Stacey Himler is the owner of Caring Transitions of Southern Delaware.
Tell us about your business.
Caring Transitions of Southern Delaware helps seniors and their families avoid stress and panic by managing every aspect of a senior’s move. Our downsizing experts quickly organize and sort rooms full of items with care and ensure the items that ultimately get moved will fit into the new living space — always with safety in mind. We liquidate clients’ treasures through an online auction that offsets their expenses and make the needed runs to contribution centers, recycle centers and the landfill to dispose of other items. It’s a thoughtful, total solution — catered to each client’s particular needs.
What made you start your business?
I had worked for many years in the aerospace/defense industry in New England. During that time, I had ripped out a magazine article about senior relocation services, thinking that I would like to pursue this as a second career. When my husband and I decided to move to Sussex County, it was the first thing I looked into. Because Caring Transitions is a national company with more than 200 locally owned and operated offices, it had the infrastructure and resources to help me build my own business. That was a no-brainer for me.
What is a typical day like for you?
Well, as soon as I have a typical day, I’ll let you know. Every day is different, with work being done for multiple clients. Some days, we’ll be doing a downsizing/move at one home, while an online auction is being conducted for another client. In between, I coordinate with movers, charitable contribution organizations and real estate agents to make sure the timing of a move syncs up. Other times, I meet with prospective clients, assessing their needs. Or I meet with long-term care community admissions officers to hear about one of their potential new residents. I love the diversity of our clients and the diversity of my days.
How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
My team and our clients motivate me every day. For so many older adults, moving from a family home is nothing short of traumatic, and we do everything we can to make it a little less so. It is always rewarding to me to know — at the end of the day — that I’ve made a positive impact on a senior’s life. My team continues to fill me with pride and humility with their kindness and patience and concern for our clients … and with their senses of humor that get us all through the day.
What is the most important business lesson you’ve learned during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Flexibility, patience and the importance of family. I opened this business right at the beginning of the pandemic. Counterintuitively, there were many, many seniors seeking our services during that difficult time because they and their families wanted them to be closer. The pull of family became more urgent for our clients. On the other hand, we had to become even more flexible. For example, when we would ordinarily hold an on-site, in-person auction, we had to move to online, virtual auctions (which have worked very well). We also became very good at Zoom and virtual tours because most long-term care communities were closed to nonresidents. Of course, we instituted COVID-19 protocols for the benefit of both our staff and our clients’ well-being, and we continue to maintain those protocols in people’s homes because, by definition, we are working with people whose overall health may be fragile. We wear masks and gloves in clients’ homes and maintain as much distance as the space allows. Every member of my team has also passed a background check, and our business is bonded and insured. All this adds to a client’s (and family’s) peace of mind.
What is unique about the services you provide?
Caring Transitions, as I mentioned, is nationwide. That makes us unique and allows us to organize and downsize for the client on one end of a move, and another office can unpack on the other end. Door-to-door service. But we are locally owned. We’re your neighbors. We’re in the community. We do not offer cookie-cutter services. Each engagement is unique to that senior and meets his/her very specific needs. I believe, however, that the care we take with our clients and their treasures is our most unique service. It is certainly the one thing we want to be remembered for.
Describe a major business or personal challenge you had and how you overcame it.
One of the biggest challenges I’m facing right now is growth. It’s a good problem to have, but we’re working to grow wisely, always putting our clients’ needs first. We have been hiring more people to work with our clients and trying to expand more formally into the Dover area. We have been helping Dover’s seniors for many months, but we just made Dover a formal part of our “territory,” so hiring folks in Kent County and ensuring everyone who wears a Caring Transitions shirt is an ambassador for our company is the key to meeting this current challenge.
What three things help shape your life?
First, my mother taught me the importance of aging with grace and dignity, and understanding the history and weight that family treasures carry in all of our lives. Second, my education in international business and my global corporate career gave me a broad appreciation of diversity and the beauty of cultural traditions and norms. And finally (but not last), my husband continues to support me unconditionally and encourages me but also challenges me daily to challenge myself.
What piece of advice would you give other women in small business?
I think it’s very important for all of us — particularly women — to follow our passions. Even though I came from the aerospace/defense industry, I always knew that helping seniors in some capacity was my passion. Women should surround themselves with mentors, coaches and others who validate their worth and encourage them in pursuing their dreams. And I would advise women to surround themselves with a team that nurtures respect and warmth, and shares the goal of a great experience for each and every client.
What resources/professional development/networking opportunities have you found helpful?
We work closely with senior communities, rehabilitation hospitals, home health care organizations, senior advisers and estate lawyers to ensure seamless transitions for our mutual clients. Real estate agents are also an important resource for us because they are the ones managing the sale of seniors’ homes; our cooperation is critical to each of us being successful.