Myrna Wolf is the owner and president of Compassionate Companions, Inc., a company dedicated to meeting the equally critical, yet non-medical needs of adults and seniors in communities nationwide. Here she shares her unlikely journey from being a high-powered financial executive to owning her own company in a field that she never imagined she could love so much…
The decision to start my own business was not an organized and well planned event. I was the vice president of a commercial bank in South Florida, newly single after a long marriage, and enjoying a new life in a new city and a new job. My salary was excellent and my future looked bright. The rug was pulled out from beneath me when the bank was sold, my job was eliminated, and I found myself searching for similar work and adequate compensation. Success eluded me.
After five months―and a bathroom papered with rejection notices―I was out of options. A friend asked me to care for her elderly grandfather until they could find someone permanent, and I admit I did not jump at the chance. I was not too eager to do it as I still considered myself a financial executive. However, sometimes desperation pushes us to make different decisions.
I began to work for this gentleman a few days a week, and family and neighbors kept asking me if I was his granddaughter. They also wanted to know if I could do the same thing for their family member and if I knew anyone else who they could hire who would treat their loved one as well as I was taking care of my client. The light bulb switched on and the rest is history.
My biggest challenge in getting started was navigating a world that I had not entered before. I had no one to guide or mentor me, was out of money to invest in marketing and found that this was a new type of business serving the elderly population. At the time, there were many home health care agencies, but few non-medical services were available. I knocked on doors, searched for organizations in the community that catered to elder issues, dreamed up creative attention-getters, and ate a lot of peanut butter sandwiches and macaroni and cheese. Computers were not a part of the marketing picture in 1990!
What kept me going were a passion to succeed and a strong belief that what I was creating would change people’s lives. Our intent was to work with senior companions who had some experience dealing with the elderly, not necessarily in a medical capacity. Our workers were like me―people with patience, an understanding of elder issues and a desire to serve the senior community. I always say that what Compassionate Companions provides for our elder population and their families is “Medicine for the Soul.”
My skills as a marketer, communicator and good organizer kept me on solid ground, even when the sand was shifting under my feet. I trusted my instincts and knew that what I was trying to do would eventually make a difference in the lives of the clients, their families and the people who served them. I kept track of all calls and had conversations that kept clients and their families in the loop regarding all the daily activities. I developed a relationship with each companion and to this day still work with some women who have been with us for more than fifteen years. In fact, some of our clients have been on our roster since 2001!
When it comes to working from home, I find the biggest challenge is the potential to feel isolated. I needed to make sure that I networked with professionals, became involved with boards and events, and took an active role in community activities. The best part of working from home is no rush-hour traffic, no suits, dresses and makeup, and I can take off when I want to or work till 3 a.m. in my pajamas―just as long as the work gets done.
One of the greatest joys in doing this kind of work is meeting the caring people who we know are not doing it solely for the money. They do it because they love what they do.
For anyone looking to go into business for themselves, the most important ingredients to success are passion about the service or product, belief in yourself, and the desire to be part of a larger world and contribute to it. Quite easy!
More about Myrna and Compassionate Companions, Inc.:
Having received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Communications and then worked her way up to being vice president of a commercial bank in South Florida, Myrna never imagined the turn for the better her life would take more than a decade ago when she was let go. A part-time job as a companion for a friend’s grandparent unexpectedly led her to start her own business in the then burgeoning field of eldercare services in January 1990. Now having cared for thousands of clients in the South Florida region, Compassionate Companions provides a business opportunity for individuals who would like to be licensed and guided from start to finish in replicating its success in their community or region.