In 2009, Severine established Priority Life Care to provide senior living options to older people of all financial backgrounds. Severine and her brother, Bobby Petras, founded and sustained an option for affordable assisted living and memory care. Back then, this was rare in the long-term care industry.
In 2022, Priority Life Care sticks quite close to its original mission of providing affordable senior care. However, today, Priority Life Care is a full third-party management company, in contrast to when the business first started. Initially, Priority Life Care had a capital partner and did a lot more back office work.
One of the biggest learning curves in Severine’s career has been the pandemic. The company was not fully prepared for dealing with such a crisis.
Severine’s role evolved from supporting people at a community level to helping people in the field. At the time, she didn’t have the tools and knowledge to do it, and she had to learn how to navigate the pandemic on the job.
What does Priority Life Care look like today?
We stuck, I would say, fairly close to our original mission, which was to light the way for affordable senior care. And today, we are a full third-party management company, which was different from when we first started.
We had a partner. He was our capital partner and did much of the back office work. And then we parted ways and did a little bit more of the leases, which I think is pretty similar for a lot of companies like mine, and then moved away from the leases and got more into third-party management.
And we’ve aligned ourselves at this point. I see us continuing to grow steadily with those stronger capital partners and some new ones coming up.
I think there will be a lot of opportunities, specifically in the active adult space. I think that’s an up-and-coming market for two reasons:
I think it is affordable.
The second reason is that it is a completely different product than is geared for the boomers, and the boomers will always want something that looks different than what their parents’ generation had. And so that’s an area that I see us expanding into going forward.
Can you give me an example of when the learning curve was intense for you?
I feel like the biggest learning curve was Covid. My role evolved into supporting our people at the community level, from being there to supporting our people out in the fields, our co-workers. I didn’t have the tools to do it. I didn’t have the knowledge to do it.
So I think the biggest challenge of my career has been navigating through Covid. And I was then navigating how to properly bring vaccine education to our co-workers at the community levels.
I had to step back and say, I’m here to educate and give everybody the best information. I’m not here to tell somebody what my opinion is of it. I’m here to say: here are the facts. Here are the medical facts, here’s the scientific facts. You need to do what’s best for you, your body, and your family.
But I don’t know anybody ready other than maybe infectious disease control doctors.
What’s something surprisingly simple that you’re proud of?
Nothing makes me prouder than hearing somebody say that we care for our residents. We make sure they have the food they want, we make sure they look good, and we make sure that they’re engaged.
We make sure that they’re taken care of and that they’re getting what they need. Nothing makes me happier.
And I hear it over and over and over again. I was just at a community last Thursday. And it was the constant theme that I kept hearing.
How important is it to you as a female leader and owner for women to be at ownership levels?
I grew up in a tiny small town where my dad and mom told me I could do anything. So I guess I didn’t realize until I was in the banking world and I looked around and was like, wow, there are not many women here.
We’re going on almost 20 years ago at this point. So I mean, that has changed. And I truly believe there’s never been a better time in our industry to be a female.
What advice would you have for yourself 15 years ago?
I wouldn’t change anything. The only advice I would give myself is to continue listening to yourself. Continue to listen to your gut, and continue to take those chances.
Don’t be fearful. Remember who you are, where you came from, and that your roots run deep. There’s never going to be a time when somebody isn’t there to support you.
Discover the lessons in the long-term care industry from female owner and leader Severine Petras, CEO at Priority Life Care, in the latest episode of the LTC Heroes podcast.
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