After the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Michael Stevens felt the call to join the military. He signed a contract for delayed entry as a ranger for special operations and was the first and only group to parachute into Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom. At 34, he was considerably older than his fellow troops, yet given his previous career, Stevens felt right at home.
"When the guys in my unit, mostly those in their early 20s, would tease me and call me 'old man' or 'Carny MacGuyver,' I never let it get to me because we had become a family. Regardless of what they say or do, you have to stick together," said Stevens, now 40. "Growing up, life was the same way. Since my family was in the carnival industry, we moved around a lot and had to band together to ensure our business was a success. Living together, working together and traveling together all the time definitely prepared me for the rigors of the military because in order to be successful as a group, you have to take the time to learn from each other."
After two years, Stevens was honorably discharged and returned to the family business, which he had turned from a six-ride carnival into a multimillion dollar operation, and opened a concessions company with his new wife, Michele. However, despite the success of their businesses, the constant travel and increasing operational costs began to wear on the couple. They enjoyed owning their own business but wanted something that offered them more structure than the carnival industry provided, so their search for a new venture began.
"I already had a lifetime of business ownership behind me, but I wanted to find just the right concept to utilize my past experience," said Stevens. "My wife had mentioned the home care industry and the growing need for that service in the area. It was a great idea but since we were new to the industry, we decided a franchise would be the best way to learn and grow."
After a few months of searching, the pair discovered Synergy HomeCare and met company founder Peter Tourian. Synergy HomeCare is a franchise business opportunity that provides in-home, non-medical care to individuals requiring daily living assistance. The concept was a perfect match and though the Stevenses were eager to sign, they wanted to find the right partners first. Rob and Jennifer Denning, the couple's friends from church, proved to be their ideal counterparts. Rob, an accountant and former military medic, and Jennifer, a government and housing associate, were about to move to Las Vegas but changed their plans when they heard about Synergy.
The foursome opened their Synergy HomeCare on July 1 in Rogers, Ark., servicing Bentonville to Fort Smith to Harrison. They may be new, but their confidence already has them thinking about opening another location within six months. Their gung-ho attitude is not only refreshing but in line with Synergy's larger plans: There are currently 18 Synergy HomeCare franchises operating across the country, but the company expects to sell up to 300 U.S. franchises within the next five years. As an incentive for other military veterans, Synergy offers a discount for veterans interested in purchasing a franchise. For Stevens, his future as a business owner is looking quite bright.
"Our concept is definitely a strong one, but I think it's our collective experience that will help us grow as a business," said Stevens. "We all have different backgrounds and skills but bringing them together is what will make us a driving force within the industry."