In this week’s episode, we speak with Ian Stockberger, CEO at Good Shepherd, Inc., based in Mason City, Iowa. 

Good Shepherd is a large living community, which includes 210 nursing home beds, 106 assisted living units and just under 300 employees. 

We discuss various topics, including:

  • Ian’s first experience of the long-term care industry in 1995, working in a kitchen. He stayed in the role for five years. 
  • Ian’s career history and how he re-joined the long-term care industry later on in life.
  • Ian’s learning curves in life, including struggling in engineering.
  • Ian’s experiences working with a community of diverse people in the long-term care industry and the empathy he had for the residents. 
  • The Good Shepherd’s size, focus and differentiators. 
  • The advantages and challenges of The Good Shepherd being such a large organization.
  • How The Good Shepherd recruits, including information on the education tuition reimbursement program where people working at least 20 hours a week receive $200 a month for education.

Rapidfire Q/A

What was your first day in a long-term care facility?

It was 1995. I was a sophomore in high school. And there was a girl in my gym class I happened to ride the bus with.

Our last names lined up, so we were always together. And she would always bother me about coming and working at the nursing home with her because it paid so well. 

And I said, “You’re out of your flippin’ mind if you think I’m going to go and work at a nursing home. I’m not going to do that.”

Then I said, “Well, what’s it pay?” And so she kept telling me about it. 

She brought me an application and I filled it out and she took it in. And I came in for the interview. It was supposed to be a summer job and it turned into five years of working in the kitchen in long-term care. 

When did you realize that the long-term care industry was special and unique?

It was a wave of stuff. I’ve got dozens and dozens of stories. 

It was the mid-90s in rural Iowa, and I worked with my first gay person. And until then, I had never had that experience. And it was just like, whoa, this is a place to work with diverse people that aren’t in my little class of 30 high school kids. 

I met so many residents that summer because I was willing to work days when most of the kids worked nights. I thought, “Why not, it’s more hours, it’s quicker.” 

I worked hard, and they liked me for that. To me, it started out as a high school job. And it fast became apparent to me that I was on a career. 

This career was for these people, and I was doing adult things. And there’s the whole resident side of it, where you got to meet so many residents and truly develop an empathy for people needing care. 

And I hadn’t been exposed to people truly dependent on you for something. So that was eye-opening.

Tell us more about Good Shepherd.

Good Shepherd started in 1946. We’re not a chain, we’re a very large, single operation. 

And within our framework, we have a 210-bed nursing home. We have 106 assisted living units. 

We have a couple of high-rise apartments, one with 93 apartments and one with 79 apartments. And then we have some section 8 HUD housing: 48 units. 

And we have 32 condominium units that we developed about five years ago. We just purchased another building, too. 

We’ve just under 300 employees and about 560 people within our continuum of care. And with all the families and everything, it’s a town within a town of about 1,000 people.

What was the learning curve for you to go into social work in long-term care?

I struggled in engineering. I had the aptitude to do it. I made it through school. 

What people don’t know about me is that I wasn’t there. People only saw the finished product that came out of that. 

And my diploma, they didn’t see that. I took a bunch of classes twice. And I took calculus three times. 

I’ve always been more of a social guy than I have been a backroom type of guy. But I had the aptitude for it. And so I completed that mission.

I worked in the career for several years, and there was always a tickle that there was more to it. I went back and I got an MBA shortly after I started working professionally as an engineer. 

And that opened up a whole new realm of possibilities to me. So my mind was more open to different things in life, like other careers. 

People said, “You’re crazy, you’re going to throw away that engineering degree.” And I said, “I’m not throwing away anything.” 

What would be a surprise about you to your professional circle?

They might not know that I have a good best friend and he also works in this industry. And he and I have a side business moving people. 

When they see me out in a hooded sweatshirt and dirty old jeans lifting people’s couches into trucks, I think they double-take. Or they think, “Do you have to do that?” or “Why are you doing that?”

It keeps me real. It keeps me grounded. 

I love to use my hands. I love to create stuff. It has made so many new relationships for me.

And it has introduced me to so many things. It’s just been a gift to be able to do that. But people are flabbergasted when I tell them I have a side hustle moving company.

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