A Georgia entrepreneur who decided to reinvent herself professionally has found something she was missing in her former life; a sense of community.
Linda Pirog, a Senior Helpers franchisee in Peachtree City, GA, left Toys“R”Us after more than 20 years in the company’s retail operations and store planning to pursue her dream of business ownership. Working in the toy retailer’s International Division meant she spent about 70 percent of her time traveling, taking her away from family and causing her to work many holidays and weekends with them.
“I didn’t really have any sense of community because I worked out of the country,” she said during a recent interview with Franchising USA.
That all changed in June 2006 when she purchased her Senior Helpers franchise, the eighteenth franchise to be sold by the company.
Pirog said she enlisted the help of a business broker and spent eight months searching through all kinds of businesses that would target Baby Boomers or the aging population within the health and wellness industry. When she found Senior Helpers it was just the right fit.
“As soon as I got the information on Senior Helpers, I knew it was what we were looking for,” Pirog said. “After having a personal experience trying to keep a loved one safe at home, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that this was the business for me.”
The franchisee said she went to Senior Helpers’ headquarters in Baltimore for “Discovery Day” prior to purchasing the franchise so she could get a better feel for the company and ask any questions she had.
Once she purchased her franchise, she went back to Baltimore for a week of training and received the company’s operations manual, which taught the basics of opening and running a Senior Helpers franchise. The manual contained valuable information about pre-opening procedures, selecting a location, structuring the office, completing a competitive analysis and marketing the business.
The company also assigned her a business consultant who helped ensure the business was ready to open and assisted the new franchisee with procuring a home care license in Georgia. Pirog was the first Senior Helpers franchisee to get licensed in Georgia, so she appreciated the help with that.
She also hired a registered nurse to help her with the technical aspects of setting up a senior care business in the state.
Pirog now helps with the training of new franchisees, saying her location has hosted training for new business owners coming onboard.
In addition to on-site training in the field, Senior Helpers offers Helpers Headlines, a newsletter for franchisees that contains industry updates, ongoing webinars that provide training, marketing and advertising information and other important news. There is also a monthly training calendar that has classes for office staff and employees alike.
Additionally, Senior Helpers has monthly marketing themes, which the company sends out information on each month.
Among the Senior Helpers’ programs that Pirog is most impressed with are the company’s Parkinson’s Care program, the Seniors Gems® Alzheimer’s Workshop series, and the Virtual Dementia Tour®, done in partnership with Second Wind Dreams® in select markets.
Not only does Senior Helpers train its own staff about Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, but it also trains others employees in the various local assisted living communities and senior centers.
Calling Senior Helpers a leader in the industry, Pirog also cited the company’s partnership with talk show host Leeza Gibbons and Alzheimer’s and Dementia expert Teepa Snow as evidence of its industry leadership.
Pirog said she’s also impressed with the Senior Helpers franchise advisory council, of which she had been part of for many years. Being involved with the advisory council allowed her to be involved with not only her franchise as it grew, but also with the company as it grew.
The advisory council has franchisee representatives from all over the United States and franchisees can always pick up the phone and call their representative on the council if they have questions or concerns and the council will pass it along to the company.
“It’s a really great way to get information flowing, which I think is healthy, as well,” Pirog said.
Being a franchisee has really changed the complexion of Pirog’ s professional career, going from retail management, which involves working weekends and holidays when most other people are off, to having a more traditional Monday to Friday schedule. While she still has some weekend work and certain events that she has to be there for, it’s been a much more balanced lifestyle, the business owner said.
The support and expertise of the team at Senior Helpers has given her the flexibility to incorporate all of her life commitments into her days. She’s gained additional family time and a real sense of community, something she was lacking in her former profession. Pirog said she’s gotten to know the local business and government leaders in her local community like she’s never had the chance to before and she’s much more involved with her local Chamber of Commerce.
For Pirog, Senior Helpers has fulfilled everything she was looking for in a business, including giving her that much sought after sense of belonging. Hanging in her office is a picture of her mother and mother-in-law, which reminds her everyday of why she does this work. “I completely changed the direction of my professional life and haven’t looked back.”