Sign up for email updates from SBAReceive helpful business tips and upcoming events in your area.


Small Business Learning Center

SBA's Online Business Chat

A live Q&A session with small business experts. Submit your question before or during the chat discussion. You cannot submit question after Closing Remarks for the chat. No registration is needed for the web chat.
Kathleen Devlin

Entrepreneur's Spotlight: Maintaining Business Success

Kathleen Devlin
Owner, All About Home Care LLC & 2011 Small Business Week Winner

Thursday, June 16, 2011 1:00 PM

When Kathleen Devlin started All About Home Care (AAHC) in 2003, she was the sole employee working out of a small home office.  As the main caregiver for customers, she provided companionship, light housekeeping, meal planning and help with personal grooming to elders, focusing on giving seniors the option of staying relatively independent at home.  In the meantime, she attended SBA’s Small Business Development Center seminars on marketing and creating effective business plans.

Within two years the company outgrew its one-room office. In 2007 Kathleen became a Certified Geriatric Care Manager – one of only seven in Rhode Island. AAHC was able to expand its elder care services.  In 2009 the company acquired a Nursing Care Provider license, allowing AAHC to offer geriatric nursing support, again expanding the level of care and advancing the business to a new level.
   
Profitable growth spurts pushed the company out of several locations.  With a staff of 68 full- and part-time employees, AAHC moved into a 2,100 square-foot space in January 2010. Despite the economic downturn, in 2010 the company saw sales increase by 35 percent. Kathleen shares her success with the community, supporting organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association of Rhode Island and the Newport County Child and Family Services.

Kathleen Devlin will share her story of perseverance and success with other entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners, and provide helpful insights on the successes and challenges of entrepreneurship. Chat participants can learn about how this small business owner has sustained during an economic downturn, and how she has maintained business success.
 
SBA’s National Small Business Week (SBW) events were held May 16-20, 2011, in Washington, D.C., where more than 100 outstanding small business owners from across the country were honored. Full videos of SBW events and the business forums held can be viewed online at http://nationalsmallbusinessweek.com/video.
 
Note:  There is not an audio format for the online chat, and no broadcast capability.  SBA moderators retain editorial control over the online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for chat participants and hosts. Chat hosts may decline to answer questions.

Chat Transcript

From:
Cynthia Deemer
Location:
Tylertown, Mississippi
 

Thank you for joining me today for the SBA Web Chat “Entrepreneur’s Spotlight: Maintaining Business Success”. I look forward to answering your questions.

 
From:
Cynthia Deemer
Location:
Tylertown, Mississippi
 
Question:
Please encourage women not to be discouraged by negativity.
Reply:
Hi Cynthia, thank you for joining us. First, is the negativity coming from outside or is it our own negativity? I think my answer may address both types of negativity, as I believe that to reduce negativity from within ourselves or outside we need to be confident in ourselves. In order to develop confidence we need to know the answers and understand how to handle the problems we may encounter. We are fortunate that recently many community resources have been made available to the target audience of “women”. Use the community resources available to you, both those designed for women; such as, your Chamber of Commerce Women’s Round Table discussions or a Center for Women and Enterprise. Look into those organizations that are designed to assist new business or your type of business or those open to everyone, such as, the SBA, Chamber of Commerce, Business Network International, etc. Participate in lectures, seminars, classes and discussions offered by all of these community resources that you have discovered. The practice and knowledge of participating in these groups will turn into confidence as you learn and move towards success. This will reduce your own negativity and hopefully provide you the tools you need to confront any negativity you receive from the outside.
 
From:
demitrius mcmullen
Location:
charlotte, north carolina
 
Question:
i am writing a paper in english 114 on entrepreneurialism and i was hoping i could get a little bit of your time
Reply:
Demitrius, please let me know what assistance you need. Do you have any specific questions?
 
From:
Tamekia Jackson
Location:
Como, Ms
 
Question:
What is your marketing strategy?
Reply:
Hi Tamekia, thank you for your question. I have been in business for 8 years and my marketing strategy has changed over the years. The first few years my strategy was to “get known” in my community. I did not have any money for marketing, so it was a time commitment. I did spend money on a few marketing tools, such as business cards, brochures and a “portfolio” that contained information on my type of business; a copy of a news article written about my agency, testimonials from a few of my peers or my first clients about me or the agency, etc. Oh, yes…I also invested in a computer and a 4-in-1 printer that I could use for all my printing. I couldn’t afford to use a professional printing company for all the printing, but don’t cut corners on your business cards or brochures. They are your face in the community until you get better known. I developed a very simple website (without any web developer experience) to put my company on the web and I did a small ad in the yellow pages. The time commitment I refer to is my time spent in meetings and “getting out there”. I attended all community business events that were relevant, networking events and like-business related events. I met with facilities that might have been interested in my services and explained the benefits to them of how we could work together (so they understand the advantage to them – not just that I wanted them to hire or refer me). I participated in business and health fairs with a table equipped with marketing materials and a board that illustrated exactly what our business was all about. Don’t forget to include a give-away, even if it is just a really good candy that will get people to your table. This is what everyone refers to as “face-to-face” networking or marketing. This was my strategy in the beginning and continues to be my strongest lead for referrals today. I have a budget in place for marketing today and can invest money in marketing strategies such as, magnets for all my staff to place on their cars (they get a free car wash each month), purchased mailing list for specific demographics and mail post cards that I have designed highlighting my agency, a float in our upcoming parade, ads in our local school programs, a give-away that includes coupons for complimentary services for [prospective] clients. The list goes on and truly depends on your type of business.
 
From:
Yolinda Bustamante
Location:
Wellington, Florida
 
Question:
Advise how to develop a marketing plan , my product :Salsa Gourmet and marinade , Home based small business
Reply:
Yolinda, I am not sure if my response to Tamekia has helped you on how to develop a marketing plan, but let me add a few tips. I am operating a service company, very different than a food retail operation, but many of my ideas could still apply to you and your business. But to address, your question specifically, I would like to suggest that you participate in the SBA classes available that teach you how to develop a marketing plan. My background is Human Development and Psychology, so I didn’t know anything about marketing when I started out. Attend all classes that focus on this topic. I went to free seminars available at my Chamber of Commerce, took the SBA classes and attended several groups comprised of business women, that helped me. Also, tell people what you are trying to do and listen to their ideas! People love to help and will give you some terrific ideas. SCORE, another group offering assistance, may be able to give you a consultant to help you with the marketing aspect of your business. Again, talk to your SBA representative.
 
From:
Barbara Dean
Location:
Potsdam, N.Y.
 
Question:
How difficult is it to manage the state mandates? What proportion of time do you spend on regulatory issues?
Reply:
As a home health care agency we are licensed by the Department of Health in the state of RI. I found the initial application process pretty daunting, but once I got thru that it has not required a great deal of time. Are these the state mandates that you are referencing?
 
From:
Brandy Shaw
Location:
Charlotte, NC
 
Question:
Congrats Kathleen, how did you get started and how have you been able to stay in business?
Reply:
Thank you, Brandy. I started VERY slowly. I actually was a caregiver at night and worked on the business during the day. Started in a home office with only me, wearing many hats! As my client base grew so did my company. The trick to staying in business is making sure you do a terrific job at what you have set yourself up to do. Be honest and work hard!
 
From:
babrbara dean
Location:
Potsdam, N.Y.
 
Question:
yes
Reply:
Babrbara, each state is very different so please be advised that my experience in RI may not be the same as NY.
 
From:
Kim Wilbur
Location:
Wilmington, NC
 
Question:
Hi Kathleen, I am interested in starting my own senior services company. I know that there is a lot of competition in the industry, what sets you apart from your competitors? Any advice for someone just starting in this industry? I have a lot of personal experience working with seniors but not a lot of work experience.
Reply:
Hi Kim. I am not a franchise, it is my own company. This allows me to develop and provide services that are perhaps different from other agencies. Especially a franchise, as they are more regimented and follow a particular format. My advice to you as you look at this industry is that you should carefully review all your options. Consider the franchise operations, doing it on your own or looking at a Membership type organization, such as, The Seniors Choice. I attribute a great deal of my success to my decision to join The Seniors Choice. If you contact them, please give them my name and let them know how we met!
 
From:
Mitch Battle
Location:
Chicago,
 
Question:
I've been thinkin about going into business for myself. What does your busines do and would you recommend business start up to others as an occupation.
Reply:
Hi Mitch, I started out as a "Companion Care" company. This means (in the state of RI) that I was not allowed to provide personal care to clients. We provided cooking, transportation, cleaning, medication reminders, etc. In RI, you need a license from the Dept of Health to provide personal care. I got this license (after much hard work) about 1 1/2 years ago. Now we provide a full range of services from companionship to skilled nursing. We are pretty much able to offer whatever a person needs to stay safe and happy in their home. And remember their home may be an assisted living residential facility, a nursing home, or even a nunnery (provided services to an aging nun). I would recommend this occupation to those that may be considering a business start up but please remember, it is not for everyone. I have both education and experience working with people in their home.
 
From:
Adriana Trillo
Location:
El Paso, TX
 
Question:
What is your Marketing Strategy?
Reply:
Hi Adriana. I spoke with Tamekia about this same question so I will share that answer: I have been in business for 8 years and my marketing strategy has changed over the years. The first few years my strategy was to “get known” in my community. I did not have any money for marketing, so it was a time commitment. I did spend money on a few marketing tools, such as business cards, brochures and a “portfolio” that contained information on my type of business; a copy of a news article written about my agency, testimonials from a few of my peers or my first clients about me or the agency, etc. Oh, yes…I also invested in a computer and a 4-in-1 printer that I could use for all my printing. I couldn’t afford to use a professional printing company for all the printing, but don’t cut corners on your business cards or brochures. They are your face in the community until you get better known. I developed a very simple website (without any web developer experience) to put my company on the web and I did a small ad in the yellow pages. The time commitment I refer to is my time spent in meetings and “getting out there”. I attended all community business events that were relevant, networking events and like-business related events. I met with facilities that might have been interested in my services and explained the benefits to them of how we could work together (so they understand the advantage to them – not just that I wanted them to hire or refer me). I participated in business and health fairs with a table equipped with marketing materials and a board that illustrated exactly what our business was all about. Don’t forget to include a give-away, even if it is just a really good candy that will get people to your table. This is what everyone refers to as “face-to-face” networking or marketing. This was my strategy in the beginning and continues to be my strongest lead for referrals today. I have a budget in place for marketing today and can invest money in marketing strategies such as, magnets for all my staff to place on their cars (they get a free car wash each month), purchased mailing list for specific demographics and mail post cards that I have designed highlighting my agency, a float in our upcoming parade, ads in our local school programs, a give-away that includes coupons for complimentary services for [prospective] clients. The list goes on and truly depends on your type of business.
 
From:
Kim Wilbur
Location:
Wilmington, NC
 
Question:
Another question for you. Do you have any recommendations of reading materials or other sources that you found useful in helping you set up your business, determine rates, etc.? And do you use industry specific software for billing?
Reply:
I made the decision to join The Senior's Choice at the onset of my business. It is a group similar to a franchise, as it offers many tools, but does not have the limitations or high cost of a franchise (although please be advised, it does cost to join and continue membership). If you are interested you can find more info on-line if you google The Seniors Choice. I got all the assistance you are asking about; determining rates, industry specific software, start up process and procedures from them. I use HomeTrak Scheduling Software, Quickbooks, Intuit for payroll, and telephony for caregivers to clock in and out.
 
From:
Paul Reese
Location:
Baltimore, M.D.
 
Question:
Thanks, you've given some great information and tips on this to do. Do you have any tips on things to avoid and any no-no's for a business owner?
Reply:
Hi Paul - Good question...I made the mistake of trying to do it all when the company had grown. I was very close to burn out!! You need to recognize when you need help. Learn to delegate. I am still working on that! Don't put things off. I waited to get my scheduling software in place. Yikes, I was doing schedules on paper for way too long. You need to get as many automated systems in place as soon as possible.
 
From:
Adriana Trillo
Location:
El Paso, TX
 
Question:
What three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
Reply:
Adriana, this is a great question. So here goes...1. Trust your gut! 2. Seek out the community supports that you can use - they are out there, and 3. Be ready to share a lot of confidential and personal information. As I sought help, I put myself in a very vulnerable position. People can't help unless they understand your business and you. You will need to share, in order to receive appropriate feedback.
 
From:
Rita
Location:
New Orleans,
 
Question:
I see that at some point in your business you needed to get a license to do the personal care. What was that process like, what did you have to do to get licensed?
Reply:
Rita, the process differs state-by-state. I had to go thru an application that was very detailed, hire an attorney, create a policy and procedure manual addressing all the regulation guidelines (before I even had the license), I had to employ a RN (before I could bill out an RN) because the state wanted an RN involved in the submission of the packet, attend several hearings in front of the Dept. of Health and open to the public, and the list goes on... But, as I said, RI, is tough and I don't believe it is typical.
 
From:
C. Lawrence
Location:
Boston, Ma.
 
Question:
Hi Kathleen. Would you ever consider francishing your business?
Reply:
No. I have my hands full right now :) I hope to be on a board of directors (collecting a pay check) and overseeing the operation from a distance. That is my only long term goal at this point.
 
From:
Rich Lloyd
Location:
Middleburg Heights, Ohio
 
Question:
I am researching the need for
Reply:
Rich - Great idea. Keep working it!!
 
From:
Christina Reiff
Location:
, Arizona
 
Question:
What best practices can you share in terms of generating referrals?
Reply:
Chritina, thank you for your question. Best practice for generating referrals would be to use many different marketing strategies. Do not put all your eggs (time and money) into one basket. In otherwords, use print (yellow pages), use health fairs, use lectures to a Lyons Club group, use brochures in medical offices, etc. These are all different "pillars" of advertising/marketing to get referrals.
 
From:
babrbara dean
Location:
Potsdam, N.Y.
 
Question:
what motivated you to obtain the license?
Reply:
I found that I was giving away to many clients to agencies that could provide personal care.
 
From:
Adriana Trillo
Location:
El Paso, TX
 
Question:
What do you think are some of the challenges that women in business face today, and how could they overcome such challenges?
Reply:
I have not experienced any challenges that I was not able to overcome. Again, share the challenges that you are running into with someone that can assist you. People love to help.
 
From:
Hope Baylor
Location:
, Delaware
 
Question:
Kathleen.thanks for taking my question, is there one piece of advice you'd give to those of us wanted to get going with our own businesses? One thing you'd highly recommend.
Reply:
You need to get started. The reward is great. Don't procrastinate. Break the huge task of starting your own business into very small pieces and tackle them one at a time.
 
From:
Tina
Location:
San Diego, Ca
 
Question:
Thanks Kathleen. Can you tell me what has been the hardest thing for you when you started out in business for yourself? I'm having a hard time getting going and need some direction.
Reply:
The money. I had to leave a full-time position with a company and live off my home equity. If you work hard, you may be able to see that turn around as I did.
 
From:
Cynthia Deemer
Location:
Tylertown, Mississippi
 

It has been my pleasure to have been part of the SBA Web Chat today and I have enjoyed your questions. I hope I was able to assist you with a few answers and move you closer to maintaining your business success! A special thank you to Cecelia and the SBA for making this event possible.