When there is so much to say, so many aspects to write about on this topic, where do I begin?  I myself did not even know what the term “Corporate Reset” meant before surviving through one — but I do now.

The unraveling of the nursing home industry. The unrelenting series of events that nearly paralyzed Signature HealthCARE. The storms that hit us from all directions. The Signature team members who, like me, were worried and shaken to the core while trying to survive.

It was a giant snowball rolling down a long hill.  It was unstoppable.

My nightly routine included two or three hours – beginning around midnight – staring at the bedroom ceiling wondering if the next day would bring a miracle, or more bad news.

With so much to say, where do I begin?

I begin with a thank you to the thousands of team members throughout the organization who helped this company survive. Some of you were here as the storm clouds approached, and darkened, yet you stayed.  And some of you climbed on board during the storms and never blinked.

All of you made a difference.

The corporate reset

As an organization, Signature looks a lot different than it did two years ago. The changes were drastic and often painful. Many were reactive and implemented as a means of survival. Others were more proactive … designed to prepare us for the a “new normal” in the industry.

It was a “corporate reset.”

Perhaps I should’ve known it was coming. But the Signature organization that we all believed in, and had a hand in creating, began to crumble.

I was humbled. It seemed as though everything I learned in my professional life – things that had always helped me in the past – no longer worked.

The quality of our work was strong and improving, resident satisfaction and quality of life was high. Most of our individual Signature facilities were doing well. Yet, it didn’t seem to matter. Industry factors were creating insurmountable, dark headwinds.

There was not one tipping point.  There were many: a surge in malpractice cases (surpassing 350, with a high concentration in Kentucky); reimbursement rates declining faster than we could absorb; shorter stay residents; aggressive managed care; unexpected wage inflation as the economy heated up; brutal regulatory changes; the millions of dollars in legal fees to address allegations by the U.S. Department of Justice (the same therapy allegations that have confronted 80 percent of U.S. nursing home chains).

Though the nation’s long-term and senior-care companies have experienced difficult industry and regulatory challenges in the past, the issues of recent years are unprecedented. The impact has been industry-wide. Some great companies, including some of our competitors, have closed their doors.

We almost didn’t make it. Despite having a great Signature team, a dedicated board, great vendor and other business partners, it seemed at times the challenges would be insurmountable. Yet, today the Signature team is blessed once more with the opportunity to live our mission.

Valuable lessons learned

No matter how good and strong we think we are, we can never stop learning. Below are 10 lessons we learned during our hard times. Others in our industry, and perhaps anyone who owns or manages a business of any size, might find them useful if times get tough:

  1. If reorganizing is necessary, hire the absolute best reorganization and restructuring experts. We did that in hiring Ankura Consulting, and Klee, Tuchin, Bogdanoff & Stern LLP.
  2. Assemble a team of believers within your company, because a major reset requires teammates who have faith and trust one another.
  3. Understand that the journey will be brutal, uncertain and will hurt like hell. But don’t give up.
  4. Listen. Like never before. Because you will need to learn new things. As you learn, be patient with yourself and those around you, as they are trying to help.
  5. It will get personal. But don’t let fear overrun you. And maintain your emotional intelligence, always.
  6. Be transparent to both internal and external parties. Without critical information, internal people will assume the worst. And external parties need to feel your passion.
  7. Be positive and remain positive. It’s contagious.
  8. Stay focused on your business and trust your hired experts to do and lead the reset because they’re good at it.
  9. It’s like a baseball game … you can lose some innings but still win the game.
  10. Everyone – even your critics or detractors – will rally around a good, honest, hard working team with a great mission and vision.

As strong as ever

Today, we’re back to work, as strong as ever. We’re grateful for the many amazing people who had a role in Signature’s reset – allowing us the opportunity to continue our mission.

Our recent difficult times will make Signature a stronger, better company moving forward.

We have many partners to thank, including: our real estate investment partners (Omega Healthcare Investors, Inc., and Sabra Health Care REIT) who never gave up on us; our long-term capital friends from Sector Financial INC. and all of our strategic partners, like Pharmerica; our board whose diverse areas of expertise helped us navigate through countless complexities; the many plaintiff attorneys who settled hundreds of cases with us; and the government officials who worked with us to resolve a three-year, intense therapy investigation in our Rehab division, which was a must for the reset to move forward.

Winston Churchill said: “If you think you’re in hell, you better keep going and not stop.” We didn’t stop.  And we’re here today to live another company life with more passion than ever and with the intent to revolutionize long term care.