To say these are risky times for senior living would be an extreme understatement.

Most operators are dealing with new curve balls and uncertainty as never before.

Some of the unresolved questions are external. Here are but a few:

  • How might an economic downturn affect our business?
  • How much more will we need to pay frontline staff going forward (especially given a push in many metro areas for a $15 / hour minimum wage)?
  • Will some new kind of senior living housing / care concept come along that makes us obsolete?

Then there are the internal concerns:

  • Is our business truly positioned for success?
  • Do we have the right people in the right jobs doing the right things the right way?
  • Are we delivering services we shouldn’t – or worse, not delivering services we should?
  • Should we be working more with insurers, state officials and other new partners to ensure fiscal viability for our organization down the road?

Those are but a few appetizers. The odds are better than good that your business is dealing with some of these, possibly many more.

So what’s an operator to do?

Well, it never hurts to be fundamentally sound. Strive to have a well-run organization that is sensitive to what your customers and workers demand, expect and wouldn’t mind having. It also wouldn’t hurt to remember the famous words of business guru Peter Drucker, who said success comes down to two things: innovation and marketing.

Finally, be a sponge. By that, I mean try to take in on as much useful information about running your business as possible. But perhaps a word of caution here is called for.

We seem to be seeing an explosion of new “worked-for-me” conferences and seminars lately. The formats are pretty similar: A person or panel talks about how his or her firm dealt with a specific issue. These are fine as far as they go. And you just might pick up some useful information, should you choose to attend one.

Some of the speakers have legitimate bona fides as experts. Still, I would suggest that you not accept everything you hear at such events as gospel. After all, these are people talking about their experience. It may or may not be relevant to yours. The reality is that senior living is not a one-size-fits-all business. What works in Orlando might not fly in Omaha.

Moreover, some of the speakers might be selling a tactic with an ugly downside and / or a limited shelf life. Sure, it might generate revenue today. But what happens once the regulators get wise?

Still other experts might even be, shall we say, less than honest brokers? Offhand, I can think of at least five industry panelists I’ve listened to at trade shows whose firms later were convicted of breaking the law. And at least one of these advice-givers ended up in prison.

As I like to tell our new editorial hires, even a good source probably is working an angle. No need to be cynical. But skepticism never goes out of style.

So good luck navigating the changes ahead. Be smart, be ethical and always try to do your best. Follow those three directives and you’ll probably end up just fine. Which sure beats ending up behind bars.