True, happiness is fleeting. Yet Nurse Next Door knows that certain
conditions encourage it to visit more often. The business was
designed around those conditions, ensuring that it would be more than
just a company that delivers home care assistance for the aging – it
brings happiness to its clients and beyond.
Starting new businesses was always something that made co-founder
Ken Sim happy when he was a child. He sold anything he could find,
from comics to lemonade. Co-founder John DeHart was built from the
same mold. He only worked for someone else once while growing up,
and channeled his entrepreneurial passions after graduation into the
tech industry. Although both built successful careers, neither was
satisfied with their industries’ narrow focus on finance. They both left
their jobs and were determined to find a better path.
They found that opportunity when Ken’s wife went on bed rest after giving birth. He employed a caregiver and discovered that she had just started work after faxing in her resume the previous day. She had never even met her employer. Ken and John looked into the home care industry further and found sterile businesses that provided the basics, making life only slightly more bearable for their clients. They knew that they could create something better and launched Nurse Next Door in 2001. Clients soon saw the difference in their service and the business took off. Over the next four years, it became one of Canada’s fastest growing companies.
Our core values
To continue their success, John and Ken decided to start creating a new work culture. They clarified their core values by asking employees who their best colleagues were. They then asked about the qualities that made them so great. Those qualities became Nurse Next Door’s core values:
WOW Customer Experience
Find a Better Way
Passionate About Making a Difference
They made a promise to their employees to make Nurse Next Door a better place to work every day, setting an ambitious goal of being recognized as the best employer to work for within two years.
Before long, their employees began enjoying their work. Admiring people made them feel like part of a community. Providing great customer service and making a difference gave them a social mission. Finding a better way gave them flexibility for personal expression, learning and competence. They saw their values grow stronger in employees and employees were happier on a daily basis.
It’s about caring, not just health care
This new vantage point inspired them to examine whether they were really “making lives better” for their customers too. Through interviews with franchise partners, they discovered that despite the drastic improvements in customer elder care services they showed over their competitors, many clients were unhappy too. In fact, a survey showed that up to 50 percent of their clients suffered from depression.
While they were speaking with their partners about the situation, they received a call from a social worker in a hospital’s palliative care ward. He had an 84-year-old client whose last wish was to see his son – a son who he had not seen in 43 years and who lived across the country. Nurse Next Door agreed to help. They got the man on the plane and coached him through his doubts about whether he could go through with it. He did, and spent four hours with his son at the airport before flying home and dying a month later.
The event gave Nurse Next Door’s founders hope that they could actually improve the mental health of their clients, and inspired them to revisit what they were doing and how they were doing it. John and his wife Gayla, who has a PhD in psychology, set out to research the causes of happiness. They were excited to learn that though 60 percent of a person’s emotional state was genetic and situational, meaning it was largely out of a person’s control, the other 40 percent could be changed. Studies also showed that the biggest impact on happiness came from little actions that people can do every day, and those actions fell into distinct categories.
John created a framework for caring for seniors based on that research and the activities that seemed to make his clients happiest. All elder care services would be filtered through four pillars: travel and adventure; learning and knowledge; social connections and relationships; and play. Employees would help their clients to travel again, even if it meant bringing the Far East to their bedrooms. They would help them learn new things, and connect them to family and friends, in some cases ones who they had lost contact with for decades. They would help seniors play in some of the same ways they used to, even if it meant wading in the pool as opposed to swimming in their childhood lake.
In 2015, Nurse Next Door reached over 100 locations in Canada and the United States, and continues to provide quality home care assistance that is about caring, not just health care.