Mother-son team, inspired to make lives better, helps leading home care franchise expand into south Texas market
Lisa Lyles and her son Scott bought their Nurse Next Door franchise in November and quickly began building a clientele in and around San Antonio, Texas, specifically Kendall, Kerr, Comal and Bexar counties. Lisa, 54, had run a business with her mother for three decades and was considering retirement. Scott, 23, was just about to graduate from college and planned to keep working for a nonprofit that helped injured veterans. Then Lisa learned about Nurse Next Door, and she and Scott decided they both wanted to serve the massive senior population in their community and own a business that fulfilled their entrepreneurial and community service instincts.
What were you doing before Nurse Next Door?
Lisa: I had a background screening company for 30 years with my mother. Our primary focus was credit, background, employment and resident screening on prospective single family and multi-family tenants. We sold the business in 2008, and I really thought I would enjoy the things I had not had the time to do before and become more involved with civic and community activities. I very quickly realized retirement was not for me and started researching other business opportunities that would give me the opportunity to really impact lives and make a difference. I have always had a soft spot in my heart and a great deal of respect for our senior citizens and knew their care needed to be approached in a positive, caring way.
Scott: I was going to school at Texas A&M and working with a nonprofit organization called Wounded Warriors in Action. I graduated this past December, and at the time, I was planning to continue working with the Wounded Warriors in Action. I had made some really good connections, and I could see doing that long-term. Then Lisa (aka Mom) came to me with the idea of Nurse Next Door, and it just blew me away. I was looking for those kinds of core values in a company to work for. Nurse Next Door’s core values were very aligned with what I was already doing. With the Wounded Warriors, so often all they wanted was for someone to talk to or help them do things that they used to do but were having difficulty doing now, and Nurse Next Door had that same caring foundation. And to actually own a company like that, it was pretty humbling. The whole thing is about making a difference, knowing at the end of the day that you made a difference in someone’s life.
Why did you want to open a franchise?
Lisa: One of the reasons Nurse Next Door intrigued me was that my prior business was a small local business, and I was very interested in the franchise approach. I felt like in today’s world, it’s really important to have more support … Often times with small businesses, you’re gobbled up by the big guys. I did not want to get into the corporate world, but to be successful; I felt it was really important to have more support and the national recognition, so it was a happy medium for me.
How did you find out about Nurse Next Door?
Lisa: My husband saw (CEO John DeHart’s) interview on Fox Business last January, and he called me from work and said, “This is something you might be interested in.” He had a habit of throwing ideas out there hoping one would eventually stick. We had looked at other home care franchises and very quickly could see Nurse Next Door was in a class all by themselves. Nurse Next Door is just very exciting, energizing, and.fresh. It’s about celebrating aging: “We all deserve to celebrate this time in our lives.” This is what we wanted to do. The others companies we looked at were like, “We’re going to get the task done in as short a time as possible and move on to the next client.” We are really, really big on thinking outside the box, and Nurse Next Door thinks outside the box on their approach to home care.
What sets Nurse Next Door apart?
Lisa: Exactly that. They approach everything with a very hands-on customer service approach, and that is very, very important. When Scott and I went up to Vancouver for the interview, we had already done so much research, and our mission was to find something wrong because it all seemed so perfect. When we got off the plane, I reminded Scott, “Remember, we have to play the devil’s advocate.” But the entire organization is so positive and upbeat, and they’re so receptive to helping you find a better way. When you ask anyone at Nurse Next Door, “How about this or Can we try it this way?” They may not know, but they’re going to help you find an answer and that is a really unusual thing, to not just say it but to mean it. I do have to say — without a doubt, unconditionally — that they walk the walk.
Scott: We went up to Vancouver, and I remember thinking, “We have to get this culture and that attitude down to San Antonio. This community is just waiting for a company like Nurse Next Door.” It’s a mindset of caring and celebrating aging that sets Nurse Next Door apart and raises it above other home care companies.
How large is the need for your service?
Lisa: In our community, it’s extremely large. Our territory has a very large senior population, and they’re active seniors. We live in a golf community — there are several in our territory — and their mindset is what we’re looking for, because they’re fiercely independent and want to celebrate this time in their lives. But as seniors age, they need help. So we come with a positive, upbeat approach, and they’re so receptive to that. They’re individuals who have been active all their lives and appreciate the fact that we want to help them retain as much independence as possible for as long as possible.
What does your typical day look like?
Lisa: Our day starts really early. By about 5:30, I’m up looking at Procura (the Nurse Next Door franchise partner software program), checking to make sure we’ve got everything covered. Of course, we do lots of marketing throughout day. Today, starting off, I’ve got a networking meeting, which I have two to three times a week. Scott is taking a client to a doctor’s appointment. We will spend several hours with our director of nurses going over the status of our clients. Then we have another caring consult at 2 o’clock, a new client — and this client has some special needs that will need to be addressed before we assign the caregivers, so we will get back to the office and review the caregivers that are available and begin the search to find the perfect match. We typically end the day around 6:30. So much of our day involves trying to match clients with the perfect caregiver and being problem solvers. Currently, we have 18 caregivers and 10 clients.
How does your service change your clients’ lives?
Lisa: We definitely help relieve the stress from daughters, sons, family members and primary caregivers. We focus a lot on trying to get clients back to the life they had previously enjoyed, to just make a difference. We really work on making lives better, one visit at a time. We had a client the other day that was put in the hospital in January. He was living alone and is daughter found him on the floor one morning; his blood sugar level was 1100. He was immediately rushed to the hospital where he stayed for several weeks. He was then placed in a nursing home for three months. He is now back in his own home and we have been his caregiver for the last couple of weeks. He’s a 24/7 client. So we asked him the question we ask all our clients: “What did you use to love to do that you can no longer do?’ He said, “I want to be able to go to IHOP for breakfast again.” I said, “OK, two weeks, we’re going to make that happen.” And we’re working on that. If his blood sugar cooperates, we’re going to try to make it happen Thursday or Friday.
We encourage our clients to make specific goals. Often times, seniors will say, “Well, I’ve had a good life, this is just my life now.” When you can approach things from a standpoint of making things better each day … in the words of John DeHart, “you create happiness”. There’s a big difference between meeting an expected need and creating happiness. We are always about creating happiness in our client’s lives.
What do you think makes a successful Nurse Next Door operation?
Lisa: Passion. Hard work. You really need to believe in what you do. This is not an easy industry. It’s not for everyone. I probably did not realize that as much as I realize it now. To succeed, you need to eat, breathe and sleep kindness, compassion and wanting to make a difference. This is a competitive market, and if you just want to be mediocre, you’ll be OK, but you have to really CARE to stand out. We have hit the ground running and been very fortunate to have a great team of caregivers and wonderful clients to jump start the business. We believe our numbers are a direct reflection of the support we continue to receive from Heartquarters and our determination to bring the Nurse Next Door culture to our community.
Would you recommend a Nurse Next Door franchise to someone else? Why?
Yes, I certainly would — as long as your reasons for owning a business are really not just about finding a business to own, but to own a business that you really want to be a part of and realize you have the opportunity to have a positive impact on your local community. It’s a very labor-intensive business, but very rewarding. Having come from a small business where we did it all on our own, I appreciate the franchise approach and having that support. If you’re committed, this business makes you feel good. You definitely have the opportunity to make a difference. It’s not just a job; it’s not just going to work. It’s much more than that. It is really a passion for caring that drives Scott and I.