Life Lessons: Ken Sim

Prepare for emotional roller-coaster as your company matures

Ken Sim, Nurse Next Door co-founder

Ken Sim and John DeHart founded home care service Nurse Next Door in 2001. Thirteen years later, the company has 90 franchises across Canada and the United States employing over 5,000 people.

In the early days, Sim and DeHart shared the CEO position. But five years ago Sim left that role, and DeHart took over as CEO. Even though Sim wanted to step away from the leadership role to focus on other projects, it was a wrenching experience. A mentor warned him that, for a while, he would feel like he had lost his identity – and that's just what happened.

“You don't get your identity from your title or from your financial net worth,” Sim said. “You get your identity from how people interact with you.”

Sim thought that advice would prepare him, but the change hit him harder than he expected.

“It was a depressing time,” Sim said. “I had an empty feeling for about six months.”

Advice from another mentor, Lululemon (Nasdaq:LULU) founder Chip Wilson, was helpful.

Wilson compared founding a company to having a child. In the beginning, Wilson told Sim, you're in love with your baby, even though things are chaotic. As the child grows, you continue to be amazed by its developing personality and abilities.

But as the child becomes a teenager and then a young adult, the relationship between parent and child goes through a rocky phase as the child matures and asserts an individual identity.

“I said, ‘Wow, that's really insightful; how did you think about this?' And he said, ‘I've done it before; I've lived it,'” Sim said.

“When you go through this situation as an entrepreneur, just realize it's par for the course and it's going to happen.”

Sim is still involved with Nurse Next Door, but he's also launched a new venture with Parise Siegel, owner of Siegel's Bagels: a chain of bagel shops called Rosemary Rocksalt.