Are You in the 'Caring' Business?

If you don't care about your team, your clients and your suppliers, you shouldn't be in business.

By: Chia-Li Chien | Published 11/15/2010

I grew up in a traditional Chinese family in Taiwan. My grandparents lived with us on a rotating schedule, spending time with my family and then with my dad's four brothers. When my grandmother became more dependent, she lived with us on a full-time basis.

I saw my mom's frustration, taking care of her mother-in-law plus her own family of four children and a husband, as well as teaching at school full time. I don't know how my mom did it, but it was an incredible balancing act.

Of course, such a balancing act is not unusual, even here in the United States. According to Evercare, a coordination program for the aged, the ill and the disabled, approximately 37 percent of family caregivers spend more than 40 hours a week providing care; and 30 percent spend 20 to 39 hours per week doing so. The majority of family caregivers are women, and many of them are women business owners, as well.

As mothers, daughters, wives and business owners, caring for our families while running a business is just one more responsibility we take on. Roberta Borsella Farnum, a franchise owner of Home Instead Senior Care of Charlotte (a nonmedical provider of services to seniors), combined the two to create the life she wanted to have.

Farnum grew up in a traditional Italian-American family. She didn't have a role model for owning a business. As matter of fact, Farnum was told to be a teacher, and she did that. A recovering alcoholic who has been sober for more than 23 years, she began her journey in the consulting business working with companies like GE and Motorola. Along with her busy consulting schedule, she faced the challenge of taking care of her mother-in-law, Eleanor. Farnum and her husband Les began looking into a solution for Eleanor and found Home Instead.

Today, Farnum is the top franchise owner of Home Instead Senior Care. In addition, Farnum is the 2008 NAWBO Charlotte Woman Business Owner of the Year and the 2004 NAWBO Charlotte Rising Star. She received the Charlotte Business Journal 2004 Women in Business Achievement Award and a 2005 Enterprising Women of the Year Award.

What can we learn from Farnum?

  • Align with passion and purpose. Farnum is passionate and focused on providing exceptional customer service and added value to the people she encounters. She aligns her passion and purpose with her business and has built her own culture within her organization.
  • Take care of your employees; they'll take care of your clients. Farnum provides weekly training for her 250-plus employees. She not only equips them with the skills they need to perform their jobs, but also encourages them to pursue higher education and other skills.
  • Find and work with your market makers and go deep with them. Market makers are entities that have your target clients. Some refer to them as strategic alliances or referring agencies. Most market makers are Fortune 500 companies. This type of relationship takes time to develop and nurture. Find the right market makers, and foster the relationship over the long term.

You may not be in the medical business, but I believe all of us are in the "caring" business. You have clients and customers, teams of employees and vendors, plus owner/investors. If you don't care about them, you are not supposed to be in business. What can you do to create that balance with the right synergy to lead your "caring" business?

  • Take care of yourself first. You can't take care of anyone unless you truly take care of yourself first -- physically, emotionally and spiritually.
  • Build the culture from your passion and purpose. Whatever your passion is, it will become a culture you build within your business.
  • Share your dream. Your dream might be within you, but it can't go anywhere unless you share it with others. Together you'll find a way to reach that dream.

My mom is a role model for many working women. She certainly became a role model for me and continues to be the biggest supporter of my dream. But it's not about a balancing act; it's not about creating the synergy. It's about how much you care about your business and whether your team cares as much as you do. Is your business a "caring" business?


Chia-Li Chien, CFP®, CRPC, PMP; helps women entrepreneurs to convert their business into meaningful personal wealth.  She is the author of Show Me The Money and columnist for & Fox Business online.   She is available for consulting, speaking engagements and workshops.  She can be reached at or


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