Simon Close is the new president of senior care at 24 Hour Home Care. He’ll take the helm of the private-pay business at one of the larger home care companies on the West Coast, and a company with nationwide aspirations.
His journey is an unlikely one. Not only did he not come up in personal home care, he also isn’t originally from the U.S. Now that he’s got three years under his belt at 24 Hour Home Care, though, he has plenty of opinions on what the company – and the industry – can do better moving forward.
“My first impressions of the home care industry, I would say… was that it was very behind,” Close told Home Health Care News. “In terms of the approach, the strategy and selling as a whole. Even the sales enablement tools that were being used.”
The Los Angeles-based 24 Hour Home Care provides personal care as well as intellectual and developmental disability services. It has over 20 locations in California, Arizona and New Mexico. It entered New Mexico through its recent acquisition of Inteli-Care, a Medicaid-based home care provider that allowed it to further diversify its mostly private-pay portfolio.
Close is a veteran of the pharmaceutical industry and also worked in life sciences. He was initially approached by a recruiter to work with 24 Hour Home Care. He first ignored the advance, but then was won over by the company’s president and co-founder, Ryan Iwamoto.
Iwamoto – like many other home care executives – had already considered that his industry may be behind in aspects like sales and technology. But hiring someone like Close with outside experience could be a way to begin advancing things.
“He was looking for somebody who could come in and look at how we operated, look at systems and processes, look at elevating those, but then also build a structure that could scale,” Close said.
Close thought many of the systems and processes that existed when he came to the company were fine, but simply wouldn’t be good enough if the company were to scale.
And that was a problem, given 24 Hour Home Care’s growth plans. Those growth plans, in part, were why the company finally agreed to take on financial backing in early 2022 when the Alpine Investors-backed TEAM Services Group acquired it. The company is now a part of TEAM Public Choices, specifically.
“A lot of the things that were in place when I first came on board that we did change were things that, if we suddenly catapulted in terms of our growth, wouldn’t sustain,” Close said. “So I do think [my past experience] helped, but if Ryan hadn’t seen that, it would not have been valued.”
What needed to evolve
The demand for home-based care services is unlikely to decline anytime soon. Therefore, a sales strategy isn’t always top of mind for providers in the space.
That was one thing Close wanted to address. The sales strategy tended to be more of a “scattergun” one, as he put it, where the agency was just taking any business on that it could.
Instead, Close wanted to take the company to a place where it felt “truly confident” walking away from business.
“I would say that a lot of companies in home care that I’ve spoken to don’t have a strategy,” Close said. “It is, ‘We’ll just take whatever we can, where can we get it from,’ but then you spread yourself too thin.”
Instead, Close wants the sales strategy at 24 Hour Home Care to be about changing behavior.
“To do that, you need consistency and frequency,” he said. “Without having the space to get the frequency of those conversations, without changing that mindset, you will be limited in terms of the sales you get. Whereas, if you narrow down your focus, but go in there, build the relationship and get more frequency with the right messaging, you’ll change behavior.”
He compared home care providers’ sales strategies to startups’ sales strategies: taking whatever you can to build up that revenue.
But, at some point, both need to become more strategic – and Close felt as if 24 Hour Home Care had reached that point.
“And I’ll be transparent, it’s not a surprise to say that a lot of these functions within, they work siloed,” Close said. “But my job is about: How do I truly look at them as one team? And how do they truly look at themselves as one team? And that sounds simple, but it’s not simple to deliver upon.”
‘New operating reality’
Moving forward, Close and 24 Hour Home Care believe there are differentiators to tackle as well. The first is being able to match the right caregiver with the right client.
“I do think one of our key differentiators has been the match between the caregiver and the client, right?” Close said. “Do I think we’ve done that well, do I think any company does that well? Well, in the home care space, I would say no. I think, basically, people are just trying to fulfill a shift … we want to evolve and make that part of our offering.”
As the amount of people that can afford private-pay services dwindles due to bill rates rising, those services need to become premium services, he said.
At the same time, the company is looking to care for a wider population, through the aforementioned acquisition of Inteli-Care and otherwise.
But one thing that Close feels sure of is that, as he and 24 Hour Home Care embark on these initiatives, the same headwinds will remain.
“I think we spoke a lot in the industry about headwinds through COVID,” he said. “And three years later, they’re no longer headwinds, it is the new operating reality. So I think what I want to look back on with pride is how we stabilized ourselves to the new norm post pandemic. And I think we’re well on track to do that.”