Right at Home CEO: If You’re Not Bringing Data, You Just Have An Opinion

Reinvention is no easy feat — especially for a company that’s been around as long as Right at Home.

In the past few years, the Omaha, Nebraska-based franchise company has gone to great lengths to position itself as a data-driven organization. Just last year, for example, the company began strategically adding corporate-owned “testing sites” to its overall portfolio.

And while data continues to be a buzzword in all sectors, Right at Home CEO and President Brian Petranick is determined to make it far more than that.

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HHCN recently caught up with Petranick to discuss key additions the company has made to its leadership team, Right at Home’s growth plans and why the CEO believes data is a “must have” moving forward. You can find highlights from our conversation below, edited for length and clarity.

HHCN: At the start of the year, we reported that Right at Home planned to move its headquarters to a new building in Omaha’s Aksarben Village. Can you talk about this move and what it means for your company?

Petranick: One of the key backdrop elements to the story is that we outgrew our previous space. We had been there for 10 years, but started growing rapidly after about five or six years. We ended up having to take on some new space — actually, two new spaces. Our team was separated by a parking lot for the last four years.

For us, this move represents several different things. No. 1, our team is back together. Having everybody in the same location is great for the culture and collaboration. We’re really excited to have everybody back together, where we can rally around our system and our growth.

And Aksarben Village is a very vibrant area in Omaha. We wanted our space to match that feel. [Our office] is a very vibrant space — open, bright, lot’s of windows. We brought in technology, touchdown stations and booths — all kinds of cool concepts. [We wanted] to make this attractive for different generational groups and maximize technology for remote employees. It’s just a great environment all the way around.

Can you recap the 2019 that Right at Home had, including highlights and challenges?

It was another strong year of growth for us. We are really close to double-digit growth again. From a system-wide revenue standpoint, that is almost 20 years of consistent double-digit growth, which is fantastic. We added new locations through franchising and our corporate-owned strategy. We added some key members to our team to help position us to grow. We’re doing a lot with our data strategy, including building a data and analytics team.

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2019 was a particularly strong year for our international growth. A lot of growth in Australia, the U.K., Canada, and some of our other markets. So not only revenue growth, but also new location growth.

[As far as challenges], there was a lot going on. I think anybody feels that pressure right now in this space. Individually as an organization, we had new people coming in, we were scaling growth and moving to this new office. There was just a lot on our plate. The industry is becoming more and more complex. There are challenges with caregiver recruitment and access to caregivers. It’s just about making sure that we’re aligning ourselves and bringing resources to bear on some of the challenges we’re feeling both industry-wide and inside the organization.

As you mentioned, Right at Home has beefed up its leadership team in the past year or so. Who are some of the new Right at Home leaders you brought in?

We’ve added Carrie Coumbs. She’s very well-connected in the health care industry. Her focus area is expanding our reach within the broader health care industry and connecting Right at Home with important industry leaders, be it home health or other post-acute care providers.

We brought in Kevin Porter, who has a really strong background in home care, as well as other health care channels. He is working on our franchise performance team.

We brought in a new chief marketing officer, Dawn Drazdys, toward the last third of the year. She has a really extensive background in marketing and e-commerce. We’re bringing her in to help us manage our entire global brand.

There are several other people we’ve brought in as well: people on our data team and franchise performance team. I think the term “beefing up” our leadership team is a great way to put it.

Why was it important to kind of evolve your leadership team at this point in time?

I’ll say it this way: I’ve been in this organization for 20 years. Personally, over those 20 years, I’ve had to reinvent myself as an executive multiple times. As an organization, we’ve had to reinvent ourselves. Adding to your leadership team is one element of reinventing yourself. It brings in new talent and an outside perspective. If you never bring new talent, ideas get stale and groupthink sets in. Bringing in new talent fuses different ideas and fuses people to challenge the status quo.

HHCN also reported on Right at Home strategically adding corporate-owned locations. How’s that going?

The expansion of corporate locations was obviously relatively new for us in 2019, so, to some degree, we’re still focusing on getting those sites operationally efficient and profitable.

Having said that, we have learned a lot in this process. One of the things we’ve learned is how important it is to have great branch leadership in place, and how we need to continue to grow our branch directors and our branch leadership. It’s also allowing us also to understand the model on a different level than when you operate franchises. In a franchise system, there is still a little bit of arm’s length. Franchise owners do have the ability to kind of adopt whatever best practices they want, what works in their market.

Operating these [corporate-owned] locations has given us an idea of what things are working, where we can find efficiencies with software systems, where we are ultimately achieving slowdowns or challenges. Operating these offices will make us a better franchiser– and being a good franchiser will help us run our [corporate-owned] locations better. The models should support each other.

As far as testing goes, we’ve done a little bit of testing in those markets, and I expect to see a lot more in 2020. There will be opportunities for us to test Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, different software programs, and different ways to engage our clients and caregivers.

Have you learned anything at these locations that you plan to implement more broadly?

One of the things we’re working on at these locations is the specific types of data we want to collect. Specifically, data on our clients and their care profile.

We’re approaching data in these offices different than we’re doing in the franchise locations. And so that is something that I expect to see some really interesting information coming from. Because we are operating these locations, we can access the data in a little bit of a different way than we can with franchise locations. We’re putting a lot of focus on our data strategy within these offices.

When we asked about your 2020 predictions last month, you called data a “must-have.” Can you expand on your views?

Everybody’s talking about data. It’s pretty hard right now to open up a newspaper or watch the news and not hear organizations talk about the importance of data. We’re in the “Big Data” age, the AI age, the machine-learning age. Everybody recognizes how important data is for running a business and for our health care system, broadly. It’s not something that’s just nice to have or something we should shoot for at some point — at this stage, it’s a cost of doing business.

Now, there are challenges. As we come into the age of big data, that means there’s going to be lots and lots of information. So how exactly do you process that? How do you sort through that data to make sure that it’s meaningful? How do you make sure you’re not creating so much data that you don’t even know what to do with it?

Over the last two years, we have added several software platforms. We have built our own data lake, so to speak. We’re also partnering with some other companies. We brought in several technology people within the organization, as well as working with some high-end consulting groups to make sure we’re collecting the right data.

We are very focused on becoming a data-driven organization. I’ve used this W. Edwards Deming quote a lot internally: “In God we trust; all others must bring data.” If you’re not bringing data, then you just have an opinion. Let’s make sure that we’re making all the decisions, at all levels, based off of data.

Let’s talk about future growth plans. What area will be Right at Home’s main point of focus in 2020?

I think for this year, we’re going to continue to see a lot of focus toward growth both domestically and internationally. That’s always going to be something that’s important. So we not only want location growth, we want growth within each location. If we’re not growing our businesses, ultimately we are dying a slow death.

This year, between our own expansion with corporate locations and franchising we’re looking to add around 20 to 30 locations. Some of that is a little out of our control from franchising. Internationally, I think we’re looking at a similar number.

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