Do you remember when your only alternative to public transportation was a taxi? But then came Uber and Lyft. These companies completely changed the rideshare platform and it looks like there is no turning back at this point! These companies are always pushing for quality improvements in order to promote forward growth and sustainability. What does it mean to be sustainable? After approximately 27 years in corporate and over 30 years helping the elderly and disabled, I understand that from a business perspective it mean that a company needs to continually be forward thinking, utilizing ‘Blue Ocean’ thinking in order to maintain and grow market share. It is important for a business to consider many aspects in order to make this happen. There must be consideration for environmental implications (both now and in the future), local and global community perspective, technological changes and prospects, performance measures, risk assessment and mitigation, market positioning for both now and in the future, engagement and buy-in, and well, I could go on and on. And because there are so many things that play a key factor, to become a sustainable business in today’s world. And because of technology, global business borders have literally been neutralized and eradicated. With a simple push of the button wire transfers and shifts in markets happen at rapid speeds minute by minute. Another thought that is often overlooked in the home care industry is the fact that you may have to decide if you want to be known as the company that is the best at what it does or if you want to be the biggest company locally, regionally, or nationally. Sometimes the lines get blurred but there is definitely a difference in approach of service, marketing, and scale. We have seen multiple issues with small business that grow into large conglomerates with the “growth at all cost” initiative (i.e. Facebook). Where the idea of profit over people have destroyed brands and created a distrust in the general public.
With technology we have the ability to collaborate across continents which gives us the ability to see reality through the eyes of others and if we are listening well enough any small and growing business can become an industry disruptor in any market. Now, you’re probably trying to figure out what all of this has to do with in-home services or care. This isn’t a topic that you hear much when it comes to open/public elder care conversations. Usually, the conversations are fairly the same (safety, signs of a stroke, etc.) but that is what makes this blog and my position in the market disruptive. Although, I can have those same “typical” conversations, isn’t it about time that the discussion moved forward? Isn’t it about time that the thought leaders in home health care/services moved forward? In this highly competitive industry most people try to fit in the gray areas when we now live in an era where seniors need someone to stand out, stand up, and listen to exactly what their needs are. I have found that in order to do this it is necessary to shift thought processes from the typical business end of sustainability and disruption to an individualistic approach. What do I mean by this? It’s time to think of ways to create sustainable relationships between the client and provider. Let’s take some of the points that I’ve mentioned previously and downsize those ideas to an individualistic people approach. And although this is just a brief overview of information it is a conversations starter, so let’s begin:
- Local community and global community perspective – for the individual that you or your company may be assisting it is important to take the time to get some background information from the senior or family members if possible. This can include learning more about what makes this person ‘tick’ and implementing ideas to create or recreate some of those familiar likes and passions while providing care. This goes beyond the normal intake/assessment. It’s about learning the important details about likes and dislikes. This also includes family engagement. Building relationships not only with the person receiving the care, but also building a relationship with family members are key to becoming a bridge that can help create stability and more consistent care.
- Technological changes and prospects – many agencies use technology in the office, but are we coming up with creative technological ways to implement creative engagement with seniors in the home? This goes beyond the electronic blood pressure device or digital medical equipment. But technology can play a key role with dementia clients as well as communication (i.e. FaceTime) between parents and children that do not live close by. Communication and setting realistic expectations are key.
- Performance measures – many agencies measure performance by sending the occasional survey, but this should be just one of the ways this measurement should be assessed. The metrics of performance analysis should be relevant, clear, concise, and as accurate as possible. And although businesses have accounting practices and sophisticated software to help analyze data, elder service/care providers also have the additional burden of recognizing that ‘word of mouth’ within this industry can be a strong indicator and predictor of success or failure. How does your marketing ROI measure up to the feedback and referral ROI? It’s important to gain new clients, but you should also have a reputation that upholds all the positive marketing that you are presenting to the public. Nothing can hurt a company and its brand more than a “bait and switch” on a client or their families.
- Risk assessment and mitigation – this is definitely an area where safety is key. Technically risk measurement is composed of potential loss that can occur and the probability of the loss. In this industry we have natural/biological loss to consider and we have clients that may cancel services to move to another provider or because of a change in income and they can no longer afford it. And although we cannot change the natural/biological loss that impacts the industry, we can do a better job creating or partnering with other companies to try to reach the needs of those that may not be able to afford premium services or all the services that they may need. Included in the risk assessment there should also be a consideration of hiring expectations. Are you hiring to fit an open slot in your schedule or are you hiring to meet the needs of the demographics of your particular clients? Getting the two confused increases your risk as a business in many ways.
- Market positioning for both now and in the future – it’s one thing to know and understand the landscape of risk and assessment, but it takes a different mindset in order to process that information and act on the information received. Many people start businesses with the bottom line in mind and this may be fine for certain LOB’s (line of business). Now, I know that this is also a factor in the service industry as well, but if you are working with people and that doesn’t resonate with you or your business culture then you will find your position weakening. People do not mind paying for quality, but will not tolerate ignored concerns. If the only person that your clients see is the person that comes in to help them then there is a missed opportunity to build a relationship, build trust, and to better protect yourself and your business.
- Engagement and buy-in – the predecessor to gaining buy-in from staff and industry peers is to put yourself in the company of other passionate change agents. This can be family members that are passionate about the care of their loved ones, advisors that create new ways to communicate with seniors with dementia, etc. It’s important to not only be engaged on the business end, but also in the community. Again, this was just a quick discussion to get the conversation started. In home services are highly needed as today’s aging population continues to grow. For family members, make sure that you are doing your research and looking for a company that is willing to not only take your money but is also willing to invest the patience, care, time, and quality into your loved one. For industry leaders, continue to be people centric in your approach, this will become your recipe for success.