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Making a difference in home care: Care N Assist

Dan-Story-webWhether it’s serving a hospice patient, someone recovering from surgery or individuals with chronic conditions, caring is more than kindness, says Dan Story.

“Caring is about respect, having the right skills and being prepared,” explains Story, founder of Care N Assist LLC, a Corunna, Michigan-based provider of in-home care services. “For example, if a nurse is trying to insert an IV into your arm and isn’t good at it, it doesn’t matter how kind she or he is, you’d rather have someone else.”

A registered nurse, Story developed an entrepreneurial itch in 2002 while working in the Medicare-certified home care arena. After patients’ insurance coverage expired, Story had to discharge them to another provider. “Every time I interacted with one of the companies that stepped in, I thought about how I would do things differently,” he explains.

After three years of business planning, Story took the plunge and launched his own in-home care business. With a $50 infusion of capital from his first investor, his wife, Story registered a DBA at the county courthouse and rented a post office box to separate the business a bit from his home.

Fast forward to 2016: Story now has three company-owned offices (Kalamazoo, Corunna, and Three Rivers) that generate about $3 million in annual revenue with about 200 full- and part-time employees. In April he’s opening a fourth location in Battle Creek.

Care N Assist sets itself apart from competitors by offering a high level of care and medical expertise, Story says. Each location is managed by a registered nurse, who develops a care plan for clients that is updated regularly. The company is also “short-notice prepared,” Story explains. “In our industry, a new client is usually expected to give care providers a week to gather information and plan for services to start. Yet we’re structured to start same-day services for clients who have an illness or injury so they can avoid being placed in a nursing home.”

Another distinction, Story brings a first-hand perspective to home care: After a car accident in 1998, he lost his left leg, had open heart surgery and spent a year recovering before he could return to work. “I’ve experienced home care myself as a patient — the motorized wheelchair, the trips to the doctor,” he says. “I understand the humbling feeling you have when you’re looking up at people because you can’t stand.”

Initially Story looked at Care N Assist as a side business and continued to work as a registered nurse. But in 2010 he devoted his full attention to the business, and within two years, he hit the $1 million mark in revenue. In 2014 Story bought the client list of one competitor and the assets of another, which helped him grow annual revenue to $2 million, followed by a 50 percent hike last year.

In addition to the new Battle Creek office, Story plans to open a Lansing location in late 2016 or early 2017. His ultimate goal is to establish a franchise operation after gleaning best practices from his company-owned locations and a licensed operation in Davison, Michigan.

The company has also expanded beyond home care by opening two adult day care centers for dementia patients in Corunna and Three Rivers. Growing this business has been difficult, but Story is committed.

“Adult day services allow people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease to live at home,” Story says. “Family members who are their primary support are often torn between work, taking care of themselves and caring for their loved one. We enable them to do all of these things without putting the client in an assisted living facility or nursing home. Our service is also less expensive — and through grant funding and local donations, we can help many people cover the cost.”

Among recent accolades, Care N Assist was named a Michigan 50 Companies to Watch honoree in 2015, a Best Small Business for the I-69 Trade Corridor Region by the Michigan SBDC, and Best Medium-Sized Business of the Year in 2011 by the Shiawassee Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Yet Story is most proud of his growing staff. “I love signing some 200 paychecks every week,” he says. “What I thought was going to be a part-time venture has become a real business, and people have jobs because of our team effort.”

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