At Right at Home, we hear from a lot of people who are interested in researching the “senior care” industry. One of the most common questions is “How are you different from your competitors?” Prospective franchisees are often looking for a profound answer to this question…something that will make them say “aha” and make the choice an easy one. And they are looking for (and deserve) something more than “We provide better service to our clients.”

The reality is that there is a lot that goes into the answer to this question. Below you’ll find a discussion of just a few to get you started on the right track.

  1. Scope of Services. There is a broad range of services offered in this industry. We are proud at Right at Home to offer a comprehensive list in both personal care and companion care. Make sure you familiarize yourself with this list as you evaluate the many different senior care companies out there. Our services list is here. As you browse the list, you’ll see that companion care is the industry term used to describe the most basic services, such as meal preparation, light housekeeping, and medication reminders. It also includes companionship and socialization services. This could be something as simple as sitting with a client and engaging them in conversation about current events, or doing a puzzle together. Just something to stimulate their brain, or perhaps to give a family member a break for a few hours. Personal Care takes it up a notch, with services such as dressing, feeding, shaving, and taking vitals. The typical dividing line between companion care and personal care is whether or not the client is touched. If the client is being touched, it’s usually personal care. These services are typically provided by Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA’s). Some franchisees also offer light skilled nursing services, such as as changing a dressing on a wound and administering medications orally and/or through IV’s. These types of services are administered by a licensed nurse.

  2. How long has the franchise been in business? How long have they been franchising? It’s no secret that people are living longer, and that they want to stay in their homes as long as possible and avoid going to a nursing home. As a result, there are several new companies that have entered the senior industry recently to take advantage of these trends (rightfully so – where there’s a need there usually are new businesses). You have to look at the company’s track record, and the management team. You also have to look at your tolerance for risk. If you like the comfort of going with a proven system, and you want that system to have lots of “proof,” you’ll probably choose one that’s well established with many franchisees. They’ve already made the mistakes (and hopefully learned from them) that the newer ones haven’t. If you decide you have a higher risk tolerance and want to try one of the startups, be sure and verify that they are willing and able to invest in the business to make it grow.

  3. What are the people like? Relationships are what make life so interesting, and in the world of business ownership it could make a huge difference. You could hand out the ops manuals of almost any franchise to the general public, and most would still not be successful in running that particular business. The reason is that you need the people that go with the manual – support, training, operations, etc. – to help you understand that manual, and to provide you with customized advice that is meaningful to you. True, some of those people will eventually move on. But they probably won’t all move on at once, and the overall culture of the company will stay intact. Companies have a culture, and that culture, like people, rarely changes very much. You definitely want to meet the people associated with any franchise before making a final decision. How long have they been there? Do they seem to enjoy it? Do you think they care about the franchisees? There’s no better way to learn the answers to these questions than to spend a day at their corporate office. If you leave that day with a good feeling, and your other research is thorough and positive, the chances for a good fit should be excellent.

  4. Franchisee Performance. Take a close look at Item 19 in the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD). This section outlines the performance of the franchisees. Be sure that the data includes a large enough sample to be meaningful, and verify what you find by calling the existing franchisees.

  5. Territory Availablity. This may seem out of place here, but if the territory you are interested in is not available, everything else is irrelevant. So, on your first call with the franchise make sure they have territory available in your area.

I hope this helps as you continue your search. If you have any questions, please let me know!