Sponsor: The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas
Independent Living Apartments: 138
Independent Living Cottages: 24
Assisted Living: 32
Memory Support: 16
Skilled Nursing: 32
Opening Date: 2007
A Commitment to Exceptional Hospitality Makes the Difference
Santa Marta, a nonprofit continuing care retirement community in Olathe, Kan., opened in late 2007. While Santa Marta experienced strong presales and encouraging initial occupancy, 2008’s economic crisis eroded the community’s depositor base. Santa Marta’s board and management worked with Greystone on an action plan that would differentiate Santa Marta through unparalleled hospitality.The Santa Marta Story The vision for Santa Marta came from three parishioners who approached the Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City about the need for a Catholic-sponsored, high-quality continuing care retirement community. The Archdiocese assembled a board whose collective experiences and skills could apply to senior living. This board chose Greystone as development and management consultant. The Archdiocese contributed 50 acres of land, and Greystone and Ziegler raised the seed capital necessary to reach permanent financing.
Santa Marta’s 138 independent living units and 24 villas opened in November 2007. In April 2008, Santa Marta opened its health center, including 32 assisted living units, 16 memory support units and 32 private nursing rooms. The community experienced strong presales, but, when the economy turned, area home values dropped. Smaller, less expensive units became more popular with prospective residents. Health care occupancy stagnated.
Many prospective residents held off on depositing, waiting for their home values to rise again. Those who did move in had received less for their homes than expected. These residents arrived at Santa Marta concerned about their decision to sell and anxious about their finances.
Greystone created an action plan and met with Santa Marta’s management, board, resident council and marketing team to implement solutions. The problem: A challenging economy had turned prospective residents into value investors — they wanted to feel like they were getting more than they paid for. The solution: Santa Marta would provide added value by emphasizing hospitality as its differentiator. This emphasis would promote the Santa Marta experience and show that the CCRC lifestyle meant more than just shelter and health care.
Named for the patron saint of hospitality, Santa Marta had been created to provide unmatched service and care. Establishing a reputation for hospitality takes time, but Santa Marta needed to accelerate the process in order to overcome the economic downturn.
To execute on its plan, Santa Marta named a new executive director, one whose background included work in the hospitality industry. Santa Marta also implemented a Hospitality Initiative. This initiative would soon permeate Santa Marta’s culture, touching staff, residents and the community itself.
Santa Marta increased the amount of time and budget spent on training. Management began the PERFECT program, which calls for professionalism, enthusiasm, respect, friendliness, going the extra mile, caring and trustworthiness. The staff became more invested in the community. In time, Santa Marta became the area’s No. 1 employer. Staff turnover dropped by 20 percent in two years.
Those living at Santa Marta were invited into the Hospitality Initiative. Residents went through hospitality and first impressions training. They attended sessions on the community’s business model. Residents began leading tours, building and maintaining a memory garden and forming a health and wellness group. As residents became more invested in the community, referrals climbed substantially.
Staff and residents transformed Santa Marta into a preferred place to work and live. Santa Marta developed a “wow” factor, activating the five senses with colorful flags, fresh flowers, a fountain, warm smiles and welcomes. Friendliness, attention to detail and teamwork with a common vision became contagious. A sense of synergy grabbed hold of staff and residents alike, allowing Santa Marta to realize the vision with which it started.
Soon, the community began to develop increased momentum. During challenging times, leadership had expressed a clear vision and desired outcome. By planning, training and communicating, those involved reached that desired outcome. Commitment and accountability became a daily routine, leading to outstanding results.
Looking to the Future
Today, campus census is at 98 percent with dramatically increased employee and resident satisfaction. More than a third of all leads are resident referrals. Because of tactics implemented during the economic downturn, Santa Marta is now exploring expansion opportunities. The board’s planning committee is working to meet resident needs today, tomorrow and into the future, ensuring that Santa Marta has the resources and facilities to provide the service and quality of care that residents have come to expect. In short, Santa Marta continues to pursue the mission with which it first began.