Our promise of Home Sweet Home begins long before a resident moves to Country Meadows. In a blog earlier this month we spoke about how important it is, not only to our residents but also to our co-workers. Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Tom Baker, has been with our company for 17 years and makes it his mission to ensure that this promise is honored by everyone that works at Country Meadows.
Tell us about your background prior to assuming your current role at Country Meadows.
I thought I wanted to be an actor and began my college education at the Florida State University School of Theatre. But I had a change of heart and mind, and when my parents moved from Florida to Pennsylvania, I transferred to Penn State.
I began my career in senior living management when Gov. George Leader (Country Meadows founder) hired me prior to the opening of Country Meadows not-for-profit sister community, Ecumenical Retirement Community, in Harrisburg. I caught his vision quickly, hanging on to every word he said and became passionate about his dream. He gave me a variety of responsibilities right away, from cutting the grass to driving customers through a field in my beat-up CRX Honda, to show them where the first building would be. I left for a short while to work for a health care company in New York. But in less than two years, I returned to work for the new Country Meadows retirement community in Frederick, Maryland. I worked on special projects, and after two people in sales and marketing retired, I was hired as VP for sales and marketing.
I returned here because I had such admiration, respect and love for this organization and its mission of helping seniors and their families. Now, I’ve worked with three generations of the Leader Family at Country Meadows, and each member of the family is as steadfast and committed as our founders. I consider them an extension of my own family.
What is your role as Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Country Meadows?
I collaborate daily with my colleagues in operations and marketing, and together we identify what makes our retirement communities different and special. We help people understand and work through one of the most complex decision-making processes of their lives, but one that should result in a rewarding decision. While connecting and building relationships with people, we go out of our way, not necessarily to persuade them to move here but to act in their best interest, even if that doesn’t mean coming here. It’s a complete discovery process, in which people freely tell us about their comfort level with various options. That is always, always, foremost. Selecting Country Meadows as their new home for senior living is secondary.
I really enjoy my involvement with all co-workers; I strive to inspire them to celebrate their efforts as they help individuals through a life transition. People in my position tend to be concerned with “how many leads? how many conversions? what’s our occupancy?” But my role can’t be just about numbers, data and budgets—it needs to focus on helping each other make decisions by bringing together family members, co-workers and even executives. I refer to it as “#we,” and it extends from our initial contact with a family through the care we provide when residents move here.
Tell us about Country Meadows’ Home Sweet Home Promise. What does that mean?
It reminds us that we work with customers to achieve what’s best for them, and by making a promise, we must focus on delivering on that promise. Home is a very important part of life for seniors, and that means more than an apartment with nice furnishings. It includes independence, friendship, the dining experience and family visits—all significant fundamentals that can’t be overlooked.
Home Sweet Home isn’t just an ad campaign. And it’s not just a promise to our customers. It’s also a promise to each other as members of a team. It’s very important as a company that we ensure this promise is prioritized from campus to campus. Everyone at Country Meadows—maintenance staff, housekeepers, dining staff, drivers, fitness staff, chaplains—must ask, “What’s my part in this?”
How can co-workers help deliver on the Home Sweet Home Promise?
We want our co-workers to 1) feel empowered to make decisions in the best interest of the people they serve and 2) extend themselves above and beyond to help our senior living residents become the best people they can be.
We ask co-workers to think outside their job descriptions, to do something unexpected or encouraging for the person in front of them. It doesn’t have to be a task—it can be making a connection or creating awareness or positive energy. Making that part of everyone’s job can mean all the difference when we ask people to trust us.
How does Country Meadows make residents feel that Country Meadows is truly their home?
We make our senior living environment feel as much like home as possible. People have different perspectives of what a retirement home is. Too often, it’s thought of as a nursing home, rather than a place where one can continue to live fully and even more independently. Our residents can entertain guests, socialize, have happy hours each night, attend activities; all the things they did at their previous home, they can still do here with us! Many people live in their homes in compromised situations. Perhaps they’re using stairs when they no longer should use them. Maybe they have to wait for adult children to take them shopping or on errands. We can help them. We don’t want to take away their independence; we can actually give them more independence.
I like to think that Country Meadows is a place where someone can have a rebirth. Here’s an example: One of our newer residents was a homemaker who raised eight children. Her life was dedicated to home and family, but she had been interested in art and painting since childhood. After moving to Country Meadows, she decided to enter our annual holiday card contest. Her beautiful portrait of a dog won first prize and was featured on Country Meadows’ holiday cards last year. Afterward, she remarked that she never imagined after all she had done in her life that she would come here and be able to express her God-given artistic ability.
What else would you like to add as far as the benefits of senior living at Country Meadows?
Science has shown us that some form of companionship and daily socialization is paramount to our physical and emotional health. Isolation has a direct correlation to sickness. At Country Meadows, we offer social opportunities that can prevent declining health while fostering independence. This allows for quality family time, rather than co-dependence. Instead of family life revolving around caregiving tasks, it can center on sharing time—talking about each other’s days and spending time with the people we love.