“When our Board of Trustees chose HJ Sims to represent Clark in identifying and evaluating potential affiliation partners it was due to two key factors: 1) HJ Sims reputation and experience in working with non-profit, faith based Life Plan Communities through this process and 2) Clark’s ability to work with Lynn Daly. Lynn has consistently demonstrated to me and my Board a willingness to know and embrace our mission, vision and values over the time we have worked with her. She is also honest and frank about the process and how it will work. We are very pleased with the work and support received from HJ Sims and Lynn Daly and we look forward to continuing our relationship with them for years to come.” – Brian Pangle, President/CEO, Clark
Clark Retirement Communities has always focused on mission driven growth. They are part of three different service based joint ventures and recently opened a significant Independent living expansion on their Keller Lake campus. Clark recognized in 2017 to continue their long-term growth, they would need to affiliate with a larger mission-based organization. Clark engaged HJ Sims in December of 2020 to start working towards that goal. The Bankers at Sims knew Clark, its culture, and the Board as they had been working with them for several years. The first thing HJ Sims did was to conduct a Board and Executive Team survey. This survey helped determine what aspects of a potential partner were important, and what was less of a priority. The Survey also shed light on the alignment in between Clark’s Executive Team and the Board – an important nuance that sets up a more solid foundation for success in any affiliation process.
Among the many attributes that Clark was looking for in a partner was an organization who would not only maintain, but build upon Clark’s strong reputation and legacy in the Grand Rapids marketplace. With a 116-year history, Clark has touched the lives of many. The care and compassion of the Clark employees creates a culture that is admired in the market. It was important to Clark’s Executive Team and Board that the culture and reputation be respected and maintained, including the retention of the “Clark” name.
With the priorities of the Executive Team and Board in hand from the survey, Sims filtered a list of prospective ‘suitors’ narrowing in on a couple dozen of potential organizations that fit the parameters. We managed the NDA process prior to unveiling the names to maintain strict confidentiality. With receipt of an executed NDA, Sims sent around a Confidential Information Memorandum and access to a data room in Q1 of 2021. We hosted numerous site-visits in April and May. During the site visits, members of the Clark Taskforce met with each suitor (off-site) to maximize the exposure of the Clark Board to the suitors and likewise, the suitors to the Clark Board. This exposure was intentional to attempt to understand the culture of the suitor-organization. Upon receipt of the handful of LOI’s, HJ Sims ‘scored’ the responses based on several factors identified in the original survey and the level of importance the Board and Executive Leadership placed on those factors. From that point, Clark narrowed their focus to 3 entities. Following many road trips and countless meetings between Clark and the finalists, including many trips and meetings with the respective Board members, Clark narrowed in on BHI Senior Living. The culture, collaborative spirit and success of their willingness to help Clark continue to grow in Michigan was exactly what Clark was looking for.
While every affiliation takes on a life of its own, Clark stuck with the process. The process focused on bringing together two cultures to perpetuate their respective missions, not just bringing together two entities in a ‘transaction.’ The focus on culture facilitates a higher level of success through-out the process and sets a solid foundation together as they begin their futures together. The Sims process allowed the Board members to feel that this next step of joining BHI Senior Living was a natural next step in their long history, due to the extensive work and communication leading up to the closing. As one Board member put it at their final meeting, “I’m bullish about what the future is bringing.”