In September, Assisted Living Home Care Services Inc. observed its 25th anniversary in business by relocating to a new headquarters complex in Cheshire, Connecticut. According to Chief Operating Officer (COO) Mario D’Aquila, the family-owned senior home care company switched from its longtime setting in Meriden, Connecticut, because “we were expanding our business operations and we really ran out of space. We decided to move to a location where we’d have more options to expand our business for future growth, and Cheshire was the town to do that.”
In this interview with WAG, D’Aquila looks back on Assisted Living Services’ first quarter-century and the more recent challenges it faced by providing eldercare amid a global health crisis.
Congratulations on your 25th anniversary in business. A lot of companies don’t last that long. What has been the secret of your success?
“You may want to fact check me on this, but 96% of all businesses fail in the first 10 years — which is astonishing to me, since we have been in business for 25 years.
“I think what got us to this point is the company culture — hiring the right people, keeping people longer and really appreciating staff. Really, it’s all about the people — especially if you have good people working for you — and that’s the reason why we moved into this for so long.”
What has the past year and a half been like for your company in dealing with the pandemic?
“It’s been a challenge — and that’s such an obvious answer, but it’s been a challenge. However, we’ve gotten through it by acting quickly and using data to make decisions. It’s been a better year for us in 2021, because the vaccines helped us a lot, as well as Covid safety and knowledge. That really helped.”
Were you able to grow the business during the pandemic, or did business decline?
“I wouldn’t say we decreased, but we definitely had a plateau in business right at the beginning, in March and April. Of course, people were nervous to have others in their homes. However, shortly thereafter, business began to increase with more people wanting to age in place, as opposed to going to a facility like a nursing home.
“Actually, the nursing homes had a really rough year in 2020, because of the fact that congregated living caused a lot of difficulties with Covid. So, people were opting to stay at home, which was part of the reason for why we grew towards the end of 2020 and all the way into 2021, where we’re still growing steadily.”
What is on the company’s agenda for 2022?
“In 2022, we’re going to be focused on growing our Fairfield County presence even more. We are in the midst of moving our branch office from the town of Fairfield to Westport, because we also need more space to grow. And the Westport office is going to help us be able to serve more of the southern part of Fairfield County easier.
“We’re also going to focus on acquisitions of other homecare agencies and businesses similar to us. A lot of people want to get out of home care right now because of the increasing regulations. However, we’re willing to take the challenge and to acquire companies and help them grow.”
For somebody who was looking for the type of services that you offer, why would they want to choose your company as opposed to your competition?
“That’s a great question, and I’m going to revert back to how we started the conversation — with our staff. To have a staff that has been with us for years and years is very important, especially when it comes to health care. And here’s why: When somebody is having a person in their home caring for their loved one, they’re going to want to know that person has the skills and the duration of time committed to that profession, as well as the commitment to a company.
“On Oct. 14, we invited all of our staff who hit milestones — three years, five years, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years — to come and celebrate with us. And we have a few staff that have been here for 20 years. They’ve been here for a long time and we treated them well — and, in return, they treat the customer well.
And what about yourself? What do you get out of this line of work?
“There are many things that makes this job great, but I think one of them is that it really hits close to home. When I was a child, my grea grandfather had Alzheimer’s and we had a caregiver for him — and I always remember her. Ultimately, he did pass, but we were always able to visit him (at) home.
“And what’s nice about what we’re doing now: I get to kind of relive that kind of moment when I see our clients and our caregivers. And we’re able to help your parent or your grandparents stay home, just like my great-grandfather did. It’s nice to have a full circle to really give back to all our clients with our caregivers.”
For more, visit assistedlivingct.com.