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Kathy Wells-McNeil: Young Entrepreneur Award--Northeastern Ontario.

In retrospect, Kathy Wells-McNeil's life experiences have led her to the place she is now; an educated woman heading up her own business in charge of her own destiny.

Leadership, hiring competent staff and conservative thinking have allowed Wells-McNeil's business to prosper.

As the owner of Total Nursing Care Inc. and the director of nursing services for the company, Wells-McNeil believes leadership requires an ongoing process of weighing the opinions of others, making a decision and standing by it. If leaders strive to navigate a company in a specific direction, then honesty and integrity are significant assets to possess, she says.

"If you want people to follow your decision-making abilities then they have to trust you, regardless of whether they agree with you or not."

"I don't always make the right decision, but you learn from it," Wells-McNeil explains.

"I like to make my own mistakes and learn from others."

Wells-McNeil, as a student in Cambrian College's nursing program, launched her business in 1994 to subsidize her tuition. The business was initially known as Kathy's Home Care, providing non-medical homemaking services, and has since grown from a one-woman show operating out of a home-based office to a 50-plus employee company providing registered nursing care, physiotherapy services and homemaking services.

As a teenager working out of a Sudbury-based jean store, Wells-McNeil tuned in to business advice offered to her by her boss, as he shared his business savvy with her.

Today, she applies some of those lessons passed on to her by her former boss, in her own practice.

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Wells-McNeil attributes her success to her ability to evaluate what is most important to her in her business, and to knowing when and when not to dig into company coffers.

"Be frugal, be conservative," she says. "Don't overspend. There are a lot of things you don't need when you first start a business, like a fancy car. People think you need to have the appearance of success to be successful. If you have a four-month slow time and you can't make (business) payments because you're trying to meet car payments, it can make or break your company."

She learned those lessons as a child. Her father passed away when she was 10, leaving behind his wife and two daughters. They watched carefully how money was spent in the house and had to be satisfied with second-hand clothes and low-income housing. Her experiences have made her the wise businesswomen she is today.

Wells-McNeil considers herself a hard worker and somewhat of a perfectionist.

"I like everything to go off without a hitch; I'm a little obsessive about things."

She tries to anticipate what her business can do for her clients from the moment they are discharged from the hospital into the comfort of their own homes. From the ambulance to equipment to services, Wells-McNeil builds up a scenario of what the patient will need once he or she is released from the hospital.

Patient care continues to be paramount, but was especially important in the first few years of operation.

She kept her finger on the pulse of her business by checking in on staff after her shift was over. She wanted to make sure the patients trusted her competent, yet fledgling staff. It reached a point where her husband spoke up and said "Kathy leave them alone."

Today she is not as concerned. She still finds herself doing random pop-ins, but knows the patients are in good hands. Wells-McNeil has a waiting list of nurses wanting to join her staff.

Healthy, happy employees help to create a successful company, she says. Wells-McNeil organizes four "fun days" a year that are fully paid for.

During some of the outings registered practical nurses and personal support workers take their children, nieces, nephews or neighbour's children out for a day of frolic and cheer. Go-kart racing, Big Nickel Mine excursions, mini golf and boat cruises are only a few of the activities she has held for staff.

Adults too get to kick up their heels with scavenger hunts and the Christmas party where recognition is given to the top employees of the year. It builds unity and allows people to meet their shift-change workers. At times, caregivers only know each other by the notes they leave as the shifts change, she says.

Total Nursing's entire client base has been developed by word of mouth. Wells-McNeil says the only advertising she pays for is in the phone book. Agencies or other people who have used the company keep referring others to her.

Her company's revenues for 2003 reached about $1.3 million and in late 2003 she expanded to North Bay, hiring a manager who works out of the satellite office.

By Kelly Louiseize

Northern Ontario Business
COPYRIGHT 2004 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:2004 Winner
Author:Louiseize, Kelly
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Jun 1, 2004
Words:793
Previous Article:Patricia (Patti) Carr.
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