As Seen in Authority Magazine
As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need to Be a Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Patricia Will, founder and CEO of Belmont Village Senior Living.
Patricia Will is the founder and CEO of Belmont Village Senior Living. As a model female CEO, mother, grandmother, and business professional, she is recognized as a true pioneer and innovator in the senior living space. In 1998, the first Belmont Village community was opened in Houston’s West University neighborhood under her tutelage as a budding leader in the seniors housing arena. Today, her company has built, owns, and operates 31 communities in the United States and Mexico, with more on the horizon.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I was born and raised in New York City and attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where I majored in French and Spanish. After a brief stint in my parent’s tourism & travel business based in Houston, I returned to the Northeast to get an MBA from the Harvard Business School, which I graduated from with High Distinction. Between my first and second year at Harvard, I interned for an amazing real estate developer and true titan in the world of finance, Walter Mischer Sr. I eventually joined his firm full time and became a commercial real estate developer with a focus on healthcare. A bit later, his son, Walter Mischer Jr., and I teamed up and founded a medical development company which also invested in health and wellness platforms. It was during this time that my mother-in-law, Josephine, developed early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. While juggling a career and motherhood, I had also found myself becoming a caregiver for someone who was in need of specialized care. I began to do my research and look into options for those who had cognitive disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s. Looking back, care options were so limited — not only for aging individuals with cognitive disorders, but also the wider spectrum of frail elderly seniors.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
It wasn’t funny at the time, but here goes. In order to build the first Belmont Village, I agreed to mortgage 100% of the building for $15,000,000 in 1997. On the eve of the grand opening, I walked all 100,000 feet of the building and was sobbing by the time I exited to the parking lot. Seeing all 154 apartments empty, I realized that I would be broke and bankrupt if no one came to live there. I went back into the building to help staff unpack the kitchen with my poker face on. Happily, it all worked out. But since then, I have never levered a project to more than 60%!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
In my case there are two, both now deceased. The first was my mom. As a careerist and entrepreneur before her time, she taught me that I could be anything I wanted to be. As a girl growing up in the sixties, this was liberating, and it inspired me to think big. The second major influence was my first boss and mentor after business school, Walter Mischer Sr. While I came to work for him fresh out of Harvard, he had never finished high school. You could say he was “old-school,” and judged merit based on one’s ability to achieve success through picking themselves up by their bootstraps, so to speak. This juxtaposition constantly created a tension between being book-smart and being capable, between the value of financial algorithms and back-of-the envelope calculations, between knowing when to stand up and when to back down. Even today, I consider these the most valuable lessons I put to use as a leader.
Click here to read the complete article in Authority Magazine.