Katie Davis Of CarePods: “Trust but verify”

“Trust but verify.” This has long been attributed to former President Ronald Reagan, but it was an old Russian proverb he picked up during his travels overseas. A mentor of mine used this phrase regularly and he did in fact, verify everything. I expanded the meaning in my own leadership career to mean…. First know, […]

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“Trust but verify.” This has long been attributed to former President Ronald Reagan, but it was an old Russian proverb he picked up during his travels overseas. A mentor of mine used this phrase regularly and he did in fact, verify everything. I expanded the meaning in my own leadership career to mean…. First know, then challenge the assumptions. I cannot tell you how valuable it is or how valuable you can be to another organization if you can remain agnostic on the outcome and then surgically identify, examine, and question the assumptions behind any strategic decision. This is particularly true today when business and consumer norms are changing so rapidly. There are no sacred cows.


As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Katie Davis.

Katie Davis is an aging services entrepreneur and recovering corporate executive focused on disrupting the traditional senior care industry to help older adults age at home. She is the Founder and CEO of CarePods, the first care model of its kind in the United States purpose-built to help older adults with health concerns age successfully at home. Katie is focused on building and incubating innovative and sustainable senior care businesses that improve working conditions for caregivers while also delivering flexible and affordable solutions for older adults.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I found my way into the senior housing industry vis a vis my grandmother, Mimi. She sadly suffered a stroke and was admitted to a skilled nursing facility where she lived until her death seven years later. She had many wonderful caregivers but like many families, we found ourselves stuck in a system of care that we didn’t fully understand. At the time I remember thinking… we can do better than this.

At the same time, I was working in public relations and marketing at an agency focusing on sports and spirits marketing. Exciting job, but I wanted to work on something I was passionate about so when I saw an opportunity to join a senior housing organization as their Public Relations Director, I applied and fortunately, got the job.

I was with that company for 7 years and was promoted from PR/Marketing to Operations and eventually became the company’s, Chief Operating Officer. I was responsible for a few thousand employees and all aspects of operations and performance for our regional portfolio of retirement communities. It was an inspiring, rewarding journey and I learned so much about the industry during that time.

Following my stint in senior housing, I joined a group of aging-tech entrepreneurs in St. Louis at a company called Sherpa. My job as their Chief Strategy Officer was to help the Founders stabilize and formalize their team as well as their operational and growth processes so they could focus on attracting capital. After witnessing their passion and determination first-hand, I thought, “Ok Katie, you’ve got an idea that’s been eating away at you for years now… it’s now or never.”

So three years ago, I left my corporate career to move back to my home state of North Carolina and have been bootstrapping and working on CarePods since.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Well, really everything. CarePods takes the pressure points that exist in today’s senior care industry (cost-prohibitive services, low wages for caregivers, forcing people to leave home) and problem solves for each one of those issues. To put it simply, CarePods is the first model of its kind in the country to offer high-quality, 24/7 support to older adults living at home for a base price of under $1,000/month.

Home care providers sell care by the hour. Senior care communities sell real estate as a component of what they do. We offer older adults a holistic care services team that manages their health at home for a fraction of the price of the existing alternatives. And we do it while paying our caregiver’s top-of-market wages. In an industry where the national average for out-of-pocket costs for assisted living is $4,300/month, that’s a big deal.

Back in the 80’s when the ‘assisted living’ industry began, assisted living communities offered the first residentially focused environments for older adults needing long-term care. They were disruptive to the traditional nursing home model. CarePods is similar in that it’s disruptive to today’s senior care models on the basis of price, type of care, and method of delivery (we bring services to your home).

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Ha! Do you know that Kayne West song… “Can’t Tell Me ‘Nothing”? Well, a little context first.

I can’t fully describe how easy it is to lose objectivity when you’re the business owner and your own money and reputation are on the line. So, during the original CarePods launch, I sent out an initial direct mail piece to a target market and we signed our first client seven days in. I was ridiculously over-excited and convinced I was sitting on the next unicorn, so instead of waiting on pre-enrollments per my business plan, and against my own and other’s better judgment, I launched services immediately. Not a good idea, the first client was a bit of beginner’s luck as it were, and I burned through a LOT of runways needlessly. Yikes!

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

So, collectively, I need to first acknowledge the frontline caregivers, frontline administrative teams, and all of my former direct reports who were SO patient with me as a young, ambitious leader. They took me seriously and were so, so patient answering all of my questions over the years. Essentially, they helped me earn an informal post-graduate degree in all things senior care while working. I would not be here without their knowledge and generosity.

Also, I was fortunate to work under a very talented, demanding, and entrepreneurial CEO during my seven years at the senior housing company. I was essentially his right-hand person and he was incredibly fast-paced and a veritable encyclopedia of knowledge. I learned how to think like a business leader under his watch, but he also encouraged and allowed me to blossom as a leader in my own right. He placed me in situations likely before I was ready for them, just because I was gutsy and a hard worker with good intentions. Many of us, and women especially perhaps, need someone to push them before they think they’re ready. Since then, I’ve tried to do the same for others under my leadership.

Finally, I would say, I was inspired by the Founders at Sherpa. Their super-power was learning to thrive in the unknown and co-existing comfortably with chaos and uncertainty. I’m a perfectionist and a control freak so learning and watching the investments and risks they took with their business was incredibly inspiring. I think of them often when I’m facing a tough decision.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

So, funny enough, I’m a traditionalist at heart and maybe like some reading this, think the term ‘disruptive’ is overused. I’m not sure we even fully agree on or understand the meaning of the term. But, I generally define disruption of the industry as being a new product or service that so fundamentally improves the prior experience that it renders the preceding solution no longer commercially viable. I have a high bar for what I would categorize as disruptive. If the resulting impact is a net positive, it’s a positive disruption, and if negative, vice versa.

But, I also am in the (likely) small minority that thinks disruption isn’t something that can be predicted or measured in real-time. It’s likely something we can only observe retroactively, over years. So, what may be disruptive today will have all kinds of unintended consequences we have to fully measure over time.

A few examples….

Amazon I think always comes to mind… while they didn’t invent online shopping, they completely disrupted the shipping and retail shopping industries, leaving malls, traditional shopping experiences, and even the USPS in their wake. Do I think consumer expectations around shopping online and shipping are forever changed? Yes. And while Amazon has its detractors, certainly the company has enabled many small business owners to reach customers they otherwise couldn’t and helped consumers streamline and improve their shopping experience. Given Amazon’s scale and power, it’s difficult to tell whether the disruption is fully positive or negative at this point… it’s a mix of both.

Another (very) broad example I think of is the internet, or I guess more specifically Google. Search engines disrupted traditional research methods and democratized information access across the globe. There’s no doubt they disrupted print news, libraries, encyclopedia publishers, small business marketing… you name it. Largely positive? I think so, despite the known negatives.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

“You’ll never make over $100k here.” Wow, can’t believe I haven’t forgotten this one and it was the first one that came to mind. Early in my career, I worked for a boss who, in retrospect, just didn’t like me. Good person, but we just had different personalities and I’m sure that made it difficult to manage me. One day I was chatting with this person about opportunities, and they bluntly said this to me. Externally, I nodded and agreed. Internally, I felt this little kernel of anger inside me harden and I thought, “we’ll see.” I thought about that boss when I passed that mark (and then some) later in my career. I’m a rural-raised, Southern woman with a noticeable accent. I’ve had to remind myself MANY times that other people’s opinions of my talents or skills are just that… opinions.

“Trust but verify.” This has long been attributed to former President Ronald Reagan, but it was an old Russian proverb he picked up during his travels overseas. A mentor of mine used this phrase regularly and he did in fact, verify everything. I expanded the meaning in my own leadership career to mean…. First know, then challenge the assumptions. I cannot tell you how valuable it is or how valuable you can be to another organization if you can remain agnostic on the outcome and then surgically identify, examine, and question the assumptions behind any strategic decision. This is particularly true today when business and consumer norms are changing so rapidly. There are no sacred cows.

“An idea isn’t a business.” I don’t know where I originally picked this up, but I say it at least two or three times a week. With CarePods or really any new/exciting idea, it’s easy to lose focus, particularly when well-meaning colleagues or other people all have an opinion. I use this quote weekly to remind myself that CarePods has to function not only as an ideological ideal but as a viable business model before it can scale and move forward. This helps me clarify my focus and stay on track when I’m testing assumptions or new ideas.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Well, it is CarePods-specific, but I hope to partner with an existing national senior care provider with scale who can distribute our services throughout the United States. That would be incredibly meaningful, and life-changing for so many older adults and their families.

Following that? I’d love to work on business ecosystems in rural settings in some way. Finding ways to promote and enhance financial mobility in those communities.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

“The Four Disciplines of Execution” by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling is the most useful business book I’ve ever read. It should be required reading for any business leader. Although I do have a Master’s in Health Administration, I don’t have an MBA. I wasn’t necessarily interested in or comfortable with traditional corporate-speak but, I could lead and I had intensity and focus. This book gave me the framework I needed.

It helped me focus my talents and understand the mechanisms involved in leading people effectively and efficiently. In several instances throughout my career and at different companies, I’ve been able to apply the knowledge I gained with great results.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You can’t outwork the wrong idea. You can’t miss the right opportunity.”

I’ve been driven by a fear of failure most of my life. At times, that means I’ve worked myself to near exhaustion and isolation to avoid dealing with the unknown and to make sure I was performing at my “best.” I’ve learned over time and after many, many personal and professional failures to let what comes, come and what goes, go. That approach helps me press forward with CarePods even on the most difficult days. And, it’s helped me create a sense of balance and self-preservation I didn’t have before.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Thank you! I believe that’s what I work on every day at CarePods. Helping people age in the environment of their choosing while receiving the best possible care at a price they can afford. And, helping family caregivers lessen the emotional and financial burdens associated with caregiving so they can repair and strengthen familial bonds with their cherished elders before it’s too late!

How can our readers follow you online?

Instagram — @findyourpod

Facebook — www.facebook.com/findyourpod

LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/meetkatiedavis/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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