So 12 Oaks story and strategy. Tell us a little bit about that. Yeah. And what, what’s the strategy? It sounds like you guys I’m hearing are really growing quickly. So where are you seeing those opportunities? Where’re you headed?

Marcus Van Ameringen 05:53

Yeah, so the growth is happening primarily this year, interestingly enough, a little bit of background. Twelve Oaks has been in the business, some 34 or 35 years. Dick Blalock is the chairman and sole owner. And he kind of built the business with his dad. We have owned and operated everything from independent living to assisted living to memory care or a combination thereof. And the company sold off three properties in 2018, 2019 which was great timing in terms of valuations. During 2021, I came on board with the company early 21. It was a tough time for everybody, especially in terms of acquisitions, trying to get valuations and the lenders weren’t landing, the debt markets, all these kinds of things were up in turmoil and even on into the first part of this year.

Marcus Van Ameringen 06:56

But we currently are managing 17 assisted living memory care properties as of today. We’ll be bringing three more starting on Monday. And these are coming to us through our relationships with institutional investors. We primarily manage institutional investors. We managed 10 for Blackstone and Longview. Some others for CNL, and we’ve managed for, PJm the past, Santi Overtas and other investors. It’s a good relationship, stable relationship. It’s looking like we may have another seven to ten properties coming on board by December. So that’s significant growth. We have beefed up operations, the platform, so the basic platform’s already always been in place. But you know, staffed up where we need. A strategy is primarily third party transition management. What we are seeing in the industry is a number of properties.

Marcus Van Ameringen 08:02

The investor community is maybe not so happy with the performance of some of the larger players, the operators who have more of a cookie cutter approach, if you will. I’m not trying to be insulting, but there’s more of a preference for solid regional players who are on the ground, they know the local players. They’re heavily invested in the local market. So our strategy going forward is we are building the company to 30 properties and probably to stabilize there and primarily through third party management contracts. But also as they present opportunities for as we build wealth for the investors there’s opportunities for ROFOs down the road, that kind of thing. 

Josh 08:55

I’m really interested in that. But, you know, transition work is not easy work. [No.] And it takes a special team to be able to do that successfully. You’ve been with 12 Oak now for a couple years. What have, what have you been observing about the team that has made them some of the secret sauce that helps them through the transition and being effective at that?

Marcus Van Ameringen 09:19

Yeah, that’s a great question, Josh. Look, we don’t have any magic bullets mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, or a secret sauce, if you will. I think part of the strength of 12 Oaks as an operating platform is we have what we  call a high touch model of operations. Meaning we allocate no more than four to five properties per regional vice president. And that regional has to be based in that geographical area where it’s, where those properties are focused. The advantage of that, several advantages, one is it brings them closer to daily interaction with the EDs and the whole team. So the proximity, the high touch, our regionals have to be competent in operations and marketing and financial issues, and kind of jack of all trades, if you will. Rather than you know, having the regional sales capability and regional other op ops, we like to keep that real close.

Marcus Van Ameringen 10:24:

[Yeah.] And it’s worked well for the company. We also have, I think another strength of the company is we have a real culture focused management. We do Harrison tests on staff. A lot of investment in training, especially on the sales side, using the Sherpa CRM relationship, relational-based selling, following up with the leads, making sure that it’s well integrated and smooth, speed to lead, Right. [Right.] All of that kind of thing. Another component is that we have an internal solutions consulting group. These are seasoned people. Most were former eds, you know, vice presidents and various capacities who are available to step in. For example, if you have an ED leave, instead of, you know, having a gap there for three weeks and having a traveler who doesn’t have that knowledge of the local community. I think it’s very important to preserve the culture and the continuity. You want to keep your staff really focused and not to, “Oh, we lost our ID, is the thing gonna fall apart?” No, no, no, no, no. So our regional consultants can just jet in, if you will, and sit in that spot for two or three weeks, ensure the continuity of culture management. I can go on. Yeah. But those are some of this. 

 

Lucas

Yeah. That’s important. 

 

Josh 12:02 

Well thanks for sharing that one. I would imagine that high touch model, not only good for continuity of care, quality of care and those communities in those transition times in particular, but also probably gives you a leg up in the recruitment of great team, because I can’t tell you, I went up through the regional ranks and when you’re covering multiple states, you’re away from home more than your home and you spend most of your time and in airplanes and cars. Yep. It becomes very difficult. I think that’s fueled a lot of the burnout in our industry for our regional levels of management. So I can only imagine having smaller, tighter geography and having fewer properties to manage that. You can focus on quality and relationships. So that gives you an opportunity, potentially get some great talent and in those roles as well, which is tough to do in the market that we’re in right now.

Marcus Van Ameringen 12:56

Yeah. Yeah. It’s a great observation, Josh. And you know, that model may work for larger companies in a sense it has to work. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you know, the economics, but it’s not ideal. Mm-Hmm. And what we’re finding is more in the, more of the investors even, you know, some of them are non-traded, and some are REITS, are looking more at a regional model that works. [Yeah.] And having people on the ground because they understand. Everybody understands that it’s a local business. And it’s very hard to,  be supportive of the operations at the local level if you’re in the air. Right. Yeah. I mean if you’re in five states, it’s probably not an ideal relationship or structure. 

Josh 13:44

Right. Well you know, you were talking about efficiency of meeting Lucas, NIC, what an awesome place for us to be able to talk to great talent like this all in one place. Yeah. These guys are so busy. So how blessed are we to be able to sit down the microphone and pick brains and things like that? So it’s awesome.

Marcus Van Ameringen 14:01

That’s right. Right. And I’ll put a plug in for Lucas too, so Yeah,

Lucas 14:04

That’s good. I guess you cashed that check that I sent you. 

 

Josh

More of that. More of that. 

Marcus Van Ameringen 14:09

No by man from a practical standpoint. So, Lucas most recently did a major, his company Bridge Construction did major renovation for us. And that was, as I understand it was brought on by a Long View. Right? [Yeah.] Because they are the owners. And you know, a million, what?

Lucas 14:30

Yeah, it was probably around 1.2 range.

 

Marcus Van Ameringen 14:33

Yeah. Yeah’s a big project. I looked at the property some of the pictures because, I came in at the, when it was already done, pretty much, transformed the the layout of the building. It’s in a high, high growth market, high end product. And so, you’re up against new builds, and it was critical to get a comparable product to the new builds with the same amenities and to be competitive in that market. They did a beautiful job.

Josh 15:04

And, we don’t, obviously Lucas, I’m glad that he brought that up because, just like you guys are really a specialist regional operator growing, specializing in this transition culture. Yeah. Also transitioning the properties to be relevant again. I mean, so Lucas, right? Just like you guys are in a very specialized market, and obviously it says a lot about you guys to have vetted and, and sought out someone that was equally as specialized to be able to tailor something very special for that community. So that’s what Lucas does every day. So you guys are kindred spirits for sure.

Marcus Van Ameringen 15:42

Yeah. Yeah. Well, we understand, you know, and Lucas understands this even more that, you got to know the local market to be able to get the subs right? [Sure.] And know the quality of work and, can you have continuity and and have the regional structure, and you’ve got people in various places. I’m not telling him what he is.

Lucas 16:01

Sure. Well, it makes sense. It makes sense on a lot of different ways because I, I was in a former role where I was covering projects throughout the southeast and even a little bit further and productivity execution suffered which has always been really the genesis around me wanting to really focus greatly on the state of Texas personally because I’m able to establish myself, I’m able to control quality, I’m able to control, control continuity, and control outcome.

Marcus Van Ameringen 16:32

Yeah. Right. Yeah. And I, like I said, I’ve been in Texas about a year and a half. I, you don’t really realize how big it is to get there. I mean, you know you can take a plane flight two to three hours and you’re still in Texas. It’s like really? 

Lucas

It’s a great state.

Josh

Yeah. Which means lots of opportunity.

Lucas 16:56

There’s a lot of opportunity

Josh 16:58

 

With all the challenges. There’s all of these innovative emerging business models and specialties. That’s what’s exciting to me. We’ve had so much vanilla in our industry just in my short 17 years in the industry. And with all of our challenges, I think what it’s creating, one of our guests said yesterday that we were talking to, it’s like we’re going from three channels to 700 cable channels now, which is exciting because,  that’s what people want and they want variation. Not everybody wants the same thing. So every management company, every contractor, every specialist is not created equal. And we all have our strengths and weaknesses. So it’s exciting to see your growth. Congratulations. Thank you. Congratulations to 12 Oaks. What an awesome time that we’ve had to spend with you here at Nick. Hope that your conference is awesome.

Marcus Van Ameringen 17:48

Well, thank you Josh. And you know, it’s, I feel like, I’ve been in multiple roles over the, some 30 years I’ve been in the industry and have enjoyed them all. You know, transitioned from marketing through to brokerage and then consulting and now back on the provider side. And I would encourage anybody, you know, especially young people who are looking at an industry where it’s not sexy. It’s not a Google, it’s not a high tech. But you can leverage all kinds of skills in this industry. And there’s room for growth and room for good people, and we need young talent to come in and be patient. That’s one of the things because it is a pretty mature industry in some respects, but, but there’s opportunity for innovation in virtually every area. [Right.] And so and you know, it’s as satisfaction of knowing that you’re making a difference at whatever level or, or interfacing in the industry. Whether it be housing, acquisitions or you name it, you know,

Lucas 19:02

And every discipline. Yeah. Well, and that’s such a great phrase there. You know, it made me think, you know, the industry may not be high tech, but it’s high reward because of the work that you do. You have an opportunity to do great work in this industry. Right. Well, thanks for your time, Marcus. This has been a fun conversation. Thanks guys. We know that you have other meetings and we’re gonna get you back to that. And for our listeners that wanna connect with Marcus and 12 folks, you can go to the show notes and hit those links right there. You can go to btg voice.com, connect with all of our content there. We wanna see you on social. Linkedin’s a great channel for us. Let’s continue the conversations there. Connect with Josh Lucas and Sarah and Marcus there on LinkedIn. And thanks to everybody for listening to another great episode of Bridge the Gap.

242: Marcus Van Ameringen