Embracing a spiritual drive “I feel so blessed to be doing what I’m do- ing,” says Smick, who doesn’t mince words when he says he is “called” to this career. “We are unabashed that there’s a spiritual drive here. I have a sense that I’m where I should be. It’s so meaningful.” Getting “where he should be” started decades ago. In the 1970s, Smick may have had a hard time predicting his me- teoric rise through the senior living ranks. As an English major at Wheaton College near Chicago, a young Smick wasn’t sure what career path he wanted to pursue.

Senior living, as that Rush Memorial ad-

ministrator told Smick, was “an industry in its embryonic stages and leadership cream will rise to the top.” It did. Well before he turned 30, Smick was managing a third of ManorCare, a large U.S.-based nursing home provider. And more than a decade lat- er, after launching and selling his own largely nursing home business, PersonaCare, it was Smick who, after sitting down with a young Paul and Terry Klaassen in 1996, helped Sunrise get its ducks in a row before going public. “Within a year, I was opening a new property every 10 to 14 days,” he says.

old. We are opening about one property a month,” he says. “We hire people for heart. I’m looking for people who really want to make a difference in people’s lives. They want to be attentive and want to have re- spect for the seniors we serve and for each other. I want people looking around the corner—not just what we did yesterday.” Anticipating future needs is a tough nut to crack. “What we built earlier won’t scratch the itch of the next generation,” he says. “We’re providing more choice,” including multiple dining venues from upscale to bistros. Wellness and preventative care are

“We hire people for heart. I’m looking for people who really want to make a difference in people’s lives. They want to be attentive and want to have respect for the seniors we serve and for each other. I want people looking around the corner—not just what we did yesterday,” says Tim Smick, HRA president and chief executive officer.

He wasn’t interested in the more obvious choices of law, teaching, or journalism, so he went to his counselor for advice. An aptitude test revealed Smick was well-suited to health care administration, a “unique combination of leadership and mission,” he says. An informational interview with the administrator at Rush Memorial Hospital in downtown Chicago was a revelation. “The administrator said if he was starting his career over, he would work in long-term care. He described the demographics as a pig moving through a python,” says Smick. So he decided to give it a shot and took a job as a part-time orderly in a convalescent home. “I almost quit my first day,” he says, “but I kept go- ing. On the third day, I saw something that wasn’t done particularly well. I thought, ‘I can do that better.’”

He found his true calling when his work on a board of directors brought him to Vero Beach, Fla. He founded HRA there in 2002. The company now has 27 com- munities with many others currently in development or acquisition.

Looking around the corner All companies have core values and mission statements, Smick acknowledges, but he truly believes HRA has something special. “The real trick,” when it comes to mission statements, “is making it part of the fabric of who you are. You have to get them off the paper and make them live,” he says. “You have to hire people who are already conducive to these values.” The latter isn’t easy, especially for a grow- ing company. “This time next year, half of our portfolio will be less than four years

offered as well. “We’re asking what would be an excellent day for us. We’re trying to be innovative—to make a lifestyle be rich and fertile and move the mind—not just occupy the mind.” HRA’s mission is “We are called to apply

our God-given talents and experience to the creation and refinement of successful senior living communities in which we, ourselves, would envision living.” And that—or some version of it—has been Smick’s vision all along. Today, as he works alongside his daughter Kim at HRA, and enjoys the support of wife Bonnie and his other daughter Amy, who works for Apple, Smick is starting to think about his own preferences. “I’m 66 and thinking where I would want to live. My litmus test has been changing.” That litmus test will keep HRA innovating well into the future.


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