A pandemic certainly wasn’t on Hammad Cheema’s Visiting Angels business launch plan, but he rose to the challenge to become an industry leader
Name: Hammad Cheema (42)
Organisation: Visiting Angels West London
Years trading: 1.5
When it comes to challenging times to launch a franchise in the care sector, it doesn’t get much worse than right at the beginning of a global pandemic.
Hammad Cheema received the licence for his Visiting Angels franchise in West London just three days before the first lockdown in 2020, which not only overturned his launch strategy but created unprecedented challenges for even the most experienced business owners in the sector.
“We were unable to market the business through the usual channels,” explains Hammad, who formerly worked in the banking sector. “Instead, we had to find other opportunities and accept there would be slower business growth during the first six months of lockdown. Rather than following the traditional marketing channels, we allowed our name to spread in the community and amended our marketing strategy to encompass more digital. We focused on doing the right thing for the circumstances, such as delivering groceries to vulnerable people, taking cakes and pastries to hospital wards for NHS staff, and leaving our business cards. We let people know we existed, and we supported and helped the wider community where we could.”
Hammad has demonstrated that franchisees can achieve massive success in the most difficult circumstances by being both resilient and proactive. By reapproaching his marketing strategy and bringing an in-house digital marketing specialist into the team, Hammad made sure he was always in the right place at the right time and has reaped the benefits of adopting a rigorous, thorough and devoted approach.
Smart social strategies might help spread the message, but Hammad’s success is primarily down to one vital factor – he defines what it takes to maintain exceptional standards in care for the elderly and vulnerable. Hammad won Visiting Angels’ coveted International Franchisee of the Year award in 2021, and since has risen to higher levels in ensuring the delivery of his services is not only acceptable but industry-leading. This is reflected in his most recent financial performance, which saw him run a 133 per cent profit margin while turning over £1.3m.
With 77 care providers and 65 clients, Hammad has been a key figure in the London community for spearheading a new approach to high-quality, attentive care. With one of the larger teams in the Visiting Angels network, Hammad is a key driver for supporting the franchise in its pursuit of becoming the UK’s go-to employer of choice in the care sector.
“Going above and beyond lies at the core of our ethos,” says Hammad. “The sector has received bad press for providing poor care to the elderly and vulnerable, so we put our caregivers front and centre as the face of the company. We make sure we look after them, so they in turn give the best care to our clients. It starts with recruitment and selecting the right individuals – filtering out those who are truly passionate about care. And then we ensure they’re happy and motivated in their work by understanding what they need and want. Focusing on our staff in this way means they go above and beyond, leading to better care and happy clients.”
Hammad’s approach to recruitment and investing in people has resulted in a devoted and expert team, which is reflected in the quality of care that is delivered in his communities as well as their devotion to Visiting Angels as their employer.
“It has been a wonderful experience being an Angel at Visiting Angels West London,” says Alinne Gerbase, homecare assistant at Hammad’s West London branch. “It’s fundamental to promote a high quality of care supporting individuals’ needs, wishes and beliefs; and it is much better to fulfil this goal when you feel supported by the company you work for. Thanks, Visiting Angels for allowing me to value our service users.”
Hammad understands fully how difficult it is for families to look after someone who’s vulnerable. He has deep empathy for his community and understands his duty to support these people. His empathy spills into his team and the wider franchise community, and he regularly encourages his caregivers to do that little bit extra for clients at every opportunity, even if it occasionally means losing out on money.
Franchisees reach out to Hammad for advice on business and he’s always happy to take on the extra responsibility – his contribution and expertise can now be seen throughout the Visiting Angels UK network. He takes regular opportunities to share his own experiences which have been incredibly positive in helping other franchisees, especially those who are new to the network.
“Before they join, head office refers enquiries to me so I can give them a completely transparent picture,” says Hammad. “I’m careful to share the challenges as well as the benefits,” he points out.
“After they’ve signed, I continue to share what I know – from business strategies to setting up an office and team. Sharing helps me to grow too and we reach out freely to each other. It’s not one-way traffic – we all share knowledge and advice with each other across the network.”
Hammad has instilled a real sense of community and family into the running of his franchise – vital qualities for franchisees to possess in the domiciliary care sector. He has constantly strived to go above and beyond to make as many connections as possible, partnering with Age UK and other local charities in order to run dementia seminars for the community.
“We do lots of community engagement work and connect with non-profit organisations, like Age UK, to provide winter galas and tombolas for everyone in the community, not just our clients,” he explains. This allows any elderly person who needs assistance and advice access to his franchise, an empathetic approach to business, which has been consistent from day one.
Hammad truly believes in Visiting Angels’ mission of wanting to change the face of care in the UK. In an industry rife with complaints and criticism, Hammad has given great attention to why this is, and he looked at what more can be done for the faces of the industry – caregivers.
Get to know
An ability to step back from daily operations and look at the bigger picture is so important.
When we started the business at the beginning of the first COVID lockdown, there were significant challenges. I’m proud that we grew the business against adversity to achieve the biggest franchise growth at Visiting Angels.