With National Small Business Week upon us, we reached out to chat with Thomas Haas, owner of Complete Homecare of America and a Guidant Financial client since 2015, to talk about his experience starting a business with 401(k) business financing (also known as Rollovers as Business Start-ups or ROBS), some of the challenges and rewards of being a small business owner, and his advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Complete Homecare of America was established in 2007, and Thomas purchased it on June 5, 2015, using funds from a ROBS transaction.
Tell us a little bit about your current business.
Thomas: I purchased a non-medical home care company. We have caregivers who come in and help our clients – our caregivers are really a second set of hands when they’re needed. I have 57 caregivers on staff, and am a one-man shop, I have no admin or office staff.
What are your clients like?
Thomas: They’re generally over the age of 80. They need someone to come in and help them get moving in the morning. The caregivers help with showering, grooming, getting dressed, breakfast, they might do some light housekeeping like dusting and changing bed linens or help with lunch if need be. Our clients typically need us for about 5 to 6 hours a day.
Our clients just need a second set of hands. Who are we to come in to their home and tell them or their families how to do it? We’re just going to be there to assist when it’s needed. We want them to stay in the home and be happy, healthy, and comfortable for as long as possible.
What do you enjoy about being a small business owner?
Thomas: I enjoy helping and serving people, that’s why I’m in the business I’m in. I’ve always had a heart to help people, and I go above and beyond. When prospective become clients, I always tell them they’re joining a family.
I enjoy being able to forge my own path and be rewarded for the hard work and dedication that I put into the business – and I don’t mean just monetary. I find it really rewarding making the impact, being able to sit back and enjoy the impact. We’ve helped countless families age in place, and it’s rewarding because that’s what I’d want. Knowing that our families are well-taken care of, and they are where they want to be, that makes me feel great.
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What are some of the difficulties you have as a small business owner?
Thomas: The number one issue that every business has, but especially small businesses, is finding good people to work with. My competitors will hire anyone who will work. That’s not the kind of person I want. I want that caregiver that has a heart to help people. I would put any of our caregivers in my own parent’s house.
Number two is that you have to be good at sales, even if you don’t like sales. You have to be ready to hustle and work, work, work. I’ve worked it – I’ve done a 12-hour overnight shift, staying up, couldn’t sleep. I am very hands on owner.
Do you think it’s important for small business owners to be hands on like you are?
Thomas: Oh my gosh, you have to be. You have to have your ear to the ground, so you know what’s going on at all times, so something doesn’t slap you in the back of your head. You can’t have small issues fester into larger issues that could cost you thousands of dollars and put you out of business.
There are too many people out there that think once they become owner of the company, they’ll hire someone to fill in the blanks. But that’s not how it works, especially when you’re starting up. A small business owner has to learn the business from top to bottom.
It’s important because you can’t have your employees tell you what they can or can’t do. I got a Certified Nursing Assistant (CAN) license before I started, so I could learn what a CNA can and can’t do. Now I can say I’ve worked in client homes and facilities, so I know what CNAs do.
That’s why a small business owner has to put their ego aside and be willing to roll up their sleeves and get the job done. If you don’t, you won’t appreciate the business.
What was your experience like using ROBS to start your business?
Thomas: It was a pretty easy process, very straightforward. The process wasn’t that difficult initially with signing up. I worked with my lawyer to get everything set up. You just have to make sure to dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s to not worry about the IRS.
The best part was that I didn’t have to go to the bank and deal with a loan. I would have had to showed 3 years of projects, previous income, all revenue, client lists, all kinds of stuff. But with the [ROBS] process, there was no need for any of that. It was a good experience. Anyone utilizing their 401k funds doesn’t have to worry about going to the bank and them not giving you a loan.
I couldn’t have purchased this business if I went to the bank. Banks don’t generally lend to business that don’t have hard assets, and all we had was the customer list. I didn’t have the ability to go to bank and just say “I need loan for $100K.”
I utilized about $105k, which was not all, but was most of my 401k. I put down a stake of roughly 90 percent of the business. I took a loan back from the previous owner – the only reason why I did that was to make sure the previous owner had some skin in the game, that way she didn’t feel like she could sign on the dotted line and walk away and never talk to me again.
What other advice do you have for aspiring small business owners?
Thomas: It’s more difficult to be a small business owner than it looks. TV doesn’t do small business owners any justice – they make it look so much easier than it is. “Look at this person who is an overnight success…it only took them 25 years.”
I’m at my client’s mercy. If they call me at five PM on a Friday, I’m going to go help them. Even if I take off early on a Thursday to play golf, you can bet I’ll be working on Friday or Saturday, to make up for those hours.
Another thing about small business owners, especially in the service industry – they have to care about the end product. Your employees are the face of your product, they’re the end product.
A very big thanks to Thomas Haas for sharing his advice and experience. Want to learn more about using 401(k) business financing to start your own entrepreneurial journey? Check out the Complete Guide to 401(k) Business Financing. And if you’re ready to follow your small business dreams, get started with our two minute pre-qualification.