OPTIMIZE Sneak Peek: Interview with K.C. Kanaan
Guest blog post written by: Cynthia Seymour
K.C. Kanaan, CEO of Envoy America, joins luminary Dr. Bill Thomas, author Chip Conley and innovator Dr. Cory Kidd at the upcoming Aging2.0 OPTIMIZE Conference in San Francisco November 14-15, 2017.
With isolation among American older adults becoming a major health issue, Envoy offers transportation for the elderly with guided companionship for social outings, errands and medical appointments. Envoy’s transportation service is filling a much needed gap for elders who want to remain active and engaged, but who may struggle with elements of the daily routine and getting out. The service is being rolled out in major metropolitan areas in Arizona, New Mexico, New Mexico, Florida, Oregon and Washington with others on the horizon.
Enter K.C. Kanaan, a CEO who’s literally in the driver’s seat. He dedicates time each week of every month on operations. Some days he’s driving clients around asking them what can be done to improve service; other days he’s calling his Envoy drivers, asking for feedback and thanking them for their work. It’s no wonder he gets handwritten thank you notes and calls from the families served.
When you ask him about his business he’s effusive about his clients: couples they take to the theater; friends who meet once a month for lunch across town; an octogenarian who needs a lift to the Y in the early morning for his constitutional swim. “It’s not all doom and gloom and doctors appointments. We take people to spring training, to professional and college football games,” says the former technology General Manager, turned restaurateur, now Aging2.0 entrepreneur. “We’re like the sons and daughters. We have the compassion and patience to help elders. We give them back the freedom and independence they once had,” adds Mr. Kanaan.
In fact that’s how Envoy started. Several years ago when he noticed his aging parents’ health was changing, the sibling got together to figure out how to best keep them living safely and happily at home. “Taking a taxi with memory issues…my mom had to navigate the elevator and find the medical office. My dad used a walker and couldn’t carry grocery bags when he went to the store. I never thought transportation was such a big deal until my parents needed help,” recounts Mr. Kanaan. Traditional transport services pick you up and drop you off at a location. Elders with vision, memory and mobility challenges need assistance. Envoy drivers help clients get into the car, help them out of the car, guide them to their destination, wait for them, then repeat the process back to their home, whether it’s to visit a friend, see a movie or go to church.
Mr. Kanaan is not doing this alone; he’s banking on partnerships, and they’re impressive ones including the American Cancer Society and Mayo Clinic. While 80 percent of Envoy clients are elders, they transport younger patients going through cancer and other life saving treatments. Before Envoy, these organizations were using volunteer drivers, but patients need consistent, reliable transport. Their health and their life depend on it. Taxis, Uber and the like tend to be more expensive because they’re priced on mileage. Envoy’s pricing is based on time and the typical need is two hours. Envoy has proven they can deliver a cost advantage while adding the extra attention elders and patients appreciate. Drivers are background checked, first aid and CPR certified and are trained in proper transfer techniques as well as dementia.
So what is the advice Mr. Kanaan can offer new Aging2.0 entrepreneurs? “Don’t just dream about something that might work.” He recommends designing it so adult children can interact well with the service, but make sure it works for their elders who’ve been writing with pen and paper for 60, 70 years. “It’s the combination of both,” remarks Kanaan. As for his business philosophy: “Hire the best people who know how to take care of clients; control your cost by keeping it simple; take care of the client better than anyone else.”
Ask about a high point and you’ll learn about Mrs. Burke. She use to go to sleep every night praying she wouldn’t wake up in the morning. Now she prays that Envoy doesn’t go out of business because it changed her life. Transportation, something we take for granted in our youth becomes a necessity for health and quality of life later on. By making life worth living for, Envoy is making some serious inroads.