When Rosemary Johnson-Easton’s husband was involved in a serious car accident he required so much care that she needed to hire home healthcare providers to help her. That is when she experienced the state of the personal care industry.
“I wasn’t pleased,” she said. She envisioned the many ways the service could be improved, and the seed of her passion took root. “In my heart I knew I could do better. I stepped out on faith and opened my own caregiving business.” She opened Open Heartz Care in December, 2019.
“I dare to be different,” Rosemary said. The difference would start with the employees. She would hire only people who shared her love for caregiving and who would understand the clients’ emotional needs as well as their physical needs.
“Everybody doesn’t deal with losing their independence in the same way. I wanted our business to be about helping clients rebuild their dignity… about allowing patients to do as much as they can do for themselves.”
Having provided care for her grandparents and her husband, Rosemary knew this was demanding work. “I’m an advocate for my clients and my workers, as well,” Rosemary said. “I make sure they respect each other. Some patients are difficult; I tell the workers they cannot take anything personally. Different physical conditions can alter the client’s personality. We can’t see everything that may be going on in the person’s body.”
As the business owner, Rosemary is present and interacting with clients, not sitting behind her desk and phoning it in. “First, I visit the home to meet the client and get to know them. In the intake visit, I decide if we will be able to help this patient. Then I accompany the healthcare worker to their first visit and introduce them to the patient. Clients need to know who is going to show up at their house before the caregiver begins work for the first time.”
A home caregiving business is only as good as the employees. And that is where the expertise from the Minority Small Business Program had the most impact. Rosemary worked with her coach, Steve Johnson (no relation to Rosemary) to get processes in place, from hiring, to training, mentoring, and reviewing.
“We developed five ‘non-negotiables,’ a set of standards that give employees clear direction,” said Steve. Those standards addressed punctuality, dress code, and a focus on how to interact with the patient. “They’ve been paying tremendous dividends in client satisfaction,” Steve said. “Rosemary dedicates time to maintaining contact and follow-up with her customers, and she is hearing rave reviews about her workers.”
Another human resource improvement that Steve and Rosemary implemented is a full-time HR manager/office manager who uses the latest technology to screen and hire the exceptional candidates the business needs.
A new service that Open Heartz Care is rolling out is to provide transportation. Workers will have access to a company vehicle, either a passenger car or a van, for taking clients to doctors’ appointments, church, or other errands. Meanwhile, the company is expanding to Kent County now, with Sussex County on the radar for next year.
“Signing up for this program was the absolute best decision I made,” Rosemary said. “Steve took me out of my comfort zone. He genuinely cares about my business. He encourages me, he gives me homework, he is firm– and I need that– and I know that every Tuesday I am going to learn something new. He is a truly great coach.”