An effective way for businesses to overcome the fear that has been generated by the COVID-19 pandemic is to communicate more than they think they need to. That’s according to Brookdale President and CEO Cindy Baier, who spoke at this week’s virtual Nashville Business Breakfast.
Baier outlined for the group of about 200 Nashville-area executives the size and scope of Brookdale, America’s largest senior living company, and how that strength allowed the company to quickly change its business model to overcome the challenges presented by COVID-19. “We had to be progressive, informed, and responsive,” Baier said. “We had to transform our business overnight and the stakes were the highest imaginable – literally life and death. I’m thrilled we are as large as we are because it made it much easier to acquire the PPE we needed to keep our residents, patients, and associates as safe as possible.”
Baier described a variety of steps Brookdale took, including baseline testing of more than 100K residents and associates in the first half of the year, testing in all Brookdale communities across 44 states to learn how to adjust infection protocols. And she said that the company took a leadership role in communicating information to educate and inform residents, patients, associates, and the general public about COVID-19 precautions they can take and protocols Brookdale has established. “There is no doubt that fear is part of the world we live in,” said Baier. “We have worked to overcome that through education and communication. Early on in the crisis, we produced and shared videos about every three days to inform seniors and their families what actions could be taken to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. We posted toolkits that demonstrated Brookdale’s expertise regarding infection control and made these easily available to others because we care about protecting the nation’s seniors, regardless of where they live.”
When asked about the national conversation on diversity and inclusion, Baier said that this has long been important to Brookdale. When she became CEO, she was instrumental in fostering increased diversity on the Board of Directors as well as the Executive Leadership Team. She pointed out that the board now approaches gender parity and the chair of the Nominating & Governance Committee, a very important board positon, is an African American woman. In the ranks of the corporate leadership, one of the top three positions is held by an African American woman, as well. Baier said these people were brought on board because they were the best candidates for these positions, and that a company needs to have a diverse slate of candidates to get the best talent.
The Nashville Business Breakfast was hosted virtually by Lipscomb University and the Nashville Business Journal.