When Jim Guzdziol was in the process of securing a business loan to purchase his BrightStar Care agency in the western suburbs of Chicago, the loan officer made an off-hand comment about him “buying a job.” This statement didn’t sit right with Jim.
After all, he made the decision to become a business owner in the home health care industry for very personal reasons. Jim and his wife, Phyllis, began to experience the decline of their parents’ health. The two of them became acutely aware of the challenges adult children face, from trying to take care of aging parents on their own to finding a home health care brand they trust.
Instead of stewing on the loan officer’s words, he used them as motivation. He set a goal – selecting a future date when we wouldn’t be involved in day-to-day operations.
“Of course, I did have to roll up my sleeves and work very hard for the first several years,” said Jim. “But, I achieved my goal – it is most rewarding to be able to work on your business and not work within it.”
In order to reach this point, Jim has invested heavily in building an exceptional care team. He credits his staff, a strong culture of accountability and incentives for not only helping him expand his business but also be named BrightStar Care’s 2020 Franchisee of the Year.
Finding a Franchise with Similar Values
Before becoming a BrightStar Care franchisee, Jim had been vice president of merchandising for several luxury home goods retailers. After the 2008 recession severely impacted the industry, Jim knew he needed to move his career in a different direction.
“As a baby boomer, I could see the increasing need for quality home care, and after researching the industry, thought that BrightStar Care was uniquely positioned to differentiate their offering from the competition,” said Jim.
Along with his personal connection to home health care, Jim was drawn to BrightStar Care because of the founder, Shelly Sun. Jim saw that Shelly’s goals aligned with his own, and he would be dealing with a privately owned business that truly valued the care it offered to its clients instead of a private equity firm that was solely looking to turn a profit.
After spending a majority of his career in retail, Jim found the healthcare industry to be a breath of fresh air – one where he and his team could look back and visibly see the difference they’ve made in the lives of so many people facing one of the most difficult times in their lives.
Building a Strong Team to Boost Customer Satisfaction
Years later, Jim is still continuing to bring his passion for helping others since purchasing his first BrightStar Care location in Naperville, Illinois in 2009. After owning the Naperville territory for nine months and significantly growing the business, the adjacent Oak Brook territory became available and he took the opportunity to expand and build a larger business serving the western suburbs of Chicago.
Throughout this experience, Jim has found strength in being self-aware.
“Be honest with yourself,” he said. “What are you really good at? What are you not so good at? What do you really enjoy doing? What do you prefer not to do? Once you have clarity with these questions, you can go about building the team around you to complement your skills.”
Building a strong team starts with your hiring strategy. Jim has found that his best employees have a network of other great people in the industry. He and his team continue to work on their employee referral program to reap the benefits.
Currently, Jim has 260 employees consisting of nurses, nurse assistants, caregivers and office support staff, and he has created a culture of ownership within the team where office staff has the freedom to make decisions relative to their areas of responsibility. In addition to creating a positive work culture for his employees, Jim has implemented a weekly scorecard that tracks and reports key performance indicators for each member of his team.
“Customer satisfaction scores play a key role,” said Jim. “To boost motivation and customer service, I layered in a weekly team bonus and quarterly individual bonuses for each office team member – their hard work should be recognized, especially when we can visibly see that through the scorecards.”
Advice to Future Franchisees
For those thinking of investing in a home health care franchise, Jim recommends putting in the time and effort to do their due diligence as they consider the opportunity.
From spending time talking to other nearby franchisees to studying the territory, Jim believes connecting with others is key to making a well-informed decision. And don’t necessarily be dissuaded if there are competitors nearby, as this can be an opportunity to create differentiation or referral sources. Above all, Jim advises prospective franchisees to have faith in their skills and past career experience, as they can draw upon these as independent business owners.
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