Why Start a Senior Care Franchise?

by Carl McManus, Chief Executive Officer

Starting a business, any business, is a complex and intimidating process. If you’re thinking about an in-home care franchise, the best way to make a wise decision and improve your odds of success is to arm yourself with information. We’ve prepared this resource to do just that—to help you understand that there are answers to your questions and that you’re not alone.

Even after reading the explanation of our industry on our homepage, it is likely that you will still have questions.  Just give us a call (800-498-8144), we are more than happy to help you find the answers you need. A number of publications, including ForbesUSA Today, and Fox Business News have published articles about the potential of the senior in-home care industry and the benefits of starting an in-home care franchise. But while we share much of their optimism for the industry, we think that the picture they offer could benefit from a little nuance.

It is true that individuals born in the baby boom began turning 65 in 2011 and that the over-65 population in the U.S. is expected to grow from around 35 million in 2000 to over 72 million by 2030. It is also true that an AARP survey in 2010 found, unsurprisingly, that the vast majority of seniors prefer to remain in their homes for as long as possible. In many cases, in-home care is also a more affordable option than a nursing home or assisted living facility. And because affordability is an issue for both families and health care providers, in-home care often emerges as the preferred option in situations in which living assistance is needed.

So why shouldn’t everyone run out and start an in-home care business? Like any other business pursuit, there is nothing automatic about success in home care.  Our successful franchisees are smart and hard-working, but they also make intelligent use of the resources that Comfort Keepers provides.  If you’re thinking of getting into the business of caregiving, there are a few considerations that you should try to weigh objectively:

Marketing – Even in cases in which an entrepreneur is lucky enough to be offering a product or service for which demand exists, there is still the question of how potential customers find you. The field of marketing has become more complex and scientific over the last couple of decades for a reason. Businesses relying on signage and ads in the Yellow Pages have been realizing diminishing returns on their marketing expenditures for several years now.  For a new business to succeed, it is usually necessary to take advantage of modern web and data technologies – not just to help increase outreach and awareness, but to give owners the kind of business intelligence that they need to understand what is working and where marketing dollars are best spent. So before signing on with a home care franchisor, you should spend a little time researching to make sure that the system they are offering effectively leverages digital media and data analysis tools.

Reputation – Imagine that you are planning to leave a parent or loved one in the care of a complete stranger for hours or days on end. How much would the reputation of the organization providing that care factor into your decision of whom to hire? For most clients, the answer is a great deal. This is one reason why the franchise model works for in-home care.  It is sometimes difficult for a new business to develop a reputation as a trustworthy resource. Opening a franchise allows a new business owner to essentially inherit the reputation that the franchisor has developed, so it is important to work with an organization that has established a degree of consumer confidence.

Branding – Brand recognition is tied closely to trust or consumer confidence, but it is also sufficiently important to justify its own discussion. Some franchise models generate revenue by enticing franchisees to sign up, but once the contract is signed, they have little incentive to help franchisees generate business – creating what we might call an imbalanced incentive structure. Needless to say, this isn’t ideal.  Franchisees are rarely in a position to run national advertising campaigns or market analyses. They rely on the franchisor to reinvest in their success by developing the macro-strategy as they pull the weight on the micro. Aspiring franchisees should take the time to understand what their potential franchisor is doing to help create brand awareness and generate interest through advertising, branding, and outreach. And because search engines have become such an important driver of new business, it is a good idea to make sure that the website that the franchisor is providing allows franchisees to easily customize and localize the brand for their market and community.

Administration – The process of starting and running a business is as much an administrative task as it is an exercise in entrepreneurship. If a new business owner isn’t prepared, the process of working through the paperwork required to start a business and setting up systems to handle applications, scheduling, billing, accounting, banking, and contracts can be daunting. This is another area where a proven system provided by the franchisor can save a considerable amount of confusion and anguish.

Commitment – Owning a business is rewarding, especially a business that allows you to improve the lives of others, but aspiring business owners should be careful not to overlook the commitment involved.  A home care franchise is a demanding enterprise and a true commitment to what you are pursuing is crucial to your success.

Staffing – One of the most difficult parts of starting a business is finding reliable employees. Caregiving is a rewarding career, but the pay is typically fairly modest, so finding the right people requires both intuition and strong options in terms of job-seekers. It is therefore important to consider whether a franchisor can offer support and training in selecting employees and help to procure employee leads so you have plenty of options from which to choose.  Because the internet has become such an important tool in generating awareness around job openings and attracting candidates, it is worthwhile to spend a few moments learning a potential franchisor’s employee recruitment system and to evaluate how effectively you can expect to reach the people that may be interested in your company as an employer.

Getting Started in Home Care

Franchising represents a great opportunity to take advantage of an established market presence and adopt proven systems, but there is still nothing easy about choosing a franchisor or getting a new business off of the ground.  If you’re thinking of giving it a go, be sure you walk into it with a clear understanding of what is involved.

So what’s next?  Well, if you’re considering an in-home care franchise, we recommend you check out our description of the process of starting a franchise to try to get a better handle on the steps ahead. On a more personal note, we’d also like to thank you for stopping by and close with a couple of remarks about our industry.

Comfort Keepers is fortunate, as an organization, to be operating in a growing industry that is free from the kinds of conflicts that exist in many other kinds of businesses. In many industries, making a positive difference in society and earning a profit seem to be at odds with one another. One of the main draws for our franchisees is that they do not have to make that choice. They can work at something that they’re proud of and make a difference in the lives of people that need them.

We’re both excited and proud to be able to help make this happen, and if you’re thinking of an in-home care franchise, we would love an opportunity to talk with you.  Because, when it comes down to it, even though we’ve been successful at developing systems and generating demand, we cannot continue to grow without an influx of new, smart, energetic franchisees.