BTU #185 - Navy Veteran to Home Care Providers President (Stephen Huber)

He was an entrepreneur and he told me that if I had the itch to see what entrepreneurship was like then I should go for it because I would probably end up being frustrated in corporate America.
— Stephen Huber

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Stephen Huber is the President of Home Care Providers, a premier integrated home healthcare services company in Southern California. Headquartered in Orange County, Home Care Providers provides world class private duty home care services to seniors throughout the Southern California region. By providing these services they create a viable alternative to traditional institutionalized care, allowing clients to remain safely in the comfort of their own home.  

Stephen started out at the Naval Academy, served as a helicopter pilot for 11 years - 9 years on active duty and 2 years in the Reserves. He has worked as a sales representative, consultant, and contractor. He holds an MBA from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.

Why Listen: 

Stephen is a story of entrepreneurship, but not the version you usually think of: his company is non-tech (it's in healthcare services) and he didn't start the company - he bought it with the intention of growing it. If you're curious about entrepreneurship, this is a must-listen.

Our Sponsor: 

  • StoryBox- People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBoxprovides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBoxoffers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.
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Selected Resources: 

Transcript & Time Stamps:


Joining me today from Baer, California is Stephen Huber. Stephen is the President of Home Care Providers, a premier health care service company headquartered in Orange County, CA. Stephen started out at the Naval Academy and then served as a helicopter pilot for 11 years - nine on active duty and two in the reserves. He holds an MBA from UCLA.


How would you describe the work that you do with Home Care Providers?

We help provide opportunities for seniors to age the way they want. You rarely meet a senior that says “I can’t wait to move into that facility.” They want to stay at home for as long as possible and we help them do that. We provide medical and non-medical care to seniors in their home. The best way to think about it is that I’m an employment agency. Our largest costs are our employees - our in home care providers. So we’re not that different from a standard employment agency, we just have more of a focus on health issues.


How did you come into this work?

Sort of by mistake. When I left active duty, I had had some interviews with some large companies. I was looking to get into brand management. So I wanted to learn how brands build and manage their business. But getting a position with these companies was difficult because typically they are looking for someone out of an MBA program. I had gotten my Executive MBA while still on active duty so I wasn’t on that traditional path.

The jobs that I came across in San Diego as I was leaving active duty, I wasn’t that excited about. As I got into a position where I was doing medical device sales, I loved the freedom of the position but the sales process for medical devices didn’t really fit what I wanted. At the same time, I met a colleague that was looking at healthcare services as an investment opportunity and I was looking for something to do. So we ended up investing in a healthcare services company in Brea, CA.


How did you go about raising the money for this?

We used our own capital. Savings that we both had. He was an entrepreneur and told me that if I had the itch to see what entrepreneurship was like then I should go for it because I would probably end up being frustrated in corporate America. So we both used our resources but also really leveraged his background in private equity to evaluate the industry and company. It took us about 6 months to go through the purchasing process.


How would you explain the work you do as President?

Ultimately I’m responsible for all of the operations - sales, marketing, finance, and recruiting as well as providing overall and strategic direction. But I also don’t have a medical background so I have to outsource some of that and make sure I have the right people on my team to make sure I’m doing the right things. I’ve also gotten good at learning quickly.

My predominant role is sales. I’m the lead champion for our business so I go out into the community and build relationships. I also need to make sure our Board of Directors has what they need to make sure the business is going in the right direction.


What does a typical look like for you?

No day is the same. Usually I work in San Diego on Tuesdays and Fridays. I live in San Diego but run a business 100 miles from my home so I drive up and back on Mondays. There are a number of sales calls to make and networking items that happen on Monday. Tuesday is usually San Diego focused. Today I started my day in San Diego and then went to a demonstration on dementia in Irvine. I then came to my office and met with individuals on our team. After that I went out with a client, I also met up with one of our new nurses. I usually make a few sales calls in the afternoon. Tomorrow will be similar and then I’ll be back in San Diego on Friday.


You’ve been at this for three years. How has that schedule changed over time?

It was worse at the beginning because our sole operational area was Orange County. So for this first year and a half I was exclusively in Orange County so it was a lot of commuting. We later expanded into full operations in San Diego so I’m able to split my time now. It’s about 90 minutes between Brea and San Diego.


How would you explain networking and how to approach it in a way that feels authentic?

I don’t have enough time to do Chamber of Commerce and networking events. So what I’ve chosen to do is engage with companies that have an education focus. It’s helpful because people are interested and want to learn. For example, I want to an event today that focused on dementia. Other days I”ll go to a senior collaborative group where there are many aspects of the senior care industry represented. It’s helpful for me to know people from these groups because they have more local knowledge than I do. So I’m able to offer them resources that I have and they do the same for me.


Could you have done your job directly from active duty or do you believe your previous corporate experience and MBA were essential for this position?

I probably couldn’t have done this job straight out of the military. An MBA isn’t a requirement but it taught me a lot of essential aspects of business that just weren’t part of my routine in the Navy. When I was teaching aviators to fly, I was responsible for anticipating needs for future pilots and aircrews. So I was aware of these kinds of business related issues but the MBA really helped round that out. At UCLA, there is a consulting project focused on a real company with real problems. My focus was on a company in Spain. They were looking to make a white label into a premium product that they could charge a premium price for. Through the process of researching this company, I was able to learn more about how the pieces fit together. So I think it has really helped me to have an MBA.


What advice to you have for people that want to get into entrepreneurship regarding whether to start something from scratch or invest in an already existing company that you can grow and scale?

We’ve opened a new office in San Diego so we are effectively building a business from scratch in that area. Sales and recruiting really have to be aligned there.

Certainly it’s easier to have something already going and work with it from there. One of the biggest misgivings people in business school or in general have is that they only think of companies like Facebook and Uber when they think about entrepreneurship. But there are hundreds of really good small businesses entrepreneurial type opportunities out there. I’m learning something new every day.  And you can hedge some of the risk of entrepreneurship by working with a an already existing business.


Do you have any advice regarding how to approach the decision of whether or not to have a partner?

My partner and I have similar backgrounds - we were both Naval Academy graduates and had a lot of shared connections. My partner was a SEAL and then went to business school and then went into private equity. We added a  third partner last year. He has a lot of unique experience as well. I think ultimately because this industry is so unique, we’re all able to use our backgrounds to make sure our bases are covered. 100 people rely on our services on a daily basis so we want to make sure we are serving our customers.


Do you see any differences between being a leader inside and outside the military?

The job that I do right now is sort of akin to being a Department Head. It goes a lot further than that because the nuances of managing a staff outside the military is a little different. For example, people can quit at anytime. In the military, you really wouldn’t be that concerned with that. So dealing with those situations has been a lesson learned for me. A lot of it is about finding the right people for the job.

The Navy also taught us well how to take decisive action. You really have to be ready to roll and take action. I treat the people the report to me with the same respect and in the same way I treated the sailors that reported to me.


That must have been challenging aspect of taking on an already existing company.

It was. Some of the phrases we put in our LOA was the “key man” clause. In that way if any of the key employees gave notice that they were leaving the company during the transition, we were able to walk away from the deal. We did have someone leave two days before closing. We had to get together and decide if that person constituted a “key person” that we couldn’t continue without that person’s experience and knowhow. We ultimately decided that wasn’t the case and continued with the deal.


What resources would you recommend to listeners?

Josh - my career coach - suggested the Gallup StrengthsFinder. I would definitely recommend it as well.

I also recommend Toastmasters. Find your local club and practice your presentation skills. I’ve been able to refine my presentation skills through Toastmasters.

I like Tim Ferriss’s podcast, particularly the Chris Sacca episode. They have a great conversation about investment philosophy.

For transitioning military members, I recommend Manager Tools. It’s a website with a podcast and talks about what it’s like being a day-to-day manager. It’s everything from how to lead your team to writing a resume and think about your career.


Is there anything else you’d like to share with listeners?

First, thanks so much for having me - this has been fun. I would share that the transition is a hard one. Mine was difficult. Trust in the process, it will work. My partner and I met because of a Service Academy networking event. Don’t be afraid to reach out to fellow veterans. Everyone wants to help you. Also take part in veteran groups in your area. Find those and make a point to take part in those.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to look at smaller, lesser known companies. Everyone thinks about the P&Gs or Apples of the world but there are thousands of great companies out there. If you’re transitioning, make sure getting involved in an industry that will grow over time.