Twenty years ago Penny Smith started her career in senior living by moving across the country – from California to Florida – to accept the job as Executive Director of Classic Residence by Hyatt at Boca Raton.
Since that first job at Classic Residence, Smith has stayed committed to working within the Vi family of communities. She would stay at Boca Raton for 10 years, followed by another 10 year stint at Vi at Lakeside Village, in Lantana, Florida. She left both communities full of happy residents and employees.
Ready for her next challenge, Smith decided to apply for the role as Executive Director across the state at Vi at Bentley Village in Naples, Florida. She knew the task ahead would be a difficult one. While Vi at Lakeside Village has a community of 250 residents, Vi at Bentley Village boasts 500+ residents across a sprawling 156-acre campus. Nonetheless, Smith felt her previous roles prepared her for the task at hand.
“This work is either in your DNA, or it’s not. And if it’s in you, nothing is too hard,” Smith said.
Caring For Residents & Employees
According to Judy Whitcomb, Vi’s Senior Vice President of HR and Learning and Organizational Development, Smith has succeeded in her work at Vi because she represents the ideal employee.
“She really embodies our core values of integrity, compassion, and excellence,” Whitcomb said. “She leads with passion and conviction, and she’s a great advocate for residents and her employees.”
Whitcomb says that the size of the Vi at Bentley Village community, combined with its $80 million redevelopment currently under way, makes it an especially interesting challenge for the incoming Executive Director. The community requires a lot of all its leaders, she said, especially in the top position.
“Penny has built strong relationships with our residents and employees at Vi at Lakeside Village, and I know that’s going to carry over in her new role,” Whitcomb said.
Facing A New Challenge
Smith knows employees in particular will have a lot of questions about her as she assumes her new role in Naples, but she’s prepared to take on the challenge.
“Sometimes staff can be a little scared when someone new comes in,” Smith said. “But my goal is this: There are 440 employees there, and I want them all to think this is the best job they’ve ever had.”
Cary Maslow, Vi’s Corporate Vice President of Operations, said he was surprised to discover that Smith was prepared to take on a move to another community — and that many professionals would be content to rest on their laurels after long-term, on-the-job success.
“She’s leaving a place where she’s been successful for 10 years, where she’s comfortable with her staff and the residents,” Maslow said. “At Vi at Bentley Village, she will have to win over a very competent management team, and a resident population who’s used to a very high level of service.”
But according to Maslow, Smith is prepared to tackle the challenge ahead of her and shows no apprehension for her new role. “She’s just determined. That’s probably why she’s as successful as she is,” he said.
For Smith, the decision to move to Naples was an easy one, and an opportunity to take on a new set of responsibilities at a community much larger than any in her previous roles.
“I just want to make a difference, and I want to solve problems,” she said. “I’m always looking to make things better and to leave things better than I found them.”