Right at Home franchise owner Patti Walter is an energizing go-getter, who has turned two of her major life-rattling events into motivators propelling her forward. Here, Patti tells her story of resiliency and success.
As a medical assistant for chronic pain patients in Fort Collins, Colo., Patti interacted closely with hurting and despondent individuals. But in 2010, nothing could prepare her for the phone call that her farmer father in western Nebraska had unexpectedly died. Picking up the pieces from her grief, Patti quit her job and over the next year and half traveled to Nebraska taking turns with her brother to handle the farm work and care for their mother. After the farm sold, Patti took some time off and then started looking for a job again back in Fort Collins.
After a number of applications and interviews, Patti grew frustrated with the drawn-out wait. One day she did an Internet search for “businesses for sale in Fort Collins, Colorado.” The search results? Right at Home® and Roto-Rooter®. “When my husband got home that night, I said, ‘I’m done with trying to apply for a job,’ Patti recalls. ‘It’s time I do what I really want to do and own my own business, and these are the two that are for sale.’”
The Right at Home agency quickly won out over the plumbing and sewer and drain business, and Patti purchased the existing Right at Home franchise for the Fort Collins area in April 2013.
What about your career background prepared you for owning your own franchise business?
I’ve had several different careers in my life, and all of my careers have actually made me a better owner and manager for Right at Home. I’ve worked as a humane educator and an executive director for the Humane Society. In retail, I was a senior store manager for General Nutrition Center over stores in Montana, Idaho and North Dakota. Later I was an employment counselor/recruiter, which I use today in our recruiting for caregivers. Then I became a medical assistant and worked with doctors in chronic pain management for seven years.
Considering other franchises to own, was there a defining reason that you chose Right at Home?
I would say it was Diana, the person I talked to at Right at Home Corporate. I really built a relationship with her. Diana doesn’t really sell Right at Home, because I don’t think you really need to sell what we do. Just in the last couple years, we’ve gone from 20 home care agencies in my territory to 70. It’s just incredible. So how do we stand out? I think it has to go back to the Right at Home mission statement, and that’s “improving the quality of life for those we serve.”
What about the Right at Home training and preparation for you owning your franchise was most helpful?
Since I was one of the first resale offices, I had to work through a steep learning curve, but I think the training is excellent, especially the marketing. I even sent a person during my third year in business just for the marketing training for a week because I do think that was very valuable.
How does the support from your business coach and the engagement teams help you run your business?
My coach, Steve, has been very supportive. If I have a question, he finds the answer. But I also feed on other people telling me, “You did it right. You did a good job.” I think everybody needs that. And when you’re a franchise owner, you don’t always get that. One of my friends who owns a different franchise business does not get that warm, fuzzy feeling from her corporate office. I really do appreciate my monthly phone call from the Corporate team, which helps me feel that I’m a part of a system instead of just out here on my own.
Corporate also produces a number of marketing tools, newsletters and other communication pieces that I can pick and choose from as a franchise owner, but it seems like I end up using about every resource at some point. I like to see what works best in my territory.
How does your online/social media marketing specialist play a role in your business such as helping you obtain clients or recruit caregivers?
They keep you motivated to make changes on your website, Facebook page and on all your social media, because that’s the age we’re living in. Five years ago you could put an ad on Craigslist and get 30 applicants and pick and choose. I ran an ad recently on Craigslist and got nothing. So I’m actually working with J.J., my social media marketing specialist, to see were we are getting caregiver applicants so we can tailor strategy accordingly. I’ve been very happy to have them making the actual changes on my website and social media, taking it off my plate.
You regularly attend Home Improvement, the Right at Home annual meeting. What benefit do you get from attending?
The first time I went to Home Improvement was when my caregiver, Heather Quass, won West Regional Caregiver of the Year in 2016. I was actually feeling very alone and kind of isolated at the time, so when Heather won that award and I attended Home Improvement to receive the award for our office, being there made me feel part of the bigger group. I wish I had gone to Home Improvement since the very beginning. Being part of Home Improvement, you realize the situations that are happening in your office with caregivers, admin staff and others is part of working with people, and the situations you face, like no shows, happen elsewhere and that it’s not just you. That was one of the first things I learned from Home Improvement—the sharing of knowledge and experience with other owners is so important.
Now Home Improvement is just an energizer to me. It’s that one time a year where I go and I walk around and talk to people, and I try to sit at different lunch tables and meet all the people. I can meet and mingle and just get energized.
What about your decision to go with Right at Home would be of help to a new franchisee in your nearby Boulder area?
My husband allowed me use his 401(k) to buy this business, and one of the things he said to me upfront in his support was, “Corporate is not going to let you fail.” And they don’t. If you’re willing to listen to Corporate, who’s been doing this a lot longer than me and anybody else, and make the changes they suggest, you will be successful. That’s what I have found to be true.
What would you say to a prospective Right at Home franchisee who is also considering other in-home care franchises?
The Right at Home environment is so positive and we have excellent online training. If you are open to what Corporate supplies you with, you don’t have to think about everything yourself. You can follow what they suggest. Even though we’re a franchise, each individual office is unique in its own way and it really is you. Your office is you, and to me that’s really important, because I always wanted to own my own business.
In 2017, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through a whole year of struggling with my business, struggling with my health. I had to sort of take a step back with the business and go, okay, you’ll be here when I get back, but I need take care of my health first. Later, my husband surprised me by going with me to the 2018 Home Improvement in Glendale, Ariz. Instead of flying, we drove. I’ve never seen the Grand Canyon or Tombstone or anything like that, so we did a 2,200-mile car trip.
What support did you received from Corporate during your treatment and recovery?
That summer was a blur. I watched my business fall apart. That’s when I realized how much of this business is me. I was here, but I didn’t have the energy to do anything. I had a new crew that wasn’t very helpful. It was just bad timing. But when I was ready to start again, that’s when Steve and I talked at Home Improvement. I knew I needed to get rid of someone who was going out on home assessments and never closing the deal. Steve showed me a picture—and I actually have it in my office so I can look at it every day—and it is the biggest thing that has changed the momentum of my office.
The picture is of lions in a pack, and the printed message says, “Surround yourself with those on the same mission as you.” That is what I believe Right at Home has done. They are surrounding themselves with individuals who are on the same mission, which is to improve the quality of life for the people we serve.
The biggest change in my office this year is me looking at that picture and realizing my mission goes clear down to the caregivers. It’s everybody. It’s not just your office. It is your whole team. Now I’m making my team bigger and stronger and we’re all on the same mission. This is a big motivator.