Paul Blom and Bob White
Paul Blom and his partner Bob White were the third franchisees in the Right at Home system, have been awarded various accolades as business owners, are active within the LGBT community, and are heavily involved in raising funds for Parkinson’s disease.
Blom was born and raised in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and grew up in a family with a rich history of Lutheran pastors. He studied pre-seminary with a major in theology and classical languages at Luther College and began his Masters at Warburg Seminary until leaving in 1992 when he came out as gay. It was during a training session, where the chaplaincy supervisor discussed the importance of being comfortable with one’s self, that Blom had his revelation. At the age of 22, Blom left his studies and divorced his wife.
In the next chapter of his life, Blom worked in retail management and corporate training. It was while Blom was training at one of the Kwik Trip stores that he met White, who was the manager of the location. Blom and White have been together since November 1993 and will be marrying in September this year.
As Kwik Trip expanded into the Twin Cities, the couple followed. After arriving in the community, they worked at various companies in various positions, the final being at an IT company. However, with it being the period surrounding “Y2K,” job security was unstable, which prompted the duo to explore new opportunities.
How did you learn about Right at Home?
Bob’s mom is a retired nurse and for a period she had worked for a small independent agency that offered companionship and homemaking. She suggested we look into the industry because of how rewarding it was. We talked about it for four years, and then in 2001, when companies were laying employees off, I started getting scared. I didn’t think I had the guts to start a business of taking care of the elderly, so I decided to go with franchising a business. I was considering mainly food concepts but then saw Right at Home on a franchising website. I remember calling Bob and saying that there was a franchise that was exactly what we wanted to do.
What industry changes have you witnessed over the course of your career?
When we started, there were only a small handful of franchises, then others entered the industry and pretty soon the number of in-home care franchises that people could buy started to grow. During the first 18 months, I saw private duty home care presence grow from six to 80 in my market alone. Everyone started out with the simple homemaking, companionship model, and now 99.3 percent of the industry is offering personal care/skilled nursing as well. With so many new entries, it’s difficult to differentiate yourself, so it works to our advantage for being one of the first. We are part of the small 1.5 percent of franchises that only do companionship and homemaking. Our services are purely psychosocial in nature and we don’t do any medical administration. The primary reason for that is because that’s what we set out to do in the beginning. Our average employee is a 50-year-old woman or 60-year-old man, both uninterested in doing personal care work. If we were to add more services, we would need to hire people with a license. After adding personal care, most companies see the service making up 90 percent of the business, so when they have a homemaking/companionship client they don’t have as much staff in the area. In my marketplace, we have built a reputation that if you want solid companionship and homemaking that makes a difference, you go to Right at Home.
What success stories do you have to share?
We’re in the Right at Home President’s Circle and we are one of the top 15 percent revenue-generating franchises in the system. In 2011, we were awarded the Better Business Bureau Integrity Award. I’m heavily involved in the Parkinson’s community, and received an award from the National Parkinson’s Foundation for being one of the top philanthropists in Minnesota. I also received the Paul M. Silversteen Community Service Award in 2008 and the Todd Enright Award from the Health East Care System in 2013 for my Parkinson’s work.
The thing I am most proud of is that we have been recognized as one of the top workplaces in Minnesota. In the first year of the Star Tribune’s Top Workplaces in 2010, we were ranked third-best in the mid-size sector, and I was rated as the top CEO based on employee confidence. In 2011, we were No. 2 and I received top CEO. In 2012 and 2013, we were No. 1, and we were awarded Most Fulfilling Workplace in 2013, as well. It is remarkable that even though only 10 of our 255 employees actually come into the head office on a regular basis, we have still been able to achieve employee satisfaction at those levels.
What efforts have you made to achieve employee satisfaction?
Every year in January, we do a caregiver anniversary celebration for employees who have been with us for over a year. At the event, I share real numbers about how we performed last year; I am transparent and encourage a sense of ownership. We also do little things that not many employers think to do. Employee and client birthdays are important, and everyone receives a birthday card that has been signed by the office. Every day there is a report run on whose birthday it is that day; everyone gets a call. We send a welcome card when we have a new hire, and we send a farewell card when a caregiver leaves.
What obstacles have you had to overcome in life to get to where you are now?
I can’t think of anything harder than being 23 and coming out. I had been pegged as the next family Lutheran pastor from an early age. My family has a rich history of well-known pastors. There was more disappointment from my family that the tradition would be broken; they didn’t care as much that I was gay.
Please list any nonprofit organizations, community groups, volunteer activities, etc. you are/have been involved with:
I am a member of the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus and involved in a fairly young nonprofit called Training to Serve. The organization was created to respond to data that older LGBT clients believe they would be treated differently if their sexual orientation were known. If you’re 70 and believe that you will be neglected at a nursing home, you’re going to avoid going. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for the older LGBT community by teaching service providers to market their businesses in a way that makes the LGBT population less apprehensive about using their services.
ABOUT RIGHT AT HOME
Founded in 1995, Right at Home offers in-home companionship and personal care and assistance to seniors and disabled adults who want to continue to live independently. Local Right at Home offices are independently owned and operated and directly employ and supervise all caregiving staff, each of whom is thoroughly screened, trained, and bonded/insured prior to entering a client’s home. Right at Home’s global office is based in Omaha, Nebraska, with more than 350 franchise locations in the U.S. and more than 40 locations in seven other countries. In addition, Right at Home is the first U.S. in-home senior care franchise to enter Brazil and China. For more information on Right at Home, visit About Right at Home at http://www.rightathome.net/about-us or read the Right at Home caregiving blog at http://www.rightathome.net/blog. To learn more about franchise opportunities with Right at Home, visit http://www.rightathomefranchise.com.