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Meet K. C. Kanaan of Envoy America in Scottsdale

Today we’d like to introduce you to K. C. Kanaan.

K. C., please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
As my parents aged, their ability to drive deteriorated over a number of years. They went from driving themselves like most of us do, to not being comfortable driving at night or driving on the highway. Add to that, they started getting into car accidents due to their eyesight and physical limitations (leg and back pain, slight memory issues, battle with cancer, using a walker …).

My parents wanted to age in place. The idea of moving into a retirement community or moving with us (their kids) was out of the question. My siblings and I were not in a position to move with our own parents. That was out of the question also.

The conversation of taking away their car keys and driving privileges was as it we were sentencing them to solitary confinement. They were devastated.

With 4 children – three lived out of state, we all tried to be there for their transportation needs, but with our own families and after school sports, work and schedules it was too hard and not feasible.

Taxi’s, Uber and Lyft were simply not enough of a solution to help our parents stay independent, healthy or socially active. My parents, like millions of seniors like them, need more than just a ride from Point A to Point B.

They needed transportation, plus assistance and companionship.

As an example: going to a doctor’s appointment for someone with slight memory issue doesn’t work using a taxi, Uber or Lyft. The person with slight memory issue will need the assistance to find the elevator and the doctor’s suite. The person will get agitated or confused if you expect them to do these simple tasks on their own. They just can’t. And 99.99% of the time, the taxi, Uber or Lyft driver isn’t trained to recognize the signs and/or help the person in this case.

As a second example: my father used a walker. The simple act of going to the grocery store to buy few items while using a taxi, Uber or Lyft wasn’t an easy task. These services won’t help the person with the walker carry their bags into the house or to the car. They won’t go inside the store and push the cart or read the labels. These simple tasks for a non-elderly person as a major tasks and headaches for an elderly person.

I saw with my own eyes how isolated, disengaged and unhealthy my parents became after they have stopped driving, and having to reply on services that were not designed for seniors like themselves.

That is when we had the AHA moment that this is a major problem in our country, and we created the solution to fix this problem.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Just like any other start-up that is introducing a new technology or a new service, we have run into many challenges along the way, make numerous mistakes, applied continuous learning and adjusted our messaging & strategy based on what we have learned.

With no track record or a brand name, we struggled initially to land clients and hire drivers. It took us over 6 weeks of making 20-25 sales calls a day before we landed our first corporate client. We were selling the vision with no professional-looking marketing collateral. That was a struggle but we have learned from each sales call we make, adjusted our messaging and pushed forward.

Another challenge we had to overcome was to effectively balance the supply with the demand. We didn’t want to recruit drivers and not have enough work for them, and couldn’t be in a position to sell clients but not have drivers to deliver the service. We had to come up with the right methodology to balance this. We drove many many many trips ourselves at the beginning. It was great to serve the clients and hear first-hand about them and their experience using our service, but that took time away from selling and recruiting. A challenge but a good challenge to have.

As the business grew, the challenges shifted to what technology/software tools do we use to run the business, and what call center company do we hire to answer our increasing number of calls. We made mistakes in both areas – which was a challenge, but kept an open mind, learned from those experiences and adjusted accordingly.

With our first expansion outside Phoenix came a big challenge: how do you scale the business and run it while maintaining the same vision of exceptional customer service, recruiting quality drivers and delivering best in class service. We struggled with that and had to make adjustments. We developed a play book, systems and processes and documented all of it in manuals which allowed us to expand several other times without running into issues. We have learned that we need to have systems/process to run the business so our team can use these systems/processes to run the business compared to each manager/person coming up with their own systems/processes to run the business. We basically created a “McDonald’s or Starbucks” type or organization for senior transportation, assistance and companionship, in order to deliver the same type of experience no matter who is delivering the service or what location the service is being delivered.

Envoy America – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Our company provides transportation services that are always coupled with assistance and companionship, to seniors & the infirm that cannot drive, don’t want to drive or shouldn’t drive themselves.

We are known for providing service that replicates what a son or daughter would do to help their elderly mom or dad stay independent, healthy and socially active – all without getting behind the wheel of a car. We are known for having mature, responsible, compassionate, trained and caring drivers that would go out of their way to help a senior or a patient.

As a company, we are proud of our drivers and management team that is delivering exceptional service to people – seniors and patients – that need more than just a ride. We are also proud of the fact that we have been able to expand to 3 states and 6 cities in the short time we have been in business. We are proud of the fact that we have earned the right to be the exclusive provider to several marquee corporate clients who have recognized that our drivers/team can and is helping them bring benefits to their seniors and patients.

What sets us apart from others is our laser focus on the ambulatory seniors and patients market, coupled with our ability to attract and retain the best driver companions in the industry. Our drivers are very well trained (how to interact with people with memory issues and how to help someone transfer from a wheelchair and into/out of a car? backgrounded screened, CPR/First certified and mature.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
The ability to learn from others and from my mistakes. The ability to keep an open mind and to try new things.

I am proud of the fact that I was able to earn an MBA with honors from a highly ranked school (University of California, Davis) while excelling at a full time job working for a Fortune 50 company, and, with the help of my beautiful wife, raising 3 kids ranging in age from 9 to 2 years old.

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