The Best Senior Care Franchises
Senior care franchises have become incredibly popular in recent years, as the rapid aging of the American population has driven huge demand for quality elder care services (and a resulting explosion in the number of senior care franchises for sale).
But how does a potential franchisee evaluate the best senior care franchises to invest in? As with many sectors of the rapidly growing healthcare and senior care sector, things move so quickly that just keeping track of all the players can prove to be a huge challenge!
Today we put the spotlight on ten senior care franchise opportunities, outlining each business and what makes it different from competing opportunities in the senior care industry. Armed with this information, prospective franchisees can begin to make educated comparisons as to which are the best senior care franchises for their particular investment goals, financial situation (e.g., available capital to invest), and lifestyle aspirations.
Before we get to the individual business profiles, however, a quick background on what senior care and home care businesses do and why they serve such an acute need: An increasing number of elderly Americans want the opportunity to remain at home as they age. Unfortunately, to do so, many of these individuals require personal assistance beyond what their families can provide. The best senior care franchises and homecare franchises manage to meet this need cost- effectively -- to the great relief of worried family members -- by providing compassionate non-medical care, such as transportation assistance, light housekeeping, meal preparation, companionship, assistance with taking medication, and, in certain cases, medical services.
Thanks to these offerings, more elderly are able to live out their lives in the comfort and familiarity of home. With that context, it's easy to see why this industry has experienced such a boon.
Now on to our profiles!
Interim can be distinguished from many other senior care and homecare franchises by its long life: the business was founded all the way back in 1966, when senior care and homecare were barely considered industries. The franchise's system is also very large, with over 300 franchisees, and the company boasts one of the most highly respected brand names in the entire industry. Because of the size and age of the Interim system, the franchise enjoys high levels of recognition among patients and doctors alike, as well as a proven track record of profitability and viability -- something that newer franchises just can't claim.
Of course, to tap into this great business experience and powerful brand name, potential franchisees should expect to be more highly scrutinized (personally and financially) than they might be for newer or less-established systems. The extra scrutiny is probably worth it: Interim's wide network of successful, experienced franchisees can provide helpful advice for new franchisees, and the franchise's size and reputation are a great asset when it comes to employee recruitment and retention (a very important factor in this growing field, where demand for staff may soon outstrip supply).
As far as getting new franchisees up to speed, Interim HealthCare franchise opportunities are specially structured to allow new franchisees to grow from staffing basic non-medical senior care and homecare services to staffing more complex medical (and related) services.
Acti-Kare, a Tampa, FL based senior care and home care franchise, was established in 2007. The Acti-Kare franchise system is all about operational efficiency, giving franchisees a plug-and-play system for running and expanding their business.
A particularly helpful feature Acti-Kare offers its franchisees is their centralized call center, which answers all incoming calls for each franchise location. Another feature is Acti-Kare's recruiting service, which provides franchisees with pre-screened, experienced senior home care staff. Acti-Kare franchise opportunities represent one of the least expensive franchise options in the industry, with a small initial franchise fee, low total investment requirements, and a home- based business model that saves franchisees from incurring any office rent expenses.
Acti-Kare places special emphasis on assisting clients suffering from Alzheimer’s, a growing subsection within the senior care industry, by employing caregivers specifically trained in caring for people with this distressing and disorienting disease. Acti-Kare stresses flexibility, tailoring services based on the exact needs of the client, with the ability to quickly change the level of service provided as the patient's needs lessen or increase over time.
CareMinders Home Care
CareMinders was founded by three people with diverse backgrounds. President Gary Kneller had a finance and marketing background, and he found that as his parents aged no home care services provider offered the combination of services he was looking for. Brian Schleicher was an attorney, CPA and business owner and had the skills and knowledge to build a business. Elaine Davis Jones, executive vice president of CareMinders, brought extensive healthcare knowledge to the table, as she had various experiences within the industry, from providing expert testimony in front of Congress to authoring a textbook about home care to managing an operation with 600 units nationwide.
CareMinders Home Care franchise opportunities offer the option to enter both the medical and non-medical care arenas. This means a larger potential client base for CareMinders franchisees when compared to purely non-medical franchises. It also means greater convenience for clients, who enjoy the convenience of dealing with just one service provider for all their needs.
Stay at Home
Although the franchise itself was started in 2007, John Batcheller and his wife Lisa, co-founders of Stay at Home, had been involved in the health care industry for many years. It all started with the Miami Heart Hospital, where John's grandfather, who started his career as a successful wholesale oil distributor, was president for over 25 years. Johns’s mother then became president, and -- after a successful career in corporate America -- Batcheller decided to continue the family health care business.
However, instead of limiting his prospects to Miami, Batcheller spent a year working with other health care professionals to develop the Stay at Home franchise system. Stay at Home franchise opportunities are designed to be a “business in a box,” complete with step-by-step operational instructions, extensive marketing materials, advertising collateral, and access to a creative team for local ads -- giving franchisees all the materials they'll need to get a senior care business off the ground with zero prior experience.
Stay at Home provides individual search engine optimized websites for local franchisees as well, with social media and links to local area resources. Stay at Home can now be found in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Florida and Georgia.
FirstLight HomeCare strives to distinguish itself from the other senior care and homecare franchise opportunities by promoting a few different aspects of its model. FirstLight offers “Client Care Access” -- a tool which enables everyone with internet access to check on the schedule and detailed care of loved ones at any time and from any place. The franchise also offers 24/7 emergency response services and a matching system to ensure the best fit between caregivers and those needing care, based on interests and habits. FirstLight also emphasizes its expertise in caring for patients with dementia, as it has a specific program developed for this purpose. FirstLight HomeCare franchise opportunities are ideal for a couple or team, and in particular for husband and wife franchisees – with one partner focused in the internal world of recruiting and client services, and the other focused outward, on building referral networks and community relationships. Two full time people are required for the franchise. FirstLight is a very new franchise, with the first franchise awarded in July 2010, but the system is growing quickly, with an estimated 24 units to be added in 2011 and some 36 units in 2012 (from only 14 units in 2010).
Visiting Angels was founded in 1992 and began franchising in 1998. Since then, the Visiting Angels franchise system has grown to encompass over 500 units. In addition to its well- established, proven track record, Visiting Angels is on the lower-cost end of the senior care segment. Average franchise fees are in the $35,000 dollar range, depending on the size of the territory acquired, and royalties are extremely low – at the highest 3.5%, but going as low as 2% (and eventually zero if the franchisee achieves certain levels of revenue).
Because Visiting Angels franchise opportunities feature low investment requirements, minimal ongoing royalties, and comprehensive training, most Visiting Angels franchisees generate somewhere between $10,000 and $50,000 per month (gross revenue) by the end of the first year of business, breaking even around the six- to nine-month mark. (By franchise standards, this is quite early). Visiting Angels is very proud of its national branding and advertising campaign and the thousands of home care leads it generates each month on behalf of its franchisees. Every year, Visiting Angels holds a conference for franchisees to exchange information with each other and be briefed by industry experts on new trends or changes, as well as on tips on how to expand business.
Home Instead Senior Care
Founded in 1994 and franchising since 1995, Home Instead is one of the biggest franchising senior care outlets worldwide and it makes a concerted effort towards franchising globally, something smaller senior care franchises are not prepared to take on. Home Instead, in addition to looking for franchisees in the United States, is conducting a search for master franchisees in countries around the globe.
Home Instead Senior Care franchise opportunities are getting positive reviews from existing franchisees – in a survey conducted by Franchise Business Review, more than half of Home Instead’s franchises replied, giving the franchise an overall 4.2 out of 5.0 rating. The high rating led the CEO of Franchise Business Review to conclude, "[Our franchisees] seemed particularly satisfied with the overall enjoyment they get from owning a Home Instead franchise and with their quality of life as franchisees.” Home Instead has master franchisees operating in diverse international environments, such as Australia, Finland, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Portugal and Japan, and is looking for new master franchisees in Belgium, Denmark, Hong Kong, Sweden and Spain, among other places.
Seniors Helping Seniors
Seniors Helping Seniors franchise opportunities are unique in the senior care market. The system brings together elderly to provide non-health services for seniors needing help. Seniors Helping Seniors started as a non-profit in 1998 in Pennyslvania and still provides 10,000 hours of service from 250 provides a year. However, the franchise opportunity itself is for profit, and founder Philip Yocum thinks it is an ideal opportunity for retirees from other professions, such as teaching, or as a franchise opportunity for veterans. Unlike some of the other options in this sector, Seniors Helping Seniors need not be a full-time franchise – Yocum, a former realtor, suggests it as a complementary business for realtors. Seniors Helping Seniors is looking for single unit franchisees and master franchisees to develop broad regions of the United States, including the south, midwest, and the northeast.
HomeWell Senior Care
HomeWell prides itself on having a relatively low overhead, some of the lowest franchise royalties in the industry, and helping its franchisees get off to fast starts, providing them with extensive marketing materials and leads right away. In addition, HomeWell Senior Care franchise opportunities come with a combination of detailed training and ongoing support while at the same time granting franchisees a high level of independence – there are no reviews or reports required by the franchisor. If the franchisee falls on his feet initially and has trouble generating leads, HomeWell works with the franchisee through weekly or monthly calls to get their franchise back on track. HomeWell is confident in its methods for generating business and offers its own proprietary computer management system that franchisees can use to track clients as business grows.
The Senior’s Choice
The Senior’s Choice distinguishes itself from traditional franchises and business opportunities by employing an entirely different business model. Unlike most other franchises, The Senior's Choice (which bills itself as a "membership organization") requires no franchisee contracts or royalty fees. Rather, the organization requires a one-time start-up fee, and then a flat amount paid to the franchisor per month, for as long as the franchisee (member) wishes to utilize the support services of the franchisor. This model is specifically designed to aid independent (and likely experienced) senior and home care service providers who want the support, camaraderie, and advantages of a national system but don't want the structure and commitments that come with a traditional franchise model.
Founder Steve Everhart started Senior’s Choice in 1999, after having been introduced to the home care business when he needed to take care of his aging grandmother. He felt that franchisees of other franchises were generally treated unfairly, in that after they had extracted most of the resources necessary from the franchisor, they still had to pay a hefty ongoing monthly royalty. Everhart felt that, rather than require franchisees to sign up to a contract, the Senior's Choice franchise opportunities system would allow independent senior care and home care service providers to sign up for at-will memberships (which could be terminated at any time by the member). The theory was that members would enjoy the relationship with the franchisor and the services it provides, and would willingly pay the reasonable monthly member's fee as a result. By and large the Senior's Choice setup has proved successful. In a survey of 312 Senior’s Choice members, the system received a 4.4 out of 5.0 overall satisfaction score.
The Best Franchise -- Such a Personal Choice
Ultimately, picking the best senior care franchises is a matter of the personal tastes and priorities of the would-be entrepreneur, as each elder care business comes with a unique mix of services, staffing requirements, franchise fees, start-up costs, royalty rates, training programs, and business models that have been optimized for a particular type of client and franchisee. The ten franchises outlined above have distinguished themselves by providing their franchisees with excellent businesses models and differentiated features. All are poised to continue to grow as the elder care and homecare industries expand to meet demand in the coming decade.
5 Traps for the Unwary Prospective Franchisee
When evaluating a potential franchise opportunity, prospective franchisees need to take care to put the hype and their emotions in check, and carefully consider all factors relevant to their buying decision. After all, the franchise will be a 5- to 10-year relationship (at minimum, under most franchise agreements), so it is well worth the investment to put in some research and analysis before taking the leap.
Franchisors Exposed to Liability Based on the Conduct of their Franchisees
Facts that have been considered relevant to whether a franchisor might be exposed to vicarious liability regarding the conduct of its franchisees include:
How buying a franchise is different from a start-up
History has shown that a struggling economy encourages entrepreneurship, which leads to a significant increase in new start-up businesses. But what if you are a hard-working professional with limited business knowledge and resources? You are motivated and more than willing to do the work, but you need a roadmap to guide your efforts. In that case, franchising may be a good option for you.