Three questions with new Sunrise CEO Penny McIntyre

Publish Date:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

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News Organization:

Washington Business Journal

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On Nov. 18, Penny McIntyre became just the third CEO in the history of Sunrise Senior Living LLC, leaving a world of product-based brand development for the top seat at a chain of high-end apartment/assisted living communities.

I spoke with her at the end of her very first day, so she declined to answer questions about business specifics until she's learned more. But she's eager to join the Washington business scene, she reports.

She spent the last weekend before starting at Sunrise at the graduation event for On the Board, a project of George Washington University's business school and the International Women's Forum designed to help prepare women for corporate board roles.

If she's not at work, expect to see her working out with her husband Peter, cooking at home or laughing. "I love to laugh," she said. "I feel very comfortable in saying we're going to focus on residents' joy [at Sunrise homes], because if you don't have joy in your life, what's the point?"

How did you decide this was a good fit? My father had Alzheimer's, and he passed away late in the spring. He had been at a skilled nursing home up in Canada, and it was a really traumatic experience for me and my sisters. It was the first time we ever had to interact with that, and we saw up close and personal the amazing quality you can get from nursing homes, but quite frankly, the set-up isn't that good. Part of me kept saying, 'There has to be a better way of doing that.'

[The Sunrise position] really resonated with me as an opportunity to apply my consumer background, my innovation background, my international background and the brand-building and consumer building work I've done — to take my old life and and apply that to an area that could really benefit from it.

So you've developed brands for products. But what Sunrise offers is really a service. What's the difference? The output is different, but the input not so much. ...The input to delivering a great service or a great product is similar, and that's where the transference comes. It starts with a really profound interest in the residents and their families and what they're going to need in the future. Like what Wayne Gretzky said, it's about learning to skate where the puck will be. It's all based on future visioning of where the puck will be. You ask, with very due process and rigor, how do you deliver X differently, better, profitably, on time, in a way that differentiates you from the other offerings in the marketplace?

How can we expect to see you involved in the community beyond Sunrise? I feel pretty strongly that we need to focus on giving back to the community. In Atlanta, I was involved in the United Way and with women's shelters, so I want to step back and figure out where to get involved in that regard.

I do a fair amount of mentoring with women in business, because there is such a thing as a glass ceiling and it's up to me to stomp all over that when I can.

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