My name is Saili, and I am the owner of a Synergy HomeCare franchise. My business is now 6 years old, and I’ve gotten to the point that I feel that I am running a real company, and that I can delegate and provide a living for a lot of people. It’s like a real company now! I even took 3 weeks away for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. I did work some, for sure, but I was able to go to another country, spend time with family & friends, watch a bunch of soccer games, read 4 books, and get a tan.
I want to start at the very beginning – going back 50 years ago to a couple of different continents. My parents are Indian, and I grew up in Brazil.
In Brazil at the time I was in high school opportunities for college were very limited, so they had a strict process for kids identifying their interest and then applying to college in that specific field. Admittance was based on a large test of all the subjects you ever learned in school, weighted based on the field you chose to study.
The problem is we were 16 years old when we had to choose what we would do for college, and changing majors was not permitted. You had to start over and get re-tested if you did that! So being a math wiz from a math family, I decided I would study computer science. I had never seen a computer in my life, but I’m a bit competitive. That was the most sought after field, with 30 slots for the entire state, and I was going to try for that. I got in, started college in Brazil, but then ended up coming to the US. I moved straight from Brazil to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where I went for college. I ended up with a double major in math and computer science, and a masters in computer science.
I got a job right out of school and worked in several companies over the next 20 years in several IT roles. I started out as a programmer, analyst, then consultant, and then project manager. I even did a 2-year gig in HR at one company because it had grown so fast under me, and the people trusted me with their problems. I learned a lot in those 2 years in HR. As a matter of fact, all of those different jobs I had over the years prepared me for what I do today.
In my last job in corporate America, I was director of inventory systems for Gap, Inc. If my systems did not work, no clothes went to any of the Old Navy, Gap or BR stores worldwide. It was a good job, with lots of recognition and visibility, but the product that I delivered was not exciting to me. The most important thing I did was getting jeans to the store on time. As the years went on I kept thinking that what I was doing wasn’t really a good fit with the person I was becoming over time.
In the meantime, I started doing lots of work with non-profits, community organizations, and school PTAs – and I loved that stuff! I was coaching soccer, a volunteer webmaster for a theater company, on the board of the theater company, and eventually president of the board of the theater company, creating yearbooks and playbills, and spending way too much time volunteering on top of my demanding job. Even within Gap I used to lead all the volunteer events for our very large IT department, and planned all our social events. I never stayed within my box. The thing is that I loved being part of the community, and I would stay up all night because I believed in what I was doing. I knew I had to do something different, but it is very difficult to leave a good paying job with lots of prestige, 6 weeks of vacation, and all kinds of benefits that large corporations provide.
And then I got laid off. I was scared but also so excited! This was the defining moment when I was free to reinvent myself. I actually had been hoping for this opportunity because I knew I’d get a nice severance package that would buy me time to figure out what to do next. This was my chance.
I pretty much knew that I wanted to own my own business. I felt that everything I’d done up to that point – the computer skills, the HR, the management, the team-building, the event-planning, the yearbook and playbill editing, the budgeting and project management, and the board experience at the theater company – it gave me enough of a well-rounded skillset that I could run a company. But what was I going to do? I couldn’t come up with an idea. I knew I wanted to use my one greatest strength – my people skills. That was the # 1 requirement.
So I ended up going to a franchise broker. They reviewed my priorities, which were: community, seeing the impact firsthand, creating jobs, managing people, and finding something I could be passionate about. They brought me a few ideas, and through a 60-day process I ended up buying into a Home Care franchise.
I am going to explain briefly what we do because I am not here to sell, but it helps to understand how this was such a good fit with what I was looking for:
I own Synergy HomeCare, which is a provider of 1-1 caregivers. We provide caregivers that go into people’s homes and help them with the little things they can’t do for themselves, or that are difficult for them to do for themselves. The bulk of our clients are seniors, but we do serve people of all ages, including children. For our seniors, we help them with personal care such as bathing, meal preparation, medication reminders, transportation, errands, and going to the grocery store. We do short, occasional visits, which we call respite, or we can be there 24×7, or anything in between.
So 6 years ago I decided to do something that I’d never done before, something I had no formal training in, and that my college education definitely did not teach me how to do. The franchisor did provide training, but then you’re on your own to get your own clients and caregivers.
People used to tell me that I had a lot of guts to make such a change. At the time I must have had this puzzled look on my face because I didn’t understand that. To me, it was a matter of survival. I couldn’t go on giving so much of myself to something I didn’t believe in. I needed to feed my soul.
But it was really hard in the beginning! Being a people person in IT, I was popular. Mine was the office that people walked into all the time to talk to someone, or ask work questions. My phone was always ringing, and my email was always full. Then I started the business, and I was in this tiny little office by myself. Nobody stopped by, nobody called, and I questioned my decision. I felt a little scared . . . and lonely.
What I did to compensate for this was that I started networking. I joined a networking group, and I have been with that group for almost five years now. It was a community of business owners, and I could trust the people in that group to actually provide services for me as well. I then felt that I wasn’t as alone. And I loved to find reasons to refer business to other people in that group.
After that I tried a few other groups. Now I am also very active in the Chamber of Commerce for our city, and that is another wonderful group. I always look forward to talking with these people. I go to business mixers and chat with both people I know as well as connecting with new people, and now I am no longer lonely at all.
To be truthful, I’m a crazy networker. It really helps! It may be a little uncomfortable at first, but it grows your business, and you learn who you should partner with. And the more you go the easier it gets. Everybody is there for the same reason – to expand their network.
The other thing that was hard in the beginning was doing everything myself. It was exhausting! I was on call 24×7, and my mind was spinning from all the different things I was responsible for. I started paying people right away to do things for me. I was fortunate that my circle of friends included competent people excited to help me start my business. I paid them, but not what they were worth. I also started paying my high-school-aged son to work in our office.
Eventually I hired full-time staff. I almost always hired the next person before I could afford them – I just knew that I couldn’t grow without them. And none of my office hires came to me in a traditional way, by applying for a posted job position. I would meet someone that was available and just know that this person would be a good fit for my team. I couldn’t afford not to have them! This enabled growth.
My staff is top notch. I can be out of the office all day and know that the company runs smoothly without me. Oh, and gradually I’ve worked myself into a place where I am never on call anymore, though I am always the escalation point.
I now have five full time office staff that help run my operation. I always have a couple of part-time people that are available to help when needed.
Now we have about 60 caregivers working for us, another 100 that we consider active and available, and another 400 that have worked for us occasionally in the past who we could possibly call on again. In our 6 years in business we have served over 600 clients.
Find out what your strengths are, and find a career that uses those strengths. It will feel much more natural, and you will be better able to sustain your effort in it. Me, I am a people person to the extreme, so I chose a profession that would have me always talking to people, connecting with people, understanding people and having them entrust me with their most prized assets – their parents. I can connect with all the different people that all different levels, and that makes me very successful in this field.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Saili Gosula is the owner and Executive Director of Synergy. She had a successful career in IT until 2009. Always an avid volunteer in the schools and local non-profits, focusing on people and the community eventually became more important to her. She made a career switch. She is passionate about her new career in home care. She differentiates herself by her tirelessly giving and positive approach. This has quickly helped her to grow her business and provided her with many loyal fans and followers, across clients, associates, and employees.