If you get nothing else from this blog, this one take-away is important. Read the book Pink Goldfish: Defy Normal, Exploit Imperfection and Captivate Your Customers by David J. Rendall and Stan Phelps. One of the authors, David Rendall, was the keynote speaker at the HCAOA Conference this past November. The insights he shared during his talk were stunningly simple.

a pink goldfish swimming in a tank with a pink coral background
How do you stand out among all the home care agencies claiming to offer the same commitment to care to prospective clients or better jobs for caregivers?

It sometimes feels like there’s a home care agency on every corner. They’re popping up faster than coffee shops these days in some cities. That’s creating a lot of options for potential clients and potential employees.

With all that competition, it’s crucial your agency has sound marketing strategies in place so you don’t fall behind. You want to be the go-to agency of choice for caregivers who want to serve their communities and for families looking for the right fit for their loved one.

How do you do that? How do you stand out in a town filled with other home care agencies selling the same friendly smile and commitment to care when they speak with prospective clients and staff?

The answer, again, is stunningly simple: in a world of red and orange goldfish, be a shiny pink goldfish.


Entirely Authentic 

In today’s world of artificial intelligence (AI) and deep fakes, people are searching for authenticity more than ever. 

In most cases, businesses tend to try really hard to be perfect, which, let’s face it, is not possible. They hesitate to be anything other than utterly normal and present an extremely polished exterior. 

They likely do this because they think acting like everyone else will inspire confidence and show professionalism. While that might be the old standard bearer of the past, times – and people’s behaviors and shopping habits – have changed.

These days, we live in a deeply saturated internet-based society. It’s often hard to determine truth from fiction at first glance.

So what are people actually looking for? 

  1. To connect with businesses that show authenticity
  2. For agencies that take responsibility for their mistakes and try to do better
  3. Humans who are just like them, not perfection

You don’t have to be perfect! As long as you take responsibility for any mistakes you make, own up to your flaws (because you’re only human), and try to do better,  people tend to be more accepting of that type of behavior. They prefer honesty over excuses. 

By showing people you make mistakes and sometimes fail, it makes you more authentic. It doesn’t make people dislike your business. In fact, it makes them like your agency more. This is because it shows that you’re human. 

Those people aren’t looking for the same red and orange goldfish they’ve seen a million times when surfing the internet. They’re looking for something authentic and meaningful. They’re looking for a pink goldfish.


Embrace Your Weirdness 

Everyone knows that businesses are run by people, and people are flawed, accident prone, and sometimes just plain weird. 

Guess what? That’s great, because it turns out, your prospective clients and employees are just like you – normal, average, everyday people with their own flaws, messy lives, and their very own kind of weirdness. 

All companies try to be the very best at everything they do, and they usually have a pretty lengthy list of what they say they’re good at. The truth is, very few actually achieve that goal of being really good at everything. In fact, you don’t have to be the best in the industry to have a successful business.

Instead of trying to be 100% perfect at 25 different things, focus on one or two things that matter the most for your home care agency. When you find those few things and focus specifically on them, you’ll be able to do them exceptionally well.

Strive to be the most authentic agency in your area. Cater to the customers you desire. Focus on and prioritize  those core values that mean the most to your business. When you do this, it will become obvious that you’ve become the best at what you do.


Be F.L.A.W.S.O.M.E. 

In the book, Pink Goldfish, the authors focus on a special acronym for the word Flawsome, a combination of FLAWS and AWESOME. You can read more about those attributes in this article.  

Here’s a quick overview:

  1. Flaunting
  2. Lopsiding
  3. Antagonizing
  4. Withholding
  5. Swerving
  6. Opposing
  7. Micro-Weirding
  8. Exposing


The one that really caught my attention was Micro-Weirding. When we talk about embracing your weirdness, it’s more than just, “Hey, you’re different from your competitors.” 

You have to actually find that one gem or service you do that makes you so completely different and weird that you’ll stand out in a crowd.

The example Rendall gave during his talk at HCAOA was about a small hotel called The Magic Castle. It’s a no-frills, older property in Los Angeles that has a pool. Oh, and a “Popsicle Hotline.” You read that right! You can take the kiddos down to the pool, pick up the “Popsicle Hotline” phone, and ask for whatever color or flavor of popsicle you want. Then they deliver your popsicle to you poolside on a silver tray.

While there are a ton of hotels in the LA area, the reviews for this one tend to be really good for an average, somewhat dated hotel. That’s mostly due to the fact that they have this one weird thing they pride themselves on and do really well. It makes their guests feel special and keeps them coming back.

So what can your agency do to stand out like that? Could it be something as simple as a hot chocolate station set up in the lobby so potential clients feel welcome and invited. Would sitting down with a cup of hot cocoa and a friend discussing their loved one be easier and more welcoming in that type of environment? Would you caregivers feel an extra bit of love if you offered flavored marshmallows and fun new cocoas to try every time they came to the office?

I have a dear friend who retired from the home care industry several years ago. While she was still operating her business, she made payday a super fun experience for her caregivers. Because they work out in the field, she wanted them to feel a sense of community.

Every payday, she hosted “Happy Payday!” She decorated the office in a different theme like Ice Cream Day, had snacks related to that theme like an Ice Cream Bar, and made coming into the office to pick up a paycheck an event rather than a chore. They could even bring their families with them to join in on the fun.

Happy Payday was her way of connecting with her caregivers and showing them they were appreciated and cared for. It helped her stand apart from her competitors who did direct deposit and only saw their caregivers at onboarding, training, and exit interviews. 

Happy Payday made her a Pink Goldfish in a large pond filled with other home care agencies.


Swim Like a Pink Goldfish and Your Caregivers Will Follow

Being a Pink Goldfish starts at the top, but it should trickle down. Administrators should encourage their staff to embrace their weirdness because weirdness can be fun, different, and cool.

For example, if your agency is known for having a fleet of caregivers who only wear Crocs to work, encourage them to decorate their shoes with different charms. Let them accessorize their shoes to show off their style. It adds a creative and fun flare to their outfit, but it might also be a great thing for caregivers to chat with their clients about when they get new charms.

If your agency requires caregivers to wear scrubs, try to be different. Instead of choosing a single color and putting your logo on it, maybe let your caregivers pick out their own designs that show off their style or things they’re fond of. If they like cats, they might choose cats. Then, before you know it, your agency will be known as the one with the cute scrubs around town. It could potentially help your retention rate, increase new hires, and boost morale. 

When your caregivers get invested in the Pink Goldfish theory, it can be a game changer for your home care agency. 

One of our agency’s has a caregiver with several clients in the same neighborhood. They all have an affinity for vintage cars, and she wanted to do something nice for them. She had some friends who had antique cars, so she gave them a call. They created a Vintage Car Parade that came through the neighborhood where her clients’ lived. Her clients got to sit in their front yards in lawn chairs or by the front window and watch the car parade go by. 

Talk about being authentic and standing out! Was this a service her agency got reimbursed for by Medicaid or the Veterans Administration? Nope. 

Was it something that stood out to her clients and their families and friends? Will it help them be remembered and generate new referrals? Was it authentic? Absolutely. 

(My marketing and public relations manager would also tell me to mention how this would be a fun story to send to the local news and generate some free publicity.)


Keep Swimming

Here’s another key takeaway in case you haven’t figured it out yet. Happiness is contagious. 

If your home care agency is known in the community for being weird in a good way, for being authentic, for standing out because you pride yourself on excelling at a couple of things rather than trying to be all things to all people, then good for you.

If a family member walks into a home care agency’s office and is worried about their loved one and stressed about the process, wouldn’t it be nice if they felt a sense of comfort, joy, and happiness in that environment? It could very easily help them feel better about the people they are placing in charge of their loved one’s care. 

Because happiness is contagious. And if you’re happy in the home office and it spreads to your community of caregivers, that joy will be reflected in the quality of care your clients receive. 

Stop trying to be like everyone else. Be your authentic self. Be a Pink Goldfish.