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The Article Title and Content Shocked Me: Benchmark Parts Ways with President

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By Steve Moran

I wasn’t out of bed yet when I took my first peek at my email on Monday morning and a friend had forwarded me an article at Senior Housing News saying that Stephanie Handelson and Benchmark had parted ways. I went looking for the press release or a second source news story about the separation and came up with a complete blank.  

While not a close relationship, I know both Tom and Stephanie moderately well and the story just kind of didn’t click with what I know about them and Benchmark.

More to the Story

I went to LinkedIn and sent Stephanie a message expressing my surprise, wishing her well and, of course, asking if there was something here I should be writing about. Her message back was that the parting was much more amiable than I had been led to believe reading the article. That led to a phone conversation on Tuesday morning for . . . “the rest of the story”.

Fleshing It Out

The first time I ever met Stephanie was just a few months after I started publishing Senior Housing Forum. She was on a panel at some industry event . . . ALFA (now Argentum), I think, and she talked about the huge unmet need for low- and moderate-income senior living. I approached her after the session to probe further. She told me it was a need that she was interested in and  concerned about, but at that time had no real ideas about how to solve this challenging problem.  

Over the subsequent years it seems as if every time we would chat, this topic would come up and her interest in low- and middle-income seniors was dominating more and more of her thinking and passion.

Diverging Interests

Benchmark Senior Living is an amazing, very successful company that is heavily invested in senior living options for individuals who have well prepared for the high costs that can come along with 24-hour care and services. While Stephanie and Tom share interest in finding new ways to address the large, unmet need for those less prepared, their strategic vision on the approach to that end simply differed.  

Driving Passions

In every healthy organization there needs to be leaders who have the same grand vision but, at the same time, have, perhaps, differing views of how to achieve that vision. Together the team takes their various ideas and perspectives, argue them out, come to a consensus and do great things.  

In some cases, and over time, those grand visions diverge and, at that point, the leaders with differing grand visions are forced to make difficult decisions and, oftentimes, those difficult decisions are not bad decisions just difficult.   

In my own life I was forced into a similar situation when I “fired” myself from Vigil Health Solutions. I loved the company and the people . . . still do . . . but my first passion was Senior Housing Forum and I did not have enough time and energy to continue to do both things.

That is what has happened here. Tom and Stephanie have very different grand visions for what they want to do with their lives in senior living. They parted friends and with great respect for each other. They will both continue to be a part of the rapidly evolving senior living ecosystem and I look forward to watching the next chapters unfold.

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