With its six historic districts and exhilarating coastal views, the island city of Galveston, Texas, is one of the country’s most visited resort destinations. Galveston is also home to Kristen Carlson’s Right at Home business, which she started in 2006. In her fourteen years with Right at Home, the former medical clinic and hospital administrator has weathered even devastating hurricanes to stay steady in serving her clients.
When you saw the opportunities with other home care franchises, what made you decide to go with Right at Home?
I actually went to a franchise broker, and they gave me several options, one of which was Right at Home. Right at Home has a culture that nobody else has. I looked briefly at Visiting Angels and Comfort Keepers, but I didn’t even get on their list. With Right at Home, I kept saying to myself, There’s got to be something wrong here. It’s just too good to be true. In 2006 at Right at Home’s annual meeting, Home Improvement, I got to meet some owners and it just sealed it for me. There’s something special about what Right at Home founder and CEO Allen Hager has put together. The franchise culture is that if you have the right reasons to be in the business and have a passion about what you’re doing, then the rest just falls into place.
What benefit does your business coach provide to you?
It is helpful to talk and share what I am thinking of doing and have my business coach, Todd challenge me on that, if needed. I had a vice president of operations for five years that was absolutely terrific, and she went out on medical leave. I kept the job open for her for six months, but she stopped communicating. So I just needed somebody to give me that confirmation that it was time to move on. Todd definitely did that. He’s a very good sounding board, and he always brings ideas as well that other franchisees have done.
The whole Corporate team provides a lot. They provide feedback on how to do things better and they give me practical support. For example, they post for me on Facebook and on our website. They have distinct knowledge that I don’t have. If I had done this home care business on my own, without without Right at Home, I would have made so many mistakes.
How does being in a Profit Mastery® performance group with other Right at Home owners help you?
That is extremely valuable—probably as valuable if not more than the coaching and what I receive from Corporate—and that’s because we’re meeting with other owners who totally understand what each other is going through and we provide each other support. If I have an issue and I just want some feedback, I’ll ask my performance group or I’ll ask another owner that I know might have an idea, and that’s huge. That’s extremely helpful.
Can you elaborate on a time that you were running into an issue and you approached your peers?
As far as how to structure my business or retain our caregivers, I’ve asked other owners what they do. Specifically in our performance group, we hold each other accountable. We set goals, and then when we meet each quarter, either by phone or in person, I may say, “Okay, I really need to grow my business. I really need more clients” or something like that. They share ideas and then at the next meeting ask me, “Did you do what you said you were going to do?” And that’s extremely valuable.
The first time I really needed help from others within Right at Home was with Hurricane Ike in ’08, which was about a year and a half after I opened. So many of the other owners asked me, “What can I do to help?” They gave me ideas on how to overcome the challenges of losing my office and my house, which were flooded with two feet of water. Eighty percent of Galveston Island was flooded through the surge. We couldn’t get back on the island for almost a week and a half. All our furniture was mildewed and had to be thrown out. Both our home and office took about six months to be restored. During that time, a former doctor that I worked for allowed me to have my office in her office building without charge. Allen Hager, the founder of Right at Home, also called me and said, “What can I do?” I told him, “I’m most worried about my caregivers, because they’ve lost so many things.” Allen sent me a substantial a check, which I was able to give to my caregivers. That was pretty awesome.
How did Corporate help you through Hurricane Harvey in 2017?
Harvey didn’t hit Galveston Island, but it hit the other part of my territory. Overall, my clients were really okay, but my caregivers lost a lot. So the Corporate office started something similar to GoFundMe, and a lot of the franchisees and their employees contributed money and distributed it to all the offices affected by Harvey. That’s just what a family does.
How has having support with your website and social media saved you time to focus on other parts of your business?
Denton Cushing is my web guy, and he suggested that we try advertising on Facebook for caregivers, and that has actually been really good. That wouldn’t have occurred to me at all. My HR manager works with Denton on our caregiver recruitment. He also reminds me of new content that he can add online for us. Sometimes we just get so involved in the other business things that it’s difficult to manage and remember all the other sides to the business, so the website and social media support is very helpful.
You talked about the culture of Right at Home. What do you get out of the annual Home Improvement every time you go?
I’ve gone to every single Home Improvement since joining Right at Home. I absolutely love it! It’s an opportunity to see my fellow franchisees and some of their employees. There are a lot of good speakers and roundtable discussions. I always say when I come back from Home Improvement that it just pumps me up for things not to be just, “Okay, it’s another year of business, here we go.” At Home Improvement I hear about new ways to run my business and new programs that Right at Home is implementing. I just love it.
Right at Home offers two weeks of training at the Corporate office for new franchisees. How do you feel that prepared you to own your own business?
I think that anything less than two weeks would just not have been sufficient, even with my administrator experience. My head was kind of spinning from all there was to learn, but the training was really critical to being successful. I do not like marketing, so it was really important for me to get that training, because the first couple of years I did all the marketing. Later, I sent two marketers to the training. One did not work out after about six months, but the marketer I have now I hired in May 2017. I sent him for a week for the marketing portion of the training, and I think that was very helpful and worth the investment.
How have you utilized some of the national accounts and business development partnerships that Corporate provides?
Kerin and her team have done an amazing job of getting some opportunities out there for us. We’re now developing our new relationship with Kindred at Home. HOMELINK, the long-term care insurance, is a very important part of our client base, so it’s also great to have this connection because I would say easily 25 percent of our client base is long-term care insurance.
What owner insights would you share with a prospective franchisee?
Right at Home gives you the tools that you need. They have the formula, the recipe; follow it. I see several things that make Right at Home franchisees successful. One is having a passion about this business. Your referral sources and your clients and their families know if you’re genuine or not, so being passionate about the business is really important. Also, being involved in your community and building relationships is extremely important. Being a franchise owner gives you freedom. I could never work for anybody else again. There are some headaches, of course, but the rewards are just fabulous including making a difference in people’s lives. I think also the successful franchisees are those that engage with the entire Right at Home system, by going to Home Improvement and joining a Profit Mastery® group. Taking advantage of what Right at Home offers you is only going to help you be successful.