Finding the Right Strategic Partner for the Family Business

When Sara Robertson goes into work every day, she’s not only thinking about how to increase occupancy among her assisted living and memory care communities.

She’s also thinking about how to make her grandparents proud. That’s because Robertson is co-owner of a third-generation family business.

The Arbors Family Business

In the 1960s, Robertson’s grandparents started a construction company that built more than 5,500 housing units, as well as schools, a hotel, nursing homes, and several housing developments for the elderly. In the late ’90s, her father and aunt took the company built elderly housing complexes, ushering the family business into the senior living industry.

Robertson started working in the family business when she was 14 years old. Starting in landscaping and dishwashing, she worked her way up to secretarial and managerial roles.

“Being exposed to running a business from an early age provides a unique and valuable viewpoint,” Robertson says. “We had access to jobs and opportunities not available to everyone. We certainly still had to prove ourselves and meet the same level of expectations as the other staff, but we had an in for sure.”

Today, Robertson and her cousin oversee 11 assisted living and memory care communities throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut. As co-owner of a third-generation family business, Robertson feels added pressure to succeed in a family-owned/operated environment.

“The first and second generation each really succeeded in what they set out to accomplish,” she says. “They came out with fresh, new business ideas and strategies that they successfully implemented. Because of this history, not only does our generation feel the typical pressures of running a large business, but we also have the added familial pressure to show that we are also capable of sustained growth and success.”

To do that, Robertson knew she had to find the right strategic partner — one that understood the senior living industry and the common challenges of family-owned and -operated businesses.

The Right Strategic Partner

Like many family-owned/operated businesses, The Arbors makes business decisions differently than owner/operators that aren’t family-based.

“Most companies are out to do business,” Robertson says. “We are out living, eating, breathing, sleeping our business. Our objective isn’t to make decisions based solely on money; it’s based on caring for our residents and staff as if they are a part of our family.”

That means sometimes The Arbors team makes decisions based on ethics, not finances.

“Our values, style, and culture are unique, and not all companies understand our back story, where we are going, or how we specifically want to get there,” Robertson says. “Our strategic partners need to share the same values and business sense in order for it to work.”

The Elite Difference

Robertson was at a conference when she heard Elite Business Systems owner Michelle Nessman speak about CRMs and lead generating systems. After Nessman’s presentation, Robertson picked her brain.

“I realized how important digital marketing was going to be — how many loopholes there were where we could be catching people but we weren’t,” Robertson says.

Nessman picked Robertson’s brain, too. “She was willing to take the time to learn our story and our history and culture,” Robertson continues. “She then provided options and feedback based on what she knew about us. She wasn’t just trying to sell us on things. It was more thoughtful and strategic about what would work for a company like ours.”

Since partnering with Elite, The Arbors has implemented inbound digital marketing strategies including content marketing, email marketing, and marketing automation, and aligned its sales and marketing efforts.

“Elite has a hands-on approach with excellent communication, and it felt like our values aligned,” Robertson says. “I felt comfortable aligning myself with Elite after my time spent with Michelle.”

Want to learn more about Michelle Nessman and what Elite can do for your family-owned and -operated senior housing operation? Schedule a complimentary deep-dive call today.

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