In 2008, I went from being a Board certified orthopedic physical therapist and certified manual physical therapist, to a Chicagoland franchisee for Assisting Hands Home Care®, an in-home care franchise. It was a transition I was looking for, but I had never operated a franchise, so I had to start from scratch. Here are five tips I learned along the way.
#1 Do your research before you dive-in
Thanks to the Internet, it’s easier than ever to research potential franchises. But we warned that there is a lot of old information about your expected rate of return on a franchise, so make sure the information you are looking at is current. I found that the best source is the International Franchise Association’s Education Foundation, which conducts the most comprehensive research on franchise industry issues today. Some of their studies are free online; some need to be purchased from the foundation. For more information, visit www.franchise.org.
Make sure you are entering an industry that is growing. In my case, I understood that as the government and the healthcare industry seek ways to reduce healthcare costs, home care becomes a viable option because it is an alternative to lengthy hospital stays, nursing homes and other in-patient treatments. So franchising a home care business reflects changing demographic patterns and changes in health management.
If an industry has matured and the market seems saturated, you may want to explore other options.
#2 Work with knowledgeable franchisors
Make sure you are working directly with the franchise operators or owners who understand their business very well. In the case of Assisting Hands, I worked with the founders, who personally own and operate the franchises. By understanding the day-to-day operations of the business model, they offered valuable, first-hand insights into the operation of a successful home care franchise. When owners are accountable, they have a vested interest in your success.
#3 Make sure there is adequate training
I spent considerable time at the Assisting Hands headquarters where I received comprehensive hands-on training in business development, customer service and personalized care based on a proven business model. You can’t expect to start your business without adequate training and back up.
So going in, you should have some experience in the industry that will be served by your franchise so you can hit the ground running.
#4 Understand your target customer
As a physical therapist my patient and client base was diverse, and while it did include the elderly, the average Assisting Hands Home Care customer base consists primarily of the elderly. So while I had experience assisting clients with a disability or illness, I needed to understand the specific needs of home-bound seniors, especially when it came to 24/7 service and safety issues. Specific populations and niche audiences can’t be served with cookie-cutter service or generic promotion and marketing.
You have to know what motivates your customer or client. Why will they care about what your franchise is offering? What is your point of differentiation with competitors?
#5 Choose a franchise business you love
Franchises are not for everybody. If you go into the franchise business solely to make money, you may be disappointed if it doesn’t meet your sales expectations. Talk to other franchisees and see if they like what they are doing. Remember you have to do this every day, so every day should be one that complements your abilities and desires.
Part of the reason for my success is my general empathy for the senior population and their lack of mobility. I love making a difference in their lives and in the lives of their family caretakers.
Now that I have been a multi-unit franchisee and have become a franchisor, I approach every day as a new opportunity to succeed.
About the Author
Richard Ueberfluss is a Franchisee and Franchiser of Assisting Hands-Chicago. You can find more information about him on his website AssistingHands-Naperville.com