Unlike most franchises, Senior Helpers isn’t looking for entrepreneurs, they’re looking for something a bit different.
“One of the key characteristics is we’re looking for someone who is an intrapreneur rather than an entrepreneur,” Senior Helpers president Craig Leonard said during a recent interview from the company’s headquarters in Baltimore. “An entrepreneur is someone who wants to go out and create a new world every day, and an intrapreneur is someone who has that same passion and that same energy, but who is able to take a system and make it work. It’s like taking a recipe book from a great chef and following the details that great chef has outlined and then having a tremendous dinner at your house.”
The right individuals who can follow the Senior Helpers business model will be rewarded with not only a lucrative franchise financially, the president said, but one that lets franchisees measure their success by the number of families they’ve helped in a day.
Although the company goes into seniors’ homes and helps them on an individual basis, Leonard explained, the fact that their loved ones are being taken care of relieves stress on these seniors’ families and thus the company is actually helping not only seniors, but those seniors’ entire families.
“What we try to do is allow seniors to live in their homes for as long as they want to, which is pretty much all of their lives,” he said. “The goal of over 90 percent of the seniors in America is they want to age in place, which means they want to stay at home.”
Tony Bonacuse and Peter Ross founded Senior Helpers in 2002 and are still engaged with the business. Bonacuse opened the first location just outside of Baltimore, MD where the headquarters are today. After that location experienced great success, Ross, who is the current CEO, opened an office on the west coast to see if the need was the same over there and to see if the business model would work in another location.
What the founders discovered was an overwhelming need for this type of business and they started franchising the business in 2006. Currently, Senior Helpers has 271 territories in the United States and 13 in Australia.
A Population in Need
The population of the US is around 330 million and 15 percent of that population is over 65 years old, Leonard said. Over the next several years, that curve is going to continue to grow at an accelerated rate because of more aged people in the population who are living longer lives.
It’s also quite expensive for people to go to assisted living facilities, which can cost $42,000 per year and runs contrary to what many seniors want to do, which is to have a great quality of life in their own home. However, while living at home is preferable for them, many seniors face problems like not eating right, missing medication and being susceptible to falls.
All this adds up to a huge need for a service like Senior Helpers, noted Leonard, who has over 30 years of franchising experience.
Senior Helpers is looking for team players who are coachable and a little risk averse so they’ll prefer working within a system, the company president said. Most importantly, potential franchisees must have exceptionally strong people skills, be results oriented, and have an ability to focus on the future.
The initial term for franchisees is 10 years and Senior Helpers wants franchisees to be in it for the long term.
“We’re not looking for short term relationships,” Leonard said. “That’s not good for the franchisee or the franchisor.”
The company focuses on education and spends a lot of time with franchisees and their staffs educating them about different programs they can offer to consumers and how to run their business and be better business people.
Senior Helpers just launched an award winning education program about Alzheimer’s and dementia, Leonard mentioned, and the company’s Seniors Gem® program teaches consumers how to care for seniors even before they need outside help like a care service
The company requires franchisees to train their caregivers about Alzheimer’s and dementia so they can always be prepared and even extends that education to other places like hospice groups, rehabilitation centers and assisted living centers by training their employees for free. The company also just launched a new program for Parkinson’s that it also offers free of charge.
“The goal at the end of the day is that everybody is trained better on key programs and the care they give is better,” Leonard said.
Because Ross is the chair of the Home Care Association of America, the franchise is in a unique position to be proactive and alert franchisees to changes in the industry, whether that be a new trend or new legislation to be aware of.
Plenty of Room to Grow
Currently, Senior Helpers is spread across the country, with a particularly strong presence on the west coast, the east coast and in the mid-west. Huge opportunities are still available in New England, along the Gulf Coast and in Ohio, Leonard said.
For intrapreneurs who want a business that makes a difference in people’s lives, Senior Helpers is an excellent fit.