A Team of Experts Giving New Hope to Those with Mental Health Challenges and Disabilities
July 21, 2023
By Bona Van Dis, originally published in SBAM’s May/June 2023 issue of Focus magazine
Carrissa Rondeau, founder and CEO of Functional Behavior Services (FBS) is a Board Certified and Licensed Behavior Analyst (BCBA/LBA) as well as a Masters Level Clinical Social Worker (LMSW). She began FBS out of a home office, later upgrading to a shared space and eventually purchasing the building that now houses FBS. She and her husband spent months and months renovating the previous daycare/preschool on nights and weekends, which she says was a “very long road.” Today, FBS employs 17 professionals including Board Certified and Licensed Behavior Analysts, Licensed Master Level Therapists, Behavior Technicians and support staff.
FBS provides outpatient mental health therapy in their Marquette office and offers Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services to individuals all over the Upper Peninsula. From the beginning of her career, Rondeau “developed a passion for helping individuals decrease undesired behaviors and increase their ability to lead productive and meaningful lives.”
Rondeau also “actively advocates for increased funding to support individuals with behavioral challenges whom do not present with the diagnoses to quality for insurance or coverage for ABA services.” Through her dedication and efforts, she hopes it will “lead to increased inclusion and a better quality of life” for those with behavior and mental health challenges and disabilities.
We asked Rondeau about her journey to small business ownership, how she takes care of her own team and what she does to make her staff feel like an integral part of the organization’s development:
Focus: Tell us how you knew you wanted to start your own business.
Rondeau: I never really planned to own a business—it was never a goal or dream, but it was something that evolved over time and fell into place. We had so many setbacks and roadblocks along the way, and we learned a lot from others in the field, from podcasts and networking. In our area, there was a definite need for the type of services we offer. And the drive to develop, open and continue to build FBS came from the need of our community members and those that are participating in the services.
Focus: Functional Behavior Services was established in 2015. In that time, how have you evolved as a business owner?
Rondeau: I’ve evolved 100 percent. I don’t have a business background, although I always had an interest in business. I’m a clinician by education/trade, and a business owner by default. I’ve learned a lot, leaned into many individuals, business and supports and have spent a lot of time researching and navigating my profession.
I let the individuals who specialize in education support and assist me, and I’m always looking for other small businesses to partner with (financial planners, CPAs, contractors for building needs, etc). Now that I have walked this path, I feel well-positioned to help others who are in my old shoes.
Focus: How do you encourage employee health and wellness and create a sense of community within your work place?
Rondeau: This has been the most fun part about growing business—it brings me so much joy and excitement! We stock the staff breakroom with snacks and small meals to eat in between sessions. And I try to bring in a crock pot meal, fresh eggs, bread, etc. from time to time.
We also do our best to schedule monthly team building activities. Gradually, since being at our new location, we’ve built in more opportunities to get outside. We have a fenced-in park for our therapy clients, but also try to create areas for staff breaks.
We honor employee’s birthdays, work anniversaries and even events when they take time off, like giving them a card to recognize they’re going on a well-deserved vacation and wishing them a good trip. We always encourage employees to maintain a work/life balance by flexing their work schedules and pursuing outside opportunities that bring them joy and promote their own interests.
Focus: How has offering opportunities for your employees to develop skills and advance in their careers helped with retention?
Rondeau: Encouraging growth and development has been excellent for retention. As FBS grew, so did my responsibilities, which naturally provided opportunities to promote staff and offer supervisory positions. With change comes anxiety, learning curves and challenges to navigate, but now that we’re on the other side of it, it’s wonderful! The staff can excel in their own areas of interest/expertise and develop additional processes and ways to navigate our growth as a team. And staff that began as paraprofessionals have grown to work as clinicians—this greatly reduces onboarding/training costs and helps cultivate the staff in a way that best supports our clientele.
Focus: What do you do to make your team feel like they have “an integral role in the development of this organization?”
Rondeau: We provide continual verbal reminders during individual and team meetings, and we directly ask for opinions, ideas and feedback as we navigate our day-to-day operations. We try hard to work around our teams’ schedules as we plan events for the office, as well as invite them to all events that occur with FBS. We also give staff the chance to represent FBS at community events.
Focus: In what ways has SBAM’s work benefitted your business?
Rondeau: Oh my…where to start? SBAM has been a great resource, ever since my first SBAM briefing (Small Business Briefing) until now, which is three years later. From their website and chat feature with direct/immediate support to the Owner2Owner meetings, connections and opportunities, I believe SBAM has promoted FBS and shared my story in the hope that it will help other owners. SBAM understands business ownership and validates that it’s hard work, but doable with the support of the small business community.
Focus: Please offer your fellow SBAM members a few entrepreneurial words of wisdom.
Rondeau: We all know there’ll be hard days, but it’s what we do with those hard days and how we navigate through them that sets us apart from others. As small business owners, we’re really jack-of-all trades and expected to know everything at a moment’s notice. I’ve learned it’s okay to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find the answer and get back to you.”
Lean on your connections/resources and ask questions. Take a deep breath when needed—set time aside for self-care. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of your employees and your business.
And celebrate your successes—it’s imperative to enjoy and be in the moment when things are going strong, but know that you can’t move forward without challenges. And those challenges create a foundation that helps you travel through it all.
For more information, visit the Functional Behavior Services website www.fbsmi.com or call 906-273-1121.