Ep. 3 How 12 Oaks Senior Living Supports Communities

Aug 7, 2023 | Podcast

Join 12 Oaks’ Greg Puklicz, Kelli Sawyer and Erika Robledo as they talk about their inspiring stories of growth in the senior living industry!

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You’re listening to The Roots Podcast by 12 Oaks with host Greg Poulet, where we’ll be joined by industry leaders to discuss and highlight the character, competency, and care that is required to successfully manage senior living portfolios.

Greg 00:15

Well, hello again. I’m Greg Puklicz, and welcome to the next episode of the Roots Podcast, brought to you by 12 Oaks Senior Living. With me today two of the stars of our corporate office, Erika Robo and Kelli Sawyer. Welcome.

Kelli 00:32

Thank you.

Greg 00:33

Wonderful to have you here today. You both have fascinating stories, interesting stories, and a long history in senior living. I’d love to hear a bit, about them. Erika, tell us kind of how you started out and how your journey has, uh, taken you to where you are here today.

Erika 00:52

So my journey started at the first 12 Oaks Senior Living East. My mom was a Food Service Director and she said, it’s time for you to get a job. I said like, okay. So I started there as a server and moved on to Carruth Haven. Just took the opportunity to take every role possible, took the risk. So I became a receptionist and then a BOM for 10 years. And then I ended up here at the corporate thanks to Kelli. She offered me the Staff Accountant position and I said let’s do it. Let’s go for it.

Greg 1:26

Okay, and since then you pivoted to human resources.

Erika 1:31

I moved on to human resources. Yes. And I am now the HR manager here at 12 Oaks. It’s exciting.

Greg 1:37

It is exciting. And how many years in total have you worked for 12 Oaks?

Erika 1:41


Greg 1:42

24 years at 12 Oaks Senior Living. Yes. That is awesome.

Erika 1:45

Pleased to be here.

Greg 1:47

Excellent. Kelli, how about you?

Kelli 1:49

I started in 2006 at Preston Wood Court, which was a 12 Oaks owned property. Dick and Jack Morris. I started when it was under construction, so I got to watch the community be built from ground up. Worked with the construction company a little bit as well. So I learned a lot about that. I stayed with Preston Wood for about a year. I left a little bit after they actually opened up and got promoted to 12 Oaks into the accounting department. I did payroll and accounts payable.

Greg 2:23

And since then…

Kelli 2:24

Since then, I have been accounting manager, controller, now VP of Accounting.

Greg 2:32

VP of Accounting. That’s awesome. And how many years in total with 12 Oaks?

Kelli 2:35

17 years.

Greg 2:37

17 years with 12 Oaks. That is awesome. Great. We’re lucky to have you here as well. One of the things that distinguishes 12 Oaks, we work with a lot of institutional partners and I would suggest our back of house capabilities are second to none, and our accounting department always getting reports out on time. Highly accurate. All our staff accountants are SOC certified.

Kelli 3:02

Our entire team.

Greg 3:04

The entire team in accounting is SOC certified. So working with institutional partners like we do, we know the integrity of the data, the accuracy, the consistency of delivery, the responsiveness, all those things really matter. You’ve really led the charge on making that happen here. What is it that that kind of drives you in this service to provide these types of services to our investors and to the communities, helping them with their financial reports?

Kelli 3:34

What drives me is the culture at 12 Oaks. I love serving, I love coming to work here. It’s fun. I love our technology that we’ve put in place. It’s very user-friendly. We’re able to customize things to and meet the owner’s needs. So it’s very flexible technology.

Greg 3:51

We’ll come back to that. Erika, let’s talk about HR now, now that you’re helping oversee HR and everything that we do, and now with 20 communities, nearly a thousand employees across all the communities, some growth on the horizon for us. Tell us about some of the things that, that HR does that you think are different and special here.

Erika 4:14

What we provide is support with passion. Making sure that we’re there for the communities, that we understand their needs in a calm manner, not at a place so that we can remain calm at the community. I feel like that’s, that’s what we provide. By doing that, for example, with the implementation of payroll, we were able to manage to get that completed by performing well ourselves and being able to do that for them.

Greg 4:42

So you started out at the community, you worked at the communities and a number of roles. Now you’re at corporate. How do you see that need kind of fulfilled? At the communities you’re dealing with the residents so much? Here at corporate, we don’t do that. We serve the, staff at the communities. How do you try to make sure that happens consistently, regularly, and as you said, very calmly and meticulously.

Erika 5:09

By staying attuned to what their needs are, making sure that we are aware of what’s going on. Being at the community is way different than being at the corporate office. They have a lot more. So just being able to understand their needs. I feel is important.

Greg 5:24

So Kelli, you talked about technology. I know it’s been a passion of yours to try to implement different technologies here to try to improve our reporting capabilities, access to information, timely, accurate information. Give us a few examples of some of the things the accounting team is working on or has done recently to enhance our technological capabilities.

Kelli 5:49

We are currently working with Yardi, their senior IQ module. We’ve implemented that. So we have KPI dashboards for all of our financial results. We are also currently integrating that with our new payroll provider to where we can have one central dashboard for all of our financial results that the EDs and the VPs and even ownership groups can access in one spot.

Greg 6:14

One of the things I think that’s unique about 12 Oaks is the cycle of financial reporting. How preliminaries are put out. ED reviews, there’s calls to review, the financials are really scrubbed before they go out to the ownership group. Talk a little bit about that process and why you think that’s important.

Kelli 6:35

So we have our staff accountants who do a complete financial review over all the accruals. Make sure all the revenues posted and expenses, and work with the properties to accrue any invoices we haven’t received. And then the staff accountant will send out prelim reports to our VPs and our EDs of the communities and they will provide variance explanations back to us. And then we’ll have a call and go through all those so we can discuss it together and see if there’s any changes needed or anything that’s missing. And then after that, these staff accountants review them one more time and then I review them and then they get sent to our ownership groups.

Greg 7:15

Good. It’s quite a process.

Kelli 7:1:


Greg 7:18

But it pays off. Right?

Kelli 7:19

It’s a great process, yes.

Greg 7:21

And I would imagine too, there’s a lot of exploration and learning as a result of that. Right. It’s not meant to be presumably just an accuracy test. It’s meant to be informational, educational.

Kelli 7:37

Learning from our communities. Are they having staffing challenges or are their census or revenues way up?

Greg 7:42

Erika, we know staffing is one of the biggest issues at the communities. One of the things that’s unique to 12 Oaks is centralized recruiting. So what is that exactly? What does that mean? Give us an example of how that works here. How we help the communities fill the positions.

Erika 8:01

So a centralized recruiting, pretty much support the communities and their staffing needs. So we have recruiters assigned to communities. Holiday lane. They’ll submit requisitions to our recruiters. Our recruiters are responsible to get those job postings, to start the candidate search, start pre-screening so that the flow of hiring is faster and they have the staff needed at the community. Again, the support is crucial here is because we need to make sure that we’re providing the service that they need in order to be able to fill positions.

Greg 8:36

So your recruiters here are posting the job and all the jobs, the requisitions are kind of preset job descriptions, right?

Erika 8:44

Correct. Yes.

Greg 8:45

I think you just underwent a review of all positions, right? And their descriptions, right? So that we have consistency across our portfolio. So if we talk about a particular position, we know that job description, what its pay rate should be, how they report within our structure. Your recruiters find candidates, present ’em to the hiring manager, and then the hiring manager ultimately makes a decision. One of the things we hear about marketing is speed to lead. It’s the same thing in recruiting. Getting that person an offer and on the floor as quickly as possible so they don’t get another offer and decide maybe to go somewhere else. So tell me about some of the things your department does to ensure that we are effectively onboarding these employees as quickly as possible.

Erika 9:33

Staying on top of any candidate that comes in, or along communication with the hiring manager, the executive director, constant communication with the applicant, and to ensure that we’re moving along, this is where we’re at. Like you said, we don’t lose them to another company and that we’re being attentive to what they’re applying for.

Greg 9:54

So one of the foundations of 12 Oaks Senior Living, probably the foundation of 12 Oaks Seniot Living is the culture here. There’s a lot of things we do to try to not just talk about culture, but to actually put culture into action, put our core values into action. That’s through a number of initiatives, coaching core value, focus groups, those types of things. So I’d like to hear each of you. We’ll start with Kelli. Talk about some of those initiatives and some of the things you do with your team to build culture, monitor culture, and try to always keep, culture at the forefront.

Kelli 10:36

We just finished our great Place to Work survey. The accounting team scored a hundred percent on the trust index, which was very exciting. We have one-on-ones monthly, and then we have skip level meetings between my staff, accountants and the controller.

Greg 10:50

How about you and the HR team? What kinds of things are you guys doing to continue to build culture within your team?

Erika 10:59

Just constant communication, not just again, in business, but also personal. How’s it going? What do you need? Checking in on each other pretty much. It goes with our culture here at work. We’re all aware of how people are doing and mindful of that. We have times, we were actually talking about a spa day. Making sure we have time to connect. Especially now that I’m in this role, I wanna continue that and have that with my team one-on-ones just to be sure that I’m providing and also listening to them.

Greg 11:31

That’s what’s unique about 12 Oaks in a way. The work-life balance is important. Meeting the needs of our staff andour colleagues here is very important. And I know in everything we do we try to meet those needs by doing so. That growth culture we are developing here. As we continue to grow and bring new people into the team. I think we found that they’ve really integrated very well. And yes, some of these different initiatives help helped do that. That’s great. Well, thank you Kelli. Thank you, Erika. It was wonderful talking to you today. So glad you took the time to join me on the Roots Podcast, brought to you by 12 Oaks Senior Living. Thank you. And we’ll see you next time.

Speaker 1 12:17

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