His name was James P Drevets. He was the first Chief Financial Officer of Covenant Retirement Communities and my predecessor, mentor, colleague, and trusted friend.

I was the first employee of a central office established by Covenant leadership to serve a loose confederation of retirement communities around the country. I had been splitting my time at Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago as the hospital’s budget manager and running point on accounting and other services provided by the hospital’s finance department for the retirement communities.

At that time, there were no formal national policies and procedures for the retirement communities.  There was no national system for processing financial statements or evaluating results. There was no cash management system. There were no computers. There was no overall budget preparation process and review. The list could go on and on but you get the picture.

I’ll never forget the day I heard that a Chief Financial Officer had been hired. He had been working in the steel industry and was coming from a company that was going through bankruptcy. I had no idea how much he knew about senior living and my overall knowledge of this sector (although rapidly growing) still had a long ways to go. 

How do you prepare for the new CFO’s first day when there was so much to do and so many items needing attention even after months of central office forward movement that felt like “baby steps?” I was convinced there would be numerous finance-related questions that I simply would not be able to answer.

I’ll never forget the first time we met. Jim had two questions for me.

“What is the mission statement of Covenant Retirement Communities?”

His question caught me totally off guard. Our days had been absorbed in attempting to meet a string of crises – how to pay bills, putting initial systems and processes in place, analyzing day to day cash flow and trying to determine where we were at and where we were headed. The idea of needing, not to mention taking time for a mission statement – to be perfectly honest – had never entered my mind.

“We don’t have a mission statement,” I answered sheepishly.  I didn’t do any better with his second question.

“How many residents do we serve?” he asked. I had no idea.

Soon after and as a high priority, leadership began a diligent focus on the development of a mission statement. This initial mission statement woven into the DNA of Covenant Retirement Communities combined with knowing the number of residents being served made a profound 24/7 difference in the lives of thousands of people.  Very grateful and thankful to God for two simple never to be forgotten life changing questions.