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When you ask Dwayne Clark, founder and CEO of the senior care firm Aegis Residing, what he’s most grateful for in life, he’ll unabashedly let you know “rising up poor.”
For Clark, a childhood spent in poverty instilled a compassion-first mentality and a burning want to assist others lead lives of dignity.
As we speak, Clark is seen as a change-maker in his trade. Aegis opened its 32nd location this 12 months and has eight extra amenities in improvement. The corporate is on monitor to have working revenues of over $300 million in 2020, with actual property holdings approaching $three billion.
An Impoverished Childhood
Clark is the youngest of 4 kids raised by a single mom in Walla Walla, Washington. When he was 16, his mom informed him they had been fully broke and had no cash for meals.
The youngest of 4 kids, Clark was raised by a single mom who struggled to feed her household.
Picture credit score: Dwayne Clark
To feed her household, she made potato soup from a bag of potatoes she’d stolen from the restaurant the place she labored as a line cook dinner. She vowed to exchange the potatoes when she had cash once more. Whereas Clark felt powerless to assist his mom, he remembers being in awe of her power and resilience.
“My background really is a present to me,” he says. “It helps me relate to the dishwasher and has given me an affinity for struggling immigrants, for the poor child, whoever wants assist. If I hadn’t grown up realizing what being hungry is admittedly like, I’d not have created the enterprise I run at present.”
Discovering His Path
By the point he was 26 years outdated, Clark had labored his approach up from a correctional officer to shift commander at Washington State’s Division of Corrections. He was good at it, however he hated the job. He needed to return to varsity (he’d dropped out in his junior 12 months) after which to regulation faculty, however his sister interrupted these plans with a name out of the blue. She insisted he learn a brand new examine about growing older in America.
“This was earlier than we had the web and I may simply pull it up on a pc; so I went to the library to lookup the examine,” says Clark. “It was round 400 pages. I didn’t notably wish to learn it, but it surely appeared essential to her. So I learn the entire thing and realized there was a silver tsunami coming quick.”
He discovered that life expectancy was on the rise and the aged inhabitants was anticipated to double. His takeaway: eldercare was going to be a booming trade. Clark’s sister was on the advisory board of one in all Leisure Care’s communities, so he requested her to assist get him an interview.
“I did not need this to be a courtesy 10- to 15-minute interview. So after they requested if I may are available for an interview that subsequent week, I mentioned I may are available 30 days,” says Dwayne. “I needed to do my analysis on the corporate, their rivals, and the trade. I needed to be the very best interview they’d had in 10 years.”
Thirty days later, Dwayne went in for the interview, and, as anticipated, they requested just a few cursory questions, spent not more than 10 minutes with him, and thanked him for coming in. Earlier than they may shoo him out the door, Dwayne reached into his backpack and pulled out a three-ring binder and dropped it on the desk in entrance of him.
“I’d like to speak to you about the place I feel the growing older trade goes and the way I feel I may contribute,” he informed them. Clark says they spent the following 90 minutes going over his guide, and so they made him a job provide throughout the week.
Leisure Care employed Clark because the advertising and marketing director in Colorado. Forty-five days later he was put in a supervisor coaching program, and two years later he was named VP of Operations.
At age 33, Clark was recruited by Dawn Senior Residing, which might the largest senior housing firm on the earth. In lower than 5 years he helped develop Dawn from an $18 million firm to an organization with a $three billion market cap.
Regardless of his seemingly in a single day success within the eldercare trade, Clark wasn’t happy working for a public firm. He determined to stop and make his personal approach.
“It wasn’t in my character, and I didn’t like what Wall Avenue did to the tradition of the businesses,” says Dwayne. “I believed I wanted to only do it alone.”
Emptying the Piggy Financial institution
“You want a big amount of cash to do properly within the senior care trade, and I don’t imply $10 million; I imply tens of tens of millions of dollars,” he says. “As we speak you would want $150 million to begin an organization like Aegis.”
Dwayne spent a lot of 1996 searching for companions and capital sources and ultimately discovered the proper particular person: a developer in California named Invoice Gallaher, whom Clark had constructed a relationship with throughout his time at Dawn.
Collectively they based Aegis, had been capable of elevate $10 million, and constructed their first property in Nice Hill, California, in 1998. Nevertheless it wasn’t all clean crusing.
“I underestimated simply how capital intensive the method was,” says Clark. “We burned by way of that first $10 million in six to 9 months.”
After two extra rounds of capital financing, which yielded one other $12.5 million, Gallaher referred to as and informed him they had been out of cash. By this level, Clark had exhausted all his assets — besides his son’s school fund.
“My son had simply dedicated to UCLA, his dream faculty,” says Clark. “I wanted the school cash to cowl payroll or Aegis couldn’t keep afloat. I needed to go to my son and have a tricky dialog. I mentioned, ‘You already know, that in-state tuition on the College of Washington seems actually good.’”
Fortunately, his son understood and by no means felt bitter in regards to the choice to desert UCLA. Clark credit the school fund for saving the corporate.
Making It Private
In 2007, Clark says he purchased out Gallaher attributable to a distinction in philosophies. He took full management of Aegis and got down to develop it into the premier assisted residing group on the West Coast.
As the corporate expanded, Clark turned an skilled on the best way to take care of individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia. He believed he’d discovered every little thing there was to learn about the best way to handle one of these care facility till the day he obtained a large blow that challenged him as a CEO and son: his mom was identified with Alzheimer’s.
When Clark’s mom, Colleen, was identified with Alzheimer’s, he turned impressed to search out methods to enhance the lives of different Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers residing at his health-care amenities.
Picture credit score: Dwayne Clark
“Think about the sensation of being ‘the man’ main the trade in one of these care however I couldn’t assist my very own mom,” admits Dwayne.
She moved into one in all his memory-care communities, and Clark started to have a significant shift in perspective. “It was a sport changer,” he says.
His mom cherished music; so Clark learn research on the constructive results of music on sufferers with dementia and Alzheimer’s and expanded the music applications in his Alzheimer’s wing.
She additionally cherished doing her hair and make-up, which turned tougher as her sickness worsened. In consequence, Clark introduced touring salons to his senior well being communities to offer all of the residents makeovers. This began an extended checklist of enhancements all through his amenities that weren’t all the time good for his firm’s backside line however he believes improved the lives of the residents. Clark says he created a whole bunch of “longevity aids,” together with aromatherapy to enhance psychological readability, spring-loaded chairs to permit seniors to face with out help, and shorter hallways to facilitate strolling.
Respecting Tradition Over Revenue
Clark additionally took motion to create a tradition the place staff really feel genuinely invested in and cared about.
“I wish to be an employee-first firm as a result of I really imagine tradition is every little thing,” says Clark. “We’re a service-oriented firm that goals to do our half in treating the Alzheimer’s epidemic by serving the high-risk communities of senior well being.”
Clark created a program referred to as E.P.I.C. (Empowering Individuals Inspiring Consciousness) to remodel Aegis Residing’s annual assembly from a standard “year-end overview” to a three-day celebration of the human spirit. It’s a seminar for self-improvement with the first agenda to ignite private improvement among the many staff. E.P.I.C. attracts celebrities like Michael J. Fox, Carlos Santana, and Dr. Deepak Chopra to show and encourage his staff.
Clark says one in all his lifelong obsessions has been the pursuit of well being — understanding it and attaining it. As a younger grownup, he overlooked that keenness and burned the proverbial candle at each ends. He labored lengthy hours, lived on a junk-food weight-reduction plan, partied late into the night time, and slept little or no.
The whole lot got here to a head one Labor Day weekend together with his spouse, when he started to expertise probably the most acute belly ache of his life. It was so unhealthy that he ended up within the hospital the place he was identified with extreme gastritis.
Clark says the expertise was a wake-up name. He’d discovered a lot caring for individuals properly into their 100s, however sarcastically, he’d by no means consciously utilized these classes to himself.
“My well being disaster impressed me to hunt out longevity, examine it, obtain extra of it, and share my findings with a broader viewers,” says Clark. “Whereas I’d been residing and respiration questions in regards to the well being and longevity of my Aegis residents, I’d separated myself from what I’d discovered. In a single day, my dedication modified.”
Dwayne turned a “longevity explorer,” touring to over 80 international locations to interview a whole bunch of individuals on what it means to age properly into their 80s, 90s and 100s. His obsession with well being and longevity led him on a journey of analysis into discovering each conceivable option to reside a extra vibrant, more healthy, and extra fulfilled life.
In his newest e book, “30 Summers Extra,” Dwayne takes what he has discovered about longevity by caring for greater than 60,000 residents and writes a brand new plan for growing older in America. He challenges the established order for individuals over age 60, utilizing the knowledge of Aegis residents.
Clark, far proper, with former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, former President Invoice Clinton, and Clark’s spouse, Terese, after a lunch the place the mentioned politics, enterprise, and longevity.
Picture credit score: Dwayne Clark
He’s additionally taken an curiosity in exploring what makes profitable individuals tick, and Clark’s just lately launched podcast, “Stroll This Approach,” discusses the journey of CEOs, athletes, and celebrities and the way they made their option to hit mega-success by not following the normal path.
Clark’s personal path was little doubt untraditional.
“I’ve by no means had a ‘woe is me’ mentality or seen my background as a disadvantage,” says Clark. “Entrepreneurs share one factor: they’re attempting to run as quick as they will away from poverty. It creates rocket gas for them to achieve success.”
Comply with Dwayne Clark on Instagram, Fb, and LinkedIn, or go to his web site.