APRIL 29,2011 – Pacific Business News
2011 PBN Businesswoman of the Year For-Profit Winner, Shelley Wilson, President and CEO, Wilson Homecare
BY Sophie Cocke, PBN
At the age of 21, without any business background, Shelley Wilson launched Wilson Homecare, a company that provides homecare services for the elderly or disabled. The business had two employees, including Wilson.
Fifteen years later, the business has grown to 450 employees who care for several hundred clients a year: Revenue topped $5.6 million last year, and profit increased 50 percent between 2009 and 2010. Wilson is looking to open the company’s first senior-living home this stimmer and an adult day care center next year.
“After five years, it really took off,” Wilson said. “And I don’t remember anything after that.”
Wilson is PBN’s 2011 Businesswoman of the Year in the for-profit category.
Working seven days a week and often 14-hour days, Wilson said her company is her “life blood.”
Her success has required years of hard work establishing the company’s reputation on Oahu and building up its clientele. It now receives approximately 100 referrals a month.
“I never thought it wasn’t going to work, but everyone around me kept telling me it wasn’t going to work,” Wilson said.
Wilson’s passion and perseverance derives from her own experience of needing to be cared for: At the age of 18, one year after she entered the Army National Guard and trained to become an Army medic, she was in a serious car accident With multiple injuries, including the loss of her right knee, she was in and out of the hospital for several years and required extensive care from her family. She said the experience of dependency and the stress of her injuries strained her relationship with her parents.
“I wasn’t very nice to them,” she said.
Acutely aware of the stress that caring for a loved one can have on personal relationships, Wilson strives to alleviate this with her company’s services.
“It’s important that the relationships are intact, especially when someone is dying,” she said. “There is so much stress the family is already going through.”
The level and type of services provided to clients is tailored to individual needs, and matches between home-care workers and clients are carefully chosen, in what Wilson likens to the process of a “dating service.”
The company provides licensed, skilled nurses who provide medical care, as well as nurse aides who can assist with tasks such as help with medications, bathing and dressing. Home assistants also are available to provide housekeeping services and prepare meals and the company offers transportation services.
State Comptroller Bruce Coppa, who served with Wilson in The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, says Wilson Homecare brings professional and compassionate service to the industry.
“Wilson Homecare goes the extra mile to assure its clients and their families feel secure in knowing that dependable, trustworthy, and compassionate care is being provided by caregivers who are skilled, trained, insured, bonded and supervised,” Coppa said.
Wilson’s contributions to Hawaii go beyond the services her business provides. She currently chairs The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii board and has helped raise thousands of dollars for charitable organizations. She is the 2011 honorary chair for the Arthritis Walk, served on the American Heart Association’s HeartBall committee this year, was co-chair of Big Brothers Big Sisters in 2009, and chaired the 2008 Alzheimer’s Association Aloha Chapter Moonlight and Memories Gala.
Wilson also traveled to Africa with Rotary International in 2004 to help vaccinate children for polio and spent a month in Vietnam with the non-profit service group Kids Without Borders.
While Wilson said that she didn’t see much difference between female and male leadership, she pointed out that she always wears a skirt and likes to wear “outrageous high-heels these days.”
How my business has begun to recover from the economic downturn: As with all business, Wilson Homecare has felt the pinch of increased costs associated with operations. From the business volume, Wilson Homecare has maintained a strong position with net income growth in 2009 of 43 percent and 50 percent in 2010. The model that Wilson Homecare continues to provide is centered around that of customer service, maintaining quality, and truly providing the nurturing care that we would expect for our own family. The primary market Wilson serves with the elderly population has provided a steady growth in itself. It’s not the type of business where we can create the need. People call us when they need us.
The most important lesson I learned from the economic downturn: In these uncertain economic times, I have learned there are more opportunities than we have time to pursue. It’s a difficult time for many in business, but there are ways to diversify. Perhaps there is a greater risk felt in times like these, so my risk tolerance is much lower than before. My true passion is borne from an unwavering commitment to provide care for as many individuals as possible in our community.
In the next few months, the Wilson Companies will be expanding into other areas of the healthcare industry in an effort to make our company more of a “one-stop shop” for long-term-care needs. We will open our first Adult Residential Care Home (ARCH) Type II in June 2011 called Wilson Senior Living Kailua and an adult day care center in the heart of Honolulu called Wilson Adult Day Care later in the year.
There are plans in the works for further developments for senior-living accommodations that will come to fruition in 2012.
Single most pressing concern for my business: Taking care of Hawaii’s kupuna. The first of the baby boomers turn 65 this year. The Department of Health anticipates significant demands with our growing aging population and Dr. Chiyome Fukino commented “that individuals, communities, and public and private sectors need to be ready for the many challenges and opportunities that will come about with Hawaii’s maturing population.”
The biggest challenge facing the state of Hawaii and what I would do about it: Trying to find a balance. So many people say that we are a big small town. So true! We act big, we have big opportunities, we have big ideas and big problems, but we are a small town. It’s difficult to point in any one particular direction, but there seems to be a need for an across-the-board remodeling. Just as this difficult economic time has provided opportunity for some in business, this is an opportunity for our community. It is time for everyone to band together and figure out our future as one. We all have to pay attention, be part of the discussions, voice our opinions, and help find solutions.
The best business advice I have ever received: “Don’t do it! Don’t start your own business. Get a real job.” From my parents! I only wanted to be more successful to show them this was my “real job.” They have stopped asking me what I am going to do with my life now … only in the past five years.
Advice for this year’s high school graduates: Perseverance. Go out and be passionate about that which moves you. You must pursue a career path that makes an impact and keeps you engaged for the long run. Don’t just think about it, go and make it happen!
How I try to give back to the causes I support: I have been heavily involved in community service for many years. I try to give special attention to areas in our community that I’m passionate about and where I feel I can provide value. I currently sit on several boards where I’m actively involved, including the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, Kapiolani Women’s and Children’s Hospital, and The East West Center.
What I do to unwind: Having a glass of wine and trying to find quiet time with my husband.
One thing that most people don’t know about me: I am a trained Army combat medic. I can milk a cow. I love to race cars. I used to change my own oil and spark plugs until I heard aboutthe $19.95 deal at Midas!