When Amy Nelson started her home health care business in 2002, she didn’t like to disclose her age.
At 18 years old, she had experience working for two home-care agencies, but no college degree. She also didn’t have a bank willing to lend her the $3,000 she needed to get her company off the ground.
Despite those challenges, Nelson plowed ahead with her business plan, covering her early expenses with credit cards and winning over clients with excellent customer service.
“I would get some comments, ‘You sure are young,’ ” she said. “I said ‘I’m here to do a job, and I’m here to provide the best care for our clients.’ It was really about standing my ground.”
Her business, Accurate Home Care, grew rapidly. Today, the Ostego, Minn.-based company generates about $50 million in annual revenue and employs roughly 4,000 people in Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa.
The company’s nurses and other health care professionals provide in-home health care and physical therapy to children and adults.
Nelson got the idea for Accurate Home Care after working for two home-care agencies. At the first job, Nelson said she learned the “soup to nuts” of running a business, including how to hire and fire and schedule workers. Her experience at the second agency was less positive: She discovered the owner was committing fraud. After reporting that business to regulators, she decided she had the skills and ideas to create her own successful company.
Home care is a busy market, so Nelson had to come up with strategies that would distinguish her business from competitors. She found two: Pay her employees more to attract the best talent, and give clients an opportunity to pick their caregivers.
The latter strategy proved particularly effective, Nelson said.
“Most agencies just say ‘Here’s your nurse, and you figure it out.’ Client families feel like they have no control over the situation,” she said. “[Our approach] lets them say ‘I’m going to control who’s in my home.’ It’s been a cornerstone of our business and why we’ve been successful.”
Accurate also gives staff a say over their assignments. Some employees want to work with patients who have more complex conditions, while others would like less-challenging jobs, Nelson said.
Accurate got its first big break when a local health system, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, began referring patients to the firm. Landing that deal was partly good luck and good timing, Nelson said. Children’s had recently shut down its home-care division and was hunting for more agencies qualified to care for patients.
Accurate continued to build its business through patient and employee referrals rather than aggressive marketing. It took Nelson nine years to hire a full-time salesperson, and the company has only two today.
“I’ve never believed in true salespeople. Most of our business is from word of mouth,” she said.
Nelson made a big move to expand her business in 2010 when she bought Illinois-based A Plus Home Health Care. The deal allowed Accurate to expand beyond Minnesota’s borders for the first time.
She plans to expand Accurate’s footprint throughout the Upper Midwest — a territory where national home-care players don’t have a presence. Eventually, she may pursue a public offering for the company.
“I’d love nothing more than to see us become a national company,” she said.
This article was originally published by Katharine Grayson in The Business Journals' "From Beginners to Bigshots".