When ComForCare Home Care franchise owners meet at their annual convention, the awards are a highlight. Of those, one in particular draws a lot of interest: the Sprinter Award, which was created to honor new franchise owners who achieved significant billable hours during their first six months of operation.
Hailed for their personal drive, dedication and passion to serve others, Sprinter Award winners show that a strong business can be developed by never relenting on providing the highest quality of service possible.
One of last year’s winners was ComForCare Home Care Sarasota North franchise owner Kelly Brown, who began operations in January 2018. Here’s the story of her ComForCare journey and how she plans to keep taking her business to the next level.
What led you to become a ComForCare franchise owner?
I was a retail executive and was actually looking at retiring. Then my father had some health issues, and I went to help him through that experience. The whole time, as we dealt with hospitals, rehabs, doctors’ offices, I kept thinking to myself, ‘There must be a better way for people to be treated.’ So I began researching it. I didn’t want to go back to school to be a nurse or doctor but wanted to do something that could help a broad spectrum of people in a personal way. This was where I landed.
How did you settle on ComForCare once you began looking at the in-home care industry?
I studied 14 brands; there are a lot of options out there. Some weren’t an option because there was no territory available where I was going to be, or I didn’t like the marketing or other business approaches. I landed on ComForCare because I liked the way I was treated by people in the corporate office and because I could see we wanted the same thing for clients. The big question was how they ran their business, and I liked what I learned from them.
Has your experience so far matched expectations? What has surprised you?
In some respects, it has gone exactly as I thought it would, but there also has been a lot to learn. My situation was unique because I was not opening in the city I lived in, but rather in a new city where I didn’t know anyone. I have owned a home near my mother for eight years and knew I would be eventually moving there to help her as she aged. I also wanted to retire in Florida and have been visiting for many years. So, when I bought a ComForCare territory, I bought one in the Sarasota area and went ahead and made the move.
Breaking into this industry, when you’re not in the medical profession in any way, shape or form, has both positives and negatives. People may have a preconceived notion about you since you are new, and they may not be likely to give you a referral, but that also works for the positive — you’re new, so they will give you a chance!
One thing I have learned is that this is very much a one-on-one referral business, and it is all about relationships. Having connections in the right hospitals and facilities is great, but you also have to have those relationships in place.
What’s the competitive landscape in your territory like?
It’s diverse. There are two agencies here that are privately owned and have been here more than 20 years, so they have a lot of the business. There also are around 75 licensed agencies in my county — Florida is the land of older people.
We also have lots of opportunities for non-elderly business, because home health is very visible here. A lady was having foot surgery and hired us 24/7 because she was not supposed to put that foot down for any reason. We were there constantly the first week, then stepped down over a 9 week period. Her doctor told her he’d never seen a recovery go so well.
What advice do you have for new ComForCare franchise owners?
This is not a hands-off business. Do not think you can be successful and not be involved. One thing I do differently from most of my competitors is I meet personally with every client, and I meet the caregiver at the client’s home during their first shift. It takes time away from some of my other activities, but it ties back to the experiences I went through with my father. I can’t help people if I don’t know them. My clients are not a name on a piece of paper, but actual people who need my help. If you’re not willing to think of it like that, then don’t do this.
Know that here will be hard days. When those come, remember all the people you help. Be ready to go out and work a shift if someone calls in sick, but try really hard to have the systems in place so you don’t have to do that. You have to be able to run the business, and you can’t do that if you’re in the field all the time. Even so, it’s great to spend time with new clients. I was with one lady for a day so I could understand some of the issues she’d had while living in a skilled nursing facility. She hadn’t been eating well, and no one had noticed that she couldn’t see everything on one side of the plate — so we started turning it. Sometimes you just have to listen to what someone is trying to tell you.
ComForCare is a successful, multifaceted business that offers peace of mind and improved quality of life for older adults and people with diverse needs and their families through support around life’s everyday tasks, and also through exciting and innovative programs such as DementiaWise® , a comprehensive care approach for people with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia that focuses on accentuating the positive by supporting and encouraging remaining skills and abilities; and Joyful Memories, an interactive, singalong program that uses the power of music to create connections and positive outlets for emotional expression. ComForCare’s other differentiators include in-home nurse assessments, customized care plan development and ongoing evaluation to anticipate and plan for changes, all based on the client’s interests, hobbies, skills and abilities that provide joy and purpose in their life.