Fellow Operators Help Right at Home 'Zee Navigate COVID
Ken Helmuth, second from left in the back row, and his Right at Home team in Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
A "profit mastery group," consisting of about a dozen fellow franchisees located up and down the East Coast, has been a lifeline for Ken Helmuth, who bought his Right at Home agency nearly seven years ago from another operator.
Franchise Times in 2019 named Right at Home a Zor Awards winner, our annual project identifying 10 best brands based on operator profitability. This week, we're revisiting some of those brands to see how their franchisees are navigating the pandemic.
Helmuth operates his home healthcare agency in the Durham and Chapel Hill area in North Carolina, and learned from a franchisee in Long Island, New York, as the pandemic hit the Northeast several weeks before his locale. "They were literally two to six weeks ahead of the rest of the country. They had policies coming from the state before we even had 10 cases" in North Carolina, he said, and those members shared best practices about handling exposures to the virus, communication, use of personal protective equipment, etc.
"It's really helped during this period of COVID," he said.
"We share all of our numbers with each member" of the voluntary group, "so full P&L, balance sheet, operational transparency and we talk about best practices," he said. "It's like having 11 other peers that are facing the same thing."
Helmuth praises his franchisor, too, based in Omaha and marking its 25th anniversary this year. "The franchise has been awesome. They do weekly town halls, with navigating some of the really challenging things like the Paycheck Protection plan, the Family First plan," he said, referring to government aid programs.
The franchise has 485 territories operating today in the United States, and about 100 internationally. Eric Little, chief development officer, said his goal of signing 20 new franchisees this year is still on track despite the pandemic.
"The good news is, we're an essential business," Little said. "Truthfully, this is a good place to be. When you consider who's being impacted the most by COVID-19, it's the people we're taking care of."
Formerly in sales and marketing and leadership of pharmaceutical and medical devices companies, Helmuth considered other franchise segments, including hair salons and other retail before choosing Right at Home nearly seven years ago. His agency was a resale from another franchisee who had built up about $1 million in annual revenue.
Helmuth's revenue last year, his best to date, was nearly $5 million, he said, adding operators have to plunge into their communities to grow. "I'm a strong believer that the owner has to be really engaged," he said. "Even if you're not comfortable with sales, you have to be the face initially, because people have to trust you. You're sending strangers into people's homes, and it's a deeply personal thing we do."
Asked if he can forecast the rest of the year amid pandemic uncertainty, he said of course. "I look at that every day. You've got to," he said. "I think we'll be down maybe 5 percent max from the biggest year we ever had."
Read more from our Zor Awards update series this week:
- Reopening a ‘Double-edged’ Sword, Says Pinot’s Palette ‘Zee
- Fellow Operators Help Right at Home ‘Zee Navigate COVID
- Paul Davis ‘Zee Deploys Resources to Help Limit Spread of COVID-19
- COVID-19 Shifted Business for Toppers Franchisee
- For Retirement Play, Father Joins Daughter in Dogtopia
- 'Adapt' Becomes the Mantra for Culver's Franchisees
- PrideStaff, Uptown Cheapskate 'Zees Grateful for Franchise System