Award-winning franchisee, Julie Houston, is making the care sector a better place for her own family and the wider community
Name: Julie Houston (57)
Organisation: Right at Home UK
Years trading: 5
Julie Houston has a background in banking and business, but she decided to move into the care sector after struggling to find the right support for her father-in-law after he was diagnosed with dementia. She says: “It was just a complete shock to the system. We tried to keep him at home and to find a company like Right at Home (RaH) that would look after him, and we just couldn’t.”
After taking redundancy from her banking job and looking for a meaningful project, the stars aligned when Julie came across Right at Home. With her personal desire to improve care for vulnerable people and her business-savvy background, she knew that it was the right thing to do.
Julie is now the third biggest operator in the UK network and has even set up a second territory in Lymm & Warrington South, but the journey to success hasn’t been without its challenges. The COVID pandemic placed the country’s most vulnerable people in a position of need greater than ever before. “It was a challenging time for us,” Julie explains.
“People could die if you made the wrong decision. Not only were you worried about yourself and your own family, but you also worry about your staff, the families and your clients.”
More recently, the cost-of-living crisis has introduced recruitment and staffing challenges across the sector, with the cost of petrol skyrocketing and some staff leaving to work in care homes. Despite these struggles, Julie’s resilient nature and close connection to her clients, along with the hard work of her incredible staff, has meant that she has continued to succeed and thrive as a franchisee. She had a rolling turnover of £1.8m over the past 12 months.
Making a difference
Though the care industry has its difficulties, Julie explains how fulfilling it is to have a meaningful job after working in various careers. “I love that I make a difference to people’s lives,” she says. “There are a lot of challenges, as in any business, and some of them are quite significant. But the reward is knowing that you’re making a difference to people’s lives every day.”
Julie’s empathetic nature means that she struggles to find a good work-life balance, as her staff and clients take priority above all else. “Whatever job I’m doing, it doesn’t matter what it is, I’m going to give it everything I’ve got,” she says. “When you run your own business there are times when you have to drop everything that’s personal and just get on with it.”
Julie now manages to find time for herself away from work, and that is largely due to having a great team in place.
Teamwork makes the dreamwork
Being successful involves relying on the people around you. Julie says: “I’ve got a fabulous team of managers. The whole crux of things is having a stable management team who you can trust, and I can do that.”
Looking back to when she set up her first Right at Home franchise in North Cheshire & Leigh, Julie reflects on the importance of having a good system of operation in place from the get-go. “The biggest lesson, I would say,” she advises, “is to get your processes set up to start with so that when you do start to grow, your process is solid, and nothing gets missed.”
Despite the challenges of the past few years, Julie hasn’t let that slow her down. She organised the Northern Right at Home Owners Forum and is part of the franchise’s maximisation programme to expand her territories to help provide care in other areas of need. Julie says: “We’re just getting the staff in place and getting them all trained up, but it’s looking really positive and we’ve got a lot of clients. We’ve got a lot of people waiting for care.”
She believes that franchising is a great opportunity for anyone, though she would love to see more women involved in franchising.
“I think it naturally lends itself to the management skills of women, especially people who have been involved in business before,” she says of Right at Home. “I would really love to see more women start to consider different types of franchising at all levels.”
Get to know
My motto is…stay positive through adversity. Keep your mindset positive and treat every challenge as an opportunity.
Advice that I live by…put some time in your diary to just reflect and clear your mind of all the noise. You have to work on yourself as well as the business.