Meet the owner, Dan Gauthier

Health Care That Comes From The Heart February 7, 2017

Sometimes, it’s heartache that fuels your second life.

It’s why Dan Gauthier, for instance, left behind a career in business and consulting to immerse himself in home health care.

“If someone would have told me 20 years ago that I’d be in the health care business,” he says from his office on the southeast side of Grand Rapids, “I would have thought them completely crazy.”

The story of Dan’s career switch began nearly a decade ago, when his mother-in-law, Muffy Stecker, grew ill, and eventually required home health care herself. That’s when both Dan and his wife Marion got an up-close look at how the system works, and in some cases, falls short.

At the time, Dan was a sales and management executive with 35 years under his belt. He’d graduated from East Grand Rapids High School back in the 70s, then spent a year each at Aquinas College and Kalamazoo College before accepting an offer to work in the restaurant business for Peter Secchia, which eventually blossomed into work for Universal Forest Products, a job that last nearly 20 years.

Despite never earning a college degree, Dan also managed two companies in the Grand Rapids area, and performed high-level contract work for both the Amway Corp. and Cascade Engineering.

He might still be consulting for businesses here, except that he was haunted by episodes revolving around Muffy’s care. She’d often awaken to a health care worker at her residence whom she didn’t recognize, a byproduct of a system that, because of high turnover in the employee ranks, can’t guarantee the same person offering care on a day-to-day basis.

Muffy suffered the better part of 18 months, and passed in 2010. By that time, the gears were already turning for Dan: How could he use his skills and his passion so that others might avoid the same experiences he and Marion and Muffy had endured?

“I had absolutely no idea what I was doing at first,” he acknowledges, but after a year of intensive research, founded Gauthier Family Home Care (gauthierfhc.com) in the fall of 2011.

From the start, he and Marion vowed to avoid the pitfalls affecting some of their competitors. For one, the emphasis would be on “family,” leaning on empathy and compassion as touchstones for their business model.

“This is far and away the most stressful thing I’ve ever done,” says Dan, who for the first two years personally handled calls from employees and clients, often in the middle of the night. In the same breath, though, he’s quick to add that “This is also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”

Relying on savings and faith, Dan went more than two years without issuing himself a check, but today, Gauthier Family Home Care employs nearly 100, and Dan has people in place to help him administrate health care to clients in Kent and nearby counties.

“We’re very persnickety about who we hire,” says Dan, noting that every candidate submits to a psychological evaluation, and that “I talk to every one of them myself” as part of the intake process.

Those who are hired become part of Dan’s and Marion’s extended family, and the company has been rewarded with a turnover rate that Dan says is half the national average.

“We spend three to five percent on employee retention rather than on advertising,” he says, working to make the work environment “a great atmosphere” that includes accommodating employees’ schedules when they become complex, and rewarding exceptional performance with trips, gifts, tickets to concerts and more.

“We do anything necessary, even if it means hiring a taxi or scheduling an Uber to get them to work. There’s only one criteria: What’s best for the client?

“When you operate based on the client’s welfare and work hard to earn their trust,” says Dan, “your client will recognize that, and they’ll tell other people.

“You do the right thing, and good things happen.”

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