Editor’s note: Peer-to-Peer is a new feature from McKnight’s Home Care Daily. In this question-and-answer format, we talk to the leaders in home care, your peers, about their operational initiatives, efforts and ideas. If you think someone in home care would make a good subject for Peer-to-Peer, please email Diane Eastabrook at [email protected].
Executive Care CEO Lenny Verkhoglaz knows something about resilience. As a 13-year-old, he immigrated to the United States from Ukraine with his family. Later, he navigated the complexities of corporate America. In 2004, he struck out on his own with his wife, Mila, and launched Executive Care. The home care firm operates in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, Ohio and Michigan.
Verkhoglaz’s resilience proved to be one of his biggest assets as he steered his company through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The CEO sat down with McKnight’s Home Care Daily and discussed why New Jersey-based Executive Care pulled out of states in the West during the pandemic and how the company is positioning itself in a post-COVID-19 world.
McKnight’s Home Care Daily: Why did you pull out of Arizona, Texas and Washington?
Lenny Verkhoglaz: There was a contraction in business and some of the franchisees could not withstand what was going on over the year. Because of COVID, people who couldn’t sustain the business, got out. But we are back on track to open more locations and we actually have four locations set to open this year. So there are going to be two more offices opening up in Florida, one office in New Jersey and one office in Virginia. We are going to concentrate more geographically on where we are now.
McKnight’s Home Care Daily: Why did those franchisees who struggled call it quits?
Lenny Verkhoglaz: A major source for us is rehab centers and nursing homes. They all went on lockdowns and you couldn’t approach any hospitals or skilled nursing facilities. So those franchisees that were relatively newer to the system were not successful in penetrating referral sources. The cost of operating didn’t make sense to them and I totally understand that.
McKnight’s Home Care Daily: You’ve opened some new franchises. Does that mean things are turning around now?
Lenny Verkhoglaz: Yes. Those who developed connections or contacts continued growing tremendously. They brought in a lot of business to many locations. Before COVID, they had relationships, so we’ve seen tremendous growth. We developed new marketing techniques in the COVID era and that is really working. We’re developing more online leads as well. People are shopping more online. In our business, it’s not like buying widgets like you do from Amazon or some other sites. We are selling services that are very, very personal to people. Most of our referrals still come from people who know us and trust us.
McKnight’s Home Care Daily: We’re hearing from some companies that the pandemic created opportunities. Have you experienced that?
Lenny Verkhoglaz: I don’t have to tell you what’s going on in the assisted living and skilled nursing industry. People are afraid of sending their loved ones into facilities. It could be COVID or it could be some other pandemic. COVID really brought things home. What we are providing really is assisted living in the home. It’s one-on-one, it’s personal. The service is provided in a caring way according to the plan of care that is developed. In facilities, there just isn’t enough staff.
McKnight’s Home Care Daily: How has COVID changed the industry and your business going forward?
Lenny Verkhoglaz: Safety is top-of-mind right now. We have to protect our office staff because we do go out and see clients. We have to protect the clients and we have to protect the aides. It is an additional expense to the business, but at the same time, it demonstrates that our company is handling the situation properly. In terms of business, we see a huge increase because we’re seeing adult children thinking twice about placing their loved ones in institutions. That is going to be the main driver. Today it’s COVID, tomorrow it could be something else. As an industry, we are getting a lot more recognition right now. I think people talk about us more.
McKnight’s Home Care Daily: What are the challenges?
Lenny Verkhoglaz? It’s staffing. To be honest, we sometimes have more business than we have caregivers. It is a daily struggle for us and for our competitors. We are all going after the same resource and there is a limited supply.
McKnight’s Home Care Daily: We’ve seen a lot of M&A activity in your industry. Are you looking for new opportunities or partnerships?
Lenny Verkhoglaz: We are always looking for people to partner with. I would like to form a group of senior care specialists that includes people in meal delivery, estate planning, cleaning services. Medical therapy is another example. We had approached several people, but the last year has really been lost. So, we are hoping to start that effort again soon.