Doug Dix is the owner of Homewatch CareGivers serving Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He opened his business in 2005 and shared his thoughts on how the business has changed in that time, what he has learned since opening his doors, and what has made it all worthwhile.
Q: How is a day in your business different today than it was in your first year in business?
Well, my first day I walked into this office—I still have the same office—and I had zero clients and zero employees and I sat down in a chair and leaned back and thought, “Now what do I do?” Fast forward 10 years and there isn’t time to sit back in the chair and wonder. Just this past Sunday, I got a call from a caregiver at 9 p.m. who said she had fallen on the ice and was going to the hospital. To avoid any delays in this clients’ care, I ended up caring for the client myself.
In my first year, I built my business to a healthy monthly run rate—but in a matter of a couple of weeks I lost about half of it. Then, I was able to add more clients and climb back up. Today I have about 55 clients and 40 employees. I have two caregivers that have been with me the whole 10 years and a few more who have been with me for seven or eight years. Probably the biggest thing I’ve done for my employees, my caregivers, is to pay them overtime and I’ve always done that. I also give them a week’s paid vacation and just treat them as honestly and fairly as I can.
Q: What would you do differently in your business knowing what you know after 10 years?
This business is more competitive than it was 10 years ago. I’ve made probably every mistake you can, but I’ve gotten more relaxed over time and my staff has gained experience too so that makes it easier to move the chess board pieces around, so to speak. It can be tempting to pay people to do everything for you, but this is my livelihood too so I stay involved.
Q: Can you share the biggest highlight of your last 10 years in business?
There isn’t just one highlight. This is a people business and you get rich in many ways that aren’t necessarily about money.
Twice, at two different funerals, someone stood up to personally and publicly thank me and my staff for helping them and that’s really better than any paycheck. It just confirms why you get in this business. I used to be in the financial business and worked for banks and those are good, honest businesses and people, but it’s nice to be in a business where it’s about more than money.
Another highlight is that I’ve got caregivers who I know giving them a job made a difference in their lives. They are good caregivers. Caregivers tend to be people who are great at taking care of others but not always great at taking care of themselves. If what they put on my tombstone is, “He treated his caregivers too well,” then I’m happy I did this.
Finally, interacting with the clients is often a real highlight. I took one client catfishing a couple of times. We caught two buckets of fish! He can’t go out to do that anymore, but he’s still talking about it. I have heard stories from people who were POWs during World War II and learned so much from them.
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