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Sparrow Partners Seeks to Exit ‘Startup Mode’ With New President, Active Adult Growth

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Sparrow Partners is shifting it out of “start up mode” with a new leader and even greater growth planned in the active adult sector.

That’s according to Brett Robinson, who joined the Austin, Texas-based company full-time as president at the start of the year. Originally working with the company as a consultant, Robinson took on a more permanent role on January 8. His top focus when he started was organizational structure, sales strategy and third-party management opportunities.

“They also were kind of operating like a startup and needed help, the sales function needed to be rebuilt,” Robinson told Senior Housing News.

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With groundbreakings planned on six additional communities throughout the remainder of this year, Sparrow isn’t slowing down expanding deeper into the active adult space. Today, the company has 31 communities in four states.

The growth comes as Sparrow gains recognition for its approach to active adult. The company was recently called one of the “major players” in the active adult sector by Welltower CEO Shankh Mitra.

Beyond growth, the company’s leadership team is also in the process of expanding and restructuring to emphasize cultivating “real relationships” with consumers. 

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“We want to be the best,” Robinson said. “We don’t want to be the biggest, we don’t need to grow 20 communities a year.”

Moving beyond ‘startup mode’

A big part of the company moving out of what Robinson called its “start up mode” is building out a new leadership structure. 

CEO Jeff Patterson was in the not-too-distant past personally handling 12 direct reports, and the vice president of operations was overseeing marketing, lifestyle and engagement and the company’s call center all at once.

To help ease pressure elsewhere and streamline the company, Robinson said the team has created a new vice president of sales position, which he hopes to have filled by the beginning of April at the latest. The company also recently hired a vice president of marketing.

“We are deep in work right now,” he said. “It is time to work on the business, which means stepping back, taking a deep breath, listening, strategizing and learning how we’ve gotten to this point where we’re not as strong as we need to be.”

Even adding Robinson’s position as president is already helping ease some of the pressure on other leadership roles, he said.

The plan is for new strategies to be put in place within 90 days to make sure “the right people are in the right places” and focusing on who is reporting to who.

Additionally, Robinson noted that Sparrow Partners is working on reducing its current turnover rates, which he said are “higher than industry average.” To reduce that, the company is refocusing on its mission.

“Acting as a startup, I think that churn created a higher than average turnover. We’re taking action on turning that trend around,” Robinson said.

Robinson also has set a goal for the company’s sales director and VP of sales to revamp training and onboarding in the next four to six months with the goal of reducing turnover.

In doing it this way, Robinson said the goal was to develop “core markets” so that leaders can make the “most impact” instead of constantly being on the road.

“We want to be the talent magnet in the active adult space,” he said. “That’s what we’re building out, and that’s the purpose behind it.”

Widening active adult footprint

Sparrow Partners saw fast growth in previous years. In 2024, the company is continuing to look for places to grow.

Alongside the six communities anticipated to commence development this year, future growth plans will include developing another six to eight communities on an annual basis.

At the moment, the company is looking to grow its active adult presence in Texas, with communities in Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio; the Phoenix, Arizona metro; central and the west coast of Florida; Atlanta, and the Carolinas.

While development remains hard – exemplified by the fact that new senior housing construction starts are expected to bottom out this year – Sparrow is continuing to opt to build its communities from the ground-up.

In doing so the company is seeking to prepare for the influx of demand ahead, despite the challenges associated with land and material cost and interest rates.

“When you really look at our numbers and you see the number of leads and the number of visits every single month per community … it is so great” Robinson said. We’re going to work on constantly iterating and tweaking our floor plan designs and amenity offerings.”

Some active adult operators have shied away from advertising as “senior living” communities for fear of being compared to nursing homes. But Sparrow is not shying away from the term.

“We’re still providing these vibrant, incredible spaces, where people can continue to live purpose-driven lives, and hopefully enhance the quantity and quality of their life,” he said. “So in that regard, we are the first rung in senior living. And I’m really proud of that and want to embrace that.”

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