Lou Cobban recalls her journey from being the company’s first franchisee to expanding her business into neighbouring territories
Lou Cobban is the franchisee who got Guardian Angel Carers started.
Her career at the company has taken her from being a CareAngel to responsibility for recruitment at Angel HQ to business franchise owner of Guardian Angel Carers highly successful Spelthorne home care branch.
Now, three years on, she’s turning a profit and investigating new territories.
A franchise good enough for family
When Lou moved to Spelthorne to be near her grandparents, her search for carers highlighted that there just wasn’t a care agency that felt right.
Lou says: “I realised that I wouldn’t have any other company other than Guardian Angel Carers look after them and if they weren’t here I either had to take my grandparents to Chichester or get Guardian Angel Carers to come here.”
She needn’t have worried because Christina Bassadone, the dynamic founder of Guardian Angel Carers and a two-times Olympian, had already thought ahead. So when Lou asked about how they could make something work, the plans and possibilities for a new business franchise were prepared.
Christina’s energy and first-hand experience, combined with her astute business acumen, were a big draw.
“I’d looked into how other business franchises work and although the processes appeared similar, what they didn’t have was Christina or a business built on her values,” Lou says.
It’s typical of how Guardian Angel Carers goes about its business. Energetic and positive at heart, the company believes that enough is never good enough.
Lou points out: “There’s always more we can do and ways for us to do better.”
As a franchisee, she knows she can depend upon these standards to support the success of her business.
COVID-19 highlighted that benefit to her. Guardian Angel Carers HQ has people who know what to do. She could trust their brainpower and resources to react quickly, plan carefully and properly understand what needed to be done for every business franchise branch.
PPE came quickly, systems were established and additional regulations met.
“I knew they would help me to take care of my clients, my CareAngels and me in the safest way,” Lou says. “I just didn’t need to worry.”
Owning a franchise is a very supportive way to own a business. Guardian Angel Carers views its franchisees as part of its ‘family’. And you don’t need to be from a care background to join.
Sharing goals and values
Just this month the newest franchisees to sign are two ex-RAF and commercial aviation pilots. It’s a business that allows talented people to run a business and make a positive impact on people’s lives. To give back, which is gratifying both personally and professionally.
“Owning a Guardian Angel Carers franchise has changed my life,” Lou says. “It’s not as though I’ve got to be work Lou and home Lou - they don’t differ. I’m driven by the same values, with the same goals of positivity, to make a difference and succeed.”
“There’s always someone in HQ who has the answer because they’ve done this too. It’s invaluable to a franchisee to have that sort of support.”
Whether from business or care backgrounds, franchisees are encouraged to develop their strengths and supported to learn and grow their skills where needed.
For Lou, who has a care background, she uses her monthly meetings with Christina to go through figures and forecasts, client numbers and operational aspects because that is her area of learning.
“Christina and the HQ franchise team will always talk about ‘we’ - ‘we’ are going to do this, ‘we’ will achieve this, ‘we’ will do that. It really makes me feel like we’re a team.”
For those with business backgrounds, the team is more likely to support CQC, compliance, safeguarding and care questions. Whatever a franchisee requires, Guardian Angel Carers will support them to get the skills they need to succeed.
Building your foundations for long-term franchise success
When you become the owner of a Guardian Angel Carers franchise, you can expect it to take four months to get accreditation and set up.
Lou encourages others to use the time to do their homework and take advantage of the one-to-one support from Christina and the team.
During this period, new franchisees will take part in franchise and care training, alongside finding the right location and premises for their branch, while also doing due diligence on finance, compliance, business and recruitment planning.
“You shouldn’t rush,” Lou says. “This is where you set the foundations that can help your business excel.”
Lou acknowledges that there will be ups and downs as you go through the weeks, including the excitement of your CQC registration, getting the keys to your new branch and recruiting the first member of your team. But it can feel that you’re ‘putting a lot in while the pot goes down’.
Christina and the team stay connected, coaching, guiding and encouraging franchisees to stay focused and realistic. They’ve been there too and know that with patience the corner will be turned.
“It’s nerve-wracking, but then you get your first client and another and another,” Lou says.
“It’s so exciting. The fire gets going and you feel great. You see money coming in. I was so proud. I was the owner of my own successful income generating business doing work that made a difference.”
Taking the leap to fund your business
Raising funds to make the initial investment in your franchise is a big commitment.
“I could have bought a car or put a deposit on a house,” Lou says. “Gut for me, being a mother I saw it as a long-term investment for my daughter and me to ensure a secure life for us both. Now I have two children - my daughter and my business.”
Franchisees can usually expect to see a return on their investment in a Guardian Angel Carers Franchise by year three. Lou was able to raise funds privately through a business-minded silent partner.
Franchise managers at banks are generally receptive to loans for care franchises, making available up to 50 per cent of the start-up investment along the potential to review.
It’s a growing industry and home care franchises are typically exceeding their sales expectations and targets. Of course, each individual circumstance is different and anyone considering owning a franchise business will need to contact their bank directly for expert advice.
As Lou nears the end of her third year, she’s confident in her business and care skills.
She now plans to reinvest her profits and expand into neighbouring territories to provide home care to more people. Care doesn’t stop and demand is only growing.
“There’s always a time when you need a person,” Lou says. “I don’t think there are many other businesses where you can lose that personal touch. And I want to be there to do that.”
A growth industry and a secure future
With encouragement and guidance from Christina and the Guardian Angel Carers team, Lou feels she has all the ingredients she needs to make her franchise flourish and grow.
“I’m proud of myself,” she says. “Where I’ve come, what I’ve achieved, the highs and lows.
“As a business owner, you sometimes have to act alone, but you should never feel lonely. Guardian Angel Carers never makes you feel lonely.”