Stephanie Harris
Stephanie Harris

2019 McKnight’s Women of Distinction Hall of Honor inductee Stephanie Harris, CEO and principal of Arrow Senior Living, recently sat down with McKnight’s Senior Livingto discuss the growing role of technology in senior living, the lasting effects of mentorship, and the best part of her day.

Q: How do you see the role of technology growing over the next 10 years?

A: I think it’s all going to be about affordability.

So much of the industry has been built around growing rates to cover the inflationary costs, the impacts of higher salaries, the ups and downs of the economy and the impact it has on our prices. But we can’t continue to see that climb of rates that were once covering our margins.

I think one of the things that we’re going to see over the next 10 years will be some introductions of different systems of technology to reduce our reliance upon workforce. We are so exposed to this healthcare worker shortage in our country that if we don’t find new ways to reduce our reliance, to be able to use different methods that are going to allow for more efficient delivery of medications or more efficient delivery of care, it’s just going to continue to stack, staffing on top of staffing on top of staffing. Plus our acuity problem.

I think technology is going to be key at helping us drive down our costs, helping us to increase our length of stay, lower our reliance upon employees. I think we are just on the cutting edge of what that’s going to do to our industry over the next 10 years.

Q: Can you talk about a mentor who has been important to your career?

A: I had the most incredible mentor, a gentleman named Paul Karseras. He passed away a few years ago, but the thing that I had was a coach. He wasn’t even just a mentor. This was somebody who had built companies that had gone public in this industry, and the fact that he came out of retirement — I was in my early 20s, fresh out of law school, fresh passing the bar — and he said, “We’re going to make something happen here.” And it’s incredible to think that I went from a consulting business to a management company to the growth of adding 1,000+ employees, and I think it was all because of somebody like him taking the time and giving me that coaching moment I needed each day or when I needed that extra bit of advice.

Nobody taught me how to be CEO. I had to learn through some sort of informal system or some informal group of mentors like him.

Many of our core values of the company come from our mentor, Paul. Every single year on the anniversary of his death, our company has a Wednesday “all call” called the “bull’s-eye all call,” and we focus on a business development topic that we journal. Many topics are based upon him, but every year, we take a moment to celebrate somebody who really has helped pave the future of this company and the successes we’ve built today.

Q: What is the best part of your day?

A: The best part of my day is engaging with the sales teams and my staff. Nearly every morning, I will hop into one sales team or another, through videoconferencing, and do a case study, where we actually talk about sales prospects.

I may be CEO of our company, which has grown tremendously over the last couple of years … but my heart and soul is still in the sales and marketing and being able to engage with the sales teams.