Sometimes it takes entrepreneurs from outside the area to see a business potential in your town.
Jacob and Elisabeth Nassberg were living on the east coast of the state when they saw a need for a home health care company in the Naples area that would respond quickly to patient needs.
The husband-and-wife team decided to sell their home for a tidy profit in 2005 to fund their dream of starting a business. With a baby in tow, they leased a 100-square-foot office and started Just Like Family Home Care in Naples.
“We lived off our savings and credit lines,” says Elisabeth Nassberg, 38. “We were working 24 hours a day in the first years.”
While the Nassbergs decline to share sales information, the company has been growing revenues at a 12% to 15% clip in recent years. Just Like Family has 15 employees and it recently moved into a new 3,400-square-foot office that's nearly three times bigger than its previous headquarters.
In Lee and Collier counties where it operates, Just Like Family has 700 caregivers to call on to provide a range of care, from companions to nurses. The company charges an hourly rate of $19 to $45 depending on the nursing skill required. “We've maintained those rates since 2006,” says Elisabeth Nassberg.
Before she started the business with her husband, Elisabeth Nassberg spent about a decade helping another home health company grow its business on the east coast of Florida. One day she turned to Jacob Nassberg, who was selling life insurance at the time, and said: “Why are we doing this for someone else?”
With his background in sales, Jacob Nassberg was charged with recruiting nurses and caregivers as independent contractors. “She set up the office; my job was recruiting caregivers,” he says. “Anybody in scrubs was fair game.”
Nurses and other caregivers are always looking for ways to make extra money, and Just Like Family operates like a matchmaker, bringing caregivers and patients together. “There's a lot of people looking for work,” says Jacob Nassberg.
Elisabeth Nassberg says the key to finding good caregivers is to find the first one. “When you find one good person, they'll bring you more,” she says. “We take good care of them by keeping them working.”
The Nassbergs say their business doubled annually in the first five years because they had a greater sense of urgency than their competitors. When a patient or relative calls the company, Just Like Family can provide a caregiver within the hour. On the east coast, where the competition is much more pronounced, “if you wait an hour a rival will grab the business,” Elisabeth Nassberg says.
Just Like Family doesn't require a minimum number of hours and customers can request help for as little as one hour. The Nassbergs figure that if they have a satisfied customer for that one hour, they're likely to call back when they need more help and refer clients to them.
While the growth continued through the downturn, it wasn't as steep as it was during the boom years because people aren't spending as much. So the Nassbergs have been expanding their business.
For example, Just Like Family now provides staffing for a dozen assisted-living facilities on an as-needed basis. In addition, the company works with a hospice facility in Naples to provide patients with end-of-life care at home and to plastic surgeons whose patients need help at home after surgery.
The Nassbergs plan to grow their business geographically, too, scouting Charlotte and Sarasota counties. “That's the next step,” says Elisabeth Nassberg. “We'll continue to move up the west coast.”