Mark Baiada, right, with his son, David Baiada
When Mark Baiada went to sleep on December 30, 2018, he was owner, president and CEO of BAYADA Home Health Care Inc. When he awoke the next morning, the company that he established in 1975 with $16,000 and grew to reach people in 23 states and six countries, was no longer his business. “What did I just do?” the 71-year-old Moorestown, NJ resident recalled thinking. Yet it wasn’t a bad dream; but rather, a calculated fulfillment of a vision to create a legacy that would continue to help those in need long after his lifetime. When the clock struck 12:01 a.m. on December 31st, the company had literally transferred as a gift from its founder to a new non-profit, 501©3 entity bearing the same name.
Baiada now serves as chairman of a seven-member board. “I’m a one-dollar-a-year volunteer chairman,” explained Baiada of his new role. But the change hasn’t meant doing less, merely tackling a different set of important tasks. He still arrives in his Moorestown office at 8:30 a.m. and stays until 5 p.m. Much of his time in recent weeks has been spent developing the board to establish a stable, professional governance that will endure for future generations. He also oversees Bayada’s International Division, a service area he is trying to expand upon. “I always want to do more to help people,” said Baiada. In fact, making a difference in people’s lives has been a passion and driving force since childhood.
As a young boy, Mark Baiada moved around the country a lot as his dad was a naval officer. The family ultimately settled in in Delanco, New Jersey when he was in 4th-grade. “I always knew I wanted to do something big,” reflected Baiada, who isn’t at all surprised that the company grew to become so successful. Thinking big has always been his mode of operation.
Long ago, he considered becoming a priest as a way to help people. He quickly discovered that wasn’t his calling. Not only was he interested in girls, but he also describes himself as a family man—through and through. Today, he cherishes the time he spends with his family: wife, Ann, five children, and 11 grandchildren. Having a house at the Jersey shore, in Avalon, has been a win-win for quality family time.
Prior to launching the company at age 27—with its first office on Ferry Avenue in Camden—Baiada conducted extensive research and saved money for five years. He knew he wanted to invest in a business that would help people and recognized the growing need for home health care. He felt that people deserved to have a safe home life—with comfort, independence and dignity. The company began with that precise mission, one that Baiada has never lost sight of over the decades. He chose the name BAYADA rather than Baiada because the spelling and pronunciation were easier.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers (The State University of New Jersey)-New Brunswick and an MBA from Rutgers-Newark. For this Jersey man, BAYADA Home Health Care Inc. was always about building a team of committed and like-minded employees while carving a niche to provide comprehensive services 24/7 (nursing; rehabilitation, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology; home health aide, habilitation, companion care, hospice…) to a broad-based population, pediatrics through elderly. “We grew slowly, but steadily,” said Baiada. “About 10 to 15 percent a year. We’re the tortoise, not the hare.”
“I didn’t pick areas, I picked people who wanted to align with me and serve others,” he continued. “So, Tom moved to North Carolina, Linda moved to North Jersey.” From there, offices were established. Today, BAYADA has 28,000 employees and 360 service offices. In 2018, the company served 151,000 clients.
So why, one might ask, would Baiada want to let go of such a successful business and turn it into a non-profit? “I did it to give BAYADA the best chance of being here in 100 years and staying true to the BAYADA Way and our mission and values.” If it was privately or publicly owned, he explains that the owners might only be interested in money and the future would be unpredictable. His long-range plan is for BAYADA to continue to be a resource in the community. “I hope they never do; but when people need help, I hope we’re there for them,” he said.
The BAYADA Way is about compassion, excellence and reliability. These are the values the company was founded on and ones that employees continue to embody, no matter what their individual roles. And every Thursday morning from 8:30 to 8:45 a.m., Baiada says these values are reinforced at all office locations during motivational staff meetings, incorporating mental exercises and discussions about key actions.
Baiada is quick to point out that the BAYADA Way values are shared by his entire family. So it may come as no surprise that BAYADA has always been and continues to be a family endeavor. In fact, the family shared in the decision-making process that ultimately led to the current non-profit status. “We share the same spirit,” said Baiada of his family. His children were all raised with the motto: “Think big, work hard and show love.” Some, he says, even have these words on the walls inside their homes.
A son, David Baiada, 42, is now president and CEO of BAYADA, a position he assumed when the business transitioned to its current status and one that gives him a sense of “honor, responsibility and stewardship.” Ann Baiada, a nurse, founded the division BAYADAbility Rehab Solutions, for clients with catastrophic spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries; daughter Kelli Marans, an attorney, is BAYADA’s chief compliance officer; daughter Janice Lovequist is manager of culture and values. Another daughter, Jaclyn Kirchhoff, a nurse, worked for the company in the past, but is now home raising her children and daughter Christin Gregory, who has a doctorate in Social Work specializing in hospice care, is also home with young children.
Baiada shared his thoughts on another unprecedented action that made headlines in late November—giving away $20 million of company assets to employees and former employees. The monetary figure, Baiada explains, was actually a bit higher when adding in the taxes he had to pay to make the transition. “I was about to give the company away and I really wanted to say thank you to all the people who helped to build this up,” he said. “It was divided up based upon earnings.” So even though a home health aide makes a lower hourly rate than a therapist, if they had been with BAYADA for a long period of time, their gift would reflect that tenure.
Baiada’s office credenza is teeming with thank you cards. He also received countless e-mails. The gratitude stretched beyond an appreciation of the monetary gift. “People felt honored and valued for the work that they do,” he said. “It was heartwarming.” Admittedly, Baiada doesn’t like to draw attention to his deeds. He much prefers to keep a low profile and continue on his mission to fill unmet needs. In fact, going that extra mile to ensure people are satisfied with services is always on his mind. If there’s a glitch or something that hadn’t gone exactly as planned, Baiada tries to make things right as quickly as possible. He is also one to roll up his sleeves and fix things around the office, whether that be changing a light bulb, carrying boxes up and down the steps or fixing a toilet flapper. “I don’t want to pay a plumber when I can do it myself,” said Baiada.
At the end of the day, Baiada is happy if he’s helped people, but his thoughts are continually occupied with what has yet to be accomplished. “I’m worried about the ones who are not being helped,” he said.
Mark Baiada not only founded BAYADA Home Health Care Inc. and nurtured the company for over four decades, he also created a mission and an aspirational vision, which includes becoming the world’s most compassionate and trusted team of home health care professionals. “We want to do excellent work for the families we serve,” said Baiada. “We want to serve millions of people worldwide and leave a lasting legacy.”