WIL Europe: Where did your motivation stem from to build your business in senior care? Do you believe that business has any sort of obligation to make the world a better place?
Catalina Hoffmann (CH): To work with the elderly is my passion. I started my business with the goal to improve the elderly’s quality of life, and I also want to demonstrate to society that improving the quality of senior citizen’s life is very much possible. I think it is crucial, that in some way every business has a minimal obligation to improve society or the world.
WIL: The Hoffmann Group is composed of three companies: Vitalia, Hoffmann Elderly and Hoffmann Healthcare Innovation. How do these branches complement each other?
CH: The core of my companies is the Hoffmann method. Basically, I am a scientist working in the health area, but the creation and success of the Hoffmann methodology gave me an incentive to start a business, to apply my method and make a difference in elderly care. I began by investigating the method and auditing my rehabilitation program. With the success of my techniques came the idea to have a share in the elderly caring system and I decided to found Vitalia day care centres. In the beginning, my business model struggled to get recognition: people in Spain were sceptic about placing relatives in day care centres and it took three years to gain recognition in the public. But once Vitalia was established, many hospitals and nursing homes began to show interest in the Hoffmann treatment methods. The overwhelming demand required a business expansion and I therefore founded Hoffmann Elderly, which allows me to implement the Hoffmann methodology all over the world (as for example Israel, Mexico and Brazil). While expanding and growing, I created Hoffmann Healthcare Innovation, to take up the new trends in e-learning and work with robots and computers to create new methods of treatment.
WIL: What were the incentives and occasions to expand your business in this impressive form? What factors, besides your great entrepreneurial spirit and expertise, contributed to your success?
CH: Besides the opportunity to build complimentary businesses from the Hoffmann Method, I think what lies at the base of my businesses success is the diversity of support and care needed by the elderly and their relatives. The innovation necessary to cover those needs is immense: every life transition asks for new solutions. Seeking and translating these solutions, is what boosted the expansion of my enterprise.
The Hoffmann Group also benefitted from a self-magnifying effect of its success through exportation. Taking small steps, rooting and establishing my company thoroughly in Spain before looking for other markets, has been key to my expansion strategy.
WIL: You mentioned that you created a specific scientific method for working with the elderly: The Hoffmann method, can you briefly elaborate the key components of this highly effective method?
CH: The Hoffmann methodology is a rehabilitation program for the elderly. We work in 4 areas: physical, cognitive, neuropsychological and social. The first step consists in assessing the healthiness of the patient’s brain areas. How good is the persons’ attention, concentration, calculus? The treatment then works to stimulate and reconnect the healthy or not severely damaged areas through physical, cognitive and neuropsychological therapies. Of course this therapy cannot reverse a severe illness but it helps to slow degeneration and improves the functioning of the brain. Besides ameliorating the brain functions, psychological supervision and the allocation of appropriate facilities accompany the treatment. Furthermore, prevention and early detection are an important aspect of the Hoffmann method. All in all, the method aims at prolonging capacities and independence of the elderly as long as possible.
WIL: You are also the founder of the Catalina Hoffmann Foundation. What are the foundation’s main activities?
CH: The foundation’s creation was very close to my heart. The foundation enables us to help elderly who are isolated and in financial difficulty. We try to cover their basic needs in housing and facilities, and give support and companionship for hospitalized people. The aim is to allow the elderly to stay independent through little services and adjustments, as well as to provide moral support. Another pillar of the foundation consists of collaborating with universities for research to invent new technologies and treatments for seniors.
WIL: According to your expertise and experience, what status is currently given to the senior citizens in European society? Are there aspects of elderly care in Europe that you feel need be addressed, or can be improved upon? How?
CH: Demography and the aging process are changing in great terms in our society. The dilemma is that modern medicine keeps people alive much longer, but sometimes in very bad health conditions, which leaves us with an immense demand for care and support. Therefore, it is crucial to train people and families in elderly care. On the other hand, the talent of retired people is not leveraged and we miss out on a lot of expertise and mentoring potential. I am honoured to be the chairman of an non-profit organization called SECOT- our seniors are mentors, who volunteer their expertise to young entrepreneurs all over Spain. We also have schools where retirees/seniors give entrepreneurial advice to young entrepreneurs and graduates. It´s incredible to see how they share their knowledge, and experience. It´s really fantastic. We need to prepare society for the coming shift in demography. Why do entrepreneurs and companies lack initiative to address these issues? We are not helpless vis-à-vis those developments, but we have to act now and create new services, technologies, reinforce hospitals and insurances, to cope with the expected changes. Investment in preventative care will really pay off in the end.
WIL: Catalina, you have three companies, a foundation, and you have recently published a book, Starting A Dream (Spanish: Emprender Soñando), you are regularly invited to speak on various media channels and at events to contribute your expertise on entrepreneurship, senior care, inspiration and innovation. I could go on about the other activities you pursue, but please share with us your secret to balancing it all!
CH: The secret is knowing that my work fulfils a purpose in life, and fulfils me. Truly, my agenda is very busy, but what I do makes me happy. Additionally to the commitments in my company, I often participate in television programs, giving advice about issues in elderly care as well as entrepreneurship in general. I want to demonstrate that aging does not exclude a good quality of life. Also, in regards to the crisis in Europe and especially in Spain, I want to encourage people to not lose hope, to fight for their dreams, because they can come true. Like everyone else, I also struggled sometimes, but if you like what you do and follow your goals, it will fulfil you.
WIL: Looking back on your remarkable career so far: What pieces of advice would you offer female entrepreneurs starting out today?
CH: If you want to be an entrepreneur listen to yourself! Don’t let other people discourage or frighten you. Maybe it will be difficult, maybe you will fail, but you have to try. Don’t be scared to try and regret it 20 years later, start now. In fact, we find ourselves at a critical juncture with the global financial crisis. The market is open for new innovations, craving for new ideas! Look for help and assistance to make your dream come true. One of the most important supports as a start-up entrepreneur is a mentor, a person to talk to, who listens, understands and guides, because she has made the same experiences.