Ep062: Hal Cranmer

Welcome to the MoreCheeseLessWhiskers.com podcast.  Today, we're talking with Hal Cranmer from Phoenix, Arizona. Hal owns five boutique assisted living homes with just 10 rooms in each.

We started out the conversation getting a sense of how that business works, how he finds people, and then talk about how we can differentiate what he has to identify people who are looking for that particular type of facility.

The ‘smaller boutique’ is actually a word that we came up with on the podcast here. You'll see how we talk about using market data to compel people to raise their hand, and separating his before unit from his during unit.

He was very excited by the end of the call and I think we have a real viable plan here. I can't wait to see him put it into action.

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Transcript - More Cheese Less Whiskers 062

Dean: Hal Cranmer. It's Dean Jackson how are you?

Hal: I'm doing really well. How about yourself?

Dean: I am back in Florida after escaping the hurricane. I got stranded in Toronto. The airport was closed, so I just got back on Wednesday, but we’re...

Hal: Wow.

Dean: Everybody's ... yeah. Trying to scrape from under all the hurricane debris right now.

Hal: How is your house, damaged, or...

Dean: It's all fine, yeah, yeah, just a lot of ... Luckily by the time it got to us, we were ... it was less strength than it was when it hit down in Naples, so we have a lot of tree limbs and leaves and all kinds of debris and stuff, but no real house damage or anything like that, so that's all good.

Hal: Good to hear. I lived in Pensacola for a while, so I've been through a couple of them. Not fun.

Dean: There you go. You are, Hal, in Arizona now.

Hal: I am. I live in Scottsdale. I have some assisted living homes around the Phoenix area.

Dean: Okay. Why don't you kind of set the stage here and tell me what's going on, and then where we can focus our time here?

Hal: Sure. Okay. Well, I have five assisted living homes. They're licensed for 10 beds each. They're really like large residential homes. They're not big facilities or that kind of thing. There's sort of a sub-market. The big facilities charge anywhere from 5 to $8,000 a month to stay in their homes. We're sort of the budget version of them. We can charge, at the very least, like 21, 2,200, and we'll go up to about 5,000. We've got sort of a variety of rooms from a single person ... a single room, private room with their own private bathroom, to a shared room with no bath, and so the rates are different depending on how much privacy you want. We have, like I said, 10 beds in each home. Usually, we have two caregivers during the day. Sometimes, we'll have three if the manager needs to come in and do some paperwork too or that kind of thing, and then we'll have one person overnight stay with them.

We have activities. We have a personal trainer that comes in and works with some of our residents. He's actually got some of the residents well enough to go home. Then, I'm working on a yoga instructor. We have musicians who come in during the day, people who do arts and crafts. I'm trying to work with some schools in the area. For a while, I had some National Honor Society students coming in and doing karaoke with the residents and reading with them and things like that. Most of them graduated, but I'm getting some other ... maybe some journalism students to come in and record some of the incredible stories some of our residents have from their childhood and everything.

But, I can really use some help on the marketing side of it to fill the house or, I guess, in the industry, they say heads on beds, but it's to find new residents. I still have a couple of rental properties that you put an ad in Craigslist and usually you can find a renter pretty easily that way. It's really not that way in this industry. It's much more referral-based, word-of-mouth, getting to know doctors. But, the biggest source of referrals are the actual referral agents that go spend time in hospitals and rehab centers and churches, get to grow their networks and then they bring people on tours to your homes and they typically charge you a month's rent if the person moves in. The Place for Mom is like the biggest national referral agent. They charge 120% of a month's rent. Those fees really add up, and it'd be great to work on my own marketing to get people in without those huge costs.

Dean: Yeah. That's an interesting thing. I've seen just recently a Place for Mom ad. I'm on with that. My mother passed away about five years ago. She was in an assisted living facility. She had Alzheimer's, so we had to find an Alzheimer's facility that could accommodate that. It was quite a process. But you're right. I mean, it's in that ... on the upper end of that monthly range to find a nice place that had all of the services and the care that she needed, but it wasn't an easy ... it wasn't an easy process. We looked at a lot of places and ultimately had an adviser or a consultant to help us at doing assessments, and see what would be the best thing. She would set up all the appointments with us. So, that wasn't a National Service type of thing, like what you're describing with a Place for Mom, but now that I think about it, I imagine that's probably exactly how that works, right, that she charged a fee plus she would get a commission or whatever wherever we ended up placing my mom on her recommendation.

It's an interesting thing to kind of have had that first-hand experience with it. Let's go back to the beginning here, first off. Right now, you've got potentially 50 available spots, is that right? Is that what we're looking at here?

Hal: That's correct, yes.

Dean: Okay. So you got five homes. You got 10 available spots each. How do you run, as far as capacity goes right now? How many out of the 50 do you have?

Hal: I have one bed open.

Dean: Okay. You have one bed open. I guess it's a constant ... It's just this constant juggling situation, right, where you never know ... once you get full, you never know when you're going to have a vacancy again sort of thing. Unfortunately, I guess, it's that people end up passing on before there becomes a vacancy, right?

Hal: Right. I have people stay with me three or four years. I've had people stay with me three or four days.

Dean: Yes. Exactly.

Hal: It changes all the time.

Dean: Yeah.

Hal: It's funny. I was going through your nine profit activators. One of them is like nurture lifetime relationships. I'm like, "Well, we got that covered."

Dean: Yeah, right. Exactly. When you look at this then, what do you typically run ... Do you typically have a full occupancy? Or, what's the range on that if we looked at the last 12 months kind of thing we’re...

Hal: I would say it's anywhere now ... I bought four of these about a little over 12 months ago, so it's really sort of the range. When I first got in, I would say they were probably 65 to 70% full. I don't think I've ever been completely full, or if I have, it was for a couple weeks and then it went down again. I've had it as low as where I've had one that was down to four residents, and then it bounces up to 10. I mean, I had four people pass away in the home within two weeks, totally unrelated, just coincidental kind of thing. Once they pass away, it's ... you got to sort of let all the referral agents know and everyone that, "Hey, we've got vacancies again," and get it going again, because it's not like people are touring the home. A lot of the move-ins are like, "I need a place Tuesday, or I need a place tomorrow."

Dean: I know. I get it.

Hal: You can't, "Well, call us back in a month and we'll see what we got." In a month's time, they're gone to another place.

Dean: So, you have to be kind of ready at the drop of a hat. I remember, it's the same thing. It's like he puts it off, puts it off, or it's on their mind, but then something happens and it becomes now necessary and quickly necessary, not something that you can kind of like ease into kind of thing. I get that.

Now, are all of the homes in the same ... Are they all in Scottsdale and Phoenix kind of area? Like, that they're interchangeable, that if somebody can get on the ... that they would consider switching, or if one ... a vacancy became in one of them, that that's fine, or are they spread out that they're really only ... they're not drawing from the same audience?

Hal: Four of them are reasonably close to each other. I don't know how well you know the Phoenix area, but three are in a town called Surprise, which is right by Sun City, which is a huge retirement area. One's in Goodyear, which is about maybe 15 minutes south of Surprise. But then I've got one in Mesa, way on the other side of the valley, too. I bought that one several years ago, and then I came up with these four. So, I've really got two areas, the Surprise, Goodyear area, and then the Mesa area.

Dean: You just have one in Mesa?

Hal: Just one is Mesa, exactly.

Dean: I got you. Okay. There. That's typically, right, the people who are ... they're looking for something in a specific area. The person looking in Surprise is not going to be the same person in Mesa. You're not going to say, "I've got an opening in Mesa." They'll say, "Yeah. That's fine." They're typically...

Hal: Yeah. Location is everything.

Dean: Yeah. Okay.

Hal: Just like your real estate business, it’s...

Dean: Yeah. I got it. Okay. Got you.

Hal: Everyone wants to be right near mom and dad that they can talk to them after work and see them, that kind of thing.

Dean: Yeah. Have you ever been ... Sounds like what you've done, you've taken it from 65% vacancy to virtually 99% occupancy. Is this something that you are concerned about, or is it ... like if right now, if you had two vacancies that ended up in Surprise there, how would they ... what would happen? How would you think that they would get filled right now? What would be the most predictable thing?

Hal: Well, I send out an email every Monday morning to about 50 referral agents of "Here's my vacancies house by house." And I'll say, "We're full in this house, or we've got an opening for a shared female or a private room or things, or a private room and bath," that kind of thing. I just send that out like clockwork every Monday. I call a lot of referral agents. We'll text them once a week. They don't like to be bugged by assisted living homeowners a lot, so we don't bug them too much, but just every couple days or something like that. Then, I've got a website.

The big thing, yes I'm filling them, but a lot of it is ... and I hate to say this, but it's kind of quality over quantity that I'm looking forward to. [we want to try to bring in the ... someone who's reasonably active who we think's going to last two or three years because there's a whole lot of paperwork and extra things, we have to bring in managers and pay them extra to bring someone in, and the sort of taking care of everything afterwards, fixing the room, doing all the paperwork when they leave, that if we can keep them longer and sort of have a better selection rather than just take the first one that comes along, that maybe ... have a whole lot of problems that my ... I really want to take care of my caregivers, because they're also very hard to find. So, if I get people who are incredibly difficult to take care of, I'll get a lot of turnover in the caregivers as well.

Dean: Right.

Hal: So, A, it'd be nice to sort of have a flow. Plus, I've been sort of networking with other homes in the area, and they're more than willing to pay referral fees to me if I'm full and I don't ... or if someone that ... my caregiver's like, "Please don't bring them in," I can refer to another home, especially one that maybe specializes in diabetes or Alzheimer's or something like that.

Dean: Yeah.

Hal: But I'm trying to get more on the internet website. I've had a couple leads from that, too, but it's been very slow, like maybe ... I think in the last year, I've had four leads from that.

Dean: Right. Got you. Part of what I'm thinking about here, because when I ... There's so many different ways to go here, so many different conversations we could have. Part of it is the separation of the before unit and the during unit. It sounds like where your complete operation is really during unit oriented. You're creating a great experience for people. You have from the moment somebody says, "Hey, I'd like to move in," until they move out, and you've got ... that's where the main focus is. It seems like just even in the numbers, it shows that you're doing a good job in there, right?

Hal: I've been getting a lot of good testimonial.

Dean: Yeah. Perfect, right? That's important. One of the questions that I would ask you is, like what's your vision for this? I mean, are you looking to expand this? Are you looking to keep these 50 just perpetually full, or are you ... What's your vision?

Hal: Well, I look at my cost, and I don't see that I can really lower my high costs a whole lot. It's tough. So to me, the way ... the vision is to enhance more and more the activities, the offerings we can provide. Maybe there's other things we can provide families, and things like that, and be able to raise the revenue. I have, like I said, yoga guys, musicians, personal trainers coming in, things like that. I tell them, "I don't want profit on top of you, your particular service. I have that. I charge those to the residents separately. I want to be able to raise my rents and say, 'I offer all this. I'm a premium service,' so that I can give a very high level of service rather than I'm the cheapest thing in town, but you're not going to get much."

Dean: What would be the dream come true? What would it take to be the most expensive in town?

Hal: I think the problem is I need to have a nicer house.

Dean: Well, that's fair. That's fair.

Hal: Everyone wants a private room. Everyone wants a private bathroom and gorgeous living prices, but they want to pay $2,000 a month for that. So, ideally I would say yes, it would be long-term expanding into nicer and nicer homes. The trouble is, the market gets ... now you're competing with the big facilities too, so the market for those people are a lot more challenging, too.

Dean: Very interesting. I read ... and I don't know whether you or ... I'm sure you do keep on top of all of this stuff, but I've read some demographic information about how in the coming years here, there is going to be a dip between the silent generation, I guess they call, from which my mother was in, from ... born from 1930 to 1942 basically, or whenever the baby boom started. There's quite a dip between the, I guess what they call the GI generation, the greatest generation, right, the 20s, the roaring 20s. Birthrates went up, up, up. Then, in the depression, birth rates fell down, and then back up again in 1945 or whenever the baby boom started. And that for the last period of time, there's been a lot of overbuilding of assisted living facilities and things like that, end-of-life type of facilities that has been driven by the people who were born in the late teens and 20s.

But now, the youngest of those are now approaching their ... are 95, or something like that, right? They're getting way up into the end, and the baby boomer generation behind them is not 15 or 20 years away from that sort of choice. Do you see that happening, or have you read anything about that?

Hal: I've read similar things, yes, but it's like real estate, it's everything's local. I've got Vietnam veterans in my homes who are very much in the baby boom primes time. I've got mid to late 50-year-old people that just have medical issues and things like that. If you're targeting the 80, the 90-year-old crowd, that's true, but if you ... A lot of times, you're really in this industry targeting the kids of the people.

Dean: Yes.

Hal: It's if mom or dad, even for younger kids, are having medical issues, or they didn't take care of themselves when they were younger or afflicted with something like Lou Gehrig's or Huntington's disease or Parkinson's or something like that, they're just as much candidates for assisted living as just very old people. So there is that dip, but if you target people who are just having trouble taking care of a family member at home, you've got a wide generational swing...

Dean: There you go.

Hal: ... a lot of people that you can go after.

Dean: So, what would be the other potential target audiences? If you were to say like when you certainly look at Alzheimer's, but that requires a different type of care and diabetes. I know you've mentioned that you would refer both of those out because you're not equipped for those, right?

Hal: No. I've got an Alzheimer's house.

Dean: You do? Okay.

Hal: My one in Mesa is very good with diabetes. We've actually worked with diet, and one diabetic person in our Goodyear home that is off insulin.

Dean: Wow.

Hal: The diet's really helped. So, what I'd love to target, and what's my really long-term vision is to sort of be a home that, "Hey, we want to get you better. We don't want you just live out your days here." Because the first thing most people say when they come in my home, the actual resident, not the family, is, "I don't want to be here. I want to go home."

Dean: Right.

Hal: I think it's sort of give the customer what they want. "Okay. Let's help you get home, okay?" What I'd really like to do is target people who ... If you want to go home, I want to be the place who sends you home. Because I deal with hospitals and rehab centers, and we pump people full of drugs and all that, where I think diet and exercise can work wonders, as well as attitude. If I can target the people who can come in my homes and get ... and have the desire, "I really want to go home," rather than "I'm just saying that, but I'll just ... After a week or two, I'll settle in and watch TV."

That would just thrill me. I've had one or two people where we've actually sent them home. I got a video testimonial of one that we brought home. He's home walking his dog out, everything. He came in our home in a wheelchair, and just worked really hard with our personal trainer to get home. I'm like, "If I can do that to everyone ..." Everyone's like, "Well, if you do that, then you're not going to have any customers. They're all going to leave" I go, "Well, they are leaving now, but they're leaving in a bed or a coffin."

Dean: Right.

Hal: If I can have them walk out of my home and go home, I will never be hurting for customers.

Dean: Right, exactly. That's an interesting thing that ... a Place for Mom has really kind of hit on the language and their audience, right? They're looking for ... because that's what triggers the conversation, right, is we got to find a place for mom.

Hal: Right.

Dean: That really kind of attracts the people who are looking for what their options are when they don't know what to even look for. I'm wondering, what would be the language that would be potentially, "I want to get back home?" You know what I mean? If it was you had that ability to kind of experiment with the language of maybe one of your facilities with a goal of getting them back home, that you become a place for people who potentially could go back home, you know.

Hal: Oh, yeah. No. That's a great idea. I see exactly what you're saying. Off the top of my head, I don't have anything for you, but...

Dean: No, no. I mean, in that mindset is that ... if it was back at home or back to home or some ... in that whole kind of mindset, that that would ... and that's contrary to what most of the assisted living facilities are doing, that they're mostly looking for people who are going to ride out the rest of their days there.

Hal: Right.

Dean: So, if you look at that thing, if we go like, "What would be a dream come true?" That's always how we start this conversation about the before unit about marketing is making the experience exactly what people want. Like, what would be a dream come true as if they could reluctantly, or resignedly kind of go into this place and with a little bit of help and time, get to a point where they can go back home.

Hal: Right. No. That would be perfect. It's sort of like the USL slogan. I don't know if you know that, but it's "Until everyone comes home." They're talking about soldiers coming back from overseas, but it's sort of something along those lines would be ... yeah. That's what I would really like to advertise. I even talked to a newspaper about, could we run an ad for a booklet on how to not ... how to avoid assisted living?

Dean: Yeah, exactly.

Hal: The editors were all like, "Well, you do assisted living, why would you want to run an ad on that?" I go, "Because no one wants to go to assisted living."

Dean: Right, exactly. That would be the dream come true, right? I'm going to ask you this about who is your audience, though. So, who's making the decision ultimately? I mean, who is it? Are you dealing with the person who's going to be moving in, or is it the children or spouse or caretaker of the person who's moving in?

Hal: It's rarely the person moving in. It's normally children or spouse. We usually won't meet the person who's moving in pretty much until they move in. A lot of the referral agents, like you said, will do the evaluation of the person and sort of determine which of their homes they think would be a good fit. Then, we sit down with the children or the spouses, or what in the industry they call the POA or the power of attorney person, and sort of get an idea what's wrong with them, what do they need, what are their wants, hobbies, things like that, are they going to fit in well here. But they're usually the ones that make the decision. It's rarely the mom or dad or the resident that makes the decision.

Dean: Right. Where I'm going with that is that sometimes, it's important to understand who the audience is, who we're trying to appeal to, right? I don't want to run the risk of creating this ultimate kids for president kind of ... where every morning is chocolate milk and cocoa puffs. Every meal has ice cream, and video games unlimited. You're creating this place that the kids really want. It's a dream come true for the kids, but that's not really what the ... but it's the parents who are writing the check, you know.

Hal: Exactly.

Dean: So, when you're thinking about this, are you counter to what the real audience is? I know from my own experience of it, that it's a very difficult decision, because no parent ever is like, "I can't wait to get in assisted living," and no child is ever like, "I can't wait to get rid of her." I mean, there's never that. There's a lot of concern and guilt.

It happens to the emotional thing of it. Like, we walked into some of these places, and there was no way I could let my mom be in a place like that. Unfortunately with Alzheimer's, they have to be on a lock down for ... Like, it has to be a secure facility. I went into some of those places, and it just felt like a prison. And the people, you see the people in there who are in the later stages of Alzheimer's and it just looks so depressing. Even in a facility that combines, that they have certain areas that are non-Alzheimer's and certain areas that are, just the night and day difference of that.

Hal: It's a balancing act, because you want to take care of them, but you don't want to scare people.

Dean: The good news, the thing that you have going for you in this type of situation is that you have small facilities, right? You have small houses in that you could micro-niche those in a way, that you would become the only solution for ... It's interesting. If you took an approach to ... What's really popular might be like a longevity approach, where it's like to help people, take advantage of the latest in longevity treatments or things like extending their healthy lifespan.

Hal: Yeah. That'd be great, because like you said, people feel a lot of guilt in doing this.

Dean: Yeah.

Hal: It's hard to put mom or dad in a home. I totally understand that. I would have a really hard time doing it with my parents. What seems to help with the guilt is, "Hey, we're working with them. You're not just putting them in here to ... for their last days, and things like that. We really want to help them and improve them, not unprove, or ... I don't know ... just let them decline." Something like a longevity thing would be great. I mean, I sort of been studying a bunch of it. There's a lot of new research on diet and different things that can help even people with Alzheimer's. It won't cure them, but it will reduce the symptoms, or at least prevent the symptoms from getting worse, that kind of thing, too. It's foods and vitamins and things like that. It's not just heavy medication kind of things.

Dean: Right.

Hal: No that would be great to ... Because if I tell people, "I only need 40 out of a huge population of retirees in Phoenix."

Dean: Right, exactly.

Hal:  It would be 40 or 50. Yeah, if I could micro-niche and target it. That's the top thing, because you do get cases where you're like, "I can't do anything for this person. I'm sorry," but we'll take them if the caregivers are okay with it because we want to keep the census full as much as we can.

Dean: Exactly. That becomes an interesting thing, is the marketing through nitching the services that you offer, who you attract, or what the potential differentiators could be, right? You're already in a situation where you, perhaps, have a competitive advantage for the right people in being a small facility, as opposed to a big facility. For some people, that's an advantage. Other people may take comfort in a bigger facility, right, the perception that they would have more to offer or whatever. But I think when you look at what are the attributes or what are the things that would be ... what people are looking for, how you could differentiate, it's almost like the place that you go when you want to get to a point where you can be back to independence. But then, I don't know. That just sets up probably for more of a turnover type of situation.

Hal: Right, but I forget the word.

Dean: But there may be...

Hal: Hey, you go out when you might go ... have a good chance of going home.

Dean: Right, exactly. I think that's an interesting thing. Now, the other thing that I wanted to potentially bring up, when we look at breaking down your business into before, during and after units, you're really locked in the during unit. You've got basically full capacity. You have intermittent availability. You never know when that's going to be, so the best thing that you could have would be a waiting list, ready list of people that the moment that you had a availability, that somebody would jump right on it. But I don't get the feeling that that's really an issue for you, like that you're ending up with wringing your hands, wondering what's ... sitting with a vacancy for three months. What's your typical length of time that it takes to fill a vacant spot?

Hal: I would say the longest we'd have to go is maybe a month and a half, six weeks, something like that.

Dean: So when you look at that, it's like ... and do you prorate the things? If you look at how quickly could you, if you had somebody ready, is it just a matter of a couple of days when you could have that spot refilled?

Hal: Yes. We typically sort of take the anniversary of their move-in date as to when their check is due for the next rent.

Dean: I got you. Potentially, what ends up happening is if you have a vacancy and it's kind of an acute onset vacancy, that you have potentially a swing of where it's empty for a month and then you end up paying an additional month for the referral agent, if it's placed through a referral agency, right?

Hal: Right.

Dean: So a vacancy could potentially cost you as much as $10,000, let's say.

Hal: Right.

Dean: It could be that much of a swing. If you could internally fill a spot tomorrow, that could be worth $10,000 to you, more than.

Hal: Yes, especially if it's not a referral agent that brings them in.

Dean: That's what I mean, right, if it's your own in-house and your thing. Well, I think that one of the things that is the benefit of thinking like this with separating your before unit from your during unit is that you're looking for an opportunity to find people who are looking for assisted living, right, and to be one of the options that they consider.

You may have heard me mention. I ran a painting company in the summers up in college. My friend Neil and I, we started another company called Name Droppers. What we would do is we would hire college girls to go out to neighborhoods in the evenings and on the weekends and go and survey homeowners in a neighborhood, seeing if they were planning on doing any home improvement projects over the summer. They had clipboards with checklist survey forms. We would be looking for people, inquiring if they were planning on doing any roofing, getting a roof, getting eaves and soffits, getting windows, siding, driveway, landscaping, a pool, fence, deck, all the things that you could do, home improvement-wise. Of course, painting was one of the things.

We would set that up as a referral service for all of these other home services. So we ended up making and turning our advertising and marketing, our before unit, into a profit center. We were making money, generating leads for our own business, because people who needed fencing, we would refer them to a fencing company, and we would refer people who were getting a roof or getting windows or getting their driveway done or a deck or pool. All those things, we would refer to other service providers at a profit.

I'm wondering if you look at this same thing, that if you were to sort of open an in-house referral agency, that finds people who are looking for assisted living.

Hal: Right, or other services.

Dean: Or other services, absolutely, but I think it could start with that. Like, if I were looking at it, that I might look at putting together a directory or a guide to our survey on Phoenix assisted living prices, because that's the thing that people know to compare kind of thing, you know, that if it was ... that that's what they're looking for. If you can put together a pricing survey that shows ... that lists the different facilities, maybe has the basic information about them, but if you had the 2017 guide to Phoenix assisted living prices or report on, that would be a good start. Is anybody doing anything like that in Phoenix that you're aware of or...

Hal: Like a Place for Mom or those kind of agencies will sort of give a general, "The Phoenix market is this price range" that covers a ton of stuff. And they'll have lists of homes, and then it says, "Click here for pricing," and you click on it, and it basically sends you to a pop-up that says, "Oh, we'll have a representative contact you to discuss it." I think a lot of people don't necessarily want someone calling them.

Dean: Right. I agree. They want the prices. They want the prices.

Hal: They want the prices, right.

Dean: They would be willing to leave their name and their email address or their mailing address to get a guide like that.

Hal: Sure. There's a ton of assisted living in the Phoenix area. I mean, in terms of gathering that information, I know a bunch of owners and things like that that I can talk to about theirs, but is it ... do I go door to door and ask them what their pricing is? How do I collect that information?

Dean: Well, I imagine that you could ... and that would be what would make it valuable, is that even if you put ... even if you looked at a different category, even if you nitched it to the small ... the smaller ones-

Hal: Homes.

Dean: Yeah, smaller homes, like under ... What would be considered a small facility? Under 10?

Hal: Well, 10. 10 is the sort of magic number, because above 10 introduces a whole lot of other requirements and regulatory requirements and...

Dean: Okay.

Hal: ... thing like that.

Dean: Do they use a word like boutique? Is boutique a word that would be applicable there?

Hal: That would work. Yup.

Dean: Boutique sort of brings a nice ... it's a positive association word, almost like a boutique hotel, right? Like boutique ... So if you had that, if it was the Phoenix's guide to boutique assisted living.

Hal: Sure. No. That would be great.

Dean: That might be a nice place. That would limit the research that you would have to do of course, too.

Hal: Right. I can talk to some of my favorite referral agents too, because they go in these homes all the time, and probably could give me a really good idea of what other prices are.

Dean: Yeah.

Hal: And, I could contact a lot of the other homes. Say, "Hey, I'm putting together this price guide. Do you want to be in it? I won't charge you at all for it."

Dean: That's exactly right, that you've now become ... You're almost creating an alliance, right? You're almost like the ... all these boutique hotel alliances, like the Leading Small Hotels of the World, and the Virtuoso, all these things that are creating non-branded alliances.

Hal: Like the airlines. There's Star Alliance, or whatever.

Dean: Yeah, Star Alliance.

Hal: That's a bigger form of...

Dean: Yeah. That you've got an alliance of independent assisted living ... boutique assisted living. The more narrow you get, it's already sounding more appealing, you know?

Hal: Right. No. I really like the idea. It sounds awesome.

Dean: Yeah.

Hal: Yeah, there's nothing out there. There are books and guides on the homes, but they really don't put the pricing, and so I think if we just blatantly said, "Here's the pricing," so it would be a lot different.

Dean: Yes. That's the thing. People are so afraid to give people prices, but I guarantee you, 100% of the people who have moved into one of your homes has gotten a price.

Hal: Oh, yeah. No doubt about it.

Dean: Right. It always comes down to that. People are afraid. They want to talk to people before they tell them the price, or whatever, but I think that let's get the price out of the way, and then you talk to them about the deeper things that go into this, as opposed to just making it be the price, because price is going to drive ...

Hal: The value you get.

Dean: Yeah, absolutely, yes. Then, they have a frame of reference. Then, it's like it's out there and their pupils dilate when they're presented with the price, right, because there's not that sort of shock or that surprise or uncertainty around it. It's being filtered through that. They've become kind of desensitized to it in a way. But I think this could be a great move here, you know, is appointing yourself to be the mayor of the boutique assisted living facilities in Phoenix.

Hal: No. That sounds like a great idea.

Dean: Right? Because I guarantee you, every one of those owners ... and they may not be in a position like you where they have five of them. They may be in a position where they've got their one, and they're wondering, "How do I find people?"

Hal: I have people like that call me and say, "Hey, do you have any extras? Please send them my way," that kind of thing.

Dean: Yes. Right.

Hal: They're all dying to have something like this, I'm sure.

Dean: Yeah. But nobody ever takes the initiative to appoint themselves to the mayor of the category.

Hal: Well, the other nice thing about it is it's a great filter, because we do tours and we'll spend an hour with the family talking about everything, the conditions, and how their loved one's a good fit for us. Then, "Okay, so what will this cost me?" And you give them a price, and they're like, "Oh, I can't afford that."

Dean: Right.

Hal: We're just all wasting our time here.

Dean: Yes. That's exactly right.

Hal: We'll get the people who are in your price range coming to you. Now, it's just a question of, is what we have a good fit for you?

Dean: Yeah, especially if you have integrity pricing or whatever. I mean, if your price is your price and you're not negotiating price and just putting out a price there that hopefully somebody will pay it, but you'll negotiate less, or whatever. If your price is your price, put it out there.

Hal: Exactly.

Dean: Yeah. Then, you're starting to stack it up and give people what to compare that to.

Hal: Right. Definitely, and maybe have a little blurb of, "Here's a list of services this home provides for that price."

Dean: Right.

Hal: Because we can just get a list of homeowners and just start calling them and saying, "I'm doing this. Can you give me the pricing. I'll make it free to you. You can promote it, do whatever you want with it, too, but let me know your services and things like that. We'll put a little blurb. Send me a picture of your house," or something like that.

Dean: Yeah, exactly. I mean, is there any licensing required to be a referral agency ... for like to receive a commission for referring?

Hal: Not at this time. There are some referral agents I think lobbying to maybe get that eventually, but there isn't anything now. So as long as there's not, anyone can start their own referral agency.

Dean: Right, and you've got the same ... and the price is established that it's 100 or 120% of the monthly rent, right? That's an established kind of benchmark of what people are willing to pay, and cheerfully pay. When you look at it that these there's .. In these smaller facilities kind of thing, there's ... if you're looking at the range from minimum, 2,500 to maybe some of these smaller ones are on the higher end in the $8,000 range or more...

Hal: There are.

Dean: ... that could be a really viable stand-alone really of your business where you're looking at that before unit could not just be for the one vacancy that you have, but also for ... as a profit center, because if you have a waiting list of people who are looking for boutique assisted living, then whenever you have a vacancy, that can go out. It will be great if you could fill your spot with your own list, you know.

Hal: Right, absolutely.

Dean: That would be a big swing, it'd be potentially two months' worth of rent there, because you'd saved the months that it could be vacant, and you save the month that you have to pay the referral agency, so there's 5 or $10,000 right there. Then, also having the potential to refer to another home when they have a vacancy, right? That could be a profit center for you.

Hal: Very much so, yeah.

Dean: Then, it just become...

Hal: We've actually referred people to other homes, so it would be wonderful to do something like that.

Dean: Well, I think that's a really great, viable plan.

Hal: Okay. That sounds great.

Dean: Yeah. Then, that would become a ... I think that would build some momentum for you.

Hal: Sure. No. Sounds great. We're also toying with the idea of advertising to send our caregivers into homes in the local community where they are taking care of an elderly parent, sort of a, "Hey, you deserve a break. Let our caregiver take care of your elderly parent one night and you go catch a movie, or go out to dinner with your spouse, or take the kids out, or just sleep, or something like that. We'll take care of it." While they're there, sort of what you're saying with the girls that went around and did the homeowner survey, sort of say, "What kind of services are you guys looking for? Hospice, or in-home healthcare, or physical therapy, or mobile pharmacies, or things like that." We can then refer those other services, as well as, "Hey, when they decline enough that you want to put them in a home, here's our card."

Dean: Right. Now, you're thinking, right? Now, you're thinking about all of the precursors to what people are doing before they come to you.

Hal: Right, because it's sort of that triggering event. I listen to a lot of your I Love Marketing podcasts with Joe Polish.

Dean: Yeah.

Hal: He gives you a really hard time, by the way.

Dean: That's funny.

Hal: It's sort of that leading up to the triggering event, sort of that before phase you're talking about of stay in their mind until, "Okay, now I need you. I know exactly where to go like for plumbers or something like." You don't call a plumber just to talk to him six months before you have a leak.

Dean: Right.

Hal: But if the plumber gets in their mind six months before, then when they do have that leak, they know which plumber to call.

Dean: That's absolutely right. Yes.

Hal: That's kind of what we want to do is, "Hey, we'll set up a little babysitting service ..." It's not really babysitting, but it's the same idea ... "And we'll give you breaks when you want them for a very reasonable price. When your loved one declines, call us."

Dean: That's it.

Hal: But I love the pricing guide idea, because there isn't really much out there like that.

Dean: Right. I think that you could do in ... You'd have something like that put together fairly quickly. It doesn't have to be definitive. I mean, it can just be the ... give you an overview.

Hal: Right. Oh, yeah, very much so. All the caveats of, "Hey, if your loved one needs a higher level of care, these prices may go up. This is our starting rate" kind of thing.

Dean: Yup.

Hal: But I think a lot of homeowners would love to do something like that.

Dean: I think so, too.

Hal: Because it's now, the Place for Mom, we submit all our stuff to them. I'm not trying to knock them. They're a great service. They referred a lot of good people to me. They've got wonderful referral agents that really care, but when someone's looking for the price of your home, you got to talk to a Place for Mom person to find out.

Dean: Right. Very interesting, right? Well, I think this would be a nice thing.

Hal: Sure. And there are guides to assisted living, but a lot of those don't have the pricing in them, too.

Dean: The price is what ... that's what will really compel people to want to download your guide, because that's what they really want.

Hal: It's sort of like the ... I think you said you had a guide to houses selling in a particular area or something.

Dean: Yeah, we do that all the time. The September 2017 report on Winter Haven Lakefront House Prices. That will be the same kind of thing, right, the September 2017 report on boutique assisted living prices.

Hal: Sure. Be great.

Dean: Yeah.

Hal: Then, would you mail it out? I guess I could put it on my website as a download and that kind of thing.

Dean: Yeah, both.

Hal: Okay.

Dean: Put it as a download, but then offer ... have people leave their full address to get the guide.

Hal: Sure. That'd be perfect. Okay. No. It sounds fantastic.

Dean: The payoff for it is great then, you know, that they're willing to do that because they're getting what they really want.

Hal: Right. That's what I was struggling with is what do they really want, like provide them? It's very obvious. It's, how much is this going to cost me?

Dean: That's exactly right. Then, now that I've got all the data, now I can make a decision. In our price range what's the best for our money?

Hal: Right. Because once they see the name of a house, they can probably Google it and go in and find out a lot more about the services and what they're like and things like that.

Dean: Yeah.

Hal: Then, they narrow it down to four or five houses. They go look at them, make a decision.

Dean: That's it.

Hal: Okay. Fantastic. This is great. I really appreciate it, Dean.

Dean: What's your action steps going to be here?

Hal: It's going to be make a list of all the group homes, at least in my area, four areas, but maybe just start with that and then we'll expand it after that, but ... and start calling them, calling the owners, because I can get it right off the Department of Health website, I can get all the homes.

Dean: Love it. There you go.

Hal: Then, get all their pricing, and say, "Send me a photo," and then go on like Fiverr or, I don't know, Upwork, or something like that, make someone just make a little e-book brochure, "Here's our price guide."

Dean: There you go.

Hal: Then, load it on our website. It could be sort of a, "Welcome to our website. Here's a free price guide."

Dean: Yes, that's exactly it.

Hal: Then, I did work with a direct mail company for a little bit to get a list of people with a parent living at home with them.

Dean: Okay. Nice. There you go.

Hal: We sent out some mailings to those, and got a couple tours out of that. I'll use that list, and maybe send the price guide out to them.

Dean: That's exactly it. You could do almost identical postcard to what we do for the realtors. That's great.

Hal: So, I'd kind of send out a postcard saying, "Come to my website. Download the free price guide."

Dean: That's exactly right.

Hal: Okay. All right. Yeah, there's my actions.

Dean: That's awesome.

Hal: Fantastic. No. It's wonderful. Then, while they are on there downloading it, I could say, "Hey, would you like a night off? My caregivers could come out to your home and spend time with your loved one while you take the night off."

Dean: Yeah. Perfect.

Hal: Okay. No. This sounds fantastic.

Dean: I love it.

Hal: All right. I'm excited. I got to get to work here.

Dean: Me, too. Great. Keep me posted.

Hal: I don't want to cut this conversation short.

Dean: Okay.

Hal: I absolutely will. I'll just email your something, maybe send you a link to here's what I got for us.

Dean: Absolutely.

Hal: That would be wonderful. Okay.

Dean: Awesome, Hal.

Hal: I really appreciate the time, Dean. Thank you so much.

Dean: Thanks. That'd be great.

Hal: I love your podcast.

Dean: Awesome. I'll talk to you soon.

Hal: All right. Take care. Bye.

Dean: Thanks. Bye.

There we have it, another great episode. Any time you're dealing with something where you could put yourself in a position of being a compiler of data, of market data, pricing data, information that everybody wants to have at their fingertips but there's no real easy way to get it, nobody is appointing themselves to the position of the category caretaker, just like there's independent or individual boutique assisted living facilities, and they're all individually trying to figure out how do we find people for our facility, but nobody in ... All kinds of industry is like that, I'm not just talking about assisted living. All kinds of industries, nobody takes the time to just step back, put themselves one layer above this, and create the category ownership of the boutique assisted living alliance and appointing yourself to be the mayor of that, or the aggregator of all of the information like that.

I talked about using that for our Name Droppers, for home improvements. I've used it for ... with another client who did put together a wedding directory for places to have outdoor weddings. Any time you can put together market data that's going to be very interesting and helpful for people, you get to appoint yourself to a position of market leadership. So, lots of lessons there. I hope you can apply some of that for yourself. If you'd like to continue the conversation, you can go to morecheeselesswhiskers.com. You can download a copy of the More Cheese Less Whiskers book. If you'd like to be on the show, click on the be a guest link, and you can fill out some information to get to maybe talk about your business on the More Cheese Less Whiskers Podcast.

We talked a lot about the breaking of the business down into before unit, during unit, and after unit. One of the great understandings that you can have is how really valuable it is to think about your business as those three units. I've got a great video that explains this whole concept of before, during and after at breakthroughdna.com. That gives you a really good overview of all of the ... how the eight profit activators work, especially in the context of the before unit, the during unit, and the after unit. And if you'd like to see how your business is standing up, you can go to profitactivatorscore.com, and take the profit activator scorecard. You can see exactly where the opportunities are in your business for the eight profit activators.

That's it for this week. Tune in next time. I'll talk to you at morecheeselesswhiskers.com.