John DeHart has led Nurse Next Door’s emergence as a successful national home health care brand, with more than 60 locations throughout Canada and the United States. Early in his professional life, John started several successful technology businesses but started Nurse Next Door with partner Ken Sim in September 2001. John is a graduate of Cornell University and holds a master’s degree from the EO/MIT Masters in Entrepreneurship program, where he still lectures frequently about building culture in companies. John was awarded the Ernst & Young Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2006 and has been named to the Top 40 Under 40 list; under his leadership, Nurse Next Door has earned a number of prestigious business awards, such as inclusion in Franchise Business Review’s annual list of North America’s 50 Best Franchise Systems with under 50 units; BC Business magazine’s Top 10 employer list for four of the last five years; and being named “Canada’s most admired emerging corporate culture” by Waterstone Human Capital. John lives in Vancouver with his wife Gayla and two daughters, Aja and Daisy, and runs up mountains for fun.
BeTheBoss.ca: Tell us about the Nurse Next Door concept
John DeHart: Our talent is caring. Nurse Next Door Home Care Services is a Vancouver-based home care franchise system, dedicated to delivering flexible and affordable care options to seniors. Our purpose is making lives better and we offer a full spectrum of home care services that range from a few hours per week of friendly companionship right through to around-the-clock care from a registered nurse. Believing that it’s about caring, not just healthcare, Nurse Next Door helps get seniors back to doing the things they love and celebrating aging.
BTB: How and when did you become involved with Nurse Next Door?
JD: I founded Nurse Next Door in 2001 with my business partner Ken Sim after we both struggled to find adequate home care for our loved ones. Ken was working in finance at the time when he needed home care for his pregnant wife who was put on emergency bed rest. Ken asked the caregiver some questions about her job and the company she worked for. The caregiver’s response horrified Ken; she had never met her employers and was only hired the day before.
Around the same time, I had a similar experience with my grandmother who suffered from Alzheimer’s and needed home care. Ken and I realized our terrifying experiences were all too common. We began examining the home health care industry and realized how fragmented and unprofessional home care could be. There was a need for a trusted and reliable industry leader.
We started with two cell phones and six caregivers at a Starbucks in Vancouver. Five years after growing our business into one of Canada’s most successful home care providers, we decided to franchise our opportunity and today we have over 60 franchise locations across North America.
BTB: What was your background prior to joining Nurse Next Door?
JD: Prior to starting Nurse Next Door I launched and helped run a number of early stage hi-tech companies. It was fun and exhilarating but at the end of day it didn’t matter much in the world.. In search of something more satisfying, I left and re-entered the business world with a mission: to build a leading company in the healthcare industry that will make social responsibility and ethics a number one priority.
BTB: What are some of the advantages in being a Nurse Next Door franchisee?
JD: Being different in this industry is paramount to success. Firstly, we’ve designed our brand to buck the trend in our traditional space. You’ll see it in our marketing, in our people and in our brand. Just have a look at our site, www.nursenextdoor.com . Our lively approach to caring is getting noticed and helps Nurse Next Door stand out in a cluttered market.
The most significant operational advantage of a Nurse Next Door franchise is our 24/7 Care Services Centre. Home care is a highly administrative business with a lot of employees and clients who change schedules daily. This happens 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. We handle those scheduling needs for our franchise partners – 24/7. We are the only home care company in North America that offers this. That means franchise partners can rest at night, not worrying about the phone ringing. Ultimately it means they can build equity – fast.
Another important advantage is our dedication to culture. Culture is infused into every facet of our business which means we admire every client, supplier and employee. We’re consistently ranked as a top employer which helps our franchisees attract and retain the best employees and helps them build their business.
BTB: Who is your ideal franchisee?
JD: Our franchise partners come from diverse backgrounds and contrary to popular belief, fewer than 50 percent have healthcare experience. One of our current partners put our ideal franchisee perfectly; Nurse Next Door “looks for the smile.” We want caring, thoughtful individuals who enjoy people and exude a happiness and selflessness no training program can manufacture.
Other valuable skills include being tenacious, adaptable and sales minded. We want happy, compassionate people in every position — no negative energy allowed. Above all, franchisees need to have a passion for making a difference in people’s lives. We take care to make sure the franchise partners we choose have not only the right skill set but the proper attitude — the caring and cheerful nature we’re looking for, and which defines us.
BTB: Tell us a little about the Nurse Next Door Market?
JD: Nurse Next Door occupies a rapidly growing market niche positioned to meet one of the biggest sociological developments of the last century: the “silver tsunami” of an exploding elderly population as Baby Boomers reach retirement age. The acute need for home medical care and companionship will persist for at least a generation as North America’s senior population doubles in the next 20 years.
Little has changed in the home care space for decades. Care remains clinical and task based and companies are targeting consumers with clinical and stale marketing. What other companies haven’t realized yet is that today’s seniors are part of the Woodstock generation- they are having fun and living life to the fullest. Instead of just coping with aging, we think it should be celebrated. We ask clients “what did you used to love doing that you no longer can?” and get them back to doing what they love. The answer to this question really guides our care.
BTB: What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?
JD: One lesson stands out- stay true to your vision. It was 2005 and Nurse Next Door had become one of Canada’s fastest growing companies, but after a careful look into our day-to-day operations, my Co-founder and I realized we weren’t enjoying it. We had built a great company attracting notice throughout North American media and health care establishments, but no one was happy. Our employees were overworked and exhausted in a joyless work environment. We remembered what we had wanted for our company in the first place and realized we had to re-focus on the heart of Nurse Next Door, and make it a fun place to work or we would all burn out in a year.
We set about establishing Nurse Next Door’s culture, which has since earned us attention and praise throughout the business world. The process produced Nurse Next Door’s core values, a commitment to live them and a brand that champions happiness, caring, celebration and respect for people —not just for clients but employees and franchise partners as well.
BTB: Do you have a mentor and is their someone you use for inspiration?
JD: My longtime mentor has been Milton Wong, founder of the Vancouver financial management firm M.K. Wong and Associates. I met Milton early in my career through my uncle who was a Wong and Associates partner. Milton was a remarkable man and unfortunately passed away last year. He was never cynical or pessimistic. Milton inspired those around him with his curiosity, vision and intelligence. It was actually Milton who introduced Nurse Next Door co-founder Ken Sim and I after we both told him about a similar idea to improve the senior home care industry. Milton was one of a kind and he is missed by many.
I do think it’s incredibly important to surround myself with very smart people. Today we have a very active and engaged board of advisors. We meet monthly and this group certainly challenges me to elevate our business.
What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?
JD: I would recommend doing your research and gaining a strong understanding of the industry. Running a home care franchise is hands on and there is a high level of commitment required during the first few years of business.
Ultimately, I always challenge prospective partners to make sure they are passionate about what we do. If someone is only looking at this business as an investment, it’s probably not the right fit. We want our partners to make sure this is a business they are excited to be operational in.
In your opinion, why do you think that Nurse Next Door would be a great opportunity for someone?
JD: Nurse Next Door is known as an innovator and thought-leader in the home care industry. We are pioneering a new form of caring and helping entrepreneurs across the USA and Canada build businesses with heart. We’re always looking for ways to make the job more satisfying for our partners, setting up a care services center to relieve them of brutal scheduling duties and giving them the freedom to find a better way to serve their clients. We try to make our office environment fun, too, with a relaxed dress code and cheerful morning “huddles” instead of grim gatherings around a conference room table.
For someone interested in a purpose base business, Nurse Next Door offers a passionate and strong direction— a commitment to make lives better while building a profitable business.