From employee to franchise owner

Sometimes the answer to the question, ‘where do I take my career next?’ can be found staring right back at you. Bluebird Care Fareham and Gosport franchise owners, Gabi Spretchert and Kat Thomas explain to The Franchise Magazine how this was very much the case for them.

Both Gabi Spretchert and Kat Thomas were already employed by Bluebird Care when they mutually decided to purchase the company owned Fareham and Gosport franchise.

Gabi had initially joined the Head Office team in 2012, taking on the role of Business Manager and having responsibility for the marketing, development and running of Bluebird Care’s two company owned offices, one of which was Fareham and Gosport. Kat, meanwhile, had been working within the Fareham and Gosport business for approximately three years, originally starting in the role of Care Coordinator, and later being promoted to the position of Care Manager.

The pair are not the first to make the transition from Head Office employee to franchise owner. Such is the strength of the Bluebird Care franchise model that at least two other Head Office staff have followed this route previously.

Gabi says: “When I joined Bluebird Care Head Office, I knew I was about to become part of a company renowned for its reputation for delivering the highest quality of care and that is something that is very important to me.”

“Having the opportunity to then purchase one of Bluebird Care’s company owned offices and actually provide this high quality care service ourselves was just too good an opportunity to ignore, so we purchased the business on 17 March, 2014,” added Kat.

In the past few months, the two owners have been extremely busy building their own successful business. “We have moved premises, introduced new people to the office team and are steadily growing the business,” Gabi continues. “The main focus for us has been working on the internal office structure. In order to keep staff costs down to a minimum, we initially decided that it would be a good idea to have a period of time where we remained in our former roles. However, we quickly realised that we were both being drawn into operational duties and needed to recruit a Care Manager to allow us to focus on marketing and developing the business.”

It is fair to say that Gabi and Kat have successfully negotiated a massive learning curve.

“There is no doubt that we had to learn to swim pretty quickly by stepping into an existing territory that already had around 50 Care Workers, five office staff and over 100 customers,” Gabi says. “Nevertheless, taking on this territory, its Care Workers and existing customers has been a wonderful experience. In addition, we have always been able to call on the support of Bluebird Care Head office and the Regional Business Development Manager.”

Coming through the Bluebird Care staff system has most definitely been advantageous for the pair. Kat had been operational for the past few years and had great knowledge of the internal systems and the Bluebird Care policies and procedures, while Gabi had personally benefitted from being part of the Head Office Operational team, which was made up of the Director of Operations, the national team of Business Development Managers, the compliance team and the marketing department.

“They were an incredible group of people to work alongside, with a wealth of knowledge in each of their fields,” Gabi enthuses. “This gave me invaluable insight as to how the network operated and how the team worked together to ensure the business model was followed and the Bluebird Care brand was promoted and upheld.”

Looking back on what they have achieved to date, both Gabi and Kat can testify to the fact that it is an amazing feeling running your own business. “Having the freedom to make decisions about the direction your business will go in and being able to implement positive changes is extremely satisfying,” Gabi says. “It’s also the sudden realisation that the opportunities are endless; this is such a scalable and exciting business, with so many areas in which we can diversify into, within our territory. We’ve recently started a successful live-in care service to run alongside our existing core business and there are still numerous other services we can offer that remain unexplored and are requiring good quality care provision.”

Having both worked within the health and social care sector for many years, Gabi and Kat assumed that they knew how to run a care business. “Franchise owners who join the Bluebird Care network all share an incredible level of motivation and passion for delivering a high standard of care,” Gabi states. “The support of the Head Office team is naturally invaluable to them. What has taken us by surprise is that this support is just as valuable to us. The term, ‘why re-invent the wheel’, pretty much sums it all up in a nutshell. Bluebird Care has a tried and tested business model that works. If you follow it, you will build a successful business, both for your customers and yourself, it’s as simple as that.”

Franchise owners have access to Bluebird Care policies and procedures that are continuously reviewed, allowing owners time to focus on growing their business. The marketing department meanwhile provides them with adverts and images to use and offers advice on campaigns that are running. They also keep owners’ websites up to date. A national compliance team provide the necessary auditing tools to ensure owners are running a safe and legal service and they are all connected to a regional Business Development Manager (BDM) for ongoing support to help grow the business.

For those purchasing new territories, the BDM guides franchise owners through every aspect of starting a new business, whether it be assisting to find a suitable office, helping with recruitment for office staff or guiding you through the registration process. Once operational, they work closely with franchise owners to develop a clear business plan and marketing strategy to ensure franchise owners are meeting the targets set.

“Our BDM visits us on a regular basis and keeps us focussed on our business,” Gabi explains. “After every meeting we come away bursting with ideas and enthusiasm, with a clear plan in place. Granted, there’s usually some trial or tribulation that brings you back down to earth with a swift bump, but knowing that there is someone else taking an interest in your business success is invaluable. The other huge benefit is information sharing. Being informed of what has worked successfully for other businesses in terms of recruitment campaigns, marketing initiatives, keeping you up to date with new legislation, the list is endless.”

If anyone is considering investing in a care franchise, Gabi and Kat would highly recommend Bluebird Care. “What can we say,” Gabi concludes, “to coin the phrase from Remington giant Victor Kiam: ‘I liked it so much, I bought the company!’”