Senior Living Conferences | Neil x Jared on Industry Trends

Author profile picture.
Jared Hancock


  • Importance of Conferences: Jared and Neil emphasize that conferences are vital for networking, learning, and understanding industry dynamics in senior living (especially if you’re a newcomer in this space). Calling out fantastic specialty conferences like SMASH and LTC 100 that rise above the pack by offering all attending parties deep insights into sales, marketing, and product development. Vendors don’t want to be imprisoned on the tradeshow floor – the best conferences let us attend sessions to make sure we’re evolving in this industry!

  • How to Take Advantage of Conferences: To fully leverage conferences, Neil and Jared emphasize the importance of engaging in sessions to gain industry insights and enhance product development. Jared highlights the value of networking and building relationships. Senior living conferences tend to be like a high school reunion – embrace it!

  • Industry Insights & Trends: Neil and Jared get into the weeds about staffing challenges, making software intuitive and easy to use, and enhancing integration for seamless workflows. Post-COVID, there is a strong focus on attracting, retaining, and recruiting talent. Conferences have revealed to Senior Sign the necessity for solutions that require minimal training, support for high turnover environments, and how vital it is to consolidate systems to reduce user burden, ensuring a more efficient and user-friendly experience.

Jared x Neil Conversation | Transcript

Moderator: Over the past few years, you both have attended a lot of national conferences for senior living. What themes do you keep hearing come up? How many conferences do you think you've been to? What are some of your favorites?

Neil: So, conferences, they're kind of like children, right? Do you have a favorite? No, I'm just kidding. I think my favorite conferences are probably specialty conferences. The state association and national association ones are great as far as sales go, but the one I get the most out of for sales and marketing is SMASH.

I got a chance to attend part of the LTC 100. That was awesome this year - just lots of learning.

Jared: I would definitely say SMASH, for sure. And, I think the benefit of that is the ratio of vendors to providers. You really, really get to know the people in the industry and because it's so hyper-focused on sales and marketing – which is clearly the people that we serve – it allows us to have deeper conversations and really start thinking about how we can improve our product. That's what I love about it, and we get to go to the sessions!

I sort of hate the big national ones where you stand on the trade show floor, but you don't get to go to the sessions and actually learn alongside the providers and the operators in the industry. 

Neil: I think that's probably a big mistake that a lot of the vendors make is skipping out on the learning. We don't need the continuing education credits, but it's definitely helpful. Thinking through product, and the where/how we're going to continue to approach our business. 

Jared: I remember at NIC, it was one of the first times that I sort of recognized this dynamic of, you know, everybody says “everybody has a boss,” but it was recognizing the investors, and the big investment groups that invest in properties. Then those properties hire operators, and those operators put pressure on the sales and marketing people within the organization, etc. I started understanding that ladder of who is beholden to who? It started helping me think about what we can do with our product to make it better for every single person in that ladder of responsibility?

That was a really interesting insight for me. It's like, “oh my gosh, you look at it and go this operator is operating in 110 communities, but they have seven or eight different bosses because who owns the properties that they were able to get those contracts with. It just blew my mind! That's a stressful gig. 

And, we're looking at them going they're the masters of our future. When in reality, it's like…

Neil: Who are we selling to? 

Jared: Exactly.

Neil: Coming into the industry as an outsider, the benefit is conferences are the fastest way to learn the industry. It’s “alphabet soup” you know…LTC, AL, IL, MC, CCRC, etc. Everybody uses the lingo! So, getting up to speed on how this industry operates, I think is the big advantage of conferences that I've seen for our teams to get up to speed from sales, marketing, product, etc.

Jared: I'm going to go back to my first conference, it was Argentum at the tail end of COVID, everybody's in masks, and we got one of the last booths in the far corner next to the food. I remember you saying “it's like a high school reunion” and I'm like, “hmm, but is it really?” And, I remember there was this pent up excitement of everybody that was at that conference because they hadn't been to a conference in a year and a half, and 100% it was clear that you were right. 

And I kept thinking, “Am I ever going to be part of this?” After conference number five, six, and I think the more I spent time understanding them and our potential customers, the sooner I became more engaged and welcomed into that group.

It's almost like a little less selling, and more discovery, learning, and making those friendships is really what I think has gone the furthest for me in these conferences. 

Jared (to Neil): Being the product mastermind, I would love to get your thoughts on what are some of those trends and those insights that you're seeing in senior living in particular? That we as a software provider, but also part of this ecosystem, should take into account as we try to grow as a company.

Neil: I think ecosystem is the keyword there. We're hearing more and more that siloed systems don't work. It's a bad experience. It's a bad workflow. I think the common trend post-COVID has been staffing  issues. Every conference we go to, there's countless sessions on “How do we attract more talent? How do we keep people that we've got? How do we retain that talent? How do we hire? How do we recruit?” 

But I think a huge thing that's been distilled down for us with high turnover, is how do we make our software as easy to learn, and as seamless as possible?

We're working with a company who's on their third Executive Director in less than a year! So, we have to heavily consider, how do you get somebody up to speed three different times in a year without devoting a ton of resources on our part to pre-training, etc. The solution really has to stand alone, be easy to learn, and has to be familiar in terms of what other softwares they are using,

That's really my takeaway from the product perspective. If it's a staffing problem… How do we make our software all the easier to learn? Secondarily, that ecosystem of how do we make the workflow as seamless as possible? That surfaces the questions of how do we go deeper on integrations? How does that flow better?

It's really hard. I just know a lot of people are trying to consolidate the number of logins, the number of systems – and I feel their pain. At Senior Sign, we have our own set of challenges there. So, what part do we play in that and how do we alleviate that headache?

Jared: The thing that I always go back to when I think of business models in general, and I think you can have a business model where you have high-skill, high-trained, highly-educated individuals and you can give them a ton of autonomy (think law firms, doctors) and it's like, “Okay, cool! We're going to trust that you know how to do that.” We're also going to pay you a lot of money to do that, and then at the other end of the spectrum you have a McDonald's where you have a high turnover, and you've got to be able to get somebody to a level where they can perform and they can add value as fast as possible. 

I was interviewing one of our customers and they said that they were best-in-class in their company, because their average tenure at that time was nine months in their entire community. They have some people that have been there multiple years, but that means at the tail-end, every two to three months they're changing over staff. These systems and these processes have to be so well-defined and so easy to use, like a McDonald's, where every hamburger is the exact same weight, and we can literally label exactly how long it takes to cook. It's so simplified. 

I think that is the burden being put on all of us that are vendors to these operators. We have to think about somebody dropping into our software the very first time. Can they figure it out without having a massive training, or onboarding, or overlapping two weeks with their predecessor in the role? That's how we have to develop. That's how we have to think about it. 

Neil: I think the common phrase I heard, at least from software vendors, was “Oh, this will eliminate a head count.” That's all fine and good. That is the ultimate goal for us. But, we always talk about, how do we enable people to do what people do best through better technology? Checking for all of the signatures in a packet – that is something a computer should do, not a person.

Then allowing that person to be there with the family as the new resident is moving in. That's another thing that I think about when you talk about staffing shortages. What can we offload? How do we enable people to be better people?

Share This Article:
Post the blog article to LinkedIn.
Post the blog article to Facebook.
Post the blog article to Twitter.

Get Industry Insights

Straight to your inbox