Rob Love, President and CEO of Love & Company, recently sat down with Toby Shea and Mike Kivov of SK Advisors to discuss their innovative approach to master planning: the informing process. In this video, Mike and Toby explain the steps of this process and how this can help senior living communities build a better strategic plan.


The senior living industry is in a position where many communities are looking to either expand or reinvent themselves to meet the changing needs of future residents.

“Our clients have different definitions of success,” says Mike Kivov. “But, the basic questions driving all of us are ‘What is our future state and what do we need to look like,’ and then ‘How do we get there?’”

To help answer those questions, SK Advisors merged the worlds of strategic market research, strategic planning, financial feasibility, and capital markets strategy to develop a new way of approaching the master planning process. They call it “ future state informing.”

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The process of informing helps communities go from the initial concept stage, where they recognize that something needs to be done, to a point where the community has developed a defined plan and program. The informing phase establishes the foundation for successful planning and execution of a master plan. Through an iterative process of discovery, in which a variety of different operating and financing assumptions are modeled and tested, community leadership can feel confident in its final plan even before it begins to be implemented.

The 5 Steps in the Informing Process

1. Envision & define success

  • Visioning – How do you want to define success and what are your objectives?

2. Explore the market

  • Market exploration – Research the market and discover gaps/opportunities as well as how your organization needs to react or plan.

3. Develop the program and pricing

  • First, this step takes the market research and moves from concept to program. This step defines what the program may look like, including the products/services, units, mix, market positioning, and pricing.
  • Second, this step takes the revenue assumptions from the defined program, and tests for financial feasibility; this often includes testing out various plans and programs with both operational and construction modeling.
  • It is also important during this time to bring in expertise in project costs to ensure that these assumptions reflect realities in the market and for the project. It is not uncommon to enlist input from architects and/or developers/contractors at this point.

4. Capital markets perspective

  • Based on the plan and program, develop potential plans of finance through which the project can be executed and will meet with the sponsor’s capital and strategic objectives.
  • It is important here to consider the project not just as a stand alone, but also in the broader context of its impact on the sponsor and its capital structure.

5. Transition to planning and building the roadmap

  • A rough plan has been created and checked for financial feasibility. Now it’s time to build out the rest of the team by bringing in sales and marketing, architectural, development, and other disciplines so that the project is positioned to move forward successfully.
  • As a team, determine the next key steps in order to move forward. What are the milestones? What are the challenges or questions that are going to need to be asked or answered for the project to progress?

““We created this process intentionally to be a bit disruptive to what we see as a somewhat flawed approach across the industry,” Mike adds. “A mistake that we see over and over again is organizations wind up getting ahead of themselves; they’re already planning or they’re already pushing into execution before they really spend the time to get the vision right from the beginning. We’ve tried to correct for that with our informing process.”

The informing process helps with efficiency by spending the appropriate time and energy up front on defining the project based on the organization’s culture. Every community has a different culture and a different definition of success, so it is important to take the time to understand the organization from within before looking at the market. Doing this ensures that the end product reflects the unique characteristics of the community, and doesn’t just replicate cookie-cutter plans out of a best practices book that might not necessarily work for that particular community. Additionally, informing emphasizes returning control to the provider/client, both of the process and of costs, through its structure of iterative steps and providing for multiple points of inflection for the client to change course or exit the process based on the findings.


About SK Advisors

SK Advisors is a “boutique advisory-focused practice, bringing together a unique combination of deep expertise in the disciplines of Strategy and Capital. Founded by partners Toby Shea and Michael Kivov, SK provides its clients with a more integrated and comprehensive approach to problem solving and execution.”

For more information about SK Advisors, please visit their website. For more information about how Love & Company works with other consulting groups or how we can help with the master planning and strategic planning process, please contact Tim Bracken at 410-207-0013.

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