The Business of Senior Care Consulting

What is your company name?

Alterra Consulting

What problem does your company solve?

We help aspiring and established business owners start and enhance their elder care businesses.

When did you first see this problem as one that needed to be solved?

In 2009. There are two different people that desire to start a business in senior care. The first type are those who have been in healthcare and are confident in their skill set of providing care but they are not proficient in general business and being an entrepreneur. The second group includes those who have smart business acumen but are novices in the healthcare industry.

Did the problem ever seem like it was bigger than you?

Not really. I was able to determine what the immediate needs were to bridge the gap.

What makes YOU stand out from others who may solve similar problems?

I held the experience and passion for both business and elder care. I worked in a variety of leadership roles that allowed me to learn elder care in a very detailed manner. I also owned and operated my own elder care company.

What, if any, concerns are there related to nurses NOT knowing about non-traditional roles?

For healthcare providers, transitioning from exclusively being the provider of care to an entrepreneur can be very challenging. There is a mindset shift that must occur and it does not happen immediately. As a nurse myself, I went through various shifts in mindset throughout my career but the biggest transition was going from nurse to entrepreneur. I suggest placing yourself in the presence of individuals who are already where you desire to be, educate yourself and seek mentors.

Some say, "It's not what you know, it's about who you know." In terms of developing business relationships, do you agree with that statement? Please explain your rationale.

I absolutely agree with this statement. Having a network of influence allows you greater learning capabilities and when you are visibly networking with individuals of influence, it provides you and your organization greater credibility. You want to use proper business etiquette and not abuse the relationship, though.

Tell us about your transition. What was the process of moving away from the clinical role into a business role? What mindset shifts, if any, did you need to make?

Prior to becoming an entrepreneur exclusively, I was working as a Director of Wellness at a senior living community so my entire responsibilities involved care. Prior to that, I worked as an Executive Director which allowed me to work in operations but I still had a significant focus on care. The biggest mindset shift was understanding that everything started and ended with me. I also had to acknowledge that as an entrepreneur, there are times you have to make a difficult decision, you have to manage your emotions and think logically for the greater benefit of the business. At times that was very difficult. For example, if you have a senior client who is not paying their bill and there is no plan to remedy the situation, you have to make a decision. The emotion and the "nurse" inside wants to allow them to continue receiving care because it is what they need, but that is not the best long-term business decision. Those were very hard decisions for me to make but I had to.

What has been the hardest thing in starting in your specific type of business or job role?

Learning who the exact client is and acknowledging that not everyone will be your client and that's OK.

What has been the most rewarding thing about being in your business or job role?

Seeing people attain their goals in entrepreneurship, mentoring and growing leaders. Those are amazing rewards.

What would you say are the five important resources (books, conferences associations) for a nurse who wants explore business?

"Leaders are readers" so explore the variety of reading resources available, utilize SCORE (it is free or at least of minimal cost), network with your local Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Administration and other industry-specific organizations, seek a consultant in areas that you discover are your weakness, keep yourself in a group of like-minded individuals that will keep you encouraged and provide a variety of other resources that you might not have immediate access to.

Let's talk legal stuff. Many nurses are afraid of this part of business. How did you address this concern in your business? What worked for you?

The best way to avoid "legal stuff" is to make sure you perform within your designated scope of practice if you find yourself engaging in business that is clinical. Also, secure your business; do not be so frugal that you exempt your business from proper insurances such as professional liability insurance, worker's compensation if you have staff. Incorporate your business correctly, consult the proper legal support, i.e. CPA, small business attorney. There are many ways to safeguard yourself; do not allow ignorance of your options grow fear and postpone your plans to go into business.

Who supported you during this transition? Did you have paid mentorship or coaching? If so, what made you make that investment in paid support?

When I was starting my business I did not use a paid coach but I did utilize the many tools provided by our local SCORE organization.

What would you like others to know about what you do?

I am a lover of all things senior care and entrepreneurship. I love mentoring individuals that earnestly desire to make an impact in their industry. I am a married to a wonderful and supportive man and we have 4 amazing children that add such flavor to our lives. This year I will be rolling out a non-profit organization geared towards women in entrepreneurship; we are a small group now but very excited about future growth. The group is called SPARK Women In Entrepreneurship.

Is there anything else you would like readers to know?

Never allow fear to stop you from reaching your dreams.


Dina Shepherd