We spoke to Lucy Campbell, CEO of care franchise Right at Home, about what it takes to be a successful franchisee…
Having successfully navigated its way past the difficulties and challenges that the homecare sector has faced in recent years, with talent acquisition and recruitment issues and the continued fightback from the pandemic, Right at Home is now focused on its business and brand growth.
The franchise pro-actively supports its franchise owners by shining a spotlight on the sector to attract much-needed new staff, whilst at the same time offering new business opportunities.
“The pandemic combined with Brexit essentially saw us and many other industries fishing from a much smaller pond when it came to recruitment,” says CEO Lucy Campbell.
“We saw a lot of predominantly middle-aged women leaving the labour market. We are also continuously facing the challenge of attracting a younger workforce into the social care sector. I think we, like people in retail and hospitality, really struggled in terms of workforce as we came out of the pandemic. Those struggles were only made more difficult by having Brexit to contend with as well.”
“Demand has never been higher for our services and certainly, I think, the pandemic made home care even more attractive, with fewer people wanting to go into residential care.
“We are starting to see some improvement in recruitment after really focusing our support resources into this area over the last 18 months, but we still regularly have to turn away care packages due to a lack of staffing capacity, which is absolutely heart-breaking as you can imagine.”
Campbell says the firm is meeting the challenge through a two-pronged attack.
She explains: “First and foremost, we consider what we can do locally to support our Franchise Owners. And we do this by providing them with a host of tools and resources – perhaps most notably our Careers in Care Campaign which essentially serves to educate the general population on how fulfilling a career in care can be; the various different career pathways; and of course, the fantastic training and support which is on offer.
“Right at Home has also taken a stance of trying to change the perceptions of a career in care on a national basis, because we recognise that we cannot have the necessary impact if we do it alone. Over the last year we have lobbied for change at a central government level and collaborated with other providers to ensure that care is seen as a professional and very fulfilling career choice. It’s essential that care should, as it is in our case, have a good rate of pay with caregivers reimbursed fairly for mileage.”
She is involved in the sector on a broader level, beyond Right at Home, campaigning for social care, and is one of the Vice Chairs for the Homecare Association, which aims to influence policy at a national level.
“It really does ensure we absolutely have a seat at the table to make sure the Ministers and policy decision-makers in Government are hearing what needs to change, to see them better connected at a grassroots level.”
In addition, the association has also been working to spread the message through various media publications and even the mainstream media.
It has written to both the Prime Minister and also the shadow cabinet to outline key asks in terms of a shift in approach to how social care is funded and supported.
Despite her deep involvement in the sector, Campbell has actually only been in charge of Right at Home for coming up to 18 months but has already had to support the network to navigate through a number of challenges.
“I like to think that when we were faced with the most challenging times that our sector has faced in recent history, we made the decision to be brave and to take bold steps; when I guess we could have decided to rest on our laurels and just try to survive the challenges which we were being faced with.
“First and foremost, we wanted to look for ways in which we could save our Franchise Owners’costs at a time when their operational expenses were all increasing. So, our VAT project saw Right at Home leading a collaboration of other franchisors in the social care sector, lobbying for zero-rated VAT because essentially social care providers are not able to reclaim their input tax. Sadly, those messages fell on deaf ears, but it was picked up by one of the lead VAT consultants from KPMG, who believed they could support us. To cut a long story short, having invested heavily to be able to save our Franchise Owners a considerable amount of VAT on their management service fee, we are now in a position whereby we have been able to reduce it from 20% to 5% - this represents a reduction of around £9,000 in tax per annum, on a million-pound turnover.
“But perhaps the biggest and the bravest move we have made has been to invest in our own revolutionary end-to-end care management system, which essentially serves to support our Franchise Owners with everything from enquiry management to care management to scheduling. This software allows us to drive cost savings, but perhaps even more importantly, be masters of our own destiny and take complete advantage of the integrated healthcare agenda - putting our Franchise Owners in a position where they are able to innovate at pace, ultimately making notable differences in their community.
“The other big one for us has been the success of our award-winning Careers in Care campaign, which, as I alluded to earlier, really saw Right at Home putting its head above the parapet. We were delighted that this campaign recently won the Business Initiative of the Year at the national Leaders in Care Awards. To really lobby for a change in perception in terms of a career in care – we all felt very proud, putting under the spotlight individuals who have joined our business and have progressed to have the most fulfilling and rewarding careers.”
Becoming a franchisee
The door at Right at Home is open to new franchisees but unlike a lot of franchise operations that concentrate on volume, Right at Home is only looking for the right people, so only takes between six to eight new franchise owners on every year.
“It is absolutely imperative to us that we are right for them, and they are right for us and as such they go through a very rigorous recruitment process. It starts with them coming along to a Discovery Day where they find out about the Right at Home franchise; they will then go through a series of interview questions.
“If both parties want to progress then the onus is really on them to go and do their due diligence, to speak to our Franchise Owners and complete their local area research, before finally coming along to a Qualification Day where essentially, they will be presenting their business case to us for approval. It is only then that we invite them to become part of the very special Right at Home family.
“Key to our decision-making is making sure that their values are absolutely aligned with ours. We do not want people who just want an investment opportunity. We want people who are genuinely motivated to make an essential and crucial difference in the lives of the people we support. At the same time, we also need people to possess the mental strength and the resilience we know you need to weather the first few really tough years of business, to hopefully result in owning and managing a very successful business that makes such an important difference every day.”
The support package for newcomers includes a whole range of assistance, but particularly in navigating the legal aspect of running a care operation.
“We consider ourselves a high support franchise and we are delighted that this has been recognised by us achieving 5-star Franchisee Satisfaction with Work Buzz for ten consecutive years, one of only four brands in the whole sector.
“The support we provide to a new Franchise Owner is a completely holistic offering, but perhaps the most crucial area for somebody coming into homecare for the first time is the support we give around compliance. In the early days that includes supporting them to get registration and to assess their Registered Manager’s suitability for the position; supporting them to ensure that they can evidence and comply with the regulations; and supporting them to prepare for their first inspection by being able to evidence that they are delivering an Outstanding service. Hopefully, our Franchise Owners can sleep at night knowing that we will always ensure that we are absolutely at the forefront of any regulatory or legislative changes that they need to be aware of. Other key areas of support are of course around recruitment, marketing, training, business planning, mindset, and leadership. We do really provide a very, very extensive support offering.”
Right at Home franchise owners don’t necessarily have to have a background in care, but that is obviously a huge advantage if they have. It’s more important, insists Campbell, that they have the right attitude, and a certain resilience.
“We are looking for people who we can trust, whose values reflect their integrity and who we know will be absolutely committed to our quality standards. They obviously have to be motivated to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people we support. Bearing in mind that particularly for the first couple of years, they are going to be very heavily involved in the business and therefore need to be doing something that they will genuinely find rewarding. We need individuals who have the mental strength and resilience that is needed to build a successful business – as we know, it can be tough in the first couple of years. We also look for people who are going to be natural relationship builders; the types of people who we can see who are going to be able to go out and forge the necessary relationships in their community and really position themselves at the heartbeat of their community, as a representative for social care.
“I think a lot of brands talk about quality and of course quality is at the heart of everything we do, but I have lost track of the number of external stakeholders who have commented on the unbelievable atmosphere and sense of togetherness when they come to our annual conference, and for me it is the Right at Home culture that absolutely sets us apart. That family feel culture of absolute togetherness where everybody has each other's backs, and we really are one family.”
Hitting a century
The next few years should see the franchise hit the magic number of 100 franchise operators, the current number is over 70, so there’s still plenty to do in the meantime.
“We will continue our measured growth strategy, aiming by the end of 2025 to have 100 operational offices. We will, of course continue to position ourselves as the trusted brand in homecare, which we will see as having a continued commitment to our quality standards, upholding ourselves as having the highest percentage of Outstanding ratings out of any other homecare providers and the leading score on homecare.co.uk. As I spoke about earlier, we also see Right at Home being the innovators of the sector, as well as further establishing ourselves as a leading voice representing the necessary change that is needed in social care.”