https://youtu.be/ph2LwcYbCZ4

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Hi, this is Valerie VanBooven with the Senior Care Industry Netcast, where leaders with three or more years of experience share their advice. So let’s get to it in a few sentences, tell us who you are and what you do.

Michael Chirico:

Hi, Valerie. My name is Mike, I’m the owner of VYTA and VitaCare. We’re a senior care facility company that has transitioned from more than just standard care options, to more of a tech-based platform to allow multiple different healthcare providers to offer the service to seniors, as well as offer seniors a service that’s not currently in place.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Nice. So expand on that and tell me a little bit more about what you do, just the way you did before we were on our recording here.

Michael Chirico:

Sure. So we looked at the industry as what problems can be solved. And I saw that there are seniors that are reluctant to get care, to get started with. Whether it be price-driven or time-based, maybe they don’t want somebody with them 20, 30, 40 hours a week.

Michael Chirico:

So I tried to create a solution to that. And I found transportation being a large problem, as well as obviously lack of option in terms of time. So our app is based around somebody being able to select services by the task, rather than by the time. And a safe way to transport people to and from doctors, grocery shopping. Continuing standard life procedures without having to worry about having somebody there all the time.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Right. So they have more flexibility in the number of hours and the number of days that somebody might be in their home. Yeah, and it’s app-based, which is great, so you’re encouraging technology and I love all things techie, so that peaks my interest. That’s awesome.

Michael Chirico:

Thank you.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

All right. So what’s the best thing about serving aging adults?

Michael Chirico:

I think, I mean, beyond the obvious what you hear all the time, it’s so great, rewarding, I personally, I like the challenge. I found that the senior industry, the senior population, is just left behind. There’s no innovation. So I love the challenge of trying to create innovation solutions that aren’t there. People say, “Oh, seniors can’t use tech.” Well, they went to the moon, what are you talking about? They’re the generation that brought us there.

Michael Chirico:

So being able to provide them with the tools that we all enjoy every day that make our lives easier, providing them with that and encouraging the end of life, 75 to 100, shouldn’t change. It should be equally as rewarding as the beginning stages.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Absolutely. No doubt about it. And I think what we’ve talked about a lot on this show is that if you give a senior a chance, an opportunity, teach them a little bit, they’re very resilient and they are very willing to adopt new technology. Very willing to use Zoom, very willing to do things that we may think, “Oh, they won’t want to do it because it’s a techie,” or, “They won’t understand it.” And honestly, they really will.

Michael Chirico:

Yeah, [crosstalk 00:03:18].

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

I mean, not everybody will, but not every 20-year-old is a tech nerd either.

Michael Chirico:

Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

But they’re willing to do it, they’re very resilient.

Michael Chirico:

It’s wild to me. I just had my first child, and the amount of crap that’s available for kids, it’s outstanding. You got cameras to see this, devices for this. I can monitor them anywhere, it doesn’t matter, but none of that exists for seniors. And it’s why is everything outdated and none of it’s new? Let’s progress a little bit here, it’s 2021.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Exactly. All right. I would imagine in your career and in your lifetime, there have been organizations, people who’ve meant a lot to you, personally and professionally have had helped guide you down this road. Because owning a home-care agency, developing apps, getting involved in all this is not an easy task. It’s definitely has to be a passion. So is there anybody or organization you’d like to give a shout-out to or talk about that really helped you along the way?

Michael Chirico:

I wouldn’t say necessarily single individual. I mean, obviously my parents have been great. My father was in the DME business, my uncles owned a DME company, so I always had that background. I started my first business when I was 16, a fake little thing. And then my first true business, when I turned 20, totally had nothing to do with this industry. And my father got ALS and that’s how I started looking into the home-care market.

Michael Chirico:

And seeing my uncles, my father, everyone with an entrepreneurial drive, watching them, and then just reading and learning about some of these high successful people and their drive, that’s what really motivates me. And it’s the disruptors. You hear it, a Elon Musk, a thing like this, but people that are creating solutions that are disrupting industries. Ah, I love it, it gets me so excited. That’s my goal.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. And you really do have to have a passion for that, and that is awesome. And that’s great, I’m all about the techie and I love listening to … As weird as he is, he’s brilliant, Elon Musk. It’s weird to listen to him talk, but he’s totally brilliant. And there are a lot of folks like that out there. So I think we need more disruptors in this world from every aspect, so that’s awesome.

Michael Chirico:

Certainly.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

All right. How about online marketing? It’s been challenging from all different perspectives. In the home-care industry, a lot of our … Because it’s such a personal business, it really is a very personal decision for everyone, a very personal business. A lot of in-person networking usually happens, and we’ve not been able to do that very well in the last year or so. How has online marketing effected you? Is it good for you? I mean, if you’ve got an app, you probably are pretty well into it.

Michael Chirico:

Yeah. I mean, I think in terms of home-care, it goes back to what I said, nothing’s changed. The whole business has been the same since conception. And it’s, go to your rehabs, knock on the door, give them broker brochures. And it’s always the same. So going into the digital front, which it gives you good tools, good analytics. Where I found challenges with it actually is where you get bad leads, where you make it … Specifically in home-care, people don’t know that insurance doesn’t cover this. People don’t know that these are … You’re calling because you need help, but, “Hey, I actually can’t afford this service.”

Michael Chirico:

So what I’ve actually tried to do, and we’re in a process of a rebrand, a new websites coming out, things like that, what I’ve done is I’ve created a care calculator. And I’ve looked at some of the major websites, care.com, A Place For Mom. And they have these cool tools that really are nothing more than lead generators. However, care.com is trying to send you to see this individual caregiver. You answer a series of questions, “We give you an individual caregiver.” Place For Mom, you answer a series of questions, “We give you a radius of facilities.”

Michael Chirico:

What I’m doing is, I’m creating a care calculator to actually hone in the best service for you. What’s the best care you can get? Because I haven’t found anything like that. And I think that works in hand with the digital marketing. So if you have an ad running and you go on and you’re able to find out from that ad specifically, maybe for me overnight shifts are better, or a 10-hour shift is good, or a live-in as good, or just concierge as-needed as good. Providing them with the solution in conjunction with that marketing plan, is the way to do it. You can’t just blanketly spread an ad out and hope you’re going to get everybody.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Right, you’re right. When you do, any time you put yourself out there online in this market, it is a very, very confusing time for these families. They have no idea what they’re looking for. They don’t know what to type in. They don’t know that Medicare doesn’t pay for home-care, that’s private duty. They don’t know that if they qualify for Medicaid, they don’t even know what that is. They don’t know the difference between the word Medicare and Medicaid. They don’t know what home health is versus non medical home care.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

I mean, there’s so much terminology. And if you’re not in this industry, there’s no way you can instantly understand at all. It takes time, it takes education. And so often when people are on Google Ads or they’re buying leads, the challenge is that this is a person who is going to have sticker shock no matter who they talk to. They had no idea. And it’s definitely an educational process. And for some people, it doesn’t matter how much education you give them, they’re still not going to be able to afford it.

Michael Chirico:

Yeah.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

So it really is a challenge, you’re right. And I think your care calculator sounds like an awesome idea. Just like we have mortgage calculators, just like we have insurance calculators. Why not get at least some estimate of how much care would cost.

Michael Chirico:

I don’t think it’s necessarily cost, but what’s the appropriate care for you? I mean, I feel like-

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That’s true.

Michael Chirico:

People land on a home-care site and you see terms like you just mentioned. I don’t know what live-in is? how many people confuse live-in with 24-hour service.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Absolutely. All the time.

Michael Chirico:

So leading the horse to water sort of speak, providing them with the appropriate care that would be needed, I think is a huge part of it. And for other agencies that aren’t doing digital or afraid of digital, although it’s a bit more expensive, but hiring a professional to really come in and create a correct SEO platform, to collect a drip campaign, to really hone in on people and constantly message them. Because a lot of this is somebody goes on for research, and they’re not ready to make a decision for a month, two, three months, maybe a year.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

That’s true.

Michael Chirico:

So being able to continuously be in touch with these people. Professionals may be able to do it better than yourself, so don’t be afraid to do that.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yep, absolutely. Drip campaigns are the way in … If you don’t know what a drip campaign is, that means emailing every few days, every couple of weeks, and having a monthly newsletter. To me, all of those things are very important when it comes to follow up.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Because I give this analogy, people start out on the sidewalk. They know there’s something wrong. They know that mom’s not going to be able to stay in this house much longer, or maybe not much longer without somebody to help her every now and then. And they’re on the sidewalk. And then they merge into traffic and they start realizing what’s going to happen. And then at some point, if mom falls and breaks a hip or she gets pneumonia this winter or whatever might happen, now they’re in the fast lane. She’s being discharged from the hospital and they need care right now.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

So I like to use that analogy of they start out on the sidewalk, but within the next six months, if something totally awful doesn’t happen, then they’re probably going to be in the fast lane. And the more you stay connected with that person, that family, the better off you’ll be as far as getting their business. And you don’t have to call them every week, you don’t have to do that. You can follow up with educational information on a regular basis without harassing, without being annoying.

Michael Chirico:

Well, they’ll associate … If they’re learning something from that drip campaign, they’re going to associate care with your company.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yep.

Michael Chirico:

And I’ll quickly give you a good analogy that I heard that I loved. When I first started creating my own PPC campaigns, I was just creating ads. And, “Go right to my home page,” that’s what I did. And a lot of people make that mistake. And what was taught to me that resonated was, if you need to go to the store and buy a hammer, you walk in the front door. Now you got to walk the whole store, find that specific aisle, that specific row, find it right on there.

Michael Chirico:

So that’s the same idea as your ad is now to a homepage. Let that ad bring you to a landing page that is specific to what you’re trying to sell, and you eliminate all that waste of time for the user.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. And you’re going to lose them if your site’s not great anyway.

Michael Chirico:

Right.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

So I would say that you’re exactly right. So folks out there listening, listen. If you’re running pay-per-click straight to your homepage of your website you’re losing business every day. It is not the way to do it. You have to create a landing page that is specific to what the person is looking for.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

And you may have multiple landing pages. You’re right, absolutely. Don’t send them to your website. I mean, it might be a landing page on your website. We don’t even send people to a website, we send them to a specific landing page that’s offsite. But it’s just, there’s so much to learn about digital marketing. And you’re right, hiring professionals who can help is tremendously time-saving and money-saving down the road.

Michael Chirico:

Yeah, it costs a little bit upfront. But after wasting money on all types of clicks and phone calls that were no good anyway, might as well hire the guy.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Right, I totally get it. All right. Well, thank you. And let me keep going down my row of questions here. What piece of advice would you give to other senior care providers?

Michael Chirico:

Be different. Everybody’s the same? Every brochure has the same elderly couple on it. We all have the same prices. Typically share a lot of the same employees. Be innovative, do something new. Make yourself different and try new things. Digital marketing, a lot of people don’t do it. It’s the same pastries to the social workers, try something new.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yep. And I would say, if there’s anybody out there who could start a stock photo company specific to seniors.

Michael Chirico:

Yes, that would be the good one.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Or get your own, go have some photoshoot with your own models and get your own pictures taken because … And please, if you’re doing this, make sure you include diversity. We don’t have enough pictures.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

So yeah, I totally agree. Be different, and stock photos is just … I’m just kidding about that. That is one of many problems. But everybody’s using the same lovely, beautiful woman. I wonder if these folks know that they’re on every [crosstalk 00:14:11].

Michael Chirico:

I would imagine. I mean, when I first started, I got so intimidated. I walked into my first social worker’s office to hand out my brochures, and I thought they looked so good. And then all of a sudden I looked at the wall of 40 other companies with almost the identical brochure that I had.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah.

Michael Chirico:

You got to be different. You’ve got to create new solutions.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah.

Michael Chirico:

And one of the things we’re trying to do just, we’re trying to break … For full-term care situations, trying to sell them as packages. So instead of saying, “I’m going to be here hourly,” turn that into a product if you will. “Hey, do you want the night owl shift,” and bundle it as a single price, something a consumer can really get their hands around, rather than what everybody else is selling.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah. I agree. I agree, that definitely makes sense. Packages help people put things into perspective and know what their budget is, and it’s definitely helpful.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

All right. So you’ve given us a lot of good advice. When you have a win in life or in business, and it could be any, little or big, how do you like to celebrate?

Michael Chirico:

I mean, really it depends. I mean, something major, like to get away for a little bit, go on a quick trip, love skiing. But typically like to just have a glass of wine, hang out with my wife. [inaudible 00:15:22] a fire, maybe buy a nice steak, do some grilling, something simple but fun.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

A good meal is always … A good steak, that’s always a reason to celebrate.

Michael Chirico:

Right. I just treated myself to the Big Green Egg, best thing I ever bought [crosstalk 00:15:35].

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Oh, yeah, yeah. I’ve heard them my husband would love one of those.

Michael Chirico:

Yep.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

Yeah, nice. We’ll have to think a little harder about that.

Michael Chirico:

Yep.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN:

All right. Well, I want to thank you for being on the show, for introducing us to your business, your app. And we’ll make sure that all of your website and your contact information is with us, so thanks for doing it. I appreciate it.

Michael Chirico:

Great, Valerie. Thanks, I appreciate it.