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More often than ever, professionals from other sectors are changing course, entering the home care industry and jump starting their careers by becoming franchisees.
This new class of home care franchise owners brings with them backgrounds in law, hospitality, public relations and other areas.
Since moving into the home care sector, many have been able to use their previous experience to their advantage. Others are mission driven — home care has afforded them the opportunity to find deeper meaning in their work.
Home Health Care News caught up with a handful of these individuals to find out more about the challenges they are facing, the new perspective they bring to the industry and their growth goals.
This is the first of a two-part series. Check back next week for more features on the newest faces of home-based care.
David and Monica Conroy, Synergy Homecare
For many, purchasing a home care franchise is their second act.
But David Conroy’s career background closely resembles a four-act structure than a two-act play. He began his career as an accountant, and then eventually became the chief financial officer for the University Club, a private social club in Washington, D.C. After this, he served as the club’s general manager for 14 years.
“It’s an incredible experience being a manager of a private club, because it’s hospitality on steroids,” David told HHCN. “Unlike a restaurant or hotel, our members pay a lot of money to belong, so they have incredibly high expectations. Within the club, I really ran a number of different business units. We had a hotel, we had restaurants, we had a bar, we had athletics and we had a spa.”
Now, David owns a Synergy Homecare location in Lake Ridge, Virginia. He runs the business with his co-owner — and spouse — Monica Conroy, who also comes to home care with a unique background.
“I have a degree in journalism and a minor in English, and my professional background has been a little varied, always communications related,” Monica said. “I did some PR. I did some nonprofit marketing and internal communications. Then I worked for the Rotary Club in Washington.”
Monica’s skills opened the door for her to take the lead with the sales and marketing efforts at the couple’s Synergy franchise.
David’s heightened hospitality background came in handy in many ways too.
“It taught me an awful lot about running a business generally, about concepts of marketing and budgeting and how to get the best out of staff,” David said.
Ultimately, both hospitality and public relations are people businesses, similar to home care. It “perfectly marries” both of their current and past experiences.
There were a series of life changes, including David experiencing a minor heart attack four years ago, that led the couple to home care.
“It made us look at our life, what we were doing and what we wanted to do,” Monica said. “That’s the backstory, with a lot of steps in between, and how we ended up with a Synergy franchise.”
Monica and David have been running Synergy Homecare Lake Ridge for slightly over a year.
Running Synergy allowed David to hold on to his two favorite parts of being a general manager.
“I realized that what gave me true joy was the two groups of people I took care of every day — my members and my staff,” he said. “Anything that I ever did that made their day better was what truly made me happy.”
Still, challenges have popped up along the way.
“One of the surprising things to us is how slowly those first clients would come,” David said. “We grew really quickly in March. We reached over 600 hours in a week in March, then you lose a few clients. It’s almost like a roller coaster in this business, but a roller coaster that’s slowly inching its way uphill.”
Monica and David are aiming to reach 1,000 hours by the end of year.
“I have no upper limit to where we want to grow,” David said. “I think if we do this job well and we establish ourselves in the community, then we will just continue to grow.”
Ben Chernow, Seniors Helping Seniors
Prior to becoming the owner of three Seniors Helping Seniors territories in the Maryland suburbs, Ben Chernow was a practicing attorney for four years. During this time, he specialized in commercial litigation.
“Which means that I helped companies sue each other,” Chernow said. “I really did not enjoy it very much.”
Indeed, Chernow quit at the beginning of 2022 and began looking for his next move career-wise.
“I did not have a plan in place for what I was going to do next,” he said. “I was just trying to figure stuff out, and then I came across Seniors Helping Seniors and just immediately fell in love with the business.”
One of the things that sparked Chernow’s love for the home care industry was its ability to help people and the prospect of making a difference in the lives of seniors and their families.
In terms of career advancement, Chernow believes that owning and operating a franchise will allow him to gain financial independence and self-sufficiency.
Chernow is still at the start of his home care franchise journey. The ink is still drying on his franchise agreement, which he signed in April, and he began making new hires in June. In July, his Seniors Helping Seniors location began to bring on clients.
So far, there have been a lot of learning curves that have come with entering a new sector.
“Hiring people is just a skillset that I’ve never had before, or used before,” Chernow said. “As an attorney, I did have to question people, but it was a very different type of questioning with a very different goal that is not similar at all to job interviews.”
Plus, as a former litigator, Chernow was used to the idea of having a clear cut outcome in the courtroom.
“You file something with the judge, and the judge picks a winner and a loser and you move on,” he said. “Here, there’s no clear cut winner, there’s no clear cut loser. There’s no clear cut fight that you’re having with anybody else. You’re building your business and following your own path that you set out on.”
However, his legal background has been a strength. Chernow has found that having strong communication skills and the ability to build trust with clients is important in both law and home care.
Being an attorney also made it easier to work under the industry’s regulations.
“I am abnormally comfortable navigating regulations, and creating policies and procedures that comply, while also allowing for operational flexibility going forward in order to adapt as things change,” Chernow said.
Chernow is still new to the home care block, so for now his goals are to just cement his reputation in the communities he serves.
“I just want to become a trusted resource within the community for the aging process, and be someone people turn to when they are struggling with this process or need help,” he said.
Tyler Tuggle, Home Instead
When looking to enter the home care industry, Tyler Tuggle didn’t always expect to own a home care franchise business.
“I did look at acquiring an independent agency, and I would have been open to it had I found the right fit,” Tuggle said.
Tuggle has been the owner of Home Instead Towson in Maryland for three years, but before that, he was a business strategist at the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company.
He is also an army veteran, and during his time at McKinsey, his focus was the aerospace and defense sector.
“At McKinsey, if you can imagine, our product was the presentation or the idea, but we didn’t do any implementation,” Tuggle said. “I just didn’t find that as fulfilling as some of my previous roles where I was more on the ground, making stuff happen, implementing ideas and carrying out strategies. I enjoyed that.”
Tuggle was looking to become a small business owner and landed on home care, in particular, after having to research care services for his own parents.
Through his research, he discovered the business opportunity in senior care.
“It’s a very solid business, especially given that the baby boomers are aging,” Tuggle said. “I really just honed in on the home care industry.”
Plus, like many others entering home care for the first time, Tuggle wanted to make an impact with his work.
“They do a lot of good stuff at McKinsey, but [they’re] primarily focused on helping companies and organizations make more money in general,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that the industry I ended up in was doing good, and making a difference in individuals’ lives.”
Home Instead caught his eye because of their work with Veteran Affairs. He stressed that giving back to the veteran community was something he is passionate about.
As someone who entered home care in 2019, COVID-19 has been Tuggle’s biggest challenge, but it wasn’t the only one.
“One of the things that I definitely underestimated coming in was just the amount of time, energy and planning it takes to really get the right fit between a caregiver and a client,” he said. “It’s not as easy as saying, ‘Here’s the senior in their home, here’s the caregiver, send them over.’ Our mission is not just to keep the seniors in their home, but to create a meaningful relationship.”
On the flip side, Tuggle’s business strategist background gave him a specific mindset that has aided in his business’ success.
“It was just me coming in and having the willingness to reinvest in the business — not trying to take every dollar out of the business, but making sure it’s a stable business, and that my staff and caregivers have everything they need to do their job,” he said.
With three years under his belt, Tuggle has seen steady growth.
“From March onward, we have seen a decent amount of growth,” he said. “There’s been a lot of pent up demand. I know people who really need the service. There’s also a shortage of caregivers in the area. What we’ve really had to do is focus on our hiring and our retention efforts.”
Check back for the second part of this series next week on homehealthcarenews.com.