February 4, 2013
I never thought I would be in the elderly care business.
Growing up my father worked for the San Francisco Police Dept and my mother was a state worker. While we had a fair upbringing, my ambitious mother always yearned for more. I watched her entrepreneurial efforts working as a consultant for various multi-level marketing business’ but it wasn’t until she finally pursued her goal of opening her own business when our family began to flourish. I fondly recall my father spending endless hours at Home Depot watching ‘how to’ videos (this was before the internet) and helping lay down cement and nail beams into the walls. It was a family effort when my parents opened their first of five residential care homes in the Sacramento community. After we all completed our college degrees, eventually, me and my sisters would follow in my parent’s footsteps, first helping out because of my mother’s declining health and eventually opening one of our own.
In the next month I will be opening my second care home, Comforts of Home, in the Greenhaven/Pocket area of Sacramento. It’s exciting, stressful and tiring. One of the reasons why I feel like breaking down each week is because investing money is like working out. You feel you’re constantly budgeted and have to continuously discipline your desires for the simplest wants. Not only do you work hard, but you don’t receive results in the short-term. Building a business, just like building a body, is all about long-term success.
Despite the sacrifices in building a business, maintaining it through marketing, management and maintenance is a whole other monster. I recently had a disagreement with a referral agency regarding a new resident who was admitted to the hospital shortly after she moved in. In my discussion with this placement agency, she is demanding I keep the full month’s rent (because she will lose a commission percentage) despite the resident leaving for reasons beyond her control. I told her that it wasn’t ethical and not part of my business practice. She retorted that it was hers – and then I hung up on her.
I don’t ever want to work with her again.
Placement agencies for the elderly are popping up every day; mainly because elderly referral agencies are a profitable, unregulated industry. Elderly care homes are popping up too, but it seems many are failing just as fast as they open. Most homes are under-staff to save costs and most often can’t handle the overhead costs and commission fees. Since my family has been in business for over 13 years, we succeed because we have established our name in the community and formed friendships with strong agencies.
Most of all, we succeed because we’re ethical.
I celebrated one of my favorite resident’s, Tess’ 100th birthday this past weekend. Since the moment we met years ago, I was anxious to celebrate this momentous occasion. When she was born her father owned an electric streetcar, no one had telephones and her mother made her clothes. She has lived through each World War and had five sons, outliving all but one.
She’s an amazing lady.
I feel so blessed to know her, learn from her and love her. I really love our residents. They watched my sons grow up. They have knitted their first booties or bought them their first book. I have watched them laugh, sometimes cry and eventually die often in my presence.
Having a business is about making money. Sure. I get that. But, it’s also about ethics. It’s about caring about your work and being passionate about the people you serve. While it’s not always easy, it’s always worth it when you think about people like Tess, a woman who has given me eternal wisdom only a person who has lived 100 years would know.