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Business Observer Friday, Jul. 12, 2019 2 months ago

Home health care franchise owner grows up in the business

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Danielle Dyer’s bottom-to-the-top journey — she went from part-timer to business owner of a 220-employee enterprise — smoothed out her learning curve.
by: Andrew Warfield Lee-Collier Editor

When she was 19 years old, Danielle Dyer jumped at the chance to become the first employee of the Southwest Florida home health care Right At Home franchise as a part-time caregiver. A decade and a half later, the now 35-year-old is the sole owner of the franchise that covers most of Lee and Collier counties and employs more than 220 people. The business has grown 20% to 23% over the past five years.

In between was a brief stint in Arizona where she helped manage an auto body shop; the death of her mother, a Cape Coral resident and a certified nursing assistant; and courtship with her now-husband and company vice president, Steve Dyer, whose financial and accounting acumen complements Danielle’s creative ambitions. “We joke that he is the chief frugal officer,” quips Danielle.

Right At Home is an international home health care company founded in 1995 with more than 500 franchises and tens of thousands of clients served.

"We’ve changed the way people look at home help agents. It’s sometimes a thankless job and they work really hard.' Danielle Dyer, Right At Home 

Despite the seasonal vagaries of her clientele, Dyer has positioned Right at Home for consistent year-round business by affiliating with players in the growing independent-to-assisted living space, supplying caregivers on both a regular and unscheduled basis in addition to the core business of providing traditional home health care. It was part of the strategy that grew former owner Peggy Baker’s franchise into a multimillion-dollar business.

Shortly after she hired Dyer in 2003, Baker recognized her potential, within months bringing her into the office. She was promoted to full-time officer manager in 2004, community relations manager in 2006, director of marketing in 2008 after returning from Arizona and vice president in 2011. She became a minority partner in 2016 and sole owner last year. 

Dyer’s rise from part-time caregiver to owner of a highly successful franchise was in part the result of self-taught marketing skills, with an emphasis on professional and community involvement to create and maintain visibility within the industry.

“Our growth strategy was to really get involved in the community,” says Dyer. “I worked in every aspect of the company, so my knowledge of running the whole business was beneficial because I could answer just about any question.”

Dyer currently serves or has served on more than a dozen boards and committees, and is a facilitator for “Quest for Success,” a continuing education program for area case managers, social workers and other professionals serving seniors in Lee and Collier counties. 

She also acts as a free resource for those seeking care or advice.

“When I started marketing I wanted to know everything and be involved in everything I could,” Dyer says. “That included networking and teaching classes for hospitals and social workers, so I ended up being a resource and that helped me become known in the community. Even if I am not the answer for them, people know I am going to try to get them to the resources they need.”

All of that puts Right At Home front and center of clients and providers, for which Dyer credits the organic growth of the company. That, plus a reputation for quality care, which includes a guaranteed 45-minute response time for a call for service. If no field staff are available, the office staff is trained to step in. That includes herself.

One of the core challenges is recruiting and retaining people, particularly with the growing number of assisted living facilities in the region. But Right At Home attracts quality caregivers by treating them better, Dyer says.

“We offer a bonus program, 401K, insurance and other benefits that are unheard of in our industry,” says Dyer. “We’ve changed the way people look at home help agents. It’s sometimes a thankless job and they work really hard.”

In addition to treating employees well, Dyer has undertaken another entrepreneurial must-do: plot an exit strategy. The Dyers are positioning the franchise for acquisition in seven years, she says, hoping, as she did in 2018, to transition the company internally. 

“I’d like to retire before I am 44," says Dyer, "and then go find something else to do."

 

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