James T Walsh
President & CEO
Friendship Villages of St. Louis
Location: St. Louis, MO
Industry: Senior Living *SECOND YEAR HONOREE*
“My leadership philosophy has been and continues to focus on empowering my staff to think for themselves,” said James (Terry) Walsh, president and CEO of Friendship Villages. “I encourage them to be curious and ask, ‘Why that way?’ and ‘Why not this way?’ and ‘What if we did this?’ My favorite question to ask is, ‘If you were king for a day, what would you do differently?’ Many great revelations have come from this question.”
Friendship Villages of St. Louis is an independent, faith-based, nonprofit senior living and senior care company providing all levels of senior living and senior care in the St. Louis region. The company is an industry leader and early adopter of cutting-edge technologies to care for seniors and to enhance their health and well-being to extend and enhance their quality of life. Friendship Villages has been recognized with major national, regional and local “Best of” lists for every level of care.
Walsh considers the company’s reaction to the pandemic to be a significant accomplishment. “We have been blessed to have weathered the storm of COVID-19, the difficult employment market and inflation so that our capacity and care for seniors has not been diminished,” he said.
Part of that effort involved what Walsh described as “game-changing” education opportunities that helped them recruit employees who wanted to become clinical providers. Friendship Villages provides the education and then employs these professionals upon graduation to attract and maintain the talent they need.
Additionally, he points to cost-saving programs and procurement techniques that enabled them to control costs, so they only needed to raise rates to half the national inflation rate. Both of those ideas, Walsh credits to his team.
“Starting our FV University was their idea, not mine. Understanding what attracts and retains great employees was an initiative of our leaders, not me,” he said. “Studying even how we purchase food to understand the cost implications of strategically planning ‘drop sizes’ was the initiative of our teams, who are curious and want to find ways to do something better. These are the people who will be the titans of the future.”
Being named a Titan 100 is both a humbling experience and humbling recognition because it has caused me to step back and acknowledge that, really, I didn't do this. I didn't earn this. The people who work with and for me are the ones who have done the work and have earned this recognition. I do not want to stand in their light and accept praise that belongs to them. One of my favorite quotes is from the late Steve Jobs: "I don't hire smart people so that I can tell them what to do. I hire smart people so they can tell me what to do."