David and Lisa Morbeck are a husband and wife team with Navy and Marine Corps experience, and after careers in sales and healthcare, they now own an in-home care company as part of the ComForcare Senior Services franchise. The company offers servicemembers a 10 percent discount off its initial $39,500 franchise fee, and is also a member of VetFran, an initiative by the International Franchise Association to offer financial incentives, training and mentoring to veterans interested in owning a small business or franchise.
We talked to David and Lisa about their experiences working in the industry, and get their tips for transitioning veterans.
David and Lisa, can you briefly talk about your military background?
David: I spent eight years in the United States Marine Corps. I held a Top Secret Government Clearance and my duty stations included San Diego, Calif.; Pensacola, Fla.; Misawa, Japan; Kaneohe, Hawaii; and Homestead, Fla.
Lisa: I spent four years in the United States Navy, also holding a Top Secret Government Clearance. My duty stations included Great Lakes Naval Base in Illinois; Pensacola, Fla.; Rota, Spain; and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
David: We are both from Wisconsin and met in Pensacola, Fla. Lisa was sent to Rota, Spain and I was sent to Misawa, Japan. Were apart for 14 months and then came home to Wisconsin to get married in Fond du Lac. After we were married we had to go back to our original assignments for another 10 months until we were finally stationed together in Hawaii.
Can you talk about your previous experiences caring for the elderly and how it impacted your decision to open your business?
David: Lisa had cared for her grandmother for a bit as she aged prior to joining the Navy and my family and I were very involved with caring for my grandmother after my grandfather passed. I had to tend to her house needs (more supportive cares) when I was younger, but as she aged she became more dependent on me for "hands on" needs (Personal Care). She went from her home to Independent Living, to Assisted Living, to a Nursing Home over the years.
As we looked back on both of these situations, the process, although never easy or enjoyable, was just not made as easy as it could have been. We felt we were not provided the assistance in-home, or the information needed to make educated decisions. The ability to be a resource and provide quality care for others is what led us to this business.
3What aspects of your military experience were helpful as you started this new venture? What were some of the new challenges you faced, or new skills you had to learn?
David: In the military we learned organization, discipline, maturity, the ability to be self-starters, and set high goals and expectations for ourselves, among other things.
After I spent 20 years in corporate America, and Lisa spent 27 years in the health field, we were really not taken by surprise when starting our business. Probably the biggest challenge has been being the "owner," and never getting away from it. It is also difficult to watch employees who may not be as committed to your business as you are!
Can you talk about the support you've received from ComForcare? Would you say it's a good organization to ally with if you're a veteran interested in this kind of business?
David: The overall support has been excellent. Lisa and I completed a comprehensive training program at the company's corporate headquarters in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. and we had an onsite visit from the corporate team after our opening for additional support. ComForcare also sets you up with proprietary HealthManager software that manages all aspects of our business including scheduling, billing, payroll, employee management and more. While corporate is always there to help, there are so many things that occur daily at a local level that there are many situations the corporate team cannot prepare you for. This is when the basic military skill set of organization, discipline, hard-worker, etc. that Lisa and I have came in handy. These are all traits that are a NECESSITY in this industry and in business ownership. The military was a huge component to having us prepared.
Can you describe a typical "day in the life" in your business?
David: I have a full-time role in the business while Lisa has a part-time role. I arrive at the office by 6:30 a.m. (typically before phones are active) to check emails, and prepare tasks for office staff. I am also involved with many organizations and projects, including four Chambers of Commerce chapters, I host a local radio show and I'm on the board of directors at West Bend Senior Center. So I am usually out of the office networking or meeting with referral sources, potential clients, or new clients. When I am in the office, I'm usually interviewing potential caregivers, doing office work and other management tasks. I end my day by 5:45 p.m.
Lisa performs administrative tasks, helps with new employee orientation, handles the hiring/interviewing when needed, and coordination of caregiver training and instruction. Our goal is for Lisa to eventually be full-time.
What's it like working as a husband-and-wife team?
David: This has been one of the most difficult things. After 20 years in corporate America with The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company spending 100+ nights on the road travelling annually, we now have a lot of together time. Also, I'm a bit of a control freak, while Lisa tends to seek advice, so it was a situation where I was "managing." Our success has been developing certain areas of responsibility, and the key is that each of us manages our CORE areas. We collaborate as needed, but we don't depend on one another for approval.
For the most part, I handle the finances, personnel management, advertising, and marketing while Lisa manages caregiver training, office operations, and administrative support.
Do you have any general advice or tips for veterans who are transitioning out of the military and might be interested in your line of work?
I have never worked so hard in my life, and (being new in business) made so little in my life. BUT I have never had so much fun working in my life! And as our business and client base continues to grow, we are starting to reap the rewards of our labor. In-home care is a great industry with a ton of potential. Be prepared to work hard, work LONG hours, and be prepared for competition. Ask yourself, "What is it that you do that makes me different?” For me, it is doing the things we say we will do, when we say we will do them, with the quality and customer service that is expected! If you can't do these things, it's probably not the right business for you!
For more information on ComForcare, visit their website.