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My franchise story: “It was clear that care is a growing need”

My franchise story: “It was clear that care is a growing need”

With Visiting Angels’ expertise, franchisees Andrew and Helen Lofts were able to replicate the successful care delivery model in their local community of East Staffordshire

For many years, husband and wife Andrew and Helen Lofts had grown tired and disillusioned with their work. It was only one day when they realised there was more to life than starting the day at 4.00 am and not returning until late evening that they started to consider what their next steps were. A trip to a franchise exhibition gave them the answer in the form of in-home care franchise Visiting Angels. With its strong focus on ethics and company values, the pair recognised the true potential to be had in a service like no other – opening their own office in East Staffordshire.

“It was clear that care is a growing need,” said Andrew. “Not just during the pandemic when we launched, but with the ageing population and people now opting for more personal care for their loved ones, Visiting Angels provided the solutions to problems that have become prevalent in the care industry. Neither of us had any prior knowledge of the in-home care sector, but with the franchisor’s expertise, we’ve been able to replicate the successful care delivery model in our local community.” 

With his 20-plus years’ experience in change management, Andrew had progressed to senior leadership senior roles within global companies. However, with that responsibility came the need to travel internationally on a regular basis. Helen, on the other hand, had spent years at a global engineering company as an executive PA and then eight years managing a hotel whilst raising their two children.

Completely unaware of each other doing so, they both started looking at potential franchises they could invest in. It wasn’t until they both revealed their intentions that the pieces of the puzzle started to fit together – they were both on board with franchising and decided to take it further.

“We decided the best thing to do would be to visit a franchise exhibition,” Helen explained. “We didn’t have any particular sector in mind, as we knew that we would be looking for a management-style franchise. Our existing skills and expertise would put us in good stead, whilst leaving the day-to-day service to the team we would manage.”

An instant connection

“It was there we met with Dan Archer, the managing director of Visiting Angels,” added Andrew. “Combining our skills with the brand’s commitment to changing the face of the industry for the better with its ‘carer-centric’ approach, we knew that this was a business we could excel at. We carefully examined a number of other brands which confirmed our decision – there was nothing else that even came close to Visiting Angels.”

Established in the US in 1998, Visiting Angels is one of America’s largest care franchises, with over 700 franchisees operating in five countries. The first UK office launched in late 2017 and became the country’s first ‘carer-centric’ in-home care provider. Dan Archer spearheaded the brand’s development as UK franchisor and managing director of the Sheffield pilot franchise territory. Within a year of launching, Dan and his team were awarded Best International Office at Visiting Angels’ annual conference in Philadelphia, cited as the fastest-growing office in the brand’s history. It’s this success that franchisees are championed to replicate.

The pair attended their franchisee training in June 2020. This was their chance to get to grips with running a care business, whilst giving them an introduction to the care industry as a whole.

“Although the information was fed to us virtually, it worked extremely well, preparing us for the business launch,” explained Andrew. “It was delivered in digestible chunks that set up a foundation for when we could begin with our service. Perhaps the greatest part though was seeing other franchisees starting their journey too – we could support one another throughout the beginning stages, and it’s something that we still do today.”

Whilst waiting for approval to operate from the Care Quality Commission, Helen focused on networking within the local community. Her efforts paid off as, when their registration went live on 1 September 2020, they already had a client waiting to get going with their service.

The right way

“We understood what had to be done to make the business a success – by following the model and replicating what Dan and other franchisees were doing, we too could build a great business. Along with the support of our amazing Registered Manager, Arnna, we’re well on our way. After six months, we had signed 12 clients, with 12 caregivers within the team. We’re comfortably completing over 225 care hours per week, which places us six months ahead of our original plan.

“I think it just goes to show that, if you follow the model, then there’s no reason not to do well,” Helen added. “We knew of the demand for quality care in East Staffordshire, so it was our chance to seize that opportunity and provide a service that families were crying out for. And it’s paid off.”

Whilst the pair have built the solid foundations of a successful business, they understand what is needed to take it to the next level. In order to grow, they will focus on delivering a great quality of care, rather than a larger quantity of merely adequate care.

“That’s our unique difference to other providers, and it works,” said Andrew. “During the pandemic, maintaining that great quality standard of care did take effort, more PPE and further training for staff, but thanks to the robust franchise model – not forgetting the country crying out for our services – we managed to build the foundations of a successful business. If we can do it whilst facing the worst economic crisis of the past decade, then we’re extremely excited for what’s to come.

“People might have thought we were mad going into business together as a married couple, but the truth is we have complementary skills that spread across all of the daily operations. It’s helped with our personal relationship too, as we are happier and feel more fulfilled than we did before. We can now see that what we’re doing is making a difference, and our confidence for the future is extremely high.”

Helen concluded: “Visiting Angels has completely changed our lives for the better. If anyone was to ask if we would do it all over again if we could, we’d reply with a resounding ‘YES!’”

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