Experience makes the best salesman, it seems. After 20 years of developing continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), Kim Watson moved into Edgemere, an SQLC-sponsored community developed by Greystone that opened in 2001 in Dallas, Texas. Watson had worked with Greystone until his retirement.

Watson returned to Greystone on Oct. 13, 2011, to speak to a group of 50-plus architects, contractors and interior designers invited to Greystone’s Ninth Annual Development Conference. While he shared some about the leap from developer to resident, his main message centered on another important aspect of the business – marketing.

“Nothing happens in this world until you sell something,” Watson said. “You need to understand their side of the business to understand what gets sold.”

Guests listened to tales of how Watson would secretly make adjustments to Edgemere’s automatic changeover thermostats. They heard about his practice of raising building grades 6 inches for more efficient water drainage. But time and time again, he came back to the need for marketing-driven development.

“Sometimes architects think too much about the plan design,” he said. “But once you’ve made that design, you really need to (mentally) insert yourself into that interior, standing up and looking around. What sort of vistas do you see when you open the door?”

That mental insertion into a schematic plan can help developers envision what potential residents will like and what they won’t. And Watson wasn’t the conference’s only speaker to harp on marketing and market potential. Greystone senior manager Roger Randall spoke of the need for supply to meet a growing market demand. He shared the following:

  • The number of people 75 years old and older will double in the next 25 years.
  • The 2008 recession and slow recovery have curtailed industry growth.
  • Older senior housing products will not appeal to this new generation.

In addition to these discussions, guests participated in a mock land search, listened to case study presentations with insights into current projects and toured SQLC’s The Stayton at Museum Way, also developed by Greystone, which opens Oct. 18 in Fort Worth.

And who is one of The Stayton’s first residents? That’s right: Kim Watson. He and his wife are going to enjoy CCRC-living on the other side of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“My bride, we’ve been married eight years,” he said. “She’s so excited about moving into The Stayton, I can’t even describe it.”

Greystone’s Dave McDowell, senior vice president of development, says he will keep inviting some of the industry’s leading minds as long as they keep coming. The dialogue, networking and educational opportunities are invaluable in working toward developing the supply to meet this coming market demand.

“I can’t underestimate the importance of maintaining solid consulting relationships,” McDowell said. “This Conference is one of many initiatives Greystone uses to strengthen these ties.”