Dwayne Clark, the CEO of Aegis Living explains how he built the nation’s luxury senior living facilities based on delivering excellent customer service day after day.
Helpful Links – https://www.aegisliving.com/resource-center/the-story-of-dwayne-clark-aegis-living-founder/
On today’s show, we are interviewing Dwayne Clark. Amanda has been able to grow his business, 30 locations, 2000 staff members and 60,000 residents. And on today’s show, he’s going to teach us how to build a business with incredible customer service, but he’s also going to share with us about his good friend, president bill Clinton, his good friend, almost president Hillary Clinton. It’d be the president’s wife, first lady, Hillary Clinton. Oh no, no. His good friend and his rap battle partner, Macklemore, his good friend Howard Schultz. He, this guy knows everybody. He may in fact be in charge of Illuminati XE. Today’s guest is none other than Dwayne Clark
yes, yes, yes. Andy. Yes. Thrive nation. On today’s business coach show, we are interviewing a man
with a plan for 30 locations, 2000 staff members and 60,000 residents. Dwayne Clark, my brother from another mother. Welcome onto the thrive time show. How are you sir?
I’m, I’m looking for you to give me a little bit more energy click and you pump it up a little.
I’m excited. I’m excited that you’re excited. There’s too much excitement. It’s amazing. Our brains may explode. Now. I’ll take the room down here a little bit. Okay. So you have a very successful company now, but could you share with the listeners what you do for a living and what you do and how you’re able to serve 60,000 residents, 2000 staff members, 30 locations. What would you share with the listeners about what you do?
Yeah, so we, we own a luxury senior housing company. We have actually 32 locations, about 2,500 staff. We have served over the course of my career, 60,000 residents. We don’t serve all of those right now. Um, we were a real estate company and an operating company. We’re, we’re approaching about 3 billion billion with a B real estate holding. Um, and uh, we have about a 600 and million in development construction right now. So we’ve been, we’ve been, uh, voted as one of the best companies in the country to work where we were at Glassdoor top 50 last year. Been voted best company to work for 12 times and in a very progressive culture.
And will you share with the company a, the listeners one more time, the name of your company just so I have some folks no more Googling right now.
Sure. The company is called ageless living a E G I S living
now. Um, you, I don’t know if this is, I, I again, Andrew was getting me the show notes and I’ve been doing some research and Andrew has a question for you. He says you, it is a luxury, a luxury living. We’re kind of a luxury retirement center for folks. Um, do you still feed the residents dogs organic lobster? That’s it.
I know Andrew.
Andrew, I’m just now it’s been out loud. No. Okay. I did. I did. Okay. Now can you explain what luxury retirement living is? Like? What, what, what does that look like? Some people out there can’t relate to that. What, what, uh, what does that feel like? What are the best way I can Excel?
It is a, you know, when I got into this industry 34 years ago, no one wanted to go and senior housing. And, and the reason for that is, is it, you know, the stigma that existed with that, you know, you’d go in and there’d be smelly rooms and fluorescent lights, cold, sterile floor floors, and you know, people were walking around and nursing uniforms and so on. And so no one wanted to live in there. And so we, you know, with the grain of America, we saw this incredible opportunity, the tsunami of aging that was coming our way. And we said, well, let’s, let’s not only make it a place that a 75 or 80 year old wants to move into it, let’s make it a place that if you were 55 which is really the, our residents’ daughter that you would say, I want to live here.
And so what kind of things do would we have to do to make that happen? So we were very, very creative architecturally, programmatically. In fact, the last three years we’ve either won the best architectural designer, been the runner up, never happened before in senior housing. And so we started building what are versions of the four seasons hotel is, um, in senior housing. And so if you come to one of our buildings, it would look very much like a long Sri hotel, you know, a beautiful lobby. We just opened a building on ages of Mercer Island here in the Seattle area. It’s got a 35 foot, uh, waterfall, uh, 35 feet across about 25 feet high. Um, right outside the lobby. I mean it’s, it’s huge. And, uh, but you know, we have spas in the building, so you can get Reiki, you can get reflexology, you can get Swedish massage, you can get, um, alternative kind of healing massage. And this, we have swimming, indoor swimming pools. Um, we have a beast row. We have your own liquor cabinet if you want to have wine or, or, um, you know, your own liquor and your own liquor locker, private dining. Uh, we have, we have chefs.
I was going on your site and for preparation and I, I was looking here at this, I that do you have the uh, the Ventura property in Ventura, California, shadow Ridge, nice places and I I filled out the form and I, you know, told them I’m 38 and feeling great and I’m moving in and, and I haven’t got a call back yet. Is there an age limit there? I mean can you move in at the age of 38 there is that uh,
well the way I tipped him off clay, that was the thing, I let him know you were coming. Okay. Well there is, there is nature requirement. It that by lice we are licensed by every state that we operate in and there’s a minimum of 55 years or older. I knew there was a catch. Yeah. I would say the average age though is you know, around in the early eighties because most people, most people will want to stay at their own home as long as they possibly can. In fact, that’s, that’s one of the issues that could, because most people get healthier when they move in because they’re, they have oversight, they’re eating better than medications Tecton time they have community and most people wait too long to move in.
On your website, you talk about how at one point you were working in the industry and you were just horrified by the, the living conditions of what you were seeing all around you. Can you share that story and when you had your epiphany to take a retirement living to the next level?
Well, the earliest epiphany was probably when I was about 11 or 12 years old and my grandmother broke her hip and had to go into a nursing home. And my grandmother was a really brilliant business woman, chiefs, young, like three businesses by the time she was 35 or 40 spoke warrant languages. You know, I were talking in the, in the 1930s and uh, she broke her hip in the early seventies, went into a nursing home and they treated her like, I don’t know, a three year old child. And I thought, wow, this is my grandmother. She’s really smart. She speaks all these different languages. She was a CEO of a company, you know, uh, why are you treating you like a child? So I that, I think that was an early impression that I had before I was even really a teenager. And then, you know, as I started to get in the industry, I started looking around and saying, we’re building these buildings that no one really wants to move into.
You know, they’re, they just don’t, the food’s bad. The aesthetics are bad. Staff is bad, the programs are bad. You know, we, we, when I was 20 years ago, 30 years ago, w the, the program is consistent of what we call the three BS Bible study, birthdays and bingo. And you know, that’s a pretty boring life. So, you know, we have our own Woodstock where we bring 850 people and have five bands. And we’ve had residents that were at the residual Woodstock and we put on our own Woodstock in the park. We had our own circus select. Wow. So, you know, we, we do that mainstream modern 50, 60 year old people would do, not just necessarily 80 some year old people
now your a business businesses doing well obviously. And, and I, I know that, um, the overnight success usually comes after a decade or more of just maniacally obsessing. And I, I feel like I have read and I’ve slept since then, but I feel like I’ve read that you obsessed about Starbucks and Nordstrom’s for awhile then to really learn from their business models when, when was this obsession and how long did it take you to build the company that we now know?
Well, we just celebrated our 22nd anniversary two days ago. Wow. And so, um, you know, see I live in Seattle. Seattle’s got an incredible service culture. In fact, I’m, I’m writing a book on it. Um, and if you think about the companies that were started here or founded here, you know, not, not too many people know. Amazon was started here, Starbucks was started here, Nordstrom’s was started here. Microstar, Microsoft, we’ll start here at Zillow. Will started here, you know, pack car, Kenworth trucks. I mean, you can go down the line. Boeing, uh, is just down the line in terms of the major corporations that were started here. Costco. Um, and you know, many of these CEOs were my friends. And uh, you know, when I started agents in 1997, I would go to the Howard Schultz of the world or you know, the Costco executives of the world.
And I would just, I w the Nordstroms and I would say, how did you do this? How did you, you know, obsess with service and how did you scale and how did you get your products launched and so on. And you know, it didn’t, it was never one thing that like, well, we came the super secret product and that was the cool thing. It always came back to one thing. And that one thing was people and how you treat people and how you hire people and how you develop the, the curves of the culture for people and what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable. And so I knew when I started just 22 years ago, we wanted to be an employee first company, meaning that we put our employees even in front of our customers. And I can remember I had a partner when I first started the company, I remember being at a, at a meeting where we were trying to raise capital because my business is incredibly capital intensive.
And he was, you know, he was a guy that came from the finance kind of construction background. And I was an operator and you know, we were talking to these VCs and he looked at me and says, tell him how much money we’re going to make. Tell him how much money we’re gonna make. And I started to riff on what braid employee culture we would have. And you know, I thought he was gonna blow a gasket, you know, and we had a meeting in the hallway and he said, do not talk about that stupid stuff. Tell my mugs we’re going to talk about, we’re going to make. And you know, my comment with to him was, well, you don’t understand if we build this incredible culture, if we are an employee for his company, if we treat each and every one of our employees with great dignity and respect, empathy, we will make a lot of money. We will be a great company. So, you know, that’s what I learned from those great companies. Cosco, Nordstrom, Starbucks,
let’s talk. Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s, let’s go off the reservation and let’s talk about Howard Schultz for a second. I read his book, pour, uh, pour your heart into it and love that. Love that book. And then I read when his book, when he came back, you know, when he left and he came back and read that book. Um, great writer, a great entrepreneur. We, this is not a political show, but is he going to run for president? Is it going to happen? For sure it’s going to happen.
Well, I know Howard very well. I’ve talked to them about running for president and I would say it’s, it’s on hold right now
on hold. Okay. Okay. Just because he is, um, whether he, people like Trump tested or not like president Trump or like a Howard Schultz or not. I, I L I love, anytime you get a business mind, you know, in the, in the white house. I just, I love that. Love that energy. Um, for you right now, running your, um, business, um, what do you, what do you, what you’ve already achieved so much. What do you see? What, what is your goal for the next 18 months with your, with ages? Are you looking to open up many, many more locations? Are you wanting to become president? What do you want me to do?
Well, I’m not wanting to become president of this country anyway. Um, but I, I do think private citizens can do a lot to change the world, but let’s go on the, on the scale of the company. Got it. Um, we just, we just, um, our current president retired here in may and, uh, we brought in the, uh, the former president of Starbucks, a guy named Chris Chris ans Cove. And he was with, with Starbucks for, uh, about 15 years, oversaw 19 billion in revenue, about 30,000 staff in North America. And he’s become our new president. And you know, we didn’t, we didn’t bring him in to stay the same. We brought him in to scale, but we’re in the smart scaling, you know, we’re a private family owned company. That’s, you know, our, our biggest thing we want to do is create an incredible legacy and great, incredible service to both our staff and our, and our customers.
And so we’re, we’re very selective about the sites that we, that we get where we build. We’re very smart about that in terms of, you know, the economics of that area where it’s gonna grow. We, you know, 22 years ago, we picked two cities as our major growth area, San Francisco and Seattle. If you looked at what’s happened to those two cities in 22 years, I mean, we look like, you know, a soothsayer. I mean, Seattle has just exploded. San Francisco the same. And so we’re, we’re very smart developers about where we’re developed. So we have a, a plan
that we essentially call the 70 by 70 plan. I just turned 60, so in the next 10 years we’re going to try to get to 70 properties. Um, we’re about 40 with the ones we have in development now. So that’s 30 more in the next 10 years. So not, you know, not incredible fast, uh, development. But, uh, you know, each one of these buildings will make 10, 12, 14, $15 million for one building and sign was size 18. So, you know, you had 10 or 30 new buildings here, you’re talking about a significant amount of revenue.
I think a lot of businesses, uh, get excited Duane about customer service. They go to business conferences, they go to seminars, they get a book and they’re going, yes, I got the book customer service Nordstrom’s. Yes, I’m going to do it. They visit your facility. They go, I am going to build the next ages of my industry. I’m going to just dominate. Yes. Then they take that checklist in a hand it to their front desk and get guy, never the front desk lady, but the front desk guy. We’ll call him Skylar and Skylar goes, do you say Skylar? Did you clean the bathroom? And Skyler says, uh Whoa, what? What again? And then you say, Skylar, did you clean the bathroom? And scour says, Oh I forgot. Could you remind me maybe tomorrow bus. And I see all these bosses running around trying to remit, remind their employees to do basic tasks. And then I see companies like Chick-fil-A and Starbucks and your company dominating, help us bridge the gap between wanting to do excellent service and actually doing it. Where does, where does small businesses and big businesses get it wrong? Where do they drop the ball?
Good. I’m glad you brought the topic up cause I’m passionate about it and I’ve written books about it and, and so I’m going to give you the secrets. So, first of all, if the CEO, the head of your company is not incredibly passionate about the lifestyles of his employees and the working conditions of his employees, um, you’re toast. You’re really toast. Because when we made the Glassdoor top 50, uh, all kinds of people co calling me, can you come to my company? Can you teach? Can you tell me the secrets? You know, blah, blah, blah, blah. And, um, unless the CEO called me, I would say, you’re, you’re dead in the water. And I’d say, well, you know, I’m the vice president of operations, or I’m the head of HR. What are you talking about? I said, have your CEO called me. And if I can feel his or her passion about making this change about incredible, you know, doing an incredible service to your employees, you’re, you’re toast.
Because it’s really got to come from the top. You’ve got to put as much energy and enthusiasm into delighting your employees as you do, you know, creating a fantastic bottom line. So that’s first and foremost. The next thing that you have to do is you have to understand the world in which your employees live. What’s their day to day? What’s their family life like? What’s their neighborhood like, what’s their kids like, all those types of things. So you have to have tremendous amount of empathy and you got to do this tremendous amount of study. Now if you, if you look at the typical line staff and you know the a person that works at Chick-fil-A or Starbucks or nursing home or retirement home or whatever, you know, they’re making anywhere from, you know, depending on the state, you’re in $12 an hour to $17 an hour minimum wage.
They’d never been to more than three States. They probably couldn’t identify New Jersey on a map if you paid him. They’ve never had a passport. They probably come from a one parent family, you know, probably have a high school education or GED and you can go down the line. This is the profile of the people that are working. Yeah. Unlined positions today. So you have to recognize all of those things and say, you know, how am I as the CEO, as the company, how can I be a creative to their life? Can I help them out with daycare? Can I help them out with getting their daily needs met? So one of the things we give food for a dollar, you know, not only to the employee, but if you want to take home food for five for your family for $5, and I’m not talking, you know, a hotdog, I’m talking a full, you know, three or four course meal for five people, it’s $5.
Wow. Because you know, food is important to people. And if you just worked a 10 hour shift and you’re tired, you don’t want to go home and cook for an hour so you can take home. Yeah. You know, the chef prepares it, you pay the $5, take it home. So that, that meets that need. Let me tell you a couple of other things. Um, every executive on our staff is responsible to constantly, and I’m going to emphasize that word, constantly advocate for our employees. And what does that mean? Well, that means you go to the dry cleaner that you use every week. Every week you asked the dry cleaner, Hey, can you give our staff, you know, shirts dry clean for 80 cents instead of a dollar 25 sure. If you go to the bank and you’re talking to your banker, the CFO, Hey, can you give our staff free checking?
Oh sure. Well you start doing this on a weekly basis and you start accumulating these batch of benefits and we call those the soft benefits, the hard benefits being the medical insurance, dental insurance and those things like that. The soft benefits. If you could accumulate, Hey, we give away movie tickets or gas cards or we’ve got discounts on your pharmaceuticals or you know, we can get over the counter drugs at half price, or you know, your Christmas Turkey, we can get it for 25 cents on the dollar. Whatever those soft benefits are. Then the employee starts to understand, okay, you, you are an advocate for me. You care about me, you empathy, you have empathy for me. Now play. You may be saying, well Duane, I asked you about service and you’re really talking about co, you know, staff loyalty. Those two things go hand in hand because the point of service and what I mean by that is the person that touches the customer every day.
You can be the smartest CEO in the world, but that’s where things break down. The guy at the cash register, the guy at the front desk, the guy you know the, the bellman at the co, at the hotel, that’s where things break down. So you have to figure a way to delight that person in such a passionate way that they light up and go, I can’t feel my boss. Okay, this, this is a marriage. This is a relationship that you say, I feel so good about this company that I can’t let it down. And that’s why, that’s what Ritz Carlton does. You know, we went to the, my staff went to the Ritz Carlton Academy, saw how they lead. What’s at four seasons has done, I mean I, I talked with this four season CEO, you know, that’s what they do. They develop this, this culture of service that if you don’t comply, you’re outside the curbs of your culture.
And so it’s kinda like the Sesame street thing, what you know, where they used to say which one of these things is not like the other. If you really define your service culture, then your staff will be the self auditors. They’ll go, Oh well that person’s not in a clean uniform. Oh, they didn’t press their clothes. So their name badge is not on there. Oh, you know, the bathrooms always have to be cleaned at five and they’re not. So you develop a culture of service that has an expectation, but you have to show that empathy first and be an advocate for your employees. Not answer your question.
Absolutely. Absolutely. And there’s a book called the service profit chain written by the Harvard business school. And in that book, um, it kind of makes a timeline or, or a chain as the service profit chain. And it shows that first off you start off and you want your atoll team to be obsessed with quality. And then when the team has pride that everything they do is awesome, you move on down the timeline. Now the employee satisfaction sets in and then once the employees are satisfied, they tend to stick around longer and they tend to love, love working. So productivity goes up, loyalty goes up. Then customers start wanting to come back because they’re happy and it says virtuous cycle. And when I see sometimes a Dwayne Clark, I want to get your wisdom on it is I see a business owner that will buy a business and it has maybe, you know, 10 to 20 really happy employees, but there are two people that just hate quality there. There’s a captain sarcasm, you know the guy who doesn’t want to be there, but he has the courage to, he has the courage to complain, but not the courage to uh, no longer remain, you know, he won’t quit. He just keeps showing up, but complaining. What do you do? What do you do when you go into a situation you recognize we got, we have a great team here, but we’ve got one bad player. What do you do?
Yeah, that’s a great question. So when I formed the company 22 years ago, I created some books that were mandatory reading and, and I said, you have to read these books so you understand that you know our culture and what we base our culture off. And one of the books was called the Oz principle and the OSS principle went into about that very employee and that that negative Nellie, the guy that costs ups, the guy that complains about the company, the guy that talks about bad about people and they called that behavior below the line behavior. So when people come into our company, there are doctor rated indoctrinated on the [inaudible] principles and they’re talk to about a below the line behavior. Now what are the covenants of below the line behavior? If you hear someone talking bad about someone else, you need to call them out.
You need to say, you know, you’re exhibiting below the line behavior and I would suggest you go talk to that person directly. And so the culture becomes the audit tool for the negative Nellies. And if somebody’s griping and complaining, the fellow, the, the positive employee hasn’t responsibility cause you see it’s not the CEO that protects the culture. It’s the everyday employee and that’s what I tell everybody every day. Hey, it’s all 2,500 of you. It’s not me. So you have to go to that person and say, Hey, that’s not what we do here. You’re being below the line. And that statement means something. If somebody is told they’re being below the line, it’s like, Oh my God. Oh okay. That’s a bad thing. And so there’s, they’re either shaped up or shipped out, you know, we just say, Hey, we invite you to go join the competition.
We invite you to go join the competition. That right there is a hotline. I’m putting that down right there as good. We invite you to go join. Did you come up with that? Is that your own move or are you
I, I’ve said it for so long. I can’t remember where it’s coming from. Probably 40 years now.
I’m going to give you two mega points and those are redeemable, redeemable. We’re not really sure where yet. Just go into Ritz Carlton, see if you can redeem your mega points for a night’s day. I got mega points, man, can I get an upgrade? Okay. We’ve had a few Thrivers that have started referencing mega points to ask for free things. And it’s funny because sometimes companies are like, sir, if you haven’t made a good point, I guess you know, so we’ll see what happens with you. So now, um, there are things that you do, a little micro habits that, uh, are necessary for long lasting success. You know, little things that you’re doing on a daily basis that kinda, if all of our listeners would apply these, these, these moves, they would have some success. And you also have a few idiosyncrasies. I’m sure you know, Steve jobs were the same thing every day. Barack Obama committed to not meeting new people, uh, once getting in the office for awhile. Uh, you have, uh, so many idiosyncrasies. Mark Zuckerberg likes to wear the same thing all the time. Um, Elon Musk has bizarre eating habits. Uh,
let me, let me start with idiosyncrasy. Yeah, I keep, I keep my office at 62 degrees. Yes. Yeah. And let me tell you why I do that. I’m a, I’m a big person on efficiency and when people come into my office, you know, a lot of times people, you know, they don’t want to, when they S they back into a chair
that’s in front of my desk. Oh, let me tell you about the weekend. Oh yeah. You know, and that turns into a 40 minute conversation that goes nowhere. So I keep my office at at 62 degrees. Oh yeah. People don’t like it, but I run hot so it doesn’t bother me. And guess what people do. They have really efficient, effective door jam conversations with me. So they’ll come in halfway in the hallway, halfway in my office. Hey Twain, I just want to tell ya, you know, this happened today. We’re on it. You know, it’s 30 seconds. It’s to the point. Here’s the action, here’s what I’m doing about it. Do you have any input? No. In and out. That makes me cry. That is so good. Get it real quick. Can I get, can I celebrate real quick? Can I celebrate? Is that okay to celebrate it
man, that’s Omega 62 degrees, baby short conversation or compensation. Getting things done with my brother from another mother, Dwayne Clark.
Oh baby cried. I was so good. That is hot. What else do you have? Give us more. Well, I think, you know, I think one of the things that aspiring business people or CEOs often forget is really how to take care of themselves. And you’re the machine man. You, you are the machine. So you have to develop practices and things that you do. You know, I mean, I’m 60 years old. I can’t, I can’t work like I did when I was, you know, started the company when I was 38 and so, you know, I have religious ha, I meditated for 22 minutes this morning. I meditate every day. What does that look like when your medic does what listeners want to know? When your listeners think of meditation, they’re thinking of you sitting in a sauna listening to music like this. Well reading Bob Dylan poetry, what exactly does meditation mean to you?
That sounds pretty good, but that’s not the way I do it. So I do transcendental meditation, which you have. You have a mantra. I took, you know, a a five day class. And you know, what happens for me is, you know, I often say CEOs are trying to park eight cars in a three car garage. And uh, you know, when that happens, your mind gets really clouded, right? We’re, we’re busy dudes and we have a lot going on in our true. So every morning I want the brand to be washed out. I don’t want it to be clean. I want it to be clear. And that’s what allows me to get into a really creative and effective space. So I kinda cleaned the garage out and that’s what meditation does. I have a mantra that every, every, a mantra that every morning I, I sit and, you know, you don’t chant it out loud. It’s all done in silence. And, uh, my wife tends to do it with me. It’s more powerful when you do it with more than one person. And that starts my day. And uh, you share with us what your mantra is or is it a secret you can’t share? Yeah. You can’t share, that’s one of the vows. Check that that’s over your word, but um, I’ll have to give you a month. Okay.
I will. Can I, can I cue up Andrew’s a mantra? Can I cue up Andrews? Yeah, let me hear it. Now here’s the thing. Andrew and I, we’ve been working through some things and we have two things we’re working through. One is a thou shout, never, ever ask a guest if they feed their dogs organic lobster. That’s one rule we’ve, and then the second is that the, this right here can not be the mantra. So I’m going to queue this up and then you can tell Andrew what’s wrong with this mantra. Okay? Just about till ten second clip of Andrew’s not non-trans, there’s like a dangerous trans continental meditation. Okay? There we go.
Lot of pressure. You got to rise above it. You got a harness in the good energy block out the bad harness energy block bad. Feel the flow happy, feel it. It’s circular. It’s like a carousel. You pay the quarter, you get on the horse, it goes up and down and around circular circle with the music, the flow, all good things.
What’s wrong with Andrew’s non mantra? You not feeling the flow man, come on out. Appeal the [inaudible]. I’m going to send you a tee shirt called feel the flow. Feel the, fill the flow now. Okay. So do you have another idiosyncrasy and under super move? I didn’t mean to interrupt you there.
No, you know I think I am. I can’t get this book off my mind that I just finished reading this morning and I’m going to tell you about it cause I think it is kind of an idiosyncrasy, but yeah. Have you read the book called happiness advantage by Shawn anchor? No. No. Oh God. I’m just, I have a, I have a friend, I don’t know if you’ve heard of mod pizza and he started mod pizza and he, he’s read this, this book and handed out to a bunch of his buddies. But this, uh, this book has, is written by this guy named Shawn Achor who went to Harvard and he found that that most Harvard studies students are miserable. And he, and he got the scholarship to go to Harvard. He’s like, how many of you miserable word Harvard? Isn’t that the greatest institution in the world?
And he fell and he’s so he started going into this great study on happiness. And what he found scientifically is that, you know, the plasticity of your brain is malleable. And so if you can think about happy thoughts and happy actions and things that you do, um, you could actually reproach gear, reprogram your brain. And so one of the things that I try to do is bring joy and happiness to our culture, um, in one of the most successful programs that we have. And just tell you a brief funny story. I was talking to a, a line staff about four years ago and I said, well, where are you heading? Tissue? I’m going to go buy a lot of tickets. And I’m like, Oh man, you know, I’m not a gambler. What’s your channel? This is a, when she goes out, you know, it’s like one 30 million.
Well, why would you just go to that? It’s fun. So I went back and I started thinking, what if we had our own lotto in our company? Now it would be really fun. So I went back, I’ve got all my C-suite guys in the room. I’m like, Hey, what do you do to think about having our own lotto? And they kind of went, man, what are you on w what are you been doing? Twain, you know? And so we’re about two months. I would chase people down the hallway. I go, Hey, I want to talk to you about the hall above the lotto. And they’d run the other way. You know? They’re like, Oh man, the boss’s lost it. So finally I got them all in the room. I go, Hey, we’re doing a lotto, and this is the way it’s gonna work for every year a person’s work.
We’re going to give them another ticket in the lotto so they get another chance. We’re going to get them away. What I call is life changing money. So the grand winners going to win $50,000 net. We’re going to pay their taxes cause that could buy a car, put a down payment on a condo, it can go back to school, whatever. It’s life changing money. And then we’re going to have like 15 other winners that went anywhere from 10,000 to a thousand bucks. And they’re like, Oh yeah, okay, we’ll do this. You know. So we got everyone on a Skype call, you know, all 2,500 employees. We put our CFO in a phone booth with a as zillion, uh, you know, little paper shard flying around and giving them razor burn cuts all over his body. And we got all kinds of silly and you know, we did dance and everything and we picked these, pick these names and it has revolutionized our company.
I will tell you, people are in tears. I get letters from people saying how this changed their life and the happiness factor of this that you know, that people are so happy is just off the chart. Is this a monthly thing you’re doing? Is this a weekly thing? We do it twice a year and how much money are we talking? How much money are you giving away there? I think we’re giving away about 80K plus plus taxes. But here’s the thing that happens, and I learned this from Costco because they have one of the best retention for line staff is that I said talking to the Costco senior staff and I said, well how do you get, you know, your turnover is like 18 20% your industry like 100% how do you do that? And I go, we have a bonus structure that we give every six months.
And so the guy gets his bonus and he’s, you know, it’s whatever, $5,000 and he’s like, yeah, I think I’m going to quit the company. And I was like, man, but you know, my visa, I could pay my visa if I stay five more months, you know, I could get the, I could get my other bonus and then then it gets this other button. This is like, well, you know, if I stay at five or six more months, I could get this bonus. And so, you know, now our people are thinking the same way. You know, our, our retention is the highest in our industry. Our industry’s got horrible retention. It’s like 300%. Our turnover is like 38, 40%. So it’s, it’s minuscule compared to our industry. So we have people thinking about, Oh, I’m going to stay longer. And every year you stay longer, you get another chance. So you know, our top people, their chances of winning the big, it was like one in 150. I mean it’s incredibly good odds, you know, compared to what a normal lotto is. Know I, I’ve got two final questions for you there cause you’re just making me too happy.
My head’s gonna explode. It’s too good, too good. So I have to bundled with baby laid on me. Um, you are having some success now. How did you start? Like what, what, where did you start where you were you a waiter? I mean I worked at Applebee’s direct TV and target simultaneously to kind of get my first business going. How did you start? Started like at the beginning of my life or where I started right when I started ages. When you start at ages, what did you do? Did you, did you hit your head on the toilet seat? You draw the flux capacitor, you hit up some homies for some money. How’d you get the money to start this big bet? Awesome operation.
I w I was executive vice president of a public company, um, and uh, was the largest senior housing company in the world at the time. And um, I gave it all up, gave my stock options up, gave my great salary up and found a partner who was in the construction business cause that was my weakness and you know, didn’t know how to develop or bill. And together we went out and we raised 22 point $5 million in 1997, 1998. Now that may sound like, wow, that was a pretty easy start. Let me tell you. Um, my salary was cut in half. Um, we burnt through all that money came in through tronches, I think it was 10, seven and a half and five. And we burned through it all to the point we couldn’t make payroll. And I had, my son had just been accepted to UCLA.
I had to use my son’s, uh, college fund to pay payroll and he didn’t get to go to his college twice as well, you know, in state tuition. Looks pretty good. Good. Are you Deb? And, uh, you know, I mean, we had some incredibly, and the first three years, some incredibly lean times because, you know, we’re, it’s a very capital intensive business. We had, uh, buildings that were being built and zero revenue coming in. So, um, it went to hire hundreds of people and it took us about three years to, to get the revenue to come into our offset, you know, the millions of dollars that we put in the ability to operate in these places. So that’s how we started. Um, about 10 years ago, I bought my partner out. Uh, um, you know, it’s, it’s family and friends that own the company now. And, uh, we give, you know, phenomenal returns on our investment. We got almost 300 uh, private investors. Who’s, if you combine their net worth, it’d probably be about $25 billion.
Wow. What now you’re, you’re doing well now, when did you graduate from high school? What year did you graduate graduate? 78 78 78. Okay. So what, what music were you feeling back then? What, what music were you feeling?
Well, I just had my 60th birthday party and ZZ top played at my birthday party. So that’s what I was feeling.
Really. So you’re kind of in more of more of a rock guy? Yeah, ACDC is easy. Taught those. Those were my bands. So right now, my man right now. So who, who’s your favorite band or artists right now?
Well, I a good friend of is Macklemore. Do you know Macklemore? The wrapper. Get outta here. Yeah. Is a good friend. We know. We were just in Italy with him together and he put on a concert and Luka and had us on stage with them. So, uh, he’s a good buddy.
Did you try to, you challenge him to a direct rap battle?
I wouldn’t worry. I would never do that. Just like I wouldn’t chart, you know, challenge to Michael Phelps to swim a hundred yards. So I had to meet
you ever attempted though? You ever have like itchy trigger finger? You’re like, I’m going to challenge this guy to a rap battle. You never had that.
Oh no, I know what I’m good at and I know what I’m horrible at. So not going to happen. Right.
Hey, why don’t you call it Macklemore and challenge him? Do a head to head, a luxury retirement living off. There you go. See what she can keep up with you there. If you want to know something funny. He uh, he,
I love cars. He loves cars. And so he called me up one day and said, Hey, I want to shoot my next video at your house. So he, there’s a video if you go online, he’s got a song called marmalade. Um, it was shot at my house and he used all my cars in the video. So all those cars you seen the video are mine.
Really. You get, give me one more fun fact like that. Cause you know a lot of fun people. [inaudible] you just blew the listeners’ minds right there at the end of the interview. Just give us one more hot take that only Dwayne Clark you can give us.
I think, you know, one of the things that comes with success is not only money, it’s experiences. And so I have lunch with bill and here Hillary Clinton and may. And I mean it was a lunch and there was only maybe 10 people there, the chairman of Amazon, Eddie Vetter and bill and Hillary, my wife and I, there was like maybe to a doctor, maybe, maybe 10 of us there. So for three hours a week I got to ask bill and Hillary anything I wanted. And I have a book coming out in September and labor day called 37 30 summers more. And it’s a, it’s gonna be sold on Amazon. And it’s, uh, it’s a book that I’ve written for the last five years with an MD about how to live a great long life. And so I was asking president Clinton because I had done a study called the president’s study and I’d found that presidents had lived many, many years beyond what they were expected to live given their birthday, some sub 2025 years longer.
Really? And it’s the end, it’s the most stressful job in the world. So you think, well God, stress was supposed to kill you. How did you live this long? So I knew the answer because I’d done the research, I knew the answer to the question that I, when I asked him and he says, well that’s easy. It’s purpose, you know, purposes what lets us, cause we do purpose not only when we’re president, we do purpose long after and it sweat gets us out of bed everyday. And that was the exact answer that I had found doing this research now and amazing statistic. And ironically I brought it up with him and he agreed wholeheartedly. I said, what do you think about vice presidents? He goes, well they don’t love us law. And I go, you know why right? He goes, I know why. And again, he validated research and why vice presidents don’t live this long is because they don’t get credit for their accomplishments. They’re always in the shadow. They, you know, the president gets all the glory. So vice presidents are living, you know, 15 years less than presidents.
Well, let me start a state. Let me say this, Dwayne Clark. Every time that I iced my first business, I started with a DJ company called DJ connection.com and every time I opened up a CD, I thought of tipper Gore because of the, the parental advisory sticker. And every time I turn on the internet I think of Alvin Gore’s. So he, the Al’s getting some love there. I know the other vice presidents, I don’t give him a whole lot of credit. I probably should, but at least Al Gore’s got some props from, from the thrive time show, from the third big Joe.
There you go. But I think, I think the message to your listeners is, you know, no matter how much money you have, no matter what you do, you got to have purpose all your life to the, to the day you stop breathing.
Okay. Well, Duane, I appreciate you for being on the show and, and I would encourage you to get Macklemore to do a wrap when bill Clinton’s playing saxophone, you could be playing the woodblock and Howard Schultz can be, you know, having that barista atmosphere that people need to jam out like that. You could make that happen. There we go.
That’s a, that’s a hell of a trio, I tell ya.
Unbelievable. Well, thank you so much for being on the show. You are a great American. I love your energy. I love what you’re doing, uh, to, to respect, uh, people who are retiring and elderly and, and making sure that people have a luxurious experience at the end of life. They don’t have to, you know, stay in some ridiculous, uh, home center that treats people like third graders when they’re adults who’ve contributed a lot. So thank you for all that you’re doing.
Absolutely. Absolutely. I love your show, so keep it up.
Hey, take care. Z. We like to end each and every show with a boom. But before we do that, can you give us one fun thing that happened on your recent vacation where you, where did you go again?
Well, I learned how to win surf. I went to Turks and Caicos. First time ever. Wind surfing, T H a T. put your shakier on. T U R K S and Keiko, CA ICLs Turks. It’s a, it’s an Island in the Caribbean, just kind of East of Cuba and North of, uh, South of, uh, Bahamas, South of The Bahamas. Oh. Just came up North and you learn to win. Sail went surf when surf. What does that mean? We have a surfboard and then it has attached to it a sail. And you stand on the board and then you, uh, you catch the wind and you, you propel yourself visa VI the wind while you’re surfing.
I have audio of you wind surfing. Yeah, I’d like to queue it up. Um, can I, is it okay if I do that? Yes. You’re with a select group of friends and you will have times when you travel, you say, I want to be with people I can trust. I don’t want to feel like I’m always being under surveillance. You know what I mean? As we live in a culture now where people feel like everyone’s recording, everybody camera’s everywhere. Privacy has been destroyed. And I said, what better way to welcome you into your 55th year on this planet than to get great audio of you without your permission and to play it on the shelf, I think is very appropriate. This could be you or Andrew might’ve given me the wrong file. I don’t know. Andrew [inaudible]. Andrew is always accurate. I might’ve grabbed the wrong file you might have. Okay, so this file says dr Z. And how do you spell it again? Turkson [inaudible] I can’t read it. I think.
Let me see here. This is so, it sounds like you’re, you’re already at flight at this point. The wind was blowing hard that day. A lot of, well, let me cute for it a little more. I think I got to the right spot here. It’s like, yeah, I mean it’s really going and then, Oh, you’re, you’re going up, you’re going up in the air. Is that what you’re doing? You’re watching the video. You’re going up in the air higher, so it was, I don’t know. That’s it. That’s a parasailing, so something must have gone wrong. Something must cause drastic. You’re supposed to stay in the water. Yeah. You have. Yes. The is looking at the video. Let me, let me see, like turn up the volume. This is dr ZB and Mike tier while he’s, what do you call this? Hit surface. Not supposed to go up in the air and then all of a sudden it looks like you got a wrong gusta wit the dam appears to be old or appears to be water. Has that been betting the water, aren’t you? Are you wedding? You’re the ocean. It’s unbelievable. It’s unbelievable. Wow.
That is an impressive a precedent when I heard there. Yeah, I got my, got a lesson and I went out and I did it. I, and it was pretty fun. I haven’t seen, if you haven’t went served, put it on your bucket list. It’s kinda cool. It was cool. Uh, this turns out to this just, and it turns out that audio was not of you. Oh, shocking. I’m shocked about that. Really. All right, my friend, you, it’s now time for us to end the show with the boom. Let’s do it. But before we do that, how do you, how do you even say it? Repeat after me. Turks, Turks and, and Kinko’s. Turks and kaikos. Yes. It sounds like a, a coupe of foreigners eating cake. Well, that’s it. That’s exactly what it is. That’s another crown. The Island. Oh goodness. I can’t stop. I love that sound effect. It just makes me want to hit all the sound effects. Now I just want to hit this button and then I want to hit this button and then I want to come back and get on the, wait till we get back in our man cave. But I have my own piece. I felt like I’m left out of the party right here. You, I’m sorry. Okay. Now with any further into three, two, one, boom.
I mean, from.