Even before Victoria Webber joined Bluebird Care, the home-care franchise, she knew about the positive impact the company’s services can have. This was something she’d experienced first-hand when her grandfather needed domiciliary care. “There are many companies who aren’t giving the care that they should,” she says. While he was dissatisfied with the services of the first care company, her grandfather’s situation fortunately improved once he switched to Bluebird Care. “They were just so much better,” she says.
However, she didn’t decide to join a franchise until her grandfather came to live with her parents. Trying to organise home care for him, Webber quickly realised that none of the providers she talked with were willing to visit her parents’ house. “It was at that moment we realised that there was a huge need for high-quality care providers that would literally go the extra mile and visit people who lived in the middle of nowhere,” she says. “That was the lightbulb moment.” Armed with this insight, Webber and her parents began to research the £45.4bn market and they weren’t disappointed with what they found out. “The care sector is growing really fast,” she says. “And with Britain’s ageing population it won’t stop growing anytime soon.”
Before long they found themselves seriously looking to join a franchise.
Given the exemplary care her grandfather had received from Bluebird Care, it’s hardly surprising that the company was at the top of the family’s list of companies to check out. And it didn’t disappoint. “Bluebird Care was outperforming everyone else,” she says. “They were growing faster, innovating more and we knew first-hand just how good they were.” Already impressed with the franchise, the family became even more thrilled about the chance of joining the network when they talked with the franchisor and existing franchisees. Not only did they find out how the company was doing but also understood how the model would empower them to put their personal mark on the business. “They’d give us the freedom to tailor the business to ourselves and that was a big factor as to why Bluebird Care was the franchise for us,” she says. “You could stick to domiciliary care or you could go into more complex care like working with children, mental health or clinical care.” With the sky seemingly the limit, her parents signed up to become the franchisees of Bluebird Care Lincoln in October 2011, with Webber initially joining them as a care coordinator.
Still, before cutting their teeth as the proud owners of the new business they prepared themselves by going through the franchise’s extensive franchisee training, which Webber also took part in. “It was brilliant,” she says. “The sheer amount of knowledge that you gain is a little bit overwhelming but it gives you a lot of skills and confidence.” For a week at the franchise’s headquarters in Petersfield, the new business owners learned everything including sales, managing employees and running the company. “It gave us a great foundation to build on,” Webber says. With their business acumen thoroughly sharpened, the trio opened for business in February 2012.
But launching the franchise was only the first step; the founding team also had to ensure that they attracted clients. Luckily Webber felt that she was up for the task. “Marketing is my forte,” she says. “And we did a lot of it.” To spread the word about the business the new franchisees spent their first months handing out over 100,000 leaflets, visiting shopping centres, supermarkets and county fairs. And what they quickly learned was that meeting people in person was the best way to grow their client base. Recognising this, the franchisees have since done everything from participating in local parades, raising money for charities and hosting events in community halls. “Care is very personal,” Webber says. “If your mother is dying, choosing the right care is not a decision you make quickly. That’s why it’s important to give people a chance to come and speak with us, the carers and other customers to get firsthand testimonials.”
Providing that personal touch has certainly served the Webbers in good stead, enabling them to grow their client base and rapidly expand their business. “We noticed that there was a huge demand on the north side of the county,” Webber says. “But we couldn’t take advantage of it because of the franchisee agreement. So we decided to buy the territory.” So 18 months after opening the Lincoln franchise the franchisees found themselves becoming the owners of Bluebird Care North East Lincolnshire. And while Webber had been heavily involved in the business from day one, this purchase also marked the occasion when she officially became a franchisee. Since then, she’s also taken South Lincolnshire and Harrogate under her wing. And she’s not stopping there. “I’d like to take on even more Bluebird Care franchises in the future,” she says.
However, that’s not her only plan for the future. “We’re currently running four different projects where we’re introducing technology to the care sector,” she says. For instance, one of the projects uses virtual reality to train carers. The franchisee is also spearheading a test to see if the technology can help treat people with dementia. Additionally, the company is currently trialling wearables that track clients’ heart rates, whether they’ve fallen and their location. These devices then provide the franchise with a live feed, warning them if a client for instance suffers a heart attack or if someone with dementia wanders from their home. “Depending on how things go we hope to include the watch in all of our care packages in six months,” says Webber.
Considering initiatives like these and the stunning growth of the company, it’s hardly surprising that Webber was nominated for the bfa HSBC Young Franchisee of the Year award earlier this year. “I may have cried when I found out,” she says. “You do all these things thinking that you’re only doing your job and it’s not until you get nominated for an award like this that you realise that you’re doing a hell of a job.” While she didn’t win the award in the end, the nomination still caused ripples. Not only has she been celebrated in the Bluebird Care network but she’s also shared her insights at two franchise exhibitions. “It’s taken me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to learn a lot from it,” Webber says. “It’s really done wonders for me as a person and helped me grow as a business woman.”
And there is no doubt whether or not she’d choose to join the network again. “Joining Bluebird Care was worth every penny,” she concludes.