“How will you do that? You don’t know anything about running that type of business,” said Marie Simmons. My response was I’ll figure it out, I just need your blessings to get started.
The year was 2006 and I was speaking to my grandmother about a business opportunity that was presented to me. I met with an old neighbor Melanie Lamar, who had started a franchise homecare business called Right at Home in Washington, DC. She was a Registered Nurse and telling me about this concept called ‘private duty in-home care.’ My radar started going off thinking this was the next big thing and the break I needed in my entrepreneurial endeavors.
Although I didn’t have a healthcare background, I knew I had to do this. I was a serial entrepreneur looking for my big break although I was clueless about how to find it. This is how I define faith, you put what you want out to the universe, and it will appear right in front of your face. See Melanie received one of my email blasts dealing with real estate (I was a realtor at the time), and she asked me to meet to discuss an idea that would eventually change my life.
During that year I was doing a lot. I was working in corporate America at Fannie Mae. I had a full-time job, worked as part-time realtor, day traded, bought real estate and was in the process of trying to sell my primary residence. When you grow up young, black and broke, you hustle like hell to get ahead. I was also looking for another job because I was ready to move on from the corporate world. But back then no major decision was ever made without my grandmother’s consent. With this situation, she approved and now I had to figure out how I could afford the buy in to be part owner of the business.
I just got promoted at Fannie Mae to a Deal Structuring Manager and I was making more money than I ever made. But it was two years to late for me. I didn’t understand why others got promoted ahead of me when I was doing double the production. I remember going into every year-end review asking what I needed to do to improve. The following year I would improve in that area only for my manager to point out something else I was doing wrong. I realized that I was too outspoken for the corporate world. I asked a lot of questions and they wanted employees to just follow orders. That wasn’t me!
When I went to lunch with my co-workers, all we did was bitch and complain about the job and the culture. And I would say stuff like, “why don’t you find another job or start your own business.” And the responses were always, “there are no other jobs that pay as much;” or “I can’t leave because of the house, car, wife, and kids.” So the complaining ensued and I told myself, I was going to stop complaining and actually do something about it.
I started applying for jobs everywhere and the best opportunity was with the government. I negotiated a deal that increased my salary by almost $20k per year and provided me with better benefits. People couldn’t believe I pulled that off. In 2006 I started to work for a government agency called OFHEO as a Senior Financial Risk Analyst. I was making more money, got a corner office, and I could travel for work. So when I informed family and friends that I was only staying for one year everyone thought I was crazy.
I was 28 at the time and I was more motivated than ever. I read books every free moment I got and my goal was to be a millionaire by the time I was 30. Plus I subscribed to the idea that you’re supposed to love what you do. Well I sure didn’t love this job and neither did most of the co-workers I met. The place was depressing and most people worked there for their big salary and benefits.
I would read on the train and be so inspired coming into the office only to have all my energy drained the moment I got to work. People were making big salaries, but most of them didn’t seem happy. In fact, I realized that these individuals felt more trapped than my former co-workers at Fannie Mae who made less. At this moment I realized that the more money you made did not equal fulfillment – well at least not as an employee.
In early 2006, me and Melanie finalized our partnership to run the Washington, DC Right at Home business together. That gave me time to afford the buy in amount and fulfill my year obligation at OFHEO. The plan was for me to start running the business full-time alongside here in January 2007. I was excited about this new journey then a major setback happened.
In June 2006 my grandmother passed away suddenly. I won’t go into details now about the relationship I had with my her (I will save for another blog). But I will say that I never thought she would die. Call me naive, but that was my reality at the time. Well she did pass away and my life changed forever. I mourned, I grew and most importantly, I began to understand life a whole lot better. We will all die one day, but are living today?
Working with Older Americans (early years)
The year 2007 started out with me spending two weeks in Omaha, Nebraska. I never been away from Washington, DC for more than a week and I never experienced the Midwest cold before. Also, it was so few blacks in Omaha and all of this had me questioning what I got myself into.
The start of running the Right at Home business was rough for me. It’s like everything I learned about business didn’t necessarily apply in this industry. I would go to the hospital and ask them to send us clients, and they would look at me crazy like who is this black man who doesn’t have a healthcare background. And it didn’t help that I had so many other things going on at the time like being a realtor, buying properties and stocks. So Right at Home was just a part of all the things I was doing and therefore I wasn’t focused.
Where I grew up in DC, no one could afford $20 a hour for medical assistance unless it was paid for by the government. In fact, when I used to do marketing for Right at Home at certain places, all I would hear was “our residents can’t afford your services.” So I began to question if the business could even work in the city. And to be totally honest, I agreed to become Melanie’s partner off sheer faith alone because it sounded like a good opportunity. I didn’t do any type of research or analysis to see if I would be successful, I just knew I could be.
Between my marketing degree, MBA in Finance, training at Keller Williams as a realtor, and experience working in corporate America and the government, I was pretty well rounded when it came to business. Each experience taught me what did and didn’t work when it comes to managing employees, building a culture and selling a product or service. So when those nurses would give me the side-eye when I walked through the front door, I realized I had to get business going through the side or back door.
So I started building up our database. Instead asking them directly for the business, I would get their business card and email and follow-up with them frequently. I started using social media consistently so now when I went to the hospitals to ask for the business, they knew who I was even if I didn’t know them. It was amazing!! And because of it, we started getting more and more referrals and our hours and revenue started to grow. As we were starting to figure out the business, we would then get hit with a notice that we had to shut down. For a few years we had to deal with this issue, but we managed to not only avoid getting shut down, we ended up coming out on top.
2008 – 2012
This year 2008 is when I decided to give up on credit and I stopped buying real estate and stocks. A lot of this was due to the market crash and the fact that I lost so much money and dealt with so much stress during this time. I also realized that although running a real estate business was sexier than running a homecare business, homecare held me down during the market collapse and provided the much bigger opportunity in the future.
I owe a great deal of recognition to my partner Melanie for helping me see the light. Although the business was growing, she knew we could reach higher heights if I plugged in more. So she started encouraging me to go to the Right at Home conferences and regional meetings to meet the other franchise owners. Well it worked! I realized that these owners were not just making money, they were creating legacies while serving their communities. I got so motivated that I knew that eventually I would leave real estate to only focus on running the Right at Home business.
Around this time, I also realized the importance of not taking on too many responsibilities. I started to understand the importance of focusing on one thing at a time. I realized the less things I commit too, the more control I would have over my life.
Once I made the decision to focus the majority of my effort on running the homecare business, things took off. We managed to reach top 7 out of over 400 locations worldwide. We bought a second Right at Home territory in Waldorf, Maryland. In fact, one year we were recognized as the #3 multi-territory office in the entire system. This was a huge feat after struggling heavily during the first few years of running the business. We started a technology company to diversify and were identified as leaders in the franchise by our peers.
In 2015, I decided to move to Miami, FL. I managed to create systems and processes where I could run the business from anywhere in the world. This came will a lot of backlash but we still managed to have our biggest year revenue wise in 2015. I was starting to get complete control of my life and enjoying as much as I could. Me and Melanie both realized it was time to move on and try something new. So we put the Right at Home DC business on the market for sell in that year. We ended up having several interested parties but nothing panned out. After three long and hard years, we sold the business to an amazing buyer in 2018.
Right now I am not trying to think much about the future. I am living in the present and enjoying this moment. I have the second homecare office to run, mobile app BOTY to grow and my personal brand to develop. Whatever I do in the future must consist of purposeful work, but I’m not thinking much about any of it. I am just happy that I have reached a state of perfect happiness. I am at a point where I understand that focus, patience, perseverance, and commitment results in my desired payoff.
And it’s not about about the money, it’s about the dedication to something bigger than you and seeing it though. It’s about discovering your truth and sticking to it. In 2008 I learned that life wasn’t fair and in order to be happy, I must be in complete control of my life. I took a big risk agreeing to run this business with absolutely no idea what I was doing. I am thankful for every thing that happened good or bad and I can truly say that I have reached ultimate freedom which is Nirvana.