There are a number of home care providers that offer franchise opportunities, but Visiting Angels believes there are several ways in which its approach is different
Established in the US in 1998, Visiting Angels is a global care giant with community-based values. Today, the company is one of the largest care franchises in America and proudly supports 600-plus franchisees across five countries.
The business was launched in the UK in 2017, when experienced franchise and care industry professional Dan Archer spotted a gap in the market.
He explains: “The US business has a fantastic reputation for being a top employer and I could see that most home care businesses in the UK didn’t value their carers. At the same time, everyone in care says that finding carers is the biggest problem they face. I wanted to make sure that we focused on the caregivers first - we call that being carer-centric.”
It’s an important factor in franchising that a franchisor helps franchisees to be successful. That help can be through training, mentoring and support, but also by way of the business model itself.
At a basic level, the franchisor has proven a successful way of working and the franchisee benefits by following that way of working. It’s here where Dan feels there’s a problem with some franchise systems: “My question is always: what is a business trying to achieve, what is their mission? If the mission isn’t addressing the current market, it’s sensible to suggest that it may no longer be relevant.”
Adapting to change
Markets change and the challenges of running a care business 20 years ago, 10 years ago or even five years ago are not the challenges of today.
“15 years ago, it was common for almost all care to be delivered through local authority contracts,” Dan says. “We need to remember that 15 years ago there had not been cuts to council budgets and we had not had the financial collapse of 2008 with the austerity that followed. In more recent history, five years ago we hadn’t voted for Brexit. Since then we have seen the number of carers coming from Europe reduce, adding to what was already a shortage of care workers.”
So how do you know whether the business you are considering can help with the challenges you will face today?
Dan says asking the right questions is key: “I’m very often asked by potential franchisees where the clients for the business will come from. My answer is always that’s the wrong question. The question you should be asking is: where will my care workers come from?
“If the franchisor you’re speaking to says finding staff in this market is easy, I’m not sure I agree. If the franchisor suggests you can find staff by paying minimum wages and using a zero hour contract, you will be trying to recruit carers in the same way as pretty much everyone else - what makes your business stand out and why would a carer choose to work for you?
“Staffing is the biggest challenge the care sector faces, so your franchisor should be able to answer the question about where staff will come from in a way that gives your business a competitive advantage.”
Demand for care
The demographics of the UK mean the demand for care is increasing exponentially. An ageing population with more people over 65 living longer with more complex medical needs means the number of people needing home care is set to keep rising. At the same time, the UK is experiencing record low levels of unemployment and since the vote for Brexit the number of European workers coming to the UK has reduced.
Dan says this perfect storm is one that requires care businesses to operate differently: “Our approach in every territory we operate in is for Visiting Angels to be the best employment option for anyone wanting to work in care.
“Our carer-centric approach means existing care workers leave our competitors in order to come and work for us - because we look after them better. Our approach also means we are encouraging new carers to come into the sector. We have Visiting Angels caregivers who used to work in retail and other sectors - they wouldn’t want to work for another care provider.”
On the other care franchise opportunities in the market, Dan is clear: “I’m not suggesting they’re bad businesses, far from it. Many of them have been successful for five, 10 or 15 years.
“However, if the franchisor hasn’t changed to meet the demands of the current market, a franchisee should ask themselves: ‘Am I sure that they are best placed to help me today?’ The simple facts of today’s world in care is that with the right sales and 85marketing plan, generating enquiries for people needing care isn’t that difficult. The answer a franchisor needs to provide is where will I be able to recruit the staff I need.”
Dan adds: “When I brought Visiting Angels to the UK, I wanted to start by running an office just like all the franchisees who would follow me. Today, we have 86 clients receiving thousands of hours of care each month, but most importantly we have built a team of over 60 people providing that care.
“I cannot imagine having recruited the same number and quality of caregivers by being anything other than 100 per cent focused on their wants and needs - being carer-centric has been the key to our success.”
Visiting Angels is seeking 10 franchisees during 2020. The franchise fee is £24,995 and franchisees interested in this opportunity will need £25,000-£30,000 in liquid capital in order to secure bank funding for the total investment, including working capital of up to £100,000.
A substantial, premises-based, management franchise, the potential exists for a six-figure turnover in year one and a projected million pound-plus turnover by the end of year three.
At a glance Visiting Angels
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Dan Archer. 07584 178458 visitingangelsfranchise.co.uk