Here are some key highlights from the interview:
- Emily has 14 years of experience in the home care industry, including running 7 Home Instead locations across 3 states serving over 1 million hours of care per year.
- In 2020, Emily started her own business to help support home care companies with operations, marketing, caregiver optimization, and more. Her team now has 7 people.
- Emily offers a “Cumulus Strategy Session” for one-on-one consulting and then often partners for “Co-Leadership” over 12-18 months to work closely together.
- Her company also offers services like “Profitable Performance” to help franchisors support franchisees and “Revenue Reboot” to help underperforming franchise locations.
- “Powerhouse Peers” is a performance group that brings home care owners together for accountability, workshops, virtual and in-person meetings to share KPIs and drive results.
- Emily works with both franchisors and franchisees as clients, as well as independent home care agencies interested in improving their operations and caregiver retention.
- She shared a personal story about challenges her family faced finding reliable home care for her grandmother, underscoring the importance of caregiver backup plans.
- Emily has a strong operations background from Home Instead and also former Home Instead franchisor team members on her team of 7 now.
Embark on a transformative tale with Emily Isbell, a once part-time caregiver who rose to home care industry prominence. Emily takes us through her captivating journey, from managing a million hours of care across multiple states to founding a consulting firm that’s revolutionizing home care operations, marketing, and caregiver management. Her innovative ‘co-leadership’ approach promises to shake up traditional consulting methods, offering hands-on, authentic guidance that carries agencies to new heights.
In the heart of our episode, we dive into the game-changing world of Powerhouse Peers, where home care business owners aren’t just meeting; they’re evolving together. Emily discusses the perks of having a ‘consultant on call’ at the ready and the synergy found in structured virtual and in-person meetings. These sessions aren’t your typical business gatherings—they’re a blend of accountability, strategy, and, importantly, fun, providing franchisees and franchisors alike a chance to thrive in an atmosphere of collective growth.
Lastly, we share empathetic insights into the support systems crucial for independent agencies, dissecting the operational challenges they face. Emily offers hope and practical solutions, like joining a powerhouse peers performance group, to independents in need of a community and strategies that align with their growth. And for those seeking to refine their approach to client and caregiver services, Emily’s ‘white glove’ tactics and operational blueprints promise to guide them along a path to excellence. Join us as we navigate the intricacies of the home care industry with an expert who’s not only seen it all but is actively crafting its future.
Valerie VanBooven RN BSN
Hi, this is Valerie Van Booven and thanks for joining our podcast for today. We’re doing something a little bit different. We have Emily Isbel with us, and she is going to tell us all about what she does as a consultant and her expertise in the home care industry. So it’s really nice to have you. This is so cool that we get to do something a little different today.
Well, thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Valerie VanBooven RN BSN
Well, tell us, what is your story? How did you end up doing what you do today?
Sure. So I’m going to try to keep that the shortest version, but it started actually when I was 19. I started off as a caregiver, specifically at Home Instead in my college town, and it was my part-time slash full-time job. I did that for a year and a half, but before I jumped too far ahead a month into it, I knew it was my future career. I knew caregiving in some capacity and the business around it was going to be my future career. So I actually went and met with the owner of the company, quickly turned around, changed my degree from doing clinical therapy to healthcare administration, and fast forward to five years later, I ended up overseeing an organization in Tennessee right south of Nashville, called in Franklin, Tennessee. The owner and I partnered together to do that. I was the face of that company in Franklin, and then four years later we had grown it so much that we took over actually the Nashville location. And I was a pioneer in the concept of overseeing more than one franchise. So I oversaw the Franklin location and had a separate team there. I oversaw the Nashville location and had a separate team there and did both examples for turnarounds just for reference. Fast forward again to keep this as short as possible. 14 years later, we had seven locations underneath our ownership and we were serving over a million hours of care a year out of those seven locations across three different states. Oh my gosh.
Yeah. And so that was with Home Instead. And then in 2020 I ended up just recognizing I always knew that I wanted to have my own entrepreneurial journey instead of working with the owner of that Home Instead those Home Instead location. So I always knew that he knew that 2020 happened and it was like, we’re not guaranteed tomorrow. So with that being said, I’m ready to actually jump into that entrepreneurial journey sooner than later. Didn’t know what I wanted to do, took time off, took a true sabbatical after following an exit plan to make sure I set everybody up for success and had enough people reaching out to me asking for guidance and support with their businesses that I knew they were telling me what I needed to do next. So as of today, in 2021, I started my business. As of today, I have a team of seven people and we support home care businesses with their operations, help with their marketing, help with their optimization of their caregivers, and just everything that helped make the 1 million hours a year of service possible under my previous leadership.
Valerie VanBooven RN BSN
That is totally amazing. And I mean running an organization or multiple organizations that that big is a true testament to your ability to manage a thousand different things at once and your experience Home Instead has always been a very respected home care franchisor. And to be a leader in that organization speaks volumes to your ability to lead and stay organized. So that’s awesome. That’s a huge amount of work that you’ve put in. And so tell us what you do today for home care agencies.
Sure. So with my team, we have a few different services and I took some notes before our call to make sure I didn’t miss anything. We just had our retreat last week and if I’m being honest, my brain’s a little bit mush from just planning overload for 2024, so I didn’t want to miss anything. So one of the first things that we provide, anyone that’s interested in more of a one-on-one service is a cumulus strategy session. That’s where we work and really look at, try to make sure we turn over every stone to understand their business. And it’s really with me primarily my team supports that in different avenues of it, but really it’s primarily with me. And that’s kind of an entry level service just to make sure that it makes sense for any further services with us that are one-on-one, we have other services that are more group focused and we’ll talk about that too.
But what the Cumulus strategy leads to oftentimes is a co-leadership service with me and co-leadership is purposely named that for two reasons. The first is you mentioned as a consultant, and as much as that’s true, it does make me cringe a little. And the reason why it makes me cringe, don’t blame me for saying it, it’s true, but I want to just call it out. The reason it makes me cringe is there are so many consultants just in anywhere that either one say they have experience or can help you save the world and come in and tell you to fire everybody and then leave you with a mess to clean up. So there’s a bad reputation out there for consultants, not every consultant, but there’s enough of them that hurt the other good faith ones that are doing well. And then two, there’s enough. Well, same point. A lot of consultants say they had the years of experience or don’t really highlight their years of experience, and you find out later that maybe they didn’t actually have the inpractice that you claim to have. So I cringe because I had 14 years of blood, sweat, tears, true data that backs up what I’m teaching. And I just never want people to assume otherwise that, and I don’t pretend to know all the answers. The home care industry is ever evolving. So with that being said, co-leadership, the name comes, I
Valerie VanBooven RN BSN
Actually, I really like that. And you’re right about consultants in general. There’s a lot of sizzle in those stakes sometimes.
Valerie VanBooven RN BSN
Co-Leadership is a really good term. I love it.
Thank you. So further diving into it, to me it’s like a three-legged stool. You have to have all three legs for it to stay at. So it’s consulting for sure, but then you need the coaching in between all that to kind of keep it all together. And then you also without a doubt need leadership development. So all three of those things are being built upon during that time together. And ultimately the goal with co-leadership is to work ourselves out of the job we want. I always say I want to teach the man to fish, not give them a fish. And so in having that three-legged stool, they can stand on their own once we’re done and done is hopefully 12 months at the worst 18. But then the way we build our business or way I build that business is by getting referred. So we actually have a waiting list right now for co-leadership, but all of those come from referrals or people that have worked with home care owners.
And so that’s one piece of the co-leadership. The second piece is that, and I think it’s important to point out, and I know it’s a little bit exaggerated to go this deep into why it’s called co-leadership, but I think it’s important is that unlike what I just described, this idea of just come in fire, everybody do it this way, and then they leave co-leadership as you’re noticing is more of a together in this, right? We we’re going to lead through these challenges in your business together. There are some non-negotiables I’m going to have. If you’re breaking any laws regulations, that’s not okay. But if you say that you need this part of your business to be the way it is, I’ll work around that because you know your business better than I do. And so co-leadership definitely is this concept of not bulldozing and saying, you have to do it this way or you need to fire these people.
And a personal reason that matters to me is the business I took over when we took over Nashville. We had the same three team members were there a year later, and they were the ones that helped us grow in terms of revenue, a hundred thousand to $300,000 in monthly revenue, same people. So it was really a matter of structure, leadership, understanding how to be more efficient. It was not them that was the problem, it was just understanding and having some of the experience I brought to the table to help ’em get there. So I do not ever want anybody to think I’m going to come in and tell ’em to scratch everything they’ve done and worked hard for all the years that they’ve worked in their home care business.
Valerie VanBooven RN BSN
That’s refreshing too. I really, as our business evolves on this side, I see that it often is not, you do have people problems sometimes, but it’s often not the person, it’s really the organization and the way the information is presented to the person and the way that the expectations being clear, it’s not necessarily the human that’s making the error, it’s just the process is broken. And once you fix that, it’s super helpful. So I
Appreciate it. Exactly. So beyond that, I want to make sure and do my team justice, mainly talking about me this whole time. We also have a resource, we provide franchisors called Profitable Performance, and it’s essentially a third party support for business performance and learning and development. The beauty for a franchisor of why they would work with that is because we to, there are challenges with franchises right now, especially in terms of joint employment. And so we’re able to help support their needs without them putting the entire franchise network at risk. So profitable performance is where we can get well neck deep, I guess, into the business and not be afraid to say certain things, whereas a franchisor kind of has to keep their arms reached to protect the entire network. So profitable performance Ensure is helping consulting with franchisees on behalf of the franchisor and doing learning and development for those franchisees in terms of workshops and things of that nature.
And then we have a revenue reboot program, and this is where franchisors might reach out to us for some of their underperforming franchisees and recognizing it’s the franchisors inability to get them where they need to go. And that’s an extremely wise on a franchisor’s part to understand franchisees need more than they can offer because at a certain point, and we’ll talk about that later, but there’s a certain point where a franchisee knows more operationally than the franchisor ever can, and that’s just a reality that’s not anybody’s fault. And so that’s where we can kind of come in and step in to help. And then lastly, we have our Powerhouse Peers service. That is our performance group service. And I could talk a little bit more about that, but those are the seven, I’m sorry, the main services that my team of seven helps support.
Valerie VanBooven RN BSN
That’s a lot. That’s a lot to do. And I know that and the parks that you do by yourself are a lot, but it’s great that you have a team of people that’s there to help you. So let’s talk about powerhouse peers a little bit. You primarily work with franchises, and so tell us about powerhouse peers and why that’s your focus.
So the beauty of Powerhouse peers is that it is bigger reach than just my team. So we are able to bring a lot of expertise and have as a part of that, we have a consultant on call piece where they can reach out with a very specific need. So if they have a bookkeeping question, Erica, my team member, that’s the bookkeeping experts going to get with them on a call. If they have a recruitment and retention question for caregivers, then they would be connected with that expert, which is Sarah. And so we have a lot of reach in that way, but that exists in other avenues of our services. What’s more powerful is getting these owners together, having structure a team of peer owners. And when I say peer, it means they don’t compete usually within the same franchise unit or franchisor team. And they’re able to talk about their KPIs and how they’re doing, and they actually hold each other accountable.
And that power of the way adult learning works is you need more than just someone telling you what to do. You need that team camaraderie. There’s just so much power and truth in how effective performance groups can be. And the structure we bring is monthly virtual. I’m trying to decide if I want to go into those weeds or not. I think I’ll keep it high level. So we have a monthly virtual meeting and then we have intensives three times a year. And those intensives are where we bring our operational experience and background and naturally force them to level up if they weren’t already in terms of what data they need to measure in their business. A lot of performance groups do the market research before we started this program. A lot of performance groups fall into the trap of keeping it just very high level in terms of doing a SWOT analysis, which is great, except it can lead towards just a very unhealthy non-productive environment of just people talking about negative things versus action steps that they can actually do to improve their business.
So to keep one more thought on that, the biggest thing that we also bring in that is the accountability piece. So while there’s performance groups that exist and you can meet monthly or whatever it might be, we have a facilitator who’s following ’em throughout all of that and making sure they understand their expectations that they commit to. So not only do they have their peers who’s given ’em a hard time, they have a facilitator who’s there constantly to further drive that the results that they promised they would have in their business or the action items they would take to try to get those results. So
It’s not just, we have a good time too. I don’t want to forget that. I mean, we call it Good Eats and business feat. So we definitely make the best of that time together when we are in person, but there is still a lot of work to be done. I always joke, my love language is efficiency. And so as much as that time is short together, it’s a two day intensive. It’s intensive for a reason. And so we knock out a lot during that time. But again, we have a good time.
Valerie VanBooven RN BSN
That’s great. Now you know what accountability is. We all need, we can say a lot of things. Obviously anybody who runs a business knows how busy we get and we say a lot of things and we intend on doing a lot of things. But being held accountable and being reminded, Hey, remember last month when you said once you know that’s coming, you’re much more APTT to spend some time working on that if you know somebody’s going to ask about it later. So that’s great. Exactly. All right. So tell us, do franchisors hire your services or do franchisees hire your services?
So that’s a good question. It actually is. The answer is both. And so when it comes to the one-on-one, that’s typically a franchisee. So when it comes to the one-on-one that’s typically franchisee. And then the other services are typically a partnership. It really does depend on the franchisor and what they feel like they can budget. But it tends to be a partnership where the franchisor either completely compensates it or they subsidize it for powerhouses peers specifically, that is subsidized. And that’s a role I have for a franchisor to work with us in that direction because we want the franchisor, as much as I can say, equally having in the game as the franchisee. So to clarify, we want both in the powerhouse Peers equation, they both need to have skin in the game and pay for a portion of the service so that everybody’s on the same page. We would not let a franchisor pay for powerhouse peers for a franchisee because otherwise you have people who show up who just want the good eats and not the business feeds. And I know that I was in a network who had some, a milder version of performance groups, and there was definitely the groups that just wanted to have a good time.
Valerie VanBooven RN BSN
Yeah, I’ve been to a few of those meetings where, yeah, there’s a few people there that, especially if you have your meeting in Las Vegas.
Valerie VanBooven RN BSN
To have a good time. So no, that’s understandable. Everybody having skin in the game definitely makes it worthwhile. I get that across the board. People tend to perform better when they can feel a little bit in their pocketbooks, so Absolutely, yes. Alright, well let’s talk about, you’ve talked a lot about working with franchisees and franchisees and franchisors, and I know that you are Forte and you’re great at that. What about independent home care agencies? Tell us about your relationship with working with those kinds of businesses.
I want to tell a little bit of a personal story I didn’t share at the beginning, and that’s the story with my grandmother. My grandparents. So when I started, when my grandmother started to need care, it was very early signs that there was going to be a need. She had long-term care insurance and I reached out to probably a year in advance. I talked to the Home Instead owner of that particular territory. She was not within my territory unfortunately, and had a great conversation. We knew each other before that. So I just felt very safe and confident that that would go well. And when it came time, I reached out to him and said, my mom’s going to reach out to you and talk to you about services. Do you want it to be you that she speaks to or what’s your process? And he said, yeah, absolutely.
I’d be glad to talk to her. And so he has a conversation with her and then by the end of the call he says, if it’s okay, can we set this up for two weeks from now? Because my team member who does consultations with families is on vacation and I live two hours away, so it’d just be a long drive. My mom set up the meeting, called me and told me that, and I just couldn’t believe what I heard given how much advance notice we had talked about it, how much I had nurtured that, how much I was handing him a long-term care insurance client. So for business owners, that’s a easy case typically. And so I told her to cancel it. She went ahead and set it up. I said, cancel it and go ahead and reach out to the independent home care agency that we knew had a good reputation in that community.
And so she did. And that particular company did a great job on the front end. Now I will say to talk to my story further, they had a lot of weaknesses too. And so unfortunately, I’m going to be the hardest customer right at the time I’m running home care businesses. I know what it takes and I know also the challenges, but also this is my grandmother we’re talking about. But what really hurt the most with that particular experience was that my grandmother, there were multiple times where no-shows occurred. And we had processes in place in my organizations for backup, on backup, on backup to make sure clients were taken care of and they didn’t. And they had shown a history of that. And my mother had a surgery plan had asked for, made it clear that we need somebody there. There’s been a history, a pattern of no shows.
We just need, if anything, this day for that to not happen. And sure enough, my dad had to go back and forth from the hospital with my mom having surgery to my grandmother’s just because they had a no-show and didn’t have a plan in place even though there was so much proactively trying to solve that. So that’s personal to me. That’s my story. And so where I’m going with that, when you ask your question, what do I do or how can I support, I don’t target that. I like the complexities of a franchisee franchisor relationship, but if somebody needs care or needs support that would provide and wants to improve their experience for both their client and their caregiver, and I can bring value or we can bring value, we’re not going to say no. And so because we’re talking to you and I know that you have a network, a large network of independent, we’re wanting to make an opportunity to create a powerhouse peers performance group for an independent home care group that they would have to be non-competing. So they can’t be all in the same market, but we would love to make that an opportunity and begin onboarding them into a group in March. And so we would need to make selections in January. So if people are interested, there is an application on my website and we would love to hear from them and see if there’s an opportunity there for an independent home care group to receive the resources we have in home care operations and help improve their business.
Valerie VanBooven RN BSN
Well, I appreciate that because as you know, and there’s pros and cons to all of this, obviously franchisees do get that kind of training and support that our independents kind of have to fumble through sometimes if they didn’t come from a background of home care, if they aren’t somebody who’s been in the business for a long time, you learn it’s trial by fire. And those little things like having a backup upon backup upon backup, I hear Don Fiala on our team talk about that all the time. That is a must. And it’s challenging to, for an independent to see that model or understand that model, or sometimes they haven’t been in business very long to create that model because it is a whole nother set of staffing issues that you have to sort of attend to. And there’s more to the story than just staffing.
But appreciate that. And what we’ll do is we’ll make sure that the link to your website is available and to where that form is available with this video. So if people are interested, they can get in touch with you. And I would love to see an accountability group in a group that is wanting to do more with their independent home care agency and learn. And this is actually an opportunity that most will never get. I mean, to learn from the franchisor perspective or someone who’s run many locations underneath a franchisor is something that you don’t get the opportunity to do as an independent. So this is a great opportunity for people to learn and to see. And I got to say, I mean, you work with many franchisors and franchisees across the board, but if you come back to the Home Instead original, the way they set things up, such a successful model over time, that it would be crazy not to want to know what really made that franchise tick. And everything you’ve learned since then about different franchises. So to me, that’s a win. That’s absolutely a win. So I appreciate, well,
Thank you for saying that. And I would be silly not to mention that two of my seven team members are franchisor homestead franchisor team members previously. So they’re now with me. But so we have both sides of the equation. We have me on the ground level at the franchisee, and we have the franchisor ground level in terms of how they manage different states and different situations. So yeah, I thank you for saying that. I’m excited and proud of the team that I have. We all just ultimately are driven by what we call having a white glove approach for clients and even for caregivers to make sure their experience in the home care industry is not poor, like a poor experience. We want it to be as high quality as possible. And you talk about backup on backup, I want to mention that there are different phases. So the first organization I took over was around 40,000 in monthly revenue, and then it grew to having, in four years it was 200,000. The 40,000 level had a different backup process than when you get to size. So you’re right, that is a challenge when you first start out and at different sizes. But we have that blueprint and can guide you on what makes sense in your business.
Valerie VanBooven RN BSN
That’s great. That’s awesome. So we will put, it’s emily isabel co.com/application, but we’re going to put that on the screen and we’ll put that with this video. So folks are interested in knowing more about you, about how you can support them. We’ll make sure it’s all there for ’em. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us and for getting the word out there about what you do and the fact that you have a little bit of a waiting list here. And there is awesome news for you guys. I know so many people could use that co-leadership, I’m going to use that term all the time now. People are going to hear me say, it’s great to find a fresh voice, someone who’s been there, done that, and really provides that stake with all of the stuff that they come to the table with. So thank you for doing the interview and we will be in touch soon. Thank you.
Yes. Thank you so much for having me.
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