Disrupt—ComForCare CEO Pursues Multi-Brand Growth Strategy, Medicare Advantage Opportunities

It’s been nearly one year since Steve Greenbaum became CEO of ComForCare. In that time, he has zeroed in on differentiating ComForCare from competing home care franchise companies. As part of this effort, he is helping to build a platform of senior-focused franchise brands under ownership of private equity firm The Riverside Company.

Greenbaum is also eyeing Medicare Advantage (MA) opportunities, and ComForCare recently forged a partnership with Kindred at Home, which is partially owned by MA giant Humana (NYSE: HUM).

As he tackles these priorities and others — including technology initiatives and workforce challenges — Greenbaum taps into his entrepreneurial instincts. Previously, he was founder and CEO of printing and marketing services company PostNet, which grew to a 660-unit franchise system under his leadership.

Today, ComForCare encompasses nearly 200 independently owned and operated locations in the U.S. and Canada, and the goal is to double the size of the company within three to five years, Greenbaum said during his recent appearance on the Disrupt podcast from Home Health Care News.

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Below are some highlights of Greenbaum’s comments, edited for length and clarity:

Why did the ComForCare opportunity appeal to you, when you were thinking about taking the CEO position?

My initial reaction was, oh wow, this is an industry that I don’t know very well. I think what attracted me and why I’m here is, first of all, this company is owned by an organization called The Riverside Company, which is a private equity firm that is highly respected in franchising, highly respected in private equity. [It’s a] very values-driven, very entrepreneurial organization run by two entrepreneurial founders. So that was interesting to me. Some of my dear friends had done business with The Riverside Company for years, one of them being Dina Dwyer-Owens with The Dwyer Group, a very successful franchise organization developed with the support of the Riverside team.

The other thing that was appealing was the idea of working in an industry that really makes a difference. All my career, I’ve cared deeply about being part of a business that adds value, that gives back, that creates opportunity.

The third piece of it was Riverside’s vision was to build a multi-brand platform of companies servicing aging adults along the continuum of care. The idea of adding that kind of value throughout the point in time when someone enters the need for care and in later stages of their life, that whole idea of giving back … really was attractive to me.

You said 2018 would be a learning year for you … what have you learned?

My gosh, it’s like drinking through two fire hoses.

It was clear to me that this was a fairly complex business and industry, between the home care we provide and the private-duty nursing, and there are state-specific requirements, all sorts of needs to adhere to best practices and standards of care … in how we bring someone into our care and the development of the care plan, through the execution of that care plan.

I’ve learned, as I’ve operated among a number of competitors in the industry now, that differentiation is the key. It’s absolutely critical to help clients and caregivers understand what’s unique or different about us, and how that support of the continuum of care adds to the value proposition.

The other thing I would tell you is, I’ve been impacted and impressed by the franchisees. The quality of folks in this organization.

Is the goal still to double the size of the company within three to five years?

It absolutely is. In fact, subsequently we’ve acquired a brand called CarePatrol that’s in the placement services business. They have 150 franchisees. Our combined organization is around 350 … our goal was to acquire and develop an organization of seven to 10 brands. We continue to pursue opportunities, grow organically and I think it’s a very realistic goal.

You spoke about differentiation … I think one way ComForCare is starting to differentiate itself through building that family of brands. I think last time we spoke about it, you made the comparison with what The Dwyer Group did with all different types of home service businesses all under the same umbrella.

We will be very soon [announcing] a new name for the platform company that will service all of the brands … we’re excited about that. I had shared with you before that we’re working in the home care space, which we love, and now in the placement services space. We’re also looking at private duty and home health, we’re expanding our own private duty nursing program within ComForCare. We’re looking at businesses in the area of home repairs and modifications to allow people to safely age in their homes, we’re looking at hospice and palliative care businesses, and businesses that will functionally support seniors and aging adults at every stage and need in their lives.

Having a suite of services, with products and services for any need and every need [seniors] may have, that is the key differentiator. And having the technology to understand the customer or client profile and their needs, and know what to offer them, when and how, and making sure we’re not just selling services to people but adding value, making it easier for them, or more effective or meaningful for them, to live their lives. That we not only think is a differentiator, but we think will be a big value-add for our clients.

Building that platform of brands is one way to grow, but so are partnerships. One partnership that was recently announced is with Kindred at Home. What does that entail?

It’s a mutual referral base partnership. There are only three partners they’ve selected to work with, and at the end of the day, I think it demonstrates our commitment to provide a comprehensive approach to that transition of care that I think is critical to us. They’re one of many organizations that we’re looking to partner with. Again, so that we’re able to provide this very consistent — non-disruptive to the client — level of care.

Kindred at Home is partially owned by Humana, a big Medicare Advantage provider. With MA plans now being allowed to offer non-skilled in-home care, what do you make of the MA opportunity?

I think we’re like everybody right now … we’re paying attention, monitoring how we would pursue this and how it would be implemented in the organization. There are only a few [insurance] providers right now that I’m aware of that are offering home care as a supplemental benefit and that’s only in select areas. Like a lot folks, we’re in a wait-and-see situation, to basically see as other [insurance] providers come forward, if they’ll be offering more substantial plans during the October 2019 enrollment period … just wanting to make sure that we enter that opportunity at the right time in the right way when it becomes available.

You must feel good about how the partnership with Kindred at Home positions you with Humana as they are thinking about what they want do with this benefit?

That is 100% true, absolutely. A lot of us in the industry are laying groundwork to take real advantage of that opportunity and to provide a great value-added service to clients as it unfolds. Of course. We’re going to prepare for it. In the meantime, we’re offering a great solution for both organizations.

Listen to the complete episode of Disrupt with Steve Greenbaum:

Written by Tim Mullaney

Tim Mullaney on Email
Tim Mullaney
If he’s not in the newsroom, Tim likes to be on the tennis court or traveling to a new destination. Recent highlights include Sri Lanka and Iceland.

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