Kansas City Job seekers was born in a way that many startups come to life. An individual needs something or is confronted with a problem, he searches for ways to obtain or solve it, and finally, he creates a solution or option for people in similar situations.
When Mark Van Baale found himself unemployed and looking for work in 2010, he had a difficult time tracking down the necessary information and connections to get his foot in the door at the right place. It was tough for him to find resources or other people in the same boat. So, he joined a group called New Landings, whose purpose was to help individuals in the Kansas City area find jobs. They offered workshops and posted information about networking events on their LinkedIn page for members looking to gain connections and/or find job opportunities.
However, one day, Mark experienced a glitch on the LinkedIn informational page when he was trying to access details about upcoming networking events. This got him to thinking that a blog or a website specifically intended for this information would be easier to navigate. And thus, he transformed his problem into an opportunity: Kansas City Job Seekers.
While there are other great blogs and sites that offer similar information, Kansas City Job Seekers has become a central resource. The website began as a place that listed all of the upcoming networking events in the area, and later, it incorporated job leads.
Now, where does one actually find jobs to share with site visitors, and how does he spread the word about such a new project? For starters, websites like Indeed.com and CareerBuilder.com were helpful resources for Mark, as they aggregate a multitude of job types and companies. This allowed him to peruse the listings to find marketing, social media and graphic design job openings in the area, and then post the information on his own site.
Mark was also active on social media outlets such as Twitter and LinkedIn, on which he announced the launch of Kansas City Job Seekers. His connections, such as New Landings group members, caught wind of his project and they started sending job seekers there. Eventually, others started to get involved as well. When people and companies came across or had a job opening available, they would send it to Mark to be posted on the website, in hopes of obtaining a wider reach.
The site spread mostly by word of mouth, to the point that job seekers from all over the country visited it. It eventually became one of the go-to spots for job information in the Kansas City area. This is largely due to the support of community members. “When I moved to Kansas City, I realized that I didn’t know how caring the community was at large. It’s there to help job seekers find the resources they need”
ESTABLISHING A FACE
As the social media and marketing industries continued to grow rapidly, Mark realized that he may have identified his niche. Visitors began frequenting the website for the sheer fact that it offered jobs specific to those particular fields. Concurrently, he established his own values, choosing not to post anything related to tobacco, alcohol or gambling.
Mark likes to think of himself as the middleman, helping job seekers get in touch with the experts that they should be connected with. He also puts people in touch with his contacts in order to help them improve their resumes. This gives them the opportunity to have their resumes and profiles be shown in a more positive light, making it easier to be found and searched for online.
“I’m not a recruiter myself, but if someone reaches out to me, I’ll try to get them connected with somebody who can help them. There have been times in the past when I have gone to other people to get help on my resume.”
Because you can only put so much on a resume, Mark is an advocate for providing as much information about your experience and trade as you can on different outlets; portfolio websites and LinkedIn accounts, for example. He believes that the more details you share, the better off you will be.
Additionally, Mark informs visitors about future workshops held by recruiting agencies for the purpose of improving resumes or better network themselves, and, each week, an e-newsletter gets sent out offering links to networking events, information on new jobs and more.
THE BENEFITS, THE CHALLENGES & THE FUTURE
While building the Kansas City Job Seekers, Mark has reaped its benefits. Though he was sharing information about networking opportunities as a hobby, he was also connecting with a lot of people himself, and even found some work. In fact, his current job for the City of Kansas City fell in his lap because the job opening was sent to him to post on the site.
Despite the fact that Mark’s services have been free thus far, he continues with his venture because he thoroughly enjoys helping others. His efforts have made a positive impact on Kansas City community members, which has pushed and enabled him to continue to manage it over the last five years.
In 2016, however, he hopes to make his venture profitable. Currently, he posts jobs for free. In the future, he would like to optimize the website in such a way that certain jobs are featured more prominently, ultimately gaining more attention than others might. These slots could be potential money makers. He also hopes to feature other Kansas City businesses that specialize in helping people in the area, with information on how they connect.
Most people would get frustrated and discouraged after having trouble finding a job. But not Mark Van Baale. He turned his problem into an opportunity “I want Kansas City Job Seekers to be a resource that people can continue to go to. I appreciate those who continue to share the site with job seekers, and I hope it’s a useful resource for them and that it helps them find the right contacts or the right job for what they are looking for.”
Kansas City Job Seekers
Providing Job Search/Networking Resources in Kansas City
According to Nick Lensch of Courtyard Estates, his greatest hiring success story involves an individual who joined the team with absolutely no experience providing care. Having done some volunteer work in the past, she found herself at a point in her life where she knew her purpose was to help others, but was unsure of how, specifically, she wanted to incorporate that into her career.
Despite this prospect’s lack of experience, Lensch hired her with the intent of assigning her to what he described as a “catch-all” position. She started off doing a little bit of everything for the company; she worked in the kitchen, did housekeeping, and even performed hands-on client care. To the surprise of Lensch and the rest of the staff, she was effectively able to take on a variety of tasks and grow into a leadership role, ultimately gaining respect from management and employees that had been with the company for more than a decade. Co-workers appreciated her determination and she was quickly able to head up shifts.
It is successful hires such as her that make Lensch’s job satisfying.
THE FOUNDATION AND CULTURE
Like many young professionals, Nick Lensch quickly determined what field he wanted to work in upon graduation, he just didn’t know where exactly he wanted to do it. After graduating from Mercy College of Health Sciences in Des Moines, IA with a health care administration concentration in 2011, Lensch worked as a Resident Director at an assisted living community. About a year and a half later, he joined the Courtyard Estates team, for whom he has been a Manager for over a year.
While perusing job openings in the Des Moines market, Lensch found himself drawn to assisted living facilities due to their intimacy. The idea of a managerial role in a setting that presented the opportunity to develop relationships with both residents and their family members was attractive and offered the feel-good factor.
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“You can really build and derive a great service for people; give them a safe place for their loved one to live while working in a community setting. I was really drawn to the idea of that.” Not only was he interested in being able to personally interact and care for clients in need, but he was also looking forward to nurturing and developing relationships with the staff in such a tight-knit environment. Finding great work in a rather populated and competitive part of Iowa didn’t hurt either.
According to Lensch, the biggest core value that the Courtyard Estates team is built upon is honesty. Working with a variety of ages and backgrounds, the company knows that in order to achieve the best possible experience for all, it is important to be honest and clear about the expectations of all parties. Management’s awareness of employees’ values and goals (and vice versa) is vital in the caregiving field; not being on the same page when your mission is to care for others can break a team and hinder the effectiveness of the services provided.
A caregiving community is not simply comprised of its residents, but also its caregivers, management, and family members. This creates an atmosphere like no other, with a comfortable and appropriate balance of attention given to both clients and their families. “We really strive for a family-like culture. We are a smaller community, so there is a lot of opportunity to know and learn about our residents, their family members and their backgrounds as we work together. We go through a lot of the same roller coasters together.”
THE HIRING PROCESS
Heading up Human Resources, Lensch ensures that new employees join the team with a clear understanding of what is expected of them. “I don’t think it does anybody justice when someone is starting a new position and things are sugarcoated or details are grayed out. If you aren’t honest and clear about your expectations upfront, then you’re sending your employees up to sale. In the healthcare industry, you can’t send anybody up to sale because in the end, it directly affects those that you are trying to provide care for.”
Working in this particular field, you must be selective and get the right people in the right positions. If an employee knows what is expected of them and is not reaching those predetermined guidelines, then management will know that things may need to be readdressed. Honesty and clarity from the beginning shows staff that management can be trusted, ultimately resulting in positive relationships and communication throughout the business.
Hiring for Courtyard Estates is a team effort, performed by both Lensch and the nurses, as the mission is to recruit people that are a good fit overall. Throughout the interview, they assess the potential employee’s core behaviors. The key characteristic that they look for in a person is compassion. If an interviewee is able to exude that quality, it’s a good sign that they would fit in well. Additionally, while one would think that experience would play a huge role in whether or not someone is hired, Lensch explains that it may not always be a good thing “because they may have developed bad habits or assumptions about working in the industry.” So, rather than relying on the amount of experience a resume illustrates, they examine his or her personality; Are they compassionate? Are they excited about they work we do? Are they personable, communicative, and easy to talk to?
To Lensch, it’s important to get to know potential employees as individuals and as workers. To truly understand them, their attitude in the workplace and whether or not they bear the central beliefs of the business, he talks to them one-on-one in addition to researching their references/former employers. “Finding the right fit might not always mean the person who looks best on paper.” It might be defined by what are they like as a person, how that can be integrated into the existing work environment, and whether they are going to hop on board and help the team move forward, or, if they would be the one to hold others back.
New employees of Courtyard Estates come from a combination of referrals from current employees and job postings. Lensch believes that when management shows their appreciation of hard working staff, words gets out. People tend to talk when they are satisfied – or unhappy – with their job. Keeping staff happy can only work to an employer’s benefit. When the company has to put ads out for job postings, they get enough responses that they have to be patient and spend time sifting through the options in order to land the right candidate.
FINDING THE RIGHT FIT
According to Lensch, the hiring process is a combination of a science and an art, each playing an important role while working hand-in-hand. The science plays its part when the company receives a flooding of applications and resumes and has to sift through and determine which few have the right “building blocks” to help the team grow and excel. The art has everything to do with the conversations during the interview.
Lensch defines his biggest “aha” moment as learning to let his potential hires control the interview, even if they hadn’t intended it. “People like to talk about themselves. When you ask somebody to spill about the type of person they are, they’re going to try to mold themselves into being that type of person throughout the interview, even if they are not.”
Going into interviews prepared, he already knows who the company is looking for and what the expectations are going to be. Rather than taking the floor himself, he and the other HR representatives use key questions to steer prospects through a “journey” of describing who they are, allowing them to assess the type of employee they would be. The key to figuring a person out and securing the best staff members is simply sitting back and listening to what they have to say. You’ll learn plenty.
From his experience hiring, Lensch has learned to have more patience. “There are some great people out there that are just looking and trying to do the wrong thing; something that’s just not right for them.” Rather than hiring individuals who simply don’t fit the Courtyard Estates mold, the company does a lot of cross training in order to make sure employees are better trained and capable of performing in multiple realms, sharing responsibilities when the need arises. They will also often take on new employees as part-time members of the team and eventually transfer them into full-time roles. “Sometimes you do make a bad hire and you might need to hold on to that person a little bit longer until you find that right fit. It doesn’t do you any good to rush an interview process and bring in the wrong person just because you need to fill up a shift.”
KEEPING A SOLID STAFF
One of Courtyard Estate’s biggest priorities is staff retention, a goal that has proven to be somewhat of a challenge due to the heavy competition in Des Moines. In order to keep his great staff around, the company works hard to show them that management recognizes the little things that they do for the business and its residents. Acknowledgement speaks volumes and is a motivating force to continue performing well.
Like many other employers offering caregiving services, Lensch has discovered the importance of building great relationships with his staff. “You always want to work hard to make sure the staff you have now feels appreciated; that you recognize all of the hard work they’re putting in. If you do that, the hiring process doesn’t really have to happen very often. I would say the biggest factor in maintaining a quality staff is making sure you’re empowering, encouraging, and being thankful for what you have.”
In addition to recognizing their value, Lensch also goes to extraordinary measures to help them grow as people and workers. In order to improve the quality and reward of work life, he goes out of his way to observe how other successful companies operate and maintain their high quality employees. He notes that many of the greats do a good job of recruiting new staff and turning them into better people that are even better at what they do. His philosophy is that if he can hire people that are already seasoned caregivers and help transform them into first-rate workers while at Courtyard Estates, retention should be much easier to accomplish. “It’s going to drive people to want to come in and work for you as well.”
This method has proven to increase the amount of quality resumes that come in, as great prospects detect that it is a good place to be employed. “You want to train them to be good enough to move forward and leave, but at the same time, treat them well enough that they don’t want to go anywhere. You want to enrich them and make them grow in terms of who they are and what they are doing, so that if they do leave, they were very well trained and remember where they got it.”
It’s also important to both Lensch and other members of the staff that they take an interest in who their staff/co-workers are, making sure that they are aware that their well-being is cared about. Something as simple a thank-you note, asking how an employee is doing, or whether there is anything that management can do to make things better for them can go a long way.
Lensch describes his staff as hard working and being passionate about their work, stating that he would be surprised to hear if one of his employees didn’t appreciate what they do or that they dreaded coming in each morning. “I want them to love coming to work and be able to leave their personal lives at the door because they enjoy their time here – kind of a getaway from whatever they may have going on outside of work.”
When asked what primary message he would like to send to potential employees, prospective clients and readers, Lensch quickly and confidently said, “Family first. We’re a big family here. Whether it’s your own blood or the family you’ve grown to develop here at Courtyard Estates, you want to put each other first before yourself. Selflessness is the biggest thing.”
For more information: http://www.courtyard-estates.net/
When an ALS patient spoke with the President and CEO of CareLinx, Sherwin Sheik, during a check-in call, he told Sheik that CareLinx and his dedicated team had made the last year of his life possible. Unfortunately, given the amount of care that ALS patient needed, he could not afford to receive care through a traditional agency.
After he passed, Sheik and the CareLinx team members that helped him and his family were invited by the family to his memorial at U.C. Berkeley where he was a professor in biology. Sheik held another memorial in the company conference room to remind staff that they are in the business of caring for people in what is probably the most vulnerable time in their entire life. This client’s picture remains on the CareLinx conference room wall, serving as a constant reminder of the real importance of what they all do on a day-to-day basis. They are dealing with families whose loved one has progressed to the point at which they needed to hire a stranger take care of them. “My job is to constantly instill that into my team, reminding them of what we are actually doing here.”
Seeing that purpose translated in feedback received from clients like this professor is when it is reinforced that CareLinx is not a tech company, they are a service company in the business of helping clients find the best level of care given their specific needs and budget. Moments such as those remind Sheik that in order to succeed, one must listen and pay attention to their clients and treat them like they are very close family friends.
Sherwin Sheik has worked in healthcare for about fifteen years, going from biotech, to healthcare investment banking, to working as a healthcare portfolio manager for a hedge fund. Because of his vast background within the field, he has a very strong understanding of both the mechanics and the demand.
Sheik attributes his primary motive for developing the company to deeply personal reasons. His sister has multiple sclerosis and had progressed to the point that she became quadriplegic and blind. Concurrently, his uncle, a father figure, mentor and role model, was diagnosed with ALS and required twenty-four hour care.
Observing what was happening on a macro basis was an eye opener, between being an investor in healthcare and watching what was unfolding within his family. He realized just how broken the traditional home care industry model was and assumed that it was only going to continue to get worse as baby boomers age and the need for care increases. The overwhelming amount of reasons to try and solve the problem was what set Sheik off on his mission.
When Sheik’s sister was diagnosed, she was in Los Angeles and their mother was in the San Francisco Bay area. After being discharged from the hospital, the options were to either put her in one of the only two local homecare agencies available or into a facility. “The amount of time my mom took off of work to deal with the transition into a home, the number of turnovers that we had with caregivers… it ultimately ended her career. She is a PhD molecular biologist, and she ended up becoming a caregiver for my sister.” When his uncle was diagnosed with ALS, his aunt essentially found herself running an ICU out of her home, as he required twenty-four hour care, seven days a week.
Sheik quickly realized that many families, including his own, end up resorting to hiring privately, instead of working with traditional agencies given that agencies charge double the rate they are paying the caregivers and many end up spending tens of thousands of dollars for care for just a couple months of service.
Like many families – after working with traditional agencies, his family looked to find a lower cost alternative. That solution was hiring a caregiver privately. They put ads out in classifieds, exposing themselves to a lot of risks. From caregivers that never showed up, to caregivers that stole, it proved to be a defeating and exhausting situation. “We just didn’t know how to properly screen caregivers, run comprehensive background checks and had no idea about all legal requirements that come with hiring a private caregiver. You do save money when hiring a caregiver privately, but families also expose themselves to a lot of risk if they don’t know what they are doing.”
Sheik was raised in an entrepreneurial family, growing up with the understanding that it was ok to try something new and fail. When he saw the pain that his family was going through, he made the decision to utilize his experience as a macro investor in healthcare and dedicate the next years of his life to finding a reasonable solution to the problem that was bound to get worse.
CareLinx, Inc. was born.
THE ROAD TO SUCCESS
It has been about 3 years since CareLinx was launched in San Mateo, CA, and today, the company has over fifty thousand care providers on its online platform in the top fifty metropolitan areas, with CNAs, MAs, LVNs and RNs. The purpose is to help families find the right provider for their loved one. To do so, a family visits CareLinx.com, they fill out an intake form that informs a Care Advisor of their needs, and then the family gets assigned to a dedicated Family Adviser whose sole objective is to find them the best possible caregiver match, with the goal of providing at least 4 qualified candidates for the family to select from within a week. “We are helping find better matches, and we are saving families thousands of dollars a month in the process.” Approximately five thousand caregivers register with the company online every month, and the company is hoping that several hundred families will be able to find care through the platform on a monthly basis.
The current industry structure consists of many mom-and-pop franchise agencies, typically launched by an entrepreneur who ultimately transforms it into a staffing company. “They have a brick and mortar presence, paying a royalty of ten percent gross receipts. As a result, there are a lot of baked in margins, and many families, like my family, have a hard time affording it.” On the other hand, the CareLinx team and model helps families easily manage all of the legal and financial risks and responsibilities as an employer of private caregivers. Based on the internet, the system is primarily intended for generations that have grown leveraging technology for their research. “I built this company for my generation; a lot younger and a little bit more tech savvy. I met my wife online. It’s what I am used to in this world.”
Once families narrow their interests to a few potential caregivers, CareLinx Family Advisors can help them schedule the interviews. When they make their final choices, the CareLinx platform manages all of the payroll and tax responsibilities for the family. Additionally, Lloyds of London underwrites the company, so the caregivers are all bonded and insured.
Sheik’s goal is to make the process as easy as possible for families in need. Whether they only have a few requirements of their caregiver, or they have a laundry list of needs; whether they live in the same city as their senior or on the other side of the country… CareLinx will be able to help. “That’s what I have set out to do; make it easy for a family to tell us, ‘I’m looking for a female caregiver, five years of experience, is CNA, has experience with dementia, resides in the Sacramento, CA area and is willing to work for fifteen dollars an hour.’ Then, get access to their comprehensive background checks, references, and reviews from prior employers.”
Preparedness is an active trait of the company, as they regularly run analytics on caregivers’ engagement backgrounds to do predictive modeling, used to determine who is going to be a good provider, and who is not. “We’re constantly curating, sorting and booting caregivers off the platform that don’t belong in order to really build this vibrant community.” Families are interviewed before and after their experiences with the caregivers and they are encouraged to send in reviews so that CareLinx can ultimately make the best offerings to future families.
“Caregivers are happy because they’re earning higher wages, and families are happy because they’re saving money.” The satisfaction of both parties all stems back to the ways in which the business leverages its technology-based company to make a very inefficient market a lot more transparent for both families and the caregivers.
Sheik works hard to always bear in mind the nature of CareLinx’s services. “We’re dealing with people’s lives, people’s loved ones. A lot of times they live long distance and need some assurance that there is someone that they can go to for help, not just a website. That’s something that I have had to embrace and build into the culture. I tell my team that we’re not a tech company, we’re a services company that is leveraged by technology to help make the market more efficient.”
Embracing the fact that they are in the business of customer service, staff and management also look beyond the technology aspect and make a point to treat their clients as if they were a close friend or family member who is in a bind and in need of a lifeline to help them navigate through the process. Still taking customer support calls himself, Sheik always tries to learn by talking directly with clients, fact-finding, and explaining that this company is his mission and passion.
A RESOUNDING UNDERSTANDING
The CareLinx goal is to make quality home care more affordable and accessible for everyone, operating on the “Customers always come first” model.
The business is in a constant state of testing, a factor that must be recognized by employees, new and old. “I always tell everyone that at CareLinx, we are running a massive experiment. We might fail every day, but we’re incrementally finding out what is working, and hopefully getting closer to cracking the code and building a sustainable model that’s really going to disrupt the industry, given our margins.”
Sheik recognizes that his business might not suit everyone. Rather than recognizing that and trying to sell it as the best fit anyway, he is honest with prospects. The company wants to help people, not misguide them. “It’s all about honesty, integrity, and perseverance. I tell families right off the bat that we’re not the best solution for everyone. ‘If you need immediate care, right now, CareLinx is not the option, but I would be happy to refer you to a traditional agency that has staff ready to be deployed immediately.’ It’s also about really understanding what the client’s needs are.” Sheik constantly tells his team that ultimately, more than anything else, their job is to make sure that the client gets the right level of care that they need, whether or not it is with their business.
“That’s my tenant and my core value, to do what is in the best interest of the family and the person needing care. To make sure that we give them the right resources needed to make decisions as soon as possible.”
According to Sheik, caregiving is an unfortunate event that occurs unexpectedly. No one plans for it or sees it coming until it’s directly in front of them. Often, people don’t even want to share the struggle that their families go through. Rather, they just pray that the journey won’t be difficult and that their loved one will be ok. When the event does happen, they have to scramble to find the resources available. It’s CareLinx job to help them through that time of desperation and accommodate them with the necessary resources, regardless of if it is with their company or another.
THE HIRING PHILOSOPHY
Sheik’s current group of employees is very small as compared to the size of the company, and is characterized as being very dedicated and hard working. “We are literally a family.” He admits that when he started CareLinx, he was coming off of extensive experience working primarily as an independent, “living and dying” off of his own investment decisions. Because of this, he is still learning the mechanics of hiring and terminating employees.
Admittedly overly cautious when hiring, his current team is much smaller than one would think, dipping into his “capital efficiency mindset.” Working with a carefully selected group of just twelve individuals, Sheik is aware that he has set the bar really high and that hiring the wrong people can be disastrous at the stage the company is in.
Sheik’s philosophy when hiring is that his candidates must first truly feel and understand the problem that the company is working to solve. Next, they have to have the mental stamina to work through this problem and not give up when the answers are not presented. “We have yet to crack the code. We’re helping hundreds of families a month find care, but, are we building a sustainable business yet?” Answering his own question, Sheik said that they are not because they haven’t yet reached the point that they are profitable.
“In ensuring company success, I always look for people who understand and have personally experienced the pains of finding a caregiver for a loved one.” Sheik described how it is much easier to maintain the right mindset in building a business like this when you have dealt with the trials and tribulations yourself. For example, a recent hire’s mother was diagnosed with M.S. 25 years ago. Having dealt with it for a great portion of his life, he gets the motive behind the work. “He is the consumer, still to this day. He doesn’t need to understand the consumer mindset because we get to build this for ourselves. We already know what the families and the providers are going through.”
Sheik looks for people that are adaptive, experienced, quick-thinking, and confident enough to challenge the system, raise questions and offer suggestions. “I will be the first to admit, I have no idea what CareLinx will eventually become.” Sheik describes the company and its staff as constantly iterating, working on the whiteboard, reevaluating the model, the acquisition funnel, the process the families undergo to find the right caregivers, and the algorithms used to rate the caregivers. “I am looking for people to join the team and be able to admit that we don’t have the answer. We constantly have to be questioning what we have to do to make it better and improve.”
When hiring new staff, Sheik takes a long time to make the final decisions, but when he sees that someone won’t be a good fit, it is usually a pretty quick decision that it would be in both of their best interests to part. “I have had to get rid of some people who did not perform up to my expectations. If it’s not going to work, you’re going to know within the first three months.” All new staff members are told from the first day on the job that they are on a team and that the effort goes both ways. However, if they at any point feel that that is too much, they are told that they can leave without any hard feelings.
“That is probably some of the best advice that I have gotten from a successful entrepreneur and mentor that I have worked with. He told me that on the day you hire them, you should let them know that the door is always open for them to leave and for you to let them go. As long as you’re both committed to the cause, you’re a partner in this business and there is always a spot for you. If at any point in time you feel like it isn’t working out, I don’t want there to be any hard feelings because in the end, we’re all doing this to serve. If it’s not working, there is probably something better for you out there anyway.”
Sheik also needs to see passion. The people that he brings into his company are all passionate about the cause and are not motivated by the money. He is confident that they’re not looking at this as a gig. Approaching them as upfront as he can be, Sheik tells prospective employees that if they think working for CareLinx is a nine to five job, then CareLinx is not the place for them. They have to be always ready and willing to serve the families that are coming to CareLinx for help.
He reminds his staff that they are dealing with people’s lives and does his best to lead by example. He makes a point to inform his staff that he is available twenty-four seven, at any point in time, and that they will never hear him complain if they ever have a question or an idea. “We don’t stop. We are always on. We’re always here to serve and to improve. I need to see that in everyone that we hire, otherwise they’re not going to fit. You’re either, A) going to look at me like I move a million miles an hour and struggle to keep up, or B) you’re going to get it.”
While he does look for the experience factor, another primary deal breaker is whether or not they really understand what the company is trying to solve. “A smart MBA graduate can go look at the industry numbers and say, ‘Wow, this is a massive market opportunity.’ Right? But what we do is not sexy. The way I lose clients is that they pass away or progress to the point where they can no longer safely stay in their home anymore and need to be moved to a facility.” The company is in the business of dealing with people’s lives, so it is important to make sure that the team fully comprehends what is on the table, and realizes that the job is not just another walk in the park.
Recognizing that a successful company requires varied levels of talent at different stages of growth, Sheik hopes to see CareLinx succeed whether or not he is a constant part of the team and process. Some people are able to migrate through the trials and errors, ups and downs, and see a company through its progression, but according to Sheik, that’s rare. “I hope to be the guy who takes it all the way home to the finish line. But I recognize that ultimately, I might not be the one. Right now, the goal is to get it to work.”
IT’S NOT EASY
Sheik would like all prospective employees to know that at CareLinx, it is not easy. The company was initially built based on personal experiences. At the time, what Sheik did not realize was that the pain he was feeling from the rough times that he and his family faced would now be amplified five hundred times. “We deal with people who are in crisis mode. I don’t want people to naively come to CareLinx assuming that what we do is easy.”
The staff is constantly confronted with emotional displays of families crying about their situations, caregivers upset about being overworked and endless amounts of personal moments. “You don’t think about that when you first build this type of business until you are in it.” So, when Sheik gets new team members, he does his best to be open and communicate the fact that there is a heavy need for them to be empathetic and for them to have thick skin so that they can truly help families during their time of crisis. “If you take it all in, you will most likely burn out emotionally.”
When Sheik made the choice to step away from his big career in the healthcare industry and risk starting a new business, he asked himself, “Do I want to be a trader and use my mind and resources to make money, or do I really want to solve this problem that I have a high degree of certainty my thesis can correct?” Believing that he can build a great business that’s going to impact millions of lives and will revolutionize an industry, Sheik trusts that the risk/reward on this trade, “call it my life and career,” makes sense. When he looks at the opportunity in front of him and the personal pain of his past, everything is crystal clear. What he doesn’t know, however, is whether or not he will be the one to officially solve the problem. All he can do is try, and continue to build awareness of the CareLinx mission.
For More Information: http://www.carelinx.com
How does a business with complex job requirements find and hire quality part-time people? Learn how this manager’s common sense approach toward hiring has helped this Tucson, AZ based caregiver business flourish.
Read how our guest implemented a new style of hiring, and eventually went against her years of experience by taking a risk in order to give one young girl a chance to prove herself, ultimately resulting in an incredible opportunity.
Mona Baker is the Human Resources Manager for Homewatch CareGivers of Tucson, joining compassionate and professional caregivers with customers suffering from complex health problems.
Margie Lannon opened the largest female-owned company in Tucson, AZ, just six years ago. Known for being a helper, Lannon launched a new branch of Homewatch CareGivers after a career in social work and personally aiding her family and aging father through many years of Alzheimer’s Care, which her employees believe aided the successful development of the business. The mission of Homewatch Caregivers is to improve the lives of their clients by providing “compassionate, professional in-home personal care and companionship services to people of all ages as if they were part of [their] own family.”
Clearly believing in the company’s ambition and slogan, “let our family care for yours,” Human Resources Manager, Mona Baker, prides herself on the newfound strength and durability of the Homewatch CareGivers team. As one of Lannon’s “hand-selected” employees, Baker joined the company at a time when the caregivers were in need of an authority figure who would set guidelines and make sure that rules were abided by. Baker set out to help the company establish new protocol, understanding that in order for employees to improve over time, they needed to be both rewarded for a job well-done and should undergo repercussions for not following guidelines.
According to Baker, the core values that the business is built upon are all based on “trust, education, [and the] willingness to help others,” in addition to the all-important ability to sit down and communicate. She expressed that in this business, the purpose is to find individuals that truly care.
THE HIRING PROCESS
“I first ask myself if I would want this person taking care of my mom and dad. That’s what I go off… figuring out if I would be comfortable with that.”
Every client is different with varied needs. Every caregiver is different with varied backgrounds. Because of this, Baker ensures that she doesn’t search for just one type of employee when seeking out a new hire. In the beginning, the hiring process was slightly chaotic for Baker because of the learning curve. Now, she has got it down to an art form.
Although she knows what qualities she is looking for before a potential caregiver even walks in for their interview, Baker does her best to not judge a book by its cover. “I first ask myself if I would want this person taking care of my mom and dad. That’s what I go off… figuring out if I would be comfortable with that.” With the intent of keeping an open mind, Baker asks herself if someone with a different personality or outlook would be comfortable with it if she concludes that she personally may not be. In the past, she found herself feeling unsure of how a new employee would perform, only to be surprised by their stellar performance later. To this team, it’s important to give everyone the opportunity to show their potential.
Baker’s philosophy in making new hires is to first get to know their personalities before she matches them up with different types of clients in order to determine whether or not they would be a good fit for the large spectrum of people that the company offers services to. If she determines that they are a decent candidate, she furthers her research by investigating their backgrounds, obtaining personal references, and validating credentials and certificates. If and when interviewees are officially hired, new employees are also required to take a paid 12-hour class to continue their education and help them be better at their jobs. It took some time for Baker to get a grip on the best background check and interviewing techniques in order to determine what information was the most vital to gather in order to protect the company’s clients.
Another large factor in concocting the perfect match involves personality assessments. “We’re going to have clients that are very private and aren’t going to want somebody who is Talkie Talkerton, and we’re going to have somebody who is very educated and may want a caregiver that they feel is very educated also.” Baker is responsible for envisioning these potential scenarios in advance in order to best match her clients with appropriate caregivers. By hiring a variety of people, she is able to properly pair them based on previously conducted assessments used to learn their methods, motions and personalities.
WHO WORKS FOR HOMEWATCH CAREGIVERS?
Homewatch Caregivers is comprised of a combination of full-time and part-time workers which has turned out to be beneficial for both the employees and the company. Many of those that work part-time go to school concurrently, while others may simply work on the weekends for extra money. This type of business offers shifts that range anywhere from 3 to 24 hours, so it is quite accommodating for the student that is only available for 3 hours every week-day morning, or the busy-bee who can only work one day a week due to other commitments. The variety is so vast that there are even employees that just come in to do a client’s grocery shopping. This company works for just about any type of person looking for a job.
Baker comes across many individuals that join the team after enjoying the experience of taking care of their loved ones. This type of employee is typically assigned a companion care job – one that doesn’t require an education as they are simply cooking meals and spending time with their clients. Oftentimes they will go to school for their CNA while working for the company before moving on to bigger things. To Baker and the rest of management, this is perfectly fine and they are happy to have contributed to their new career. On the other hand, they also experience employees that stick around for the long-haul because they enjoy working for a small business and getting the hands-on, family feel that is difficult to find with larger companies. “The feel like they’re part of a family versus just being a part of a company.”
Homewatch Caregivers employs some part-time individuals that have been on the team for almost five years. Baker speculated that these employees may be sticking around rather than moving on because they love what they do and they enjoy who they do it for. “Usually the older, more mature employees are the ones that really stick around, and I think that’s because they’ve been around the block. They know the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. They have had bad bosses. They have worked in bad situations. Once you find a decent company and you get it good, you don’t want to go anywhere.”
Because they are a small business, Baker has also worked to build a repertoire with colleges in the Tucson area in order to accommodate individuals that are just beginning their careers. Homewatch CareGivers works to be a stepping stone for fresh caregivers beginning with companion care and help training them and getting the experience needed before they move on to employment at major hospitals.
EMPLOYEE RETENTION RATE
“That’s because I let them know that I’m here for them. I appreciate them. I appreciate their hard work, what they have chosen to do with their lives and in their career. I’m not there to be the one that’s always cracking the whip. I’m there to say thank you and show appreciation on a regular basis.”
Typical of small businesses, Homewatch CareGivers experiences a fluctuating employee retention rate. About 50% of the company’s caregivers stay for approximately two years before moving on to different things. The other 50% consists of a huge variety of retention lengths. Baker stressed the fact that though the employees’ lengths of stay may vary, many part ways because they simply end up growing out of the business and are ready to move on to different jobs or school. This is largely due to the fact that they are a small company. “With time and learning, my retention rate has gotten better by taking the time to figure out what does and doesn’t work.”
Some employees leave for their own reasons and Baker recognizes that no matter how great you are at your job or how hard you try to keep them around, they are going to depart regardless. However, she also believes that with the right amount of hard work, it is possible to reduce the number of good people that leave too soon. In the two years that Baker has been with Homewatch CareGivers, she has seen the retention rate grow. “That’s because I let them know that I’m here for them. I appreciate them. I appreciate their hard work, what they have chosen to do with their lives and in their career. I’m not there to be the one that’s always cracking the whip. I’m there to say thank you and show appreciation on a regular basis.”
Baker has also learned that it is impactful to reward employees when they are performing well. “If I have somebody do something stellar, I will send them a gift card and just tell them thank you. I don’t reward them for doing their job. I reward them for going above and beyond their job. If the caregivers are happy, then the clients are happy. If the caregivers are miserable, then the clients are going to be miserable.”
CHALLENGES AND LESSONS LEARNED
“can ruin somebody’s day because that’s the one thing they they’re looking forward to – when their caregiver arrives through that door. When they’re five minutes late, they don’t understand it.”
While it is easy to know what to look for in prospective employees, there are also plenty of challenges that the company faces. The primary problem that they experience is in regard to the flip-flopping in the needs of the clientele. “One minute you’ll have a big need for a bunch of CNAs. The next minute you’ll have a big need for people who are able to go stay at someone’s house for 24 hours. Since my crystal ball is in the shop, I never know what it is I’m going to need.” From experience, Baker has learned to plan ahead and be prepared for the guessing game.
In addition to preparedness, Baker has also gathered that careful documentation is one of the best business practices, particularly in the realm that she works. For example, timeliness is one of the most important factors for this company – something that is stressed to every caregiver during orientation. Showing up late or not showing at all “can ruin somebody’s day because that’s the one thing they they’re looking forward to – when their caregiver arrives through that door. When they’re five minutes late, they don’t understand it.” Many clients of Homewatch CareGivers have Alzheimer’s or dementia, and slight strays in their schedule – such as a late caregiver – can completely throw off their day. According to Baker, many will not understand the flat tire or heavy traffic excuse.
Due to instances in which these situations have arisen under Baker’s watch, caregivers are heavily advised to be punctual. When they are not, it is carefully documented. The absenteeism and tardiness policy is vital to successful care.
One of Baker’s most memorable success stories involved a young girl around the age of 19. She visited the company seeking employment but did not own a vehicle – a factor that Baker explained would make her job difficult since she would need to travel to various locations on different shifts. Her response was that she would be on time. Despite her lack of vehicle and Baker’s experience with employees being late or missing their shifts because they didn’t have a ride, the young girl gave Baker the sense that she truly cared for the company’s mission. She decided to take a chance on her.
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Baker’s newest hire started small with just a couple of jobs – one this week, one the next. She was always on time. As she continued to prove herself, she kept getting assigned more and more jobs. Then, Baker was faced with a long-term client that needed 24 hour care and a lot of help. At that point, she decided to put the young girl up to the task, working alongside a hospice nurse. In turn, Baker received nothing but rave reviews about her performance. Everyone was so impressed with how caring she was and how she would go the extra mile with the client by putting her in her wheelchair and taking her for daily walks around the neighborhood, even though it wasn’t a requirement. The positive reviews made Baker pleased to have given the young girl that opportunity, thus proving the importance of not judging a book by its cover.
A TEAM EFFORT
To Mona Baker, the success of a small business equates to the team effort that is put forth. “It’s not just me. It’s the boss. It’s the administrative assistant. It is a complete team effort. Even if you work for a huge business, such as IBM, and you have 500,000 employees… if you lose that team effort, everyone else’s job wouldn’t happen. It wouldn’t be as smooth for the person working in the next cubicle over.”
For More Information: http://www.homewatchcaregivers.com/tucson/home-care.aspx