After graduating from Kent State University with a degree in Marketing and Management, Tim Evankovich, Co-Founder and CEO of Oasis Senior Advisors, moved to Maryland to marry his wife. While living in Maryland, Evankovich made a friend through church that shared a similar background. Both of their father's owned a business and both were interested in starting their own business. The friend, Steve Robinson, and Evankovich, looked at several different businesses before identifying an opportunity in the cleaning business.
"We liked what we saw," Evankovich said. "With the cleaning business, you're helping people and you're getting the benefit of residual income. It's a very appealing aspect of the business. We identified an independent maid service operating in the Baltimore-Washington metro area and, in July of 1989, we bought it. It took a year to get it profitable, but once we did, growth was steady. We opened three more satellite offices in the Baltimore and D.C. area. We were initially thinking of going the Starbucks route of opening up corporate stores, but ultimately decided on franchising. We started on the paperwork and by early 1996, The Cleaning Authority was official."
For the first three years, The Cleaning Authority grew slower than expected. They added three franchisees the first year, six the second year and twelve the third year. In 1999, they hooked up with a franchise consulting group and business took off. In 2000 they added 24 franchisees, followed by 51 in 2001. Evankovich and Robinson grew The Cleaning Authority to over 185 franchisees in 42 states and Canada by 2014. They took great pride in helping their franchisees build successful businesses. As Evankovich shared, after hiring a strong COO and 'kicking back' a bit, he got a little restless.
"We had friends in the franchise industry come to us looking for help building their own franchises," Evankovich said. "We decided to start Fran-Forward to help fledgling franchises grow. Around 2012, a Michigan couple who owned a new business to help people find senior living centers, approached us for assistance with building out their concept. The couple initially wanted to build a franchise, but when that proved to be cost prohibitive, they worked to build it on their own. Eventually, that did not work and they came back to us for help. My partner and I purchased the company and worked for about a year to prove the concept, handle the legal piece, build out the software and establish the processes and procedures. In May of 2014, Oasis Senior Advisors became a reality."
From Startup to Second-Stage
The year 2014 was full of change for Evankovich. In June, he moved to Florida. In July, he bought his partner out of Oasis. In August, they sold The Cleaning Authority. Even more change took place in early 2015. Evankovich explained, "I'd been commuting back and forth between my home in Florida and the Oasis office in Maryland. It was February and I'm sitting in a conference room in Maryland with my six employees. After telling my employees to work from home the following day, because of a big snow storm, my IT guy spoke up and said, 'Why don't you move us all to Florida'. I thought he was kidding, but then they all went around and said they would move as well. I told them to go home and talk with their families and I immediately started looking at office space in Florida. I picked Bonita Springs because of its proximity to the labor pool in Ft. Myers and it was close to Naples, where I wanted to live. Two of the original six, my Director of Development and COO, agreed to move and we opened our Florida office in January of 2016."
According to Evankovich, Oasis Senior Advisors gives caregivers and loved ones of seniors, facing unchartered waters, a little peace of mind. When a family realizes that mom or dad can no longer safely live at home, they're faced with a number of decisions. These include, estate planning, real estate, nutrition, and perhaps most importantly, where to live and what type of ongoing care is needed. Oasis will determine the best fit. Evankovich shared the three things that help Oasis stand out from the competition.
"First of all, our franchisees are the most wonderful, loving and caring people," he said. "Because of the sale of The Cleaning Authority, I have the capital necessary to find the right people. We're very selective in who becomes one of our franchisees. The second thing that sets us apart is our technology. We're the only franchise of our kind that uses a proprietary software to match seniors with facilities. We'll give our customers the top three choices, based on several factors, and they make the decision. The software takes any bias out of the process. Lastly, there is safety in longevity. I spent 25 years with The Cleaning Authority building a successful model. That means I know what I'm doing."
The internal staff supports 72 franchisees across the country. By the end of the year, Evankovich anticipates adding an additional eight franchisees. The workplace culture of the internal staff and franchisees is very similar. Evankovich believes in fostering an environment that's conducive to keeping people around. He spends a lot of time with his employees and believes that in order to attract and retain good employees, it's important to pay them well and take care of them. Whether it's Marketing, IT, Operations, Sales or Franchise Development, all groups work together in a very collaborative environment.
Notable Community Contributions
In terms of philanthropic activities, the internal staff participates in yearly walks to raise money for various causes. Two years ago, they formed a coalition with Second Wind Dreams, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the fulfillment of dreams and offering educational programs including the Virtual Dementia Tour. Evankovich described the organization as one that helps to make dreams come true for seniors. As part of their coalition, Second Wind Dreams and Oasis Senior Advisors developed a virtual dementia tour to help family members and caregivers understand what it's like to have dementia. Tours take place on a 35ft RV that travels to hospitals, memory care facilities and skilled nursing facilities. To really experience the debilitating effects of the disease, participants wear spikey shoe inserts, oversized gloves, glasses that limit vision, a headset with noises and are then asked to perform several tasks. It's an eye-opening experience for those that take the tour.
To Evankovich, the decision to relocate operations to Southwest Florida was a no-brainer. "Between the talent, weather and no state income tax, Florida is very appealing," he said. "When we do our 'Meet the Team' days, people come in from New York or Minnesota and they love what they see. Especially in winter. Being close to Ft. Myers is also great. We do have some Florida Gulf Coast University grads, but we also have access to a solid pool of strong administrative and operations folks."
What it Means to Be a Florida Companies to Watch Honoree
"For us as a whole just to be nominated is such an honor," he said. "We think we’re doing a good job, but to be recognized by someone else makes us so proud. It means the world to us.
In terms of why we were selected, I believe it has to do with what we do and our opportunity to give back to each community. We have a battle cry: win locally and own your community. We tell our franchisees that people need to know you’re there and why you're there. What we do and how many families we touch is something special."
Looking ahead, Evankovich would like to continue on the same path for the next ten to fifteen years. His goal is to add two to three franchisees per month. The long-term goal is to reach 250 franchisees and eventually move into Canada. Evankovich envisions himself leading the company for at least another 10 years.
Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
What advice does Evankovich have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Ask for help," he said. "Get all the advice you can from as many people as you can. Look at and learn from current entrepreneurs. I’m sure all the owners of the GrowFL Florida Companies to Watch Honorees would be willing to offer their advice. Together we possess a wealth of knowledge. Don’t do it all on your own. Good entrepreneurs are always willing to give back."