Executive Insights: Planning for the Future with Hunt Senior Living CEO, Deb Riddell

Sep 17, 2015 | Executive Corner

Interview by Lisa Pearre, Principal, Executive Vice President

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Hunt Senior Living CEO, Deborah Riddell

Hunt Senior Living has a long and proud history of serving seniors in the Nashua, New Hampshire area, starting more than 100 years ago with what was then known as Hunt Home. Today, the organization includes two CCRCs—Hunt Community, the organization’s flagship community, and The Huntington at Nashua—and New Hampshire’s first and only CCRC at home program, Hunt at Home.

What are the greatest challenges Hunt Senior Living faces as you plan for the future?

Our name has been part of the Nashua community for over a hundred years and for those native families, it means the place to go when it is time. As a result, we have several challenges:

  1. Nashua demographics are changing and the area from which we draw our residents is no longer the “old Nashua families.” We have to stretch beyond our comfort zone to reach our target audience, and this means we have to be relevant in a different way than we are comfortable.
  2. Our flagship community, Hunt Community, is located in downtown Nashua which is attempting to revitalize itself. However, we have seen a marked increase in crime downtown, some of which is infringing on our property.
  3. We have grown over the last decade and our brand equity is confusing to the consumer. We need to be clear with our brand on who we are.

Ultimately, the solution to overcome our challenges is cultivating and implementing strategic partnerships.

How are you addressing these challenges?

With the help of Love & Company, one of our partners, we are tackling them with research on our current market and future market and with a rebranding process. We have also started a master campus planning process with Hunt Community that includes involvement from the City of Nashua, Love & Company, RLPS Architects, and many other local and regional partners.

Beyond these specific challenges, we are developing processes with the Board of Trustees that will allow us to be more nimble in our decision-making, allowing us to alter our services more readily than we have been able to in the past to meet the changing needs and desires of the population.

What was the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

Our history and experience is deep rooted. It is successful and comfortable. As I look to continue our history and success, it is likely that our current success, which is based on our past experience, will not translate to the future needs and desires of our stakeholders.

What aspect of your future plans are you addressing first?

We are working on a master campus plan and repositioning for our flagship community. It is critical to our history, our reputation and our future. In addition it has been and needs to continue to be critical to Nashua.

What excites you the most about Hunt Senior Living’s future?

The ability to provide resources and opportunities to seniors we don’t yet touch.

How has Love & Company’s participation helped Hunt Senior Living with this effort?

Love & Company’s ability to effectively analyze our market, current and future, based on trends and census, etc., has been foundational. Love & Company’s national experience provides that perspective on marketing services and marketing approaches for today and tomorrow—including brand development and marketing strategies. The partnership has been filled with learning opportunities, new experiences and a ton of fun! Most importantly, though, the good solid work allowed us to identify a new brand that rolls out this month!

What words of wisdom do you have for other CEOs as they plan for their organizations’ futures?

I continue to hear at national conferences that as NFP we have to be less rigid, make decisions more quickly, be prepared for the Boomers who have vastly different desires and partner with other organizations. Paul Arden, author of It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be, sums it up in this quote:

“It’s wrong to be right, because people who are right are rooted in the past, rigid-minded, dull and smug. There’s no talking to them.”

It’s okay to be wrong, because if you’re always right, you’re not pushing yourself to innovate. If you fail, fail forward, not backward. Take that wrong, learn from it, and make it a right for the next time. In today’s world, you have to be willing to fail—which involves taking calculated and strategic risks—in order to be successful going forward.

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