Blue Bell, Pennsylvania-based Griswold Home Care is finding its stride after a key leadership addition to start the year. The large home care franchiser named Michael Slupecki CEO in February — and it’s been a journey ever since.
Slupecki, who previously served as CFO of the national specialty pharmacy BioMatrix before joining Griswold, had only been with the franchiser for five weeks before the public health emergency began. In addition to learning the ins and outs of his new company, Slupecki was immediately forced to confront a number of unprecedented challenges associated with personal protective equipment (PPE), staffing and more.
Griswold currently provides personal care services across 200 locations in 30 states. The franchiser also offers hospice care at some of its locations, plus an array of other services aimed at enabling aging in place.
Home Health Care News recently caught up with Slupecki to discuss COVID-19 and Griswold’s growth plan moving forward. During the interview, the CEO also touched on how home care operators need to have an “Amazon Prime” to caregiving recruitment.
Highlights from HHCN’s conversation with Slupecki are below, edited for length and clarity.
HHCN: You joined Griswold in February. What are some of the highlights and challenges since then?
Slupecki: Unfortunately, I was only with my team for five weeks before the COVID-19 virus came along. It took us through a bunch of stages, forcing us to deal with fear, uncertainty and doubt in the process.
Our original reaction was very focused on PPE. As an organization, we jumped in and just started sourcing it and doing buys on behalf of the entire network.
We were also constantly monitoring legislation developments. We started over-communicating on how all the legislative news would affect our business, just educating our franchisees. They have enough day-to-day stresses to worry about. We try to be the ears and the analyzers, so we can “spoon-feed” our franchisees the important highlights.
Those were really the main challenges, at least from that COVID-19 standpoint.
At the same time, I’m trying to get to know my team from afar. Everybody, I think, has learned a lot about how effective people can be even in a remote setting, which may change the whole office landscape forever.
Griswold’s Jean Griswold Foundation created the “Griswold Gives COVID-19 Emergency Relief Program,” which supports food programs for low-income seniors. How has that gone?
The Jean Griswold Foundation is great. It does so much good work.
A large part of the foundation’s donations come internally, from employees and franchisees. In most years, we would grant these funds to various organizations that support seniors. Our largest donation last year was to Meals on Wheels, for example.
The foundation is a completely separate company. I sit on the board. We’re going to change the direction of the foundation. We want to move it toward a public charity, where we can do different types of fundraising. The way our foundation is legally structured today, we have to provide grants to other not-for-profits. We want to move it to support caregiver advancement. We want to create things like scholarship funds to give folks. We want to give individuals the ability to pursue becoming a CNA or an RN.
Over the years, social determinants of health have moved to the forefront of the health care conversation. Does your recent work with the foundation take that into account?
We could talk for hours on that topic. Nutrition is huge. There’s a huge connection between nutrition and health.
Christina Sommerfield was recently hired as Griswold’s vice president of company-owned offices. You’ve called these company-owned offices “test kitchens.” Can you talk about some of the things you are testing?
What we want to do with the company-owned operations is to demonstrate success. I can tell a franchisee all I want, but they’re not going to listen to me about a new program or initiative if I can’t show them how it works. That’s what we mean by the test kitchen.
Griswold Home Care recently ranked No. 353 in Entrepreneur Magazine’s Franchise 500. How many new franchise locations is the company hoping to open by the end of this year?
We’ve sold five franchises this year, and we are expecting to see three more. If you would have asked me what success looks like the day I came on board as CEO I would’ve wanted to do more. I think sitting here today, having gone through what we went through, I’m pleased. I would say our annual goal for 2021 and beyond is adding15 to 20 new locations per year.
I don’t want to add so many new locations that we can’t do home care well, but we definitely have a lot of space to develop. Apart from Christina, we also have another new leadership hire coming on board soon. Part of his role, I envision, is to help sell new territories and them up and running successfully as quickly as possible.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a mixed bag when it comes to staffing. What is Griswold doing to recruit and retain workers?
There’s no magic formula, right? It’s the execution.
We have to make the job easier. We are in an Amazon Prime society, where we can push three buttons and something shows up at our door the next day. Our recruitment and onboarding process, while it may be electronic, it looks just like it did on paper before. How do we make it easier for new hires?
They didn’t come to our website and apply for a job to get hired six weeks from now. They want a job tomorrow, just like you want that package tomorrow. We’re hyper-focused on condensing the time frame, condensing the number of touches and making us the easiest employer to join.