It’s good to know you’re not alone

One of the biggest issues for many new franchise owners is the loneliness of being in a start-up situation, in a business you are not familiar with. The sense of isolation can be even greater if you have never worked for yourself before.

Most franchises offer a certain amount of support to new franchise owners, but the actual nature and level of that support can vary tremendously from one company to another. During the first weeks and months of a new franchise, it is invaluable for the franchise owner to have a named contact they can rely upon for helpful and sympathetic advice whenever the ‘going gets tough’. It’s even better if a franchise support team member visits regularly to encourage you, and is always readily available to answer your questions by email or phone – without making you feel like an idiot for asking so many questions!

Some franchisors, however, offer little more than a telephone helpline where the person on the end of the phone is not even responding with knowledge gained from personal hands-on experience, but simply reading answers from a list of FAQs.

If a franchise offers a comprehensive support package, that’s a very encouraging sign. It shows that the company is realistic in expecting franchise owners to encounter difficulties when setting up and running their new business, and it confirms that the franchisor is fully committed to providing the high level of ongoing support that is essential to help you make it successfully through and beyond the challenging early stages of your new business.

The franchisor Caremark is well aware of the problems of isolation, so, over the course of many years, the company has developed and refined an exceptionally comprehensive support programme for both new and established franchise owners. The objective is to ensure that each Caremark franchise owner feels from the very beginning that they are part of a community of like-minded individuals and couples, always able to share experiences, ideas and worries with contacts at the parent company, and with fellow franchise owners. The thoroughness and efficiency of Caremark’s support structure is endorsed by a robust corporate culture that generates very high levels of brand loyalty among franchise owners.

In case you are unfamiliar with the Caremark brand, the company is a highly respected and well-established home care franchisor. It provides care and support services to a broad range of customers, including older people, adults, children, those with mental health needs or with learning difficulties, people with physical difficulties, and those who are terminally ill, as well as individuals who have recently returned home from hospital and need interim assistance. Run by a ‘white collar’ franchisor (who needs no medical experience) and delivered by dedicated, well-trained professional staff, Caremark’s bespoke care provides a genuinely caring service for local communities by enabling people of all ages, abilities and ethnicities to continue living independently at home.

Annual conference
A key element of Caremark’s support programme is its annual conference, held recently for the eighth consecutive year.

Ninety-two delegates attended this year’s action-packed event at the Hinckley Island Hotel, near Leicester. Apart from providing a great opportunity for participants to meet and chat, the conference included a constructive, business-building agenda, featuring an annual review and information updates. Training and group discussion sessions covered topics such as working through change, managing growth, attracting care and support workers and clients, winning tenders, and team building and retention.

The event concluded with an awards ceremony during which two top performing franchises, Caremark (Walsall) and Caremark (Barnsley), received the company’s Achievement Award. The coveted Franchisee of the Year Award went to Charles Folkes, Managing Director of Caremark (Redcar & Cleveland). Of his success, Charles comments: “Naturally I was delighted to bring back the Caremark Franchisee of The Year Award to my team in Redcar, and it was all the more meaningful because we were chosen by our peers along with the Head Office team. This achievement would not be possible without the excellent Caremark system and the support we receive from Head Office, but most of all the dedication, hard work and commitment of my Registered Care Manager and all the members of our team.” The awards reflect the high level of importance Caremark places on compliance and on maintaining excellent standards of customer service.

A comprehensive support programme
The annual conference marks the culmination of each year’s support activities, but it is just one of many activities carried out by the company to maximise each franchise owner’s chance of success.

Caremark’s start-up support includes Initial franchise owner training to build confidence in running a home care business. Specialised guidance is given in using the company’s customised computer software. Stationery, promotional material and official corporate home care uniforms are provided. Pages are set up on the Caremark corporate website, together with email and hosting. Franchise owners also gain membership of a recognised professional body, and, of course, licensing rights to their defined territory. The whole start-up package is tied together by Caremark’s comprehensive home care business plan, which provides a step-by-step guide to getting the franchise on track and thriving. But that’s only the beginning.

Close partnership with franchise owners
A key factor in the success of the Caremark franchise concept is the way that the company works in close partnership with its franchise owners on an ongoing basis. Caremark’s home care franchise start-up and support package provides long term input and guidance that keeps delivering tangible benefits well beyond the company’s initial two-week residential training course. In fact, the early training is just the starting point for an ongoing series of regular training activities and initiatives. The purpose is to keep franchise owners up-to-date with changes and developments within the care industry, and to ensure that they remain fully motivated while running their home care business.

Face-to-face support meetings
Another vital element of Caremark’s support programme is that each franchise owner has a Regional Support Manager as their regular point of contact. This is someone they can talk to whenever they need assistance with business or operational matters. The Support Manager regularly communicates with and visits the franchise owner, providing the opportunity to have an expert answer questions, provide useful advice and assess the progress and development of the franchise owner’s business.

These face-to-face meetings also enable discussion of any issues that may be affecting the success or development of the franchise. Caremark places great importance in maintaining regular and close contact with franchise owners, so there is at least one phone call every week, and a visit every month. The regional structure helps to keep things on a more personal level and illustrates the way in which franchise owners really are an integral and significant part of the Caremark family.

Regular hands-on workshops
Regular practical workshops are held throughout the year to provide franchise owners with hands-on opportunities for hearing about new care and operational developments, as well as learning tips and techniques to help improve business efficiency. Crucially, these workshops also function as a forum in which information and ideas can be exchanged.

Staff training to high standards
Caremark offers a selection of comprehensive training packages for franchise owners’ staff. These are designed to improve their skills as well as help ensure that they are qualified to deliver the very high standards of care for which Caremark is renowned. The company also has an ever-expanding training library of e-learning media that can be accessed over the internet at any time.

Benefitting from the Caremark brand
The Caremark brand opens doors because it guarantees quality and has instant credibility as a highly respected care service provider. All Caremark franchise owners become part of an exclusive community of like-minded people, each running their own business, comparing notes, sharing ideas and experiences, and motivating one-another. Caremark’s unique culture ensures that franchise owners are always supported, assisted and encouraged throughout every stage of the development and growth of their business.