As Home Instead Senior Care UK sets out to break the coveted 200 franchise mark, managing director Martin Jones talks about zero-hour contracts, adjusting to US ownership and the death of his father
Martin Jones plans to transform the face of ageing in the UK. As the country is facing the prospect of dealing with an ageing population, the Home Instead Senior Care UK managing director believes the times of people’s parents dying in anonymous care homes, hospices and hospital rooms should be over with. Done. Dusted. Instead, he and the homecare franchise is on a mission to ensure elderly people can stay in their own homes for as long as possible. “The home is where the hospital ward of the future is going to be,” Jones proclaims. With the company poised to reach its 200th franchise in the first six months of 2019, it sure feels like he’s on his way to achieving that goal.
It might be just in time as the ageing UK population will make demand shoot through the roof in the next few decades. In 2017, 18.2% of the UK population was over the age of 65, according to the Office for National Statistics. This number is set to jump to 20.7% by 2027. As bigger chunks of Britain reaches seniority, this will cause huge pressure on the country’s healthcare services. “We haven’t got enough bricks and mortar to be able to cope with the demand of older people if you fast-forward 30, 40 years,” Jones argues. “More people are going to have to be looked after in their own home.” And he’s more than enthusiastic about Home Instead Senior Care UK's ability to tackle this challenge head on.
Jones is making no secret about where his passion for the company’s mission comes from. “I was a family carer because my father had prostate cancer,” he reveals. “So I looked after my dad for some time.” To be able to do this, Jones had to make a clean break from his previous career in which he’d held several executive retail roles. While he’d enjoyed working in the industry, the hectic hours would’ve left him unable to care for his father. “I set up my own business which meant more flexibility of what I could do and it allowed me to be a family carer,” he says.
MCJ Associates, the company he launched in 2010 to offer strategic commercial advice to support development of new businesses, helped Jones take care of his dad for as long as he could. For some time, this meant Jones’ father could stay at home and have a decent quality of life. Unfortunately, his pa was eventually told his condition had become so critical he had to move into a hospice and couldn’t go home anymore. “He passed away 24 hours later,” Jones remembers. “If I’d known then what I know now it would’ve been a very different story. He could’ve passed away at home because there was no reason for him to be in the hospice. [They were fantastic and] wonderful people but he really wanted to pass [away at home] and that really made a difference to how I felt about end-of-life care.”
Having lost his mum seven years earlier and now his father, Jones began to contemplate what he wanted to do next. “When somebody loses both parents, it makes you think about things very differently,” he explains. “It makes you think about the immediate future in a very different way. [It] makes you think about what you want to do for the rest of your life rather than chasing profit.” Looking for opportunities to use the skills he’d honed whilst crafting his already impressive resume, one of his friends suggested that he should speak with Trevor and Sam Brocklebank, the husband and wife team behind Home Instead Senior Care UK. “And I had an initial chat with Trevor and that initial chat lasted four and a half hours because it went so well,” Jones recalls. “It was just a meeting of the minds.”
It’s hardly unexpected they’d hit it off given how Brocklebank had had an experience very similar to Jones’. After his grandfather had suffered from poor healthcare, Brocklebank was motivated to ensure no one ever had to go through that again. Then he heard about Home Instead Senior Care, a franchise founded in the States by Paul and Lori Hogan in 1994. They’d launched the company because they’d successfully cared for their grandmother in her own home. The venture soon caught people’s attention. Within the next four years it was reportedly hailed by Entrepreneur Magazine for being one of the fastest growing franchises in the US. Having heard about the work the franchisor did, Brocklebank and his wife bought the UK rights in 2005.
Hearing about their journey, Jones couldn’t help but feel this was the opportunity to spearhead positive change he’d been looking for. “I could see that I could make a difference in this business,” he says. So, in August 2011, Jones signed up to become Home Instead Senior Care UK’s chief operating officer. At the time the British network had roughly 50 franchisees and a lot of growth potential. “It was still in the embryonic stage, it was new to the UK but it was a mission-driven business and there aren’t that many businesses that are mission-driven,” he says.
Moreover, this goal is what he believes sets Home Instead Senior Care UK apart from the country’s other homecare providers. “There are a lot of people who copy what we do,” he argues. “[But] they never understand the why.” The way Jones sees it, none of the company’s competitors can compare to the high quality service the franchisor provides because they don’t share the same ethos – to change the face of ageing – and he claims that others may be more driven by profits than by making an effort. “I hate to use the analogy of The Great British Bake-off,” Jones says. “You’ve got those ten cooks in the marquee with the same recipe, they’ve got the same ingredients and are doing it in the same time. One cake you wouldn’t feed the dog and one cake you could put in a five-star restaurant and that’s because that person has got the culture and values, they haven’t just taken the black and white.”
Moreover, this ethos is a key driver behind why the franchisor has always prioritised finding the right franchisees. “[It’s] why we spend a lot of time with them, you know, in terms of making sure they’ve got it in their heart to change those old people’s lives,” he says. “If they’re going to talk about profit, if [they’re talking] about that this is an expanding sector, that’s fine – but the most important thing is that they’ve got to have it in their heart [to care]. If they haven’t, they won’t become a Home Instead Senior Care UK franchisee.”
Similarly, Jones also recognised that key to maintaining the company’s growth was to connect with the franchise network. Luckily, his own story helped him with that. “It’s very similar to the journey our franchisees go [through],” he says. Equally important to ensure empathy and a high level of commitment from the network was to adopt a collaborative spirit. This meant taking time to listen to franchisees and hear their thoughts and ideas. While this isn’t always easy, Jones is adamant that it’s vital for the franchise’s mission. “You cannot change the face of ageing without our franchise network,” he explains.
With this attitude, he was able to assist the Brocklebanks in growing the network. “It was exciting,” he says. “But it was also that we had to grow whilst keeping the entrepreneurial sprit.” Constantly looking for ways to improve the experience for the people in their care clearly paid off. Not only did the network grow but its dedication to provide exemplary care and bridge the gap left behind by the NHS saw the company pick up awards at the bfa HSBC Franchisor of the Year Award ceremonies in both 2015 and 2016. And that’s not all – the franchise received the Queen's Award for Enterprise 2016. In the years since, the company has been ranked as the number one UK franchise twice in the Elite Franchise 100 and has picked up a slew of other accolades. “It’s a testament to the hard work that our network puts into changing the face of ageing,” he says.
But winning the Queen’s Award for Enterprise wasn’t the only other big change to happen in 2016 – the same year the American franchisor reacquired the UK master franchise. “The Americans buying the UK business back was a strategic purchase for them in the sense of we had common cultures and values,” he says. Having already worked closely with their US cousins, Jones felt the transition went smoothly without any huge disruption to the network’s operations and believes it has strengthened the business. “It means that now we can play a larger role – we can contend from a global perspective and it brings us closer to the mother ship,” he suggests.
The deal also meant that the UK leadership changed as Brocklebank began to serve Home Instead Senior Care UK as CEO emeritus while his wife left the company to care for their family. This didn’t mean he left the world of franchising. In fact, just a few months later Brocklebank became the chairman of the bfa.
For Jones, the acquisition saw him stepping into the role of managing director. Having de facto helped run the business for some time as the founding couple had increasingly stepped back over the years, Jones says the transition wasn’t difficult. Still, he admits that there were things he did differently from the CEO emeritus. “Trevor is a typical entrepreneur and typical entrepreneurs are great at starting up businesses but they aren’t necessarily growing or taking businesses to the next level,” he says. “And that’s where I, and not just myself but the team, need to take it – to the next level.” As a matter of fact, he can’t stop praising his team. “They’re all focused on changing the face of ageing [too],” Jones says. “And when you’ve got that common core value, it makes it very easy to lead the business.”
Together, they’ve worked insistently to keep pushing the franchise forwards. Over the years, these efforts have resulted in the company adopting several innovative pieces of technology. “You know, we very much use the phrase ‘high tech, high touch’ and our strapline is ‘To us it’s personal,’” he says. This ethos has seen Home Instead Senior Care UK introduce several solutions – like sensors around the house tracking the elderly person – to make it easier to offer care and for their relatives to check up on clients. “You’ll never 100% replace a caregiver going in to look after a client,” Jones continues. “But what you can do, when we aren’t looking after the client [the] other ten hours a day you want to [ensure] that mum’s okay. And that’s where technology can play a big part and act as that safety net [to the] client, to make sure that mum’s okay for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
And it’s not stopping. Having introduced virtual reality training to boost carers’ empathy, Home Instead Senior Care UK signed a partnership with GrandPad, the company developing a tablet for elderly users, in February 2019. This partnership aims to improve the connectivity with the people in the franchise’s care. Moreover, it will enable the franchisor to eventually offer new services such as interactive remote care in hard-to-reach areas. And the franchisor also just hired a new head of innovation to spearhead these efforts further.
Given these initiatives' success rely on the caregivers in the franchisor’s employment, the company is unsurprisingly taking steps to ensure employees feel noticed. “Our office has always believed in investing in our people and that’s what we do,” he says. Jones adds that all employees believe in the company’s mission. “We survey all of our clients and all of our caregivers every year,” the managing director explains. “90% of clients recommend Home Instead and 92% of caregivers would recommend it as a place to work with. Actually, asking our caregivers every year what it is like to work with Home Instead – [both] from a national perspective and from a local perspective – that dictates our strategy for the following year.”
Nevertheless, looking at what workers say at places like employment review site Glassdoor, it seems like some former workers are critical about the zero-hour contracts the company offers. Responding to the criticism, Jones says he believes the form of employment gets unwarranted bad press. “I think that people sometimes get wound up about zero-hour contracts and don’t actually fully understand that a lot of people and a lot of caregivers think that it’s a great thing,” he says. The managing director also points to Home Instead Senior Care UK’s internal surveys, claiming no carer has raised the issue over the past four years with many workers enjoying the flexibility these contracts offer. Additionally, he says it’s not the only way the franchisor employs carers. “What we do now is that we offer zero-hour contracts, we offer a permanent contract [and] we offer a blended contract,” Jones continues. “So there’s a lot of options out there in terms of what the key players or caregivers can embark on.”
Looking towards the future, Home Instead Senior Care UK is on target to open its 200th franchised territory by May 2019. “There aren’t many brands of any sector that pass the 150 mark, let alone the 200 mark,” he says. The expansion is even more impressive given most franchisees only own one territory. “We’re not like your Domino’s Pizza [or] your McDonald’s where your franchisees will own multiple sites,” Jones says. “We’ve got over 160 franchisees now. [We’re] one of the biggest [franchises] in the UK in terms of the number of franchisees.”
Ideally, Home Instead Senior Care UK then hopes to keep growing at about 12 franchises annually. “But it’s more important to find the right person who wants to join the Home Instead family,” Jones says. However, this may be increasingly difficult to do as the areas still on offer are in more remote areas like Scotland, Wales, the north east and the south west. “The locations are quite landlocked in some areas,” he says.
But that expansion is hardly the only big thing to happen in the foreseeable future. “We’re going to be the first homecare provider to start advertising on television,” Jones says.
In the years since his father passed, Jones has helped change the homecare industry. With the initiatives already in place and as the company keeps growing, he and Home Instead Senior Care UK are set to keep changing the face of ageing for years to come.