Long-term outlook

Loren B. Shook loves telling stories. One of his favorites is the one about Rose.

When she was transferred from a hospital to Silverado Senior Living Inc. — where Shook serves as chairman, president and CEO — 100-year-old Rose Arrington had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and pneumonia. She couldn’t walk, feed herself or speak coherent sentences. People figured she didn’t have long, so it was just a matter of making her final days comfortable.

But within six weeks at her new home, Rose wasn’t just walking, talking and feeding herself. When the residents held a competition at the park, Rose won the medal for throwing the ball the farthest.

Shook doesn’t just share the tale because it’s touching but because it encapsulates what the company he co-founded in 1996 is all about. In other words, he talks about Rose to illustrate his vision and culture.

“The storytelling culture helps keep the culture in place and keep it alive and renews it every time you tell a story,” says Shook, who gathers tales from Silverado’s 20 care communities and several other home and hospice offices across four states. “You can celebrate successes with those stories.”

Silverado’s vision is to give life to memory-impaired seniors, their families and others in the company. With a goal that big, he needs everybody to be totally committed to the vision — which means being totally committed to the culture that will help all of them achieve it.

“It starts with the vision of the company and the clarity of what that vision is [and] clearly communicating that,” Shook says.

That culture is obviously important when it results in success, like thousands of Alzheimer’s patients who regain motor skills and reduce medications. But it also benefits his 2,042 employees and the business he runs.

“You get to have the choice of making a positive difference in your co-workers’ lives as a supervisor or the employer,” says Shook, whose company has made multiple best places to work lists. “It also can be — and is — directly in alignment with making a better business for you to run and a more profitable business and a more secure one.”

Here’s how Shook sustains the culture that carried Silverado to 2009 revenue of $108.7 million and keeps improving life for thousands of patients and employees.