Franchising vs. Going Solo
The homecare industry is booming. Why, you may ask? Two key factors include our desire to remain in the comfort of our own homes as we age, and the aging of the population.
While the number of people age 65 and older has increased dramatically, life expectancy has doubled in the last century. It is projected that this age group will continue this upward growth curve faster than any other age bracket.
This rapid growth has given rise to the need for experienced and compassionate home care services for the elderly. In recent years, many people have become involved as business owners in the homecare industry. Some have chosen to start their own independent businesses, while others have chosen to partner with an experienced franchisor.
Who is the Ideal Homecare Business Owner?
First, an interested party needs to decide whether this business is right for them. Our experience in this business has taught us to look for particular skill sets in potential homecare business owners. A candidate must possess entrepreneurial spirit and a willingness to take a risk.
Frequently, we validate people that want to over-analyze to avoid decisions or commitment. We provide a structured process to help people explore every aspect of our business.
Homecare business owners need to be compassionate, with a strong desire to provide valuable care services to their respective communities. We feel this is vastly more important than the desire to make money.
In addition to compassion, business experience is also important. Risk is inherent in any business venture, and true entrepreneurs seem to have an innate sense of well calculated versus poorly calculated risks. Because of this, we look for people who are entrepreneurs, with sales and marketing backgrounds.
Any medical experience is also a plus, but not mandatory. Finally, the qualified candidate should reside in an area that meets certain demographic criteria, which help ensure that the business can profit.
Joining a Franchise Organization
Partnering with an experienced franchisor in the homecare business can offer many benefits over starting an independent business.
Most important, it allows a business owner to tap into a proven system. Franchisors offer structure to enable business owners to succeed quickly, through training, ongoing support, sharing of manuals and information and industry alliances.
For example, instead of looking for liability and worker’s compensation insurance on your own, a franchisor will provide preferred vendors with whom discounts have been negotiated.
In states where a home care or home health license is required, a reputable franchisor should provide significant assistance with the application and licensure process, down to writing agency policies and procedures.
On the flip side, independent business owner will have to do his/her own research into regulations to assure compliance and avoid fines and other penalties.
A new franchisee becomes a member of a family, with whom it shares opinions, experiences, pitfalls and best practices. Franchisors coordinate and hold regional and national meetings as well as frequent conference calls, in order to disseminate information.
Franchisors also offer marketing and management expertise, operational support including the development of forms, branding and public relations.
Experienced franchisors actively help the franchisee navigate through licensing, business set up, insurance, necessary software, worker’s compensation, and caregiver recruitment to enable franchisees to focus on the most important aspect of their business: acquiring clients and generating revenue.
Going it Alone
Some business owners want to do things their own way, without having to follow a system. They may prefer to do everything- branding, developing marketing collateral and establishing policy and procedures- on their own and answer only to themselves.
Additionally, the independent business owner may prefer to develop local name recognition, versus taking on a national persona and becoming the local representative. For those that have worked in the home care and/or senior care community, marketing contacts, referral sources and policies and procedures may already be established, and partnering with a franchisor may seem unnecessary.
Finally, some may look unfavorably toward the franchise fee and the 3-5% monthly royalties that franchisors typically collect. The freedom and flexibility of independent ownership needs to be balanced with the risks. Without a support system, the independent business owner will be more prone to making the same mistakes an experienced franchisor has already made and learned lessons from.
What to Look for in a Franchise Organization
If franchising in the homecare industry is right for you, be sure that a franchise organization:
Requires a personal visit with corporate staff. You will be working with these people very closely for many years, and you want to make sure the chemistry is right.
Personally introduces you to all important corporate staff prior to signing a franchise agreement.
Allows you to speak with a minimum of 3-5 franchisee owners who are in markets similar to your own.
Provides at least one week of training and offers solid, ongoing support and training on an as-needed basis. Do they visit you within the first year of operation?
Is committed to assisting you with federal regulations that you must comply with. If your state regulates homecare agencies, make sure the franchisor helps you with compliance.
The decision to partner with a franchisor or go it alone is personal. Like any choice, there are pros and cons of both options, which need to be carefully weighed.
Talk with other homecare business owners who operate independently, and those who joined a franchise organization. The key to being satisfied with your business venture is to have clear expectations up front, so ask lots of questions and gather information prior to making this important decision.
Alex Morrison, Vice President of Domestic Franchising for Homewatch CareGivers
Jennifer Tucker, Vice President of Franchise Support for Homewatch CareGivers
Homewatch CareGivers has been involved in providing homecare services for the elderly and convalescing since 1980. Homewatch began franchising in 1997, and is headquartered in Denver, Colorado.