COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges for franchise businesses, but there are silver linings amongst the clouds. For the care sector, the pandemic has also brought opportunities to thrive.
Home Caring provides personalised home care services to seniors and people living with disability. In just 18 months, the brand welcomed 19 franchisees to the business and ranked 11th in the Australian Financial Review Top 100 Fast Starters list for 2020.
According to Franchise Manager Bill Lockett, the business has also experienced growth in the hours of service provided.
“The biggest thing we’ve seen is an increase in the weekly service hours we provide to people in homes. From March to November 2020, this has increased by well over 200%,” says Mr Lockett.
This is due to many factors, but a large part is the sector’s agility in preparing for the unique requirements of a global pandemic.
This was especially true for Claire Zhang, a clinical nurse who owns Home Caring Campbelltown in Sydney’s western suburbs. When the pandemic hit, Ms Zhang’s business stayed strong by putting policies and procedures in place to protect both clients and care workers.
“Compared to restaurants and cafes, we’ve been very lucky. We’ve had some services put on hold, but the majority has kept going. Our quality and compliance manager updates our procedures every Friday, so as soon as there is something that we need to know about COVID-19, we are up to date,” she says.
“As for clients, they don’t want to go out but they still need to be engaged and helped every day, so we support them in person and online. I also put a lot of effort into communication and assessing individual care needs. This means we’re continuing to get clients and retain current ones.”
Home care’s future in Australia
The future is now looking bright for Ms Zhang and other home care franchisees, especially as our population ages and the care sector continues to grow.
More people are choosing to receive home care rather than live in an aged care facility – especially in light of the Royal Commission and the pandemic crisis in nursing homes. It is estimated that the number of government Home Care Packages will reach 140,000 by 2022.
In the disability sector, over 365,000 people are being supported by the government through the National Disability Insurance Scheme – a figure that is set will increase to over 500,000 people within the next two years.
Mr Lockett believes these projected figures correlate with Home Caring’s own territories.
“We can already see growth over the last five years in the number of people needing care in our own marketing areas,” says Mr Lockett.
Ms Zhang agrees.
“I‘m really looking forward to the future. Home Caring Campbelltown is going to start providing Supported Independent Living (special accommodation with services to help NDIS participants live independently at home). We’ve got our first accommodation established in Campbelltown and we’ll get our first client in Christmas. She can’t wait to move in.”
A sea change for health care workers
Health care workers are especially well-placed to grow a successful home care business, given their skill set and experience with caring for vulnerable people.
“Throughout the COVID crisis, health care workers faced the frontline like none of us can understand,” says Mr Lockett. “Now is the time when they can build something for themselves while helping people in home care, as there’s not many businesses that cater specifically for people with that background.”
Home Caring is also making it easier for experienced health care professionals to get a foot in the door.
A common major barrier to opening a franchise is the amount of investment required. To assist, Home Caring offers a unique 50/50 partnership model to selected applicants, allowing you to get into a franchise for half the usual investment amount while sharing in 50% of the profits.
Franchisees are also paid a generous salary which will takes away the worry of paying bills, especially in the first year when most small businesses do not make enough profit to pay a wage to the franchisee.
Ms Zhang said this financial benefit was one of the factors that attracted her to the Home Caring model.
“After 6 months I was able to make profit which I didn’t expect before I started the business,” she said. “I’m really happy with what I’m doing. I can be flexible with the work hours and do different things. The business gives me many opportunities.”
Home Caring’s community-based approach to home care also creates opportunities for health care workers who speak a language other than English, or are part of an ethnic community.
Australia is fast becoming one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world, with one in three older Australians were born overseas. To meet this growing market, Home Caring encourages franchisees to make the most of their cultural connections.
This is how Candy Hu, operator of Home Caring Chatswood, is building the business. The mother-of-two trained as a clinical nurse in China before migrating to Australia with her family. She speaks three language – English, Cantonese and Mandarin – and uses her connections in the Chinese community to grow her business.
“Because I can speak their language, my clients are really happy to let me help them. If they need a care worker to help with domestic assistance, cooking or transport, based on their language, I’ll send the right person to help them. I’ll find someone who can speak their language, who matches what they need,” says Ms Hu.
“At the end of the day, I’m happy when I see my clients are healthy, happy and interacting with the community,” she adds. “That’s the best outcome for us in home care.”