April 12, 2010 // Franchising.com // (Seattle, WA)-- Every 24 hours in the United States, 10,000 people turn 60 years old and many more in their 70s, 80s and 90s celebrate birthdays, too. These days it might seem like almost as many entrepreneurs and franchisors are trying to enter the non-medical homecare field, one of the fastest-growing industries in the country.
Forty-year-old Joshua Hoffman can only shake his head at the many Johnny-come-latelies to the industry. Hoffman is the founder and CEO of HomeWell Senior Care, Inc., which provides non-medical live-in and hourly personal care, companionship and homemaker services for seniors so they can remain in the comfort of their own home.
HomeWell is unique in the homecare industry because Hoffman actually began working as a caregiver himself when he was 19 years old, before founding his own small home-care staffing company in Seattle in 1996 – his experience giving him incomparable insight into the needs of his clients and their families.
Today, HomeWell Senior Care has more than 30 offices in 13 states and Canada. Backed by old-fashioned values and leading-edge technology and business tools that have resulted in five years of continuous revenue growth, HomeWell is projecting to double its number of offices in 2010 in what many view as a "recession-resistant" industry.
"I've never done anything else," said Hoffman. "I'm 40 years old now, but I've been involved in caregiving for more than half my life. HomeWell has become the success it has because of our deep insight into the homecare industry."
Despite its burgeoning growth, the in-home care industry is still in its infancy as the U.S. population ages and more and more people require care. Within 10 years, for the first time in human history, there will be more people 65 and older than children under 5 in the world, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It's no wonder that one report estimated that 41 percent of working adults – America's "sandwich generation" who hold full-time jobs while caring for children and parents – have greater concerns about caring for a parent than for a child.
"As more and more people discover this industry, they will start planning on staying home with care rather than moving into a convalescent center," Hoffman said. "That being said, reputation is critical. Only companies with a solid reputation for excellence will endure the test of time."
Hoffman's introduction to the in-home care industry came after graduating from high school at the Taipei American School in Taiwan, where his father ran a business manufacturing novelty items. Upon returning to the United States, Hoffman joined the Job Corps, a vocational training program run by the U.S. Dept. of Labor. Fascinated by the health care industry, Hoffman took a job as a nursing assistant in a skilled nursing facility.
Wanting to provide more personalized assistance to patients, Hoffman later went to work for a homecare agency, providing live-in and hourly care for a variety of clients, including working directly for a woman whose husband had suffered a stroke. Impressed by Hoffman's outstanding care and enthusiasm for her husband's well-being, the woman often encouraged Hoffman to go into business for himself.
Hoffman started his own homecare staffing company in 1996 while still working weekdays and weekends as a caregiver. As the business prospered, Hoffman was able to commit to it on a full-time basis within a year. In 2002, recognizing the company's potential, Hoffman solidified his business model to support additional growth and began providing even greater assistance to clients by helping them create care plans for their loved ones, acting as a liaison between clients and caregivers and much more.
HomeWell launched its franchising program in 2003. Collectively, its locations employ more than 3,500 people today. The company's continual focus on providing a solid infrastructure and support tools for its franchisees – as well as its unparalleled reputation as a trusted provider of compassionate care for seniors – have combined to make HomeWell an established brand in a highly fragmented industry.
"Prospective franchisees sometimes tell me that all the non-medical homecare concepts sound the same to them," said Rachel Stender, HomeWell's director of franchise development. "But Joshua has 21 years of experience in the industry. He's extremely dedicated to the services, processes and systems our franchisees use on a day-to-day basis because it is all based on his personal experience and growth in the industry."
HomeWell is seeking franchisees who are "business builders" rather than "job buyers" and the company is looking for growth through a combination of single- and multi-territory franchisees. HomeWell offers franchisees a modest investment cost and low overhead along with an easily scalable business model that "really does grow with you," Stender said.
Franchisees can choose their degree of involvement in daily operations, but their greatest value comes from working "on" their business instead of "in it" by being out in the community attracting clients, networking and building relationships with referral sources.
"It's very much a relationship-driven business," Stender said.
HomeWell not only offers prospective franchisees the autonomy that comes with owning their own business, but also the opportunity to make a difference in their community. If HomeWell were to hang a Help Wanted sign on its shingle it would probably read: "Wanted: Successful business leaders who want to make a difference in the lives of others."
"I'm really turned off by people who don't have some type of story about why they want to get into our industry, whether it's having to care for elderly parents themselves or having a friend who might be facing similar challenges. It has to be more than just seeing us as a great business opportunity," Hoffman said. "When we talk to prospective franchisees early on, if they don't fit that profile of being care-motivated, they are not allowed into the HomeWell system. Period."
In fact, Hoffman takes the issue so seriously that HomeWell utilizes cogent attitude, cognitive and personality tests to help ensure that prospective franchisees fit the profile of "care-motivated" individuals who not only want to own and operate a successful business but also want to impact others in a positive way. The same tests, calibrated differently, are also used to find the Personal Assistants that serve HomeWell clients.
HomeWell franchisees come from a wide variety of backgrounds and include a pair of former corporate IT professionals, a nurse whose father joined her in business and a young man who earned a graduate degree and went to work for a pharmaceutical company but felt unfulfilled. About one-third of franchisees have additional family members involved in running their HomeWell franchise.
"Our business model and training is extremely tight and thorough to provide for our franchisees' success," Hoffman said. "For people who have the desire to provide such care, HomeWell gives them the vehicle to make a difference in the lives of others."