ABHOW, be.group become HumanGood

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"We needed to speak differently to the market, in a way that neither one of our legacy names was doing,” HumanGood President and CEO John Cochrane told McKnight's Senior Living.
"We needed to speak differently to the market, in a way that neither one of our legacy names was doing,” HumanGood President and CEO John Cochrane told McKnight's Senior Living.

The next step in the evolution of the ABHOW and be.group affiliation occurred Monday as the two companies announced their official unification under the previously publicized brand of HumanGood.

HumanGood replaces the name Cornerstone Affiliates, under which both companies had been operating since their May 2016 affiliation. At that time, the collective organization, based in Pleasanton, CA, became California's largest nonprofit senior housing and services provider and one of the 10 largest such organizations in the country. HumanGood serves almost 10,000 residents in 80 communities across five states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada and Washington.

The rebranding effort already had a website and social media accounts attached to it, and they now replace communication tools that were associated with the legacy organizations. Branding at the community level will be rolled out over the coming months, according to HumanGood.

For financial reasons, the companies will remain separate legal entities at least through 2019, President and CEO John Cochrane told McKnight's Senior Living, but moving to a shared name now offers several benefits.

Benefits of affiliation

ABHOW and be.group were two successful organizations that decided to join forces to become even stronger, HumanGood President and CEO John Cochrane told McKnight's Senior Living.

The two companies affiliated — they remain separate legal entities — in May 2016.

“We thought that to best amplify and accelerate and fulfill our mission, we could do that far more capably and effectively and encapsulate by coming together,” said Cochrane, who had been the CEO of be.group before the affiliation. “And there were several drivers for that that influenced our thinking.”

Being a strong, combined organization with a clear market position, he added, offers several advantages:

  • Operational efficiencies

  • Improved ability to attract and retain employees

  • Scale and geography to attract healthcare partners and vendors

“We realized very early on in the [affiliation] process that we needed to rebrand the organization both to unify the company and the team members and our current customer base,” he said, “but also we understood that we needed to rebrand to reflect our view of this new and shifting consumer marketplace. And we needed to speak differently to the market, in a way that neither one of our legacy names was doing.”

To arrive at a new name, the companies, aided by an outside firm, interviewed customers and prospective customers, employees, family members and people who “people who never look at senior housing at all,” said Cochrane, who had been CEO of be.group before the affiliation. “We really focused on the aspect of, ‘What does aspirational well-aging look like to you?' ”

“Everybody we talked to in our organizations was here because they wanted to make a difference in people's lives and do something good,” he continued. “Out of all of that, the name HumanGood really spoke to everybody about who we have been as organizations … [and] also spoke to our desires going forward to have a meaningful, positive social impact and … be a force for good in the world.”

The next steps

Going forward over the next year, HumanGood will be focusing on fleshing out the details to realize the three pillars of its strategic plan, Cochrane said.

The first pillar is to redefine the life plan community, also known as the continuing care retirement community.

“Part of the launch to HumanGood is to reflect our focus as a lifestyle organization as opposed to looking at the senior market as purely a healthcare play,” Cochrane said. “If you look through the life plan community marketplace, what you've seen over the last 20 and 30 years is a continuing shift from what was originally a lifestyle move for customers over to a healthcare strategy. We're trying to reverse that somewhat and bring this back to truly a life plan community, a place where we go to realize our highest aspirations for ourselves.”

HumanGood is just starting to work with a “design thinking firm” that will conduct research that the company will use to reinvent its life plan communities, Cochrane said. He anticipates changes in the architecture and design of buildings, programming, the healthcare component and how the company talks about its communities.

A second focus for the company will be affordable housing, Cochrane said.

“We're just starting the research around how we're going to meet that growing need,” he said. “What we do know today is, we have 63 affordable housing communities, and we have an average eight-year wait list for every one of those communities. We know the need is overwhelming, and when you factor in the growing demographic, we know the need is going to grow exponentially over the next 30 years.”

An outside firm is helping the company think of new ways to develop, fund and program such properties in a time of shrinking government resources, Cochrane said.

“We think there's a tremendous social benefit to these communities, that if we provide adequate housing and programs and reasonable services up front, we can avoid substantial and substantially higher costs down the road,” he said. “So we're committed to finding a new path for developing and operating those communities, but we don't know yet what that's going to look like.”

The third pillar in HumanGood's strategic plan, Cochrane said, is creating products to “deliver purposeful living,” to help people age well and access healthcare if they want to do so.

“Everybody who's in this field already understands the demographics and the opportunity here,” he said. “We all understand that the life plan communities meet the needs of the top 10 to 20 percent of the population, and government-subsidized and affordable housing needs are the bottom 10 to 20 percent of the population. But that still leaves anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of the population pretty dramatically underserved, if not unserved completely.”

Some of the solutions may come from outside the industry, Cochrane said.

“There are a lot of folks outside the traditional senior industry who are looking at those very same demographics and understanding the seismic shift that's going on socially with an aging population,” he said. “And so I think we're going to see two things here. We're going to see the traditional providers coming up with programs and solutions to meet the needs of this market, and we're going to see a whole bunch of new entrants from non-traditional providers looking at this market and coming in and potentially disrupting us in ways that we've not yet anticipated. ...The challenge is, can we take off our blinders and look at this market differently than we otherwise might?”

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