Ken Deary explains how he’s built Right at Home UK into a leading home care provider and why he has no plans to take his foot off the gas
The former McDonald’s British Franchise Association Franchisee of the Year talks about the rewards of his new sector and how, after 23 years in business, he has no plans to take his foot off the gas.
You had huge success as a franchisee at Mcdonald’s, winning the BFA franchisee of the year and its coveted Golden Arches award. What made you decide to leave?
I have huge respect for McDonald’s, the people, the systems and what I learned. However, I needed a new challenge - a challenge that made a significant difference every day to the people I worked with and clients I supported.
While McDonald’s gave me a fantastic start in my business life, I wanted to start a business from scratch, from the ground up and as I matured I realised it had to be a business that had a positive impact on people’s lives.
Did you have any idea where you would find that kind of satisfaction?
No, but I looked at different businesses with this in mind and home care stood out. I had a residential care home already and at first I looked at moving into care in the home independently.
Then I saw Right at Home were looking for a master license holder for the UK and that they did that through a franchise model. I thought, well I know care - and I know franchising - so this could be a really good fit.
What was it that made you commit?
Right at Home had the right values. They were at the quality end of the market. I wanted to do this properly and saw that with them it wasn’t just about the money - it was about providing a great service.
It was also important to me that they wouldn’t interfere in our strategy and day to day operations. The name of Right at Home internationally gave us a head start, while giving us the independence to grow the business in the quality direction I wanted.
The timing of this coincided with the UK economic crash. what impact did this have?
I was trying to start up when everyone else was entrenching. It made it very difficult.
None of the banks wanted to fund a new business. In fact, I had a loan pulled just days before I was about to start, so I had to virtually self fund - it was a case of having to put your money where your mouth is.
I had to tighten everything up, work really hard, which I enjoy, and make numerous sacrifices. But that’s business. Yes, it added to the pressure, but it was what I wanted to do and I was confident I could be a success.
You set up the pilot office in preston in January 2010 and made it profitable within 12 months. what were the most important things you learned and how did it shape the UK Franchise system?
It actually didn’t feel particularly out of my comfort zone. I knew the care side from having the care home and I was used to building and managing a team from my time at McDonald’s.
Being a McDonald’s franchisee was an invaluable experience. I knew the best and worst elements of how to treat franchisees and knew from that what I wanted to channel into the Right at Home franchise system.
The most important part of running the pilot care office myself was getting hands-on experience of the challenges and rewards our own franchise owners would face and understanding where the priorities were in altering the US system for the UK market.
How has right at home UK developed since that time?
In six years we’ve gone from having one franchisee to having 50 and grown from sales of virtually nothing to a growing group turnover in the mid £20 millions.
We have helped create a lot of very successful business owners, who are turning over significant amounts - the number currently trending over £1 million a year is amazing for such young businesses.
We’re making a name for ourselves now, both locally and nationally, with some great awards under our belt and some brilliant community initiatives and consistently superb client feedback.
And what about you personally?
Everyone in the business has grown over the last six years. We’ve built a strong team of owners and a strong support team and everyone is starting to see the rewards of their hard work on a personal basis.
We’re better, more experienced and more confident in all aspects. But my priority will always be to make sure there’s never complacency and we continue to grow and improve.
What is your long-term vision for right at home UK?
We want to be a major name in social care renowned for quality and renowned for caring about our clients, staff and franchisees. That will mean growing more than 100 successful UK offices.
I want us to be instrumental in shaping the market towards high quality care, based on longer visit times, and instrumental in restoring value into the care worker’s role.
Do you have any plans to retire?
It doesn’t interest me. In fact, I couldn’t think of anything worse. I don’t think my wife could put up with me around the house every day either.
This is a very personal business to me. I’ve seen a lot of other providers sell out, but I have no intention of doing that. We have cultivated a family feel to the business. We’ve a strong succession strategy in place and I see this as a longterm business.
Having recently signed your 50th franchisee and looking back over six years of franchising, what are you most proud of?
Seeing the success of our franchisees and the number of franchisees who tell me how much they love what they do now.
The head office team run a ‘Magic Moments’ competition across the network each month and the evidence we see, of the impact that quality care has on our clients’ lives, is humbling.
We make sure everyone who joins our franchise network is motivated to make a difference and what I value most is seeing they are doing just that - creating lots of jobs, supporting their staff well and looking after their clients well, while loving running their businesses. Does it come any better than that?