Originally from the Philippines, Merj Chu spent the early portion of her life focused on achieving academic excellence and developing her leadership skills through extracurricular activities. Later, as she grew older, she worked as a clinical instructor, teaching students how to provide proper care for patients. Upon moving to the United States to pursue her post-secondary education, Merj took on a role as a caregiver in order to make extra income. She eventually graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science degree in Respiratory Therapy.
Currently, Merj Chu is the owner of Angel Connection Nursing Services, a home care company located in Long Beach, California. Angel Connection Nursing Services specializes in offering personal care services, including in-home companionship and care, respite care, and transitional care. The company’s wide range of services applies to many situations; everything from after-surgery care for all ages to hospice services for the elderly. The ultimate goal of Angel Connection Nursing Services is to provide top-tier patient care with dignity and professionalism.
What is your typical day, and how do you make it productive?
I watch Mass on television every morning for 30 minutes, and that’s sort of the equivalent of yoga for me at the start of the day. After that, I drink a cup of coffee and look over the text messages and emails I’ve received. Then I put together my list of priorities for the day and proceed from there.
How do you bring ideas to life?
It’s easy to come up with ideas, but it’s difficult to bring them to life. When I do have a new idea, I like to bounce it off people close to me, such as my husband and my friends, and then I work on assembling a good team to develop and execute the idea. With regards to Angel Connection Nursing Services, one of the first things I did was hire someone with an accounting background to be our bookkeeper because I don’t have that sort of background or training. So, to summarize, I talk about the idea with people whose opinion I value, hire people with different strengths to be on the team, and then I get feedback to find out if things are working or if there’s something that we need to change.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I like seeing people recognize the importance of caregivers and care providers. Right now, they make less money than nurses and certified nursing assistants, but with the senior population growing, I think that people will realize the importance of caregivers and care providers even more. I think that in the future, it will be a much higher-paid profession.
What is one habit that helps you be productive?
I’m always looking at my daily checklist in order to make sure all my important daily tasks are being addressed. Since I handle so many different clients and staff members across multiple departments, there are times when I can feel like I’m not being productive. But when I look at my daily checklist, I can see all the items I’ve already crossed off and gotten done throughout the day.
What advice would you give your younger self?
It’s not really advice, but I would commend my younger self. I would pat myself on the back and tell myself I’ve done a good job in my career and my personal life. We survived and we did great!
Tell us something you believe almost nobody agrees with you on?
It’s about the principle of being a minority. When I first started out in the United States, I was 20 years old and from the Philippines, so there were a lot of people telling me that my aspirations were impossible. However, I believe that if you work hard and have the drive, you can do whatever you set out to do. Because I had clear ambitions and a really high drive—and because I used the people saying my dreams were impossible as fuel to push me to achieve new heights—I was able to succeed.
What is the one thing you repeatedly do and recommend everyone else do?
Actively listen to whoever you’re talking to—whether it’s a client, a spouse, a friend, or anyone at all— because it builds respect. The more you listen to someone when they speak, the more you’ll be able to understand their situation and provide advice. You can also learn a lot this way, simply by listening effectively to the stories people tell you about their lives.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?
When I feel overwhelmed or unfocused, the first thing I do is practice mindfulness. For me, that means washing the dishes so I can listen to the calming sounds of water running and gather the soap and utensils. I also read and pray, but sometimes praying will make me stressed—when I pray, I tend to focus on my problem. When that happens, I clean for 15 minutes just to shift my mind onto something else, then I come back ready to face the issue.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business or advance in your career?
I was very hands-on during Angel Connection Nursing Services’ first few years. I made sure that we were getting feedback from clients and caregivers, and I worked hard on using that feedback to constantly improve. Once we started growing in earnest, I made sure to hire the right team and I made it my business to know what the competition was up to. Actually, I still do that.
What is one failure in your career, how did you overcome it, and what lessons did you take away from it?
I’ve had some major and minor failures over the course of my career, but I always view them as an opportunity to grow. When they do occur, I analyze where the mistake was made, I figure out what I can do better next time, then I get back to business and continue to grind.
What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Anything in the home health industry is going to do well in the future because the senior population is growing at an incredible rate. Globally, there are going to be 1.2 billion new senior citizens within the next ten years, so there will be lots of space for businesses oriented around services for seniors.
What is one piece of software that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
There’s an app I use all the time that saves all my documents and files. I don’t even use my desktop anymore; I just open this particular app and everything is right there.
Do you have a favorite book or podcast you’ve gotten a ton of value from and why?
I love Impact Theory with Tom Bilyeu because he discusses really interesting topics, such as a person’s purpose in life or how to deal with being unmotivated. The podcast lasts for about an hour and a half, but it’s well worth the time because it’s so fascinating.
What’s a movie or series you recently enjoyed and why?
About three years ago, I watched ‘The Queen’s Gambit.’ It’s about a girl who’s an orphan and becomes a champion at chess. I enjoyed watching her grow and seeing her focus not just on chess, but on all aspects of her life. That character had a lot of grit and determination and intelligence.
- When starting a large project such as creating a business, always assemble a team of people with strengths that are different from your own.
- Being an active listener is beneficial in all aspects of life, not just in business.
- Learn from your failures. They are the best opportunities to reevaluate your approach and grow, both as a business owner and as a person.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.