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Joseph Jedlowski’s grandparents have always been a big part of his life, not only playing major roles in who he’s become, but ultimately in his career. Inspired by helping his grandmother in the nursing home where she worked, Joseph has spent the last 20 years in the retirement hospitality industry. Last year, he founded Distinctive Living, LLC, a third-party management company, and Distinctive Living Development, a senior housing development company that develops their own assets and help others manage theirs. Today, Distinctive Living manages 22 properties in nine states and has 11 properties in varying stages of development.
We caught up with Joseph to learn about how he’s keeping his business on the cutting edge of hospitality while helping to create an environment that allows residents, clients, and staff to flourish.
How has your background prepared you for your current role?
There isn’t a position within any community that I haven’t held, except being a nurse. I became an administrator of a facility, then VP of a large organization, so I went from single site oversight to managing multiple sites in multiple states. In 2010, I became an owner and president of Milestone, a management company for independent and assisted living and memory care communities. I helped them grow from 11 to over 100 communities in 22 states in 10 years. It was a combination of organic growth and developing new assets, as well as the acquisition of another senior living management company. Milestone was really eye-opening for me; I thought I knew everything before that role, but it gave me a whole new appreciation for the business.
Your internal structure plays a significant role in your success. How do you approach it?
It comes down to our management and culture. We have a pretty robust infrastructure. We have our senior leadership, and then our sales, HR, operations, culinary, and maintenance teams deployed in the field. The key component to our leadership success has been wrapping our heads around all our team members. They have high expectations and require high productions and returns on the products they provide to residents. It’s about maintaining that high standard in the communities.
Secondly, we place a very large emphasis on culture. We’ve spent a lot of time dissecting our culture and finding ways to improve it. I participated in a program called CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion to empower employees to embrace diversity. We also have them take third-party surveys to get feedback, and conduct “stay interviews” for current employees, which improves satisfaction and decreases turnover. We look to invest money in our people, not reduce it.
Tell us about Distinctive Living Development, Distinctive Living’s sister company.
Distinctive Living Development complements Distinctive Living, our operating company. We provide development services to folks outside of our own company who are looking to get into the senior living industry but don’t have the experience to do so. We bring a full development team, including development services, owner representation services, architectural and interior design services, general contracting services, and more. At the end of the project, we’ll help get these projects financed, and operate them via Distinctive Living.
What do you do to keep Distinctive Living on the forefront of the industry?
While we have sophisticated processes in place, we believe that each asset has to stand on its own and that each community has to have an individualized plan. We’ve found it’s important to invest and buy locally, which is a huge contrast to the big-box providers. That means our facilities have a very boutique feel to them, and we stay very active within the communities, celebrating anniversaries and our residents. I’m a member of the Cornell Health Futures Board, where Cornell University’s schools of hospitality, design, and business collaborate to come up with new data-driven ideas to improve the industry. I also participate in many senior housing associations, and I work a lot in recruiting new people into the senior housing industry.
What drives you, Joseph?
The people and seeing the good care they provide to residents. One day it might be a loved one of mine, so I treat people the way I would want my grandma to be treated. I strive to create a culture where our team members want to come to work. And it’s knowing that the families of our residents can see their loved ones thrive and flourish, that’s the most gratifying. Of course, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without my wife, Jessica, behind me, along with my daughter Ella and son Benjamin.
CEO — Distinctive Living, LLC
LinkedIn: Joseph Jedlowski
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