I’d had my own furniture design and manufacturing business for 25 years when one of my parents acquired dementia. As the condition developed I was required to take Power of Attorney and became responsible for their health and well-being.
After three years in which I learned a lot about care and the impact that it had on families, I decided that I would, if possible, try and find a way into the sector and start a business. I thought, there has to be a better way than what I have seen.
It was thanks to a happy set of coincidences that about a year after my parent died I met another Right at Home franchise owner at a family wedding. When he started speaking about what he did, I realised within a few minutes of talking to him that this was the route I wanted to go down.
Once I knew that Right at Home were genuinely an organisation with absolute integrity, and once I had completed the due diligence process and demonstrated to Right at Home that I also shared their values about the way care should be delivered, we signed contracts and I undertook the first stage of training. With their support I then went through the process of finding a suitable office, recruiting a Registered Manager to oversee the care side of the business and setting up the office for a pre-start inspection from the CQC.
For me, the point of buying a franchise was that it was my fastest way to acquire the necessary knowledge of the care sector – and I appreciated that I would also save a lot of time and money in the process. Care is one of the most highly regulated industries in the country; it would have taken five years or more of self-education and expenditure to reach the same point that I did in after a year with Right at Home.
We moved into our office in September 2014, had our initial CQC inspection in late October and signed up our first client in the December. It is an intense working environment to begin with – you and your Registered Manager in a small office, covering every aspect of the business between you. I can’t underline enough the importance of finding the right manager to guide you through the start-up.
In terms of the challenges we’ve faced – in the early days it was understanding that you are always climbing two ladders, looking for staff and for clients, and there is invariably a bottleneck with one or the other. You must have sufficient staff or you risk over-stretching and then losing clients and staff. You must also develop sufficient clients, because your staff all have a living to earn.
Managing that on top of the personal pressures of getting a business off the ground is tough. There are a lot of plates to keep spinning and you need to keep an eye on the budgets and not get carried away with spending. You need to have the confidence and people skills to make cold calls. It takes a long time to start to understand how the local networks operate, but you have to jump right in and get to know people. Volunteering was a very good starting point in the early days.
We have now been operating for just over two years and we are currently averaging 850 hours of care a week, with 47 clients and 38 staff.
In the first year we made the expected loss; in the second year we made a significant profit. In the third year, I propose to pay myself a proper wage instead of just enough to live on. We are growing a great team of genuinely caring people and we’ve recently had a fantastic CQC inspection that everyone was incredibly proud of.
We’ve put a huge amount of work into ensuring that it’s a welcoming, safe and secure place of work and there is now a feeling that the people working in the company have become a cohesive unit with some real bonds and friendships developing.
We’re really trying to get it right, for the clients and the care staff, and it’s great to see that that’s working; as we now have an over 85% staff retention rate.
Like any business, it’s a steep learning curve, but we are now seen locally, correctly, as a premium care provider; we’re able to set our billing rates accordingly and, importantly, we can reinvest in our staff so we can keep growing.
My advice to anyone considering coming into the quality care sector would be – make sure that you absolutely mean it. If you don’t have the passion for helping people, or if you suspect your heart lies elsewhere, you will only ever be just another care company.
But if you’ve got the drive to really make a difference and the determination to reconcile that with building a business then there is no better vehicle than Right at Home for realising your ambitions.
We have a book full of compliments about our care services with wonderful letters of gratitude, and it is truly amazing to see the impact that our business can have, be it supporting families in end of life situations, or helping clients to improve their quality of life and physical well-being.
It was definitely the best decision for me. Having started this new business in my 50’s it has given me a new lease of life – I can honestly say there is nothing else I would rather be doing.
To investigate Right at Home franchise opportunities, please contact us.