When my father started BAYADA Home Health Care in Philadelphia in 1975 with $16,000 in his savings account, he was 27 and scared – yet determined to listen to a loud inner voice calling him to use his entrepreneurial spirit to help others. Forty-two years later, having led BAYADA Home Health Care to become an international organization with 25,000 employees serving more than 100,000 people each year, our family announced an innovative and uncharted path to succession. Instead of taking his private, family-owned company public, selling it to private equity, or passing it down to my siblings and me, we decided to put mission over money. To ensure long-term sustainability, we are transitioning the business into a nonprofit that he will steward as Chairman beginning August 17 – his 70th birthday.
On that same day, I have the task of stepping into the pair of shoes that my father leaves for me, as I become Chief Executive Officer of BAYADA Home Health Care. I’ve been recalling the most poignant lessons my dad has taught me over a lifetime. These teachings have prepared me for this rapidly approaching, monumental organizational and personal change – one focused on ensuring his vision and values will stand the test of time, so that millions of patients and caregivers will experience The BAYADA Way, which expresses our mission, vision, beliefs, and values, long after the man who crafted it is gone.
Here are some of the lessons he taught me:
- Think big. Anyone who knows my father has likely heard the story of how Kermit the Frog influenced the way he built his company. In The Muppet Movie, Kermit envisions stardom and sets a course to make it to Hollywood. Along the way, he meets many similar-minded characters, each with varying skill sets, who share his dream. Together, they journey to Hollywood by bus, having adventures on the way, and then successfully reach their destination and accomplish their goals. The lesson? Surround yourself with people who share your passion. When you invite people aboard the bus who are as committed as you are, you can do amazing things together.
- Listen closely, show empathy and respond to the needs of others. My dad’s business approach involved doing what came naturally: listening. To this day, he tunes into people’s needs with curiosity and authenticity. He learns what matters to them and what motivates them. His understanding and empathy for both patients and caregivers is the foundation of his success. I follow his lead by routinely visiting patients and staff across the country, which keeps me connected to the ‘why’ of what we do.
- Continuously improve yourself and your work. I was raised to understand that when I was close to reaching one goal, I’d better have another one in mind to start working on next. My father continues to illustrate this lesson in his perpetual desire to improve, give better care, deliver better service and create an ever-evolving culture and workplace. He is a relentless consumer of information, perspectives, and experiences, and I am inspired by his humility and willingness to learn, improve, and evolve as a leader and as a father.
- Be creative, flexible and determined. My dad is the hardest working person I know, and his ability to relentlessly pursue the best solution to a problem or challenge is something I admire deeply and always try to emulate. Growing up, my father repeatedly told me a story about my grandfather needing a sea wall built to protect their riverfront family home in Delanco, NJ, from the threat of rising tides. He assigned tasks to my dad and his four teenage brothers with one simple instruction: “figure it out.” It took a lot of blind confidence, determination, patience and persistence, but many decades later, that sea wall still stands as a reminder that working together and working hard can result in something strong and enduring, even without necessarily knowing where to begin.
The family and business values my father modeled for me are inexorably linked. As I prepare to continue the journey my dad began, I am humbled and grateful for the opportunity, but in the end, I’m just a son wanting to make his dad proud.