Naples trust and estates attorney Shelley Rhoads Perry had long seen a need for a business that would help seniors “connect the dots” between their existing financial lives and the transition that would occur after their passing.
And when Perry teamed up with Linda Flores, a former banking executive and a Florida-registered Professional Guardian, the company shifted into more of an advocacy role. The pair started working with senior clients in protective roles as an independent trustee, an agent under a durable power of attorney, a health care surrogate or a personal representative in fiduciary matters.
One challenge? The firm’s name, Lasting Links Solutions, didn’t make clear the value Perry and Flores offered clients. They found that even after getting referrals from industry partners, it still took clients longer than it should to understand the kinds of services the company provided. In January, the duo announced the company’s new name, Senior Advocacy Group. They worked with Fort Myers marketing and public relations firm Gravina, Smith, Matte & Arnold on a rebranding effort to spread word about the company’s mission and new moniker.
'Clients walk in with a bucket full of questions and unknowns, and they walk out educated and with a plan.' Linda Flores, Senior Advocacy Group
“We’re so happy we did this because it really is reflective of what we do,” says Perry, 67. “It allows us to grow because people now who may hear our name say, ‘I understand.’ Whereas before they would not necessarily have had a clue even what industry we were in.”
When Senior Advocacy Group gets referrals from an attorney, a financial adviser, a social worker or a physician, it works with clients to provide protective and life management services. That could include assistance with a real estate transaction for needed financial income, help with asset recovery, advice about end-of-life planning or insight about medical advocacy. “Clients walk in with a bucket full of questions and unknowns, and they walk out educated and with a plan,” says Flores, 57. “It’s soup to nuts.”
The firm takes a holistic, client-centered approach to developing that plan, knowing every scenario is different. Services are provided at an hourly rate that can transition to a monthly retainer fee if desired.
Clients tend to appreciate the one-stop-shopping advantages working with Senior Advocacy Group provides. “Because we have experience in all these different areas, they are able to come to one place,” Perry says. “And if we don’t know the answer, we know who does have the answer.”
Protecting vulnerable adults from abuse and exploitation is at the core of both the company’s mission and its status as a public benefit corporation. Also known as a B Corp, it means the entity must have a material, positive effect on society and the environment. “Having a company that fulfilled a larger purpose was very important to me,” Perry says.
The company engages in educational outreach in various ways, including through community organizations like the Leadership Coalition on Aging. There are also plans to use its new website to further educate seniors about things like common scam letters. “Making a profit and acting in the best interest of clients do not have to be mutually exclusive,” Flores says. “You can have both.”
Perry and Flores also recently formed Senior Safety Matters, a nonprofit connected to Senior Advocacy Group, to provide free consulting services to seniors who cannot afford them. The pair hope to use the nonprofit arm to offer grants and interest-free loans to seniors in need, in addition to consulting services down the road.
The partners also recently formed Fiduciary Associates of Naples, a sister company of Senior Advocacy Group focused on end-of-life financial services. It offers clients a seamless transition from the comprehensive life care management services Senior Advocacy Group provides to the trust and estate services available from Fiduciary Associates of Naples.
The partners decline to disclose revenue or client figures, only to say the pandemic has led to growth at the company that required the hiring of two additional staff members.
“Sadly, we’re seeing more people than ever in need of our services,” Perry says. “They’re isolated, which makes them more prone to abuse and neglect. … Because we are advocates, we have to find each and every way to try to help these individuals. And in doing so, we needed to bring more people onto our staff to help us through. The pandemic has definitely impacted our industry quite a bit.”