• Blossom

The Biggest Change - A Conversation with Al Gauvin



In case you haven't noticed, CCOR | Companion Care of Rochester has undergone a major change. We have rebranded and are now Blossom: Modern Home Care Solution of Western New York. In light of this recent change, we sat down with founder Al Gauvin for a candid conversation.


Here’s what was said:


 

Blossom: Thanks for stopping by today, Al. So, the company has undergone a major change, brand-wise...

Al Gauvin: It’s the biggest change, period! Since the inception of the company!


Blossom: Definitely. The biggest change since the inception of the company. We agree. So, how do you feel about saying goodbye to the name “Companion Care of Rochester?”

AG: I would be lying if I said I didn’t have mixed emotions about losing the heritage, the name, the brand. But I’m also bright enough to understand that “Companion Care of Rochester” worked for a number of years, but over the course of the last 5-10 years, we’ve added so many more services for people, we’ve gone to so many more locations outside of Rochester that it probably lost its allure somewhere along the way. But that being said, it’s like sending your first kid off to kindergarten.

Blossom: How do you feel about the change, the rebrand we just went through?

AG: It’s all progression. It’s like everything else in the world. People grow up. People change. People move on. Certainly, the ideas of a seventy-year-old are far different than what is in today’s marketplace. The market that we currently reside in is drastically different than what it was in 1997 and even in the early 2000s.


Blossom: How would you say the market is different now than it was then?

AG: Well, first of all, we’re now taking care of children. We’re taking care of the homeless. We’re taking care of a lot more mental illness than we did historically. The way that the state treats people in general, in terms of the services, has changed. Luckily, we’ve been able to anticipate most of those changes, and we’ve changed with them. The reality is that although there is sense of pride and ownership in the company, I also recognize that there are close to 1000 people depending on the company succeeding for their livelihood and their wellbeing. It’s not about Al Gauvin and what he wants. Or even the Gauvin family. There has been a change now in leadership, just recently, which is the first time in a long time that somebody else has run the operations rather than a Gauvin.

Blossom: Yes, Marie Candelora was recently promoted to the Chief Operating Officer.

AG: I’ve known Marie a number of years. I hired her! She’s been here a long time, and she reported to me, and obviously it’s in all of our best interest that she succeed. And Chris is more of visionary than he is an operator. So, he’s in a role that suits him, his personality. And if it suits him, then it probably suits the best interest of the company.


Blossom: What are your thoughts about the name Blossom?


AG: I have two opinions, and I have them jointly. One of which is from a memory of a failed business here in Rochester that took advantage of a lot of people. It’s been gone ten years, but I’m old, so I remember these things. That was the thought that struck me when I first heard it. I certainly expressed that to my son, and he went through the thought process of “Why Blossom?” Certainly, Blossom’s been near and dear to us. We’ve had three offices on Blossom Road. We had a small one, then we expanded, then we expanded that. There’s a long history of Blossom, so it is historically correct. And certainly, the new “blossoming” of the company, a new image, a new era. That certainly is true, too. So it’s mixed emotions. Of course, like with most things I have mixed emotions.


Blossom: So, when you first heard the name “Blossom,” you remembered that previous business?

AG: Absolutely.


Blossom: That’s probably true for other people, too.

AG: Correct. The old people! [laughs]


Blossom: People with a long memory. What would you say to them, if you could speak to them directly?

AG: I would say just that, that sometimes having a long memory is not fortuitous. You sometimes need to put the past in the past and move on. And it gives us an opportunity to rebrand Blossom for even those people who have that long memory, that hopefully they’ll say, “That was in past, but this new Blossom is quality, it’s caring, it’s serving people. It’s not about making a buck.” That was the old Blossom, and they paid for it.


Blossom: What would you want people to know about this change, not just the name Blossom but the rebrand in general?


AG: They need to embrace it. It’s part of reality. The baby boomers are now our clients. There’s a new sheriff in town, if you will. And it needs to be new, it needs to address them. It needs to not live on its glorious past. And we’ve had a glorious past, we really have. But, so what? That’s in the history books. It really doesn’t matter. Tomorrow morning, when your mom is sick and you need help, you could really care less what the company has done. You’d like it if they have a track history, but it really doesn’t mean anything until they take care of your mom.


We have to earn our name, whether it’s Companion Care or Blossom or whatever. You have to earn your name every day. Over and over and over again. That’s the one hard part about dealing with consumers. Everyone’s a new consumer, and it’s their family and their precious commodity. It’s no longer somebody else’s. I have lots of sayings, but one of them is, it’s like the difference between major and minor surgery. It’s minor surgery if it’s someone else’s—it’s major surgery if it’s yours! And that is the case in terms of service, you know? If you give good service to someone else, that’s great, but it really depends on whether you give great service to me, the way I judge you.

Blossom: What is the balance, then, in your opinion between branding and brand equity? [Branding is the look and feel of our brand, how it is shaped, designed, and perceived, while brand equity is the value and quality of the services we offer.]


AG: I will give you a classic example from my past. When I was younger, I worked for a company called Heublein, and we marketed a product called Grey Poupon Mustard. And we were charging considerably more than any other mustard on the shelf. And French’s, which is also a Rochester company, came out with a Dijon mustard and priced it 15¢ lower than Grey Poupon. And I remember the marketing person said, “We’re going to take a price increase, making their product 30¢ less a jar on the shelf. And the reason we’re doing that is because nothing can compare to Grey Poupon. Everything else is just a cheap knockoff.” And because of that they did that commercial with the Rolls Royce.


Blossom: Yes, that was a memorable commercial!


AG: That in my mind is the sum and substance of brand equity. You either have it or you don’t. You can’t invent brand equity. You have to build it over time, and it has to prove itself over and over and over again. The reality is “Grey Poupon” had a great name and a nice allure and all that good stuff, but every time you put it on a sandwich, it delivered. And that’s what branding is all about. You can say everything you want, but at the end of the day, it’s still got to deliver. And that’s where marketing and operations have to go hand in hand.


Blossom: If you still had the reins on the company, how would the change have gone?

AG: That’s a difficult question to answer. I don’t know how it went. The first time I was presented with the name was after months and possibly years of development. I’d be speculating, to say the least. I can tell you there have been some changes, since I wasn’t running the business, that I have said, “No way” to, but there are others that I said, “Okay, great.” I do know it was time for a change. Would Blossom have been my first choice? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean I would have dismissed it either. You know, as I said to Chris, I still am the majority stockholder in this company, so I could have said, “No way” to it as well, but I didn’t. Because, hopefully, it was well thought out and well-designed. I like the logo. I think the logo is great. It’s new. It’s bright. It says a lot. And I like the tag line.

Blossom: What is your role in all of this? You mentioned you’re the primary stockholder.


AG: I’m the guy that can say no. But I didn’t. Because when I retired, I basically told Chris, “It’s in your hands. This is your company. I have enough confidence in you that you can run this company and do a good job.” I think this is my eighth time in this office in three and half years. That’s not to say I don’t talk to Chris on an ongoing basis, but it’s his company, and he’s done well. His leadership has done well, especially during this last 18 months of COVID. Now, can I say no? I rarely do. It’s his company, and he’s earned the right to make decisions.

Blossom: So, if you had to give a report card on this change, what would be your assessment?

AG: I think he has done extremely well. I think it has been handled well. But again, I’m kind of on the sidelines.


Blossom: You may be on the sidelines, but a lot of people still want to know your opinion.

AG: You know, someday, the company is going to change anyways. It’s no longer my baby. I didn’t start this company to make a name for Al Gauvin. It doesn’t matter to me as much what’s on the letterhead as it does what happens in each and every person’s home. That matters more to me. At the end of the day, that is what it’s all about.

Blossom: One more question: How do you feel about how we’re doing? Not just the name change, but the company in general?

AG: I could not be prouder. This company is my fourth child, and you guys have done a great job of growing it. And we’re serving so many different kinds of people now. Do we have challenges? Absolutely. Every day. It’s a people business and because of that you’re gonna have problems because people aren’t predictable. Many times Chris came to me and said, “Dad, why didn’t you get into building desks or something like that instead of taking care of people?” In some ways building desks is a lot easier! I’m super-pleased, and the results have been good. But that doesn’t mean a pile of beans. It’s what you do tomorrow that really matters.


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