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New CEO at ComForCare aims high


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From left, Joanne Kantor, Marlette Johnson and Mark Turnbull of ComForCare in Oregon.

The basic laws of economics suggest that increased demand usually spawns increased supply. That has certainly been the case in the senior care franchise sector, where the growing number of seniors in the United States has meant a rash of related outlets working to provide them with a wide range of care services.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people 65 and older in the United States is expected to increase to 55 million in 2020, to approximately 70 million by 2030, and to 88.5 million—or 20 percent of the population—in 2050.

Also relevant to the demand for senior care franchises: increasing numbers of these seniors want to age in place, aka at home. The AARP found that 71 percent of people between 50 to 64 want to stay where they are as they age. Such substantial demand has been met with an attendant rise in franchise units. Since 2014, the number of franchise businesses in the space has been growing steadily with around 7,000 reported in 2016.

Given that the senior care franchise space is getting increasingly crowded, the rewards are likely to be reaped by those with fresh blood, fresh ideas and an infusion of capital to make these work. This is precisely the ingredients that ComForCare is banking on. Under the leadership of franchising veteran Steve Greenbaum, a merger with CarePatrol and a private equity investment from the Riverside Company, the Bloomfield, Michigan-based franchise is looking to double revenue—from $175 million in 2017—in three to five years.

That’s no small task, and ComForCare has a long way to go compared with competitors. And, while he has years of experience in the industry, Greenbaum is new to the healthcare space, having founded and grown PostNet, a shipping franchise, in his previous life. While ComForCare grew sales 9.6 percent in 2017 according to the Franchise Times Top 200+, it lags behind several brands including FirstLight Home Care and Executive Care, which posted increases of 29.7 percent and 25.7 percent, respectively. Then there’s Home Instead Senior Care, the highest ranking Top 200+ health and medical brand at No. 77, which in 2017 grew sales to $1.58 billion.

ComForCare, from its spot at No. 255, has quite the climb ahead of it, even with a comprehensive strategy in place.

ComForCare is going to zero in on the differentiators that set it apart from the competition, says Greenbaum, who will draw on his franchise founder background as the new CEO (more on that later). One of the things about ComForCare that really attracted Greenbaum to the franchise was its stated mission: “to live your best life.”

“This extends to our clients, caregivers, home office team members, everyone we touch,” he says. That culture is a key differentiator. Greenbaum readily acknowledges that in an industry where success depends on the delivery of care to a vulnerable population, most franchises might tout the emphasis on enhancing the quality of life. But ComForCare aims to set itself apart by focusing on care enhancement through specific programs, which have proven to make a tangible difference in clients’ lives, Greenbaum says.

Case in point: the DementiaWise program, which provides systematized care for clients with dementia. Strategies include ways of decreasing challenging behavior and supporting and stimulating remaining abilities. ComForCare’s Joyful Memories program brings memories to life through music recognition, Greenbaum says.

“For the franchisee this means being a part of not only a profit-driven, but also a purpose-driven organization,” he adds. At the same time, ComForCare recognizes that financial success is a key driver for franchisees, Greenbaum says, and all its targeted efforts over the next few years are aimed at improving the financial health of the franchise and its franchisees.

“We’re extremely focused on expanding the capabilities of the franchisee within the organization,” Greenbaum says. “We’re not just a home care but moving to a home health organization and providing private duty nursing.”

CEO Steve Greenbaum

CEO Steve Greenbaum

Closing the care gap

Over 20 years of being in business, ComForCare found the majority of referral opportunities lie in private duty nursing. “That can be wound care, skilled care and other services in the continuum of care that can really bolster our business and our capabilities,” Greenbaum says.

Greenbaum isn’t worried that the franchise might be spreading itself too thin. “A lot of care these days is really fragmented; that makes it difficult for clients to access care in a consistent manner. By relying on us for the whole continuum of care where skilled services to companion care services might be needed, clients are supported. It’s a model that is consistent with contemporary healthcare,” he says.

It’s also a model many other senior care services are pursuing, as they diversify through acquisitions of related health brands or the development of new offerings. Those that can close the care gap the fastest will likely emerge the leaders.

The biggest factor that will drive success in the senior care franchising space is technology, Greenbaum says. Some of the infusion of capital from Riverside Company, ComForCare’s private equity partner, will be directed at developing proprietary technology that can deliver objective ways of measuring care outcomes.

“Our referring partners want to know more outcome-based reporting: Did the client have a good experience? Can you keep them from being rehospitalized? Technology and having the systems in place to track long-term care initiatives of individual clients is a must-have in this industry going forward,” Greenbaum says.

ComForCare works with an in-house social history questionnaire, which is not just about meds and movement capabilities but also about the personal background of the client that might color delivery of care.

The advent of big data from wearables and other health trackers can also be incorporated into such objective measurements, Greenbaum says.

A vision from Riverside

Under the umbrella of ComForCare Healthcare Holdings LLC, ComForCare has brought CarePatrol into its fold, which as a senior living placement company shares many similarities in the delivery of services. “Riverside’s vision is to build a multi-brand platform that serves seniors along the continuum of care,” Greenbaum says.

ComForCare is also leaning on Greenbaum’s leadership to pump fresh blood into operations. The difference, Greenbaum says, lies in his background. He has more than 35 years of experience in franchising and was the founder of the shipping franchise PostNet, which boomed to 660-plus locations in 11 countries under his leadership. After selling PostNet, he joined ComForCare after being attracted by its brand differentiators.

Greenbaum is looking to bring transparent practices to ComForCare and to focus on the financial health of all franchisees, new and old—and he’s banking on his extensive experience to help achieve that.

Franchisees can expect “very honest communication,” he says. “I’m collaborating at all levels with franchisees now, through advisory councils and committees, when it comes to technology, when it comes to care enhancement programs, when it comes to conferences in programs.”

Through regional town hall meetings and personal conferences, Greenbaum is looking forward to working with franchisees and getting everyone on board to steer the ship into new waters. “I bring my experience to the table, it’s going to be me addressing the day-to-day issues, dynamics. It’s more than just about process, we’re going to be moving this organization forward in all of the disciplines of franchising.”

The franchise’s purpose-filled mission, combined with rising market demand, is poised to yield rich dividends and Greenbaum is hoping to accelerate that growth.

“We’re looking at every level of the organization to get new franchisees to break even and become profitable faster and to ensure that mature owners are growing and even focusing on their exit strategies,” he says. “Our franchisees are valuable members of our team and they’re are going to have an opportunity to take advantage of our growth.”

The net goal: Go from 200 to 400 territories in three to five years and double revenue. That’s an ambitious agenda but one Greenbaum believes is within reach.

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