Most franchises, regardless of industry, quickly come up against the challenge of meeting annual expansion goals while also maintaining a brand’s value proposition—as seen by both existing franchisees and customers. These dual goals can create friction between growth and ongoing operations, especially when a franchise organization’s infrastructure is not fully built out with talented professionals on both sides of the business. You run the risk of depleting the quality of the brand if you focus too much on one side at the expanse of the other.
The home care industry is no different – as a home care franchisor, we must protect the equity we have built in our business as trusted providers of caregiving services, yet also be fully invested in our franchise development. In fact, to reach our franchise expansion goals it is crucial we achieve excellence on both sides of the business.
As a home care company with nearly four decades of experience behind us, we, like many others in our sector, are in a unique position to blend our growth with the benefits of our operations. Businesses like ours have an incredibly strong emotional appeal; franchisees can enter the business of care and make meaningful differences in the lives of others. Additionally, demand for home care will only continue to rise—more than 75 percent of the roughly 10,000 people who will turn 65 each day want to age at home.
So, how do we distinguish ourselves from other franchisors trying to leverage the same aspects of the home care industry to grow their companies with qualified franchisees? The key lies in finding the balance between brand differentiation and franchisee support that facilitates growth system wide—tools that can be applied to brands across the franchise industry.
Identify what sets your brand apart
Above all, a home care brand needs to prove that its value proposition is a better fit for a prospective franchisee’s business aspirations than all the other franchise opportunities out there.
Value to franchisees is determined by how well franchise brands administer training programs, personal development opportunities and annual franchisee conventions. Although nearly every home care franchise offers a similar stable of at least rudimentary supportive benefits meant to ease a franchisee’s entrance into the system and to cultivate their experience going forward, an interested franchisee is looking at what makes your franchising experience unique, and hopefully better, than the competition.
It’s not about finding a secret, previously undiscovered method of franchising home care services. Prospective franchisees are technical, and they are looking for the details that set a brand apart from the competitors. This means a brand is best served by taking a thorough assessment of its existing care standards, franchisee support systems and other benefits and quantifying just how much they distinguish a home care franchise from all the rest.
I recommend home care franchises emphasize differentiators such as promoting decades of brand equity, creating upper-tier quality metrics and implementing annual improvements of franchisee support methods. Robust processes and systems at the franchisor level can make it easier to reinforce these differentiators and utilize them as tools for growth on a local level. If you can show a prospective franchisee that he or she is investing in a business opportunity with measurable benefits, your home care franchise will already be setting itself apart from other concepts that are not as strategic in their messaging and execution efforts.
Think local, grow national
The key to franchise growth for a national home care brand may seem counterintuitive: think local. There should ideally be little to no national sales drivers, or national advertising efforts. Instead, a system modified to support referrals and targeted lead generation on a smaller scale can pay off in meaningful, long-term franchise development.
A local model recognizes that every market is different and every franchisee has their own unique set of strengths, providing the flexibility for a franchisor to more precisely target potential franchisees that are the best fit for a specific market. With a more locally focused growth model, a corporate team can work directly with a prospective franchisee and walk through the opportunities that particular owner has in their market. That same staff can then help a new franchisee execute his or her plan to get their business off the ground with a strategy put in place for ongoing success.
Make existing franchisees strategic partners in growth
As any growing home care franchisor knows, often the best validation for a brand is its existing network of franchisees. Sustained growth results from a franchisor prioritizing the needs of a franchisee throughout the life-cycle of his or her business—from when an individual is only a soft lead all the way a franchisee making a succession plan for retirement to pass on the business to a family member. Rather than getting lost in the numbers of percentage sales and increases, a calculated commitment to franchisee support can make franchisees true partners in growth for a franchisor.
Home care companies create those partnerships through support teams that are separate from franchise development specialists. A true support team is primarily focused on supporting an existing franchisee or location, not on exclusively developing franchise opportunities. Establishing support systems such as peer groups allow existing owners to share best practices and wisdom with a group of franchisees that have similar challenges and different expertise. It also shows the corporate support center is committed to providing the best tools and processes to strengthen its franchisees’ businesses.
Franchisee support in turn endorses the franchise opportunity being offered by the franchisor. Validating a franchise opportunity with existing franchisees is a well-known component of the development process for many prospective entrepreneurs. So when an existing franchisee can confidently say a home office is dedicated to supporting their business, he or she may convince a prospective owner better than any other franchise development tool in a franchisor’s arsenal.
With a strong growth strategy that emphasizes brand differentiators and is rooted locally, a home care company will unquestionably have the ability to facilitate its expansion. Meanwhile, by prioritizing franchisee support on a local level, existing franchisees will support new growth with powerful brand validation.
Julie Smith is Chief Operating Officer and President of Homewatch CareGivers.