Valerie V: Hey, everybody. This is Valerie V, and I am road tripping this week, so we prerecorded our interviews. In one second, you are going to see our interview with Robyn Kaplan. She is an entrepreneur who has been in business for five and a half years with her current business. I know you’re going to love all of the wisdom that she imparts on us for being a successful entrepreneur. See you soon.
Valerie V: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the Valerie V Show. Today we are continuing our series on interviewing entrepreneurs who’ve been in business for more than two years and they’re gonna share their success with us. Today I introduced to you Robyn Kaplan. She is going to tell us all about her business and what led her to have the success she’s had today. So, welcome, Robyn.
Robyn Kaplan: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.
Valerie V: You’re welcome. Thanks for reaching out and to be on the show because, you know, I guess we see a lot of … I do a lot of shows, and one of the things that a lot of folks really want to know is … You know, I know there’s no secret magic to success. It’s just a lot of hard work, really. But for all of those folks who are out there trying to get into any business or trying to start a business, what is the sort of the catalyst or what’s behind folks who have run a successful business for so long? So, why don’t you tell us the name of your Business, where you’re located, and how long you’ve been in business?
Robyn Kaplan: Sure. My name is Robyn Kaplan. I’m the director of Aleph Home Care. We are a department of the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. We’ve been in business five and a half years, and very fortunately I’m doing very well and building and growing and growing exponentially every year, which is wonderful. We service Camden, Burlington, and Gloucester counties. We offer one hour of care to 24 hours, seven days a week and live-in care.
Valerie V: Awesome. So that is, you know, five and a half years and you’re doing well. That is a huge testament to your level of success, and endurance, and the hard work because getting to that five and a half year mark is tough. And once you’re there, you know you’re good, or you hope you know you’re good anyway. So tell us, what spurred you to get into this line of work?
Robyn Kaplan: Well, I personally have always had a passion for the elderly. It is very important for me to be their advocate and make sure they receive the care that they deserve. I truly have been in hospitals, and in senior communities, and at doctor’s appointments with senior citizens, and unfortunately people view them at a certain age that life isn’t quite as important, where I disagree completely. I believe that somebody deserves just as much care if they’re 95 as if they’re 45. The reality is everybody has a story and those senior citizens are able to share their stories with us, and they often teach us. I truly feel like it’s very important to learn from them, respect them, allow them to age with dignity, and most importantly, if they can at home, that’s really the key. But, I personally have a grandmother who is 90, going to be 98 next month.
Valerie V: Wow.
Robyn Kaplan: I am at her side through it all because I believe every day, week, month, year, she deserves to have, if that’s what she’s [inaudible 00:03:52] given. I really believe that age is just a number, that no matter how old someone is, they deserve to receive the highest level of care. That’s truly the most important thing. And really, if I know that I’ve done that, then I know that we’re going to be successful in our organization.
Valerie V: Exactly. And you know what? I mean, it doesn’t matter if you’re 1 or 151, we all deserve dignity and respect as human people. I mean, you know, we need to take care of the folks that were able to … you know, they came before us and led the way and the path, set the path for all of us to be here and to be successful, so that’s awesome. Tell us one or two things that you believe helped make your business successful.
Robyn Kaplan: Very fortunately, as I stated earlier, Aleph is a department of the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey. People trust the Jewish Federation. Therefore, when Aleph was created, there was that trust there already. I feel very fortunate to be working in an organization where people feel they can go to and it’s a trustworthy organization. In addition, I know that the business has become successful because clients are like our family. We treat everybody like they are one of us. We also treat our home health aides just as well as we treat our clients. And the reality is, is everybody has a story and everybody has issues, and needs, and medical needs, and just sometimes it’s reassuring the families, and we take it to the next level. We are on call 24/7. Not an answering service, it’s one of us.
Robyn Kaplan: What I would also say is home care is really about reassuring the families. That’s a huge component of home care. It’s we can get it right when it’s taken care of a client. We need to make sure we had the family feeling comfortable with who we’re putting in place and that truly for me is part of matchmaking and making sure we have the right home health aides with the clients, and not only just with the clients, that the families feel safe and secure having those people there. Listening is the key to success. So when a client calls or a family member calls, I will sit on the phone with them, our office staff will sit on the phone with them for as long as needed. They need that time for us to hear them out and for them to know that we’re there for them through thick and thin, [inaudible 00:06:27], nights, weekends.
Robyn Kaplan: And as you said, it takes a lot of hard work and that’s really what it is. You really have to learn that each client is an individual. There’s no cookie cutter person for another, for a client as far as a home health aide and a client. You have to match them and the key is treating everybody like they’re the only person in your world when you’re speaking to them. That’s actually what I learned from my grandmother. When you speak to somebody, you act and treat them as if they are the only person in the world at that time.
Valerie V: Aww, that is so nice. And you know what? This, with this, what I hear you saying, and I hear this a lot from our successful business owners, and everybody describes it in a little bit different way, but customer service, it has to be personal because this is a very personal business and it has to be. And the good listening skills are part of that good customer service. If you’re listening with the intent to answer, then you’re already formulating an answer in your head. If you just listen and hear what they have to say, your answer may be a lot different than you think it’s going to be at first.
Valerie V: So really using those active listening skills sounds like you’re very present with people when you talk to them, and I think that’s very important. You’re not distracted, you’re not hoping to get them off the phone soon, you know? You’re very present, and all of that is good customer service all the way around for the families, and for those seniors, and people that you serve. So to me, that sounds like your staff and learns from you as a culture. You have passed down that importance of that listening and that great customer service, and there’s no substitute for great customer service. We just don’t get it that much anymore.
Robyn Kaplan: We don’t. I’m fortunate to have the staff to back me up and be dedicated and devoted. Because like you said, this is not a job that starts at nine, ends at five. It’s one of those that people need help and it can happen on a Friday at 6 o’clock, you know? It happens on the weekend. We can’t control when somebody’s getting discharged from the hospital or when someone needs extra care, so we have to be present. Our staff, it has been absolutely magnificent in doing, in following through with the customer service.
Valerie V: Awesome. It’s so great to hear. This is why, one of the reasons why, we wanted to do these interviews, because if you’re a successful business there is a more, in the healthcare industry specifically, there’s more to it than the money. It has to be. There has to be more to your passion for this than just to make money. It’s always about the families and the human element, so I’m so glad you said all those things. So if you were speaking to a new startup today, what would be your best advice?
Robyn Kaplan: So as we discussed, I would say absolutely do not lose sight of the customer service. That is key. Treat people like they are your family. Always go the extra mile for your home health aides, for your employees, for your staff. People like personalized attention. Doesn’t matter if it’s a client, or a family member, or a staff member. Everybody likes to be treated like they are an individual and making sure that we are really listening, as I had stated before.
Robyn Kaplan: The other big component I would say, don’t get caught up on what your competition’s doing. Don’t focus on your competition. Focus on how you are bettering yourself. Focus on how you can make a difference because they’re in home care. There are thousands of home care agencies, and there’s not a shortage of people needing care. As our population is aging and living longer we’re all very fortunate to be able to have the business and this clients.
Robyn Kaplan: But, never forget why you went into the industry. Never forget how you can make a difference, and don’t worry that somebody next door might be doing something that seems innovative. Stick with what your model is. We always say the old fashion home care what works for us. It’s that personalized touch. The key is really also to get to know other people in the industry. Don’t be narrow-minded and just focused on maybe home care, but other senior communities, and hospitals, and doctors, nurses, rehab, physical therapists, elder law attorneys. There’s so many people out there that are advocating for the same population as we are and the key is, is that we all work together because these people have such stories and they can help us to these senior citizens in the elderly. We need to be able to make sure that they’re getting all the resources in the community that they need.
Robyn Kaplan: That’s one thing that we do here is any resource they might need, if I can’t offer it to them personally, we will find an agency within our organization or even an outsource that will be able to help them. The key is that we take care of that call because they don’t need to be transferred to 10 different people. We need to make sure that we get them the care that they need, whether it’s with us or anybody else. So, that’s really my belief.
Valerie V: So absolutely going the extra mile and over, and over, and over again for these folks. Well, I am glad you’re out there. I’m glad your agency is there.
Robyn Kaplan: Thanks.
Valerie V: Because if it weren’t for folks like you, then my parents and my grandparents and wouldn’t have the kind of care they have today. I really appreciate all that you’ve said because it sounds like you are extremely compassionate and caring about these folks and that’s what they all need. So, thank you so much.
Valerie V: This has been wonderful.
Valerie’s motto and favorite saying is: “Impact is not created by big budgets, impact is created by innovative marketing ideas!”
Valerie is a Registered Nurse and the author of three books, Aging Answers (2003), The Senior Solution (2007) and Priceless Caregiving (2009). Her adventure in internet marketing began as a self-promotion experiment and ended up becoming a full time marketing consulting business for the elder care market.
Valerie has appeared on national television (Today Show), has hosted her own local radio show, and has been interviewed for dozens of publications and radio shows across the country regarding her business and the business of elder care.
She fast became the foremost authority in driving sales via the internet, seminars, and e-mail for senior service providers and elder care entrepreneurs.While Valerie’s best known for her expertise in marketing, her students share that her biggest impact comes from her ability to make things happen quickly, even on a small budget.
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