Nurse Next Door can’t be bought
Gary and Karen Wells are Nurse Next Door franchise owners in Walnut Creek, California.
Success breeds all sorts of things, like jealousy, complacency or even more success, but it also attracts M&A activity, especially in today’s franchise climate. For Vancouver, British Columbia-based Nurse Next Door, an at-home senior care provider that quickly spread throughout its home market during 15 years in business, impressive unit growth attracted the interest of California-based St. Joseph Health—a $6 billion healthcare giant.
Although St. Joseph was initially interested in purchasing Nurse Next Door, the company rebuffed its suitors by stating the company wasn’t for sale. After convincing them of the mutual benefits of the franchise model through 12 months of negotiations, the dancing partners announced an agreement where the hospital system became the largest franchisee in the Nurse Next Door system. Per the agreement, St. Joseph Health opened 26 franchise locations with the option to add 12 more units in the future.
“We were rapidly growing and excited to be pushing forward in the U.S. market, so that wasn’t a conversation we were going to have,” said Arif Abdulla, vice president of global franchise development at Nurse Next Door, of the acquisition offer. “There was such a great culture and core value alignment between the two organizations, so we kept talking and realized St. Joseph is just like every other major healthcare provider out there looking to solve the problem of private-duty home care.”
The business opportunities are staggering. In and out of franchising, companies are quickly sprouting up to service the needs of aging parents and assist their children in managing the relationships between doctors, nurses, patients and caregivers. The marquee statistic: within the next 50 years, the number of Americans over 65 is set to double to 92 million old folks.
John Bennett, chief administrative officer at St. Joseph Health, said this dramatic shift “requires a change in how health systems provide the best care where and when it is most needed.”
As Abdulla explained it, the deal with St. Joseph Health is a win-win, as the healthcare system paid the full franchise rate for its locations, which allows Nurse Next Door to drastically beef up its American presence.
For St. Joseph, this deal will lower its costly readmission rate, while giving the company a tested playbook to follow as it seeks to care for patients in their desired environment—the comfort of their own homes.
“St. Joseph’s is an expert at building that healthcare space in the traditional setting, but private duty home care is very much a consumer-driven business,” Abdulla added.
“It’s entrepreneurial. It’s about building a consumer brand, and that doesn’t go hand in hand with a $6-billion institution.”
Cathy Thorpe, Nurse Next Door’s newly appointed CEO, came to the company after 25 years in retail after enlisting the company’s services when her mother went through a major operation.
She met John DeHart, one of the company’s founders, through the process and subsequently “fell in love” with its culture and expansion plans.
She feels the Californian deal sets up Nurse Next Door to ink similar deals with major health systems in regions throughout the United States, which would be a significant advantage as the industry consolidates as quickly as it grows.
Given the rapid expansion of the senior pool, supported by individual and institutional investment, such partnerships are likely to become more common.
“We certainly see multiple opportunities out there,” Thorpe said. With its “happier aging” mantra, Nurse Next Door professionals try to incorporate the patient’s interests and hobbies into the caregiving process to further cement the benefits of in-home care for its patients.
“Maybe it’s somebody who used to travel to Italy and they can’t go anymore—that caregiver can make an Italian meal or put on Italian music and be able to integrate the whole experience,” Thorpe said. “There are many caregivers out there that become very excited and want to stay with Nurse Next Door a long time, because that’s why they got into the business.”
With 135 total locations, 60 of which are in Canada, Nurse Next Door sees the bulk of its expansion potential in the United States. Thorpe stressed the company is still interested in traditional, individual franchisees even as it pursues other large-scale deals across the country.
Now in business with St. Joseph for approximately seven months, Thorpe said the partnership is working out well, with Abdulla adding there could be additional announcements in the coming months.
“The business is growing and hitting the metrics that we want to see, and that’s encouraging,” he said. “I think you’ll be hearing from us again around expansion with this particular partnership, and that’s always an encouraging sign.”