Empathy Drives Growth of Andrews’ Senior-Care Business

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My friends and I still talk about my grandmother,” Rico Andrews shares one afternoon in his office at Always Best Care Senior Services. “We’d all go over to her house after school and hang out – 17-, 18-year-old dudes hanging out with someone’s grandma.”

Andrews was close with his grandmother until her death in 2005. And once she became ill, seeing the toll her care took on the family helped motivate him to ask what resources might have helped.

“I knew there had to be a better way,” he recalls. “So I started looking into home care, thinking, ‘This could have helped us.’”

And knowing a significant portion of the population is aging helped him realize that not only would the service help families – it would also be a viable business model.

With an undergraduate degree in management from Austin Peay State University and an MBA from the University of Memphis, Andrews initially launched into a career in logistics and supply chain. But he had sometimes tagged along to work with his mother, at ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and sensed that her job was about more than a paycheck. His grandmother’s illness began to change his outlook.

And Andrews’ wife, as it happens, is a nurse, also at St. Jude.

He recalls, “I was in supply chain management, and it was a rat race – everything about the bottom line. My wife would come home, and even though you’d think it would be a tough job, but she would be happy about how many kids she had helped. I knew I wanted to do something different.”

Equipped with his logistics and supply-chain background, Andrews set about building an in-home senior-care business – from a spare room in his house. With just a desk, file cabinet and phone line, he was doing it all solo at first: finding clients, interviewing health care providers, coordinating schedules, matchmaking providers with clients – all of it.

Today, Always Best Care employs about 100 people: four in the office; the rest, nurses and providers trained to care for seniors in their own homes. Andrews spends a great deal of time in initial client meetings; more than a sales pitch, he sees these meetings as an opportunity for education and connection.

“When we meet with families, we always try to relate – regardless of whether we get business,” he notes. After all, he goes on, “This is something that no one’s ever been through – until they’re going through it.”

While visiting the zoo recently, he came across an older woman who had fallen and needed help getting up and finding her family. Since then, he’s exchanged calls and notes with the woman. She “doesn’t have many people to talk to” – and Andrews’ commitment to empathizing with the elderly and mitigating their difficulties is about more than the bottom line.

Always Best Care is a young company: As recently as late 2013 and early 2014, Andrews was the business, singlehandedly conducting all the interviews, all the hiring, all the client consultations.

Now that the business has grown in numbers and in efficiency, Andrews is asking himself what’s next. No details yet, but he’s looking into senior housing for those without enough means to afford most private nursing homes, but with too much means to qualify for state assistance. It’s an area of opportunity, from a business perspective – and from the perspective of a loving grandson, too.

Rico Andrews is a graduate of the New Memphis Fellows program. Nominate a future Fellow today.