Margot Kornicks, a Vero Beach native who graduated from Vero Beach High School in 1978, founded Indian River Home Care and Indian River Home Care PLUS after recognizing a need for a community resource that offered both companion and Medicare medical services. Her nursing career began at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and continued at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston where Kornicks specialized in oncology, a field she became found of because of an experience with one of her first patients.
After living in Boston for two years and meeting her husband, who was from Miami, the couple moved back to the sunshine state so Kornicks could pursue a master’s degree in business. But she was undecided about what to do next.
"My mom said to me, 'You should get into home health care', and that’s pretty much what happened!" Kornicks said. "In 1988 I started working for the Visiting Nurse Association of Florida. I was eventually promoted to vice president and chief operating officer, and worked with the VNA until the end of 2009. It wasn't my plan to leave, but the chief executive officer position was no longer available, and I wanted to continue to advance my home care experience.”
Kornicks didn’t have a job lined up, but she was optimistic about the future. She looked at opening up a franchise and considered doing some part-time work, but ultimately took a position with Sebastian River Medical Center as the administrator for their home health care agency. It was in this position where Kornicks was exposed to billing, coding and all the other aspects of running a successful home health care business she was not as familiar with previously. After a year and a half at Sebastian River Medical Center, Kornicks had a chance encounter that inspired her to open Indian River Home Care.
“It was New Year’s Eve," Kornicks said. "I ran into an acquaintance who started her own Medicare-certified home health agency. She asked me what the heck I was doing. She was shocked I hadn’t already started my own business. I didn’t have a great answer, but that encounter was exactly what I needed.”
With the support of coworkers from the VNA and Sebastian River Medical Center, who left with her in 2011, Kornicks incorporated her first business, Indian River Home Care. The agency provides physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology, skilled nursing and personal care under Medicare. Even though she had experience and support, her first year presented a set of challenges that would have derailed most of us. Kornicks shared some of these obstacles and how she managed to gain some traction:
"The first step was to get a loan," Kornicks said. "I ended up having to borrow a lot more money than I thought was necessary. After that, I was focused on recruiting and retaining staff members, and then establishing customers, which required me to do a lot of cold calls. That was not fun, but the biggest obstacle was the Medicare license. It ended up taking a full eight months to become Medicare certified. Meanwhile, during that time, we were still required to see patients without getting paid. It wasn't until we got our license that we were finally reimbursed. Those first eight months were stressful and drained a lot of money, but our determination and hard work eventually paid off.”
"I'll admit that it takes a bit of luck, but you also have to deliver on your promises and provide exceptional customer service,” she said. “In fact, our entire model is built on high-quality care and providing high-quality service."
In February of 2015, Kornicks made a strategic decision to open a counterpart business — a nurse registry that would offer expanded personal care and companion services, including transportation, meal preparation, light housekeeping, medication reminders and more. This second business, Indian River Home Care PLUS, has helped set Kornicks apart from other medical providers, because patients can receive both therapy services and skilled nursing, in addition to support services, from a united team of caregivers.
Kornicks shared what she enjoys most about working as a team and offers some invaluable advice for aspiring entrepreneurs:
“Don’t do it unless you’re really passionate about what you’re doing,” she said. “Don’t just start a business for the sake of starting a business. It’s also important to be around the type of people that support you and have the same philosophy as you. For example, we give out our cell phone numbers and respond to questions and service requests 24 hours a day, and we all believe it’s important to be as accessible as possible for our patients. You have to be flexible, and if you’re willing to stick with it, you can have success. Our first month in business, I remember thinking how we might do eight hours of private services. In 2018, we did 81,000 hours, and Indian River Home Care just received a five-star agency rating, the highest rating a Medicare agency can receive.”