This is my story of why I left a successful 16-year career to follow a dream of entrepreneurship that enables me to help some of the most vulnerable in my community.
I am often asked, “Why did you open a home care agency?” or “Why did you get into the business of senior care?”, especially when a person learns of my background. The truth is that it is not an easy answer. My reasons for leaving my 16-year career in Information Technology (IT) consulting are different from my reasons for going into home care. Here is my story…
I love to travel. In fact, I have traveled my entire life, both near and far, which led me in many ways to where I am today as a home care agency owner. While growing up in Tampa, Florida in the United States, my mother worked in the reservations office for Delta Airlines. As a family, we used her benefits on average once per month to see family or to go on vacation. Before my sister and I reached high school age, my parents would often travel internationally and leave us behind because they felt we would not truly appreciate the experience. However, that changed once we advanced to high school and my father found it more and more important for us to have cultural experiences.
After high school, I attended Florida State University (FSU) in Tallahassee, Florida graduating with a degree in Management Information Systems (MIS) in 1999. My degree has very little to do with a liking or interest in IT, but rather to do with my affinity for travel. A couple things of note: 1) At the time, those graduating with a degree in MIS were receiving the highest offers on average at FSU and 2) Many recruiters traveling to FSU to recruit those majoring in MIS were oftentimes from large consulting firms. Sometimes these recruiters would boast about their extensive domestic and international travel and the ability to rack up on hotel points, rental car points, and airline miles allowing personal lavish vacations. In addition, one other benefit was the freedom to travel places on the weekends, largely on the client’s dime. It was easily apparent to me that a career in IT consulting would allow me to continue my pursuit of seeing the world.
I began my 16 year career in IT consulting working for a large partnership for the first 3 years and then moved on to a large publicly held company for the remainder my career. On average, I traveled Monday through Thursday for 48 weeks of each year. Early on, I had so much fun. I stayed in fantastic hotels, rented a different car every week, and racked up the airline miles. I spent a great deal of time traveling to see friends and family and new friends both near and far, mostly on my clients’ dime but also using travel points and miles. Something I had never really anticipated were all the new friends and acquaintances I would meet along the way…and the many famous people (famous people have to travel just like us and are very much in the airports too!). Although I enjoyed the travel, I was never enthusiastic about the work I was doing and was never very motivated. My enthusiasm seemed to always be outpaced by my colleagues who would get excited about new application releases or upcoming IT training classes. As a result, I told myself very early on that I could probably only do this for about five years. One disappointing aspect of my job was that, even though we were streamlining business processes and improving the bottom lines of big companies, we created the unintended consequence of eliminating jobs for the “little guy”. We affected families. I saw this time and time again where, without fail, the work that we were doing resulted in either lost jobs or the outsourcing of those jobs, both domestically and internationally. In addition, I worked extensive hours. It was not out of the ordinary to work 50–60 hours per week on a regular basis. It seemed that I always felt the need to work on the weekends to keep up.
My father has always been and continues to be very influential in my life. As my biggest role model, I have always trusted his judgment and wanted his approval for the many decisions I have made in life. I recall early discussions with him about leaving my career and, with him being very conservative in nature, he would tell me “People would love to have your job. You make great money and you get to travel a lot. You should stay with that job.” For years, we would continue to have this same conversation, but without his support, I maintained the course. While my work ethic pushed me to continue to put 100% into my work allowing me to excel, I was oftentimes depressed and unmotivated to go to work. Despite this, my ability to travel made it all bearable and I traveled as much as I could. As I reminisce right now, some favorite trips that immediately come to mind were those to Argentina, Brazil, Switzerland, China, Greece, Canada, England, Scotland, The Netherlands, France, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Italy, Turkey, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Belize, New Zealand, Kazakhstan and a leisurely trip down the coast of California.
Around the year 2010, I started working with a business advisor who helped a friend grow a business in Tampa, FL. This business has since become one of the fastest and most well-known businesses in the area. However, the fitness and nightlife types of businesses that I was pursuing seemed to be either too risky, the market was too saturated, or I could not afford them. Additionally, my business advisor would always ask me “What’s your passion?”, to which I unfortunately had no answer, other than travel. Yet, I did not want to be a travel agent, own a bed and breakfast, or anything of the sort. Therefore, I felt I was still stuck and I had my dad telling me to just stay put. Around that same time, my friend Kelley asked me a question and to this day I will never forget that conversation. She said, “Jonathan, I can see that you have friends in many places…but how do you NURTURE those friendships?”. She went on to tell me that she sees many of her closest friends once per week, sometimes more. That really got me thinking….I oftentimes felt alone when returning home at the end of a work week, having lost touch with many of my friends due to travel. In addition, friendships made during my years in consulting seemed to fizzle out over time, as we moved on to projects in different cities involving various other teams. I learned that strong relationships, both with family and friends, are important for my emotional well-being and that those relationships would never be possible if I continued my career in IT consulting.
Four years later, after 15 years in consulting, several critical events occurred that shortly resulted in me making drastic life changes. The first was reading a novel titled “The Alchemist”, by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho. My best friend had encouraged me to read this book as we sat in Austin-Bergstrom International Airport waiting to go our separate ways returning home after the ACL Music Festival in Austin, Texas. That book speaks to realizing your true self and the idea that the universe conspires to help you achieve your dreams. This really got the wheels turning in my head. The second book, titled “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and It’s All Small Stuff” by Richard Carlson, had been sitting on my bookshelf for years without being read. That book made me realize that the things that I continued to stress about on a day-to-day basis were not as important as I may have perceived them to be. To add to that, the person to whom I reported to at work had a conversation that escalated to him yelling at me, a professional and one of his best team members. In all my years in consulting, I had never felt so disrespected and that moment was truly a breaking point for me. If I saw that person today, I honestly would thank him for moving me towards making this life changing decision. Collectively, these events made me realize that I have just the one life to live and I should not waste that life being unhappy, largely because of the career I have chosen.
At this point, you probably now have a good understanding of the reasons behind my decision to leave IT consulting: the lack of passion and motivation, no satisfaction of truly helping others, and high levels of stress. However, those reasons are different from why I decided to become the owner of a home care agency. In 2014, I had another conversation with a friend where she talked about home care for a loved one. This conversation was significant because I had never heard of home care and I instantly saw how it could help those in need. It also touched me personally because I saw where perhaps home care could have changed unfortunate outcomes in my family, specifically as it related to my late grandmother and cousin. When I had the conversation with my father yet again about leaving IT consulting and opening a home care agency, he said to me “Son, I don’t know how you stayed in consulting for as long as you did. I support you in your decision.” Finally, I had the approval of my father that I much longed for, which meant a great deal to me.
When my grandmother had reached her early 90s, she needed help at home. The first inclination of she and her sons was to reach out to her church. Her church had a ministry where they would periodically send parishioners to her home to check in on her. However, over time, her needs outgrew this ministry. My cousin decided to fill that role by moving four hours south to where my grandmother lived, knowing that this would change her life. My cousin, 35 years old and single, made a very noble decision to live with and take care of her ninety-something year old grandmother because she loved her very much. I observed a situation where my cousin experienced increasing difficulties bearing the burden of taking care of my grandmother and eventually turned to alcohol. As a result, my cousin was in and out of the hospital and almost died due to multiple organ failure. At the same time, the last years of my grandmother’s life that should have been her golden years were spent stressed and worried about my cousin. My grandmother passed in April of 2012, exactly one week to the day after turning 97 years old. When I first learned about home care in 2014, I really thought about how things could have been different for both my late grandmother and cousin and started down the road to opening a home care agency. In 2015, while my home care agency was going through the state licensing process, my cousin passed away at the age of 42. In my heart, I believe that some of the health issues that led to my cousin’s untimely death were a result of taking care of my grandmother and not taking care of herself. When you think about it, in the same way that my grandmother should have had the opportunity to enjoy her golden years without stress or worry, my cousin should have had the opportunity to enjoy her life as a thirty-something year old single woman. Instead, she died at the age of 42. Initially, the whole idea of opening a home care agency was more about my grandmother, but it has now become more about my cousin. Having a home care agency not only helps our clients, but it also helps their families. It allows a granddaughter to just be a granddaughter to her grandmother and for both of them to enjoy their time spent together, as opposed to a granddaughter doing things that weigh on her emotionally and physically. It allows the same for a daughter, a son, a sister, a brother, a father, a mother, and the list goes on. While this may also prove to be somewhat of a financial burden for some, it is also my goal to provide assistance through as many federal and state programs as possible.
No, this is not a business that allows me to travel as I always have. Nevertheless, it has taken me on a journey where I will change many lives along the way. The traveling will always be there and I am sure I will continue to travel. However, I know my destiny is more related to helping others in this life. As stressful as this business may sometimes be, I will always keep the idea of helping others at the forefront and focus on serving my community.