Before Scott Middleton was a CEO of a growing company, he was a United Methodist minister visiting elderly shut-ins once a month. Concerned by the “deplorable conditions” in which many of them lived, and struck by the loneliness they endured, he veered into a different ministry. He enrolled in the University of South Carolina’s Master of Health Administration program and eventually entered the world of senior care.
Today, Agape Senior has eight assisted living homes in South Carolina, as well as three rehabilitation and skilled nursing facilities and a dozen hospice sites. Agape, which means “love” in Greek, is a business success story. Middleton shared some of what he’s learned with members of the Chamber’s Total Resource Campaign Monday.
“You’ve got to invest money up front in people and technology,” he said after helping a member stop her iPhone from ringing. Members of Agape’s marketing staff have iPads, which have proven invaluable for keeping information and marketing materials at hand.
Middleton believes in the work Chambers of Commerce do. The marketing and promotion Chambers provide have helped Agape’s business more than most traditional advertising, he said. At Agape’s 2009 Business After Hours in Lexington, about 200 people attended. “And that was the beginning of the introduction,” he said, adding that he tells his marketing employees to join the local Chamber as soon as they open a facility.
Events are critical for business. At Agape in Lexington, Senior Solutions Adviser Lauren Tolcher plans four events a month attended by at least 50 people.
Middleton’s undergraduate degree, from Winthrop University, is in accounting. His divinity degree is from Emory University. During his years at USC and later, he worked for Lowman Home, a Lutheran-based senior care facility in White Rock. He bought Agape, a West Columbia senior care facility, in 1999. From 15 employees and 30 beds to 1,400 employees and 650 beds, Agape has mushroomed into a network of care providing insurance, medical equipment, ambulatory services, and a pharmacy.
No matter how fast your business grows, it’s important for business managers to plan for the future and “redevelop yourself,” Middleton said. He hired an executive coach in New York, who helped him with Agape’s growth and restructuring.
Middleton’s business savvy has allowed Agape to keep its mission to serve seniors at its forefront. The company formed a foundation that raises money for residents with dwindling resources. Two ways the foundation raises money are sales of Middleton’s book, Parent Talk, and notecards featuring the paintings of Agape Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.
Thanks to the foundation, Agape gave away $1.8 million in indigent care last year, Middleton said. This year, Agape will give way $3.5 million. “We’re proud to say we don’t ask people to leave if they can’t afford it.”
Agape Lexington is at 5422 Augusta Road. Learn more at www.agapesenior.com, or call 1-800-411-2427.