In January 1975, when I was 27-years-old, I opened the doors of BAYADA Home Health Care, a small business I started with $16,000 in hard-earned savings and what some may consider unrealistic expectations. Like so many young entrepreneurs, I was brimming with confidence rooted in the belief that I had identified the formula for success. It seemed simple enough. I would hire good home health aides who, of course, would be compassionate, reliable and do an excellent job caring for clients. I would treat those employees like family, and they in turn would treat clients like family. From there, the business would flourish.
Was I naïve in thinking that formula alone would cause everything else to fall into place? Absolutely--I quickly realized that recruiting and retaining strong employees, not to mention establishing a solid bank of clients, was a challenge I needed to surmount before I could focus on building a culture that helped me achieve my mission. Was I wrong to think that centering a business around the core values of compassion, reliability and excellence would prove sustainable? Absolutely not. Fast forward 42 years to today and our little start-up has achieved more than $1.2 billion in annual revenue while providing community care to nearly 30,000 clients a week from more than 330 service offices in the United States and across the globe. To make sure that these values remain at the center of the company for generations to come, I'm celebrating my 70th birthday by stepping down from my role as chief executive officer and transitioning the company into a nonprofit organization. This will protect the company from sale and means that the company's mission, vision, values, and beliefs, codified as The BAYADA Way, will exist for 100 years and beyond.
As my retirement approaches, I've naturally spent a good deal of time reflecting on the countless experiences I have had with employees and clients over the years that reinforced for me the critical nature of the work we do--and the invaluable lessons I've learned along the way. These learnings have made an indelible impact on me and have caused me to redefine what I consider success, from a business perspective, and I'm sharing them in the hopes that others may find them useful:
Always put other people first--no matter what.
When it comes to your clients and your employees--not to mention those in your personal life - putting others' needs before your own is essential. It's a reality that is not exclusive to the health care industry, but rings true for those in every other vertical, from consumer packaged goods and manufacturing to, of course, hospitality and tourism. This is absolutely essential for employees. By treating staff well and showing respect for their individuality and vital role on a team, they will feel valued, stay loyal and undoubtedly feel more inspired to perform with excellence.
Don't be afraid to get in the weeds.
When I first started my business, I felt so strongly that I needed to have real life experience doing the work that I'd ask my employees to perform in the field that I became a certified nursing assistant. I obtained an intimate understanding of the highs and lows that came along with the profession, and the pressures and joys of providing in-home care. That experience instilled in me a greater capacity to listen, empathize and respond to the needs of our team members--and alternately allowed them to place more trust in me and my ability to lead, as someone who had walked a similar path.
Figure it out.
When I was teenager, my father tasked me and my four brothers with building a sea wall to protect our family home from the threat of a nearby river. The only instruction he provided was that we somehow "figure it out." It wasn't easy, and it took a blend of blind confidence, patience and persistence, but we succeeded and that sea wall still stands today, many decades later. It's an anecdote I've told my employees, children and grandchildren many times. It is proof that collaboration and hard work can result in something strong and enduring, no matter the circumstances we face at the outset.
This morning, I'll arrive at our company headquarters and walk through the doors for the very last time as president. When I walk out the door at the end of the day, I'll be entering into a new and different role in retirement to help steer the transition of BAYADA into a nonprofit organization. There will be new challenges and lessons to be learned, but by continuing to put our mission at the forefront of all that we do, we will continue to make a difference in the lives of our clients for generations to come.