Dwayne J. Clark founded Aegis Living to offer breakthrough design, disruptive operational concepts and transformative living experiences that bring joy, comfort, and meaning to the lives of seniors. With more than 30 years in the senior housing arena, he is an established leader nationally known for his creativity, innovation, and independent thinking in the development and management of standard setting senior living communities. Under his leadership, Aegis has grown to more than 30 locations in the Western U.S., employs more than 3,000 staff members, and to date has served more than 60,000 residents.
In his capacity as CEO, Clark is a sought-after speaker and guest of the media, appearing regularly in print and broadcast with The New York Times, Today, Inc., Forbes, The Hollywood Reporter, and NBC. His many personal awards and recognitions include the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and Lifetime Achievement Award from Senior Services.
Clark has a strong belief in active philanthropy, the importance of building community and creating an opportunity for others. Clark and his company Aegis Living contribute to more than 70 local and global charities, with Clark founding the following:
- The Potato Soup Foundation
- Seattle Seniors Strong
- The D1 Foundation
- The Queen Bee Café
- The March for Civility
Dwayne lives in Seattle with his wife, Terese, who shares his commitment to active philanthropy.
Hanh: [00:05:25] how did this influence the senior living communities that you create?
Dwayne: [00:05:29] My mother eventually developed Alzheimer’s and, uh, she eventually became a resident of ages living. And she was with us for about seven years in our communities. It wasn’t only the founder and CEO of this company. All of a sudden became a customer. And that influenced me greatly because I saw what activities she liked, what she responded to, what kind of foods she liked to eat.[00:05:52] And even as she, as the dementia progressed, you would see that her taste and stuff would evolve. [00:06:00] And so I became very sensitive to our customers because of that. She moved in 2004. She passed away in ages since 2010. And so, it was it revolutionized, I think the way we perform care, but more than that, the sensitivity we had towards our residents.
Hanh: [00:08:18] So how does your upbringing influence your work outside of the senior living sector? Like your philanthropy work?
Dwayne: [00:08:25] We in a variety of ways. We have a Clark family. We have a potato soup foundation, right? Chain of cafes called the queen bee cafes that were dedicated to my mom.[00:09:12] we talked about the values of our family. We talk about the stories of our family. We talk about the mistakes of our family. We talked about the lessons we’ve learned and in know we want this to be a. Passed on for generations and that’s, that’s the impact. I think it started with my mom and I feel like I’m the steward of this legacy. [00:09:34] And it carries on to not only my children, but my grandchildren and probably a decade or so, maybe my great grandchildren.
Hanh: [00:09:48] Why did you choose to devote so much of your time in helping the aging population?
Dwayne: [00:09:53] I think my grandmother had a great impact on me.[00:09:56] She lived with us from the time I was probably five and when my [00:10:00] grandmother come, came to live with us, she was, first of all, she had 13 children. She was quite an experienced mother. Her husband died early. My grandfather, he was in his fifties. And so she found herself in the thirties and forties running on a restaurant and a bar. [00:10:16] And. Being quite an entrepreneur. And so that was not commonplace for a woman in the thirties and forties to be owner of a bar and a nightclub and a restaurant. And so she, she motivated me a lot and yet she broke her hip when she had to go into a nursing home assisted living. This was in the sixties, sixties, early seventies, assisted living. [00:12:48] You can build the best buildings. You can have the best sites. You have the best interior design. You can have the best. Talent. But if your line staff who’s touching that person every day, if they’re not effective, [00:13:00] you’re, you’ve completed 99% of the job, but the 1% that’s the most important you fail that. [00:13:06] So that is quintessential. So we try to honor our employees in a variety of ways. We have a, we have our own lottery that everyone who’s worked over a year can participate in. That Ethan went up to $75,000 and we wanted it to be life changing money because that’s what we, someone could buy a condo or a car or go to school or whatever.
Hanh: [00:14:52] How are you able to develop these leadership skills in your own career?
Dwayne:[00:14:56] I think the first thing leaders should think about, if you’re becoming a [00:15:00] leader who have been the best leaders in your lifetime, and then what kind of skills would they possess that brought you closer to them? I was just telling a story here about an hour ago to some people about the greatest leader that I ever met was in a position young in my career.[00:16:50] And just think about it. I think about your own personal life. If all of a sudden you had to get up in front of, you know, a hundred people and tell them something that you’re not proud of, or a mistake or a [00:17:00] personal issue or something that happened between you and your spouse, or, you know, whatever. And you’re going to be really nervous about it, right? [00:17:08] And people say, why would you do that? We do it because, because we’re meeting human beings and what human beings were waiting to see humans. Cause it’s, you have to have a connection. You have to bond with the people you lead. And if you look at the great leaders of our country, it’s people like, Oh God, that’s, I’m not going to get into politics here. [00:17:26] But whoever you think your great leader is, you fall in love with that person because you say, Oh, they espouse the values and the qualities that I resonate. And when you can’t stand leaders, it’s for the opposite, that reason, because they espouse qualities
Hanh: [00:18:34] So in your opinion, what is the role of leaders in terms of setting goals and future paths with their organization?
Dwayne: [00:18:41] I think people of all kinds inherently want to be led. Right? I mean, just think about it. You go to the restaurant and maître D meets you. He leads you to your table. Yeah. Go to Disneyland.[00:19:10] Here’s the course. Here’s the short-term goals or long-term goals. Here’s the plan of action. Here’s the steps we need to get there. Here’s the weaknesses that we’re going to have to shore up to make this happen. Those are all responsibilities of leaders. And then, you know, to take baby steps towards those milestones. [00:19:26] Because you don’t, you, you don’t go from the bottom brung on the ladder to the 25th rung on the ladder. That’s a leader’s job is to chart the course to give focus, to define the rungs of the ladder that are both. Achievable and measurable and that’s basically it.
Hanh: [00:19:43] So have you thought about aging in your own life and how is your aging process.
Dwayne: [00:19:48] that differs every day?[00:19:49] To be honest with you, I’ve thought a lot about aging. You may know. I wrote a book called 30 summers more. I spent five years researching. It [00:20:00] got released in October quickly. He became a bestseller on Amazon received many bests of many categories like in health and fitness and longevity and aging. And so, on exercise. [00:20:13] But I think the challenge with aging is first of all, we go into denial. The fact that we don’t really believe it, but it’s happening, but it’s happening the second on this, you know, the last 20 minutes with you, I’ve aged. And so. You have to look at the basic biology of what happens to you as you age. And the basic biology is life and death surround one thing, the human body, the growth, yeah.
Hanh: [00:22:17] with regard to your aging, have you given any thought on how, how you want to age, as far as your own senior living, you’re going to be a resident in your own communities.[00:22:28] How do you want to live? I mean, is that going to change anything different than what you are constructing an operating the senior living right now?
Dwayne: [00:22:36] The first thing I would tell you is I construct and develop and create and design every senior housing. The building that I build and operate as though I’m going to live there.[00:23:32] Genetics only affects about 23% of your longevity. It’s the fact that you are engaged and have purpose. And every day you get out of the out of bed in the morning and thinking you’re going to do more than go golfing or fishing. And that’s the mistake that a lot of Americans make. They retire at 62 65, and then they say, Oh, I’m just going to golf the rest of my life. [00:23:52] That’s not purpose. And so, you have to have some meaningful activity. That’s both goes beyond you, spreads [00:24:00] beyond you and is measurable. And if you do that, you know, that’s 90% of the battle.
Hanh: [00:24:05] I appreciate your time to share with the listeners and inspire so many people.[00:24:09] I share a lot of your sentiments. So, thank you again.
Dwayne: [00:24:12] My pleasure, have a good day.
Dwayne’s LinkedIn Page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dwaynejclark/