A Franchise Business Review (FBR) 2012 Special Report on Senior Care Businesses paints a rosy portrait for the home care industry. Franchise Business Review is a national market research firm that performs independent research of franchisee satisfaction. Review these trends as you consider your entry into the market.
To qualify we are speaking about franchise companies that provide home care services.
FBR surveyed 1,348 franchisees from the senior care sector and researched more than 30 brands. Franchisees answer 33 benchmark questions ranking their franchise system in the areas of financial opportunity, training and support, leadership, operations and product development, core values, general satisfaction, and the franchisee community. An additional 19 questions asked franchisees about market area, demographics, business lifestyle, overall enjoyment running their franchise, and role in the franchisee community.
Companies primarily provide non-medical, in-home care for seniors, and some have recently added new services (e.g., medical care, staffing solutions, child and pet care).
The median initial investment required to open a single senior care franchise office in 2012 is $66,148, and the potential return on investment is significantly higher than many other franchise businesses. It is not uncommon among the top senior care franchises to build gross revenues to a million dollars or more, with gross margins of 30%–40%.
Senior care, like all franchising sectors, has felt the impact of the recession in terms of financing. It is much more difficult for prospective franchisees to access capital than it was five years ago.
Executives interviewed said they require franchisees to focus on the business full-time from the start, and they emphasized the amount of time that must be invested early on to be successful - 10 to 12 hour days at least five to six days a week for first four to six months.
The senior care sector consistently scores well on Franchise Business Review’s franchisee satisfaction surveys and that’s largely because of the “pros” that the sector provides. These include:
- relative scheduling flexibility once your business is established and you have the right employees
- ability to work out of a home office, which keeps cash requirements low
- the senior care market is one that continues to grow and prosper despite what’s going on in the world economy
- the ability to do good and to develop strong ties to the community and clients.
On the flip side, it’s getting harder to differentiate yourself because there are over 40 brands now where 10 years ago there were half a dozen. It’s harder for the consumer to differentiate the differences between companies and their offerings.
Franchisees in senior care work more hours (including more nights and weekends) as compared to franchisees in other business sectors. Senior care franchisees also rated their “work-life balance” lower than franchisees in all sectors.
The population of seniors (age 65+) is expected to double in the next 25 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and the average life expectancy continues to increase. When you add in the home care services segment for non-seniors (medical and non- medical services provided to clients with acute care needs, long-term health conditions, permanent disabilities, or terminal illnesses), the market opportunity increases significantly. And with diminishing hospital and long term care beds and a desire for the public to age in place, more people are going to have to get care in the home.
New or Existing
According to the report, “While young and unproven franchise systems present a higher investment risk to a prospective franchisee candidate, start-ups typically have the advantage of offering more flexible terms and larger protected territories to their first franchisees. Whether or not you consider a start-up in your franchise opportunity search depends greatly on your comfort with risk and your confidence in your own skills as an entrepreneur and business owner.”
The home health business is extremely people dependent. Caregiver issues, service emergencies, and client deaths can be frequent occurrences. While running a senior care business requires empathy and people management skills, it does not necessarily require healthcare experience.
What successful franchisees do have, however, are these characteristics:
- strong skills in networking, marketing, and operating a business
- have been in business for less than five years
- are in big markets with a population of at least 250,000 people
- are over the age of 45
- are female and have at least a bachelor’s degree.
Here is how one survey respondent put it. “You really are starting a business as if you were putting out your own shingle. As a business person I could look at the model. I understood it from a financial perspective. But it’s complicated. It’s not flipping burgers. Every state has different regulations, a different culture, a different community.”
Of course you have to want to follow a system. To create everything brand new is a problem in a franchise business.
Senior care consistently comes out as one of the top 5 sectors for franchisee satisfaction in Franchise Business Review’s annual survey. In fact, in 2012, senior care franchisees rated their satisfaction higher than the benchmark in every category of the survey: Training & Support, Franchise System, Leadership, Financial Opportunity, Core Values, and Franchise Community. Overall satisfaction in the senior care space was 11% higher than the benchmark. Senior care franchisees appear to be very satisfied both emotionally and financially, and that satisfaction seems to only increase every year.
Many franchise companies in this sector offer only an average or even below average investment opportunity, so it is important to do your homework, talk to current franchisees, and be sure the brand is a good fit for you.