David Glover, franchise recruitment manager at Caremark, explains how to overcome some common sector challenges
Being open, honest and planning in advance is the best approach for everyone when investing in a care franchise.
Far from shying away from any industry challenges, you should think about them from day one to ensure your success.
Carer recruitment and retention
Recruiting great carers is a challenge for any care business owner, so it’s one you need to be ready for from the get go.
As part of your due diligence, take time to understand what your franchisor of choice will do to help you with carer recruitment. It won’t do it for you, but it should have tried and tested models for recruitment that you can follow.
For example, we test recruitment activities before filtering the most successful to our network for them to implement. Training on modern day digital campaigns and partnerships with specialist agencies are just some of the ways we help franchisees find quality care workers.
On top of that, think about what you could do locally so people not only know about your business, but want to work for you too. This is where your local research goes up a notch - don’t just plan how you’ll find your customers, plan for how you’ll find your carers too.
Recruitment may be a challenge, but retention of quality carers should be an even more important focus for you in your new business.
A staggering 30 per cent of carers leave the industry within their first year. And what may surprise you is that pay is not the major reason for doing so. When surveyed, carers said things like good training, flexibility and career progression are more important to them, as well as feeling valued and part of a strong team.
How will you ensure all of that? Discuss retention strategies and incentives with your franchisor and decide how you’re going to create a culture that people genuinely want to be a part of. This is essential business planning for any care business.
Because retention is something we place a lot of emphasis on, our carer turnover is much lower than the industry average and franchisees keep years of experience and knowledge within their businesses.
There’s no getting away from it - you need a decent amount of funding to get into the care sector. Far from being daunted or disheartened by this, I recommend looking for a franchisor who has established good relationships with the banks and can offer attractive funding packages specifically designed for franchise start-ups.
There’s no need to feel priced out of the market if setting up a care business is your dream, but you must be realistic and honest with a franchisor when discussing finances - it’s nothing to be embarrassed about.
High street banks like HSBC, NatWest and Lloyds will lend up to 70 per cent of your investment because they have access to the established track records of other successful franchisees in the network.
They all have dedicated franchise teams, so always ask to speak to them when discussing funding options for your new business. Otherwise there’s a danger of getting lost in translation with general business advisers.
As part of our recruitment support package, we facilitate this whole process by instructing an independent company to prepare a business plan and present it to your bank of choice, so be sure to ask your franchisor how it helps you navigate this part of your journey.
Getting a ‘good’ territory
In my opinion, there’s no such thing as a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ territory for a care business.
Provided you have a solid minimum population number, there’s no magic formula. If I were to look at our top three performing franchisees, their territories couldn’t be more different in terms of affluence, size and population demographics.
‘If this territory was good, wouldn’t it have been taken already?’ It’s not a silly question, it’s just not how franchising works. Most people will invest in and run a business in their local area. So if an established franchisor tells you it has a territory near you free, then quite frankly you’re in luck.
Care happens everywhere and provided you work to understand the nature of the territory you take, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be successful.
For example, those in more affluent areas will likely have more private pay clients, but find carer recruitment more of a challenge due to higher employment rates, while those in less affluent regions will likely run more local authority contracts and find carer recruitment that little bit easier.
Cash flow pressures
Timing is everything when you’re starting a care business and it’s vital to plan when key resources are going to be brought into the business to minimise the impact on cash flow.
The most common, and often the lengthiest, delay that can impact business operations is in securing your registration with the appropriate regulatory body, whether that’s CQC (England), Care Inspectorate (Scotland), CSSIW (Wales) or RQIA (Northern Ireland).
The advantage of working with a franchisor here is that it understands how to secure a registration. For example, all eight CQC regional offices in England are familiar with our working practices - they’ve approved our system and are comfortable with franchisees operating under the Caremark brand.
Therefore, the length of time it can take for franchisees to secure a registration is reduced significantly compared to them doing it alone.
Your franchisor should also work with you to ensure you take on your care manager at the right time and that you don’t take on office space until the appropriate moment to prevent wasting precious cash.
Finally, balancing your first customers with your first carers. You don’t want someone ringing up requesting care if you don’t have a carer in place. But similarly, you can’t afford to have carers sitting around with nothing to do for weeks on end.
Getting your timing right requires being able to accurately anticipate the growth of your business and it’s here the support of a good franchisor is invaluable.
Most people who join a care franchise do so because of a desire to make a difference to others, as well as building a successful business for themselves.
There are challenges to overcome, just as with any new business. But with planning, support and determination your new care business could be the most rewarding thing you ever do.