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Business Observer Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 7 months ago

Senior adviser

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Bruce Rosenblatt, in building a successful senior housing consulting firm, picked up on a key lesson early: don't be afraid to change the payment model.
by: Andrew Warfield Lee-Collier Editor

After 30 years as an executive overseeing more than 75 senior communities in 14 states, Bruce Rosenblatt sought a change in lifestyle.

But how to best capitalize on his years of experience in senior housing while staying close to his Bonita Springs home?

The answer: Bonita Springs-based Senior Housing Solutions, one of the first locally owned and operated senior housing consulting services in Southwest Florida when the then-42-year-old Rosenblatt founded it 10 years ago. 

“On Mondays I would fly out, on Thursdays I would come home, do laundry and be back on a plane on Monday. I did that for many years,” says Rosenblatt. “That wasn't much of a life, so in the back of my mind I thought there had to be a better way to use my knowledge and my experience to make it a business and also to help people.”

Leveraging established relationships in the local senior housing market, Rosenblatt says business started slowly, gradually building both his base of clients and senior communities primarily in Collier County. Last year, he expanded into Lee County, a move he reports netted a 38% increase in gross revenue in the first quarter of 2018 over the same quarter in 2017. That was followed up by a 53% increase in the second quarter over the same period last year, adds Rosenblatt. He did not disclose revenue figures.

"People didn't want to pay for a senior housing adviser, so I switched my business model and that's been a significant part of my growth.” Bruce Rosenblatt

The expansion, he says, was the result of natural progression. Because a large portion of his clients move from their own homes locally into independent living, assisted living or memory care — Rosenblatt’s areas of specialty — they prefer to remain nearby.

“I started getting more inquiries from Lee County,” Rosenblatt says. “Many times people want to stay in their geographic area. You don't find people in Naples who want to go north and vice-versa. It just occurred organically. It's not like I woke up one morning and said, ‘Yeah, let's expand.’”

Adds Rosenblatt: “It wasn't like going to the East Coast. It was more like going down the street, so it wasn't that hard.”

The expansion brings into play a total of 82 senior communities — 30 in Collier County and 52 in Lee County — a number Rosenblatt expects to double during the next decade. For a two-person company that relies on first-hand knowledge of the communities and their rates, features, amenities, ratings, staffs and management, that presents a challenge.

“I am constantly in and out of the communities,” says Rosenblatt. “I go in myself and talk to the staff and the residents who are there and their family members, so I make it a part of my schedule to visit and check them out. I also belong to a number of senior-related organizations, so I learn about staff changes and stay abreast of what is going on in all of them.”

Rosenblatt deals with communities that range in price from $1,800 per month to upwards of $7,000. On the top end, there are communities with nonequity “buy-ins” ranging from $250,000 to more than $2 million, he says.

All told, Rosenblatt's knowledge allows him to make informed recommendations to clients, who do not pay him for his service. Rosenblatt receives a one-time referral fee from communities in which he places residents. 

Compensation was one of the first adjustments Rosenblatt made to his business model.

“When I first started the business, I would charge a fee for my expertise,” says Rosenblatt. “I struggled. People didn't want to pay for a senior housing adviser, so I switched my business model and that's been a significant part of my growth.”

Another factor was the expansion of senior housing options and client base. That figures to continue its present trajectory while baby boomers reach retirement age — but not for the obvious reason. Trending in the marketplace, Rosenblatt says, is younger retirees moving to Southwest Florida with parents in tow.

“In the past my client was primarily the end user, the person moving into in the community,” he says. “There has been a shift. Now it's the adult child who is moving here, and they have parents up north who they want to bring down here. It's definitely a noticeable trend.”

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