032 | Success Together: Business, Life and Marriage

Have you ever considered what valuable lessons entrepreneurs can learn from their journey, and what advice would be beneficial for those looking to succeed in business while maintaining their most valued relationships? Today’s episode explores this through the lenses of married entrepreneurs and so much more. 

In this special episode of the Vital Strategies Podcast, host Patrick Lonergan is joined by an extraordinary guest—his wife, Julie Lonergan. They look back at their entrepreneurial journey, sharing how they got started and the history that led them to build successful businesses. They discuss the challenges of expanding their businesses from scratch. This episode highlights the rollercoaster of entrepreneurship, the relentless grind and hustle, and how working as a team is critical to balancing marriage, work, and parenting. 

Julie also provides valuable insights into managing the many aspects of their business, from reporting metrics and creating a strong team to reviewing financials regularly and maintaining healthy lender relationships. She emphasizes the importance of the CEO’s role in owning revenue and also being attuned to the granular details of the business. The episode covers strategies for building a positive company culture, the significance of appreciating employees, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Stick around until the end to hear Julie’s lessons learned in business and advice on being married to an entrepreneur as an entrepreneur. Tune in to gain these invaluable insights and more from this inspiring entrepreneurial duo. 

Key Takeaways: 

  • Entrepreneurial Rollercoaster: The emotional highs and lows of being an entrepreneur. 
  • Married Team Dynamics: The importance of teamwork in maintaining a healthy marriage, effective business operations, and parenting. 
  • Business Management: Julie’s approach to managing multiple aspects of the business and reporting metrics. 
  • Financial Health: The necessity for CEOs to own revenue and stay dialed into the financials. 
  • Expense Management: Continuously working on expense reduction without compromising quality. 
  • Debt Management: Handling debt ratios and maintaining strong relationships with lenders. 
  • Pushing Comfort Zones: The importance of stepping out of comfort zones for detailed business management. 
  • Reviewing Financials: Regularly reviewing financials to ensure business health. 
  • Company Culture: Creating a positive culture and loyalty within the company. 
  • Employee Appreciation: The significance of appreciating employees to drive business success. 
  • Emotional Balance: Balancing emotional investments for a healthy identity and well-rounded life.



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Sponsored by Vital Wealth    

Music by Cephas    

Audio, video, and show notes produced by Podcast Abundance   

Research and copywriting by Victoria O’Brien 

Patrick Longergan [0:06 – 1:31]: Welcome back to the Vital Strategies podcast. I’m your host, Patrick Lonergan. And in today’s episode, we’ve never had a more special guest. My wife, Julie Lonergan is joining us on the podcast. Julie owns and operates a successful senior housing management company. She owns the property as well as manages the business that takes place inside of the walls. We’re going to discuss what that looks like to be married to an entrepreneur, how she runs her business with 400 employees over three states in multiple locations, and what she does to manage the stress of life in a healthy way. Make sure you stay to the end to hear Julie’s insight into the key lessons she’s learned about running a successful business and how we maintain a healthy marriage while we both run our businesses. I’m fortunate to get a front row seat to the masterclass that Julie puts on, not just running her business on the dollars and cents side, but how she cares for people. I’m so proud of her and the impact that she makes with her team, the residents that live at her properties, and the families of everyone involved. Let’s dive into the conversation with my beautiful wife, Julie Lonergan. Julie, thank you for joining us. I don’t know if I could be more excited about my guest today. My amazing wife is joining us. Whatever business success I’ve had, it’s because I learned from my wife’s example. She is tremendous just from an operations perspective, how she handles everything. I’m excited to dig into that. So I’m going to outline a little bit of your background and then we’ll get into it from there. So again, thanks for joining us.

Speaker B [1:31 – 1:32]: Yeah, excited to be here.

Patrick Longergan [1:32 – 1:41]: So just to give people some context, we’ve known each other for a long, long time. We have a picture of us in kindergarten playing soccer together.

Speaker B [1:41 – 1:42]: We do.

Patrick Longergan [1:42 – 2:00]: We went to middle school together, dated in high school. You’re my high school sweetheart. And then got married a week after I graduated college. A week after you graduated your master’s program. And you’re not two years older than me. What happened is you got done with your undergrad in two years and then got masters in and another two.

Speaker B [2:00 – 2:03]: So would not advise that of people. But yes, yes.

Patrick Longergan [2:03 – 5:28]: So a go getter. And I tell people like, I totally out kicked my coverage on marrying you and get them to fall in love with you when they’re 17 and don’t know any better. So that’s my, I knew better. My secret to success. So, yeah, so you got your master’s degree, we got married, moved to the Twin Cities. You were a hospital administrator running an oncology unit in North Memorial Hospital and just outside of the Twin Cities, and then from there went to medical device company. And this was kind of interesting. We figured out you were home. Like, I don’t know, it was some ridiculously low number, like 40 days in five months or something like that. You were just on the road traveling, and we sort of made the decision, like, this is not a way to live. This is not worthwhile. And so I don’t know if I recruited you into the real estate business or you were just like, yep, I’m ready to do something a little bit different. But we started working together, and we’ve been doing that for a long time now. Right now, we’re in offices right next to each other. Most people are like, yeah, I don’t know if I could show up with my spouse and do work every day, and. But it’s. I think it’s something we both really enjoy, so. Absolutely, yeah. So I’d like to just talk about being a married couple as entrepreneurs, because there’s some challenges there. You’ve been so encouraging along the way. I think about my stories. You know, I had a full scholarship to law school. You encouraged me to quit and go pursue the real estate thing full time, and that was a little scary. I remember my parents thinking something was wrong. Like, what is wrong with you guys? You know, why would you do this? And that encouragement is so valuable. Like, I think it’s necessary in an entrepreneur environment to support each other. And the fact that you’re just like, go make the leap. I’m making some money. You’re not going to be making money in law school. And sort of encouraging that dream is fantastic. I don’t want to undervalue how important that was for me, and I just appreciate that support. And that happened a second time. Like, we sort of fast forward. The real estate business took off once you got involved. Uh, we built a portfolio of large multifamily projects down in Texas, and we had a partner in those deals. And the financing was similar to some of the financing that was available in the early two thousands with the residential side on the commercial side. It was sort of wild west there, too. We had 95, 92% loan to value, but these properties were performing really well, if we can remember back to late two thousands. Gas was $4 a gallon. So our property in Texas. Texas was thriving economically where the rest of the country was in trouble. And our partner in those scenarios had commercial and industrial space spread all over the United States, and it was all cross collateralized. I think prudential was our lender, and one day we basically got a phone call that said, hey, all of these assets are performing well in Texas. All these other assets are basically vacant, and so we’re going to take those. And so we had a decision on what our next chapter looked like. That’s when I got into, I’ll say, serving entrepreneurs in the financial advisory space, solving tax problems. And we had a joint partner and he had some senior housing property that was struggling. We marry your hospital administration background with your experience managing the management company? I think we had about 1500 apartment units that you were managing at the time. And those two things marry nicely for senior housing. And can you tell us sort of what has happened to senior housing portfolio and sort of that business since we started that in or you started that with Joe in? Was it 2009? Is that when you started? Yeah, yeah.

Speaker B [5:28 – 8:15]: I mean, it really was similar to a lot of the rest of the real estate market. In 2009. The two senior housing assets that we started with were third party managed. They were both held in what is called a tick holding. So lots of small interests, ownership in a large entity structure, which made negotiations for lending restructuring very difficult. And so basically the lender said, we’ve got to figure this out. These assets are underperforming. One was a 94 unit facility up in Wapaca, Wisconsin. One is 194 unit facility in East Moline, Illinois. I was brought in to do some consulting just to better understand what was happening with the third party management company, what was happening with the entity structure, try to assist with some of the lending negotiations. And so it became pretty evident during that consulting that it was not going to be able to perform as they had it structured. And so we created Park Vista as a management company, September of 2009. So we’re going on, it’ll be 15 years this September, and really spent the first six years, I’ll say, understanding the senior housing business. Yes, I have healthcare background and, you know, multi family experience, but it became really apparent that the business within the real estate of senior housing is extremely complex. A lot of times I’ll dumb it down and tell people, we basically run a restaurant, a hospital, a maintenance division, marketing company and housekeeping, along with activities all under one roof times eight. So really just try to understand the business itself for the first couple of years. And then once I felt like we had a good handle on that, it really was important for us to identify what systems and processes we needed to solidify so that we could grow if we wanted to. Down the road so the, really, the first six years, we didn’t expand. We didn’t think about expanding. It really was, how do we get a great handle on the business that we have? How do we improve it? And then how do we create systems and processes that we could feel comfortable duplicating in additional areas if we were to expand. So that’s a little bit of a backstory. It definitely wasn’t as smooth as I’m explaining it. During those six years. Lots of crazy stories, lots of fun stories. But after those first six years, then we started a venture into different markets. We did some ground up development projects. We took on a third party contract. It’s not our primary business, but found a family that was getting into the business and just trusted us, shared similar values of business and just taking care of people. And so today we have eight properties in three different states, about 400 employees. Yeah, it’s been great.

Patrick Longergan [8:15 – 8:43]: That’s great. I want to touch on a couple things. So you have one third party contract. I think you love that relationship, but I don’t think you’re interested in fielding calls to do additional third party management. You like to own and operate, so that’s good. The other thing you mentioned was it’s not always been a smooth ride. I think we could probably do an entire episode on. We had a hostile takeover. We’ve had, you know, some crazy stories with property taxes being due and all these other things that had to get resolved pretty quickly.

Speaker B [8:43 – 8:46]: Covid. For a couple of years, staffing shortages, all of us.

Patrick Longergan [8:46 – 9:02]: And I think we’ll probably get to Covid and just, you know, have we dealt with some of that? But I think one thing that I’d like to go back to is, you know, I think to. And this is really before we really got deep into the multifamily projects. Uh, we were hustling.

Speaker B [9:02 – 9:02]: Yeah.

Patrick Longergan [9:02 – 9:50]: And we had moved from the Twin Cities to Waterloo, Iowa, and we were living in an apartment. We had lawn furniture as our. We had sold all our furniture because we thought, oh, we’re going to, you know, we’ll. We’ll buy something and furnish it. And we went to work with some partners and that it sort of ran its course. We tried it for a minute and we were like, this isn’t what we thought it was. We’re going to sort of go out on our own path. And I just remember, you know, this was red box when you could rent a movie for a buck. Like, that was our form of entertainment. And our apartment had a pool. We thought that was like the best thing ever. And our furniture, our couch, consisted of a air mattress that we let some of the air out of so we could fold it up and sit there and watch. We just flip a computer around and watch a red box movie on our half inflated air mattress while we were just hustling to make it all go.

Speaker B [9:50 – 10:28]: Yeah. Panera was our office during the day, and, you know, at night, the apartment, I think we had prepaid rent for six months. And, you know, that’s about the timeline we gave ourselves to figure it out. And, yeah, I mean, I think it’s really interesting. I think a lot of people think that entrepreneurship is sexy. It’s exciting. It’s just an uphill trajectory. It is much more like a roller coaster. And having the risk tolerance and just the overall mentality of, we can lose it all tomorrow, but we have the ability to build it back and just grind and hustle is essential in any entrepreneurship mindset, for sure.

Patrick Longergan [10:29 – 11:46]: Yeah. And I think one thing that reflecting back, you know, we work with a lot of successful entrepreneurs. One thing that I look at that I don’t think we talk about between the two of us very often is, like, how hard it is from ground up. Like, we didn’t come from a family business. None of us owned any real estate. You know, I think we had $12,000, like, saved up combined after, you know, we got married. And, you know, to just, like, from scratch, start businesses and make them go. Like, that’s. It’s rare. It comes with a ton of stress. And I think we both have an interesting temperament, like, to just sort of, like, things come at us, nobody’s running around their hair on fire. We’re just going, okay, here’s the new set of stuff. Let’s put our heads together and. And figure it out. And I’ve noticed, like, it’s interesting in our relationship, it’s like, when the stress gets the most, it’s like we come together and we do a great job, like, going, okay, let’s solve this problem and move forward. And so I, again, so appreciate that. I don’t know how either one of us. I don’t know how I would have done it. You had the traditional job while I got this thing started, like, without your support. I don’t know how somebody does that, because there’s, like you said, there’s ups and downs that you don’t see as a w two employee. And if somebody is just expecting the smooth ride, your spouse is like, hey, you told me this is going to work. Why are you still putting in the hours and not, you know, seeing the results, that business isn’t going to last long or the marriage isn’t going to last long, either one.

Speaker B [11:46 – 13:10]: So it’s like, yeah, and I think this is just a plug for one of your prior podcasts. You had Amanda AC on for, you know, just counseling, mental health. That has served us really well, both in marriage counseling along with individual coaching and counseling. I think there are so many tools that you learn that you wouldn’t otherwise for stress management, both in marriage and in dealing with difficult scenarios in work and parenting and all of those things. And I think we’ve learned lessons early on. I can say as a w two employee, when you started this, I was too busy to really understand the challenges that you were facing. And so it was probably out of ignorance and just time allotment that I didn’t really pester a lot. Right. But I truly didn’t have an understanding of what you were facing and the challenges that you had in front of you until I myself became an entrepreneur. And so I do think that that is something for people who are going into entrepreneurship and their partner is not, you know, to have tools in place to be able to openly communicate about challenges, stress levels, expectations, boundaries, all of those things. Because the worst thing that can happen going into entrepreneurship is that you ruin a marriage or a relationship because you’re not on the same page. And there are going to be those times that are just incredibly stressful. And you have to be able to navigate that with tools to preserve your marriage and your family.

Patrick Longergan [13:10 – 14:23]: So, yeah, it’s so true. Again, the individual counseling, the marriage counseling. Like, I argue that anything you want to excel at in life, you should have a coach and be spending time and money on. And it’s like, I want to have a great marriage. I want to have a great life in general. And so it’s like I should be investing in those pieces. So. All right, now, I’ve always been impressed by your ability to operate a business. We run across people all the time doing what we do. And I’ve had people swear off employees. I had one once. I’m not, there’s no way I’m hiring another employee. I’m like, well, theres going to be a ceiling there in which you can operate. Im looking at what you do. Youve got operations in three states. Youve got to be licensed in every state. They have different sets of rules. You mentioned the eight businesses that are all wrapped up into senior housing. And the thing I feel like you left out was like, oh, theres property management too, on top of all of those other things that comes into the mix. I guess one of the questions is how do you handle all of the operations, all of the moving pieces, all of the people that are involved? You know, we’re here in Clinton, Iowa. We’ve got one property that’s close by, but the farthest property is 5 hours, 6 hours away. So you can’t be hands on all day, every day in every location. How do you manage all of that?

Speaker B [14:23 – 16:59]: Yeah, I’ll say there are days we do it better than others. And I say we have got a fantastic team in place, but we do follow a model. We use Eos based out of a book called Traction, and we modify a lot of the tactics that come out of that. But I mentioned earlier, you know, those first six years, really honing the processes and systems that we felt like we needed to have in place in order to be able to expand. You know, you can have fantastic team members within your business that run the day to day and make decisions for you. But if you don’t have infrastructure of processes, KPI’s key performance indicators, reporting metrics that wherever you’re at, no matter how in depth you are on other projects that you can look at and audit and have a good handle on, your financials, your operational metrics, your HR key components, you’re really going to struggle with understanding what’s happening day to day in your business. And so we spent a lot of time, and I’ll say we’ll forever be evolving and honing those processes and systems and reporting mechanisms. I’m really excited about AI and some of the new improvements that that’s going to add into our business and the tools that we’re going to be able to access quicker. But I’ll say the only way I feel comfortable at my desk with multiple businesses within the business, multiple locations and a lot of people is that I feel really comfortable with the reporting metrics we have and the auditing tools that we have to be able to at any time, drill down. I always say the numbers don’t lie. So as long as I have those numbers readily available to me and I know how to read them, I know how to analyze them, or I have counsel available to assist me. I’m not a CPA. I’m not an expert in a lot of things. I always say I have a great accountant, a great lawyer, and a great financial advisor. I have all of those. But in the day to day, the numbers don’t lie and I review them daily and so I think another key point, a lot of people think I’m going to be an entrepreneur. It’s great. I’m going to be able to vacation and check out and, you know, the business is just going to run on its own. That could not be further from the truth, at least in most business owners that I run in circles with. You know, it is a daily grind of reviewing your processes, your systems, your numbers, and being very diligent and disciplined in doing that help you stay on top of trends, because there are going to be times where your business takes a dip or a crisis happens. And if you can stay on top of it and then quickly pivot that data, helps you do that and stay a little bit ahead of the curve. And we’ve had to do that many times.

Patrick Longergan [16:59 – 17:57]: Yeah. I’ve just been encouraged by your example of being in the numbers and how important they are. You know, I’ve seen you for the last 15 years just effectively running your business. And even in the hospital administration side, you were putting together pro formas and then managing off of those numbers. And I think it’s a critical piece. You know, when we think of the entrepreneur myth, the entrepreneur myth is I’m a good technician. I’m good at this thing, and so I should go start a business there. And I think that the myth piece is like, we have to get dialed in on the number side of things and understand that I see the business opportunity and then I’m going to go run the business by those numbers. And so if you had to, now your business is going to be different than almost every, every other business because I can look at a p and L and there’s literally thousands of numbers on there. So what things are you looking at to like, have an idea of, is my business healthy or not? Are we headed in the right direction?

Speaker B [17:57 – 20:33]: Yeah, I mean, I regularly, I’ll say business in general, KPI’s I’ll talk about and then I’ll talk about specifically for our business. But obviously, you balance a budget and you run a business on two key categories, your revenue and your expenses. Those are the two large buckets that you have control, and sometimes you have more control over them than others. In our business, revenue equates to occupancy of our properties and the rent that flows based on those occupancy numbers. We don’t always have control over. You know, unfortunately, people pass away or need additional levels of care that we can’t accommodate on site. But we do know that from a marketing perspective, that is a numbers game. And so if you have to back into occupancy, it means you have to broaden your scope of exposure. So external marketing, internal marketing. And I am, as a CEO, I believe this is very important. For any business owner or CEO, your job is to own revenue. And so you may have to be very involved, even at a granular level in understanding the sales aspect of your business and being very dialed into revenue because it’s such a huge part of balancing that budget and making sure that you’re profitable. Right. On the expense side of things, typically most business owners, their largest expense is going to be their employee base, their payroll. Right. And so making sure that you are honed in on your payroll numbers and understanding overages and, you know, overtime and all of those things. Wage analysis, we run a lot of comp studies on making sure we’re paying people fairly because we want to keep people happy. Right. And then I’ll say the third component really is that debt aspect. Wanting to make sure that you have your right debt service coverage ratio that you are, you know, negotiating on the best interest rates possible. Really, really important to have a good relationship with lenders and multiple lenders, you know, shopping around what the best debt is that you possibly can have to serve your business, but making sure that you’re meeting all the requirements from a lending perspective and testing that, you know, regularly. So I’ll say for us, you know, from my desk, I really like to stay in and I think it’s essential. The sales and revenue portion, I work very closely with our operating team on just continuously grinding on the expense side of things. Things. Any expense reduction efforts that we can continuously monitor that don’t affect the quality of our business, we’re very dialed into. And then on the debt side that’s really, again, resides on my desk, those lending relationships and requirements I own on a regular basis.

Patrick Longergan [20:33 – 20:58]: Yeah, no, I couldn’t agree more on the revenue side. Like, there is no business if you’re not generating revenue and there’s no growth unless you’re generating revenue. Like you can only manage expenses to a certain level. And then it’s like, like, okay, if we want to continue to keep this thing moving in the right direction, we’ve got to keep shoving as much money as we can into the pipeline and then we can manage the expenses after that. But step one, yes. Generate as much revenue as possible.

Speaker B [20:58 – 22:49]: And I think just a cautionary comment there. I think a lot of business owners rely very heavily on their sales team and 100% agree with that. That does not give you freedom and a free pass to just kind of step away from the sales asset. I am not a salesperson. It’s not something, you know, we have conversations about this all the time. You’re a people person when it comes to both sales and just continuously networking. That’s not my comfort zone. But I have to push through that to understand the details of what are the specifics that my sales team are honing in on and constantly testing and maneuvering sales strategies. I can’t just say I’ve got a sales team that’s handling that. And so I really don’t know the details of that. You have to know the granular level of your sales tactics, what they are and aren’t doing, and then again, working a plan. I probably oversimplify this a lot. So I’m sure a lot of salespeople listening to this call might disagree, but in my opinion, sales is a numbers game. So if, you know, you have to get six move ins again relative to our business, and we’ve got historical data that says that means we need to meet with 200 people. Okay, well then you need to make sure that you’re meeting with 200 people. What are your sales trackers? What are your, you know, again, those auditing tools that you are checking in on to say, yes, my salespeople are doing what they say they’re doing. We work very closely with our outsourced marketing and Internet advertising individuals. They do a b testing for us on those tactics and we are constantly in those numbers and looking at that on a regular basis. So it is really important that even though you may not be a sales expert or even comfortable in sales, that you as an owner and or CEO are very much in the weeds and understanding those KPI’s and tracking those KPI’s.

Patrick Longergan [22:49 – 23:46]: Yep, absolutely. And really there’s leading and lag indicators. Right? So a leading indicator is the number of meetings I had, right. Like I set up 200 meetings. Now I can’t control what those people say in those meetings. And so those six move ins are going to be the lag indicators. Like, all right, we had our numbers, right. I can control how many people I connect with. I can’t control how many say yes, but I know it’s number. The more people I get through the system, the more we’re going to have come out on the back end and we can see different areas for improvement there. Right. Like in our sales process, we can go, all right, I can manage the activity, then I can manage the quality of my sales process. Right. Like if I’m only converting 3%, and I move that number up to 10%. Like, that’s great. And then there’s just, we’ll call it retention, that type of thing, like, or the market that I’m serving, like, if I can have somebody move into a higher level of care, like, that’s more revenue that comes through and helps generate more profit.

Speaker B [23:46 – 24:41]: And that just goes back to my statement. I said earlier, it really applies to all divisions of your business. The numbers don’t lie, and so you should be maintaining historical trends in all of your divisions. So just in the example of marketing, if historically we’ve been able to prove that for six move ins, it takes 200 touch points. If I’ve got a new salesperson and they’re claiming that they’re doing these touch points right, and that’s been verifiable, but they aren’t having the same success, that might indicate, hey, we might need to do some training, some mentorship, you know, ride along and make sure that they understand the sales points. So, again, data is just really important. It’s not fun. It’s not the thing that most owners, you know, most entrepreneurs are creative, they’re visionary, they’re strategic. So numbers tends to. To feel a little bit constricting, but it is so important to carve out time and be disciplined in understanding those numbers.

Patrick Longergan [24:41 – 26:21]: So, yeah, I’ve seen this with you. I’ve seen it with our clients. I think we’ve got some relationships where we’ve seen people that have run successful businesses, and they’ll literally get a pencil out and be going through the p and l, making notes, looking at it. And, like, if there’s one activity successful business owners, like, have to stay involved in, it’s reviewing the financials to some level. Like, you’ve got to have your hands on it. And we’ve seen instances where people are like, the business seems to be really profitable. They sort of check out, and then all of a sudden, things start falling apart in a major way, and it’s like, oh, my gosh, this is, this is a real problem. So can’t emphasize enough keeping in the financials and just understanding those really, really well. Very good. Anything else on financials? Because I want to talk about. You brought up Covid earlier and talk about financials. Right. Staffing was disaster. So hard to find people to show up to work. So my wife is amazing at a lot of things. One of those is cooking. She’s an amazing cook. I call her a chef. She could do that chop thing where you open up the basket. There’s three ingredients that don’t make sense, and she whips something up. That’s amazing. I am not that, but one of your culinary directors, like, had worked a crazy number of weeks in a row with zero shifts off, like, just making sure that everybody was fed and cared for, and you went up and took some of those shifts for a few days just to, like, give them a break. That was the status, you know, of COVID Like, you know, the CEO was showing up and making scrambled eggs. So can you just talk us through Covid and how you managed all of that? You know, all of the different issues that came up and how it played itself out?

Speaker B [26:21 – 30:14]: I think Covid affected so many businesses. I don’t know that there was a business that wasn’t touched. I think healthcare and senior housing in particular was especially ravaged. We had government mandates, and again, we’re in three different states. Into the government’s credit, no one had a playbook for how to navigate Covid. We didn’t understand exactly what was happening, how it was truly affecting people day by day. You know, we were getting new mandates with shutting down our facilities, not allowing families, and not allowing residents out of their rooms with not very much guidance on. On actually how to manage that day to day. And so I’m really, really blessed to have a core group of leadership members, not only at the corporate level, but also on site. I always say people that are in senior housing do it not for the pay. They do it for the reason of caring for the vulnerable population. And so I was very lucky to have people that were just committed to doing whatever it took to keep our residents safe. So I talked earlier about pivoting. We really had to rely on those financial, you know, metrics to be able to determine, okay, what do we have as a cushion to be able to navigate, not being able to have new people move in during this time because the government shut that down. And then, unfortunately, when we would have outbreaks and people would pass away, that affected our bottom line. Not to mention there’s a whole other component to talk about with how it affected our people emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and how we were navigating that. And so when most of the world shut down and worked from home, which was. Was incredibly difficult for people, we didn’t stop working. We tripled down on what we had to do. And every last member of my corporate team worked shifts. They worked healthcare shift, housekeeping shifts, cooking. We stepped in when we had to. And I think that. That on the other side of this, we’re still seeing some delayed effects of COVID But on the other side of this, I think it just built loyalty and respect of our entrepreneurs, team members that we stepped in and we did what we said we would do on the just strictly business side of things. Again, every last senior housing facility was affected because of the deaths, because of the occupancy. The national standard right now, occupancy is 83%. Pre Covid stabilized occupancy was running around 90, 91%. So there’s still a 7% gap, which, not to mention all of the. The increases in food costs, utility costs, insurance costs. Our insurance went up 40% over the last two years with regards to Covid impact. And so, again, had we not been in the numbers pre Covid, we would have had no idea how to navigate this. I’ll say. Covid forced us to be even more granular in the numbers. We couldn’t really affect the revenue because we had our hands tied there, and so we pivoted to, okay, we know we can do our best to affect the expense is, thankfully, we did have some PPE funds that very quickly we used and ran out of, but it helped us kind of stay afloat in the interim. We had to very quickly analyze wage analysis in order to stay competitive, to get people to show up, because we were social, staffed, and so we were constantly monitoring shift pickup bonuses, wage increases, shift differentials, all of those things. And again, had we not had the tools in place to analyze the data, it would have been very difficult. We would have been just making decisions blindly. So, you know, I think it was a combination of being there for people when we needed to and then also just being. Having had the benefit of being diligent in the numbers and then being even more disciplined in the numbers through Covid helped us stay afloat. And we’re just maintaining that level of discipline moving forward, which I’m really proud of our team for, just. Just jumping in and doing whatever they needed to do there.

Patrick Longergan [30:14 – 30:31]: One thing that I was just super impressed with, through Covid is how your people showed up. Like, you’ve created a culture that people are willing to show up beyond what they’re being paid. And I think that’s really a tremendous thing, and it’s not something that happens overnight. And so could you talk a little bit more about that?

Speaker B [30:31 – 34:42]: Yeah, you know, I mean, I first and foremost couldn’t have done it without you, because there was whole years that I don’t really remember being home, being, you know, there for our family. And that goes back to, you know, what we started talking about just having a marriage where we’re both entrepreneurs, and there’s been seasons where I’ve had to maybe step up, and you definitely stood up during that period. But the culture that we had created before COVID just blossomed through Covid and our culture that we had created before COVID Our motto of our company is, just make it matter. It’s super simple. We don’t have a paragraph vision statement. It is on the wall out in our hallway. It just says, make it matter. And we have four core values as a company. They’re compassion, collaboration, dignity, and transparency. And so every year, we go to all of our properties as a corporate team, and just we give examples of our team displaying those core values. And I think that. That it is not. I’ll never take credit for what happened on site, because it truly is our. We have executive directors on site, and I call them the CEO’s of their properties, right. And so we have eight subcultures, if you will, of Park Vista. And I’m just really lucky to have people who have been with me. My COO has been with me 15 years. She started the day I started the company. Kristin has been with me. She’s the president of my company 13 years. Katie, eight years. She’s my VP of healthcare. Jamie, also eight years, VP of healthcare. And Katie is VP of operations. But on site, I’ve got people that have been with me in the executive director role. 15 plus years, you know, and so I think it just was a combination of loyalty to our company. But again, and I said this, there aren’t people. There are some people, but most people in the senior housing industry are there because, you know, they had grandparents that they loved and were impacted by or their parents. And so every day, they see those residents as individuals that they can have an impact on. And so, you know, when families couldn’t come in during COVID those team members became our residents families. They felt that at just a very real level. And we unfortunately had a property that was just ravaged during COVID we had eight people pass away in about 48 hours. And it was during the time when we were closed down. And, you know, we had caregivers climbing into bed with residents to usher them into the next life. Right? And that’s not a me thing. That’s a human compassion, empathy thing. And so I say, oftentimes I just have lucked out in surrounding myself with people who are way smarter, way better than I am. And I just give them, you know, a platform to do what they do. Really well. And so I do think that, you know, we run our company a little differently than most people. I’m obviously biased, but we lead with caring. And I talked about the numbers. One of the phrases I say to my corporate team all the time is, if you take care of people, the numbers follow. Do we have to be in the numbers? Yes. But if you lead with caring for people, boy, they will go above and beyond every time. And, yes, money matters, but it’s not a driving factor for most people. They want to know that they’re seen. They want to know that they’re cared for. They want to know that they’re held to a standard and encouraged to be the best version of themselves. I do say that that’s probably the only hidden talent that I have. I can see in people what maybe they don’t always see in themselves, and it’s my job to encourage that out of them. And that’s a combination of sometimes tough love and standards that maybe they don’t think they’re capable of reaching. But how fulfilling it is to me to see people on the other side of that blossoming in their highest capacity and capability. And so, yeah, I’m just really lucky. I mean, from a culture perspective, make it matter. I truly believe that that’s what we do every day in a lot of different aspects. And I’m just really lucky to have people that have bought into our philosophy of leading with love and compassion and discipline, because that’s what we do.

Patrick Longergan [34:42 – 36:14]: So, yep, I love it. Behind me, if people are watching over my right shoulder, it says, make life great. And that’s sort of the vital motto. And then over my left shoulder, you can see the m I m. Make it matter. And so we love having those constant reminders around. So I’m going to chat a little bit about your standards and what you see in people, because I think that’s an important piece. So I agree with you. I think I saw this early on in my life, you believed in me. You saw that I had this sort of entrepreneurial bent and encouraged me to quit law school, to go do the real estate thing, and then again, the financial advisory space. And so I see that. I think your team sees that. I appreciate your humility around leading and managing your team. But at the end of the day, these things start at the top and they work their way down. Down. And you’ve just created a culture. And, look, we’ve. We’re both in business. We see cultures all the time, and we see unhealthy cultures. We’ve seen other businesses where the chips are down. When everything’s great, everybody’s all in, the chips are down, and it’s like the rats are just jumping off the ship as fast as they can because the leader didn’t care for the people, was hard to be around. It was all about money and not the people. And so I just want to acknowledge, like, yes, you’ve got a great team, but it starts with you, and you set the tone. And so congratulations on all of that and making it through. Covid, you know, I know there’s, like you mentioned, there’s still some residual there that occupancy rates aren’t sort of back to where you’d like them to be, but you’re definitely moving in that direction, so. Good. Anything else to add on to the COVID story and making it through all of that?

Speaker B [36:14 – 38:54]: I think something that it just reinforced for me as a leader. And, you know, you touched on that just now. You know, I think the best thing that we can do as business owners and leaders of companies is to be comfortable and available with being authentic and shoulder to shoulder with your people. If you feel like your role is to sit behind a desk and be in the numbers all day, again, that’s a critical piece of your role, but you have to be available to be shoulder to shoulder. I oftentimes tell people, I’m never going to ask you to do something that I’m not willing to do myself. And so that’s everything from watering the lawn during a ground up development to literally giving carriage to residents if necessary. And that’s not from a perspective of, I need to be seen, and I’m checking that box and, oh, look at me, I am willing to do this. It’s hard. I know it’s hard, but I’m willing to do it because I’m asking you to do it. And then, you know, the other side of that is just genuine appreciation of people. I cannot reinforce that if we don’t. I don’t regularly tell people, thank you for what they do. Everything from your service level people to your accountants, it’s as simple as saying, hey, thanks for doing what you’re doing. I really appreciate it. I see you. It helps me so much day to day that matters because otherwise, it’s just a paycheck. And so, to your point, when the chips are down, they don’t feel seen, they don’t feel appreciated, why wouldn’t they just go get another job, right? But if they feel like, hey, the owner of the company sees me and my job matters to their day to day success. They’re more than likely willing to stick it out and not to demean the role of leadership. But I a lot of times compare it to parenting. Right. And it’s emotional deposits in, allow you to take emotional deposits or withdraws out from time to time. And that happens. We have hard conversations, we make hard decisions. But if I didn’t have a foundation of lots of emotional deposits regularly with my team, it’d be really hard for me to make an emotional withdrawal in the form of, hey, I need you to do this really tough thing, or I’m going to ask you to double down on the work. You cannot do those emotional withdraws without those emotional deposits. And so, yeah, I mean, I pay a lot of attention to that. I got a long ways to go, and I always wish I had more time to do that more regularly. But it’s not grandiose things. It’s just being genuine and authentic and caring for what people do. If you’re a business owner, you have to have people supporting you. You have to have team members doing the work. You can’t do it alone. And so simply acknowledging that those people are critical to your success and taking care of them is really important.

Patrick Longergan [38:54 – 40:27]: Yeah, that’s great. Thank you. So I’m going to shift gears just a little bit. We’re going to rewind to something I said at the beginning, and we’re going to sort of bring it to present day. So you graduated undergrad in two years. You showed up to school with some credits because you were in AP classes and took courses. They gave you high school credit and college credit, and then you just were working your tail off with huge course loads to get done early. Okay, now I fast forward to present day, and I look at you and your. It’s admirable. You’re devoted to your faith. You know, Jesus is like, central in your life. You love me, care about me. I’m glad I’m right up there on the priority list then. We’ve got three beautiful daughters. Two of them are teenagers and one soon to be there. And it’s like. Like that’s a whole different level of responsibility and time and energy to sort of speak into their lives. And then you’ve got this complex business that you are running, and so you’ve never been scared of work. But I feel like on one hand, there’s this fine line of stress, right? On one end of that spectrum is laziness. Like it’s sloth. I’m doing nothing. The other end is burnout and I think you’ve been there, right? I think, you know, in college and parts of your career, for sure, you know, you sort of been there. So can you talk a little bit about how you have sort of evolved as a young woman? Just grinding to. I’m impressed with how you sort of keep all of these things afloat, not only like, all the things I mentioned, but, like, you’re also whipping up amazing meals, and our house is always well decorated and all those other pieces. So how do you manage it all?

Speaker B [40:28 – 44:07]: Not well, a lot of times. I appreciate your. Your confidence, but not well. And I, again, you know, just having a healthy marriage, you afford me a lot of times where I just overwhelmed and I can kind of vent about how I feel. Like maybe I’m feeling in a certain area, but I think not to spend too much time on this, but as a woman business owner, it just poses a lot of challenges in many areas. One, there is, you know, the constant level of guilt of, am I doing enough as a mom? Am I doing enough as a wife? Am I managing all of the tasks from a business perspective? And, you know, I’ve definitely gone through periods of time where that’s been overwhelming and I felt burnout or I felt high levels of stress and guilt around that. And then there’s been times where I’ve just desired more of a balance around being a mom and being a wife. Usually it comes on the other side of just large Covid was one of them, or other challenges in our business where I feel that burden out. I’ll say the last two years, we lost my mom two years ago. And just navigating that has given me the gift of really reflecting on how do I balance this moving forward. I think early on in college and in my career, I very intimately felt the discrepancy and disparity of women in the business world. There is a glass ceiling. It is very real still, and felt like I needed to grind twice as hard as maybe my male counterpart. And so that led to really unhealthy behaviors of identity and success and achievement and what I needed to do in order to accomplish that. And I’ll say where I’m at now has been a lot of work in counseling and coaching and being secure in my identity, you know, as a daughter of Christ first, and then as a wife and mom and business as well. And I really do look at my business. All of my team members are their moms. They’re working moms. They choose to work outside of the home. And so I’ll oftentimes joke around, if you want to get stuff done, hire a mom, right? Like, we just learn how to get it done so we can get home to our babies and our husbands and try to balance as much of the world as possible, but really landing on tools that have allowed me to. When I feel that pull of needing to grind and achieve and prove myself coming back to center of I am worthy, I am who I am, and the things that I choose to focus on are for the benefit of my company and my team that works with me and what that affords them, while wanting to make sure that I’m well balanced as a mom and a wife and a follower of Christ. And so, you know, I’m regularly checking in with myself on that and the people that matter most to me. I couldn’t do it without, obviously, you and our girls. But I have a really close group of women people in my life, my inner circle, that I am constantly asking, hey, are you seeing in me trends that are unhealthy? Do you feel like I’m balancing this to the best of my ability and trust that they’ll give me honest feedback? I think it’s really important, you know, an encouragement for women business owners here is to have that inner circle where you feel like you can ask the questions, the tough questions, and people can speak into your life with authenticity and encouragement when they see you out of whack and out of balance. So don’t have all the answers. But that’s what’s worked for me thus far. And again, check in with me in two years, I’ll tell you some new tools and tricks that I’ve learned. But right now, that’s where I’m at.

Patrick Longergan [44:07 – 44:35]: So I love it. And I think one thing we’ve both embraced is just this constantly trying to get better. Like, let’s be better tomorrow than we are today. And that comes in the form of just managing our lives and everything we have going on. Because at some point, you just need to slow down and just ask yourself, like, when is enough? Right? Like, do I need to keep driving towards this? And it can be like, what altar am I worshiping at, right? Is it money and success and all these other things? Or is it like, no, I’m a child of God, and my value comes from that, not what the world tells me is important.

Speaker B [44:35 – 45:52]: Yeah. And I think that there’s probably a whole other session on really being self aware of contentment, right. And we can get really caught up in what is enough and nothing’s ever enough. Right? If I’m content in who I am, that I’m constantly evolving and trying to be the best version of myself. I can be content in who I am and what I have and regularly check in with our children. You know, hey, sorry, you know, I’ve been pretty busy. What can I do to make sure you feel seen and valued and have times? We have mom dates, you have dad dates. You know, those are things that are really important because again, you know, and your motto for your business is spot on, you know, make life great. I’m not doing this. I’m not owning a business and running a business to amass wealth for some day. My children, who never saw me or never spent time with me to inherit, that’s not what they want, want time with us. But I also think there’s something really powerful for entrepreneurs to teach their children. Hard work is good. It’s what God calls us to. It’s what keeps us healthy. And so I want my children to know that if you want anything in life, you have to work for it. It’s not given to you. You may have talent, you may have skill sets, but you’ll always have to work. And I think we show that in the day to day for our children. And I’m proud about that.

Patrick Longergan [45:53 – 46:12]: Yep, that’s wonderful. Thank you. Okay, so to wrap up, I’ve got a few just general questions. So what’s been the most important lesson that you’ve learned in business? Is there like, hey, if I’m going to start it all over again, this is sort of the foundational principle that I’m just going to keep in mind as I grow this thing to successful business.

Speaker B [46:13 – 47:42]: That’s a great question. I’ll say there’s a couple of things that I would, and this is through lots of years of learning what not to do and or maybe do things differently. I cannot express the importance of really good people. I mentioned it earlier. I just have smarter, better people that I surround myself with and have no ego around that it really is essential that you have people that you can trust that are smart and capable and have the capacity to do the things that you cannot. You need to have really important KPI’s and reporting metrics because even if you have great people and you trust them implicitly, you still have to have data that you yourself can be in the numbers on and be aware of regularly. So I would not be so focused on growing fast. Let’s say you start business and it’s successful within the first year, and then you are just focused on growth. Growth growth. If you don’t have a sound handle on the processes and the procedures and the data that allows for healthy growth, you’re going to crash and burn. And so for me, it really is make sure you’ve got the right people that you’re entrusting aspects of your business to and then to. You’ve got really sound processes, support infrastructure that you feel like you can have healthy growth and monitor that. Check in on that regularly. Don’t be so focused on growth that you lose sight of. It has to grow in a smart manner.

Patrick Longergan [47:42 – 48:25]: Yeah. Thank you. That’s fantastic. Because oftentimes we’ll see businesses that have some level of success. And we use the flywheel analogy, right, like that. Business is not perfect. It’s a long ways from it, and it’s a little out of balance. And when you spin it up faster, when you don’t have the foundational systems and processes in place and the people in place, like that thing being out of balance just breaks itself apart and the whole thing falls and it’s like. So I love that insight. How about as married entrepreneurs, is there anything out there that we should share with our listeners around? Here’s lessons. As entrepreneurs, you should incorporate in your life to just make sure that your marriage is healthy, your lives are healthy, your businesses are healthy.

Speaker B [48:25 – 50:21]: Yeah. You know, I mean, a couple, what I’ll say are just foundational things that for us work, and I would argue any married entrepreneur would want to consider one, faith is essential for our marriage, for our personal lives, for our businesses. Our faith shows up in all of those aspects. And really what that allows for is, you know, you talked a little bit about stress. If I believe that Jesus is in control of our business, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t ask me to be involved and engaged in making day to day decisions. But there is this rest and comfort that I can rely on, that God’s in control. And if I’m obedient to running his business, he’s entrusted to me. That gives me a fair amount of peace when it comes to our marriage. And both of us, you know, we’re not in business technically together. We both run our own separate businesses. That’s a whole different level of complexity. But counseling has, again, and I’ll just stress that for individual counseling and marriage counseling to get the tools that you’re going to need for conflict resolution, for stress management, boundaries, all of those things, those have been absolutely essential to us. I think that there’s also just this component of stress, temperament, in personality that we both you touched on earlier. We just have. When we’ve been through, like you mentioned, the deflated lawn furniture, living on six months of rental to very different living circumstances. I don’t want to go back there with children in particular. We didn’t have kids at that time. But I still. What that enlisted in me, and I believe you, was this confidence that, you know, both in our faith and in who we are and the talents God’s given us. If we lost everything tomorrow, we could rebuild it back up. I do think that there is also just a fundamental if you’re in business together, one person is more than likely going to be the visionary strategist. The other person’s going to have to be the detail oriented person.

Patrick Longergan [50:21 – 50:21]: Because.

Speaker B [50:21 – 52:10]: Because two visionary strategy people, lots of stuff falls through the cracks. I am actually not a wired, detail oriented person. I think just early on in our marriage, that’s what needed to get done. And you are so much better at the strategy and vision. And so that was just a clear delineation. But if you’re in business together, each person serves equally important roles. Understanding and clearly defining those is really important. And making sure that both individuals feel seen and appreciated in their tasks and roles is really important. I think the best thing that we’ve learned is just regular validation and appreciation because it is hard. It’s hard to run a business. It’s hard to balance it at all. And then I’ll say the last thing really is just having a sound understanding that you are going to go through periods of failure. You just are. There’s no such thing as constant trajectory of success and being able to be comfortable in that failure in those seasons where it’s just really hard. And for a married couple to just be adamant that when one person is operating at 80%, the other person’s willing to step in at 120%, and to not hold a scorecard on that right, to just say, hey, I see you. I understand that this is what you’re capable of. Today I have more capacity and I’m going to show up for you. I’ve seen it so many times in friends of ours that are entrepreneurs, where they’ve had to do that and that makes all the difference in the world. If you are not on the same page and you don’t have a comfort level of stepping up when your spouse is not capable of or they’re really struggling, that’s a recipe for disaster. And so I think that just being in constant connection and communication is so important.

Patrick Longergan [52:11 – 53:11]: That’s fantastic. And I think to just piggyback on some of those pieces. Like, the percent. I think I heard that from Brene Brown and like, to show up and just be like, hey, I’m at 40% today. Like, just let your spouse know. Like, you’re not going to get all of me. I can set the table and I can get the kids put away. But if I’m a little crunchy, this is what’s going on in my world for sure. And then I think communication, you touched on that, too. But, like, you know, we’ve been married 22 years. Working on our communication is still something that we’re every day, we’re wired different. We are different people. You’re a woman, I’m a man. Like, we see the world differently and like, to get on the same page and, like, stop and consider the other person so valuable. And a lot of that’s happened through counseling and think all that’s great. And then I think there’s a few things that we do that are good and just go back to the communication piece. We’ve got these lists. You know, there’s the five love languages. I think there’s five, right? And you like gifts, right? So you, like, created a shared list for me that you can add to. And I’m like, cool, what does my wife need? I can just go pick off list. I don’t have to guess. And so I think that piece is really nice. And then one thing I think we do that I take for granted. And now we do date night every week.

Speaker B [53:11 – 53:12]: Every week? Yep.

Patrick Longergan [53:12 – 54:12]: Just the two of us. We go on a date, babysitter shows up, don’t need babysitter anymore. But since we’ve had a six month old, right. We’ve been, like, going on date night and it’s just been so valuable for us. And then I think there’s other, like, there’s a rhythm that I think needs to happen throughout the year. I think you need to get away probably once a quarter for a weekend, just the two of you, and just spend some time together and sort of decompress a minute. And then I think at least once a year, you need that week long vacation because I forgot. Find again, just the two of you. No kids. We talk about the distinction between trips and vacation. Trips are kids and they’re not relaxing. You get back and you’re like, I need a vacation where it’s just the two of us. We’ve got a week. And we. Because I had noticed it’s like day three or four that I’m finally like, I can sort of feel like my body decompressing and being like, all right, the stress is sort of leaving me. We get to spend time together. You’re sort of refreshed in your marriage, and you’re like, man, this is why I love you. This is great. You know? So I think those rhythms are really good for people to consider building in as well.

Speaker B [54:12 – 55:39]: And I think just having good boundaries around, especially if you’re in business together, it’s really easy for constant conversation to happen around business. And you need to have reprieve. You need to be able to check out and have marriage conversations, parenting conversations, allow your brain to stop focusing on business for a moment. And so that’s going to be different for every couple, but having good boundaries that are defined around, hey, 05:00 we go for a walk together. And then after the walk, we are done talking about business. Or, hey, is it a good time to talk about business right now? Can I pick your brain? I think one of the analogies I don’t remember, I think it was in marriage counseling that we were given, and you touched on it. The difference between men and women. Women are spaghetti. We’re constantly thinking about. I’m thinking about my kids and you while I’m at business. And it’s just all the noodles are all the things that we focus on every day. All day. Men are waffles and they can compartmentalize things, which serves them really well, both as a father, a husband, business owner. But oftentimes we think about our spouse and how they think in terms of how we think. And so, you know, when it comes to having defined periods of time that you can talk about business or not checking in and making sure, is this a good time to talk about it? Because I might be consumed with other things right now that I’m not going to be able to be present and give you my best and vice versa. And so, again, you know, just having defined boundaries and constantly working, being committed to working on your communication is essential.

Patrick Longergan [55:39 – 56:01]: Yeah. Julie, this has been fantastic. I appreciate you joining me here today and doing this life with me. When I look at when we started off on the real estate side, buying a single family home here or there, and now I look at the fact that we have interest in $150 million worth of real estate and you own and operate pretty much all of that, we’ve come a long way.

Speaker B [56:02 – 56:03]: Yep. That’s been fun.

Patrick Longergan [56:03 – 56:07]: It has been a long of fun. So I appreciate you. Thank you so much for joining us and have a great day.

Speaker B [56:07 – 56:09]: Yeah, thank you.

Patrick Longergan [56:10 – 57:17]: Thank you for listening to the Vital Strategies podcast. We wanted to give you the first look at the tools we are developing that will help you with the four cornerstones of wealth building. To be an insider to get access to the tools to help you manage cash flow, create a tax strategy, invest wisely and protect the wealth you’re building, go to vitalstrategies.com cornerstones. You’ll be the first in line to get access. These tools are designed to help you pay less tax so you can build more wealth and live a great life again. That website is vitalstrategies.com cornerstones. I want to remind you to rate and review the Vital Strategies podcast on your favorite platform. Your feedback helps us towards our goal of saving our clients and listeners over $1 billion in taxes. Those dollars are better used in your hands versus the government bureaucracy. Thank you for listening and for being a vital entrepreneur. You’re vital because you’re the backbone of our economy, creating opportunities for your employees and driving growth. You’re vital to your family, fostering abundance not only financially, but in all aspects of life that matter. Finally, you are vital to me because you strive to build wealth and make an impact for your business and live a great life.

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