"If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Many people abide by this philosophy. Hey, it makes life a lot easier. If you're not constantly trying to reinvent the wheel, you can focus on pursuing happiness and success. It is one of many simple rules intended to help individuals prioritize and prevent unnecessary distraction or worry.
Ken Sim believes that some people are more likely to succeed by breaking such rules. Sim is a co-founder of Nurse Next Door Home Care Services, a private-duty home care company that helps seniors to live at home. Ken has made a great career out of going against the grain. The company, which now has more than 150 locations, is well known for its highly recognizable pink and yellow cars and its unique philosophy of happier aging. Their caring approach has helped them achieve multiple honors and is one of North America's best young franchise systems.
Sim attributes his own success to bucking the trend whenever his gut told him the traditional wisdom wasn't right for the situation. Here are the 7 pieces of traditional wisdom that Sim has defied in pursuing his own path; he explains how you can break the same rules in chasing your dreams.
- RULE: Wait for the sure thing.
Sim and his wife Teena discovered they were going to have a baby in December 2000. Sim had recently decided he would quit his job and give entrepreneurship a try. He could have changed his mind and stuck it out, but he knew staying at a job that just wasn't working for him wasn't an option.
Family encouraged Sim and his wife to play it safe and to find a different job, or at least something part-time. Instead, the couple relocated to Vancouver, both jobless and no immediate plans in place.
Soon after, Teena had complications that required emergency bed rest. Sim hired a caregiver. During the first visit, the caregiver disclosed that she had just started work after faxing in her resume the previous day. She had never met her employer. "I was totally shocked at that," he recalls. "I got in touch with an old mentor. We started a conversation about creating something better than a system that made life only-slightly-more-bearable for patients. Nurse Next Door emerged from that."
LESSON: Sometimes you have to remove distractions (like a steady but unsatisfying job) to see new opportunities.
- RULE: Avoid all the risks you can.
"The whole family thought I was making a mistake in not at least finding something part time during the discovery phase for this new company," laughs Sim. "It was looking like we'd have to live in my mom's basement with a newborn." Nevertheless, Sim decided to give himself two years before seeking a regular job. Building a new business is full-time work, and he wanted to give it everything he had. "I didn't want to be five years down the line and asking, 'What if?'" he says.
LESSON: Sometimes the real risk is not pursuing the dream when the time is ripe.
- RULE: Don't start a new venture when the world is shutting down.
Nurse Next Door launched in October of 2001--a month after the unfortunate events of 9/11. It seemed like the whole world had come to a halt. With so much going on, how could their launch get any attention? Sim remembers his discussion with partner John DeHart: "We decided that there is never a perfect time to open a business. So why wait?" As it turned out, elder care was still a priority for many senior citizens and their families. That part of life had to go on. Sim and DeHart were there to help.
LESSON: There are no ideal moments in real life. When you're as ready as you'll ever be, jump in.
- RULE: When in dignified company, try to fit in.
The healthcare industry is serious, traditional business. After all, it deals in life-or-death every day. Sim and DeHart were urged to fit in with that dignified, sober way of doing things. But they wanted to make healthcare fun. "Why shouldn't it be?" Sim asks. "We wanted to be bold, bright and fun in an industry that had become stale and boring. We even wrapped our cars in bold pinks and yellows." Some people were taken aback at first, but many came to love it. By being disruptive and choosing to not fit in, Nurse Next Door has helped change the home healthcare paradigm, raise expectations, and improve care throughout the industry.
LESSON: If the industry is out of touch, there is an opportunity to help it reconnect with the people it serves.
- RULE: Stay loyal to your biggest clients.
"Early on," he relates, "We had a big facility staffing client. They provided about 80% of our revenue. But we began to see that they did not live up to our beliefs about how staff should be treated. It just wasn't the right fit, and we fired them. That was the day we really started building our company culture." It helped them define Nurse Next Door's core values:
- Find a Better Way
- Passionate about Making a Difference
- Admire People
- Wow Customer Experience.
It took them some time to recover their financial position, but it made the company a place where people love to work.
LESSON: Anyone who drags you down in the short term will not help you grow or flourish in the long term.
- RULE: Grow slow to reduce risk.
Just a few years ago, Sim co-founded another venture, Rosemary Rocksalt Bagels. He planned to bring Montreal style bagels to North America, Europe, and Asia. Sim knew how growth typically works, but he also wanted to avoid a pitfall he saw down the road: "Most people prefer to start off with one location and build capital and move onto the next when their resources are plentiful. In our case, we chose to add more Rosemary Rocksalt locations quickly. We saw a need to diversify risk. We didn't want to be dependent on just a few locations."
LESSON: Sometimes doing something "risky" actually reduces your risk.
- RULE: Keep an eye on the competition.
It is important to know what others in your industry are doing. "But we were curious about successful behaviors in other industries. We toured the world to observe world-class operations of all kinds. Big names like Toyota, Tesla, FedEx, Daiwa House, Lululemon,1-800-Got-Junk, LinkedIn, Google, Apple, Cisco. We explored manufacture and emergency response organizations, too. We wanted to look at everyone stepping outside the box and see how their systems and processes could apply at Nurse Next Door." As far as Sim was concerned, the competition in home health care was getting most things wrong, and he didn't want his company to end up repeating their mistakes. So he looked outside the industry for inspiration.
LESSON: You are the company you keep. If you don't like the available role models, avoid them. Seek guidance elsewhere.