Ben Chernow may not strike you as the typical home care agency owner. Only 32 years old, he recently left his career as a commercial litigator to pursue a franchise with Seniors Helping Seniors. He is in charge of three territories in the Maryland suburbs outside of Washington, DC. While he is just getting started, he is hopeful that his new profession will be personally fulfilling as well as lucrative. He talked to McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse about his vocation turn.
McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse: How did this job shift come about?
Ben Chernow: It happened very recently. I was practicing as an attorney until the change in the calendar year. I quit my job and tried to figure out what was next. I stumbled across Seniors Helping Seniors and fell in love with the business. I signed a franchise agreement in April. We started looking for clients last month [July]. The month before was putting together a good group of caregivers. We now have seven. [The business] is brand new and very different than practicing law.
McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse: Were you looking to make a career change?
Ben Chernow: I knew I didn’t want to practice law anymore. I was a commercial litigator and hated it for a lot of reasons. I decided to get out. I always had a desire for financial independence and self-sufficiency and was always drawn to entrepreneurship. I have an MBA but not hands-on business experience so franchising seemed like a good compromise. Home care jumped out as a good business to be in. There’s strong demand and that’s not going anywhere. It’s not going to be outsourced and it’s fairly recession-proof. It also helps people and makes a difference in people’s life, which is different from commercial litigation.
McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse: How did you settle on Seniors Helping Seniors?
Ben Chernow: In the process of trying to figure out what was next I looked at starting a franchise with McDonald’s which required so much start-up capital. I got contacted by a franchising consultant who said not everything is as expensive as McDonald’s and sent over five for me to look at. Seniors Helping Seniors jumped out at me because they’ve done a great job aligning their business and their values and have built a successful business based on kindness, companionship and humility.
McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse: What are you using for start-up capital?
Ben Chernow: I have money saved and got an SBA loan.
McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse: Tell us about the Seniors Helping Seniors model and what kind of caregivers you are seeking.
Ben Chernow: We hire active seniors to provide care and we emphasize the companionship aspect of care because our caregivers have some experience with the aging process and can relate to a lot of things the clients are going through. We applied for the Residential Service Agency license. They said it will take a year to review, so we can’t offer CNA services until we have this license. We are providing care now. The license apples to ADLs – grooming, dressing and feeding — but we can provide other forms of care without the license. Once that license comes though, we’ll probably have two types of employees — CNAs and strictly companions.
McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse: How’s the business going so far?
Ben Chernow: It’s a grind. The franchise did a good job telling me what. I knew what I was getting into, but I did a good job forgetting it. From the client perspective, its a big decision. It’s not like I can run an ad and get a client the next day. It’s a process and working through that process takes time.
McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse: Were you close with your grandparents growing up?
Ben Chernow: I am and was. My grandparents on my mother’s side are still around and we are close. I have two younger sisters. We’d spend summers on my grandparents’ ranch in Arizona. My grandparents on my father’s side have passed away, but we were close. They reached a point where they needed care. I was not really involved in it; I was too young, but I witnessed the process.
McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse: Anything else you want to share or impart as a new business owner?
Ben Chernow: One of the things [the company] stressed to us which I took to heart was to succeed in the long run you ne a good reputation. If you want a good reputation, you have to do right by people, and sometimes that means passing up on business in the best interest of the client, which I have certainly done. Anyone who makes those CNA inquiries, we’re referring to other agencies. I knew coming in it was going to be a long process, but I’m optimistic.
Editor’s note: Peer-to-Peer is a feature from McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse in which we talk to the leaders in home care, your peers, about their operational initiatives, efforts and ideas. If you think someone in home care would make a good subject for Peer-to-Peer, please email Liza Berger at [email protected].