Hey, this is Miriam Allred and you’re listening to Vision | The Home Care Leaders Podcast by Home Care Pulse. My guest today is Jake Rankin, the Founder and CEO of Talem Home Care and Placement Services headquartered in Broomfield, Colorado. Jake’s been in the industry for 17 years and has grown Talem to 12 franchises across the country over the last eight years. He currently resides in Milwaukee with his wife and kids, and is living out the Talem mission to ’empower people, to experience the full joy of living’. Jake, how are you doing today?
Absolutely, excited to get you on here. I know it is a crazy time right now with not only the holidays, but COVID resurgences and everything just seems to be piling up here at the end. Has that been the case for you?
Yeah, it’s, it’s been a year of ups and downs and craziness and trying to like everybody else reinvent the wheel a little bit, you know? Yeah. It’s definitely, definitely changed how we’ve done things this year.
So today, we’re going to kind of talk about that planning for 2021. You know, we’ve had to reinvent the wheel in a number of ways this year, and I’m excited to hear, you know, firsthand what, what you guys have been doing there at Talem. So let’s talk. First, there’s a lot of questions that are top of mind for home care owners and I really just want to pick your brain about a few of them. I think it’s really relevant topics that a lot of providers or have been asking us at Home Care Pulse and so I want to pitch them to you and feel free to just share your honest, genuine opinions and I’m sure we’ll get a lot out of today’s conversation. Okay. So let’s start with referral sources. We’re going to kind of hit on the sales and marketing in general here, but let’s talk about referral sources. A lot of people have been asking how to press forward with referral sources, to hospitals, doctors facilities, when they may say they’re already working with someone, what, what would you do in that case?
You know, so, so, so my personal belief on this is I feel like right now over the past couple of years, it’s come to my attention that more and more when they call salespeople or marketing people in our industry, in the, in the non-medical home care space, but even in the hospice and home health industry. But what I find is most people are, tend to be more like walking billboards, if I will be kind of blunt where they just kind of show up and throw up. And, and that’s where a lot of the sales and marketing efforts working with referral sources is kind of die, right? You’ll walk in, you tell them what you do. And almost immediately that referral source says, Oh, I’m already working with somebody or, you know, I don’t have time for you and they kind of quickly dismiss you and put you away.
And so in my opinion, you really have to take a dedicated more of a sales approach of trying to figure out if they’ve given you any type of time to, to try to try to figure out where their hot buttons are, what their needs are, what their expectations are. And I always tend to lead with questions like, are you, are you open to trying other options? Because oftentimes what I find, you know, I might find, you know, at a 10, 10 visits, I go to, you know, eight or nine might say, they’re already working with somebody, but if I ask the question, are they open to trying somebody else? In addition to I’ll find out a 10, maybe one or two where they say no, most of the time people are open to trying that. So once, once you’ve cracked that door open a little bit and they’re open to giving him a shot, you know, and that’s where my sales process takes into place where, you know, you really need to take the approach.
An old sales manager of mine once said, you know, if you can remember one thing, remember this and he pronounced it AQSUL. And it’s spelled A Q S U L. It stands for ‘ask questions and shut up and listen’. So I feel like a lot of the sales and marketing people out there try very hard to control the conversation, to, to tell people what they do when, where they really, what they should be doing is asking specific questions about, okay, if they’re trying, if they’re open to trying new agencies, what expectations do they have? What are they looking for? What is the, you know, what is the current agency not doing that they might need help with? And, you know, the real goal is to get that referral source to start open up and talking, talking about themselves because that’s where most people are comfortable.
Now one of the ways that you’ve, you’ve mentioned to me is finding a back door in. I really liked that concept of getting creative and maybe even using the client, starting with the client to then get your foot in the door. Talk to me about that ideology.
Yeah, it’s, it’s kind of a, a standard that I have with my team that anytime a client ends up in the hospital which can happen from time to time. Unfortunately I require my staff to go in within that same day. And, you know, first of all, we just want to show support and show our clients that we care. And we want to take them a balloon or some Getwell cards or some flowers where the case may be. But, you know, in our model, we’re, we’re really trying to take a care management approach to assisting our clients. So in that approach, we have, we we always have, in our admission paperwork, we have our clients sign a care management agreements as part of the mission paperwork. So if they do end up in the hospital, we can go in as their care manager and it gets us in front of those hospital, referral sources or any other referral sources.
And we can go in and say, Hey, we’re part of the team to help these guys get home safely. And that really lowers the garden because now you’re not going in as a salesperson, you’re going in as another, as a care member trying to help that client discharged home safely and effectively. And if you do it right, and you can do it in ways that really kind of lowers the stress level and maybe the amount of work that that case manager and the hospital needs to do, because then you can help them figure out, you know, who’s the best home health to work with. And who’s, where’s the best rehab and really come up with a plan for discharge
We’ve seen a little mixture of both. I’ve, I’ve personally still go do some of those visits here in our local office, just because I like to do critically with some older clients that I have built a relationship with. So yeah, one hospital I talked to did not have an issue. This was about two months ago, I think three months ago, they did not have an issue with us coming in, but I would say that I have seen across the country a mixture of, they would re some would rather do it virtually, but some are also allowing us in, in the building,
Which is great. I mean, I think if you can get in there in person, this is a very in-person industry and the more you can get inside and be there and develop that relationship and build that trust in person the better.
Right. And taking that case manager approach saying, Hey, I’m the case manager hired by this family member to take care of them and coordinate these things. Now they don’t have a reason not to talk to you and that, you know, they actually have a reason to specifically talk to you whether it’s either virtually or in person.
Absolutely. I, yeah, I can’t emphasize that enough for sure. One other thing that you’ve mentioned is going in, and it, you know, being an expert on a topic or focusing on education, you know, they want to know that you are an expert expert and can take care of the client with whichever symptoms or whatever they’ve got going on. So what, what recommendations do you have there? How is it, how can you be the expert, but not come across as maybe too salesy?
Well, it depends on who, I guess the referral source is, you know, it might be a little harder to do that in like the hospital setting. You know, one tactic I take with that is I approach some of the support groups for the disease, all the different disease management associations, you know, like Alzheimer’s and stroke and ALS and, you know, they’re not meeting right now in person. A lot of them are not meeting around person because of COVID, but that doesn’t mean they’re not still having the regular schedule meetings. And so many, many years ago when I started my first office and it’s still tactically used today, is it really helped open the doors. And to help me find clients is, is to present myself as an expert in and find topics that I feel comfortable talking about that maybe the support groups need some education in, because what I find with those support groups is, you know a good speaker, a good education topic a good, a good home care agency will spread like wildfire. If somebody believes in you within that support group, they’re going to tell a lot of people and it can quickly help grow your business
Absolutely. Yeah, the most our meeting right now, I think through zoom you know, in, in Milwaukee, we’re working with an entity called Love Thy Neighbor. It’s a nonprofit charity who specializes in creating education for the community, for the seniors in the community. So they’re meeting once a month and they need they need people to come in and help educate. And the seniors who attend the meetings and help them find ways to stay safe.
Yeah, I’m glad you brought that up. I think that’s just a great recommendation. There is, I think a lot of people go to the hospitals or to the assisted living facilities, but maybe aren’t looking like you guys are at smaller organizations or groups in the community that serve, you know, the senior population, finding those local groups is a great way to get your expertise out there.
Yeah. I find that, you know, there’s the standards when you do your sales and marketing, right? The hospitals, the rehabs, the home health agencies. But I feel like you have to diversify and try to find other, other referral sources and other ways to get involved in the community. And I feel like right now, a lot of people in our industry, they focus on the, what you need to, you focus on those main areas. But I, I, when I, when I find successful agency owners, you know, those successful ones are the ones that are, do doing the normal plus finding and being creative and finding other avenues to spread your word and spread your, spread. Your name about your services.
Yeah, absolutely. I’m glad you hit on that. Let’s shift gears a little bit. We focused a lot on the sales side of things. Another big question that we’ve been hearing is around marketing dollars. You know, we’ve seen a big shift in ad dollars, you know, shifting to digital. What, what have you guys done this year and what seems to be working with your marketing spend?
We have put more money into our digital marketing and ad spend and just advertising in general, whether it’s digital, not because of COVID. And, you know, we, we tend to focus on advertising locally. So as even as a franchise brand, like we are as a franchisor, you know, w we try to help our franchisees really spend the money that we spend on local stuff versus national advertising. We find there’s better bang for the buck there. So we tell, we tell our franchisees at a very bare minimum. It is our opinion that you need to spend somewhere between 12, and let’s say 12 and $1,700 a month, and digital marketing campaigns with whoever’s doing your, your campaigns with you. So that can be a mixture of, you know ad words and Facebook advertising. We recently started getting into geo-fencing for both actually for both recruiting and for lead-generation geo-fencing we’ve seen a little bit of success there, so I definitely would not be afraid as a minimum to, to go that route. It seems like a lot to some people, some franchise owners, but unfortunately, sometimes it takes a little bit of money to make money. Definitely.
I think ad words has been more, a little bit more success, and obviously it varies by market a little bit. You know, but it’s, it’s finding the right ad words campaign, but when you do your marketing, you’ve got to do more than just saying, Hey, we’re here. This is the services we provide. We, we, you’ve got to, you’ve got to try to find ways to grab the attention of whoever’s going to see that ad and, and paint a story real quickly as to why they need to click on your ad and ask you some questions. So we’ve developed, you know, various tools to say, you know, example, you know, when choosing a home care agency, how do you choose the right home care agency? You know, click our free guide now to, to, to, to, to figure out the 10 best questions you should ask when interviewing an agency, things like that.
Yeah, that’s a good example. For the most part, we see a lot of agencies contract that out. Do you recommend that your franchisees contact contracted out or some taking on in house? What, what do you see there?
I think it depends on the skillset of the agency owner. Honestly some owners are really good at it and want to take it on. We, we actually provide tools and a dashboard to make all yours, all your social media posts, your blog posts and managing your ad-words. We make it very easy to do that. And we do offer there’s a vendor that does offer to help with that if they choose to. So it’s up to them. The biggest thing though, and whatever you’re spending on with whatever the advertising is, you need to track all advertising and track your ROI and track your lead. And I think that’s where a lot of agency owners fail a little bit when they do their advertising, whether it’s, you know, in the digital marketing, there’s actually two areas. I think I see that a lot of agency owners fail one area is they fail to track their results and track their data because you really need to make decisions based on your data.
And you also, cause you’re going to have to tweak. If you’re not getting the results you need, you need to continually tweak your ads and tweak your approach until you find what works for you. The second thing that I find is you have to be quick to answer the phone and you have to be quick to pick up the phone when those leads come in. What I find is you know, for example, leads might come in on the weekend and then they won’t call their leads until Monday when they get in the office. And you really, I mean, if people are taking the time to, to Google it and click on your ad and fill out a form, that’s because they have a need, they have a need. Now. They don’t want to wait until tomorrow to get the answers they’re looking for answers today. And so we find that the franchise owners that we have that get a better bang for their buck, with their digital marketing activities, are those who are very quick to, to be responsive and to track their data.
Absolutely. Yeah, we can’t emphasize enough the tracking the data, because here we are, you know, for your agency, it may be ad-words for another agency. It may be Facebook for another. It may be, you know, a lead gen, my CNA jobs. It could be whatever. And I think there are so many options out there, but you’ve got to find what works for your agency. And the only way you’re going to know what’s working is by tracking the ROI of every single advertising
And, and the hard part is, you know, what works in Denver might not work in Milwaukee. And that works in Seattle may not work in Miami. You know, unfortunately there is no crystal ball. We, we are restructuring our website because Google has changed the way their robots do their thing. And so we have we’re changing our website to match the strategies right now. And so that if you’re a small business owner, that’s something you might want to think about. You, you know, when was the last time you did update and change your website because you, you have to constantly do things within your website to keep up with current strategies. And that’s where an expert, if you’re not the expert in that, that’s where partnering with experts would help.
Exactly and acknowledging that, like you’ve said, if you’re not the expert and you don’t have the time, give it to someone that is going to take the time and do justice because it’s worth getting, right.
Yeah. We, we’ve kind of, when we built our franchise system, you know, back in the day, I used to be a consultant, the SBA, small business administration, advising small businesses. And one of the things I learned is as a, as a business owner, you have to be the expert in HR and you have to be the expert in sales and you have to be the expert in digital marketing and accounting and legal. But the reality is nobody is the expert in everything, right? So as a, as a, as an agency owner, you have to figure out what are your strengths? What are you good at? Or what do you like doing? Cause a lot of times, if you’re not good at something or don’t like doing something, those are the biggest pains and headaches in areas that cause you to not grow as much in your agency. So you have to, in my mind, try to find people to compliment you or be, you know, vendors or build a system around you that helps provide you with all the support in the areas that you need to be experts.
Absolutely. Here at Home Care Pulse, we call it ‘the right people in the right seats’. We had Aaron Marcum, our founder on the, on the show a couple of weeks ago. And, and that’s really where he attributes his success today in founding these great companies is getting the right people in the right seats. And that is so crucial for every single business is to get the right people where they’re supposed to be, where they’re passionate, where they’re motivated, where they’re educated, you know, get them in those right seats and you will see business success.
Totally, totally. Well, let’s, let’s keep moving here. Another big question that’s on people’s radar and has been for about the last month is just strategic planning for 2021. You know, COVID is still affecting a lot of people’s bottom line, but what are you all doing to prepare and look ahead to 2021?
So, you know, moving forward, you know, you know, there’s a lot of, there’s a couple of different things that we’re putting a focus on for next year. One focus is we need to be cautious of COVID, but we can’t be scared of it. We’ve got to continue to push and move forward and not be afraid to do our sales efforts out in the community and, and try to move forward the way we used to. It’s not going to be as easy, but there are, there are different definitely ways you can do that. If you do it the right way, one area that we are also focusing on is we’re trying to do a new SWOT analysis about how do we compare with our competition? And so we’re, you know, we’re, we’re secret shopping our competition and secret shopping both as a potential client, but also as a potential caregiver because you, in my opinion, you, you really have to know how is your competition positioning themselves and what are they saying that the, are there different differentiators compared to yourself?
Because if you are going to try to position yourself to be in a better place in 2021, you have to know how your competition has changed because of COVID one area we’re putting a huge focus on so much so that we’re creating an internal department specifically for recruiting to help our franchisees recruit. In my opinion, you know, to, to, to really get ahead of the game, it’s, it’s almost more about recruiting and making sure you have enough staff and doing the recruiting in the right way. If your recruiting efforts are, you know, placing an ad on indeed or my CNA jobs or something that, and waiting for caregivers to respond to that ad, and then you’re following up with them, you’re only doing about 10% of what you should be doing in re actual recruiting. So we feel that, you know, we’ve, we’re gonna find professional recruiters that are going to help our our team recruit because there’s a whole lot more you can do than just placing ads and waiting.
We are also making a more of a conscious effort to be more data-driven. We’re going to be, we’ve identified. We had a strategic planning session back in October and we’ve identified a good solid list of KPIs that we’re going to start tracking. And so we’re gonna start tracking a certain dashboard of KPIs on a, on a weekly basis and a monthly basis. And we’re gonna use those that data to help us drive our decision-making as well. And the last thing that we did when our decision and our strategic plan is, you know, we really try to narrow a lot of people put too many goals on themselves and you only want one or two, maybe three goals, but you know, in, and you have to identify the goal. You have to identify the steps you’re going to take to fulfill those goals.
And then you can’t let the whirlwind of your day job, really the whirlwind of running an office, get in the way of doing what you need to do to accomplish those goals. If you’re, if all you’re doing is setting a goal and then get stuck in that whirlwind of staffing and recruiting and training and billing, you’re not going to get your calls accomplished. You need to come up with some goals, put a plan together, and how you’re gonna accomplish that and set time every week aside to to work on those goals. You just put it in your calendar, close your door, you know, who cares if the world is on fire, you know, you’re working on those goals.
Yeah. I love that last one. We, you know, working on the business and not just in the business and it takes time and hard work to get to that point where that’s even an option, but you’re not going to see as much business growth if you don’t take the time to work on the business, not just in the business,
Not an option though. That’s is, that’s just the thing you can’t, you can’t view it as an option and you have, you know, you make time to do your billing, right? And you make time to process your payroll. You have to make time to work on your goals, period.
Absolutely, and not set too many. I love that. It’s a problem that a lot of people make and it’s just, you know, even one, two, and once you accomplish those, the satisfaction you’ll feel having accomplished them is so rewarding and will motivate you to set more goals. So that’s such a simple principle, but really key as well.
But once you set the goals again, the key is, yeah, your goal may be okay, I’m going to, I’m going to, by the end of this year, I want to be a, you know, 2000 billable hours a week, right. If that’s your goal, fine, you can have that one goal, that one, you know, hairy, audacious goal. Right. but then you have to put steps on how you’re going to go. Complish that goal, you know, and how are you going to track where you’re having success throughout the year and that’s what you need to focus on.
Absolutely. And that’s where the data, those KPIs come into play. If you have the right KPIs in place, you know, as you’re working to, or that goal, those KPIs should tell you if you’re achieving that goal or not. So I really liked the way those integrate the KPIs with the actual goal setting.
The one thing I also love, you mentioned a SWOT analysis, this idea of shopping your competition, you know, that’s fairly common. I’d love to hear how you’re going to implement that. You know, do you have team members designated to do that? Or what, what will that process look like?
Well we do within our corporate locations, obviously the franchisees are going to have to do that themselves. So we, but we do have forms to fill out that does our competitive shopping. So you really want to think about and plan ahead on, okay, what is the type of information that I want to get out of this call? And then you’ve had, fortunately, you know, I’ve been shocked before I’ve done shopping at it’s pretty common tactic, but you’ve got to have a story and, and call your competition and say, you know, I’m shopping around for help for my mom or dad. And what makes you different? You’re going to have to, if you don’t know your competition, if you don’t know how to make yourself stand out from everybody else that’s gonna be a problem. And what I find when I do that is I find, you know, a lot of, a lot of agency owners don’t know how to differentiate themselves, right?
They’ll say, Oh, we have better caregivers or, or we, we provide better care or, you know, and to me, when you hear those things, it’s almost like saying my water is more wet. You know if you really want to stand out with those hospitals and the studios with those referral sources, you have to come up with tangible, actual differentiators that you can show improve to them. But the only way to do that is to know your competition and know what they’re saying compared to yourself, the same as recruiting. You need to know what are they charging, you know, are they offering benefits? W you know, we’re offering benefits this year to all of our employees, you know, we’re offering CNA tuition, reimbursement, we’re offering w there’s plans where they, you know, we can get them free college education for them and their kids. When some of the plans that we have, that’s no cost to us as a franchise owner, you know, so, you know, if you can find ways to do and if your competition has figured it out, you better, hopefully you can figure that out too.
The unique value proposition. But I liked that you brought up on both the recruitment of caregivers and clients, you know, you’ve got to have a unique value proposition that helps you stand out on the recruitment front, you know, on both sides of that. So great points there. That, that was a really great list of, you know, things on your strategic plan for 2021. I really appreciate that. We’re about out of time here. I know we’ve covered a lot, but any other words of advice or anything else you want to share with agency owners as we close out this year and look ahead to 2021,
I would say, don’t give up, follow your passion, keep your head up and keep the fight. Don’t let COVID scare you away. The opportunity right now is probably the greatest I’ve ever seen in the 17 years. I’ve been in this industry. You know, the opportunity, the lights, the COVID has shined on our industry and how we’re an important piece in keeping people safe has never been greater. And so you’ve got to be creative in try different ways. If, if, you know, I would say, you know, Thomas Edison didn’t invent the, the light bulb. The first time he tried, you know, he found 1000 ways not to do something before he found success. And that’s what I think all of us should be doing.
Thanks for listening to this episode of Vision with Jake Rankin. Don’t forget to visit our website homecarepulse.com/podcast to get the related resources that go along with this episode. Thanks again and we’ll see you next time!