Older But Wiser
Nicole Ross is a medical doctor and Mark Ross operates their Right at Home franchise. Their pooch supplies adorable-ness.
Winner: Right at Home
Finalists: Brightstar Care, Comforcare, Senior Helpers
Enrie Morales was in the corporate world and trying to get care for her father, so she knew the challenges of finding good home care. “Ever since I was 23 years old, my father suffered a stroke, and he stayed home until he was 81. I had a lot of experience dealing with sub-par agencies in this city,” in Riverdale in the Bronx, New York. “I knew what people want when they have a parent being taken care of, whether it was equipment, construction, food, medication, so I felt that I could make a contribution.”
At age 55 she decided to buy a senior care franchise and enlisted a consulting firm to help her choose. She felt Right at Home seemed like a young brand, that is, energetic and on top of all the changes in healthcare. Once she opened her agency, she found the programs offered by Right at Home, such as caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease, helped her expand her client services and thus her revenue.
She advises asking lots of questions. “I was pretty well informed. I was very inquisitive so I don’t think anything surprised me. Now I did have some surprises when dealing with the state I’m living in, when it came to home care.”
She offers one piece of advice, regardless of which franchise a person chooses. “Well, they better like the business, because everyone wants to own their business but you have to like what you’re doing. If you don’t, forget it, you’re not going to make it no matter what they put in front of you.”
Mark and Nicole Ross, in Atlanta, also used a franchise consultant and like Morales had deep experience with healthcare. Nicole is a medical doctor, familiar with the negative phenomenon in which patients are discharged from the hospital but land right back in after complications, something that hospitals are penalized for today under the Affordable Care Act.
Mark used to practice law and was a real estate developer. “I found I didn’t have a passion in law, and the real estate market was non-existent in the 2009 through 2012 period. I realized I had to find something different,” he says.
He approached his next door neighbor, who works at the local chamber of commerce, and asked what services she thought the community needed. The neighbor put him in touch with a franchise consultant, who asked things like what resources they had to invest, what kind of return they needed, what their lifestyle and interests were. “She ended up giving us three choices, and Right at Home stood out,” he says.
Why? “I go to the value system of the franchise. When I look at Nicole and my values, the accountability, the transparency and doing what you say you’re going to do, those things really resonated. It wasn’t sales-y” at the corporate office in Omaha, Nebraska, and they enjoyed meeting with the CEO among others.
Nicole says it’s easy to get a feeling for culture when you visit in person. “I thought the environment was so comfortable,” in the first meeting in Omaha. “We were comfortable with the people because we had similar beliefs, similar priorities, it was the perfect feeling.”
Feelings aside, the couple also cold-called multiple franchisees, and found people to be “genuine and responsive, but the one common theme was, it’s hard work. And I appreciated the honesty in that,” Mark said.
Cash-flowing after six months
At first business was slow, which initially rattled Mark. “Corporate said it would take six to eight months to break even and at least be able to pay your bills. For the first three months I thought they were crazy because the phones weren’t ringing,” he says. “After six or seven months we were cash-flowing enough to make our bills.”
After acquiring one territory, they acquired a second after that first year and then a year ago acquired a third. He believes a “magic bullet” for any service business is to “have enough resources in reserve so you can hire. When I ask people what would they do over again, they say they would probably invest in a full-time marketer sooner.”
Nicole, who continues her work as an M.D. while Mark runs the agency, advises prospects to look for a franchise with robust systems to help the operation run smoothly, especially in healthcare, with patient medical records, caregiver documents and the like.
And one final note: Look for a franchise with operator involvement. “Mark is part of a group of owners that meet regularly,” she says. “You’re able to use all of those different perspectives, the things that work and don’t work. Those things are just precious, precious to us.”
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