More than 20 years ago, Terry Howard began his career as a sales and marketing representative for a senior living property. He obviously learned a great deal from experience. Last September, Howard became president of MBK Senior Living Communities, California-based MBK Real Estate's recently re-energized senior housing division. (The company had downsized its senior operations in the late 1990s.) Here are Howard's thoughts on his new job, senior housing, and the big issues facing the multifamily industry.

Q: Why were you interested in the MBK job?

A: I was attracted to MBK because of the company's business success as well as its reputation as an employer that encourages personal and professional growth. ... I was also attracted by the opportunity to grow an enterprise from the ground up.

Q: What are the greatest challenges in senior multifamily housing?

A: The foremost challenge in the senior living industry is the ability to attract and retain great people. We are a service business, and the quality of resident care is the number one critical success factor in our industry. Finding people who are passionate about seniors and demonstrate a commitment to excellence will be the most important task for me as we grow MBK Senior Living Communities.

Terry Howard
Terry Howard

Another key challenge is the ability to acquire. ... With more abundant capital available and a shrinking inventory of properties, the market has become more competitive and pricing has increased for this asset class.

Q: What do you think can or should be done to reduce turnover and boost retention among on-site-staff?

A: I believe there is a direct correlation between people leaving your organization and your hiring practices. Organizations don't allocate sufficient resources to find great talent and then put that talent in the right positions. People who are happy at what they do, and perform the job well will not only stay longer but also will tell others about your organization—a great driver for keeping the talent pipeline full.

Q: What's the best advice anyone ever gave you about your career?

A: Do what you enjoy, and celebrate your successes along the way. As it relates to the senior housing industry, the best advice I was given was to make decisions regarding resident care as if my own parents were living in the properties I managed.