“What do you have faith and vision for?” is a common question from David and Stephanie Maddox, the founders of Hi-5 ABA. It is the question that built their success as the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Franchising company. Their story is unique and has helped hundreds of special needs children in the US and around the world.
It starts with David, as the eldest of eight children, being told since childhood, “impact the world,” by a mother who was one of the first women to graduate from law school in the US and the first woman on Capitol Hill to run a Senator’s office, and a father who was an Attorney in Virginia. Changing the world was dinner table conversation. David went on to build real estate businesses in the US, own investments and plant churches in Africa. Yet he still wanted more. The vision to impact the world was growing but the “how?” wasn’t fully revealed until he met Stephanie.
Stephanie is a woman of faith. Her Dad was a military vet and businessman, turned pastor. Her mother was a homemaker. Stephanie is the eldest of four and always cared for children. And when she began working with special needs children her heart knew it found its purpose. She quickly began seeking higher education and became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Children who had been silent for a decade, began to speak, read, and even go to restaurants and order food. Children who had tantrums because they couldn’t communicate not only began to speak, they said the words every parent longs for, “I love you.” Stephanie was talented and gifted, and she had the faith to develop those skillsets. And she had faith in these children that so many overlook. Her faith did move mountains for many families.
David often heard these stories of success while traveling for long periods of time to Ghana. They became the highlights of his day. Together, they would put the pieces together for each child’s riddle. Then the question was asked, “What do you have faith and vision for?” Instead of working for the school system, Stephanie decided to launch an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) company called ABC Behavior that would help families who had children with autism or related developmental disabilities, and David would assist where she asked. The vision grew from just taking care of the kids in the schools to serving the child and their families in their home. Many referrals came from the transformations the families saw.
The vision and faith were about to be stretched. The only way to take care of more families was to hire technicians to be her hands and feet. Stephanie had to train Behavior Technicians on ABA, so they could work with the children and families. There is a very great struggle to trust someone else to visit families’ home and perform treatment plans you develop. It takes faith to believe in these employees. And the Technicians need to have the faith and vision for each of these children too. The Technician needs to believe in the capacities of the child even if it isn’t evident yet. And it worked. The results were being multiplied.
While growing the business and helping local families, David and Stephanie saw a need in the industry. These Behavior Analysts need to be equipped and supported to build their own businesses so more children may be taken care of. Big businesses were trying to dictate the number of clients the BCBAs had to see and oftentimes it exceeded the ethics or quality of care that the BCBA believed in. On the other hand, many BCBAs didn’t have the business background or support to make their business be profitable. David and Stephanie saw the need in the industry to help BCBAs build their own practices so that the BCBAs may serve the children in their community with a quality of care that they choose. It was entrepreneurial. It was bold. But the best way to serve more children was to provide more business opportunities for BCBAs.
They franchised. They rebranded as Hi-5 ABA. Then they helped other BCBAs build independently owned and operated in-home ABA practices and provided the back-office supports like billing, personnel recruiting, marketing, financial assistance, and contracting. They had traveled down this road for themselves. Now they were helping other BCBAs do the same thing. As a result, hundreds of children in various areas of the state and nation were served. David and Stephanie became “The ABA Franchising Company.”
It takes faith and vision to build a company. But, I believe, the greatest treasure in their legacy isn’t the business. It is the faith and vision to work as a family to help other families grow. David and Stephanie blended their families together totaling 16 children between them—many of whom work at Hi-5 ABA. Two daughters are BCBAs, one serving in Virginia, and the other is serving in China at special needs orphanages. They have a daughter that is a Behavior Technician, another daughter who directs the Billing Department. And they have a son who sells the franchises. A family unit that aligns in faith and vision to serve others will change the world.