Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal and business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Isabelle Guarino, COO of Residential Assisted Living Academy, LLC, located in Phoenix, AZ, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Our business is Residential Assisted Living Academy, the #1 National educator on the senior housing topic from a residential investing perspective! Our customers are incredible entrepreneurs, medical professionals, and small business owners from across the country who are looking for a solution to the silver tsunami crisis looming ahead!

Tell us about yourself

My name is Isabelle Guarino, and I am the COO of Residential Assisted Living Academy. I got started in this industry alongside my father. My grandmother needed assisted living care, and we had to find a solution. We searched and searched and were disgusted by the available options. They were expensive, with terrible care, and on top of that, they even smelled horrible! We vowed to find another option for my beloved grandmother. My father stumbled into Residential Assisted Living and realized very quickly, "wait, I'm going to be paying $5,000 a month for my mom to live here.... or I could own and operate the Real Estate and the business, she could live for free, and I could cash flow $15,000 on this one home...." so he purchased RAL right then and there, with the intent to house my grandmother.

When I was able to see what my father was doing and how his work was really helping the families of our community, I was inspired and wanted to help however I could. I became his assistant and worked my way through our company, building out every department from Marketing to Sales to Operations and Finance and eventually hiring over 30 people. While continuing to delegate and elevate, I was named COO. In 2021, my father, Gene Guarino, the "Godfather of Assisted Living," passed away. I have since carried the torch, leading our company to great success and living out his legacy. I am honored to do what I do every single day. Providing solutions to families who so desperately need alternative options for senior care, providing our students an opportunity to cash flow while making an impact by 'doing good and doing well', and sharing my heart and passion for senior housing with the world.

Do you have daily rituals for work / wellness / fitness / mindfulness?

My rituals have a lot to do with prioritization. I start each month by laying out the entire month's schedule with daily tasks to prepare for upcoming events or projects. Then, each week on Wednesday, I go through and refine the schedule, making sure everything is correct for the following week, and add any daily tasks that need to be done. Each morning, I review the list, go over it one by one, and knock things off. This is ritualistic to me because I do it every month, week, and day, and it keeps me on task and focused. When people ask how I can run eight businesses, host two podcasts, travel the country, and have a home life, this is the one and only way - staying hyper-scheduled and organized, and this ritual keeps it at the forefront of my mind.

When it comes to fitness, my main ritual involves music; on the way to my workout, I have to listen to my pump-up playlist and get myself in the spirit of giving it my all; during my workout, I try to stay off my phone - no emailing, texting or calling people and this can be a challenge when it's during the middle of the day, but it's important to give my body AND my mind full attention during this time. If I don't stay mindful, the entire practice can seem like it wasn't worth it, so focus and attention are a must. The pre-workout music sets the tone, and then I'm set for an amazing lift or cardio session! Rituals are practices that, when done enough over and over again, bring you right back to a place of control and peace, and that works well for a busy business owner, so no matter what you're doing in life, it can be important to bring some attention to the ritual you want to set in place around it.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

My biggest accomplishment as a business owner would be employee retention. In a world full of high turnover, the "great resignation," and team members who are constantly unsatisfied, I am so proud to say we have had some of our team members with us for over six years! Many on our team have turned to family over the years. We hang out outside of work, we celebrate life's ups and downs, and we are there for each other. To me, that's a beautiful thing, and it can't be bought.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

One of the hardest things that come with being a business owner is criticism from people who don't even take the chance to get to know what you're actually doing. Senior housing can be a touchy subject. Many people are triggered when it comes to caring for seniors. But I know for 100% fact that we are doing the best job possible in the industry to provide top-quality care. I stand by that! So when we get attacked online by a cyberbully, or there are people who try to take away the good work we are doing by speaking falsehoods regarding it, it can be difficult. I take pride in being a business owner. Our business is my baby! So I am protective of it and its reputation, especially since I know that at its core, it's all about making an impact and doing good and doing well.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

The top 3 tips I'd give to someone looking to start a business today would be:

  1. Stay focused, narrow down on your idea, who your clients are and who you want to serve, what problem you are solving, what makes you unique, and really find your strong suit and niche down. Focus is key!
  2. Set measurable goals. They cannot be pie in the sky. Most people underestimate what they can do in 5 years but overestimate what they can do in 1 year, make sure your goals are doable!
  3. Give it your all. New businesses take a lot of time, energy, and effort. This will probably be a season of no for all other categories in your life. Understand that and accept it and put your head down and push as hard as you possibly can to make this happen. It is your time!

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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