Celebrating Doug Dollenberg, Jr.

By on Aug 2, 2023 in Senior Living

“I don’t get excited about change, per se, but I’m very comfortable with change. I fundamentally believe that change is an important part of the formula for business success.”

That quote comes from Doug Dollenberg, Jr. — the final honoree in the 2023 Changemakers series by Senior Housing News (SHN)! It’s been a pleasure to sponsor the series for the fifth consecutive year, we’ve loved celebrating each senior living visionary recognized.  

Keep reading for a snapshot of Doug Dollenberg, Jr.’s interview, which is packed with insightful stories and advice.

Yardi client Doug Dollenberg, Jr. named 2023 Changemaker

For Doug Dollenberg, Jr., president and CEO at Brightview Senior Living — a dedicated Yardi client — change isn’t just inevitable, it’s necessary. Since joining Brightview in 2017, he’s led changes that have positively shaped the organization to be what it is today — and he’s learned valuable lessons through it all.  

In his interview with SHN, Dollenberg shares why he thinks change is essential in the senior living industry, and explains the importance of driving collaborative change. He also shares how his experience at Brightview has reinforced his passion for people and culture — and speaks to the organization’s plans for the future.  

SHN: What are some ways that you think the senior living industry needs to change in the next five years?

Dollenberg: Staffing is one. Two, resident experience. Three, embracing technology and innovation. And four, rebounding margin.

On the staffing front, turnover is a huge challenge in the senior living industry. It is in plenty of others, but especially in senior living. And we need to attract more people to the industry and help people realize that senior living is a great industry and a great place to build a career.

There are tremendous career opportunities in our industry, and we’re only going to need more and more people over the next decade. There’s already something like a million people who know it’s a great industry, but we have to attract more people to it. I think it’s going to require creativity and innovation and change to get more people to enter our great industry. We also have to figure out ways for Brightview and for the industry as a whole to figure out how to increase retention.

Another is resident experience. Our resident needs and desires are evolving, and we need to be focused on addressing that for the residents of today — and also the residents of the future. The baby boomers, they’re not really entering our communities in the next handful of years, but as you go out 5, 10, 15 years, we really have to be thinking about them. As we’re looking at today’s residents and future, we have to be looking at what are the changes that impact our operations and the communities we develop for the future.

The third area that I mentioned is embracing technology, innovation and process improvement with the goal of driving efficiencies. I think that’s increasingly important in our industry, as we’re focused on margin. We have to search for and create efficiencies in our business, and so much of that is going to come back to those things that I mentioned: Technology, innovative and creative ideas, and process improvement.

The fourth big change in my eyes is margin rebound. Ultimately, our industry needs to get back to the operating margins that we had pre-pandemic, whether that’s getting back to or near those pre-pandemic margins. That’s something that needs to happen, and that is the function of building occupancy, driving revenue, and managing costs. I feel the industry is working on that, which is a good thing. And personally, I feel really good about the progress that our Brightview team is making on that front.

SHN: How do you think about timing so that Brightview can innovate without getting so far ahead of the market that new ideas are on the bleeding edge and don’t work?

Dollenberg: There are really two key things that I think about. The first is, is the market ready and is there truly a demand for this new idea or this change? Second, does our team in our organization really have the capacity to implement the change, digest the change and make this new idea or new process a success?

For me, this whole topic is an issue about being measured and balanced. On one hand, you have to innovate, you have to implement new ideas; but on the other, you can’t do too many at one time or people in the organization will become overwhelmed. So much change that we implement requires rolling out an implementation with literally thousands of frontline associates.

We really need to think about change management and how much change our organization can realistically digest and implement well and successfully and be excited about it. As we do that and as I do that, there are two concepts that I like to keep in mind. The first is we’re always prioritizing our initiatives. We can’t accomplish it all and that there are generally more ideas than we have the time or capacity to implement. We’re constantly prioritizing the work that we think is going to have the greatest impact. And we’re making sure that we’re realistic in the amount of work and change that people can absorb.

Second, we like to do a lot of pilots, because pilots let us test new concepts or new ideas prior to a full rollout across our entire portfolio. In a pilot, we’re able to get input from our team, we’re able to get input from residents and families, and that helps us make go, no-go decisions on a full rollout. It also helps us work out the kinks.

Read the rest of Doug Dollenberg, Jr.’s interview

To read the rest of Doug Dollenberg, Jr.’s interview, head to the Changemakers site. We hope you’ve enjoyed this year’s series — be sure to check out the entire list of 2023 Changemakers if you haven’t already!

Want to connect with us regarding our dynamic software solutions? Reach out to team Yardi. We’d love to show you how we’re continuously evolving tools in the Yardi Senior Living Suite to help clients like Brightview drive success.