CarePatrol Franchise Review: Ernie Crea
Owner shares what drew him to the CarePatrol opportunity from his health care corporate career
Ernie Crea left a lucrative career in the health care pharmaceutical industry three years ago to become a CarePatrol senior placement franchise owner. His franchise territory covers three counties in California – Napa, Sonoma and Solano – and encompasses about 250 provider homes as well as a few hospitals.
With a background in health care from the corporate perspective, Crea was drawn to the culture of CarePatrol and the opportunity to help many seniors and see the impact on families’ lives.
“The culture of CarePatrol was a draw for me. I was not really looking to jump into the franchise business,” Crea says. “We were introduced to it through a friend while we were at a wine-tasting event. She was telling us how she had completely switched her life and career, how much she was really enjoying it, and how it was still an opportunity to take care of people, but in a more direct way.”
A change in career can be daunting, even within the same industry, but Crea was impressed with CarePatrol leadership. “During the transition to CarePatrol what impressed me most was when I had a chance to meet with Chuck and Becky Bongiovanni (CarePatrol founders) in Oakland and saw the passion and a real important kind of lens into the senior community.”
We recently sat down to talk to Ernie, who also is a Certified Senior Advisor, about his journey with CarePatrol, America’s number one senior assisted-living placement franchise and a pioneer in the senior placement industry that launched it all.
What attracted you to the CarePatrol opportunity?
Crea: With CarePatrol there is a high level of support every step of the way, both nationally and individually. You could run a senior placement business on your own, but it’s not worth it when you look at what you get from CarePatrol and what you are able to give.
I was working in the pharmaceutical industry at an executive level and our premise has been that in the end we are always for the patient. What we do is geared toward improving patients’ lives. The challenge in my prior career was that you had to do that through proxy. I never really saw the patient. What I’ve found to be really rewarding with CarePatrol senior placement is I get to see it in person and hear about the positive impact on the lives of patients.
I was just on the phone with a family whose mom is 100 years old and in hospice. She’s in a desperate scenario right now and in just 45 minutes I found her three options. Her family is making phone calls to see which ones will be a good fit for her. What I see on a daily basis is direct reinforcement of the work that we do. If they are in crisis you work them out of crisis. If they are in a situation where they need longer-term guidance, you switch gears toward longer- term guidance. I get phone calls, emails and letters all the time from families who say how great CarePatrol is for them.
What does a work day look like for you?
Crea: I’ve gotten a lot more effective and efficient. My philosophy is to never eat alone. If I know I am going to have breakfast or stop for coffee, I make that an opportunity to meet with a network partner. My typical day isn’t really typical, but it is planned. It’s longer than I ever anticipated it to be, but the time flies by and I like that. For me it’s a rewarding day.
What kind of work/life balance does the CarePatrol opportunity provide?
Crea: You have to have a love for it and a passion. You definitely have to love this type of work, because it is going to take a fair amount of your free time because of the model. The business model is very similar to real estate because when you get a call, that call is important and you are going to take it immediately. Now there are things you can do to offset that busyness, especially as you scale and build your team and apply your skills in different ways and do more business building than case management overall. At some point in time you will have more work/life balance, but in the beginning you are going to quite busy for a while.
What best practices you recommend for this business?
Crea: First of all, be realistic about the time frame when looking at the numbers and more calculated about what that time period is. Work on building your business. I highly recommend getting a coach early on. Get mentoring in place and find some people really doing well. Stay connected. It’s all about the connections and people. Find a mechanism to learn about what everyone else is doing and you will grow.
Tell us about your role as a Field Based Trainer.
Crea: The FBT program is a gift for all franchisees to use, no matter how long they have been in the system. I’ve loved it and I have great great stories of people who have been stuck and through their efforts and some of my guidance they get unstuck. I’m really pleased to be a FBT and I love that CarePatrol put it in place.
I truly believe in the philosophy that you are entirely up to you. If you want to get better, you have to improve your skills and your knowledge. The FBT program helps owners have the conversations they need to have and also provides coaching for difficult situations as well as strategic opportunities and how to approach them.
CarePatrol senior placement franchise owners can go to an FBT’s territory and shadow them for however long, a day or a few days. Or the other option is for the FBT to go into the franchisee’s territory. This would be after initial training. Either way, it is a great way for owners to find things they are potentially getting stuck on and help them get unstuck.
Why would you recommend CarePatrol?
Crea: I definitely would recommend getting into the senior care placement business, CarePatrol specifically. The Silver Tsunami is in full swing. There is so much more demand than supply right now and if you have a differentiated way to serve people in the best way possible like CarePatrol offers, then you are really in the right place. There isn’t another alternative for what we do at CarePatrol at such a personal level. With our large territories, the benefit of CarePatrol is in the continuity. For example, with my territory having 3 counties I am adjacent to my colleagues all the way down to Fresno. We can serve clients through making referrals. When I make a promise that my colleague will be able to deliver on that promise I know it will happen. So it really is a great system overall.