Under 40: H. Zachary Ottenstein, The Image Group
H. Zachary Ottenstein, 36
Director, Senior Living and Hospitality
The Image Group, Holland, Ohio
How he got his start: After [working in] television, I pivoted to finance. I worked as an investment analyst and then led marketing communications for an S&P 500 company that was involved in the senior living industry. We had a great relationship with The Image Group, and the company’s CEO, Jon Levine, and I had gotten to know each other personally. We both saw an opportunity to help our clients help others in new ways, and we believed in it.
His current role: I lead the Senior Living Division of The Image Group. Our team helps more than 1,000 senior living communities increase occupancy, reduce employee turnover and maximize operational efficiency. We do this by designing programs with promotional and print products that impact the key levers of our clients’ businesses. My primary responsibilities are coaching our team, developing our strategy and [establishing] new business development.
What he likes best about his job: The most rewarding part of my job is seeing our team grow and thrive. We are challenging new and experienced team members to think differently about their work. I am grateful for their efforts and the culture we’re building.
Age roadblocks and advantages: I’ve never thought about my age as an advantage or disadvantage. From an intellectual perspective, I try to remember that there are always new things to learn. From a physical perspective, I try to remind myself to eat well, sleep enough, drink water and exercise. I fail regularly.
His biggest career influence: Jon Levine and I are having so much fun building the business. My experience stems from working at a large-cap company. Jon has offered me invaluable perspective about managing successfully a privately held company with a long-term point of view.
His most meaningful business accomplishment: I’ve made a few career pivots: journalism to senior living finance and then to promotional products. It’s scary to change fields and make a bet on yourself. But I think you have to embrace risks. I’ve been fortunate. Both of my career jumps were great successes. But I’ve taken other risks and made business investments that didn’t work out, too. Learning to thrive amidst uncertainty has probably been my greatest challenge and most meaningful accomplishment. It didn’t come naturally.
His differentiating factor: We are transitioning our organization from the traditional vendor model to a brand experience company. We are teaching our people to be indispensably knowledgeable about our products and our clients. In a period of market consolidation, we believe companies must adopt a value-add model to push back against the changes that will make our products more of a commodity.
Why he believes the future is bright: I believe there will be winners and losers over the next five years. The winners will be the companies that aggressively invest in people and systems to become indispensable in a niche. The losers will be companies that do not accept the massive changes on the horizon. This will not be a cycle for the faint-hearted. For our part, we’re excited to make these investments and are well-positioned to welcome new partners to The Image Group family through organic growth and acquisition.
Final thoughts: I want to see the industry invest the time, energy and resources necessary to recruit top talent from diverse backgrounds. There’s a great deal of change coming. We aren’t competing only with the macro factors that are well-covered. We’re also competing with the things that we don’t know about today. And finally, we’re competing with anything interesting. Our clients will choose to work with us, because we have the ability to innovate. We need great thinkers and problem solvers with fresh perspectives. If we lack these skills, our clients will look elsewhere, and they may never look back.